The Italians’ Half-Hearted Attempt at Revolution Ruined Fascism

(from "The Path of Cinnabar")




[...] The Fascist 'revolution' in Italy had only affected certain political bodies: even from a political perspective, it had only been a half-hearted attempt at revolution, which never led to the development of a coherent, systematic and uncompromising doctrine of the State. This is not the right place to discuss what elements of Fascism might have assumed a traditional character (and thus have acted not as something new, but as the specific adaptations of ideas reflecting the great, traditional politics of Europe); and what features of Fascism, on the contrary, were the worst (most notably: its promotion of 'totalitarianism' in place of 'organic statehood'; its ambition to embody a regime of the masses; its Napoleonic dictatorship and emphasis on the personal figure of the Leader; its half-hearted corporatism; its attempt to overcome the class divisions established by Marxism in the industrial and economic sphere by means of inefficient bureaucratic superstructures; the grotesque, insolent and pedagogic attitude of Gentile's 'ethical State’). In strictly cultural terms, however, the Fascist 'revolution' was simply a joke. All that was required in order to become a representative of Fascist 'culture' was to be a member of the Party and to pay formal, conformist tribute to the Duce. All else was more or less irrelevant.

Mussolini once said that Party membership did not bestow intelligence. He also ought to have pointed out that intelligence, in itself, has nothing to do with the kind of spiritual education which Fascism sought to cultivate. Instead of starting from scratch, of ignoring fame and big names, instead of subjecting each intellectual candidate to a radical reassessment, Fascism, with provincial and bourgeois ambition, chose to welcome all the 'cultural representatives' of the bourgeoisie, as long as they could give proof of their formal (and irrelevant) adherence to the regime. This led to pathetic cases such as that of the Accademia d'Italia, the members of which were largely agnostic or anti-Fascist in their private beliefs. But the same is also true of many other men who were assigned prominent roles within the Fascist cultural establishment and media. It is not surprising, therefore, to find many of these gentlemen now donning a new uniform in democratic, anti-Fascist Italy.

A particularly pathetic case is that of the so-called Istituto di Studi Romani (Institute of Roman Studies). As Rome had been chosen as the highest symbol of the Fascist 'revolution', it would only have been natural for the Fascist regime to foster a detailed, lively and systematic study of the values and expressions of Roman civilization (even if of a different and less extreme kind from the study I had personally presented in Pagan Imperialism). And yet, the Fascist regime made do with this clerical and bourgeois institute, which confined itself to formal semi-academic exercises in the fields of philology, archaeology, art history and the like. Ironically, it was overseas scholars - such as Bachofen, Altheim, W. Otto, Piganiol, Dumézil and Kerényi - who most contributed towards the Fascist myth of Rome. It with sarcasm that foreigners acquainted with my own defense of the Roman ideal discussed the only centre that Fascism had officially established to study the subject: the Institute I just mentioned, which, naturally enough, destined to survive the crisis of Fascism and to carry on its squalid activities in the anti-Fascist milieu of democratic Italy (which now mocks the Roman ideal, accusing it of fostering idle rhetoric).

So much, then, for 'Fascist culture'. I will mention one more fact which illustrates how the editorial activities I pursued, even when under the kind of official protection I mentioned, were ignored by the mainstream press then, just as they are today (for the mainstream press has continued to ignore my work, even after the publication of Revolt Against the Modern World). Paradoxically, I elicited more interest overseas, where I was seen as the chief representative of a revolutionary culture (or, rather, of a revolutionary worldview and approach to history) - much to the chagrin of those people who dominated the cultural milieu of Italy and who had secured a place for themselves in the exclusive circuits of official culture. It is only natural, therefore, for the legacy of Fascist 'culture' to be non-existent. It is said that Fascism ruined the Italian people. Military issues notwithstanding, I would rather argue the opposite: that it is the Italians who ruined Fascism; for Italy proved incapable of providing the kind of people who might develop the superior potentialities of Fascism while neutralizing its negative aspects (and this, of course, not merely from the point of view of culture).



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