Student ID: 510586

How did Futurism influence the rise of the Fascist movement?

In the last 25 years, nearly every major city in the western world has organised an exhibition on Futurism. In universities, Futurism has become a standard subject in all disciplines that concern the historical avant-garde and the profound changes caused by modernism in the twentieth-century culture. Futurist art was associated with a radical transformation of the political and social spheres. It has been seen as a means for filling the gap between art and life, aesthetic innovation and progress in the real world. The Futurist project of innovation covered all aspect of human existence, and was considered a total and permanent revolution. It is not surprising that the Futurist theory on life, art and politics found its ultimate expression in the explosive manifestations of Fascist politics and war. Many scholars have argued that nowadays it is clear that the Futurist attempt to merge art and life generated the aestheticization of the political generally and Fascist politics specifically. This paper’s purpose is to illustrate how an artistic movement can influence a political party, and use a world conflagration as a means of gaining a new national identity. As Emilio Gentile argues, it is necessary to study the relationship between the modernist avantgardes and Fascism in order to understand the cultural roots of the fascist ideology. Fascism was born from the myth of the New Italy, and it inherited elements that have been developed by the modernist avant-gardes before the Great War.1 The connection between modernism and politics took place principally under the guidance of a new radical nationalism that eventually created opportunities for different political orientations to arise. The avant-garde cultural movements that were created in Italy at the beginning of the twentieth century, such as Futurism and the groups that merged around the reviews Leonardo and La Voce, shared a common note of political nationalism which manifested itself in what Emilio Gentile had called ‘the myth of Italianism’. This can be translated as a conviction that Italy was destined to have a role as a great protagonist and exercise a civilising mission in the life of the twentieth century. All these movements believed in the necessity of a radical process of moral, cultural, and political regeneration that was meant to give birth to a ‘new Italian’.2 According to Richard Jensen, the close relationship between Fascism and Futurism has led many scholars to claim a great political influence for Marinetti’s movement. Benedeto Croce saw the ‘ideological origins’ of Fascism in Futurism.3 Essentially, art historians have dealt with the relation of Futurism to Fascism through two different inter-related strategies. The first of these has been to ignore the issue through implicit assumptions about the absolute separation of art and politics. The second strategy has been to displace the significance of the political dimension of Futurism by relegating it to a later, less aesthetically important phase of the movement. In a surprisingly brief account
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Emilio Gentile, The struggle for modernity: nationalism, Futurism, and Fascism, New York: Praeger (2003), p. 28 Emilio Gentile, The struggle for modernity, p. 45 3 ‘Futurism and Fascism - Richard Jensen looks at the impact of Marinetti and his disciples on Italian politics and the rise of Mussolini’ in History Today, 45:11 (1995:Nov.) p. 34
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a positive conception of war in the life of the nation was predominant throughout the new national culture. War was an integral part of the nationalist vision of modernity. was common to the different movements of the time.6 Though with different motivations. when the movement was heading to its end. it was the periodic ‘testing. ‘Reality is moving with an accelerated rhythm. p. liberating him from the cultural heritage of the past and the myth of tradition. would have to pass through a bloody experience of war and give its contribution to the creation of a new civilization. ‘Contro Vienna e contro Berlino.Student ID: 510586 of the Futurists' relationship to Fascism. modernity meant a crisis of traditional aristocracies. commerce.’ in TIF. . Marinetti.’7 Marinetti and the Futurists proposed themselves as the guides of a cultural revolution that would forge the modern Italian. [1] and idem.’ in L’Italia Futurista (25 July 1916). Long before the birth of Fascism. ‘the complete renovation of human sensibility’ and a ‘massive expansion of human sensation’5. p. T. renovation of the State. Opere complete. that it was intellectual activity that formed the modern conscience of a new Italian. and to force her to use her own national forces. and industry. inert spectators of the great 4 Marjorie Perloff. to give them with a new sense of Italianness. oblige her to stop living in the past amid ruins and a sweet climate. The idea that culture possessed a militant function. in the Futurist conception. The war will reinvigorate Italy. What sparked the interventionism of many young intellectuals was the conviction that Italy. upholding the new values of speed. When war broke out the majority of the militants of the avant-garde became active supporters of intervention. ‘Contro Vienna e contro Berlino. The Futurists glorified Italy’s participation in the Great War as the necessary rite of collective initiation into modernity. The conquest of modernity meant assimilating those forms that produced. and political and economic expansion. The futurist moment: avant-garde. Perloff explicitly locates the movement's political affiliations and activities to its post-1920 phase. a violent acceleration of the process of modernization. 68 7 Boccioni. of the force of the people’. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (1986). p. Do we want to be . would act as an inflammable device. 46 1 . Marinetti upheld the glory of war. Marinetti declared. written in 1909. Futurism urged the necessity of overcoming the barriers between culture and politics by means of a symbiosis between culture and life. not only to Futurism. in order to reach the state of modern greatness. as an announcement of the imminent crisis that would reveal the radical foundation of a new social and aesthetic world order. ‘the world's only hygiene’. The myth of regenerative violence—through war or revolution—is part of the cultural heritage of the modernist avant-garde. destruction. ‘Distruzione della sintassi. Marinetti. We have had the singular privilege of living at the most tragic hour in the history of the world. bloody and necessary. and violence necessary for a new age of Italian national grandeur.8 In ‘The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism’. sport. and practical schools of agriculture. and the language of rupture. War. . This symbiosis was designed to reawaken the intellectual and moral energies of the Italians.’ in L’Italia Futurista (25 July 1916) 6 F. enrich its men of action. an epoch of new masses and the rise of new elites. 78 5 F. Futurist art.4 In the field of politics. Foligno: Franco Campitelli (1927) 8 Emilio Gentile. as Marinetti wrote. was ‘the great and sacred law of life’. T. The struggle for modernity. avant-guerre. ‘The war will develop gymnastics. the predominance of collectivities over individuals.

