Transcribing Mussolini's Intellectuals for free: Chapter two - Historical Background

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  1. Dr. Rice

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    One of the presumed distinctions between the left and right wing revolutions in the twentieth century has persisted almost to the present. Left-wing revolutions were intuitively anticapitalist; right-wing revolutions were not—certainly not in the same fashion. More than that, right-wing revolutions were purportedly “supported,” “underwritten,” “directed,” and “organized” by “capitalism.” Fascism, we have been told as late as 1997, is “implicit in the nature of modernity and capitalism…”

    The argument, fully articulated as early as the middle years of the 1930s, identified fascism as a reactive product of industrial capitalism. The economic depression of the 1930s convinced many that industrial capitalism could no longer realize a rate of profit that might sustain the system. The consequence, the argument proceeded, was the desperate search by “finance capitalists” for “reactionary” political instrumentalities that could effectively resist the inevitable and irreversible catastrophic collapse of the system. Fascism, according to the argument, provided precisely that instrumentality. All of which implied that one would expect fascism to make its appearance exclusively in mature and nonviable industrial economies. Today, given what we know, none of that is, in the least, likely. Not only has capitalism not entered into its final crisis anywhere in the world, but Fascism was first successful in marginally industrialized Italy—in a nation that had only begun its industrial development. Italian industrial capitalism was hardly at the end of its life cycle. It was at little more than its commencement. Moreover, subsequent movements elsewhere in Europe that have been characterized as fascist proved to “have been most successful in mobilizing the lower classes in underdeveloped…countries.” Where a variant of fascism—Adolf Hitler’s National Socialism—arose in an industrialized economy, “most large-scale business and industrial enterprise… did not support the Nazis before their seizure of power, and indeed looked upon them as potential radicals.” The fact is that fascism, in all its variants, had a relationship with industrial capitalism largely misunderstood by theoreticians. “Modernity”—if it is understood primarily as industrialization and technological development—was critical to fascism as a revolutionary goal.

    In Fascist Italy, economic modernization, industrialization, and technological development were critical to its political enterprise from the very origins of Mussolini’s movement. As a consequence, there were intellectuals, supported by antitraditionalists and Futurists, who sought technological proficiency and economic expansion—formulating programs characterized by “unconditional adherence to logic and reason.” Their reasonings may have been impaired and the programs flawed, but it is clear that their rationale was competent as any. Fascism was animated by a search for rational programs and functional strategies. The exhortative enjoinments Fascism employed to mobilize mass energies, to extract resources, or to ensure popular support were instrumental to the technological modernization and industrialization of Italy—in the effort to create a nation that would assume the economic, political, and military responsibilities of a major power in the modern world. As a consequence, Fascism was, as will be argued, goal directed and functionally rational.

    The principal leaders of Italian Fascism were heretical Marxists precisely in the sense that their experience had taught them that traditional Marxism offered little guidance in the tortured reality of the first decades of the twentieth century. Mussolini, an acknowledged Marxist thinker, had been both the intellectual and political leader of the Italian Socialist Party prior to the First World War—and collected around himself some of Italian Marxism’s most competent theoreticians. They were the thinkers who early recognized that advanced industrial economies were the exclusive subject of classical Marxist analyses—economies in which the concentration and centralization of capital, together with its “high organic composition,” generated crises that irreversibly reduced their rate of profit, their viability, and led to “inevitable proletarian revolution.”

    They were the thinkers who early understood that revolution in the retarded economic environments in which they found themselves required something other than a “proletarian revolution” a program to more equitable redistribute the welfare benefits of industrial capitalism. Retrograde industrial development in the twentieth century carried with it consequences that had overwhelming technological and productive, rather than distributive, implications for all sectors of society.

    At the turn of the twentieth century, industrial capitalism in Italy had only begun its sustained growth. At that time, Italy was a marginally industrialized nation. It took its place among the most economically and industrially laggard communities of Europe—a fact that rendered Italy a polity of little consequence among the international powers. In those circumstances, it was very unlikely that “industrial capitalism” would be in a position to “generate,” foster, or sustain so complex a movement as Fascism either as an ideology or revolution. There were precious few “magnates of industry” of “finance capitalists” with the power and wherewithal who might create and employ Fascism as a tool to dominate the national economy.

    The entire notion that Fascism was a product of late-industrial or finance capitalism has shown itself to be so improbable that there are few serious contemporary scholars who entertain it any longer. Italian Fascism was neither the creature nor the tool of “capitalism”—industrial, financial, or agrarian.

