[p.227] PLURALITY AND POLARITY: EARLY ITALIAN FASCISM IN MALTESE COLONIAL POLITICS
When I addressed myself to this paper during the international history conference hosted jointly by the University of Malta's History Department and the Malta Historical Society at the University of Malta in December 1989, it provoked several rather heated questions and interjections, mainly from elder members of the audience. Understandably, their own pasts were tainted by the latent "pro-British" or "pro-Italian" strains that had characterized Maltese colonial politics at least since the 1880s. These had been brought to a nasty, unequal confrontation in the 1930s and 1940s when war hysteria was clapped on to the traditionally fanatical and partisan rivalries of the Maltese islanders. I belong to the post-war generation and never had any direct involvement in such controversies; my interest is merely that of the curious investigator, or, as Robin Winks once described the historian, "a detective". Clearly, however, the inter-war period continues to be a touchy subject in Malta no less than elsewhere since so many thousands of individuals were caught up in the multifarious aspects of war, often cruel ones which today may seem incomprehensible.
One of the problems with this study in such a context is the tendency to link - or, what is worse, to identify - "italianitÓ" with fascism. Hence it is important at the outset to restate the generally accepted definition of m, as invented and practised increasingly in Italy: the one party totalitarian state adulating the supreme leader and incorporating within the Party-State apparatus hitherto independent or autonomous bodies, such as unions; a self-conscious, self-praising, expansionist State geared to action, discipline, and glory. While this was true it was, in some ways, also peculiarly Italian. Thus, for instance, anti-Semitism was incomparably less pronounced in Italy than this was in Germany. There is also a convergence of extremes in the totalitarian temptation to which various European countries succumbed, from the [p.228] 1917 Bolshevik revolution to the 1922 March on Rome and to the NSDAP take-over of Germany in 1933. As Denis Mack Smith noted, one of the figures most admired by Mussolini, himself a former Socialist leader, was actually Lenin! It is necessary to say this not to attempt to indulge in moral equivalence comparisons but simply to seek to pre-empt "right"-"left" ideological jargon, particularly in attempting to understand the prevailing Malta situation in the early twenties.
Malta was a British possession held as an all-important outpost of empire, a fortress colony with the best natural harbours in the Mediterranean; but it was also an island having an ancient culture where Italian had been spoken for centuries in public life, and it was only 58 miles away from Sicily. After the Italian occupation of Tripolitania in 1911, Malta's "Britishness" stuck out like a sore thumb in many Italian (and indeed some Maltese) eyes. It was almost "unnatural" that this geographically and even culturally "Italian" island should belong to a non-Mediterranean, or at any rate a non-Latin, power, and that it should, moreover, harbour, shelter, coal, repair, and service the entire British Mediterranean fleet - a political-military divide to Italy's North-South ambit and ambition.
Maltese nationalism arose primarily as a cultural resistance to British anglicization policies. The banner of "italianitÓ" served to emphasize Malta's Latin Europeanity no less than act as a buffer between the "local" or "national" and the "imperial" or "English" segment in social life. This was an "italianitÓ" dating back consciously to the Risorgimento years when scores of Italian liberals, radicals, anticlericals, republicans, nationalists, and monarchists of various hues had sought refuge in British Malta and conducted their political and cultural activities from Valletta. In other words, it was a cultural amour propre attachment before it became a political philosophy and, in any case, it far preceded the advent of fascism in Mussolini's Italy. But it was also a power to the elbow of colonial "anti-Britishness": it buttressed the nationalist quest for constitutional autonomy and internal freedoms, occasionally involving the Italian press and, more rarely, Italian politicians, in speaking up for Malta (or at least for the Italian language there, as happened in 1901) with British counterparts. As I have shown at length elsewhere, Malta's constitutional history was hampered by strategic and military considerations, so that representative Government, granted in 1887, was revoked in 1903, and it was not [p.229] before a long, tiring struggle that internal self-government was finally won in 1921.
After the Great War ended, Italo-Maltese affinities may be seen to have increased, but these comparisons were in parallel rather than mutual: they were generally independent one of the other. Malta, like Italy, was disappointed by the outcome of the war, not because it yearned for unredeemed territories but simply because it expected self-government. The Peace Festivities were, on the whole, boycotted and the Maltese gentleman who presided over the organizing committee, Francesco [Cikku] Azzopardi, became so unpopular that in 1919 he had to be shipped off to Egypt by the British for his own protection. In June 1919 four Maltese were killed by British troops in Valletta during "liberty and bread" riots and subsequent looting. The event, which led to national mourning, remained known as the Sette Giugno. It preceded, by a few months, Gabriele D'Annunzio's seizure of Fiume, but is not known to have had any connection with it other than the historical coincidence. Maltese grievances could be more accurately compared to colonial nationalist ones in Ireland and India than to continental territorial ones in Italy or Germany.
