Ur-Fascism | (dot)philosophy
(dot)philosophy | A space by GIACOMO MARIA ARRIGO
The Italian novelist and semiotician Umberto Eco pronounced the discourse “Eternal fascism” at a symposium organized by Columbia University on April 25, 1995. The text was then published two months later in “The New York Review” as Ur-Fascism. It is available in full at The New York Review of Books.
Eco distinguished between Nazism and Fascism. Nazism, he writes, «had a theory of racism and of the Aryan chosen people, a precise notion of degenerate art, entartete Kunst, a philosophy of the will to power and of the Ubermensch».
On the contrary, «Italian fascism was certainly a dictatorship, but it was not totally totalitarian, not because of its mildness but rather because of the philosophical weakness of its ideology. Contrary to common opinion, fascism in Italy had no special philosophy. […] Mussolini did not have any philosophy: he had only rhetoric».
Eco continues: «Fascism was philosophically out of joint, but emotionally it was firmly fastened to some archetypal foundations».
Then, Eco identifies «a list of features that are typical of what I would like to call Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it».
(1) THE CULT OF TRADITION
«There can be no advancement of learning. Truth has been already spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message».
(2) THE REJECTION OF MODERNISM
«The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism».
(3) THE CULT OF ACTION FOR ACTION’S SAKE
«Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes».
(4) DISAGREEMENT IS TREASON
«The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge».
(5) FEAR OF DIFFERENCE
«The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders».
(6) APPEAL TO A FRUSTRATED MIDDLE-CLASS
«Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration».
(7) THE OBSESSION WITH A PLOT
«The only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies».
(8) THE ENEMY IS BOTH STRONG AND WEAK
«By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak».
(9) PACIFISM IS TRAFFICKING WITH THE ENEMY
«For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle».
(10) CONTEMPT FOR THE WEAK
«Every citizen belongs to the best people of the world, the members of the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians without plebeians».
(11) EVERYBODY IS EDUCATED TO BECOME A HERO
«This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death».
«Machismo implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality».
(13) SELECTIVE POPULISM
«The People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter».
«All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning».