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Middlemarch: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Reviews and Criticism (A Norton Critical Edition)
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Gabriel García Márquez

Italian fascisms from Pareto to Gentile (Roots of the right)

Italian Fascisms From Pareto To Gentile - Adrian Lyttelton Tight little collection of source documents for Italian fascism. Includes Mussolini, Pareto, d’Annunzio, Marinetti, Rocco, and others. Is part of a series, now out of print, apparently, ‘Roots of the Right: Readings in Fascist, Racist, and Elitist Ideology,’ which I suppose will be worth the effort to track down.

The normal stuff is on display: anti-liberalism, anti-intellectualism, anti-socialism, anti-individualism. Fascism likes nationalism, religion, producerism, statism, wealth, war. Mussolini’s own writings are an incoherent mess, which I suppose contributes to the general thesis that fascism itself is an incoherent mess. (In what should sound familiar, Mussolini declares that fascism is not a party, but a movement against all parties, which is sufficiently teabagger for my purposes.)

We may however discern some features that make it cohere, if not the systematic degree found in the analyses of Dimitrov or Dutt:

1) Mussolini: “Fascism believes now and always in holiness and heroism, that is in acts in which no economic motive--remote or immediate--plays a part. With this negation of historical materialism […] there is also denied the immutable and irreparable ‘class struggle’” (48). “Fascism denies the possibility of the materialistic conception of ‘happiness’” (49). Fascism “affirms the irremediable, fruitful, beneficial inequality of men” (49).

2) Pareto: “the lower classes produce new elites. So far as these lower classes themselves are concerned, they are incapable of ruling; ochlocracy has never resulted in anything save disaster” (78). Socialists “exaggerate a good deal the burden of oppression imposed by the new [bourgeois] masters” (82). “If the ‘bourgeois’ were being animated by the same spirit of abnegation and sacrifice for their class as the socialists for theirs, socialism would be far from being as menacing as it actually is” (83). Private property can be acquired in two ways: “producing it directly” and “acquiring the wealth thus produced by others” (84)--for Pareto, socialism is the latter, of course.

3) Papini & Prezzolini: “But socialism, since it is class-conscious and has no sense of history [!], is, by its origins and its needs, an international, that is to say an anti-national, party. Now if we middle class monarchists want to maintain our position as the ruling class and leading caste, those who own the property and give the orders, we must follow above all a national policy” (101). The bourgeoisie and proletariat are both anti-national: “the proletariat is what it is because it has lively class-consciousness and this, although it enables it to offer its platonic support to internationalism, none the less prevents it from having any sense of those national needs that, in its view, tend to safeguard its own special interests [huh?]. On the other hand, the bourgeoisie are anti-national because, as we shall see, they are insufficiently class-conscious” (102). “Loathing it as we do, we are against the majority” (104). “Anti-war theories are not produced by reason but reasons are found to excuse the reluctance to accept bloodshed” (104). “‘Every man’, I wrote, ‘has the right to live and everyone must live’: this is the steadfast belief, tacit or overt, of every socialist and bourgeois,” “the fundamental principle that it lies at the root of all claims of the proletariat, every anti-war protest” (105). Rather, fascism “demands an ever-increasing sacrifice of lives,” “life is not worth living unless it is full and intense: sacrificing the heroic intensity of such a life in favor of life that is merely ephemeral would deprive the world of its greatest value” (106). “While the democratic mob raise their outcry against war as a barbarous relic of outgrown savagery, we look on it as the greatest possible tonic to restore flagging energy, as a swift and heroic means to attain power and richness” (106-07). Socialism, we find, “is nothing but a perpetual conspiracy directed against freedom” (110). The “whole raison d’etre of our own party. Arouse the middle classes by means of the aristocracy in order to lead them against socialist or semi-socialist democracy” (113).

4) Corradini: “A voice, therefore, raised against the present degradation. And, first and foremost against the foul degradation of socialism” (137). The Italian bourgeoisie, “like some old sewage barge,” goes “to every sewer outlet discharging its lethal effluent and the contagion of the sociologies, the philosophies, the policies, the atheistic, secular, cosmopolitan mysticism [!] which are the well-manured soil in which the weeds of socialism have grown,” and “every sign of decrepitude, sentimentalism, doctrinairism, outmoded respect for transient human life, outmoded pity for the weak and humble, utility and mediocrity seen as the criteria for wisdom, neglect of the higher potentialities of mankind, the ridiculing of heroism, every foul sign of the loathsome decrepitude of degenerate people can be found” therein (139). Nationalism “intends to rise above all class interests by coordinating and concentrating them so as to transform them into units of power” (159), and “advocates strengthening and organizing the middle and industrial classes” (162).

5) Soffici: a writer of proto-fascist novels, wherein the protagonist responds to a socialist’s speech with “the words count for much less than we think” (174), i.e., the normal anti-intellectualism, and then disrupts it with thuggery.

6) d’Annunzio: “I believe that war is preparing mystic spheres for the apparition of great ideals” (185). Huh?

7) Lanzillo: excerpted text is The Defeat of Socialism, so, yeah.

8) Marinetti: the “Futurist Manifesto,” which strikes me as vastly overrated as a source document. Aside from pedestrian aesthetics of danger, courage, aggression, conflict, speed, machinery, the doctrine espouses primordialism, express glorification of war, a desire to demolish museums, libraries and “fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice” (211-12). True enemy of Futurism is identified in the objective to “deliver Italy from the gangrene of professors” (212). Gotta love alienated school kids who dream big, I guess.

9) Malaparte: hagiographer of Mussolini. Intones that “as Fascists and syndicalists, that is to say, deeply revolutionary, we are anti-democratic because we are anti-humanitarian. The steadfast aversion to socialism felt by syndicalism and Fascism springs from the physical, historical, and political truth that suffering is a national and social duty and necessity” (229). Regards socialism as conservative and counter-revolutionary (240-241), so some rhetorical sleights of mind here.

10) Rocco: one of il Duce’s administrators, with the largest selection in the volume. Explains the fascist “formula: disciplined control of inequality and thus hierarchy and organization within the state; free competition and struggle in external relationships between nations, in order that, as a result of their inequality, those nations should assert themselves who are best prepared for and best adapted” (259). This conflict is eternal, except “the only foreseeable [!!!] possibility for the reunification of mankind into one single organization is some possible future interplanetary struggle between inhabitants of the earth and those of Mars and Venus [!!!]” (263). Includes essay on corporativist doctrine, through which fascism solved “the problem of the distribution of wealth” but “without recourse to liberal anarchy or socialist tyranny” (293).

11) Gentile: was il Duce’s minister of education, and in that capacity stated “The man of letters is a bastard product of our Renaissance whom Fascism rightly holds in disrepute as a bad citizen and intends to weed out completely from our soil” (304). Good to have clearly stated policy!

Lots more of interest, of course. Recommended.