Yet Italian influence in Malta was more than linguistic: it was also religious and, to some extent, also political. Popes on at least two occasions (in the 1840s and in the 1880s) had seriously contemplated taking refuge in Malta, reputedly the world's outstanding Catholic stronghold (and sufficiently close by too). The British took care not to irk the Catholic Church in Malta in any way if possible and until the 1920s the only serious dispute, in the 1890s, had concerned allowing mixed marriages. As a rule, even episcopal appointments had met with British acceptance and bishops had been granted pride of place as Maltese leaders and successively knighted. This iron-cast rapport prevented Maltese nationalism from expressing any of the anticlericalism that tended to distinguish Italian nationalism, so that even on the nationalist side, and generally, it was popular Catholicism and Catholic social teaching that were most articulated. After the grant of self-government in 1921, it was the former Partito Popolare, a direct descendant of the Partito Nazionale, that polled most votes. A middle-of-the road formation known now as the Unione Politica [p.230] Maltese, it was led by a Catholic prelate, Monsignor Ignazio Panzavecchia. The apparent parallelism with Don Luigi Sturzo's Partito Popolare in Italy cannot be avoided, yet there is no known working relationship between the two parties other than the wider Rerum Novarum outlook of Catholics at the time and a vague adherence to the southern European fold. For a closer Italian nationalist influence, albeit possibly still a political rather than an ideological one, we have to look at Enrico Mizzi's Partito Democratico Nazionalista; Mizzi had studied in Italy, published in Italian journals, and had had some association with, among others, Enrico Corradini. The new Camera del Lavoro, or Labour Party, was more intent on promoting the working class interest, but within the general framework of national interest, and it was inspired by Papal encyclicals no less than the other parties. Initially this party was closest to Panzavecchia's, as Mizzi's ardent grouping was regarded as too attached to italianitÓ. At the opposite end of this was Sir Gerald Strickland's Constitutional Party which was unabashedly pro-English and pro-Empire, as well as antagonistic to the traditional italianitÓ posture particularly that of the Mizzians. Were it not for the fact that he was half-Maltese, Strickland, a practising Catholic, could have been regarded as a "white colonist": he was thorough in his anglicization-civilizing mission goals. In language policy he upheld "free choice" against pari passu.
As the British presence consolidated itself with the passage of time and the introduction of new policies, methods, and attitudes, it was British rather than Italian influence that had tended to predominate, especially in the economic and financial spheres and in harbour-related activity, notwithstanding the patriotic - if not sometimes fossilized - adherence to italianitÓ, strengthened however by resistance to colonialism. Clearly, it was those who could stand on their own feet educationally and financially, rather than those who depended on Government patronage, contracts, or prospects, who were the more likely opponents or supporters respectively. Culture thus pervaded class and vice-versa, though that was never so completely, because of the affinity - strong among a subject island people - of "us" against "them".
Any suggestion that Malta should at any time or in any way move towards Italy was suppressed, as could be seen from the court-martial in 1917 of Enrico Mizzi, son of the Partito Nazionale's founder, Fortunato, probably for words [p.231] uttered in Council where he was supposed to be protected by privilege. Undaunted, Mizzi emerged after the war as the staunchest cultural nationalist and he gradually attained ministerial status. What the first self-government elections of 1921 showed was that the nationalist factions retained their majority notwithstanding the increase in the franchise, while Strickland's party constituted a hard-core minority. It was on the whole the patria et religio movement that carried the election. Irrespective of what was happening in Italy, the policies which the new Government was bound to follow, therefore, tended to be in the direction of its own manifesto and long history of resistance to domination. The 1921 Constitution had been slow in coming, exasperating the Assemblea Nazionale, formed to lobby and prepare the ground for self-government. Additionally, after the war, work at the docks - usually less plentiful in times of peace - suffered; so even among labourers the British Empire was not necessarily as readily identifiable with material prosperity and well-being in the long-term. For all these reasons, there was a residue of resentment and of self-pride which tended to be camouflaged under the kaleidoscopic umbrella of italianitÓ in the political discourse of the times.
