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Ignaziop Silone

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First, Bread and Wine is set in 1935, when Italy was controlled by the totalitarian Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini. In the chapter I've just read, a character says Italy is about to go to war in Italy. The back story is that Mussolini, ambitious for colonial expansion, is mobilizing troops for an attack on Ethiopia. This took place on October 2, 1935. The war ended in victory; in May of 1936, King Victor Emmanuel III "donned the ephemeral crown of the Empire of Ethiopia."

Second, it is useful to return to the closing lines of Fontamara, the first novel in the Trilogy. There, a peasant family has narrowly escaped a massacre of Fontamaresi peasants, carried out in retaliation by government police for the publication of a revolutionary newsletter. Trapped in exile in Europe, the three family members, speaking for all of Italy's peasants, ask themselves repeatedly: "What are we to do?" My guess is that Silone took this question from the title of Lenin's statement of doctrine in 1902, What Is To Be Done? Marxists had believed that industrial and agricultural workers, becoming aware that their struggles and hardships differentiated them from their employers, would eventually organize "for the purpose of bettering their lot by reconstructing society to eliminate all economic classes." Lenin disagreed with this approach. He taught that "socialism would be achieved only when professional revolutionaries succeeded in mobilizing and energizing the masses of workers and peasants. Left to themselves, the workers would get no farther than a trade union consciousness." Pietro Spina, the hero of Bread and Wine, is devoted to the peasants of the Abruzzi (a province on the east coast of Italy). He hopes to mobilize and energize them for revolution.

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