Saturday, July 19, 2003

"The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat."- Genesis 3:13

Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar. – Author unknown

"...Fascism is, also historically, of mushroom growth, without legitimate roots in our liberty-loving traditions." - Anthony Turano quoting a resident of Naples Italy, 1934.

The following excerpts appear in an article titled: "Mussolini Is Tottering", by Anthony M. Turano, published by The American Mercury, September 1934. Volume XXXIII, Number 129. page 25, Editor: Charles Angoff.
Turano, born in Italy, returned to his country of birth to report on the state of affairs during Mussolini's reign. NOTE: All bracketed bold type sectional sub-heads below are my emphasis, and do not appear in the original AM article.

[begin Turano excerpts, Italy circa 1934]

POLITICAL conversation in Fascist Italy divides itself into two main branches: the ostentatious public panegyric, and the whispered private jeremiad. The first, of course, is always concerned with the glory of Il Duce, his dynamic personality, his pontifical infallibility, his success in commanding the respect of other nations toward his country, and his extraordinary feat of making the trains run according to schedule. During a recent personal visit to the land of the Corporative State, I did not escape the loud panegyric; but it was also very interesting to overhear the mono-tone of lamentation and rebellion that prevails in every part of the peninsula.

[i pressci grossi]

One evening, soon after my arrival in my native town in the Southern province of Calabria, I was surrounded by a small group of people who had come to pay their respects to l'Ammcano.

"We have electric lights now," said an old contadino who had previously amused the company by recounting my half-forgotten childhood pranks. "We also have a new railroad, a modern olive press and a flour mill. But il Fascismo is good only for i pesci grossi [the big fish] of the Kingdom. The common people have a worse lot than before. Our knees were badly patched when yon first knew us, and we still wear the same uniforms of poverty.

[Agribiz and Corporate Feudalism]

Mussolini himself has recently admitted that any additional levies would "drive the taxpayers to death." A schoolmate of mine explained that the old regime established Casse Rurali, land banks that were required to loan money to farmers at 3% interest. But the patriotic gentlemen in charge of the institutions, invariably eminent in the high councils of the Fascist Party, manage to collect as much as 12% a year on each loan. Through an epidemic of foreclosures the loan sharks have elevated themselves into feudal barons, while hundreds of families have been evicted from the homes and lands that had been theirs for centuries. These conditions have been consistently ignored by Il Duce, although he is seeking, in his "Battle of Grain," to make Italy self-supporting in the production of wheat.

[Labor vs. Industrial Feudalism]

In Bologna, I spent some time with a distant relative who was a telephone lineman. As an old trade-unionist, he had not managed to digest the industrial feudalism of recent years.

"Labor has lost, under Fascism, everything it had gained in all its previous struggles," he said. "Our wages have been falling steadily since 1929, with no corresponding decrease in the price of bread. If we threaten to strike, we are treated as traitors to the state. With our standard of living lower than ever, we naturally laugh at the propaganda for large families and fearsome armies."

[Culture War and the Fascist Ideal]

Another writer informed me that he had been employed for several years, by an important newspaper, as a special collaborator on artistic and musical subjects. One day his editor, doubtless obeying orders, demanded a written statement of his political attitude.

"I pleaded," said my friend, "that my interests in life were purely literary, and that I preferred to retain my neutrality. It was a mistake. A week later I was discharged."

When I asked him what he had been doing since, he answered that he had managed to eke out an existence by writing for foreign publications in French and English, and that he hoped eventually to establish himself in America.

"The atmosphere itself is so depressing," a Milanese critic said, "that no outstanding writer has arisen here since the advent of the Dark Age of Fascism. Even the novelist is inevitably cramped and self-conscious, for fear that he picture contemporary life in a manner unsuitable to the Fascist idea. The consequence might be imprisonment or exile, as happened to Vinciguerra, De Bosis, Malaparte, and hundreds of the smaller fry. Furthermore, the psychological emphasis has been so completely switched to patriotic stupidities, that there is no longer a reading public in the older sense. There is only the state and its trembling subjects."