Equally, the new-found ardent nationalism in Italy could not have failed to warm the hearts of those who had supported italianitÓ through thick and thin and who had suffered for that at the hands of the British and their local supporters and henchmen. One can see a certain nuance, particularly in the Mizzian press, which found satisfaction and reassurance in Italy's aggrandizement, her will not to be treated as inferior vis-Ó-vis other powers, including Britain, her idea of preaching Rome's legacy and heritage as a core value of civilization, even of a cultural superiority. This much was noted, with relish, by the Italian consul in Valletta, Guido Rocco. He wrote to Mussolini accordingly as early as 1922. Rocco could not quite put his finger on what he called a national resurgence of Italian sentiment in Malta, possibly exaggerating for emphasis, but he thought this novel self-confidence reflected the change that had occurred in Italy. While stating that Italian prestige had always been [p.232] "l'elemento principale della formazione di una coscienza nazionale italiana nei Maltesi", Rocco admitted that nonetheless the increase in such a conscience was "essenzialmente latente ed iniziale". Yet he attributed it, such as it was, to the successful annexation of Venezia Giulia and the expectant wonder ("l'incognita") regarding fascism internationally. Wishful thinking apart, this perceived awakening of "Italian national conscience" ("un risveglio della coscienza nazionale Italiana") was nevertheless more Maltese than Italian. Mussolini took note cautiously. His response, while indicative, fell far short of any intention to take Malta, as anti-Italianisti would have liked to suggest. Having read with much interest Rocco's report on the situation in the island of Malta and his sentiments notifying "un risveglio della coscienza nazionale italiana nel popolo maltese quale consequenza del rinnovamento generale della nazione italiana", Mussolini was particularly pleased about this ("ne sono particolarmente lieto") and requested the consul to keep him informed of all developments which this movement, still in its initial stage, could lead to ("tutti gli sviluppi the questo movimento, ancora allo stato crepuscolare, pots avere in seguito"). Among the enclosures to Rocco's despatch was a speech of his at Palazzo Caraffa, in Valletta, in which he spoke of the progress being made by "le classi lavoratrici" in Italy and Britain: "due grandi democrazie". The best report of the speech was that in the P.D.N.'s organ, L'Eco di Malta e Gozo: it was this newspaper that Rocco enclosed with his despatch.
The U.P.M. or "Panzavecchian" party was less committed to the cause of Italian predominance and would much rather have had pari passu, ensuring a status for English no less than for Italian; thereby it also sought to maintain an informal alliance with the Labour Party which, while accepting a degree of italianitÓ, was committed to the teaching of English, as well as of Maltese, at school. Thus the Panzavecchians had an ideological as well as a pragmatic position which in both instances militated in favour of somewhat distancing themselves from the Mizzians at this stage. They were wary of being tainted with accusations of irredentism, as the Mizzians were, and consequently of m, now that Italy seemed bent on flexing its muscles in the Mediterranean. fascism came to be a term of abuse employed ceaselessly by the Anglophile imperialists in the twenties towards Italophile nationalists, in much the same way that irredentism had been employed since the 1870s, thus casting doubt on their loyalty to the British Crown and, consequently, their [p.233] suitability for office. No sooner had the moderate nationalists come to power that Strickland started a veritable barrage of criticism in this sense, mainly in the Strickland-funded Malta press but also in some British newspapers and increasingly also in the British Parliament, of which Strickland became a member in 1924 (as MP for Lancaster; later he was raised to the peerage).
The first effective accusation to the Colonial Office in London concerned an alleged irredentist meeting of Maltese residents in Rome in 1923, but already in 1922 various minor but seminal instances of discord were reported at the local or national level. In such incidents during m's first year Maltese individuals insulted the Italian flag, the Duce, or Italian visitors or residents. One of these allegedly was a Valletta youngster by the name of E. Borg Olivier. According to a Palermo witness, Mario Formento, the phrase used by Borg Olivier was "il-maħmuġa bandiera Taljana" ("the dirty Italian flag"). Formento's declaration before Notary Paolo Carbonaro was confirmed by two witnesses, Giuseppe Caruana di Valerio of Cospicua, and Salvatore Liberto, of Valletta. Dated 1 October, it referred to an evening incident on 29 September in Valletta and made reference to "i continui incidenti che tendono ad offendere l'Italia ed ad abbassarne il suo alto e potente prestigio."
