In laying out the foundation for fascism, Giovanni Gentile and Benito Mussolini wrote two essays in the 1920s and 30s known as, "La Dottrina del Fascismo".
Gentile authored the first essay titled "Idee Fondamentali".
Mussolini is credited with the second, "Dottrina politica e sociale" (some sources suggest that Gentile also authored this essay, ghostwriting for Mussolini).
The essays were published in the Enciclopedia Italiana in 1932.
sources: (1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treccani, (2) https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_dottrina_del_fascismo, (3) https://www.amazon.com/Doctrine-Fascism-Benito-Mussolini-ebook/dp/B00II9F7N0/ref=sr_1_2
Here's an excerpt from Mussolini's "Dottrina politica e sociale" that is the subject of my question:
Ammesso che il sec. XIX sia stato il secolo del socialismo, del liberalismo, della democrazia, non è detto che anche il sec. XX debba essere il secolo del socialismo, del liberalismo, della democrazia. Le dottrine politiche passano, i popoli restano. Si può pensare che questo sia il secolo dell’autorità, un secolo di «destra», un secolo fascista; se il XIX fu il secolo dell’individuo (liberalismo significa individualismo), si può pensare che questo sia il secolo «collettivo» e quindi il secolo dello Stato.
(1) https://it.wikisource.org/wiki/La_dottrina_del_fascismo (2) http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/fascismo_(Enciclopedia-Italiana)/ (3) https://web.archive.org/web/20141213102821/http://litgloss.buffalo.edu/mussolini/text2.shtml
The first and only authorized translation of Mussolini's essay was written by British author and historian Jane Soames. Her work was published in 1933. Here's her interpretation:
Granted that the nineteenth century was the century of Socialism, of Liberalism, and of Democracy, it does not necessarily follow that the twentieth century must also be a century of Socialism, Liberalism, and Democracy. Political doctrines pass, but humanity remains, and it may rather be expected that this will be a century of authority, a century of the left, a century of Fascism; for if the nineteenth century was a century of individualism (Liberalism always signifying individualism) it may be expected that this will be a the century of collectivism, and hence the century of the state.
It appears that Mussolini wrote: "...this will be the century of authority, a century of the right, a century of Fascism..."
But the translation reads: "...this will be the century of authority, a century of the left, a century of Fascism..."
Why did Soames see "Right" to mean "Left"?
In researching an answer to this question I discovered various related discussions online, including one post on Skeptics.SE.
All of these discussions have two things in common:
- they arrive at the same conclusion, that Soames made a mistake; and,
- they are built entirely on speculation and opinion (none provide corroborating evidence).
For example, in the Skeptics.SE post, the author of the primary answer asserts "This is a mistranslation", but later admits,"I have been unable to discover how or why Soames managed to mistranslate "destra" as "left". Not authoritative. Not referenced. Not complete.
It's easy to make the claim that Soames was sloppy and incompetent. If you consider the full context, however, buying into that theory is not so easy.
How could an accomplished author and historian, tasked with translating a foundational document of fascism, fail to properly translate the simplest of terms in the Italian language?
If she could not properly translate "left" and "right", how can we expect the rest of the work, containing more complex language, to be accurate?
Why did Soames never issue a correction?
Why didn't anybody (including the Italian government) demand a correction?
So if we look at the bigger picture, and make the reasonable assumption that somebody of her caliber is unlikely to make such an elementary mistake, why would she choose "left" over "right"? Thank you.
It's important to note that we are reviewing Soames' original work. I have posted images above of the pages from Political Quarterly (1933), the hard-copy publication containing her translation.
Not so for Mussolini. All discussion about this matter – in this post and other online discussions – is based on digital copies of his essay (I've listed three sources above in the Italian language section). I'm not saying these digital copies are incorrect or corrupt. But for the sake of verification, I will attempt to post images of Mussolini's original essay in the Encyclopedia Italiana (1932).