13. Discipline and Authority.
Fascism, in short, is not only a lawgiver and the founder of institutions, but an educator and a promoter of the spiritual life. It aims to rebuild not the forms of human life, but its content, the man, the character, the faith. And for this end it exacts discipline and an authority which descend into and dominates the interior of the spirit without opposition. Its emblem, therefore, is the lictorian fasces, symbol of unity, of force and of justice.
1. Origins of the Doctrine.
When, in the now distant March of 1919, I summoned a meeting at Milan, through the columns of the Popolo d’Italia, of those who had supported and endured the war and who had followed me since the constitution of the fasci or Revolutionary Action in January 1915, there was no specific doctrinal plan in my mind. I had the experience of one only doctrine—that of Socialism from 1903-04 to the winter of 1914 about a decade—but I made it first in the ranks and later as a leader and it was never an experience in theory. My doctrine, even during that period, was a doctrine of action. A universally accepted doctrine of Socialism had not existed since 1915 when the revisionist movement started in Germany, under the leadership of Bernstein. Against this, in the swing of tendencies, a left revolutionary movement began to take shape, but in Italy it never went further than the “field of phrases,” whereas in Russian Socialistic circles it became the prelude of Bolscevism. “Reformism,” “revolutionarism,” “centrism,” this is a terminology of which even the echoes are now spent—but in the great river of Fascism are currents which flowed from Sorel, from Peguy, from Lagardelle and the “Mouvement Socialiste,” from Italian syndicalists which were legion between 1904 and 1914, and sounded a new note in Italian Socialist circles (weakened then by the betrayal of Giolitti) through Olivetti’s Pagine Libere, Orano’s La Lupa and Enrico Leone’s Divenire Sociale.
After the War, in 1919, Socialism was already dead as a doctrine: it existed only as a grudge. In Italy especially, it had one only possibility of action: reprisals against those who had wanted the War and must now pay its penalty. The Popolo d’Italia carried as sub-title “daily of ex-service men and producers,” and the word producers was already then the expression of a turn of mind. Fascism was not the nursling of a doctrine previously worked out at a desk; it was born of the need for action and it was action. It was not a party, in fact during the first two years, it was an anti-party and a movement.
The name I gave the organisation fixed its character. Yet whoever should read the now crumpled sheets with the minutes of the meeting at which the Italian “Fasci di Combattimento” were constituted, would fail to discover a doctrine, but would find a series of ideas, of anticipations, of hints which, liberated from the inevitable strangleholds of contingencies, were destined after some years to develop into doctrinal conceptions. Through them Fascism became a political doctrine to itself, different, by comparison, to all others whether contemporary or of the past.