December 7, 2016

1932. Benito Mussolini Declares Fascism the "Creed of the Century"

The "Apostle of Fascism"
Benito Mussolini (source)
In this excerpt of the essay "The Doctrine of Fascism," published in The New York Times on September 18, 1932, Benito Mussolini (alongside Giovanni Gentile) lays out his own definition of the fascist ideology, promoting it as a nationalist, pro-war, and anti-individualist doctrine antithetical to democracy and Marxism. Its violent rise in Italy and Germany drew both significant concern and interest in the United States.

From The New York Times, September 18, 1932:

FASCISM DEFINED BY MUSSOLINI AS THE CREED OF THE CENTURY

He Upholds War, Condemns Democracy as an Outworn Doctrine, And Calls the Trend to Empire a Manifestation of Vitality

As originator, developer and administrator of the political regime and doctrine of fascism, Premier Mussolini of Italy recently prepared an exposition of the doctrine for Encyclopedia Italiana, herewith reproduced with slight abridgement.

By BENITO MUSSOLINI
Fascism today has a distinct personality of its own, both as a regime and as a doctrine. The word must be interpreted in the sense that today fascism, exercising its critical faculties on itself and others, has its own unmistakable points of view and of reference—and, therefore, also of direction—with regard to all the problems which affect the intelligence or the material aspects of the life of the peoples of the world.

In the first place, fascism, as it generally regards the future and the development of humanity, and laying aside all considerations of present-day politics, does not believe either in the possibility or the utility of perpetual peace. It therefore repudiates pacifism, which betrays a tendency to give up the struggle and implies cowardice in the face of the necessity of sacrifice.

Only war raises all human energies to the maximum and sets a seal of nobility on the peoples which have the virtues to undertake it. All other tests are mere substitutes, which never place a man face-to-face with himself in the alternatives of life or death. Any doctrine, therefore, which starts from the initial postulate of peace, is foreign to fascism.

Equally unrelated to the spirit of fascism are all those international and League of Nations institutions—even if they are accepted for the usefulness they may have in certain political situations—which, as history proves, may be scattered to the winds when sentimental, ideal or practical elements cause storms to rage in the hearts of peoples.

A Stoical Motto

Fascism carries this anti-pacifist spirit into the life of the individual. The proud motto of the fighting days of fascism, "Me ne frego" ("I don't give a damn"), which a legionary wrote on the bloody bandages covering a wound on his head, is an assertion not only of a stoic philosophy and the essence not only of a political doctrine. It is also an expression of the training to fight and of the acceptance of the risk that fighting entails; it is a new style of living for present-day Italians.

Thus the Fascist accepts and loves life and considers suicide cowardly and unthinkable. He considers life a duty, a struggle toward the heights, a conquest; he holds that life must be lofty and full, must be lived for one's self but also for others, both far and near, both present and future.

This conception of life makes fascism the complete negation of the doctrine which formed the basis of so-called scientific or Marxist socialism—the doctrine of historical materialism, according to which the history of human civilizations is to be explained only by the clash of interests between the various social groups and by the changes in the means and instruments of production. Nobody denies that economic transformations—discovery of new raw materials, new methods of work, scientific inventions—have a decided importance, but to maintain that they can explain human history to the exclusion of all other factors is absurd.

Fascism still believes and will always believe in sanctity and in heroism; in acts, that is to say, that are prompted by no economic considerations, either remote or near at hand. Having repudiated the theory of historical materialism, according to which men are mere puppets of history, which appear and disappear on the surface of the stream, while the real directive forces exist and work in the deeps, it follows that fascism repudiates class war. Particularly does fascism deny that class war is the preponderant agent of social transformations.

Dropping Republicanism

Fascism is radically opposed to the whole mass of democratic ideology and repudiates it, both in its theoretical premises and in its practical applications. Fascism denies that numbers, from the mere fact of being numbers, can play the role of leaders of human communities. Fascism denies that numbers can govern, through a system of periodical consultation of the electorate, but affirms the irremediable, fruitful and beneficial inequality of men, who cannot all be reduced to the same level by an external and mechanical fact such as universal suffrage.

Democratic regimes may be defined as those in which, every now and then, the people are given the illusion of being sovereign, while the true sovereignty in actual fact resides in other forces which are sometimes irresponsible and secret. Democracy is a regime without a king, but with a number of kings, often more exclusive, tyrannical and ruinous than a single king, even though he be a tyrant. This explains why fascism, though having assumed before 1922 a tendency toward a republican attitude, reversed that attitude before the march on Rome. It was convinced that the question of the political system of a State is not today of preeminent importance and that if samples of past and present monarchies and past and present republics are examined it will be found that the monarchical and republican systems must not be judged as though they were eternal, but that they represent forms in which political evolution, history, traditions and the psychology of any particular country manifest themselves.

