Giovanni Gentile on the True ‘Will of the People’: Says Difference between Fascism and Nationalism
Marcello Veneziani on the Spirit of Giovanni Gentile’s Actualism and Rebuilding Italy in “It would take Gentile to rebuild Italy” remains a very interesting highlight for my study and research. NATIONALISM is nearly equated with FASCISM today, but to be clear, from the words of one of the most important of the Fascist Philosophers, there is a difference between FASCISM and NATIONALISM, as Fascists saw the Fascist Ideal as a revolutionary new doctrine. Giovanni Gentile argues, that Fascism expressed, is the true will of the people. When American Conservative thinker, Dinesh D’Souza wrote about Giovanni Gentile, he attached him to the political Left, yet the American Left could care nothing of Gentile. Gentile’s role was quite reduced, and his philosophy of Pure Idealism was not fully realized during the time of Mussolini’s shared power with Italy’s monarch. He was, as Veneziani demonstrates, a philosopher in his own right, of a Neo-Idealism, during a period of a Revival of Idealism as opposed to Marx and Engels; and a philosopher who studied his country well. Giovanni Gentile himself outlines a philosophical and ideological difference between FASCISM and NATIONALISM, that should be taken into consideration.
Gentile on Fascism and Nationalism
“Both Fascism and nationalism regard the State as the foundation of all rights and the source of all values in the individuals composing it. For the one as for the other the State is not a consequence it is a principle. However, in the case of nationalism, the relation which individualistic liberalism, and for that matter socialism also, assumed between individual and State is inverted. Since the State is a principle, the individual becomes a consequence — he is something, which finds an antecedent in the State: the State limits him and determines his manner of existence, restricting his freedom, binding him to a piece of ground whereon he was born, whereon he must live and will die. In the case of Fascism, State and individual are the same things, or rather; they are inseparable terms of a necessary synthesis. Nationalism, in fact, founds the State on the concept of nation, the nation being an entity which transcends the will and the life of the individual because it is conceived as objectively existing apart from the consciousness of individuals, existing even if the individual does nothing to bring it into being. For the nationalist, the nation exists not by virtue of the citizen’s will, but as datum, a fact, of nature. For Fascism, on the contrary, the State is a wholly spiritual creation. It is a national State, because, from the Fascist point of view, the nation itself is a creation of the mind and is not a material presupposition, is not a datum of nature. The nation, says the Fascist, is never really made; neither, therefore, can the State attain an absolute form, since it is merely the nation in the latter’s concrete, political manifestation. For the Fascist, the State is always in fieri. It is in our hands, wholly; whence our very serious responsibility towards it. However, this State of the Fascists which is created by the consciousness and the will of the citizen, and is not a force descending on the citizen from above or from without, cannot have toward the mass of the population the relationship which was presumed by nationalism. Nationalism identified State with Nation, and made of the nation an entity preexisting, which needed not to be created but merely to be recognized or known. The nationalists, therefore, required a ruling class of an intellectual character, which was conscious of the nation and could understand, appreciate and exalt it. The authority of the State, furthermore, was not a product but a presupposition. It could not depend on the people — rather the people depended on the State and on the State’s authority as the source of the life, which they lived and apart from which they could not live. The nationalistic State was, therefore, an aristocratic State, enforcing itself upon the masses through the power conferred upon it by its origins.
The Fascist State, on the contrary, is a people’s state, and, as such, the democratic State par excellence. The relationship between State and citizen (not this or that citizen, but all citizens) is accordingly so intimate that the State exists only as, and in so far as, the citizen causes it to exist. Its formation therefore is the formation of a consciousness of it in individuals, in the masses. Hence the need of the Party, and of all the instruments of propaganda and education which Fascism uses to make the thought and will of the Duce the thought and will of the masses. Hence, the enormous task which Fascism sets itself in trying to bring the whole mass of the people, beginning with the little children, inside the fold of the Party.”
— GIOVANNI GENTILE, The Philosophic Basis of Fascism