Wednesday, August 14, 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.

Saturday, August 10, 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' 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

"Long Live Fiume!," by Benito Mussolini

Mussolini expresses his support for D'Annunzio's seizure of Fiume.

Benito Mussolini addressing a crowd in 1920.

"Long Live Fiume!"
Il Popolo d'Italia, 13 September 1919
By Benito Mussolini

The enterprise undertaken by Gabriele d'Annunzio in order to restore Fiume to Italy is destined to arouse the greatest thrill around the world. In the last ten months of waiting and frustration, universal attention was placed on this city of the Quarnaro. D'Annunzio entered the city yesterday to dissolve this Gordian knot of western plutocrats...

After ten months, having already signed the peace with Austria, it was necessary to also give peace to Italy in the Adriatic. And since the Western merchants decided not to conclude this peace and continued to drag it out for eternity, an act of force was necessary.

We don't know what Nitti's government is thinking. All we can say is that, if necessary, thousands of volunteers - the best of Italy's youth - will be with D'Annunzio.

We understand the concerns of Roman political circles, especially the parliamentarians. However, while recognizing that the general political situation is delicate, we do not share those excessive worries of the typical couch potatoes. In order to thwart the inevitable socialist speculation, we must say immediately that D'Annunzio's gesture is not the prelude to another war for the Italian people. The occupation and defense of Fiume will not lead to another war simply because there are no enemies. If Croatia does not declare war on us, do you really think England and France would resort to violence? Such a hypothesis is absurd.

[ ... ]

Not so absurd, however, is the assumption of possible economic reprisals by Anglo-American plutocracy. But we're at a point now where blackmail no longer frightens us. Take note of what we're saying in this moment: rather than be strangled by the odious capitalism of the Anglo-Saxons, the Italians can adopt a policy not quite different from their own current foreign policy: an "Eastern policy", which opens us up to a world of inexhaustible resources. We will closely follow the new, dramatic and exceptionally interesting situation caused by the action of Gabriele d'Annunzio. In the meantime, we cry out with all our soul: "Long live Italian Fiume!"

Friday, August 2, 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.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

"Past and Future," by Benito Mussolini

Months before the March on Rome, Mussolini looks at Italy's past and future.

The remnants of the ancient Roman Colosseum...

Past and Future
Il Popolo d'Italia, April 21, 1922
By Benito Mussolini

Italian Fascism is gathered today, surrounded by thousands upon thousands of pennants, to celebrate its own feast as well as that of the Anniversary of the Foundation of Rome. This severe and imposing demonstration will succeed, even in centres where it has been prohibited by the police at the behest of a government which does not know and does not want to choose between national forces and anti-national forces and which will eventually die from its lamentable ambiguity.

The proposal to choose April 21 as the day of Fascism was welcomed everywhere with enthusiasm. Fascists sensed the profound meaning of this date.

To celebrate the Birth of Rome means to celebrate our kind of civilization, it means to exalt our history and our race, it means to lean firmly on the past in order to project better onto the future. In fact, Rome and Italy are two inseparable terms. During the gray or sad epochs of our history, Rome was the lighthouse of navigators and the expectant. Beginning in 1821, the year in which national consciousness awoke from Nola to Turin, the thrill of unified insurrection erupted, Rome appeared as the supreme goal. The mazzinian and garibaldian cry of "Rome or death!" was not only a battle cry, but solemn testimony that without Rome as the capital there would be no Italian unity, since only Rome, and the charm of its geographical position, could carry out the delicate task and necessity of gradually fusing the various regions of the Nation.

Of course, the Rome that we honour is not just the monuments and the ruins, the Rome of the glorious ruins, among which no civilized man can wander without feeling a thrill of ardent veneration. Certainly the Rome that we honour has nothing to do with that triumphalist, modernistic mediocrity and the barracks out of which swarm the massive army of ministerial functionaries. We consider all that to be like those fungi that grow at the foot of giant oaks.

The Rome that we honour, and above all the Rome that we dream of and prepare, is something else: not of distinguished stones, but of living souls: not nostalgic contemplation of the past, but tough preparation for the future.

Rome is our starting point and reference; it is our symbol, or if you will, our Myth. We dream of a Roman Italy—that is, an Italy wise, strong, disciplined, and imperial. Much of that immortal spirit of Rome is raised anew in Fascism: Roman is our Littorio, Roman is our organization of combat, Roman is our pride and our courage: "Civis romanus sum". And now it is necessary that the history of tomorrow, which we wish assiduously to create, shall not be the contrast to, or the parody of, yesterday. The Romans were not only warriors but also formidable constructors who could defy—and did defy—time.

In the war and in victory Italy was Roman for the first time in fifteen centuries, and now must be Roman in peace; and this Romanità must be renovated and renew itself in these names: discipline and labour. With these thoughts, Italian Fascists today remember the day when 2,757 years ago—according to legend—was traced the first furrow of the city square, destined a few centuries later to dominate the world.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

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)

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'

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Sir Oswald Mosley on Fascism as Caesarism and Science

"Caesarism and science together could evolve Faustian man; a civilisation which could renew its youth in a persisting dynamism..." 
- Sir Oswald Mosley, 'My Life'