By Paul Goodman
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Karl Marx was "my father and teacher" – "the magnificent philosopher of working class violence". This helps to explain why the author of these words supported the formation of "vanguard minorities" which could "engage the sentiment, faith and will of irresolute masses": "instead of deluding the proletariat as to the possibility of eradicating all causes of bloodbaths, we wish to prepare it and accustom it to war for the day of 'the greatest bloodbath of all' when the two hostile classes will clash in the supreme trial".
That author was a young Italian socialist journalist called Benito Mussolini (see the photo on the right of this paragraph) who pre-1914, as Paul Johnson writes in his Modern Times, "took over the Italian Socialist Party at the congress of Reggio Emilia, by insisting that socialism must be Marxist, thoroughgoing, internationalist, uncompromising". All of which means that Paolo di Canio, now manager of Sunderland and an admirer of Mussolini, is being reviled on Twitter today for being…a communist, yes?
You get the point. I have no brief for di Canio (or Sunderland Football Club either, for that matter). I detest what I read about his fascist salutes – or Roman salutes, if you insist – and political views. I don't really have a view on whether he should keep his job or not, though I dislike the idea of fascist sympathisers managing football clubs – and am therefore puzzled as to why his appointment to Sunderland has caused such a stir when his stint at Swindon did not.
Perhaps it doesn't matter if managers of League One teams have fascist views…but once they're signed up to manage a club in our hallowed Premier League, that's a different matter entirely. Similarly, it's obviously a Twitter offence for a man to sympathise with one totalitarian philosophy, but not terrible were he to sympathise with another – even if the history of the two, as we've seen, shows that they're closely related, even intermingled.
Or perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps, were di Canio an admirer of, say, Lenin, (who, by the way, was an admirer of Mussolini – but let's not start all that again), there would be a similar outcry on Twitter and from David Miliband. And perhaps grunting porkers will be seen winging their way tomorrow above the Stadium of Light. Of all the doublethink that afflicts western politics, none is more pronounced than the pretence that communism, that bastard twin of fascism, has been any less murderous and has any more moral authority.