THIS is easily the best account of the rise and decline of Italian Fascism available in the English language. The only work of comparable depth and seriousness is Herman Finer’s Mussolini’s Italy. And The Fruits of Fascism is both better written and more up-to-date, bringing the story to the eve of Mussolini’s downfall. Mr. Matthews is a first-rate foreign correspondent with a long background of observation in Italy, in Abyssinia, and in Spain during the Civil War. But he also possesses a scholar’s knowledge of Italy’s history and culture and a scholar’s curiosity as to why the events which he described in his dispatches were happening. The result is an uncommonly good book, at once vivid and thoughtful, objective and warmly human.