Thursday, April 18, 2019

Ur-Fascism in its Depths: Fiume as a Seedbed of Fascism

The Regency of Carnaro of Gabriele D'Annunzio lived a year, embodying Umberto Eco's idea of ur-fascism. D'Annunzio's Fiume was an ur-fascist regime: It was born prematurely in its own womb, where it died in labor emptying out its fascist afterbirth.

On 12 September 1919, D'Annunzio led nearly three thousand Italian soldiers burning with irredentist nationalism into a takeover of Fiume (modern day Rijeka, Croatia). D'Annunzio's aim was to reunite Fiume with Italy. Italy did not acknowledge the takeover, however, and for over a year, D'Annunzio ruled the city in defiance of the Allied nations. Enacting a Caesarist overthrow of its democratic scaffolding, the result was a protracted fascistic embryogenesis that never attained full political maturity and stirred within the womb of its birth.

Umberto Eco calls this embryonic stage "ur-fascism": He describes fourteen elements that, alone or in combination with two or more other elements, may form a germ seed of fascism: "It is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it." Most of these fourteen elements formed the nucleus of D'Annunzio's Fiume endeavor.

It was this political infancy, and its promotion of the model it represented in its own country and in other countries, that distinguishes D'Annunzio's Fiume as an ur-fascist regime. In its lifespan of little more than a year, it formed a seedbed that experimented with elemental and basic fascist concepts and encouraged the diffusion of its model to the world: Policies that would be embraced by Mussolini, Hitler, Codreanu, Franco, Salazar, and postwar figures such as Perón and Saddam Hussein, and it may yet impact other movements.

D'Annunzio's Fiume embodied Eco's concept of ur-fascism in two ways:

1. D'Annunzio's Fiume remained at the political level of embryonic fascism.

2. D'Annunzio's Fiume influenced the subsequent rise of embryonic fascism.

The constitution of D'Annunzio's FiIume, the Charter of Carnaro, coauthored by D'Annunzio and Alceste de Ambris, underlies both aspects of the regime. In particular, there are two key institutions it enshrines that echo this embryonic fascism over all else.

The first is the concept of the Corporation. As the Charter states, a Corporation is a "legal entity... recognized by the State." It establishes its own policies and rules, elects its leaders, and manages itself. Essentially, a Corporation ensures a vital societal interest:
18. The State represents the aspiration and effort of the people, as a community, towards material and spiritual advancement. Those only are full citizens who give their best endeavour to add to the wealth and strength of the State; these truly are one with her in her growth and development. Whatever be the kind of work a man does, whether of hand or brain, art or industry, design or execution, he must he a member of one of the ten Corporations who receive from the commune a general direction as to the scope of their activities, but are free to develop them in their own way and to decide among themselves as to their mutual duties and responsibilities.
These Corporations are listed in it: Industrial and agricultural workers, seafarers, employers, industrial and agricultural technicians, private bureaucrats and administrators, teachers and students, lawyers and doctors, civil servants, and co-operative workers.

The organicism underlying the corporatism of D'Annunzio's Fiume is central to fascist views of society. This is not the contemporary US leftist view of "corporate fascism." Instead, it is a view of society as an organic whole, structured to nourish its vital interests.

In "The Doctrine of Fascism," Giovanni Gentile remarks that:
But within the orbit of the State with ordinative functions, the real needs, which give rise to the Socialist movement and to the forming of labor unions, are emphatically recognized by Fascism and are given their full expression in the Corporative System, which conciliates every interest in the unity of the State.
Mussolini, who wrote the second part, writes that the Corporation and the interests that it is intended to embody, gets to "the very foundations of the regime." In Mein Kampf, Hitler writes that the aim of his movement is to reconstitute the nation as an organic whole. This is expressed in later speeches, as well. In a 1934 speech, he stated that he viewed society as "a corporate body... a single organism." The word, 'corporate,' comes from the Latin word, 'corpus': a body. In "The Corporate State," Sir Mosley writes:
It envisages, as its name implies, a nation organised as the human body. Every part fulfils its function as a member of the whole, performing its separate task, and yet, by performing it, contributing to the welfare of the whole.
The second institution enshrined in the Charter of Carnaro that is also especially noteworthy is the office of the Commandant. This institution, in effect, resurrected the Roman office of dictator, and preceded and anticipated the roles of Duce in Italy and Fuehrer in Germany. D'Annunzio occupied this office, and remained until the Italian government forcibly removed him from power in Fiume. The Commandant is imbued with all "political, military, legislative and executive" power. Its aim is to oppose or overcome societal decline:
43. When the province is in extreme peril and sees that her safety depends on the will and devotion of one man who is capable of rousing and of leading all the forces of the people in a united and victorious effort, the National Council in solemn conclave in the Arengo may, voting by word of mouth, nominate a Commandant and transmit to him supreme authority without appeal. The Council decides the period, long or short, during which he is to rule, not forgetting that in the Roman Republic the dictatorship lasted six months.
The office of the Commandant, Jonathan Bowden has argued, was the key institution within the Regency of Carnaro that signified the primeval fascist character of D'Annunzio's Fiume. As its key institution, it grounded the social rituals that grew up around it:
The idea of the man alone set above the people who is yet one of them. The idea of a squad of people who are passionate, and fanatical, and frenzied, with a stiff arm Roman salute, dressed in black, who are an audience for the leader, as well as security for the leader, as well as a sort of prop who make sure that the masses go along with what the leader is saying. The idea of a nationalist chorus. All of these ideas come from D'Annunzio and his forced occupation of the port city of Fiume.
The introduction of aesthetics into politics and government by spectacle was an innovation of D'Annunzio's Fiume. The societal pageantry it fomented was inherited by Mussolini's Italy and various fascist regimes and movements that followed. However, these are surface level symptoms of fascism, outgrowths of its elemental impulses: The abandoning of democratic pretense, the corporatist restructuring of existing structures of inequality and hierarchy, and the authoritarian redemption of a community from conditions of decline.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Quote from D'Annunzio's 'The Triumph of Death'

