Meloni, Tolkien and post-fascism
Tomorrow, Sunday, elections will be held in Italy. Meloni and her Fratelli d'Italia are the favorites in the polls. The international press is now investigating her biography in order to understand what post-fascism is... and it couldn't be more mistaken.
New York Times highlights that "she used to disguise himself as a hobbit", Der Spiegel repeats it and remarks, a with a little more profundity, that "Meloni's fantasy worlds are about doomed empires, about the eternal struggle between good and evil". But the relationship between post-fascism and hobbits is even more profound and it allows us to reflect on more important things.
What are the roots of Meloni's party?
Event of the MSI, reorganization of the Mussolinian party and the survivors of the "Republic of Saló", in 1946.
Meloni is the last organic offspring of Mussolini's old Fascist party. After the war, the survivors of the Republic of Saló reorganized themselves into the Italian Social Movement, a parliamentary party which was also the largest nostalgic-fascist party in Europe.
In the 1990s, the crisis and collapse of the Italian political apparatus (Tangentopoli) - which did not affect an MSI outside the governments - would coincide with the dissolution of the Stalinist PCI and the biological disappearance of the Saló generation. Under the leadership of the moderate Franco Fini, the party would become National Alliance, abandoning fascist symbology and discourse and becoming the third leg of the Berlusconist coalition Polo della Libertà together with the Lega Nord and Forza Italia. In one of the reorganizations of the spawn, a young Meloni, who had been the youngest minister in the history of Italy, will transform the Alliance into Fratelli d'Italia.
But the lineage is not entirely direct. The conversion of the MSI into the National Alliance only occurred after the electoral failure of the hard current of the MSI that sought to emphasize the message of classic fascist revolutionism. It is from the fringes of that current - Rauti's - that Meloni... and the love for hobbits come from.
Emphasizing this continuity, supposedly broken by Fini, the party recovered the symbol of the MSI, the tricolor flame of eternal loyalty to the Duce. Accompanying the recuperation of symbol was the old fascist discourse that, invisibilizing the contradiction between capitalism and Humanity, reduces all conflict to the confrontation between nation (=national capital) and international financial capital. Meloni explained and confirmed it in Marbella during the last Andalusian elections.
What do hobbits have to do with all this?
Hobbit Camp organized by the MSI youth in 1977.
In the mid-1970s, a significant part of the MSI youth, and especially its senior students, began to feel closer to the slogans and forms of action of anarchist groups such as the Metropolitan Indians than to the old slogans and language of Mussolini's contemporaries who still pulled the MSI's strings. Back in 1977 even El País showed a certain fascination with how the violent actions of these university anarchists temporarily put the DC-PCI alliance in check.
Nor was it only the Metropolitan Indians. Rarely have the sectors of the angry petty bourgeoisie shown such a degree of specularity as in those years: all those ranging from the autonomist terrorist groups to the anarchist cultural magazines with beatnik overtones, passing through the thousand fanzines and situationist-inspired techniques, had their neo-fascist correlate in the youthful fringes of the MSI.
This desire to be like the autonomist and anarcho-university left had to do with the need to break with the slogans and aesthetics of the old Mussolinian fascists, to return to being a cultural vanguard, in the style of Futurists or Montessorians in the foundational years of fascism, in which anarchism and syndicalism had, by the way, nourished and not only inspired the fascist ranks.
Among the youth leaders of this tendency, the Gramscian readings on hegemony were united with Evola's last mandate: "ride the tiger", that is, to integrate themselves into the great currents of the epoch, sacrificing the rationalism of a Gentile - Mussolini's minister, creator of the Montessori Works- while embracing the mystical and paganizing tendency in order to maintain continuity. Summing up, it was a matter of "recoding the language of the hippie left with the traditionalist philosophy of Evola".
In this regard, the Italian translation of "The Lord of the Rings", which first appeared in 1970, was a real manna for the latest generation of MSIs
For the first time, we discovered an author who had nothing to do with the sacred texts of fascism, who did not write political essays, who did not propose historical reinterpretations, but who was a pure storyteller. He allowed us for the first time to listen to ourselves as part of contemporaneity and to come out of the diversity to which we had been relegated because of our political affiliation.
