Revolutionary-Conservative vs. Revolutionary Mentality

(from "Men Among the Ruins")





Methodologically, in the quest for reference points, a given historical form must be considered exclusively as the exemplification and more or less faithful application of certain principles: this is a perfectly legitimate procedure, comparable to what in mathematics is called the shift from the differential to the integral. In such a case there is no anachronism or regression; nothing has been turned into an idol, or made absolute, that was not already so, since this is the nature of principles. Otherwise it would be like accusing of anachronism those who defend certain peculiar virtues of the soul merely because the latter are inspired by some person in the past, in whom those virtues were exhibited to a high degree. As Hegel himself said, “It is a matter of recognizing in the apparitions of temporal and transitory things, both the substance, which is immanent, and the eternal, which is actual.”


With this is mind, we can see die ultimate premises of two opposing attitudes. The axiom of the revolutionary-conservative or revolutionary-reactionary mentality is that the supreme values and the foundational principles of every healthy and normal institution are not liable to change and to becoming: among these values we may find, for instance, the true State, the imperium, the auctoritas [authority], hierarchy, justice, functional classes, and the primacy of the political element over the social and economic elements. In the domain of these values there is no "history," and to think about them in historical terms is absurd. Such values and principles have an essentially normative character. In the public and political order they have the same dignity as, in private life, is typical of values and principles of absolute morality: they are imperative principles requiring a direct, intrinsic acknowledgment (it is the capacity for such an acknowledgment that differentiates existentially a certain category beings from another). These principles are not compromised by the fact that in various instances an individual, out of weakness or due to other reasons, was unable to actualize them or to even implement them partially at one point in his life rather than another: as long as such an individual does not give up inwardly, he will be acknowledged even in abjection and in desperation. The ideas to which I am referring have the same nature: Vico called them “the natural laws of an eternal republic that varies in time and in different places.” Even where these principles are objectified in a historical reality, they are not at all conditioned by it; they always point to a higher, meta-historical plane, which is their natural domain and where there is no change. The ideas that I call "traditional" must be thought of along the same lines.


The fundamental premise always revealed, more or less distinctly, in the revolutionary mentality is the total opposite. The truths it professes are historicism and empiricism. According to the revolutionary mentality, "Becoming" rules in the spiritual realm as well: everything is believed to be conditioned and shaped by the age and by the times. According to the revolutionary mentality, there are no principles, systems, and norms with values independent from the period in which they have assumed a historical form, on the basis of contingent and very human aspects such as physical, social, economic, and irrational factors. According to the most extreme and up-to-date trajectory of this deviant mind-set, the truly determining factor of every structure, and of what resembles an autonomous value, is the contingency proper to the various forms and development of the means of production, according to its consequences and social repercussions.


In chapter 7 I will discuss at greater length the historicist thesis I have merely outlined here, in order to clarify the fundamental and unbridgeable gap between the two premises. It is therefore useless to engage in a discussion when this gap is not acknowledged as given, a priori. The two views are as irreconcilable as the patterns of thought behind them. The former is the truth upheld by the revolutionary conservative, and by any group that, in the political realm, can be properly characterized as part of an authentic "Right"; the latter is the myth upheld by world subversion, the common background of all its forms, no matter how extreme, moderate, or watered down they may be. The previous considerations concerning the method and the meaning of some historical references also have a practical value. As a matter of fact, in a nation there is not always a sufficient living traditional continuity, whereas referring to existing or relatively young institutions may serve directly as a reference to the corresponding ideas. Conversely, it may happen that, when the continuity is broken, the previous procedure is adopted: then one must look to other eras, but only in order to derive from them ideas that are valid per se. This is especially the case for Italy. In previous books of mine I have often wondered what could actually be "preserved" in this country. In Italy we find no basis of political forms that have been preserved sufficiently intact from a traditional past; this is due mainly to the fact that such a past is lacking and that, unlike in major European states, in Italy there was no secular and continuous unitary formation connected to a symbol and to a central, dynastic political power. More specifically, in Italy there is no trace of a strong ideological legacy (not even as the legacy of a few) that would enable people to feel everything connected with the ideologies that arose with the French Revolution as extraneous, unnatural, and destructive. In fact, it was precisely these ideologies, in various forms, that propitiated the unification of Italy, continued to prevail in the unified Italy, and multiplied in the most virulent forms after the Fascist era. Thus, there is a hiatus and a vacuum—and, in the case of Italy, the reference to traditional principles will necessarily have an ideal rather than a historical character. And even if we refer to historical forms, we should only acknowledge them to be the mere basis for an integration that will immediately leave them behind, having in mind ideas instead; the historical distance being (as in the case of the ancient Roman world, or certain aspects of medieval civilization) too great for that reference to serve any other purpose.


Such a circumstance does not represent a disadvantage from all points of view—for instance, if the ideas to which I allude were implemented by a new movement, they would appear in an almost pure state, with only a minimum of historical dross.


Unfortunately, Italian representatives of these principles will not be able to benefit from what some states, especially the central European ones, displayed as a residual historical positive basis or as a predisposition for a conservative revolution; the positive counterpart of this disadvantage is that if the formation I have in mind will come into existence, it will be endowed with an absolute and uncompromising character. Precisely because there is no material support still alive emanating from a traditional past and made concrete in historical forms that are still valid, the conservative revolution in Italy must emerge as a predominantly spiritual phenomenon, based on a pure idea. However, since the present world looks more and more like a world of ruins, sooner or later the same line of action will assert itself everywhere: in other words, people will realize that it is useless to lean on what still has vestiges of more normal institutions, but which is compromised by several negative historical factors, and that it is imperative to go back to the origins and to start anew from them, as if they towered over history, moving ahead with pure forces along the path of an avenging and reconstructive reaction.




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