    The Italy that saw the rise of the first Fascism hosted a retrograde industrial capitalism—hardly the agency that possessed the resources or was infilled with the systemic urgencies that would lead to the creation, sustenance, and organization of a dynamic mass movement capable of controlling a nation for quarter of a century. At the time of Fascism’s rice, Italy was largely agrarian, with the bulk of its labor force involved in agricultural pursuits. Like Russia at the time of the Bolshevik revolution, the Fascist revolution came to power in Italy just after the nation had traversed an initial period of preliminary economic and minimal industrial growth, immediately followed by the social and political crises of the First World War.

    In both environments, the revolutionaries received financial and political support from whatever economic, and financial leaders were available in their respective communities. Bolsheviks no more solicited funds nor recruited exclusively from the proletariat than Fascism did from capitalists. In both environments, monied elements contributed to their respective enterprise, and the revolutionaries in both Russia and Italy enjoyed the intellectual and political support of a significant number of important thinkers of all classes. In both instances, some of those same thinkers were to supply the rational for the revolution and subsequent regime developments.

    For Fascist intellectuals, even before the March on Rome that brought Mussolini to power in Italy in 1922, in the retarded economic and industrial development in which they found themselves, Marxism, in whatever variant, was totally irrelevant. Fascist theoreticians provided an alternative.

    That Fascism provided a political, economic, and revolutionary strategy for a less-developed nation grew out of the intellectual and political environment Fascists inherited from a long history. The proposed alternative assumed specific form almost immediately upon Fascism’s accession to power in Italy. It was the evolutionary product of a long development of Italian socialism and nationalism—political convictions that were to pass almost unaltered into the regime rational of Fascism.

    The rationale offered by Fascism grew out of a protracted history of political and national development on the Italian peninsula. Until the nineteenth century Italy was not a nation; it was a congeries of principalities, city-states, and geographical enclaves more often than not invaded, and ruled over by foreigners. As early as 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli had called for the creation of a united community on the peninsula. He exhorted the people of the broken nation to “ deliver Italy from foreign powers.” He held that Italy, as a nation, had been reduced to slavery. He went on to argue that perhaps it was inevitable, given the nature of the world, that such humiliation was necessary in order to foster rebirth—to awaken the interests and kindle the energy of so demeaned a people. Italy, he averred, had been reduced to so miserable a condition that Italians were “greater slaves than the Israelites, more oppressed than the Persians, and still more dispersed than the Athenians… in a word, [Italians were] without laws and without chief,s pillaged, torn to pieces, and enslaved by foreign powers.”

    The theme of Italian inferiority, exploitations, and humiliation is recurrent feature of Italian literature throughout the years between Machiavelli and the turn of the twentieth century. After 1530, it was said, “Venice endures, but does not live; Naples reigns, but does not govern; Turin both reigns and governs, but only obscurely.” In 1614, Alessandro Tassoni sought to reprove Italians for enduring the pretense of others—to continue to allow themselves to be “downtrodden by the by the arrogance and conceit of foreign peoples.”

    Characteristic of these circumstances is the reaction that inevitable follows. Cognizant of the wretched state of the peninsula, Giambattista Vico offered Italians heart. At the onset of the eighteenth century, Vico claimed to have divined, through his “new science,” that peoples and nations went through “natural” cycles. After the glories of its youth in antiquity, he maintained, Italy had fallen into senescence and decay. The old Italy had died. A new Italy, his “science” proclaimed, was destined for rebirth and resurgence. He anticipated a nation freed of foreign intervention, “master of itself, great among the great nations of Europe,… conscious of its natural science….” His was a full expression of reactive nationalism—a cry of redemptive desire made by a people, once proud, shorn of self esteem and collective purpose.

    For all the expectations aroused by Vico’s message, at the end of the same century, Vittorio Alfieri could still speak of Italy as that “August Matron,” who for so long had been the “principal seat of all human wisdom and values,” and who yet found herself, in his own time, “disarmed, divided, despised [and] enslaved.” With the advent of the nineteenth century, the entire strata of the Italian political and intellectual elite were astir with the reactive nationalist demands of unification and regeneration. If anything, the reactive nationalist sentiments of many had become still more exacerbated. Vincenzo Gioberti spoke of the “primacy” of Italy, of the superiority of Italians in almost every endeavor. His book on the moral and civil primacy of Italians (Del primate morale e civile degli italiani) of 1843, however hyperbolic, gave expression to the desire for the restoration of the nation’s lost grandeur. The mere literary statement, however, was of little consolation to those who longed for restoration of Italy’s one-time glory. At almost the same time, Giacomo Leopardi lamented the “pitiful condition” of the nation, divested of glory, “sad and abandoned,” still so disheartened that she was compelled to “conceal her face” from the world.

    With the coming of the nineteenth century, Europe embarked on a protracted period of political instability. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic period had unleashed forces no longer to be contained. Nationalism, everywhere, became the inspiration for sustained revolutionary efforts on the part of communities that aspired to nationhood, or which, like Italy, sought not only political reunification, but national resurgence as well.