However, Borg Olivier's intervention may have been provoked by an exchange of insults between, among others, Alessandro Vella, a Maltese, and Salvatore Liberto, an Italian, with Borg Olivier defending the Maltese party.
Two happenings in 1923 exacerbated the prevailing situation. One was the death of Mgr. Panzavecchia, who had dominated the popular nationalist movement since the 1890s. This left a vacuum in the party leadership, especially as Enrico [Nerik] Mizzi, whose leadership qualities were not in doubt, was distrusted or feared as risky. Panzavecchia had not accepted the premiership due to the fact that he was a church dignitary and preferred to opt out of heading the Government. The post had been offered to a small businessman, a one-time president of the pro-nationalist La Valette band club, who also acted as honorary consul for Japan in Valletta; his grandfather was English as was his surname. Joseph Howard was a good-natured, affable person with little political acumen or nous. In 1923 Howard very nearly provided the Anglophiles with the pretext they had been seeking to topple the Government. In an after-dinner speech in Rome, he was reported to have implied the possibility of Malta eventually, somehow, moving closer to Italy. Conflicting reports exist as to what Howard actually said after that fateful [p.234] dinner. The Rome correspondent of the Stricklandian Daily Malta Chronicle, Edward Tancred Agius, reported him sensationally. When challenged, Agius, an Anglophile Maltese businessman living in Rome, seems to have both confirmed and denied what he was reported to have reported.
In his testimony given at Rome's Questura Centrale on 27 October, Agius denied that he had published reports meant to give credence to the rumour that Italy intended to facilitate "le pretese del Partito irredentista in Malta". He held that during a banquet hosted by the Maltese colonia in Rome at a restaurant, he had been given to understand that the Prime Minister would not make a partisan speech. At a certain point, he added, Howard produced a Mussolini visiting-card and remarked: "What would Strickland say if he saw this?" ("jekk jarah Strickland, ħalli għalih!") As Howard informed diners that he had met the Pope, Agius concluded that he also met the Duce and filed a report accordingly. He added, however, that he had subsequently said in the same newspaper that Howard had not met Mussolini, and he (Agius) had even gone to Malta to confirm the denial in person. But according to Luigi Mazzone, the Italian Vice-Consul in Valletta, Agius had been recalled by the Daily Malta Chronicle and he had sworn to confirm, not to deny, what he had reported. It was as a consequence of his disloyal ways, he added, that the Prime Minister had to submit his resignation.
According to a report published in London from the Valletta correspondent of Reuters, which the Rome-based news agency Stefani repeated, in his speech Howard had spoken in favour of the study of Italian in Malta, allegedly adding that this language could be very useful in the not too distant future. This oracular pronouncement, possibly after a drink too much, was interpreted to mean an irredentist yearning or at least to expose the Maltese Government to such accusations by its opponents. But again it seems that those present at the banquet had not taken Howard's remarks to have the import attributed to them, and the British embassy in Rome was of the same mind. His remark about Strickland could even be passed off as an untimely joke.
The rapporteur, E.T. Agius, was an employee of the Banca Commerciale in [p.235] Rome whose business interests ranged from London to Rome to Tripoli. He and his wife were expelled from Italy on the ground that the required formalities applying to foreign residents had not been satisfied. According to Mazzone, E.T. Agius had the agency of various Italian as well as British firms: he was held to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. "╚ doloroso per noi italiani il vedere che esso Edoardo Tancred Agius, mentre in Italia e presso la Camera di Commercio Italiana di Londra fa credere d'essere di sentimenti italiani, allo scopo di avere la rappresentanza o la fornitura dei carboni delle SocietÓ di Navigazione Italiane, d'altro canto e legato a filo doppio con coloro che Sono palesemente nemici di tutto quanto sa d'Italiano." The Interior Ministry knew Agius was a British subject who had lived in Rome for about one year and travelled frequently but told Foreign Affairs that censorship was only permissible in wartime, so his mail and movements could not be watched.
