Fascism and America

November 7, 2019

 

Pp 249-261 Palmieri, M. The Philosophy of Fascism. Chicago: Dante Alighieri Society, 1936.

 

It always has been commonly held that the foundations of the United States of America rests upon the subsoil of individualism, and that if the structure of its particular form of democracy should weaken, the very life of the republic would be endangered.

 

This way of looking superficially into phenomena of such transcendent meaning as the rise of a nation, the development of a culture, the evolution of social formations, the birth of a new civilization, etc.brings about a distrust for formulae and theories born of a deeper insight into the true nature of things.

            

Were we, in fact, told today that the American nation will go on living, growing, evolving, even if its social structure and its political organization followed no longer the pattern of democracy, or if its philosophy of rugged individualism should give place to a new philosophy of life more in tune with the spirit of the times, we would probably deride the suggestion as utterly ridiculous and senseless.

            

And yet, it remains nevertheless an uncontested truth that the Idea of a nation – what constitutes its essence, what represents it in that realm where appearance fades and reality only reigns supreme – that intangible spirit giving life, unity, and meaning to the otherwise chaotic and meaningless expression of activity of a people, is not and cannot be contingent upon the concourse of outward circumstances, but must needs enjoy an existence of its own, timeless and absolute.

            

If the American nation is truly a nation at all: that is, if the amalgam of races which have gone into the make-up of its population is to be unified into a living unity with one purpose, one ideal, one duty; if the land on which this population is born and develops has a soul of its own which can germinate through the souls of the individual beings conferring upon them those intangible characteristics which are the national traits; if finally, the role that the American nation is to play is a role of world-wide significance, then there is no doubt that the American nation will live through the ages regardless of the rise and fall of Fascism, Individualism, Democracy, Liberalism, etc.

            

But if the American nation is only the shadow of an empty shell, a form without substance, maintained upright by external proppings and paraphernalia, then it is also true that the fall of one of these proppings, the defection of one element of that paraphernalia, would be enough to involve the collapse of the nation as a whole and its return to a state of indistinct chaos.

            

Before being terrorized thus by the changes involved into the acceptance of the principles of Fascism, let us get rid of our baseless fear, because it might even happen that Fascism – as a philosophy and a way of life – may be the only remedy for our apparently incurable ills and evils.

          

If we want to be true to ourselves we must begin to confess that in those things which form the true core of Fascism we are sorely deficient and direly in need.

            

We are in need, in other words, of unselfish love, respect for other beings, consideration for poverty, recognition of authority, admiration for old age, attachment to the hearth, love for the soil, passion for art, devotion to ideals, sacrifices for the common weal: of all things, finally, which are born of the Soul and Partake of the Spirit.

            

Fascism – in its purest and truest expression – is nothing more than what we have not and what, instead, we should have with us and within us if we want to retain any aspiration of a truly civilized nation.

            

To merge our triumphant individualism in the flood of the great stream of the energies of countless beings, to become part of a great whole, to forsake the claims of our little ego for the larger claims of mankind, to work not for ourselves alone but for our brethren as well, to realize that we are but small units of a thing greater than ourselves – the nation of which we are part, to have a sense of the littleness of our role and the greatness of the role which the nation is called to play on the stage of life, to acknowledge, finally, that one invisible tie binds together the destinies of all men, such is Fascism, or, at any rate, such are the elements of Fascism which can become part of our life.

            

America can have no use for the local, transient aspects and outward forms of Fascism peculiar to the land and of the times in which it had its birth: forms and aspects devoid of universal application and belittling the true spirit of Fascism.

            

There is not, and there cannot be, any place in America for dictatorship, regimentation, militarism, etc., if the country has to retain through the ages its mission among the nations of the world.

            

And how truly symbolic is this mission indeed!

            

Was America not chosen by destiny to become the stage for the last act of the everlasting drama enacted by the common man for the assertion of his rights and the practice of his liberties?

            

Was America not chosen by destiny to be the great field of unbound opportunities for a freer, a better, a fuller life of the common man?