    Italy’s Risorgimento, its effort at reunification and rebirth, made the name of Giuseppe Mazzini familiar to Western thought—however uninterested Westerners might have been in developments on the Italian peninsula. Mazzini spoke, with passion, of an Italian rebirth. He spoke of a reunited Italy that would represent a redemptive “Third Rome,” to bring a new message of civilization and morality to a world that had become increasingly materialistic and devoid of purpose. He spoke of the “great memories” of a past that would inspire a new Italy to a “new mission.” He called for an anti-individualistic unity of all Italians at home and a new development of civilization, inspired by Italy, abroad—the “vast ambition of a nation, intoxicated by its independence of the foreigner, [and] founded by its own strength.”

    That strength of the anticipated new Italy would be mobilized by a “government that [would] be the mind of a nation, the people its arm, and the educated and free individual its prophet of future progress. The first will point out the path that leads to the ideal, its national idea, which… is the only thing that makes a nation.” For Mazzini, the nation was to be “something more than an aggregation of individuals born to produce and consume corn, the foundations of its life are, fraternity of faith, consciousness of a common ideal, and the association of all faculities to work in harmony and with success towards that ideal … [with] duty the sole standard of life [and] and self-sacrifice … the only pure virtue, holy and might in power, the noblest jewel that crowns and hallows the human soul…. People and government must proceed united, like thought and action in individuals, towards the accomplishment of [their] mission.” Mazzini sought the nation’s redemptive renewal in what he identified as a “National Italian Revolution.”

    Similar themes recur in the literature of Italy’s Rigorgimento – often in different combinations with different emphases. There were those who, after the founding of the Kingdom in March 1861 and the establishment of Rome as its capital in October 1870, devoted themselves to sustaining and fostering the strength of the new state; others were to attempt to serve the needs and wants of the new nation’s working classes. The first were identified as of the right and others as of the left. There were those who sought the complete separation of the state and the Roman Catholic Church – while others sought their collaboration in the creation of a strong and independent nation.

    By the end of the nineteenth century, with the first impressive developments by Italy’s liberal government that signaled the beginnings of a national industrial base, there were those Italians who sought infant industry protection through tariff and nontariff means. Others appealed to the injunctions of Adam Smith on “free trade” in order to foster the anticipated industrial development. To that purpose, some sought state intervention; others rejected it. In 1892-93, in what could only be the premature response to the first appearance of medium-sized industry on the peninsula, the first organized socialist elements appeared, inspired by the Marxism of France and Germany. During that year, the Italian Socialist party was founded. For Italian Marxism, socialism sought not national ideals, but social revolution. The revolution it sought had nothing to do with the creation of a “Third Rome,” but with worldwide “proletarian revolution.”

    With the expansion of suffrage, the opposing political forces in Italy, marshaled in a variety of relatively small organizations, influenced an indecisive government inextricable caught up in international conflict. In a Europe alive with energy – the explosive expansion of British, French, and Belgian imperialism, together with the rapid industrialization of Germany – a newly reunited Italy continued to languish in manifest political, cultural, industrial, and military, and imperial inferiority.

    IT was in that atmosphere of failed political purpose that a modern Italian nationalism began to take shape. Rather than a single Italian nationalism, there were at that time “many nationalism,” each distinctive in its own fashion. Some expressions had been precipitated by Italy’s defeat in Ethiopia in 1896 – its first real venture into colonialism. Others were the product of the humiliation produced by the awareness that millions of Italians had been forced by poverty to immigrate to other lands in search for survival – there to serve foreign masters. Some were influenced by the “cultural imperialism” that had Italians submissively adopt foreign customs and mannerisms – which, in turn, generated that entire lack of moral cohesion without which Italians slipped into servility and bondage to others.

    Some time within the first decade of the twentieth century, all its differences notwithstanding, Italian nationalism began to assume a specific configuration. Without question, one of those who were to mold emergent Italian nationalism was Enrico Corradini – born on 20 July 1865 in the town of Samminiatello di Montelupo near Florence. While still a student, Corradini embarked on a career as a writer – the author of a number of works more literary than political – but by 1902, he was giving expression to an uncertain, if passionate, nationalism that still lacked doctrinal coherence.

    In 1903, Corradini founded Il Regno, a journal that only briefly endured – characterized by major disagreements among the authors contributing to its pages. It was a journal that, in its own words, was more or less devoted to the moral regeneration of a new nation afflicted with all the disabilities of decadence: anarchism and antinomianism, narcissism and servility. Italy suffered venality and incompetence – suffused with a “putrid decrepitude” – manifest not only in the behaviors of a socialism that would destroy the nation through class conflict, but also in the behaviors of the “Italian bourgeoisie” that while it “ruled and governed,” was apparently prepared to “bring to earth all the high values of humankind and the nation.”