Fascism has overcome the alternative of monarchy or republic, on which democratic theory was so wont to dwell, delighting in heaping all defects on the first and eulogizing the latter as a regime of perfection. Now it is seen that there are profoundly reactionary or autocratic republics and monarchies which welcome the boldest political and social experiments.

Fascism repudiates and leaves to democracy the free use of the absurd conventional falsehood of political equality, the habit of collective irresponsibility and the myth of indefinite happiness and progress. But, if democracy could be differently understood, the writer of this article would be able to define fascism as an "organized, centralized and authoritative democracy."

Benito Mussolini in 1922 (source)
Why Liberalism is Opposed

Toward liberal doctrines fascism assumes an attitude of absolute opposition, both in the political and economic fields. One must not exaggerate, merely for purposes of present-day discussion, the importance of liberalism in the last century and make of what was merely one of many doctrines which came into being in that century a religion for humanity for all time. Liberalism bloomed for only about fifteen years. It was born in 1830 as a reaction against the Holy Alliance, which wished to reduce Europe to its pre-1789 state, and had its year of greatest splendor in 1848, when even Pope Pius IX was a liberal.

Decadence set in immediately afterward. If 1848 was a year of light and poetry, 1849 was a year of darkness and tragedy. The Roman republic was killed by the sister republic of France. In that same year Marx preached the gospel of the religion of socialism, with the famous proclamation of the Communists. In 1851 Napoleon III made his un-liberal coup d'├ętat and reigned over France till 1870, when he was overthrown by a popular movement, but as a consequence of one of the most ruinous military defeats that history records. The victor was Bismarck, who never even knew in what street the religion of liberty lived, or what were the names of its prophets.

It is symptomatic that a highly civilized people like the Germans should have had no knowledge throughout the nineteenth century of the religion of liberty. There was only one interlude, represented by what has been called the "ridiculous Parliament of Frankfurt," which lasted only one season. Germany has reached national unity outside liberalism and against liberalism, a doctrine foreign to the German soul, which is essentially monarchical, while liberalism is the historical and logical antechamber of anarchy.

Forward-Looking Doctrine

The milestones of German unity are the three wars of 1864, 1866 and 1870, which were led by such "liberals" as Moltke and Bismarck. As for Italian unity, liberalism had a part in it of much less importance than the contributions of such men as Garibaldi and Mazzini, who were not liberals. Without the intervention of the un-liberal Napoleon, we should not have had Lombardy, and without the help of the un-liberal Bismarck at Sadowa and Sedan, very probably we should not have had Venetia in 1866 and should not have entered Rome in 1870.

From 1870 to 1915 is the period in which the priests themselves of the new religion began to see the decline of their creed, beaten all along the line by "decadentism" in literature and by "activism" in practice—"activism" being, in other words, nationalism, futurism, fascism.

The "liberal" century, after having put together a large collection of Gordian knots, attempted to untie them with the World War. Never did any religion call upon its followers for such an immense sacrifice. The gods of liberalism were, perhaps, thirsty for blood. Now liberalism is about to close the doors of its deserted temples, because all peoples feel that its agnosticism in economic matters, its indifference in political and moral matters, will lead (as they have led) to the certain ruin of States. This explains why all political experiments in the contemporary world are anti-liberal, and it is supremely ridiculous to try to classify them for that reason as being against the general trend of history.

Unity and Liberalism

The Fascist negation of socialism, of democracy, of liberalism, must not lead people to believe, however, that fascism wishes to push the world back to what it was before 1789, which is usually given as the opening year of the democratic-liberal century. It is not possible to turn back. Fascist doctrine has not elected de Maistre to be its prophet. Monarchical autocracy is a thing of the past, just as rule by any church is. In the same way, feudal privileges and the division of humanity into impenetrable castes are things of the past. The conception of Fascist authority has nothing to do with a police-ridden State.

A party which governs a nation entirely is a new fact in history and therefore no reference points are available and no comparisons can be made. Fascism has been rescued from the wreckage of liberal, socialist and democratic doctrines, those elements which still appear to be vital. It has retained those that may be termed the "proved facts" of history and has rejected everything else. It has rejected, in other words, the conception of a doctrine that can be applied to all peoples in all ages.

Political doctrines pass, while only the peoples of the world remain. It may be thought that the present is the century of authority, the century of "the right," the century of Fascism. If the nineteenth century was the century of the individual (liberalism means individualism), it may be thought that the present is the century of "collectivism" and, therefore, the century of the State.

A cornerstone of Fascist doctrine is its conception of the State of its essence, of its duties, of its aims. For fascism, the State is something absolute, before which individuals and groups are something relative. Individuals and groups are conceivable only inasmuch as they exist within the State. The liberal State does not direct the material and spiritual growth and development of the community, but limits itself to registering the results. Fascism, instead, has a consciousness, a will of its own. For this reason it is called an "ethical" State.