From then on we did not feel different anymore. When Tolkien wrote "Deep roots don't burn", for us the meaning was obvious: we rediscovered the possibility of thinking an existential universe as an alternative to the mythologies that looked to the past in our political space.
Hobbit Camps, that long awaited party interview with Umberto Croppi
But if Tolkien could give aesthetic and mythical substance to the neo in neofascist, the next step, inevitably, was to create a real sense of community belonging, of existence as a collective reality. That was provided by the famous Hobbit Camps.
It was a second family, everyone took care of everyone and the door was not closed to anyone. Many came from difficult family situations. They were looking for a political reference, to feel that they belonged to something.
In this sense, the Hobbit Camps, which were held between 1977 and 1981, were a great success. Especially after their revival in the nineties. They served to create strong bonds, especially among the youth, for whom it was a true initiation experience. A very young Meloni would form in its second season, back in 1993, a group of loyalties and affections that is now preparing to form a government. For this reason they are considered the rebirth of Italian fascism.
Not only Meloni. Casa Pound is also considered its offspring.
Aware of the need for great festive ceremonies, Meloni transformed the model by turning the camps into Atreju festivals a few years after she participated for the first time in the hobbit camps and, therefore, when she was already in command of the neo-fascist youth. These festivals more similar in fact to the old fiesta of l'Unità, the newspaper of the Stalinist PCI.
Yes, the name is a reference to Michel Ende's "The Neverending Story". Another fantasy work that was a bestseller and that at the time was seen by the extreme right-wing as an opportunity. "It was the symbol of a child in battle against nihilism, against the Nothingness that advances," Meloni assured in 2019.
But is the Lord of the Rings a fascist work?
The flag with the Celtic cross: a novelty of the hobbit camps lying somewhere between Nazi allegiance and pulp mythology.
Tolkien's work is an anti-modern fantasy in which an evolian fascist can, without problems, see himself reflected. Tolkien in fact is explicitly anti-modern and always affirmed the idea of the machine as a corrupting element, a classic of fascist literature and mythology.
On the other hand, even his own defenders acknowledge what they euphemistically call a Victorian worldview on race. The world of The Lord of the Rings is built on many layers of meanings of the British ruling classes to which he belonged and within which he placed himself as a conservative.
To begin with, the myth of the Huns as a symbol of barbarism lurking over Europe, a constant in all British war propaganda. To this should be added the adherence to the British colonial military tradition in India and its characterization and recruitment of the various ethnic groups on the basis of their supposed military virtues.
To top it off, Tolkien was heavily influenced by eugenics: races that interbreed lose qualities, Aragorn is above all other humans thanks to having retained racial purity, etc. etc. etc.
And above all, the nation/race identity that is at the root of romantic nationalism is evident in the Lord of the Rings saga. That's why the new Prime series has sparked the stupid debate about whether there can be black elves or hobbits, which is just a way of discussing whether there can be authentic Norse or true black English rural smallholders.
So when Meloni, identifies the races in The Lord of the Rings with European countries she's not off the mark at all.
Ms. Meloni (...) claimed that she had learned from dwarves, elves and hobbits the "value of specificity" with "each one indispensable for the fact of being particular". She extrapolated that as a lesson on the protection of sovereign nations and the unique identities of Europe.
Hobbits and the far right: how fantasy inspires Italy's new potential leader, New York Times
It doesn't take much imagination to know who Tolkien was thinking of and who Meloni is thinking of now when it comes to orcs. The myth of the hun operates in both.
Orcs are definitely claimed to be corruptions of the human form seen in Elves and Men. They are (or were) stocky, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slanted eyes: in fact, debased and repulsive versions of the less charming (to Europeans) Mongol types.
Tolkien, letter 210
Why did fascism turn to British fantasy literature and not to Italian fantascienza?
Photograph of "Starcrash: Star Clashes Beyond the Third Dimension", of Luigi Cozzi, 1978.
At this point it is striking that the young neo-fascists of the late 70's adopted Tolkien and not an Italian author. After all, it would seem logical in an ultranationalist movement that claims to be the continuity of the Resorgimento in the country of the fantascienza.
However, it was then that the influence of English-speaking culture in that country began to rise, multiplying to the point of ridicule in the 1990s - and even today. Not only has Italian become full of perfectly translatable English expressions, but a good percentage of laws -often those with the greatest political impact- began to be titled in English years ago.