    In the same year, Giuseppe Prezzolini and Giovanni Papini, who collaborate with Corradini in the founding of Il Regno, founded Leonardo, a political journal welcomed by Corradini as another voice devoted to “restoring to Italy its consciousness as a great nation” – a consciousness necessary not only for the “prosperity and dignity of the fatherland, but that of the working class as well.” There were generic themes – supported at the time by notables such as Benedetto Croce – that were to remain central to Italian nationalism as it matured in the conferences and through the journals so abundant throughout the first two decades of the twentieth century.

    Commencing in December 1908, Prezzolini edited La Voce, a journal of ideas that sought to bring together various groups and individuals committed to “the renewal of Italy,… to the creation of a new environment of truth, of sincerity, and of realism – to study the problems of the new generation.” In the discussions, conferences, polemics, and the exchanges that followed, Italian nationalism began to take on the character of a political movement.

    It had already become evident that nationalists of all varieties sought the rapid economic development of the peninsula. That was the necessary condition for Italy’s resumption of its proper place in the community of nations. In a discourse delivered in 1904, and subsequently elaborated upon, Papini identified three stages in the evolution of Italian nationalism: the first, from Dante to Leopardi was almost exclusively poetic; the second, from Gioberti to Mazzini which was philosophical; and the third – that which had begun with the then-new century – was economic.

    What the new nationalism – the nationalism of rapid industrial development – required was a transformation of the psychology of Italians. No longer were Italians to be talkers, the spinners of phrases. They were to become serious, passionately devoted to performance. They were to develop a proper sense of time – like the industrial English and the industrializing Germans. To the exclusion of fine phrases that have their referent a vague and misty humanism, Italians were to recognize in the nation that organic reality in which all interests, material and moral, were rooted. For Papini, neither the “proletariat” nor the “bourgeoisie” represented self-sufficient entities that could survive or prosper without the other. The working classes and the entrepreneurial bourgeoisie were all united in the concrete actuality of the historic nation – for which they must be prepared to sacrifice immediate for more substantial, more enduring, more profound, and more ethical future benefits.

    Because the tasks faced by the new nation would be so onerous and demanding, they required a committed and heroic minority to prepare to assume responsibility. Papini reminded his audience that everything known concerning the political life of humankind indicated that everywhere and throughout time, minorities have effectively ruled. Gaetano Mosca, and Vilfredo Pareto had made the case. For all the grand words of democratic theory, only aristocracies, of one sort or another, govern communities. The distinction is not between democratic and aristocratic rule; it is between the rule of incompetents and brigands and an epistemocracy – rule by those who are informed and competent.

    In a resurgent Italy, Papini argued, it would be an aristocracy that would address the problems of forced emigration by its citizens. In such an Italy, it would be a leadership that understood that the nation lacked both domestic capital and essential raw materials for industrial development. Whatever the natural obstacles, however, that leadership would create a government that would accelerate the creation of an industrial base adequate to support the geographic, cultural, economic, and political expansion of a regenerate nation.

    These were the essentials of the new Italian nationalism that began to take shape between the turn of the new century and 1913. It was doctrinal nationalism that gradually emerged primarily, but not exclusively, out of the thought of Enrico Corradini. As early as 1902, he had given out of the thought of Enrico Coddadini. As early as 1902, he had given expression to the sociological premises that he understood to be the intellectual foundations of his nationalism. He had argued that all the studies of animal and human behavior supported the empirical claim that virtually all communities composed of sentient creatures are structure by a sentiment of in-group amity and out-group enmity – and that wherever it was found that a community was no longer informed by such sentiments, that community was decadent – veritably moribund. Any community that had lost its sense of unity, that was riven by internal conflict, Corradini maintained, was threatened with extinction. As a consequence, he was prepared to argue that the Marxist insistence on “class struggle” within communities heralded not liberating revolution, but threatened such communities with dissolution. Corradini understood domestic class struggle as symptomatic of imminent extinction.

    Corradini argued that everything we know of group dynamics indicated that the sense of community that sustained the nation was a product of geography, of enduring interaction over time, and an abiding sense of similarity – in language, art, politics, and collective enterprise – sustained through sympathy, mimicry, and instruction. A nation was an association of “similar” united in a consciousness of a collective mission. It was “the maximum unity of the maximum number of similar,” at any given historic period, pursuing a collective goal that promised the fulfillment of deeply felt communal needs.