            

Was America not chosen by destiny to see the triumph, and be the prize, of the common man’s struggle for self-expression, for power, for wealth?

            

When the common man, who had finally broken the yoke of despotism, tyranny and feudalism only a few centuries before, came to the shores of America, a dream took shape within the deepest recesses of his consciousness: the dream of realizing for once on this earth a blessed state of society in which the rights won at the price of so much suffering, martyrdom and death; the liberties wrested from his masters after such a bloody struggle, were to make of his life, of the life of the masses, a not too heavy burden to bear.

            

To this effect, and for this purpose only, was the Declaration of Independence drafted, the Constitution promulgated, Democracy established, Individualism asserted, Liberalism practiced, Freedom defended, Property worshipped.

            

Alas, to what piteous, mean, corrupted, perverted end have all his efforts for a freer, a better, a fuller life led the common man?

            

Was America not chosen by destiny to see the triumph, and be the prize, of the common man’s struggle for self-expression, for power, for wealth?

            

When the common man, who had finally broken the yoke of despotism, tyranny and feudalism only a few centuries before, came to the shores of America, a dream took shape within the deepest recesses of his consciousness: the dream of realizing for once on this earth a blessed state of society in which the rights won at the price of so much suffering, martyrdom and death; the liberties wrested from his masters after such a bloody struggle, were to make of his life, of the life of the masses, a not too heavy burden to bear.

            

To this effect, and for this purpose only, was the Declaration of Independence drafted, the Constitution promulgated, Democracy established, Individualism asserted, Liberalism practiced, Freedom defended, Property worshipped.

            

Alas, to what piteous, mean, corrupted, perverted end have all his efforts for a freer, a better, a fuller life led the common man!

            

Capitalism in its most hideous form ruling the economic life of the nation; industry serving the machine, not man; great corporations enthroned at the top of the social structure gulping all products of the land, all fruits of labor; a few favored individuals enjoying all rights, all liberties, all privileges; the masses deprived of the right to work, the right to bread, the right to life; a judiciary system become the protector of vested interests; a political system becomes a mockery and a parody of true democracy; the practice of Individualism degenerated into a shameless struggle for power, for wealth, for prestige; selfishness rampant, destroying all social ties; lust rampant, destroying all life of the spirit.

            

Truly, to what piteous, mean, corrupted, perverted end have all his efforts for a freer, a better, a fuller life led the common man! What a complete repudiation of America’s mission!

            

It will be no wonder, then, that the common man will awaken finally to the realization that all his liberties avail him nothing, that his rights are trampled upon, denied, destroyed, and that to assert them, to realize America’s mission in the world, there is one way and one way only; compel wealthy and poor, powerful and weak, governors and governed, to surrender their liberties for the common good, for social security, for the protection of old age, for assistance in the rearing of the family, for the right to toil at the work one enjoys, for the opportunity, finally, to lead the life of a true human being, the opportunity to create through personal effort; because only in the act of creation does man find happiness on this earth, and only through personal contribution to the world’s progress can the individual ever hope to be an integral and necessary part of this otherwise utterly strange and decidedly hostile and unintelligible world.

            

The time is not far distant when the common man will ask himself of what avail are to him his liberties if they cannot protect him against exploitation, injustice, sickness and death. Would it not be better for him, is it not imperative for him, that he entrust them to the care of a regime which will protect him and his family, give him back his dignity as a human being, and make of him a necessary part of human society and an integral cell of the moral universe?

            

A regime, of course, which is only a system of violence, of despotism, of tyranny and force, cannot accomplish, and could never accomplish, such a task.

            

But these aspects of Fascism are only the transient aspects which accompany it in its first appearance as a political system bidding for recognition, affirmation and power.

 

There is instead the profound, significant, timeless aspect of Fascism as a way of life, and this aspect America cannot ignore as easily as some people may wish it could.

            

“Fascism considered as idea, doctrine and philosophy is universal; if it is Italian in its particular institutions, it is universal in its spirit.”