Howard's light-hearted toast thus became a political imbroglio: the Constitutionals came out in force to oppose the threat of Italian irredentism. A large "Demonstration of Loyalty" was organized by the pro-British party in October specifically about Malta's unwillingness to go over to Italy, as allegedly implied or desired by the Head of Ministry. E.T. Agius, who had started this furore, addressed the meeting: "he raised a storm of applause when he produced his own shorthand notes of the speech", the Chronicle reported. The C.P's deputy leader, Dr (later Sir) Augustus Bartolo, started by saying that "they were indeed the party of law and order". They had no ill-feeling towards Italy "and much less against the many respectable and law-abiding Italians in Malta." Italy was "a good neighbour and an old friend - but that was all", he said. "We are not Italians, and we don't want to be under the Italian flag. We were Maltese first and foremost, and wanted to live under the British flag till the crack of doom." Commenting on the meeting, which it described as a fiasco, the Panzavecchian paper II Popolo di Malta dismissed "pro-Italianism" as "by now an historic fairy tale" ("la ormai storica favella del "Pro-Italianism"), and alleged that Strickland, who had described Maltese dockyard workers as "pilferers", was badly heckled.
[p.236] Essentially, this turn of events was grist to Strickland's mill. Even before the contrived Howard incident, Strickland had written implying that Signor Mussolini was "preparing an air force to take Malta" and interpreted the formula "invented by an Italian" that the Maltese wanted "the language of Italy, the gold of England and the Religion of the Pope" to mean that "the Maltese would prefer to be Italians if only Italy were not so poor and so hostile to religion." He dismissed as "obviously ridiculous" the "geographical argument" that Malta was part of Italy: "A merciful Providence has placed two seas between Malta and Calabria."
It was at the request of his own party, in the circumstances, that Howard tendered his resignation. He was replaced by another makeshift politician, a lawyer who soon afterwards settled for a self-appointed judgeship, Francesco Buhagiar. These local brew, generally cautious and hesitant personalities, native products of a colonial society and fortress parameters, were no match for the ambitious, indomitable, well-connected, well-endowed, nerve-wrecking Strickland, a proven power-monger and an opinionated go-getter of the first magnitude who was, too, accustomed to stir up controversy, patronize support and indeed to govern, having been chief secretary in Malta and the governor of four colonies between 1889 and 1917.
In spite of - or was it because of - this, public opinion still did not sway sufficiently to Strickland's party in the second self-government election held in 1924 for him to take power. Here again, unrelated goings-on in Italy, culminating in Giacomo Matteotti's assassination in 1924, could not have helped the Maltese italianitÓ perception and image. What was evolving in Malta was a plurality as a result of the chance to run the government under the new 1921 constitution - hence the presence of four parties in the House - but, increasingly, there was a determined tendency towards polarity between the colonial nationalists dubbed as `pro-Italians' and the Britishers, Imperialists, and Italophobes lined up behind Strickland's powerful cult. Due mainly to positions on the role of language in education, nationality, and employment, the Panzavecchian and Mizzian parties moved closer to each other at the same time as the Labour Party edged towards Strickland's camp. This slow movement over a three-year period or so marked an incipient polarization between the more hardline camps which became formalized by 1926.
The language dispute continued to symbolize and to mobilize opinion and [p.237] rowing hostility fanned by politicians. Just before Howard's resignation, Strickland had forced the resignation of the Minister of Public Instruction by having the Government's pan passu scheme modified in the Senate, after it had passed the Lower House, to have Italian taught only from the third standard upwards (i.e. the fifth year of school). Commenting on that resignation, the London Times said that the British Government had "made a mistake in attempting to precipitate matters in the "eighties and to impose the English language, which was making rapid strides." Pari passu, with its wings clipped, was assented to by the Governor at the end of October, shortly before Howard's undoing and Buhagiar's accession. With the smell of success in the nostrils of both the main political groupings and an election campaign under way, had Italy not been agog with m, and had Strickland not returned to vindicate his anglicization commitment, paripassu might have gone some way towards settling the language question in Malta, perhaps lastingly, in 1923.
While admitting that Italian-language supporters in Malta had struggled "per ragioni di cultura e nient'altro", the Italian consular representative in Valletta, Luigi Mazzone, advised that it was now more than ever necessary "che noi in tutti modi avantaggiamo la difesa della cultura italiana" so that, he insisted, "our language affirm itself increasingly and make headway." Mazzone now submitted a plan of action to foster such advancement by giving bursaries for study in Italy, frequent conferences in Italian and possibly by Italians, targeting schools which were already subsidized by Italy, such as the Umberto Primo, and others directed by Italian religious fathers and nuns, to further "the progress of Italian culture in this island."
