What has fascism stand out most from among its 20th century competitors, they being liberalism and socialism, was that unlike these, it acknowledged totalitarianism’s universal inevitability as a consequence of the modern era and its advances in technology. By doing so, it seeded consciousness of their government being totalitarian.
The radical honesty obliged fascism to model its government so that popular participation was always maximised, hence arose fascist corporatism wherein the whole labour force would be directly integrated into the fascist state and participate in the regulation and organisation of the economy and its economic relations. Through popular participation, it was enabled to direct the nation through conscious action due to its immanence with the people, and in turn the people were made more intimate with its functions.
Critical analysis of fascism always fails to grasp an understanding of its development because its liberal and socialist critics subscribe to worldviews premised upon the denial of totalitarianism as a consequence. When old fascist theory is encountered agnostic of knowing the esoteric concerns which gave birth to it, which today it so often is by both its critics and its ‘adherents’, literature such as Mussolini and Gentile’s ‘The Doctrine of Fascism’ can never be understood as a fascist.
To make my point, a quote from the work:
“In politics Fascism aims at realism; in practice it desires to deal only with those problems which are the spontaneous product of historic conditions and which find or suggest their own solutions. Only by entering into the process of reality and taking possession of the forces at work within it, can man act on man and on nature.”
Indicating to the presumed knowledge I’ve suggested above, Gentile speaks to fascism’s purpose as ideology- an address to the “problems which are the spontaneous product of historic conditions”. This premise flows to inform the fascist form of ‘the State’, a transcendent entity which manifests from popular cognizance- i.e. the expression of a people’s will, wherein ‘will’ is taken per Nietzsche: a metaphysical force which underpins and gives rise to existence.
Thus ‘the State’ in fascism is a kind of primordial being pre-dating ideology. Ideology is an address to the State’s existence, similar to art in response to nature, thus in fascism the State is not an idealistic vision but rather an object of reality. Fascism claims to establish a science of the State, first dissecting the State’s nature and then proposing fascism as the first ideology to have proper consciousness of the State.
Fascism’s distinction between ‘the State’ and ‘the Idea’ is not merely underappreciated but is completely neglected by even the most sophisticated post-WW2 readings of fascism. Even among post-war fascists this understanding is missing. Frequently in their theory when treating the modern liberal state, their criticism builds from a perceived failure of liberalism to fulfil the ideal of Gentile’s ‘State’, missing entirely that within fascism any state, liberal or otherwise, necessarily is Gentile’s State.
We can see the distinction between State and Idea expressed more clearly in Mussolini’s ‘Tempi della rivoluzione fascista’:
“Fascism does not deny the State; Fascism maintains that a civic society, national or imperial, cannot be conceived unless in the form of a State.”
From which is conducted the dissection of its essence (Gentile, The Doctrine of Fascism):
“…the State is not only Authority which governs and confers legal form and spiritual value on individual wills, but it is also Power which makes its will felt and respected beyond its own frontiers, thus affording practical proof of the universal character of the decisions necessary to ensure its development. This implies organization and expansion, potential if not actual. Thus the State equates itself to the will of man, whose development cannot be checked by obstacles and which, by achieving self-expression, demonstrates its infinity.”
Taken from an address by Mussolini:
“Let no one think of denying the moral character of Fascism. For I should be ashamed to speak from this tribune if I did not feel that I represent the moral and spiritual powers of the state. What would the state be if it did not possess a spirit of its own, and a morality of its own, which lend power to the laws in virtue of which the state is obeyed by its citizens? […] A State which is fully aware of its mission and represents a people which are marching on; a state which necessarily transforms the people even in their physical aspect.”
And to most directly show my point, from another address:
“We were the first to state, in the face of democratic liberal individualism, that the individual exists only in so far as he is within the State and subjected to the requirements of the state and that, as civilization assumes aspects which grow more and more complicated, individual freedom becomes more and more restricted.”
Repeated for emphasis: “…as civilization assumes aspects which grow more and more complicated, individual freedom becomes more and more restricted.” This I believe is fascism’s most intriguing intellectual development, yet it has been left unexplored and neglected after being buried completely under post-war rhetoric.
Early fascism’s diagnosis produced the 20th century’s most deadly question, one which fundamentally undermined the beliefs required for liberalism and socialism to exist.
To recognise its truth was to deny that freedom and equality could become absolute, that liberalism and socialism were obliged by society’s increasing complexity to drift toward unconscious totalitarianism, and that to continue the pursuit of either liberalism or socialism was to doom civilisation to suffering the destruction of liberty at the hands of collective ignorance.
Fascism proclaimed that the demise of liberty and the death of civilisation could only be prevented if the State ‘awakened’ into self-consciousness, enabling it to develop the will to power it was prior deficient in, and thus capable of becoming the sole force of actualisation within its nation and society. In this sense, the State’s awakening was to give it conscious self-actualisation, driven by its will, enabled by its cognizance of all its parts.
Though we are not obliged to take fascism’s answer to the question, the question remains; and we are compelled, as citizens of civilisation, to provide an answer.