Orwell could not find a clear answer to the question of what Fascism was. Maybe he didn't try hard enough.
Benito Mussolini understood the question needed an answer. In a 1921 letter, Mussolini writes: "If Fascism does not wish to die or, worse still, commit suicide, it must now provide itself with a doctrine"; "[I]t is also a question of denying the silly tale that Fascism is all made up of violent men".
Ironies aside, allegedly coming straight from Il Duce, with the additional imprimatur of the Enciclopedia Italiana and its editor, philosopher and top fascist ideologue Giovanni Gentile, the 1932 essay "The Doctrine of Fascism" was meant as the authoritative answer.
That statement of principles was long overdue: ten years since Mussolini took power in 1922 (he founded the fascist movement in 1914). Fascist trains may have run on time. Ideas? Not so much.
The first problem those reading the article find is that the English translation, unlike the original, credits both Mussolini and Gentile as authors. Indeed, it's evident two obviously different and separate parts, cut and pasted together, so to speak, form the essay's body. This strongly suggests at least two people wrote it.
But, who wrote what? Should one credit "Mussotile"?
The fact that Gentile was a neo-Hegelian philosopher justifies a guess: he wrote the opening section (slightly over 3 pages long). He was Mussolini's ghost writer, attempting to make his boss sound smart.
Regardless, the second and more important problem is to understand those first pages. Here I'll comment only on them (next posts will cover the other two parts).
Actually, I'll outsource that to Schopenhauer. His opinion on Hegel (of which I learned from another blog) seems equally appropriate on Mussotile:
"[T]he most injurious result of Kant's occasionally obscure language is that it acted as exemplar vitiis imitabile; indeed, it was misconstrued as a pernicious authorisation. The public was compelled to see that what is obscure is not always without significance; consequently, what was without significance took refuge behind obscure language. Fichte was the first to seize this new privilege and use it vigorously; Schelling at least equalled him; and a host of hungry scribblers, without talent and without honesty, soon outbade them both. But the height of audacity, in serving up sheer nonsense, in stringing together senseless and extravagant mazes of words, such as had previously only been heard in madhouses, was finally reached in Hegel, and became the instrument of the most ponderous general mystification that has ever taken place, with a result which will appear fabulous to posterity, and will remain as a lasting monument of German stupidity."Just replace "Hegel" for "Mussotile" and "German" for "Italian".
I've recently lost respect for intellectuals in general and philosophers in particular. Still, you have to give philosophers credit for something: they do excel in the art of put-down writing. I couldn't possibly match that.
For the life of me, I couldn't understand that extravagant maze of words, either. Maybe there's some reason why Fascism is hard to pin down, after all.
The ball is on your side, dear reader. If you read the essay, how did it go? Am I being too harsh? Can you explain in English what that section means?