restricted access The Literature of Fascism
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540 ] The Literature of Fascism1 A review of The Universal Aspects of Fascism, by J. S. Barnes London: Williams and Norgate, 1928. Pp. xxi + 247. The Pedigree of Fascism, by Aline Lion London: Sheed and Ward, 1927. Pp. 236. The Fascist Dictatorship in Italy, Vol 1: Origins and Practices, by Gaetano Salvemini London: J. Cape, 1928. Pp. 446. Italy and Fascismo, by Luigi Sturzo, trans. Barbara Barclay Carter London: Faber & Gwyer, 1926. Pp. xii + 305. The Fascist Experiment, by Luigi Villari London: Faber & Gwyer, 1926. Pp. xi + 253. The Criterion: A Literary Review, 8 (Dec 1928) 280-90 I am, I suppose, a typical representative of the British and American public in the extent of my knowledge and ignorance of fascism in Italy. I have paid one or two visits to Italy under the present regime; I have the casual comments of friends who have been living there; I have read the apparently biased views of newspapers of various complexions, without being convinced by Sir Percival Phillips or H. G. Wells; and I have recently read these five books.2 I am not convinced of anything by these books either. All are excellent; all are persuasive; none is quite comprehensive. The books by Italian authors are rather better written than the books by English authors. Unfortunatelyformypurpose,noneofthemquitemeet.SignorSalvemini’s book, for instance, is crammed with exact documentation, and is a valuable commentary on the evolution of the ideas of the fascist leaders; it appears to be the work of an honest and indignant man, and no one could question the author’s sincerity or conviction.3 But for my purpose of investigation, I feel that Signor Salvemini is too close to his subject; he has suffered too [ 541 The Literature of Fascism much; and he is obviously an English liberal in culture. I am not concerned to question any of his statements of fact; and if one had just been reading Sir Percival Phillips, one would be in a frame of mind to agree with him in his conclusions. But his accumulations of facts, however useful they may be to liberals like Mr. Wells, do not in themselves constitute a case. For a citizen of any country, who has definite political views, is always apt to believe that his fellow citizens of other views, when they behave in an unpleasant way, do so because their views differ from his. In one context, we exaggerate the differences of political parties and ignore race; just as in another context we may exaggerate the differences of race. The Russian Revolution, seen from a distance, appears far more Russian than revolutionary; possibly the fascist revolution is more Italian than fascist. Don Sturzo is an Italian dissentient of a different political stripe from Signor Salvemini; he also, though he has written a most interesting book, is too close to the object.4 And Signor Villari is a convinced adherent of the fascist regime.5 Mr. Barnes and Miss Lion, on the other hand, write as English sympathizers of fascism, who are naturally interested in extracting from the fascist movement the ideas of general value.6 Being interested in political ideas, but not in politics, I have found the last two books the most important. But a reading of the other three is a valuable aid to criticizing the theories of Mr. Barnes and Miss Lion. What really matters is whether Fascism is the emergence of a new political idea, or the recrudescence of an old one, that may infect the whole of Europe as Parliamentarism infected it in the nineteenth century, or whether it is purely local. It is a commonplace that the increase of the electorate, in Britain, is the destruction of Democracy; that with every vote added, the value of every vote diminishes, and that consequently the actual power will be more and more concentrated in the hands of a small number of politicians , or perhaps in the Civil Service, or perhaps in the City, or perhaps in a number of cities. What I am concerned with at the moment is not the normal progress of events due to the increase of voters – which seems to be taken for granted by everybody – but the possible influence on the public mind of the idea, or rather the vague sentiment of approval excited by the word, of fascism. There are questions which I should like to ask; but I doubt whether anyone can answer them; and I am quite sure that I should be unable to understandtheanswersifgiven...