[A Blood and Thunder Creed - Learned by Rote]

He later discussed the educational systerm of Italy, and pointed out that all students, even the youngest, are taught to revere imperialism and war, and to learn by rote the various exploits of Il Duce.


"Every instructor and college professor," I was told, "must subscribe to an oath, a blood and thunder creed of Fascism, before he is allowed to teach. Those who refuse to take the oath are replaced by others more obedient. Some of the non-conformists, including two men of immense erudition, are now teaching in American colleges."

[Agents of the National Security State]

The Fascist answer to all signs of economic and spiritual distress is a formidable army of militiamen, carabinieri [police], guards, spies, metropolitani, and other "agents of public security". An exiled Italian author estimates that the cost of maintaining order in Italy is three times what it is in France. Surely no other nation has a more imposing police force.

Naturally, the average Italian cannot reconcile this depressing state of martial law with the official ballyhoo concerning the great popularity of Fascism. His private conversation contains a rich repertoire of picturesque epithets to fit every corps. Some of the most expressive ones, such as infame, and canaglia (infamous, low brow) are directed at the supernumerary militia of Fascism, whose special assignment is the preservation of the state against subversive uprisings. It is the general opinion that these indolent militi are recruited from among the early partisans of Il Duce, and that he is now "providing for them" at public expense. But perhaps the greatest hatred is expressed against the OVRA [Mussolini's secret police] and the hordes of other officers in plain clothes, who trace the movements of every citizen, in the street cars, trains, cafes and other public places, in the hope of overhearing some unguarded phrase of criticism against the prevailing regime. Their espionage penetrates into the most intimate affairs of civilians, including their telephone conversations. Many citizens informed me that their letters had been opened by postal spies.

[Traitors Be Silent]

The man who does not agree with official opinion must be silent, or suffer as a traitor. The inmates of the political prisons are neither regicides nor Communists, but ordinary citizens whose ideas are current street-corner talk in democratic countries. Nitti, Rosselli, and Lussu were ordinary liberals, but they would still be in prison if they had not escaped."

It is the general belief of most citizens that the Italian national "election" of March 25, 1934, was merely a method of counting the friends and enemies of Fascism, for the purpose of apportioning rewards and punishments.

[The Suicide Chamber & The Council of Corporations]

It is well known that Fascism has small respect for democratic institutions. Several years ago it dispensed with municipal elections, by appointing an autocratic podesta for every city and town. The present House of Deputies, known as "the suicide chamber," has been ordered to eliminate itself in favor of a despotic Council of Corporations.

[Fear, Fictions and Propaganda - A Tribe of Hypocrites in Chains]

I was repeatedly told by natives that Il Duce's popularity is a fiction compounded of propaganda and fear. Others insisted that at least one-half of the crowds that cheer him when he appears in public are policemen in plain clothes, while the other half are largely his political dependents.

Indeed, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the Italian blackshirt is nothing more than an ornamental political dickey, a sort of detachable cuff and bosom set that serves a purely forensic purpose; while the majority of citizens continue to wear, closer to their skins, the older white broadcloth of common sense. This universal duplicity that Fascist terrorism has forced upon the population is a frequent subject of apology and justification on the part of intelligent Italians.

"We have been reduced to a tribe of hypocrites in chains," a Neapolitan lawyer was lamenting. "But what can we do? There have been hundreds of martyrs to the cause of freedom in the last twelve years. But you can't expect the whole peninsula to submit to martyrdom. Yet the moral degradation of the individual Italian is a pitiful tragedy. It will be the first concern of Mussolini's successor to restore the dignity of a cowed and fear-palsied nation.

[Fanatic Patriotism and Seeds of Destruction]

It is the prevailing opinion of Italians that Fascism carries within itself the seeds of its own early destruction. One of its main tenets is an insanely fanatic patriotism that causes its leader to fancy himself an avatar of Julius Caesar, and to say that the expansion of his country "is a problem of life and death."

[end Turano excerpts]

Additional Reading: A Kind of Fascism Is Replacing Our Democracy by Sheldon S. Wolin - ("emeritus professor of politics at Princeton University") published July 18, 2003 by Newsday. Article mirrored here.