In 1929, in the first quinquennial assembly of the Fascist regime, I said: "For fascism, the State is not merely a night watchman, who must think only of the personal safety of the citizens. It is not even an organization with purely material aims, such as guaranteeing a certain well-being and a relatively peaceful life for the community, in which case it could be replaced by a board of directors. It is not even by creation of pure politics, without any adherence to the complex material life of single individuals and of communities.
"Benito Mussolini with two of his sons, Bruno (left) and Vittorio, 1935" (source)
The Fascist Idea of the State

"The State which fascism has conceived and brought into being is a spiritual and moral fact, because it is a concrete expression of the political, juridical, economic organization of the nation, and such an organization is, both at its birth and in its development, a spiritual manifestation. The State is the guarantor of internal and external peace, but it is also the custodian and the agency which transmits the spirit of the people, such as it has been elaborated through the centuries in the language, in the customs, in the faith. The State is not only the present, but it is also the past and, above all, the future . . ."

From 1929 to today, the universal political and economic development has further strengthened these doctrinal positions. The State looms as a giant. Only the State can solve the dramatic contradictions of capitalism. That which we call "the crisis" can be solved only by the State, within the State. Where are the notions of Jules Simon, who at the dawn of liberalism proclaimed that "the State must try to render itself useless and prepare its resignation"? Where are the theories of the MacCullochs, who in the second half of the past century affirmed that the State must abstain from governing too much? And what would be the reaction to the constant, inevitable, eagerly sought interventions of the State in the economic vicissitudes of nations of the Englishman Bentham, according to whom industry had only one thing to ask of government, namely, to be left in peace? Or the German Humboldt, according to whom an "idle" State was to be considered the best?

It is true that the second wave of liberal economists was less extreme than the first and that Smith himself opened—though with extreme caution—the door to the intervention of the State in economic phenomena.

Just as he who says liberalism says individualism, so he who says fascism says State. But the Fascist State is unique and is an original creation. It is not reactionary, but revolutionary, inasmuch as it anticipates the solution of certain specific universal problems, which are elsewhere placed in the political field by the multiplication of parties, by the excessive power of parliamentarism, by the irresponsibility of assemblies; or in the economic field by the syndicalist functions, which are becoming ever more powerful both in the sectors of capital and of labor, by their conflicts and their understandings; or in the moral field by the necessity of order, of discipline, of obedience to the moral dictates of the country.

Fascism and the State

Fascism wants the State to be strong, organic, but at the same time wants it to rest on a wide popular foundation . . . A State which is based on millions of individuals who recognize it, who feel its influence, who are ready to serve it, is not the tyrannical State of a medieval lord. It has nothing in common with the autocratic States of before and after 1789. The individual, in the Fascist State, is not annulled, but rather multiplied, just as in a regiment a soldier is not diminished but multiplied by each one of his comrades. The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves sufficient margin to the individual; it has limited useless or harmful liberties, but has preserved the essential ones.

The Fascist State does not remain indifferent toward religion in general and toward that particular positive religion which Roman Catholicism is. The State has not a theology, but has a moral code. In the Fascist State religion is considered to be one of the deepest spiritual manifestations. Religion is, therefore, not only respected but defended and protected. The Fascist State does not create a god of its own, as Robespierre wished to do in the last delirium of the convention; nor does it vainly try to wipe God from the minds of men, as bolshevism does. Fascism respects the god of the ascetics, of the saints and of the heroes, and the God that is believed in and prayed to by the simple and primitive heart of the Italian people.

The Fascist State is a will to power and empire. Roman tradition is here an idea of power. In the Fascist doctrine, empire is not only a territorial, a military or a mercantile expression, but a spiritual and moral one. One can conceive of an empire or a nation which directly or indirectly leads other nations, without the need of conquering a single square mile of territory. Fascism regards the tendency to empire—that is to say, the expansion of nations—as a manifestation of vitality; the converse, or an inclination toward stay-at-home principles, is a sign of decadence. Nations which are rising or are rising again are imperialist; dying nations are renouncers.

Fascism is the doctrine most fitted to represent the tendencies and aspirations of a people like the Italian, which is being born to new life after centuries of neglect and subjection to foreigners. But empire requires discipline, coordination of effort, duty and sacrifice. This explains many aspects of the practical action of the Fascist regime and the severity necessary with those who would oppose this spontaneous and fateful movement of the Italy of the twentieth century—and would oppose it, moreover, waving the flag of time-worn nineteenth century ideologies that have been repudiated wherever there has been the daring to try large-scale experiments in the political and social transformation.

Never as in this moment have the peoples of the world been athirst for authority, for leadership, for order. If it may be said that each century has its own doctrine, then a thousand indications point to fascism as the doctrine of the present century.