Fascism’s Conception of the State

This basically Hegelian, or neo-Hegelian, conception of the state constituted a novel element in developing Fascist doctrine. For a considerable period of time, Mussolini had no specific conception of the state. As a socialist he had grappled with a problem, but there is considerable internal evidence which indicates that his conceptions remained confused and sometimes contradictory. We do know, for example, that for some time Mussolini was influenced by philosophical individualism and its implicit anarchism. He himself indicates that until 1908 he remained under the influence of Nietzsche and Max Stirner.

Under their influence he seemed prepared to maintain that the individual enjoyed some kind of moral privilege vis-i?? -vis any organized aggregate of men. He seemed to argue that the only law binding upon the individual was a law which the individual laid upon himself. He specifically committed himself to opposing submission to laws having any other origin. Yet, by 1908, he was prepared to admit the real theoretical difficulty in defending such a position. In his essay on Nietzsche he was prepared to grant that for Nietzsche the state was a system of "organized oppression at the cost of the individual".

But he went on to indicate that Nietzsche's conception of man as a beast of prey necessarily involved a conviction that man as a predatory beast was a denizen of an organized community. Without such a supposition effective struggle would be impossible and no conquest could be secured. The moral idea which Mussolini applauded at twenty-one was one in which the activity of the individual was governed by the moral concerns for the solidarity of mutual interests and reciprocal obligations of the community of which he was a member. Such a conception involves the nation of a state which is a moral union of individuals

The Doctrinal Development of Fascism after 1925 After 1925, as a consequence of a number of circumstances, Fascist doctrine became increasingly standardized; its arguments more tightly developed and its implications more apparent. First and foremost, prior to 1925, Fascism existed in a state of perpetual crisis. After the first impact of the March on Rome, the opposition to Fascism regrouped and undertook a debilitating war of attrition against Mussolini's rule. But more threatening was the disorder that prevailed within the ranks of Fascism itself. Fascim had been a spontaneous and disorderly growth.

Fasci had organized in all the major cities of North Italy around local popular leaders. These men, while nominally subordinate to the control of the central offices of the movement, were in fact condottieri with personal followings. They launched campaigns, quasi- military, organizational, and propagandistic at their own will and discretion. Any policy decision by Mussolini was likely to be compromised by the independent activity of any or all of the local ras (as the local leaders were called). It was with this undisciplined Party that Mussolini seized control of the state.

For almost two years thereafter Mussolini continued to promise an end to Fascist violence, and yet the violence persisted. The Party threatened to fragment into factions, and expulsions from its ranks were not uncommon. With the murder of Giacomo Matteotti by Francists in June, 1924, the entire political situation became critical. For six months, the Fascist government trembled. Finally Mussolini forced the issue. Fascism emerged dominant over the opposition and Mussolini rapidly became absolute master of the Party. On January 3, 1925, after his control over the

Party became secure, Mussolini proclaimed that Fascism, and Fascism alone, will rule the nation. After that date, Fascism could speak without equivocation. Its doctrine could be articulated without qualifications and without tactical reservations; but, as we have seen, this is not to suggest that the doctrine of Fascism had not long since taken on the specific features that were its own. Fascism, from the foundation of the Partito Nazionale Fascista in 1921, gravitated around a hard core of concepts that had crystallized into a political doctrine of considerable specificity. In the weeks before

the slaying of Matteotti, Mussolini could, with justification, maintain that Fascism had a program "based upon a unitary principle, based upon a classic conception of the state", radically different from that of liberalism. After thr resolution of the crisis which followed the death of Matteotti, Fascism was free to embark upon a massive program of social revolution, a program accompanied by explicit vindications and anticipated in its doctrinal commitments as early as 1919. Coupled with these political events was yet another circumstance which conduced to the rapid maturation of Fascist doctrine. Once ensconced in power,

Fascism attracted to itself the allegiance of a company of men of substantial intellectual caliber. Immediately upon its advent, Fascism drew upon the services of men of international reputation such as Giovanni Gentile, Corrado Gini, and Roberto Michels. Once Fascism became secure in its rule these men were joined by spokesmen of varied scholary and scientific disciplines, each contributing in some measure to the finalisation of Fascism's doctrinal rationale. What is interesting and instructive is that irrespective of the diversty of contributions, o collection of themes and concepts remained remarkably persistent

and substantially unaltered. Fascist doctrine, after 1921, retained a surprising degree of theme and content persistence. Elements of doctrine were amplified and arguments were reformulated, but given the number of individuals who contributed to its articulation the doctrine remained significantly resistant to substantive alteration. In practice, Fascist social and political ideas took on institutional and technical forms of various kinds, but the supportive rationale which subtended them remained constant. The doctrine, like all social and political doctrines, contained a

statement of purposes and arguments understood to sustain those purposes. The doctrine did not contain technical procedures for the realization of ends. The realization of ends was understood to involve a range of problems outside the interest and competence of social and political doctrine. By 1927, a number of full-fledged doctrinal expositions of fascism became available. The theoretical and normative commitments to which these expositions gave expression remained esentially unaltered throughout the Fascist period. What emerged was a systematization: the result of general andrudimentary ideas regularly

and consistently applied as a conceptual frame of reference to the interpretation of a body of facts to afford the occasion for the satisfatory explanation of those facts and successful prediction of forthcoming and relevant facts, and consequently a guide to practical orientation. We cannot be concerned with the truth status of the interpretation, the explanation, and the success of such derivative predictions. Our restricted concern is with the systematization itself, the emergent social and political philosophy which attained maturity with the fully explicit synthesis of Gentilean

idealism and Fascist political doctrine that took place in 1932. Here the focus of attention will be directed to a summary outline of Fascism's mature social and political doctrine. Whether it achieved the rigor which could qualify it as social and political philosophy is an academic question. The distinction between the mature social and political doctrine and Gentile's idealism is introduced here only for ease of exposition. Fascism, after1921, was essentially compatible with Gentile's "Actualism", largely because of historic and intellectual circumstances.

Gentilean idealists, nationalists, and national syndicalists all accepted a common core of doctrinal elements- and by 1921 Mussolini himself had introduced Gentile's conception of the stato etico into Fascist doctrine. The differences that obtained were the consequence of the evident sociological biases of nationalism and national syndicalism. Gentile's analysis was irreducibly normative and philosophical. The conclusions arrived at were, nonetheless, essentially compatible. The differences will be specified in the treatement of Gentile's contribution to Fascist ideology.