Benedetto Croce and Italian fascism / Fabio Fernando Rizi.
Despite the recognized importance, Croce's role under the fascist regime has received only episodic attention. This has left an impoverished image of Croce's anti-fascism, and favoured in some cases the inaccurate repetition that Croce was an early supporter of fascism, and only later became an opponent of Mussolini, limiting, however, his opposition solely to cultural matters. This dissertation challenges that view, and argues that Croce's benevolence to the Mussolini government was short and always vigilant, and his contribution to the anti-fascist struggle was manifold and was expressed in public and private initiatives. The thesis is based on previously unexamined archival sources and Croce's diaries, and relies on Croce's political and historical writings, his published correspondence and the memoirs of his contemporaries. In its central part the narration follows a year by year approach in an attempt to show the connections between political aspirations and cultural activities. The archival sources demonstrate that the fascist authorities regarded Croce as an enemy of the regime, and ordered the police and employed spies to keep his house, mail and movements under surveillance. Croce's diaries and police records show that Croce during the fascist regime was in contact with the most important leaders of the democratic underground movements, and, for his part, was at the centre of a loose network of small but influential anti-fascist groups, scattered in the major Italian cities, keeping alive the flame of freedom in various ways. The evidence clearly suggests that a few of Croce's books, for the ideas they promoted, for the success they enjoyed and the reactions they generated, assumed the functions of political manifestos, both for Mussolini's followers and for the opposition movements. The new and old documents lead to the conclusion that under the fascist regime Croce offered an example of political and intellectual coherence; the publication of his books and his periodical played a fundamental role in defending and promoting the ideals of the Italian Risorgimento, and inspiring many young people to anti-fascist Resistance.
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