500 words essay
Explain, in our own words, Mussolini’s conception of “the State” as expressed in his article The Nature of Fascism. What does he mean when he refers to “the state”? What is the role of the individual in this state?
Pick three of Mussolini’s arguments from this article. Choose from the following: the importance of the state, against individualism, against socialism, against democracy, against peace, in favor of war and expansion. Explain each argument in your own words. What counter-arguments could you provide against his ideas?
Make sure that you base you response on the assigned reading only.
Mussolini, Doctrine of Fascism (1932)
Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) started his political life as a socialist and in 1912, was appointed editor of Avanti, a leading socialist newspaper. During the Great War, Mussolini was expelled from the Socialist Party for advocating Italy’s entrance into battle. He organized the Fascist Party immediately following the war. By exploiting general fears of labor unrest and communism, Mussolini gained his followers among war veterans and the middle class. Mussolini organized his March on Rome in 1922 in order to bring down the government. King Victor Emmanuel, fearful of a civil war, appointed Benito Mussolini prime minister.
The following selection is an excerpt from an article on Fascism which Mussolini wrote (with the help of Giovanni Gentile) for the Enciclopedia Italiana in 1932. Following this
selection I have included two versions of the Fascist Decalogue (1934 and 1938) and brief passage on myth from one of Mussolini’s speeches of 1922.
(i) Fundamental Ideas
1.. . . There is no concept of the State which is not fundamentally a concept of life; philosophy or intuition, a system of ideas which develops logically or is gathered up into a vision or into a faith, but which is always, at least virtually, an organic conception of the world…
7. Against individualism, the Fascist conception is for the State; and it is for the individual in so far as he coincides with the State, which is the conscience and universal will of man in his historical existence. It is opposed to classical Liberalism, which arose from the necessity of reacting against absolutism, and which brought its historical purpose to an end when the State was transformed into the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the interests of the particular individual; Fascism reaffirms the State as the true reality of the individual. And if liberty is to be the attribute of the real man, and not of that abstract puppet envisaged by individualistic Liberalism, Fascism is for liberty. And for the only liberty which can be a real thing, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. Therefore, for the Fascist, everything is in the State, and nothing human or spiritual exists, much less has value, outside the State. In this sense Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State, the synthesis and unity of all values, interprets, develops and gives strength to the whole life of the people.
8. Outside the State there can be neither individuals nor groups (political parties, associations, syndicates, classes). Therefore Fascism is opposed to Socialism, which confines the movement of history within the class struggle and ignores the unity of classes established in one economic and moral reality in the State…
9. Individuals form classes according to the similarity of their interests, they form syndicates according to differentiated economic activities within these interests; but they form first, and above all, the State, which is not to be thought of numerically as
the sum-total of individuals forming the majority of the nation. And consequently Fascism is opposed to Democracy, which equates the nation to the majority, lowering it to the level of that majority. . . .
10. It is not the nation that generates the State… Rather the nation is created by the State, which gives to the people, conscious of its own moral unity, a will and therefore an effective existence. . . .
(ii) Political and Social Doctrine
3. Above all, Fascism, in so far as it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from the political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor in the utility of perpetual peace. It thus repudiates the doctrine of Pacifism — born of a renunciation of the struggle and an act of cowardice in the face of sacrifice. war alone brings up to their highest tension all human energies and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it. All other trials are substitutes, which never really put a man in front of himself in the alternative of life and death. . . .
6. After Socialism, Fascism attacks the whole complex of democratic ideologies and rejects them both in their theoretical premises and in their applications or practical manifestations. fascism denies that the majority, through the mere fact of being a majority, can rule human societies; it denies that this majority can govern by means of a periodical consultation; it affirms the irremediable, fruitful and beneficent inequality of men, who cannot be leveled by such a mechanical and extrinsic fact as universal suffrage. . . . Democracy is a regime without a king, but with very many kings, perhaps more exclusive, tyrannical and violent than one king even though a tyrant. . . .
9. . . . The theory of Fascist authority has nothing to do with the police State. A party that governs a nation in a totalitarian way is a new fact in history. … If it is admitted that the nineteenth century has been the century of Socialism, Liberalism and Democracy, it does not follow that the twentieth must also be the century of Liberalism, Socialism and Democracy. Political doctrines pass; peoples remain. It is to be expected that this century may be that of authority, a century of the “Right,” a Fascist century. If the nineteenth was the century of the individual it may be expected that this one may be the century of “collectivism” and therefore the century of the State. . . .
11. . . . In the Fascist State the individual is not suppressed, but rather multiplied, just as in a regiment a soldier is not weakened but multiplied by the number of his comrades. The Fascist State organizes the nation, but it leaves sufficient scope to individuals; it has limited useless or harmful liberties and has preserved those that are essential. It cannot be the individual who decides in this matter, but only the State.
13. The Fascist State is a will to power and to government. In it the tradition of Rome
is an idea that has force. In the doctrine of Fascism Empire is not only a territorial, military or economic expression, but spiritual or moral. … For Fascism the tendency to Empire, that is to say, to the expansion of nations, is a manifestation of vitality; its opposite, staying at home, is a sign of decadence…. Fascism is the doctrine that is most fitted to represent the aims, the states of mind, of a people, like the Italian people, rising again after many centuries of abandonment of slavery to foreigners. . . . If every age has its own doctrine, it is apparent from a thousand signs that the doctrine of the present age is Fascism. That is is a doctrine of life is shown by the fact that it has resuscitated a faith. That this faith has conquered minds is proved by the fact that Fascism has had its dead and its martyrs.
[Source: Michael Oakeshott, The Social and Political Doctrines of Contemporary Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1939), in Carl Cohen, ed., Communism, Fascism and Democracy: The Theoretical Foundations 2nd. ed. (New York: Random House, 1972), pp.328-339.]
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