    Such a community of similar was vital as long as it was animated by a sense of mission, a “faith and obedience… to a task to complete, to a destiny as yet uncertain.” This was true for tribes, clans, federations, city-states, and empires as it was for modern nations. The nationalism at the beginning of the twentieth century, Corradini argued, was an expression of that universal faith and that general psychological disposition to obey, sacrifice, and to commit oneself to the fulfillment of a collective mission that was a function of the individual’s involvement in an historic “community of destiny.”

    IT was obvious that the unity implied in such convictions would make both the pure “proletarianism” and the class struggle advocated by Italian Marxists, at that time, manifestly dysfunctional in terms of the nation’s future. Given those assessments, Corradini, by 1909, felt compelled to so address the complex and emotional issue of the role that any form of socialism might play in the nationalism resurgence of Italy, Socialism, with the advent of mass politics, had become a critical issue.

    In December 1909, Corradini outlined the elements of a kind of Italian syndicalism that he conceived might be fully compatible with the nationalism for which he had become spokesman. As distinct from the reformist socialist of the Italian Socialist Party, Corradini occupied himself with the antitraditional revolutionary socialism of Italian syndicalism – as it articulated itself under the influence of French revolutionaries. Many features of Italian syndicalism attracted Corradini. First of all, syndicalism gave expression to the exacerbated moralism of Georges Sorel.

    Corradini early found himself opposed to the “positivism” that had settled down on Italy thought by the turn of the century. That positivism was a form of scientism that conceived all issues subject to scientific resolution. What positivists considered “metaphysics” – moral inquiry, theology, any speculation on philosophical “meaning” – was dismissed as simple nonsense. Religion was disparaged as the preoccupation of old women – and philosophical speculation was considered nothing more than reflections on empty concerns.

    Corradini saw that “traditional” Marxism of the orthodox socialist – with its economic determinism and its “dialectical materialism” – as representative of the then-prevalent and objectionable scientism. For orthodox Marxists, moral concerns and philosophical principles were simply derivatives of the “earthy” economic base of contemporary society. They allowed little space for the influence of moral or intellectual factors.

    Corradini, like the syndicalists of his time, was convinced that moral sentiments and philosophical convictions animated the vast majority of political actors – and served a critical function in the progression of historical events. To attempt to reduce those sentiments and convictions to the derivative effect of economic determinants was to misunderstand the very nature of human beings as well as history itself. Corradini held that human nature beings are disposed to give themselves over to causes that make their lives worthwhile – causes that found expression in what Sorel identified as “myths.”

    “Myths,” for Corradini and the syndicalists, were not untruths. They were broad anticipations of a chosen future – a vision for which human beings were prepared to sacrifice, for which they were prepared to labor, and for which, if necessary, they were prepared to die. They were understood to be critical motivating elements in the mobilization of “masses,” a mobilization necessary for the realization of political purpose.

    It was within that conception of political reality that both nationalists and syndicalists devoted their intellectual energies in assessing the character of the psychology of crowds: how assemblies were mobilized and how their belief systems were influenced. Within the first decade of the twentieth century, both nationalists and syndicalists sought to understand the psychology of associated life.

    Revolutionary syndicalists like A. O. Olivetti and Paolo Orano both published substantial works on the psychology of crowds during the first years of the century. They undertook inquiries into the nature of the psychology of life lived in common, and how collective psychology might be influenced by menuers – leaders. Scipio Sighele, one of the intellectual leaders of the nationalists at that time, had similarly produced substantial works devoted to the same issues.

    Both syndicalists and nationalists recognized that collective psychology informed political behavior. Both sought to understand the processes involved. Traditional Marxism had not provided an account of how revolutions proceeded – how masses were moved to revolutionary enterprise. Marxism had not spoken the role of leaders in the mobilization of masses. It did not address itself to the role of “great men,” the “heroes” of history – and what factors entered into their program of historic change.

    Conversely, syndicalists and nationalists sought to engineer revolution by invoking the sentiments of humans living in association. Both acknowledge that the task involved understanding problems that animated humans as group animals. What both syndicalists and nationalists sought to understand was the nature and scope of influence exercised by suggestion and imitation among similar living a life in common – what externalities influenced political actors. They tried to appreciate the role of externalities, the regularities governing the psychology of masses and the educative roles of “heroes” in history. They understood the processes as falling somewhere between the conceptions of Herbert Spencer and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    In effect, there were many intellectual affinities that reduced the political distance between the nationalists and the revolutionary syndicalists at the turn of the twentieth century. Corradini argued that everything indicated that the distance between the right and left could be negotiated. Their affinities were clear.