            

These words of the father of Fascism are confirmation of its dual aspect: the orthodox of tyrannical slavery of bodies and souls of men and the esoteric one of a true philosophy and way of life.

            

It is under this second aspect that Fascism delivers its message of the type of life that must be lived, if the western world is not to end in utter ruin. This message of Fascism is truly a call to a new life; a call to discard the anachronistic, individualistic purposes for those forms of endeavor which are more in tune with the needs of human life, more in harmony with the spirit of the times.

            

It is under this form, and only under this form, that Fascism must be thought of as a challenge to America. And a defying challenge it is, whether we choose to admit it or not, and whether we attempt to suppress it or not.

            

But the question may be asked: “Is not our rugged individualism mainly responsible for our spectacular material achievements? No other people, in fact, has ever accomplished as much as we have in such a short length of time. . . .”

            

A new land, a whole continent, was offered to us to quench our indomitable thirst for life, for more life. We readily, greedily, took possession of it. We engaged in a desperate struggle against the hostile forces set athwart our path. We have finally conquered the earth beneath, the skies above; the elements all have been made our servants; a virgin and savage land we have transformed into a blossoming garden; through vast deserts we have laid a network of iron rails which hold them subjugated forever; over green pastures we have raised those mighty symphonies of steel and stone which we call our cities; we have set the whole land throbbing with intensive agriculture, with industry, with commerce; a magnificent and powerful empire we have called finally into being, an empire which is both the root and the flower of our rugged individualism. . . . What else could we have done to make our material triumph still greater, still more complete?

            

Clearly, it is not material achievements that are wanting, it is not the vision of the cities we have built, the rivers we have harnessed, the deserts we have peopled, the monuments we have raised, that can belittle our faith in ourselves and in our present philosophy of life.

            

Something more is needed, something of an entirely different order than a triumph over the world of nature, something which has to do with our social world, with the world of our fellow men.

            

To survey this world in its present, tragically miserable state, to witness the ruthless stamping out of all possibilities of a satisfactory life of the majority of our fellow beings, to see the chasm created between those who have and those who have not, a chasm growing always wider and deeper, and darker, to see the gospel of communism make such inroads into the very heart of the most naturally endowed country in the world, means the loss of that faith which only a short while ago seemed to us so everlasting and invincible.

            

To think of the work that has been done, the struggle which made it possible and, at the same time, of the havoc which it has wrought in other people’s lives, leaves us bewildered before our own creations and forced to ask sadly of ourselves: “Cui Bono? What for? Are our gains worth the evil we have spread, the unhappiness we have created, the suffering we have caused?”

            

What is to be done, then?

            

Clearly, it is something more than mere academic words that we need to bring us out of this unsatisfactory state of living. We need Action. We need an entirely new, a much more adequate philosophy of life.

 

We had dedicated ourselves to the worship of individualism, we had made a religion of it, had almost created a god out of its magic power, and lo, the idol of clay has fallen from its high pedestal and lies now at our feet, and we are utterly bewildered and lost. No outlet is left now to us for the expression of our inner powers, used once to their utmost to further our material welfare.

            

We must find, therefore, not only a new meaning for life, but a purpose must be restored to our efforts; we must, in other words, discover anew the relationship Man-God-Universe, because we have lost our faith in all we once believed and we have no support left for the life of the spirit. This is indeed a crucial time, a critical moment marking a turning point in the history of the western world. All idols destroyed, all beliefs dissolved, all ideals denied, all authorities derided, we stand free of any constraint on our inner life.

            

Shall we drift hopelessly into an intellectual, moral and spiritual anarchy leading to that final bankruptcy of our civilization anticipated by Spengler, or will we raise on the deserted altars other idols and worship thus other fallacies; fashion for ourselves new rules of conduct at each new gospel of science, rules which we shall repudiate again tomorrow when we shall find them unable to lead us toward the good life. Or shall we go along living blindly as we are living today, relying on our instincts, our passions, our emotions, when they are driving us toward utter ruin?

