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Mussolini an MI5 agent in 1917

Book claims he was recruited to stop WWI pacifists in Italy

14 October, 17:17

Mussolini

Mussolini

(ANSA) - London, October 14 - Some two years before he started the Fascist movement and soon after being expelled from the Italian Socialist Party for his interventionist views, Benito Mussolini was recruited as an agent for the British MI5 intelligence service, a new book claims.

In his authorised 'biography' of MI5, Defense of the Realm, author Christopher Andrews wrote that the future Duce was recruited by MI5 in 1917 to work in Italy to ensure that Italy remained loyal to the Allied cause against Germany.

Andrews added that for his services, Mussolini was paid 100 British pounds a week, the equivalent of 6,000 pounds today.

Mussolini's main task was to make sure Italian pacifists, including his former comrades in the Socialist Party, did not succeed in blocking munitions factories in Italy.

The tool the future Italian dictator had to do this was his daily Il Popolo d'Italia, which he he founded in 1914 after leaving the helm of the Socialist Party organ Avanti! and which was one of the causes of his being expelled from the party.

''Britain's least reliable ally in the war at the time was Italy after revolutionary Russia pullout from the conflict,'' Peter Martland, the Cambridge historian who found the documents linking Mussolini with MI5, told the British daily The Guardian.

''The last thing Britain wanted were pro-peace strikes bringing factories in Milan to a halt'' and so while Mussolini's salary ''was a lot of money to pay a journalist at the time, compared to the four million pounds Britain was spending on the war every day, it was petty cash,'' he added.

The time Mussolini was said to have gone on MI5's payroll coincided with his return to Il Popolo d'Italia after some nine months of military service, which ended when he was seriously injured in a mortar bomb explosion.

After the war he abandoned his Socialist views altogether and in March 1919 created the bud of what would become the Fascist Party. Just over two and a half years later he would become Italy's prime minister and in 1925 had absolute power.

Andrews' 'biography' of MI5 was recently published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the founding of Britain's domestic intelligence service.

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