Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Doctrine of Fascism: Epilogue.


"The Fascist state claims its ethical character: it is Catholic but above all it is Fascist, in fact it is exclusively and essentially Fascist. Catholicism completes Fascism, and this we openly declare, but let no one think they can turn the tables on us, under cover of metaphysics or philosophy". (To the Chamber of Deputies, May 13, 1929, in Discorsi del 1929, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 182).

This post comments on the Footnotes Appendix to "The Doctrine of Fascism" and closes this series. That Appendix contains a series of quotes culled from different documents and speeches. It's the only part of the essay we can be reasonably sure reflects Mussolini's words.

The opening quote is one of them. Barring something lost in translation, that's a sample of his clear-sighted wisdom. There's no need for my comment (yours is welcome, however).

Mussolini started out as anti-clerical, anti-Monarchist, and anti-anti-Semite. Along the way he embraced the Church (and wrote that), was appointed PM by King Vittorio Emanuele III, and in July 1938 dropped one "anti" in anti-anti-Semite, much to the surprise and despair of many wealthy Italian fascist Jews, including his socialite mistress.

In July 1934 Mussolini reportedly shed tears over the death of his diminutive ally, Engelbert Dollfuss, the Austrofascist chieftain assassinated by Austrian nazis in Vienna. I haven't seen descriptions of the scene, but I can't avoid imagining it in all its melodramatic tacky glory. Mussolini threatened Hitler with war over the independence of Austria, and the Fuehrer chickened out. In March 1938, less than four years later, nazi Germany annexed Austrofascist Austria, with Mussolini's fascist blessings, much to the surprise and despair of many wealthy Austrofascist Jews and gentiles.

Birds of a feather.

Evidently, Mussolini was capable of changing his mind without hesitation on matters of other people's life and death. There are two ways to evaluate that ability: the man was an unscrupulous opportunist is the first. The second evaluation follows Prof. McCloskey's criterion for non-Platonic economists: I change my mind; what do you do, sir?

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Just another quote:

"If, in the course of the past eight years, we have made such astounding progress, you may well think, suppose, and foresee that in the course of the next fifty or eighty years the onward trend of Italy, of this Italy we feel to be so powerful, so full of vital fluid, will really be grandiose." (Speech before the Senate, May 12, 1928, in Discorsi del 1928, Milano, Alpes, 1929, p. 109).

In April 1945, this was the grandiose fulfilment of Mussolini's prophecy for fascist Italy, so powerful, so full of vital fluid:

Mussolini is the second from the left [A]
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Whatever one may think of fascist doctrine, did Mussolini really care about it or was he merely interested on an opportunistic rationalisation to his personal quest for power? Frankly, I cannot prove my answer, but I suspect the latter. It's up to the readers to judge.

Image Credits:
[A] "The dead body of Benito Mussolini next to his mistress Claretta Petacci and those of other executed fascists, on display in Milan on 29 April 1945, in Piazzale Loreto, the same place that the fascists had displayed the bodies of fifteen Milanese civilians a year earlier after executing them in retaliation for resistance activity. The photograph is by Vincenzo Carrese.". Source: Wikimedia. Work in the public domain.

4 comments:

  1. Good stuff as ever.

    In my own readings on fascism & sundry, I've come across some materials I think you might find of interest.

    A rather (undeservingly) obscure 1978 text entitled Labor Aristocracy, Mass Base of Social Democracy analyzes, well, exactly what its title says. While fascism is not the primary focus of the book, it does, I think, do a good job of pointing out how social democracy and fascism effectively form a political duality & continuum.

    Another, more recent book that draws a similar conclusion from a study of labor aristocracy is Divided World, Divided Class (which also includes some groundbreaking work on aggregate value transfer from the third world to the first via unequal exchange).

    Also worth mentioning is The Apprentice's Sorcerer, which considers fascism a result of the interplay of the internal contradictions of liberalism, rather than something outside of or otherwise opposed to it.

    I feel like the common thread here is too important to overstate.

    (Also, speaking of Petacci, turns out she's the lyrical subject of this Scott Walker song)

    Hope you're well.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Hedlund,

      Glad to hear from you. Thanks for the kind words and the links. I'm good, thanks. Hope you're fine, too.

      I, too, have been thinking lately about the aristocracy of labour. Have you seen Branko Milanovic's elephant chart?

      What has really aroused my interest, however, is the Long Depression of 1873-1896. It was around that time that Bernstein and Kautsky were exiled and ended up in Britain, where Bernstein became BFFE with the Fabians. About that time the Populist Party in the US (strongly influenced by Georgists) reached its apogee and declare themselves mortal enemies of Marxists. They also made it to Britain: you guessed, the Fabians.

      I haven't been able to find freely available quantitative data on the Long Depression (unemployment, GDP, wages), particularly for Germany and Britain. I was wondering, can you point me in that direction?

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    2. As it happens, I have indeed seen that chart.

      I haven't studied that depression in depth, unfortunately, but you're right to take note of it in relation to the labor aristocracy, given its roots in the mid-to-late 19th century. The first section of the Cope book linked above provides a fair bit of context to that end.

      As far as free quant stuff goes, I'm afraid I can't be of much help. I know of a certain bloviating ignoramus with a blog who transcribed figures such as the ones you're seeking from a handful of sources, and that might be a good starting point (search said blog for "1873"). The works cited might be of use, too, but they're almost certainly locked behind paywalls.

      Other than that, your best bet is probably a public (or university) library, as inconvenient as that may be. Sorry I can't offer more than that.

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    3. @Hedlund

      search said blog for "1873"

      My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? :-)

      I don't know if a shower would be enough to cleanse me.

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      Seriously now, no worries! I'll have a look. Thanks for the tip.

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