Puslapio vaizdai

ant "squads" of combattenti and would-be combattenti, which symbolized the new Italian giovinezza.


But this picture has a broader background of tradition and ideology. For several decades before the war, Italian sociologists had been developing the theory of Italy's inherent poverty and of her consequent doom to a minor rôle among her more favored neighbors. Also internally Italy was said to be doomed because of the great divisions among her people, notably the clash between North and South. It was pointed out that no matter how much industrial progress Piedmont might make, it would always have the dead weight of a poor, overpopulated, traditionally inferior agricultural South around its neck. This theory naturally operated against Italian nationalism, the inference being, "united we fall, divided at least one of us might stand." Among the intellectuals some such general analysis of Italy's possibilities was widely accredited, and this pessimism, floated as the findings of realistic social science, soon dominated the imaginations of the intellectuals and politicians. After the war even such statesmen as Giolitti and Nitti pointed to the negative results of the victory for Italy as a confirmation of this theory, and publicly spread a gospel of disillusionment and pessimism. In short, as the Italians put it, not only by foreigners, where it is normal, but even among Italian socalled leaders, where it is blasphemous, there reigned an atmosphere of Italia disprezzata. Italia decadenta was an all too easy inference

from from this. Nitti, for example, though he talked of the decline of Europe in general, had altogether too much to say about Italy in this respect. Germany, with her Spengler, might naturally be expected to revel in such theories, but that Italian statesmen should follow up a complete victory by such complete pessimism, was little short of treason. I have heard young Italian patriots heap invectives on the head of Nitti, not on the ground that his theories were unsound, but on the ground that he was himself morally decadent and was aiming to undermine the moral fiber of his people.


The reaction against this Italia disprezzata philosophy was more violent than might have been expected, floating as it did on the wave of the general practical and emotional perturbation described above. First of all the "red" economic interpretation of history went by the boards. Not natural resources, but "creative will," determines the careers of nations. The younger idealists, especially Gentile and his school, popularized their philosophy of the spirit as "pure act," revived the philosophy of Gioberti, which maintained that the creative efforts of man are nothing less than the creative power of God Himself shaping the world to His will, and in general made much of the fact that successful Italian patriots had always been enemies of rationalist and materialist philosophies. The less idealistically minded, minded, like Mussolini himself, pointed out that even if natural resources are the basis of a nation's greatness, Italy can point with pride to hers-not, to be sure, to coal,

iron, gold, but to those nobler, human resources, those very elements which the older school had looked upon as liabilities-Italian labor, discipline, effort, and, above all, a vigorous birth-rate. These are all of them creative resources, and in these Italy excels. The professional nationalists added their bit by parading the glories of Italy's past. What other nation has so great a heritage? I shall never forget how a little old lady, who had been talking to me quite casually of Florentine art, suddenly caught fire, her eyes sparkled, and in a fit of giovinezza she explained to me that Florence (she was a Florentine nationalist!) was a center of Etruscan culture, then of Greco-Roman culture, then of the learning of the church, then of the Renaissance, and so on down the centuries to the risorgimento. And she concluded, applying it by gesture to herself, "All this we have in our blood!" That is to say, and it seems to be a current belief, that in Italy babies are born civilized.

I shall not attempt to enumerate the other strains which swelled the rising chorus of national enthusiasm; suffice it to say that in a surprisingly short time it began to be proclaimed from the housetops, by the press and in the market-place, that another risorgimento had set in. Suddenly all eyes were turned on the future, on the bigger and better Italy to come. And to-day there is not a shadow of a doubt in the mind of patriotic Italians, Fascist or not, that the New Italy is under way. Very few, to be sure, are looking for evidences, and many expect little further in this direction from the

Fascisti. Nevertheless, they feel the risorgimento within themselves. How can any one doubt the new era when it is on every one's lips? William James, I am sure, would have been interested in this example of the "will to believe"; or better, of the will to talk. For in Italy talking is an end in itself, like singing, which Italian speech so much resembles. Once a renaissance or a risorgimento gets talked sufficiently, it is a matter of comparative indifference whether or not anything further happens. These rebirths are "spiritual"! Hence the government can lay on new taxes, curtail consumption, lengthen the hours of work, curb the press and even frankly declare, as did Mussolini, that "every day life becomes more difficult"; and it all is taken as evidence of the new era, the birthpangs of the bigger and better Italy.