Tolkien's prominence in all this history is a minor but significant part of the same general cultural movement, linked to the desperation of Italian imperialism to find foreign markets and internationalize. While French or Spanish national capital had until relatively recently a wide and relatively solvent area of influence that still translates into the weight of the different origins of the dividends of its multinationals, Italian capital depends to a much greater extent on its relationship with the USA and on multilateral frameworks working in English.
The success in the 1980s of Tolkien - or The Neverending Story by Ende, originally written in German - are expressions of the weight that competing cultural industries were taking within the Italian market.
Lacking the capitalization to play at the same level as the American competition, the Italian cultural industry's response was short-sighted and opportunistic. At the end of the 1970s and for a decade the Italian cinematographic fantascienza devoted itself to making B-series pastiches based on American hits, senselessly mixing elements from Star Wars, Encounters in the Third Phase or The Planet of the Apes.
The literary industry, on the other hand, will remain comfortably installed in big names like Sciascia or Calvino. When in the eighties it found a new door to the international mass market with Eco and The Name of the Rose, it would be by broadening the terms and the public scope of the culture of the left while providing a good dose of erudite historical divulgation. Eco's second novel, in fact, the Pendulum of Foucault, will not forget, as later and explicitly achieved with the The Cemetery of Prague, to launch torpedoes directly at the waterline of the old evolutionary mysticism.
When the Italian publishing world finally finds its own version of pulp for bookstores, already in the nineties, it will do so with authors like Camilleri whose Commissar Montalbano is even in his own name a tribute to the official Stalinist intelligentsia of the seventies or like Baricco, whose Seda (1996) literarily marks the beginning of the dependence of Italian capital on China.
No fantasy, no imaginary worlds made in Italy. The overwhelming success in the eighties of Ende and his Neverending Story, only served to recover once again Tolkien's sales and to encourage the publication and translation of his darker works, such as Silmarilion (Mondadori).
No one in the industry bet on creating an explicitly Italian medieval fantasy genre. In an industry where they invest in a few authors every year, opening a new front in a field that was considered youth literature meant risking too much capital without having a guaranteed market in Italy itself, nor specific spaces in the media that could easily mobilize buyers.
Even if there was a growing interest in the genre, betting on creating a global brand with Italian authors would have meant investing more in the international market without having it secured by sufficient sales in the domestic market that would be conveniently guaranteed through their promotion in the media.
The new imaginary of that young Meloni and her friends could only be formed from materials created in English. The Silmarilion mystique thus gained the upper hand over that of Evola. An imperialist tigre thing.
Why does fascism need mysticism and fantastic stories?
Why does fascism offer, in the first place, a mystique to its troops?
First, because its troops lack homogeneity. The social categories from which it has recruited them have particular demands and aspirations. The anti-capitalist demagogy for all tastes which serves them, is accompanied by formulas aimed especially at the workers, the peasants, etc.
But this demagogy, sometimes contradictory, cannot be the cement that unites them in a single block. This is the function of the fascist mystique, voluntarily vague, and in which, in spite of their divergences of interests or ideas, all can commune. A mystique thanks to which, in the words of a National Socialist, the numerous individuals of an assembled crowd amalgamate in a spiritual unity, in a sentimental union.
Also, because fascism prefers to arouse faith rather than to convince by reasoning. A party supported by big capital and whose hidden objective is the defense of the privileges of the powerful would do very badly by trying to awaken the intelligence of its recruits. Or, at least, it thinks it wiser to appeal to their intelligence when they are already completely fascinated. From the moment the believer has faith, it is no longer dangerous to allow him to handle truth and logic. If by chance he should open his eyes, it would suffice to employ the supreme argument: it is so because the boss has said so! (...).
Finally, fascism, unlike socialism, despises the masses and has no scruples about exploiting their weaknesses. Mussolini, publicly boasted that his experience with the people had served him well; it had enabled him to know the psychology of the multitudes and given him a kind of tactile and visual sensibility of what they want and can. But apart from his personal experience, he used to recite the sentences of Gustave Le Bon's superficial Psychologie des Foules:
The masses are always feminine (...). They are incapable of having opinions other than those imposed on them (...). They cannot be guided by rules based on pure theoretical equality, but by seeking whatever impresses and seduces them (...). The masses know only simple and extreme sentiments (...), they are only impressed by images.