If we take these cultural overtures with other ideas submitted by Mazzone, the rapport between culture and politics in his mind becomes rather more evident. If the language issue were finally resolved, he reasoned, Strickland would lose his main weapon "e senza dubbio l'Italia e l'Inghilterra potrebbero veder cessare l'attuale inconsulta agitazione che un giorno o l'altro potrebbe anche essere causa di dolorosi incidenti." Malta's future certainly does not depend on the Maltese, he added, but on the stronger nation which will know how to affirm its real hold over the Mediterranean. To see that the Italian language was respected was convenient "to us" - as well as it being a Maltese sacred national patrimony; and for the rest, he concluded, we trust in the [p.238] future, when Italy will be able to have the final say ("e a quando l'Italia potra dire l'ultima sua parola").
At about the same time, Stricklandians indulged in more attacks and allegations. For example, one letter entitled "Sicilian roguery" in Strickland's press in February 1924 used words such as these: "Hot-headed irredentists", "Sicilian smuggler", "Sicilian rascal", "Sicilian felons", "a Sicilian criminal" and all this primarily to criticize a Sicilian hawker and the selling of Palermo tickets. Taking exception to this anti-Italian campaign, Mussolini conveyed his preoccupation to the Italian ambassador in London and asked that he find the right moment to alert the British Government to the need that such attacks against the Italian colony in Malta cease. Weeks later, in a taste of pogrom, Strickland and Bartolo headed a mob of 500 persons who more than once went on a rampage in Valletta, concentrating their anger on the Italian school Umberto Primo at Palazzo Caraffa in Strada Forni. Various Italian residents in the block or close by heard the repeated banging on the school's portals, accompanied by obscene gestures and shouts of "Abasso l'Italia!", "abasso Vittorio Emmanuele!", "fuori gli Italiani!" in the late evening. Various residents testified to these disturbances which occurred in mid-June and there was an exchange of correspondence between the consular and governmental authorities with regard to police inaction. Mussolini, how-ever, preferred to accept the local Governor's regrets and to give weight to the post-electoral circumstances in Malta. He noted in particular that the insults and deeds objected to were the work of "irresponsible persons" and that these "in no way" reflected "the sentiments of the people of Malta". Consequently he did not deem it fit to make any further demarches with the British Government. Influenced perhaps by the spirit of Locarno, he clearly was unwilling to introduce elements of irritation in Anglo-Italian relations at this time, much as he obviously disliked what was happening in Valletta.
At the local level, however, such incidents heightened tension in a political [p.239] climate that was impassioned and somewhat irrational. If an equal standing for English and Italian was potentially a compromise solution to the complicated problem of culture clash, of continuity and change, of resistance and collaboration, this option was turned yet again into an acutely controversial issue by determined opposition to it, as proposed, and in principle, mainly by Strickland's Constitutionals. Such positionings perpetuated and intensified polarization between the "pro-Italian" or "Nationalist" party on the one hand and the "Imperialist" or "Pro-British" party on the other. The 1924 election results showed a growing polarization between the extreme fringes and a narrowing of the centre's hold. The two parties which most increased their standing were Strickland's and Mizzi's. Whereas the "Panzavecchian" Unione Politica Maltese lost 11% of the popular vote, the Mizzians increased their share by nearly 6%. The Labour Party went down by 3% but Strickland's party took nearly 34% of the vote compared to the 25% it had held previously. While the combined Nationalists had nearly 47% of the total vote and 15 seats, the Constitutionals had a good 28% and 10 seats, with the Labour Party retaining its 7 seats and the difference. The Nationalists formed a minority Government, with generally tacit Labour support until 1925, but Strickland's position as opposition leader had been strengthened as indeed was his will to take office. When after 1925 the Labour mainstream tended towards Strickland, issues of language and education were again foremost. Social and nationality aspects were inter-linked. Ironically, while such "culture" and "loyalty" battles were being fought in the Maltese Islands, relations between Britain and Italy were at their best.
Philosophically, historically, and politically, Maltese nationalists had generally opposed a despotic, military, and colonial apparatus, positing against this a liberal democratic and parliamentary form of Government. In office they had neither the inclination nor the opportunity to be dictatorial, totalitarian, or otherwise t, ideologically or in practice, however much there remained those who recited their Dante by heart and even - as was so far not unfashionable in politically mixed quarters overseas - admired Mussolini for making Italy "workable" and "respectable". On the fringes there would have been those who may have admired him for other things as well but these remained unrepresentative. In office, Maltese Nationalist administrations conducted three free elections (1921, 1924, and 1927) and presided over a [p.240] peaceful transfer of power (in 1927) under the self-government Constitution, in a climate of relative stability and calm. In 1927 Strickland's Constitutionals were elected in compact with Labour. Various upsetting rows ensued mainly involving the Senate and the Catholic Church. The Constitution was suspended in 1930; in 1932 this was restituted and the Nationalists came back with a vengeance but in 1933 self-government was revoked altogether by the British. That was what went down in Maltese political history as a coup d'Útat.
