It has been said and repeated that Fascism is a religion and a faith; not in the proper meaning of the word, but in the sense that it may have the fervor, enthusiasm, spontaneous discipline and the heroic dedication of a faith.
And indeed Fascism took the gray dullness of Italian political life — that is, the field which was regarded as the most refractory — and infused into it the life-giving breath of spirituality, almost a powerful whiff of mysticism (which explains, among other things, its immediate and profound success).
Neither socialism nor populism had managed to elevate the tone of Italian political life; the former due to the congenital absence of any spirituality, given its materialistic basis, and the latter, among other things, due to the spiritual aridity of their own leader [Don Sturzo] who, despite being a priest, did not understand the profound aspirations and immense reserves of spiritual energies of the Catholic masses who voted for the Italian People's Party, creating a rapid, but short-lived power; he had aimed only to make it a versatile instrument of parliamentary intrigue, losing himself in the contingent skirmish and unashamedly welcoming Freemasons — more or less sleeper agents — into his Party, thus implicitly renouncing the intimate Catholic essence.
But for Fascism, a movement of practical and concrete character, it was not sufficient to have a vague sense of religiosity; it was necessary for it to correspond to a religious conception of life, a fundamental truth which constitutes the basis of the doctrine of Fascism.
The 'Doctrine of Fascism' affirms that "Fascism is a religious conception, in which man is viewed in his immanent relation to a higher law, endowed with an objective will which transcends the particular individual raises him to conscious membership of a spiritual society" and that "the Fascist conception of life is a spiritualistic conception, an ethical conception". A very important affirmation of principles.
There are as many religious conceptions of life as there are faiths; those which are spiritualistic are as numerous as the philosophies with spiritualistic address, beginning with the rationalism of Kant and the idealism of Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, ending with the actual idealism of Giovanni Gentile, and finally the relativist and subjectivist idealism, which is synthesized in this staggering definition of truth: "truth is whatever one believes it to be." Even the ethical conceptions of life are as numerous as the philosophical conceptions. Varro, in his day, traced back a few hundred possible moral systems: those who place the foundation of morality in the pursuit of pleasure (Epicureans), those who abstain from pleasure (Stoics), those in pursuit of truth (Platonists).
Which of these faiths, spiritualistic and philosophical conceptions, and ethical doctrines is connected to the religiosity, spirituality and ethics of Fascism?
The Duce previously wrote: "I should like to see us create the philosophy of Italian Fascism." On the occasion of the opening of the Milanese school of propaganda and culture, he wrote a letter to the late Michele Bianchi in which he stated the necessity for Fascism to give itself a body of doctrine; and it is not possible to have a body of doctrine without relating it to a conception of life, that is, a philosophy.
But to which of these various philosophical doctrines, which throughout the centuries have succeeded one another like the waves of a moving ocean, from those of Hellas to those of the modern and contemporary era, often in opposition to each other, does the philosophy of Fascism base its foundation on?
That issue was resolved once and for all in February 1929, with the signing of the Lateran Treaty, in which the first article proclaims that the Italian State is a Catholic State: "which is perfectly natural in a Catholic people such as ours, and under a Regime like the Fascist one" (Mussolini).
A State which professes itself to be Catholic must also recognize the truth about the religious doctrines banned by the Church and, consequently, must take into account, in all its logical inferences, divine revelation, the primary and essential foundation of Catholicism; thus Fascism has a general conception of life and the world which is not contrary to revealed truth.
On the other hand, if, as the Duce wrote, "the State is the conscience and the will of the Nation, the spirit is the will of the Nation", then logically it must have a religion, that is, the theology and morals of the Nation. Nor does its full adhesion to the Catholic religion violate the freedom, autonomy and sovereignty of the State, which indeed is confirmed, inasmuch as it makes free and reasonable use, accepting the dogmatic and ethical content of the Catholic religion which it considers "true" and therefore "beneficial to the State itself, for the "optimum" ethics which tends to be realized among the people."
Thus, "the doctrine of Fascism finds its fundamental basis in a general conception of life and the world, harmonizing with the Catholic view." Therefore it can not be connected to any philosophy which is not in harmony with Catholic faith and morals, which is not connected to the Creed and to Catholic morals.
And this philosophy can be no other than the traditional Italian philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, Vico, Rosmini, Gioberti. Since Fascism is an affirmation of national values, even in the field of philosophical speculation we must preserve our highest national physiognomy, connecting with the traditional currents of Italian philosophical thought.
It was observed by some that in Italy, where the vigor and originality of the intellectuals has never been lacking, that philosophy would become stagnant, because it is subservient to the Faith.
On the contrary, the practical and concrete Italian mentality, shaped by natural good sense (even the ancient Romans, who had healthy and sound minds), has never been abandoned to the strangest and most contradictory philosophical speculations, because, after elaborating, especially with Thomas Aquinas, the ultimate results which human genius had reached with the philosophy of Hellas, had laid the granite foundation of that philosophy "universalis et perennis", which is the philosophy of truth.
In front of our reasoned statement that the doctrine of Fascism (the unity of conscience of the New Italian cannot allow within itself a contradiction between Faith and Philosophy) is connected to traditional Italian Catholic philosophy, the Pharisees who worship in the temple of modern philosophy were scandalized and tore their garments; the politicians and the sophistic commentators, still embroiled in Masonic laicism, smiled with an ambiguous skeptical grin, almost pityingly; but the righteous and truly thoughtful men who cared for the future of the Fatherland, those who desired to reinvigorate the Nation ever more in its intimate moral fiber and steadfast strength; those who, with genuine love, hope anxiously for the full spiritual, moral, civil revival, and the true greatness and political power of Imperial Italy, can do no other but nod in agreement with us.
We believe that the new civilization which Fascism prepares will be a new original stage of the Roman and Christian civilization, inserted into the mass of the new forces that characterize the current state of humanity.
We believe that Fascism, due to the gradual and natural course of its essence, will increasingly permeate the Roman spirit and Christian ethics, achieving, by this, the apogee of its greatness and its splendor, the primacy of its true greatness and power, as advocated by our greatest figures.
The inclusion of the Fascist conception of life into the Catholic philosophical system — which in fact has already been done, according to the inner logic of the historical development of Fascism — meets many fundamental principles of its doctrine, while saving the historical originality of Fascism, it does not prevent even the originality of further developments, because Fascist policy, while adhering to the fundamental principles of Christian ethics, retains all its autonomy and originality in its methods for achieving its own ends of the State.
The Roman and Christian tradition has given to Fascism the primary fundamentals of its doctrine, and thus derives its supreme values from supernatural and divine ethics, while the dynamic and heroic attitude of Fascism will not be without influence on Catholic life, indirectly bringing a contribution of new energy and life into traditional religiosity, which is often done merely out of habit and is sometimes polluted by a certain effeminacy, contrary to the true essence of Christianity, which is militia, spirit and life, up to the peak of holiness and heroism.