    It was within that context, by 1910, that Corradini was prepared to applaud the antidemocratic and antiparliamentarian predisposition of the radical Marxist syndicalists. Like the syndicalists, Corradini saw parliamentarianism as an institution designed to frustrate the accomplishments of great tasks – to corrupt the political consciousness of masses. In parliamentary systems, he argued, parties and factions served parochial interests, and used the representative body of the nation as an arena in which they negotiated their tawdry compromises. Within parliamentary arrangements ,none sought to serve the general interests; and none committed themselves to a vision of the nation that would see Italy once again a great power, a founder of a new civilization.

    Syndicalists similarly opposed parliamentarianism with all its venality and narrow interests. They sought a revolutionary resolution of the problems that beset their times. Like nationalists, the revolutionary syndicalists understood the nature of politics and the mobilization of the masses in terms of the psychology of associated human life. They understood that any historic mission assumed by a collectivity of human beings would have to be supported by an infrangible integrity. The mission of the nationalists was to realize the redemption and rebirth of the historic and millennial Italian nation.

    Both movements conceived themselves seeking the fullness of equity and justice. They understood that only through a proletarian or a national revolution might that equity and justice be attained. Revolutionary syndicalists understood that the syndicates, as “communities of destiny,” incorporated in themselves that unity of similar essential to the fulfillment of a collective mission – just as nationalists identified the political nation-state as the requisite revolutionary association. What syndicalists failed to appreciate, Corradini argued, was the reality of the function of the nation in the contemporary world.

    While a firm sense of unity of similars – the union of laborers in modern industry – was to their community, Corradini argued that such a collective, in isolation, could neither prosper nor survive in the contemporary world. Corradini argued that as long as there were nations, workers would constitute only a functional part of an historic and organic whole. Any class, in isolation, could not survive in the contemporary world.

    In the world at the beginning of the twentieth century, Corradini maintained, only nations could serve as international actors. The world, almost all nationalists argued, was an arena of Darwinian struggle for survival. If Italian workers expected to survive and prosper in such a world, they required entrepreneurs, functionaries, merchants, financiers, intellectuals, educators, and state officials. Once syndicalists understood that, Corradini conclude, they could only become advocates and practitioners of a national syndicalism – a revolutionary syndicalism that nationalists could wholeheartly support.

    Like most “new” nationalist, and revolutionary syndicalists, Corradini anticipated the emergence of a revolutionary elite in Italy – an aristocracy of commitment and competence – that would shepherd the nation from its status as an international inferior to that of a “great power.” The revolutionary syndicalists, like the nationalists, sought just such an elite in their own search for proletarian justice.

    Corradini maintained that the syndicalists fully understood the character of intact and vital communities. They understood that only the bonding of similars, united in a mission against opponents, might assure success in external conflict. Syndicalists, like nationalists appreciated the fact that vital communities were invariably led by effective elites – an aristocracy of purpose – capable of transforming the psychology of masses. More than that, syndicalists, like nationalists, sought justice in a world which injustice was all but universal.

    The political aristocracy anticipated by the syndicalists was an aristocracy that would lead the working-class movement to victory against a complacent and ineffectual ruling class – an effete ruling class no longer possessed of the qualities of leadership. Corradini argued that the syndicalists were essentially correct in their assessment of the Italian political scene.

    Italy required an elite of strength, competence, and courage. Such an elite was not to be found among the orthodox Marxists of the Italian Socialists party. It was not to be found among the established Italian middle class. What was required was a new political class, an elite that would assume control of the peninsula through a “rotation of elites.” Such a rotation, anticipated by Vilfredo Pareto, would bring forward a small minority of persons committed to the creation of a new Italy – a class that understood accelerated productivity, antidemocratic strength in political leadership, and an aggressive pursuit of the nation’s interests. It would be the aristocracy of an emergent Italy. It would be an aristocracy of heroic demeanor, cognizant of the fact that Italy’s late development would require sacrifice, discipline, and enterprise of almost preternatural character.

    Given such a conception of the environment in which both syndicalists and nationalists were obliged to operate, syndicalists had no more sympathy for parliamentary compromise and incompetence than had the nationalists. Both sought elites that would accomplish great things, without compromise and without negotiation, committed to goals that would shape the modern world. Syndicalists sought revolution by Italy’s workers in the service of world proletarian revolution. Corradini sought a revolution by all Italians in the service of Italy as a “proletarian nation.”

    Corradini argued that “proletarianism” had some singular merits in the Italian environment. He reminded the domestic leaders of the proletariat that for a quarter of a century Italian workers had been forced to leave their homeland to work in lands more prosperous – “capitalist” lands. Emigrant Italian workers throughout the advanced industrial nations were compelled to the overlordship of foreign capitalists in order to simply survive.