            

Why shall we take any further interest in life when its highest goal: the life of the spirit, is becoming more and more devoid of any meaning, any value?

            

Are our skyscrapers and our highways, our bridges and our industrial plants, our automobiles and our other machines, all the fruits of our labors, in short, which are poisoning our very life, or, at least, the lives of twenty millions of our brethren, worth more than a single human life?

            

What is to be done, then?

            

This we do not know, but what we do know is that we must find a way out of our tragic plight, that we must drink at a new spring of life’s force, that we must vivify, transform and spiritualize our dead forms of life if we want to stave off decay.

            

But it is not only life and more life that matters. What matters is the right conduct of life. What matters is the knowledge of our supreme good and how to realize the good life. What matters is the restoration of our faith in God and the Soul and the fellowship of Man, the supremacy of ideals and the worth of martyrdom, the beauty of heroism and the redemption of sacrifice, the significance of living and the sacredness of death. This is what matters and what has to be taught to us anew.

            

But to whom shall we appeal for help?

            

Who will show us the way?

            

These questions, clamoring for an answer, bring us back to the consideration that an inner necessity must inevitably determine the whole course of human history; that the birth and growth of Fascism, coming as it does at this particular time of stress and strain for western civilization, must be considered, therefore, as a phenomenon of the highest importance for the destiny of mankind.

            

Because Fascism, in its esoteric aspect, answers a dire need of mankind: the need of starting a new life if salvation is to be found and can be found at all. We must never forget that salvation depends not upon a transformation of the social structure of from a modification of political systems, or from improvements of the economic factors, but from A RADICAL CHANGE OF OUR WHOLE OUTLOOK ON LIFE.

            

All our attempts to build up a new national economy are bound to end in miserable failure if they are not leavened by a revived spiritual outlook of the problems which beset humanity, as the economical aspects of these problems are ultimately dependent upon the moral ones; are determined by the way which we solve the age-old struggle between our selfish aims and the claims of our fellow beings and mankind as a whole.

            

Such a struggle goes on eternally in the heart of man, but in those dark periods of history characterized by the triumph of individualism it can hardly be called a struggle at all; its outcome being already fore-ordained by the assumptions on which that negative, disintegrating, anti-social philosophy of life is based.

            

The birth of Fascism could not but intensify their struggle and bring it, for good or bad, to that fatal climax when each individual is faced squarely by the issue whether he chooses to be a truly social being or not, and whether, therefore, he truly deserves the name of man.

            

We have made of our individual life an end to itself. Let us, from now on, make of it a means to a greater end – the building up of our national life, the building up of our brethren’s life. But we have also made of the masses of anonymous, un-articulated beings our “idola fori;” let us, from now on, recognize the worth of the elite of the Spirit, let us acknowledge the need of the aristocracy of the Mind in our midst, let us confess that “Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is, at bottom, the History of the Great Men who have worked here.” Let us, from now on, give back to our leaders the right and the possibility of leadership, resting satisfied with the role which Nature has assigned to us. We have enthroned Liberty in the market-place and denied it to our inner nature; let us, from now on restore Liberty to what it rightly belongs: to the Spirit of Man; let us think of our duties as moral beings, let us recognize our obligations as social beings, let us allow, in other words, to the Spirit within, freedom to shape the course of our life for the furtherance of higher aims than the satisfaction of senses.

            

And if to accomplish such purpose we must avail ourselves of the principles of Fascism, what of it? Fascism, with its call of duty to our country, to sacrifice for our fellow beings, to national brotherhood, to belief in God and the human soul, may appear to us as delivering a message at the same time too spiritual and too authoritative to be in tune with our true nature.

            

But let us remember that nothing great was ever accomplished by the cold, dispassionate calculations of the mind. Only a frenzy of the Spirit can arouse the souls of men from their lethargic slumber and unleash the daemonic forces which can transform and vivify the life of mankind.

 

 

 

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