"He did not aspire except to be, himself, the eternal pleasure of becoming."
- Gabriele D'Annunzio, 'The Triumph of Death' 

Monday, January 28, 2019

"Fiume Under D'Annunzio": Article in MacLean's Magazine

Taken from the 1 Dec. 1920 issue of MacLean's Magazine. Click here (and then click again to improve the size) to view a scan of the original magazine article.

Fiume Under D’Annunzio

An Extraordinary Account of the Situation With the Poet Airman as Dictator


A SPECIAL correspondent of the London Times lately visited Fiume in order to obtain a first-hand account of the situation in that region. His description published in a recent issue is full of interest and novelty. He says in part:

On approaching the "holocaust city" - so D’Annunzio calls it - from the sea, there is nothing to inspire enthusiasm or to justify pride. The little steamer from Abbazia clings close to the shore and runs slowly along the wharves, which extend for more than a mile from the inner harbor. Not a movement can be seen as empty warehouse after empty warehouse is passed, with long rows of splendid cranes running out upon their overhead trollies and stretching useless arms above the vacant quays. The first impression is that the city is dead, that, stricken by some sudden disaster, it lies shrouded in rust. The brownish red pall overlying the grey paint contrasts with patches of green weeds that have sprung up between the flagstones. Grass, too, is growing in the gutters and on the roofs of buildings which were once the scene of bustling activity. Can this be Fiume, "the City of Life?"

But the scene changes. The inner harbor is reached and there the Dante Alighieri, a modern battleship, lies with steam up and her big guns trained landwards on the roads leading to the town. Close by are a couple of cruisers, four or five destroyers, and a flotilla of smaller craft, about 16 in all. So D’Annunzio has quite a fleet. The ships have not lost the Navy look. They are spick and span, and as we pass one of the destroyers the Captain is being piped overside in true navy fashion. Our tiny craft berths at a mole which abuts on a wide open space leading to the centre of the town. I step off and an official demands my passport, which he calmly confiscates, saying that it will be given back to me at the Questura, pin tarde. Protest is unavailing, and I find myself in Fiume without identification papers of any kind.

It would be easy, very easy, to write of Fiume in Gilbert and Sullivan strain. Here is the Paradise of Youth, the wildest dreams of boyhood adventure come true. Everybody seems to be about 20. Some of the more staid men may be 25 and from time to time an elderly person serves to emphasize the immaturity of the overwhelming majority. In strong contrast with the background of listless apathy furnished by the townspeople, whose children have been shipped away, there is among the "Conquistadores" an atmosphere of enthusiasm, of hero-worship, of self-confidence, of joy of life, altogether extraordinary when one stops to think that for more than a year now triumphant youth, bubbling over with vitality, has been cooped up in this narrow space, without work to do or battles to fight, without knowing how its grand adventure will end.

The picturesqueness of the seen makes one blush for the lack of imagination which stage directors show when attempting to present a pirate play.

But it is not the comic opera setting that counts. It is not the weird costumes which youthful fancy has devised for its own self-glorification, nor the medals and stars that D’Annunzio has plastered all over his legionaries, and which they value above any decoration won in war. The thing that counts is the force that gives cohesion to all this turbulent quicksilver.

