LONDON: Italy’s dictator Benito Mussolini, credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism, was actually British spy agency MI5’s “secret agent”, de-classified documents have revealed.
According to the documents, Mussolini got his start in politics in 1917 with the help of a £100 weekly wage from MI5 — £6,000 today — to write pro-war propaganda for his newspaper ‘Il Popolo d’Italia’ and keep Italian troops fighting at the front. Historians in Cambridge, led by Peter Martland, have uncovered the details of the lucrative deal struck between a young Benito Mussolini and MI5, more than 64 years after his death, The Times reported.
In fact, the deal was brokered by British member of parliament, Samuel Hoare, who would almost two decades later become the foreign secretary, but in the autumn of 1917 was acting as the spy agencies man in Italy, say the documents. The hope was that Mussolini’s newsprint would reach the disgruntled masses of industrialised workers, halt the strikes and overturn pacifism — propaganda might stiffen Italy’s resolve and banish the Bolsheviks.