    Corradini suggest that the distinctions that the syndicalists recognized within Italy were much more emphatic outside of Italy. If domestic capitalists were seen as oppressors, they were of negligible consequence compared to the world dominance of capitalists of the advanced industrial nations. The advanced capitalist nations maintained an abiding and exacting control over an impoverished “proletarian” Italy. Even if a proletarian class revolution overthrew Italy’s impoverished bourgeoisie, Italy itself would remain a proletarian nation subject to the dominance of foreign “plutocracies.”

    Corradini anticipated that thinking syndicalists would inevitable recognized the reality of the modern world. Syndicalism, with its call to discipline, sacrifice, and heroism, could only eventually become a national syndicalism and become a collateral support for revolutionary nationalism. Corradini, as early as 1909-11, anticipated an ultimate coming together of both revolutionary movements.

    Given these notions, Corradini went further. He suggested that the entire conception of “class warfare,” advocated by revolutionary syndicalists, had an appropriate referent in the modern world – not a counterproductive warfare between elements of the same nation – but a warfare of “proletarian nations” against the “plutocracies.” Corradini argued that emergent nations, those characterized by delayed industrial development – proletarian nations – found themselves victims of those nations that had already acceded to the level of advanced industrialization – plutocratic nations. Those nations suffering delayed industrial development found themselves subject to the impostures of those more advanced.

    Corradini maintained that all the trade and financial infrastructure of the modern world was controlled by the plutocracies. The result was the threat of perpetual inferiority for those proletarian nations that were late in achieving industrial development. Almost from the very commencement of his political activity, Corradini had insisted on the distinction between “proletarian” and “plutocratic” nations.

    Corradini contended that, given those conditions, the less developed nations were condemned to a threat of perpetual dependency of the plutocracies. England would forever command the seas and the financial markets – and France would dominate the Continent with its culture and its armed forces. Italy, capital and resource deficient, would subsist on the sufferance of wealthy nations. It would remain forever an economic and cultural colony of its “superiors.” “Rich nations” would forever dominate “proletarian Italy.”

    For Corradini, success in the international class war he anticipated required a readiness to sacrifice on the part of Italians – part of the world’s proletariat – a readiness to commit themselves to discipline struggle against their oppressors. Italians must be prepared, he argued, to assume the qualities of a “soldier producer” – a readiness to die for their commitments and an equal readiness to undertake protracted sacrificial labor in order to fashion the material base for the resurgent nation.

    The argument was that the industrial development of Italy was the “historical task” of the nation’s entrepreneurial middle class – a class that had, throughout the years of the Risorgimento, failed its mission. For the nationalists, a reawakening of the sense of responsibility among the bourgeoisie was essential to the fulfillment of the tasks of Italy’s Risorgimento. Together with a political aristocracy conscious of the regenerative tasks that faced the nation, Italy required an industrial middle class capable of discharging the economic responsibilities of the new age. As preconditions, those responsibilities would necessitate the integration of all productive elements in a juridical national union in which workers’ organizations would be provided legal recognition on a par with the organizations of entrepreneurs. Labor disputes would be resolved – to the exclusion of work stoppages – through arbitration that would recognize the ultimate unity of interests between labor and capital enterprise.

    What Corradini alluded to was a sort of “corporativism” in which the productive elements of modern society would be political organized under the aegis of the state. The goal was the restoration of Italy to the ranks of the “great powers.” That could be accomplished only by uniting the energies of the nation’s working classes and its entrepreneurs together with the authority of the state.

    By 1910, Italian nationalism had taken on almost all the characteristics that would follow it into Fascism. Mario Viana had founded the journal Tricolore, in Turin, a publication that advocated the fusion of revolutionary syndicalism and nationalism. Paolo Orano had assumed the responsibilities of editing the journal La Lupa and sought the union of syndicalism and nationalism in some form of national syndicalism.

    The first nationalist congress opened in Florence on 4 December 1910. While Scipio Sighele was chosen president, in retrospect it is clear that Corradini dominated the proceedings. It was he who argued the only revolutionary movements in retrograde Italy were the nationalists and the revolutionary syndicalists. Syndicalists like A. O. Olivetti, Orano, and Massimo Rocca acknowledged the affinities shared by the two movements, a fact that heralded their ultimate union.

    In 1911, Italy entered into protracted political and diplomatic crises. The French, British, and Germans devoted much of their international attention to the Turkish provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica – that together composed the North African territory of Libya. Italy had negotiated an agreement with France, in 1899, that anticipated that those provinces would become regions of Italian interest. Italian immigrants had settled in the region, and Italy sought to protect them. After 1905, it was no longer clear that France would respect Italy’s interests in North Africa. In July 1911, when France’s accession to control over Morocco was realized, Italy proceeded to move to protect her interests in Tripolitania.

