Mussolini once in cahoots with MI5

In 1917, when Mussolini was the journalist in charge of the newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia, he was on the payroll of British Intelligence, reports the historian Peter Martland of Cambridge University.

MussoliniMight sound hard to believe, but Mussolini served an important purpose, one for which he was paid pretty well too. For 100 British pounds/week – the equivalent of about 5-6000 GBP today – Mussolini used his newspaper to generate support for the war amongst the factory workers of Milan, just when morale was slipping and war protesters were starting to stir dissent.

Britain could not afford to lose Italy as an ally, nor to do without the weapons output of Milan’s factories should striking begin, so Mussolini was hired, as part of a security campaign, to spread pro-war propaganda amongst his readers.

The campaign involved sending 100 British intelligence officials to Italy with the mission of “stiffen[ing] the backbone” of Italian industrial working class. Samuel Hoare was then the man in charge of MI5’s agents in Rome, and his memoirs reveal that Mussolini was indeed acting as a British agent at the time.

Mussolini’s socialist newspaper was just the right vehicle through which to speak to the industrial factory workers.

Although Martland cannot prove how Mussolini spent his generous paycheck (which was peanuts compared to what Britain was spending on the war every day), he believes Mussolini’s penchant for womanizing was significantly enabled by his undercover work for the British.

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