Amid all this enthusiasm I have been able to discover very little in the way of a concrete picture of the New Italy. It is to be larger, an empire, economically self-sufficient, creative, more cultured, the light of the world and the chief handiwork of God. But further details are almost entirely lacking. Nevertheless I notice that these less I notice that these young spirits usually take the details for granted as trivial and commonplace. Once, in my impudent and naïve curiosity, I asked a typical giovane, a traveling salesman whose avocation was political science, to tell me something of the details. of the details. He was more than willing, and more than able to do so. I give a brief résumé of his exposition for those readers who may be under the illusion that only America has


and to whom the Italian equivalent may sound strange and perhaps less reasonable.

"We begin," he said, "with the birthrate, which is practically stable, for Malthus's law works only in cold climates. It is a simple calculation to figure out what the relative strength of the European peoples will be in fifty years, and the result shows clearly that by that time there will be enough Italians easily to dominate the political life of Europe. Hitherto the rapid growth of the Italian people has had comparatively little political importance, because Italians have spread all over the face of the earth. But now, partly because other nations are erecting political barriers to emigration, and partly because the emigrants always return sooner or later anyway, Italy is forced to use political measures to make an Italian home for Italians. Eventually the northern coast of Africa might do, but this is not immediately practical, first because an open conflict with France must be postponed a little longer, and secondly because it would take at least twenty or thirty years to develop the country so that it would be agriculturally profitable. For the present urgent need, therefore, some other territory must be sought, Asia Minor, for example. A war with Turkey would not be very expensive and would give Italy a country which yields two crops annually, and, though full of Turks now, would soon be Italian. any case, Italy will inevitably expand by the sheer force of her 'creative energy.' France, whose population is slowly withering, can


not offer serious resistance. England will be a serious problem for perhaps fifty years longer at the outside. The great navy will soon be obsolete; Italy has already demonstrated her superior inventive power in aviation. Furthermore the chief route of communication between England and her Indian and African empire will be the air route. A glance at the map shows that Italy lies directly across this route, and at the distance required for a landing and supply base. Thus Italy can do more effectively in the future what Germany has just failed to do; namely, block England's communication with her colonies. For these and other reasons Italy holds the strategic position in the politics of the near future. Italy has Rome's destiny. It will, of course, be a matter of hard work and of capital, not, however, of capital in the stock-exchange sense, but of resources of economic invention; that is, of brain-power. And in the matter of brain-power nature again has favored the Italian people; in fact it all goes back to geography and climate. The Italians are more intelligent than their European neighbors because they enjoy more sunlight. Not only does sunlight favor the propagative energy of the race, but," my friend continued, "our brains are better for the same reason that our potatoes are better than others-more sun. Almost literally the sun's rays penetrate our heads and clarify our ideas! Now that we have awakened to the fact that nature and destiny favor us, and now that we have the will-power and determination to enter upon our heritage, nothing can stop us. As for Mussolini, he merely imperson

ates this awakened energy of the people. Fascism may come and go, but the risorgimento will inevitably be carried on by whatever party may happen to succeed the present régime.

[ocr errors]

During this discourse, delivered with absolute conviction and with much enthusiasm, I found myself quite unable to ask questions or suggest difficulties in the way of such a program. But I was even more dumfounded when I noticed that the other Italians in the group, quite a mixed lot, thought his general argument very plausible, though they took exception to some of the details. Even my rather sober young lawyer friend, who had a good education, had enjoyed some political experience, and was somewhat critical of Fascist excesses, agreed with most of it. However, I make no claim that this represents the general program of the Italian youth, and it certainly must not be taken as representative of government policy in detail, but I cite it merely as an example of the way the imagination of a typical Italian youth has been kindled by recent events. I have talked to enough others, and read the writings of still others, so that I feel quite confident that there are thousands of similar young minds in Italy, perhaps not so precise and confident in their calculations, but full of the same general aspirations and hopes for their country.