It is a great mistake to underrate D’Annunzio. This mari is a real force, not only by what he has been in the past, but by what he is, and stands for, to-day. No one did more to bring Italy into the war, and some of his speeches then, like his Fiume orations now, will endure as long as the Italian language. He fought on land, at sea, and in the air. He was severely wounded, and even after the loss of his right eye he remained in the fight. He has always dreamed of a greater Italy, supreme in the Adriatic and extending its influence over the Balkans. He is quite sure that Italy has been robbed of the spoils of victory by the “ingratitude and egotism” of the Allies, and he is just as ready to give his life now for what he .believes to be his country’s due as he was to die for her in battle. D’Annunzio possesses both constructive imagination and executive ability. He is an untiring worker, and has that divine gift of personal magnetism which attracts the loyalty and devotion of other men. There can be no question of his power to sway the masses. The almost religious admiration in which he is held by the regular Italian forces - officers and men of the Army and Navy alike - is surpassed only by the fanatical fervour of his own followers.

And well may they look upon him as super-human and have faith in his lucky star. Has he not appeared successfully to defy not only the Government of his own country, but the Allied and Associated Powers to boot? Have they not left him for more than a year in undisturbed possession of the city he seized? Has he not by acting while others talked - set the whole Peace Conference at nought? But his Ardili have other and more immediate proofs of his power to perform miracles for them! For 13 months Fiume has lived without working. The wharves are deserted, the railway is over-grown with weeds, the factories are mostly shut - the great Whitehead torpedo shop, which in 1913 employed 1,800 men, now has only some 350 workers. Business in the town is limited to supplying its needs and is doing a little trade with Trieste, Venice and parts of Dalmatia. And yet in some totally unexplained fashion the soldiers are paid, the unemployed are given bounties, food is plentiful and, compared with other Italian cities, living is cheap.

The soldiers and sailors get regular Italian army rations, with something added, and extra allowances of wine. Of everything there is an abundance, not excepting money. Fiume is the only city to-day where one gets real pure wheat bread made from the finest white flour. It tastes like cake. Indeed, the other day, D’Annunzio was able to sell 2,000 tons of white flour to the Austrians.

During the early days of his occupation of Fiume, D’Annunzio’s whole program was summed up in the words Italia, o Morte! and every preparation was made for the defenders to sell their lives as dearly as possible and destroy the town rather than surrender it. Fiume was thoroughly mined and everything made ready to blow up public buildings, highways, water mains, wharves, piers, warehouses, etc., if need should arise. The town is still mined, but D’Annunzio knows now that he will never be called upon to defend it against Italian troops. Indeed, he is entirely surrounded and protected by the Italian Army of Occupation, which has been thrown forward, beyond the Treaty of London line, and now occupies the heights above Buccari, where a small force of Yugo-Slavs is stationed.

No Italian soldier will raise a hand against him, for does he not wear the medal of the mutilated and the Gold Award of Valor - the equivalent of the Victoria Cross? Much of the immediate future of Italy may be bound up in the three words D’Annunzio has inscribed upon his banner: Quis Contra Nos.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

A Remark from Vigeland in the Aftenposten

"I am happy to accept prominent National-Socialists in my studio, and I welcome German soldiers with their excellent discipline to walk around between my work." 
- Gustav Vigeland, Norwegian artist and creator of the Vigeland installation at Frogner Park in Oslo, quoted in Aftenposten, 15 April 1944

Friday, December 28, 2018

Ur-Fascism Contra Universal Nationalism

I discuss Alt-Right and New Right universal nationalism.

Universal nationalism is the view that 1) every people wants a nation of its own, 2) every people is entitled to a nation, and 3) every people should rule itself rather than be ruled by others. This view is central to some in the Alt-Right and New Right. [1]

In his “The Relevance of the Old Right,” Greg Johnson of Counter-Currents writes:
I am a "universal nationalist," meaning that I believe that ethnonationalism is good for all peoples. Thus I am opposed to imperialism, whereas Old Right regimes practiced imperialism against their fellow Europeans as well as non-whites. Defending imperialism is basically telling your neighbors that you are not above a little murder and theft when it suits you. But that is no way to build solidarity among white nations or a peaceful planet in general, to the extent that these are possible.
In his article, "A Brief Case for Universal Nationalism," Guillaume Durocher writes:
I would like to briefly make the case for universal nationalism, a political ideology defined here as the belief that every nation should have a society and a state of its own. Put more simply still: Every people should have its own country; every people should rule itself, rather than be dictated by outsiders. I believe universal nationalism encapsulates many of the principles which would allow all human beings to live in a more peaceful, prosperous, and progressive world.
First, it is erroneous for Johnson to argue that his support for ethnic nationalism among all peoples is incompatible with imperialism. [2] Ethnic nationalism is the view that a nation should reflect the ethnic identity of the people it houses: Historical, cultural, linguistic, and racial interests should be reflected in the domestic and foreign policy of that nation and its state. This may or may not coincide with independence and national sovereignty: A people can have a nation without having autonomy. From the fact that humanity is a diverse amalgam  of peoples, it does not follow that every people must have its own nation. Even if peoples were entitled to a nation, it does not follow that they warrant autonomy.

