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BOOK REVIEWS 565 Universal Fascism; The Theory and Practice of the Fascist International, 1928-1936. By Michael Arthur Ledeen. (New York, Howard Fertig, 1972. Pp. xxi -t- 200. $9.50) This volume tells the story of the last years of Italian fascism. The story has two dimensions: the international and imperialistic policies of Mussolini, and the ideological attempts of the theorists to give their movement universality. Mussolini tried to combine the two by conceiving his politics of expansion in the Mediterranean as "the universality of Rome." The politics came to an abrupt end after the invasion of Ethiopia, when Italy became the enemy of France and England and Mussolini became a virtual prisoner of Hitler. His son-in-law, Ciano, who was caught between the politics and the ideology, tried his best to reconcile them, but the Nazis promptly liquidated him. It is appropriate for this Journal that the review of this "book should confine itself to the ideological story. The detailed narrative begins about 1929, when the Lateran Concordat with the Church made it important for the fascist theorists to preach both the secular and the ecclesiastical versions of "universality." To appreciate the theoretical obstacles in the way of presenting fascism as a movement that could be universal it is necessary to go back to its beginning, which was explicitly local and italianissimo. A ]ascio is local, non-political band or "squad" loosely organized for practical "direct" action and combattimento. The bands of veterans returning in 1919 to unemployment found their immediate task to be a series of local conflicts with the anti-war communists, who controlled the labor unions, and whose tactics were the "negative" violence of fomenting strikes. After two years of such local "squadrism" it became evident to Mussolini that the more positive way to power was political. He created the National Fascist Party as a rival to the Socialist Parties, who were in control of a pathetic obstructionist government. Within three years his party had enough votes and enough enthusiastic support from the youth of the land and of the universities to compel the King to invite Mussolini to form a coalition cabinet. This transformation of fascism into a political party at the head of a conventional government was regarded by the leaders of the 1919 ]asci as a complete betrayal of the nature and aims of genuine fascism as a revolutionary movement of direct action. The "squadrist" murder of the leading Socialist Deputy, Matteotti, in 1924 forced Mussolini to face a variety of oppositions. Within the Movement, it added to the opposition of the 1919 revolutionaries the opposition of a growing and influential "dissident" faction, headed by the idealistic philosopher Giovanni Gentile, who agitated for an "ethical state." Meanwhile the "Aventine Secession''x of the Socialists put an end to the original coalition. In the face of this disintegration Mussolini saw that the revolution needed a revolutionary legal establishment. In 1925 he appointed a Constitutional Commission to draft a Fascist Constitution for Italy which would not only give the movement a legal order but might make it internationally respectable. The Chairman of this Commission was Gentile. The theory of the Corporative State could claim some "universality." The general concept of "corporations" had been formulated and urged by the French Radical Right. The English were considering "Guild Socialism." But the Italians had just made a militant experiment in this direction. The Romanist, romantic poet, Gabriele D'Annunzio , had gathered the most "ardent" (and black-shirted) veterans to seize Fiume on the Adriatic, which they thought should have been granted to Italy as a prize of the War. A Corporative Constitution was immediately proclaimed for the State of Fiume, by D'Annunzio, in classical Roman language and rhetoric. Among the leaders in the Constitutional Commission the most enthusiastic Corporationist was the fascist labor leader, Edmondo2 Rossoni, who had preached the theory and organization of 1 Secession, not "Succesion" 2 Edmondo, not "Edmundo" 566 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY "mixed syndicates" from the beginning. The Commission quickly constructed a constitution on the Corporative model. But when Gentile and Rossoni showed the plan to the Confederation of Industry, recommending the union in a single Corporation of the Confederations of Industrial...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 565-567
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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