The ideal type of giovane is easily recognized, once his acquaintance has been made, but he is difficult to describe. There are two attributes very commonly used to describe him, but they are even more difficult

to translate literally than the term giovane itself, being intelligible only against the historical background I have sketched. A giovane must be a person of carattere and of fede. To have "character" in this sense means primarily to be a man of action. It is commonly said of Fascism that as a movement it has no intellectual quality, that it does not represent a movement of ideas, and that the Fascists are generally as individuals men of little schooling, men who have no coherent philosophy or clear idea of what they are trying to do. Far from denying this, the Fascists have attempted to turn the intended criticism into a eulogy. It is true, they reply, we are not thinkers; we are men of action! We are making history which pedants may ponder and professors expound. Positive character is a matter of power, not of knowledge, if the two must be contrasted. Knowledge may be power, and science may have an application; but on the whole such an empirical and pragmatic philosophy is disdained by men whose "character" is a substitute for science. Or, more accurately and more subtly— for the Fascists have learned to exploit their official idealistic philosophy of the "pure act"-action is the primary form of the spirit. The kind of intelligence which can be formulated in the general concept of science, technically known by idealists as "abstract intelligence,' is a secondary, inferior form. Am Anfang war die That. The continual creative force of God is more essential in Him than is the Logos, the Word. A man of "spirit" is therefore a man of sheer, "pure" activity. Much of this is, of course, a burlesque

[ocr errors]

of idealism, even of Gentile's, who, though an educational reformer and a leader among the Fascists, is no doubt more of a philosopher than a man of "character." He thought he was defending philosophy by calling it the purest of acts, but actually he has succeeded in giving an official apology to those "pure actors" who feel that philosophy is beneath them. Hegel had his Bismarck, and Gentile is having his Mussolini! Hardheaded politicians usually prefer to be regarded as the very essence of spirituality.

But whether or not a Fascist giovane indulges in these high flights of idealist dialectics, he is usually quite superior to formal learning and academic minds. And he disdains not merely the academic intellectuals, the professors or pedants, but also that proud class of intellectual politicians, or political intellectuals. If you can imagine a journal and its clientele with the combined prestige of the "New York Times," "The Nation," and THE CENTURY, you may get a picture of the prestige which the "Corriere della Sera" of Milan has enjoyed. In its columns or among its devoted readers would be found at once the "best" and the most "liberal" and the most "intellectual" class of the nation. Imagine, then, the grandiose gesture of these giovani who can smile condescendingly at these "best people," who amuse themselves with the quaint ideas of the intellectual snobs, and who, when they deemed it best, felt perfectly free to suspend the publication of this august journal for a time. It takes carattere to do that.

It also takes fede. Fede is not so

much faith as it is self-confidence, faith in one's own ability. If Emerson could be reincarnated in Italy, his doctrine of self-reliance would no doubt carry the day. But in the term "self-reliance" there is a Protestant tang-the good Catholic word "faith" is therefore necessary in Italy. A Fascist will above all "keep the faith." What faith? No matter. The Fascist faith is indefinable or, rather, it is its own object. A person of "faith" need not know the object of his belief; in fact he is more faithful if he does not! He is himself the source and authority for his creed, and believes in what he does. Hence so long as he acts with promptness and precision, it is not necessary for him to know his creed. It implies, of course, unquestioning loyalty to the "cause," and to Mussolini as the personification of the cause. But the cause is not something abstract. It cannot be formulated or defined. It is the living power of the persons who constitute the cause. There is no limit to the extremes to which the Fascists have carried this sacred concept. The "faithful"-I suppose the church really worked out most of this idea for them-the faithful constitute a sacred body, an "original creation of the spirit, in which the spirit recognizes its own absolute responsibility and its own work, and by which it creates its own ethical personality." All this means, in more secular language, that the Fascists are a law unto themselves and the fountain of law unto others. In their deeds the moral order becomes incarnate and ceases to be merely an abstract principle. It is not by contract, by constitutions, by statutes,

« AnkstesnisTęsti »