In addition, Johnson's immediate inference is not just fallacious. It is also naive. Historically, one of the motivating forces behind imperialism was the observation that primitive peoples objectively existed but lacked what European peoples had: A structured society. This led to building dependent societies and nations that lacked national sovereignty.

This historical reality is also a reminder of the contrasts between peoples and their capacity to build a society. That is, some peoples seem constitutionally incapable of maintaining their own nation without the perpetual support of others. This leads to the second criticism of the universal nationalist prescription: That its ambition to ensure that every people has a nation of its own will require the very same deprivation of autonomy that Johnson and Durocher both reject imperialism for. There is also the likelihood that arbitrary decisions about borders will have to be made. We have no reason to believe that nations will always seek to engage in peaceful population transfers or border disputes without external compulsion.

This leads to a fourth criticism: Durocher implies that multiculturalism is a cause of conflict between distinct peoples. The problems caused by multiculturalism are symptoms of this conflict. Conflict exists because ethnically distinct peoples exist. It does not matter if this is an outcome of expanding peoples or peoples compressed into one society.

Finally, and related, natural and human history is an unending conflict of biological types. In the course of history, various groups form and then differentiate into communities. In some cases, human communities formed nations. In this natural arena, a community is only entitled to what it can take and keep. Imperialism and settler colonialism, as well as the correlates of these activities at a more basic level, are extensions, not abrogations, of ethnic nationalism. This process is responsible for the biological and human diversity in the world, and that is what the universal nationalist claims to admire and want to preserve. The point is that a nation is forged, not doled out, a result of organic, not managerial, processes.

[1] Frank Salter, in Chapter 7 of his On Genetic Interests, is one of the first writers to plow an argument in favor of “universal nationalism.”
[2] Another problem with universal nationalism is that it does not distinguish between types of imperialism: Cultural, economic, ethnic or racial, geostrategic, and other manifestations of imperialism exist. Some of these are not in the long term vital interests of a nation.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

A Quote from Mussolini on Time and Blood

"Blood alone moves the wheels of history." 
- Benito Mussolini, speech at Parma, in 1914

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A Remark from Ioannis Metaxas on the Blood of Heroes

"Heroes never die; instead they fall, and the soil, by drinking their blood, allows them to be reborn..." 
- Ioannis Metaxas 
Image: Greek officials salute Metaxas, the leader of the Fourth of August regime in Greece (1936-41)

Friday, December 14, 2018

Harukichi Shimoi: Poet and Mediator of Italian Interests

"A Japanese who loves his country, like you." 
- Response of Shimoi to a troop whose life he saved 
Nicknamed "Comrade Samurai" by his close friend, Gabriele D'Annunzio, Harukichi Shimoi (1883-1954) was a Japanese writer, poet, and educator that operated as a mediator between D'Annunzio and Mussolini, served in the Fiume endeavor and trained its troops in karate, and later represented Italian interests to the Japanese government. A reminder of how dynamic and far-reaching D'Annunzio's project in Fiume was, and the devotion it was able to garner...

Monday, December 10, 2018

Codreanu on the Quality of Leaders

"The type of man who lives nowadays in the Romanian political scene, I have already found in history: under his rule, nations died and states were destroyed." 
- Corneliu Codreanu, "For My Legionaries"

Sunday, November 18, 2018

"Paracelsus in Excelsis," by Ezra Pound

Being no longer human, why should I
Pretend humanity or don the frail attire?
Men have I known and men, but never one
Was grown so free an essence, or become
So simply element as what I am. 
The mist goes from the mirror and I see.
Behold! the world of forms is swept beneath-
Turmoil grown visible beneath our peace,
And we that are grown formless, rise above-
Fluids intangible that have been men,
We seem as statues round whose high-risen base
Some overflowing river is run mad,
In us alone the element of calm.

- Ezra Pound, "Paracelsus in Excelsis"

Monday, November 12, 2018

Ramiro Ladesma Ramos on the Nation and the Land

"The land belongs to the nation." 
- Ramiro Ladesma Ramos, ideologist of Spanish fascism, progenitor of National-Syndicalism, writer, essayist, hero of the Spanish Civil War (killed in 1936 by the Soviet-backed Popular Front)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A Remark from Léon Degrelle in 'Militia'

"A great ideal always gives the strength to dominate one's body, to suffer fatigue, hunger and cold. What matters, the sleepless nights, oppressive work, cares or poverty! The essential thing is to have at the bottom of your heart a great force that revives and pushes forward, which strengthens the nerves, which makes the tired blood throb with strong beats, which infuses a burning and conquering fire into the eyes. Then nothing gives pain, pain itself becomes joy because it is more of a means to elevate his gift, to purify his sacrifice." 
- Léon Degrelle, 'Militia'