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ITALY: Greatest Victory

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Debate began in the Senate over the Army Reform Bill, a Fascist measure designed to reduce the standing Army from 200,000 to about 140,000 men. It was the first appearance of Premier Benito Mussolini in that august assembly since his recovery from his recent illness. He was received with dignified enthusiasm, sharply contrasted with the boisterousness of the lower Chamber (TIME, Apr. 6). Senate President Tommaso Tittoni congratulated the Premier upon his recovery.

The Army Reform Bill met opposition. Marshals Cadorna and Diaz, Senators, opposed the Bill, cried that Italy might at any time be called to defend her frontiers, that a force of 200,000 men was not excessive.

The real urgency of the Opposition was that the proposed reduction of the Army would make it a smaller body than the National Militia, which is a Fascist organization in everything but name. To soldiers and statesmen of the old school and to the enemies of Fascism, which number not a few in the Senate, the mere thought of reform in the Army was intolerable.

The man most responsible for the Reform Bill was General di Giorgio,

Minister of War, hitherto regarded as one of Mussolini’s closest friends and advisers. He came to the Bill’s support. The gist of his defense was this: Italy cannot afford to keep such a large army as 200,000 men; this being the case, it is better to have the Army small, well equipped than large, badly equipped.

Premier Mussolini opened with a speech−probably the best he has ever made−which drew from friends and enemies alike unstinted praise. He differed from his War Minister on a fundamental: He could see the need for a large, well equipped Army. He spoke of the probability of a new war, contrasted the armed forces of Italy with those of France, Britain, the U. S.; yet he remained adamant on the financial advisability of maintaining the Army at its present strength.

No doubt he saw the hostility of the Senate to the measure; accord-ingly, he suggested−since it was a case affecting the vital interests of the country and demanding careful deliberation−that discussion of the Bill be indefinitely delayed. The Senators readily agreed−a remarkable victory for the Premier, as they had seemed certain to defeat the measure.

But what was victory for the Premier was defeat for the Minister of War. Mussolini covered his own retreat to a better position, but left his rear guard, Di Giorgio, slain on the field. The virtual effect of the offer of delay was to withdraw the Reform Bill and General di Giorgio was prompt to resign. His resignation was accepted; and. Premier Mus-solini, who is also Minister of Foreign Affairs, became Minister of War ad interim.

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