    On 30 September 1911, Italy declared war on Turkey. Nationalists quickly supported the enterprise. The nationalist journal, Idea Nazionale, advocated war against Turkey in the pursuit of the nation’s interests. With the declaration of war, many Italians identified themselves with the undertaking. Patriotic sentiment found mass expression with which the socialists and antinationalists were compelled to deal with.

    Even before the war against the Ottoman Empire evoked the spontaneous patriotism that made nationalism an issue, a significant number of revolutionary syndicalists, including Arturo Labriola, A. O. Olivetti, and Paolo Orano, had begun to identify backward and impoverished Italy with a “proletarian” struggle against the established “plutocracies” of Northern Europe. By 1911, Olivetti alluded to those affinities between revolutionary syndicalism and nationalism in much the same fashion as had Corradini.

    For Olivetti, both syndicalism and nationalism were “modern” and “intellectually respectable” revolutionary movements, distinguishing themselves from the “conservatism” of both reform socialism and the traditional parliamentary politics of the nation. Both were “collectivistic” in orientation, recognizing that human beings were creatures inextricably born and shaped in association, animated by the will and leadership of those sensitive to the historic needs of any given time.

    For those syndicalists, all that was derivative of the Marxism with which they had long been familiar and to which they had committed themselves. Marx had identified the human being as a Gemeinwesen, a “collective being” – and dismissed the liberal notion of primacy of individuality as counterrevolutionary fiction.

    In the Communist Manifesto, Marx had spoken of the “theoreticians” of communism as sharing identical interests with the proletariat, but seeing farther and with greater clarity. They would constitute a professional intellectual leadership essential to the making of revolution. Seizing on that idea, syndicalists argued that without the decisive intervention of such an elite, the working masses would lapse back into the indolence of compromise and the venal bargaining of trade unionism.

    In that sense, both syndicalists and nationalists acknowledge the role of communitarianism, will, decisiveness, and leadership in the politics of the time. Like the nationalists, syndicalists sought an aristocracy of commitment – an intransigent elite – incapable of “adapting” to the compromises required by the parliamentary politics of electoral democracy or class relations in bourgeois circumstances.

    Because of their recognition of the decisive role of will and leadership, Olivetti continued, syndicalists, like nationalists, spoke with the language of Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhaur. They opposed themselves to the vain and unmanly positivism of the turn of the century that conceived human life determined by some set of “immutable laws.” Syndicalists, like nationalists, were voluntarists, given to the inescapable influence of spirit and moral conviction in the affairs of human kind.

    Like nationalists, Olivetti reminded his readers, syndicalists were animated by moral convictions that allowed little compromise. Like nationalists, syndicalists sought an antibourgeois, antitraditional remaking of Italy and Italians. They sought to create a nation of “producers” out of an inert and unresponsive population. Olivetti argued that was distinguished syndicalists from nationalists was the fact that whatever nationalism there had been among Italians was a by-product of the dominance cultural inculcation. He argued that Italian workers had no fundamental interest in the future of the nation-state. Their interests were tied to the future of the proletarian revolution and all that it implied.

    Nonetheless, in the course of the first decade of the twentieth century, some of the leaders of the revolutionary syndicalism transferred their loyalties from Marxist internationalism to the revolutionary syndicalism of Corradini. Roberto Forges Davanzati and Maurizio Maraviglia, subsequently to become two of the most important political leaders of nationalism, were recruited at that time. Tommaso Monicelli, who saw the emergence of themes shared by syndicalists and nationalists as the grounds for collaboration, became one of the intellectual leaders of Corradini’s publication, Idea Nazionale.

    By 1913, Italian nationalism had matured into a coherent, comprehensive, and revolutionary doctrine for a “proletarian Italy” that sought redemption and rebirth in a world of international competition dominated by hegemonic “plutocratic powers.” It was a doctrine shaped by the influence of some of the most important intellectuals of Europe. References to the thought of Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca, Gabriel Tarde, Georges Sorel, Gustave Le Bon, and Ludwigh Gumplowicz dotted its pages. Before the end of the next decade Giovanni Gentile, by that time, one of the most prominent philosophical thinkers in Europe, was numbered among its advocates.

    It was in that year that Italian nationalism attracted yet another intellectual who was to influence not only nationalism as a doctrine, but Fascism as a political regime. In that year Professor Alfredo Rocco abandoned Marxist socialism and the politics of Italy’s Radical party, to commit himself to nationalism. He brought with him a formidable intellect and a remarkable sense of politics.
     
  2. Dr. Rice

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    Most invigorating!
     
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    Right?! I'll get chapter 3 posted some time before the end of this month, maybe.
     
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    Thank you.
     
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    You are doing a wonderful service. Revising historical documents is a way to keep History alive. That's how they acquire a new meaning in the present.
     
  9. Dr. Rice

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