The Syndicalist Tradition and Italian Fascism

The Syndicalist Tradition and Italian Fascism

The Syndicalist Tradition and Italian Fascism

The Syndicalist Tradition and Italian Fascism

Synopsis

This study focuses on the syndicalist intellectual tradition, which began as a revisionist form of Marxism, then gradually evolved into a kind of nationalist corporatism--the most important theoretical component in Italian fascism. Roberts shows how fascism could be at once popular and elitist, modern and traditional, procapitalist and anticapitalist, nationalist and anti-Italian, totalitarian and anticollectivist. He also illuminates the weaknesses of the regime.

Originally published in 1979.

Excerpt

"Fascism" and "totalitarianism" have become part of our everyday political language, yet it is not clear what disaffected Italians had in mind when they devised these terms in a context of political crisis after World War I. From one perspective, Italian fascism appears to have been an elitist reaction; from another, some sort of populist revolt. in some respects fascism seems to have been an attempt to modernize a relatively backward country, and yet it is often portrayed as an attempt to check or channel modernization, thereby preserving the socioeconomic position of the established elites. On the other hand, fascism seems, in part at least, to have been symptomatic of a more general "modern crisis," and not merely a product of Italian backwardness. Perhaps fascism was primarily a response to essentially modern problems -- problems in liberalism and capitalism afflicting societies that have already modernized. We know that fascism moved toward a corporative state, but the relationship between economics and politics in the corporativist conception remains obscure. There is disagreement over whether Italian fascism and German Nazism can be understood as species of the same genus. and even though the Italian fascists invented the term, it is not clear whether "totalitarianism" can accurately be applied to the regime they created or not.

It is possible to make sense of these contradictory patterns, but only if we ask some new questions and develop more complex and imaginative interpretive categories. in seeking to do so in the ensuing chapters, we will take advantage of a neglected and disprized body of evidence -- fascist ideas. Our major focus will be on the political and intellectual tradition that began as revolutionary syndicalism and turned into one form of fascist corporativism, but our inquiry will suggest new ways of thinking about the overall problem of Italian fascism.

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