Hitler expressed himself in a similar way:
The great majority of the people are in such a feminine disposition and state of mind that their opinions and actions are determined more by sensory impressions than by pure reflection. The mass (...) is not very receptive to abstract ideas. On the contrary, it is easy to win them over in the field of feelings (...). He who wants to influence the masses must know the key that opens the door to their heart. In all times, the force that has driven the most violent revolutions has not been a scientific idea, but a dynamic fanaticism and a genuine hysteria that seized the crowd.
Thus, fascism presents itself to us, in the first place, even before attempting to define itself, as a religion. (...)
Fascism is a religious conception, [affirms Mussolini](http://marxismo.school/archivo/1936 Fascism and big capital#fn:79). If Fascism were not a faith, how would it give its followers the courage and stoicism which they display. Nothing truly great can be achieved except in a state of loving passion, of religious mysticism. In Milan, at the opening of a school of Fascist mysticism [in which Evola and Amintore Fanfani would meet], he wrote in a diary: Fascism is a reaction of the divine. I believe, says the Credo del balilla, in our Holy Father fascism.
Belief is also the alpha and omega of the National Socialist religion. After seizing power, Hitler said thus to his troops:
You were the guard that followed me with a believing heart for a long time. You were the first to believe in me... It was not the all-analyzing intelligence that brought Germany out of the abyss in which it was, but your faith (...) Why are we here? Because of an order from outside? No, because your heart has ordered it; because a voice from within has dictated it to you, because you believe in our movement and its leaders. Only the force of idealism has been able to bring this about (...). Reason told you not to come with me, but faith ordered you to follow me.
Like all religions, fascism demands from its faithful the most absolute contempt for matter. It incites man to resign himself to misery, substituting spiritual food for that which goes to the stomach. Fascism plagiarizes the Catholic Church: What use was it to him (man) to have found (...) material abundance, asks Pope Leo XIII, if the scarcity of spiritual food endangers the salvation of his soul?
Mussolini writes that Fascism believes in sanctity and heroism, that is, in those actions which are not dictated by any economic motive either proximate or distant. He also rejects the idea of economic happiness which (...) would transform men into animals who think of only one thing: to eat and get fat.
Hitler repeats the same thing:
Man, who in order to live satisfied, needs nothing more than to eat and drink well, can never understand the man who prefers to sacrifice his bread to quench the thirst of his soul and the hunger of his spirit.
Fascism and grand capital, Daniel Guerin, 1936
What does all this tell us about what is coming with the Meloni government?
Characterization of the orcs in the film adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings".
No need to look up anything in Tolkien to know what Meloni's coalition with Salvini and Berlusconi intends. They are quite explicit by themselves: a new pension reform from Salvini's on 2018, exception laws for migrant workers and double-handed austerity for all are coming.
In fact neither analysts of the Italian big capital nor of the German are at all worried that it will strain the deficit nor go beyond rhetoric within the hornet's nest of the EU. Meloni expresses classic fascist demagogy against multinational capital in speeches but practically becomes immobilized in front of everything that minimally touches big investments and companies.
The Tolkienian dream reveals its real background: the lifelong reactionary utopia of the petty bourgeoisie. If Tolkien tells us of a general mobilization to keep everything the same, to maintain a world of racial nations without mixture or development; the petty bourgeoisie dreams of freezing the time of accumulation in a stationary state and thus save their businesses and their position..
But capital does not stop, it cannot stop growing. And in this growth it finds itself more and more in contradiction with human development and with human life itself. Meloni will not hesitate for a moment: her primary objective is to save the nation, that is to say national capital, trying to give a certain safeguard to her class of origin and its interests. That is to say, to intensify the exploitation of labor in order to maintain accumulation, while at the same time creating ways for the petty bourgeoisie to benefit from the increased exploitation and to sustain itself in a Middle Earth between the two defining classes of this society.
Within that panorama of fantasies and harmonist delusions imposed through sticks, we workers, the huns, the orcs, are the horde that threatens their impossible dream of social stability; the race envigorated by machines and the mixture that cannot be dispensed with (without renouncing exploitation), but which must be taken to the slaughterhouse regularly to put in its place.
There is no innocent mythology. But neither is there any reactionary mythology capable of confronting the workers when they become conscious of their interests and ultimate possibilities.