 H. Frendo, Party Politics in a Fortress Colony: The Maltese Experience (Malta, 1979), 116-117, 122.
 Cf., e.g., Ir-Rivoluzzjoni Maltija tal-1919, (Malta, 1970); Lejn Tnissil ta' Nazzjon (Malta, 1971); Birth Pangs of a Nation, (Malta, 1972); "L-Evoluzzjoni ta' Partiti Politici fil Gżejjer Maltin", Storja i, 1 (1978); Lejn Stat Sovran (Malta, 1989); and "Poplu Wieħed: is-Sette Giugno Sebgħin Sena Wara", Il-Poplu (June 1989).
 Frendo, Party Politics., 151-165.
 Ibid., 184-188.
 The most serious study of this is an unpublished History Honours thesis by Austin Sammut (University of Malta, 1975) entitled The Court Martial of Enrico Mizzi.
 Rocco/Mussolini, 8 July 1922. Enclosed with this despatch was a copy of the Mizzian paper L 'Eco di Malta e Gozo of the previous day reporting a speech of his at Palazzo Caraffa, Valletta on Anglo-Italian friendship". In another despatch dated 9 July, Rocco sent a copy of a Panzavecchian paper, Il Popolo di Malta, which made reference to Mussolini's Government. Serie Affari Politici [Gran Bretagna], 1922, ASD.
 Mussolini/Rocco, 21 Dec. 1922. (Rocco had sent another copy of Il Popolo di Malta on 9 November) ASD (1922).
 Encs. in Mazzone/Mussolini, 6 Oct. 1923,ASD .
 Testimony sworn by Agius on 27 October 923 at Rome's Questura Centrale, confirmed by the Commissioners of Public Security, 28 Oct. 1923, ASD .
 On this whole incident, Mazzone's despatches and Stefani reports from London and Rome, and the advice of the Italian Interior Ministry [Emilio De Bono] to foreign Affairs, 31 Oct. 1923, ASD .
 Mazzone tel., 14 Oct., referring to Malta Governor's communication of report from British Embassy in Rome. ASD .
 Mazzone/Mussolini, 15 Nov. 1923; in his earlier despatch of 16 October, Mazzone not very diplomatically described Agius as "feccia peggior delta peggior canaglia"!
 De Bono/Mussolini, 31 Oct.
 "Last Sunday's Meeting - A Superb Demonstration of Loyalty", Daily Malta Chronicle 16 Oct. 1923.
 "II Meeting", 11 Popolo di Malta, 15 Oct. 1923.
 "If Malta Were Part of Italy", Malta Herald, enc. Mazzone, 2 Apr. 1923, ASD .
 "Language Problem in Malta - Claims of English and Italian", The Times, 22 Aug. 1923, enc. Tonetto/Mussolini, London, 23 Aug., ASD. .
 Mazzone/Mussolini, 1 Nov. 1923, ASD .
 Mazzone despatch of 16 Oct. 1923.
 "Sicilian Roguery", The Times of Malta, 1 Feb. 1924. That day's editorial was about a former Labour MP, Michel Borg, "a renegade to Mizzianism by voting for compulsory Italian": he therefore had to import a disturber from Zejtun to protect his so-called 'popularity'..."
 Mussolini/Tonetto, 5 Apr. 1924; specific reference was made to an article in The Times of Malta of 8 February.ASD .
 De Probizer/Mussolini, 14 June and 30 July 1924 and encls. therein. ASD .
 "Non ritengo sia necessario promuovere ulteriori insistenze presso il Governo Britannico." Mussolini/de Probizer, 25 Aug. 1924, copied to London. ASD .
 For election results, e.g., R. Sacco: L-Elezzjonijiet Ġenerali 1849-1986 (Malta, 1986) esp. 68-74, and M. Schiavone, L-Elezzjonijiet f' Malta 1849-1981 (Malta, 1987) esp. 35-39.