com/ArtAndLiterature-old/italian_Futurism_and_Fascism.12 Marinetti and the Futurists took a strong position in favour of Italy entering the First World War on the side of Britain and France.14 9 Benito Mussolini. argue the fact that Marinetti’s idea regarding the purification of the world through violence. 64 12 Doug Blanchard. The Futurist Syndrome. ‘"The Beautiful Ideas Which Kill. the two were arrested. The possibilities offered by the war fascinated him. 1:402–03 10 Alan Woods. but he was hailed by the cultural avant-gardes as the “new man” on the Italian political scene. and the triumphant overcoming of nature through brute force in the figure of the new Mechanical Beauty. War was not something to be afraid of or deplore. p. a battleground in the great confrontation between Futurism and the past. His choice costed him his expulsion from the Socialist party. The Futurist Syndrome. Some scholars.the Sole Hygiene of the World”). the imprisonment strengthening their relationship. Italian Futurism and Fascism: How an artistic trend anticipated a counterrevolutionary tendency. like Emmanuel Chapman.marxist. After trying to hold speeches about war and the necessity of violence. Long before it broke into violent action. http://www. ‘Dalla neutralità assoluta alla neutralità attiva ed operante. Mussolini was representing the radical left.html 11 Emmanuel Chapman. the dehumanization of man into a mechanism is not an original idea. Mussolini and Marinetti appeared together in Milan in favour of Italy’s entry into war. a necessary condition for the material and spiritual rebirth of the Italian people. Vol. a layer of Italian intellectuals dreamed of rediscovering the splendours of imperial Rome. Participation in the European War was a test band. The only way to break out of this suffocating condition was through war. p. in the manner of feeble pacifists. In April 1915." Futurism and Fascism’ in http://counterlightsrantsandblather1. 1942). War was something to be glorified in art. 137 14 David Ohana. p. By December 1914. Here we have the essence of imperialism . Sussex Academic Press (2010).the notion that wars are a necessary means whereby humanity overcomes stagnation and purifies itself through fire. but a glorious adventure. announcing his conversion to the cause of interventionism.13 At the time of the outbreak of the First World War.11 Conceived in terms simultaneously ‘natural’. For the Futurists. after a short time. 2.blogspot. and therefore Italy could not stand aside. 159 1 . ‘this monstrous caricature’ was prepared by thinkers and artists whose responsibility was ‘to keep alive the true image of man in the minds and feelings of men’. and he expressed his enthusiasm in Futurist terms: ‘Perhaps this war. the European War was more inspiring and dramatic than the wars in Tripoli and in the Balkans. the cult of the irrational. as the eradication of depravity and disease in which Italy has drowned herself in the last centuries.Student ID: 510586 drama? Or do we want to be—in some way and in some sense— protagonists?’9 So wrote Mussolini in 18 October 1914. and the spectacle of power.10 In 1915 Marinetti published a book with the title La Guerra .com/2009/07/beautiful-ideas-which-kill-Futurism-and. No. The basic assumption of Futurism was that participation in the war signified an entry into the modern world.Sola Igiene del Mondo (“War . 6 (Summer. joining the interventionist group. ‘Beauty and the War’ in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Mussolini began to imitate the Futurist patriotism of Marinetti.’ in Il popolo d’Italia (18 October 1914). 1. with the blood it shed. reprinted in OO. But his position was ambivalent and opportunistic. favouring revolution. Mussolini left the socialist ideology in order to publicly support the war. According to David Ohana. is preparing the wheels for moving forward’. Futurism defines itself in the language of Fascism: hygiene.html 13 David Ohana. Conscious of a glorious but distant past.

has emphasized the Futurist contribution to the preparation of the Tripolitan campaign and the direction of public support for Italian collaboration with England and France against not only Austria. 165-177 17 In Anne Bowler. James Joll. were ailed with him for interventionist agitation. have noted the influence of Marinetti's innovations in performance on the histrionic style adopted by Mussolini in his public speeches. and a complete aestheticization of politics and everyday life.15 Shapiro and Joll. Marinetti. 523.. social analysts take the regime's rhetoric at face value. At this point. Futurist revolution under the leadership of ‘a proletariat of geniuses’ – that is an elite of artists and intellectuals. Centre for Research and Politics in Social Organization. Painters and Politics. From the beginning. p. Mussolini openly embraced the Futurists and their leader. Futurism: The Story of a Modern Art Movement. 780 See Emil Oestereicher.Student ID: 510586 In his controversial work. 184. came to his help to establish Il Popolo d’Italia. ‘Politics as Art’. who abandoned their liberal political orientation by the end of the First World War in order to join the Fascist Party. the southern landowners. p. Marinetti was campaigning for a Fascist.16 Thus. pp. James Gregor went so far as to attribute much of Mussolini’s success in seizing power to his adoption of ‘Futurist political style’. similarly. ‘Fascism and the Intellectuals’. and established armed squadrons as early as 1916. 1988). Three Intellectuals in Politics.nationalism. 519 20 Emil Oestereicher. The original and profoundly important contribution of Futurism to this ‘ideological stew’ 19 was its emphasis upon the desirability of technological development and rapid industrial transformation. No. the violent annihilation of the past.. Theda Shapiro.17 Mabel Berezin disagrees with Bowlers’ views and argues that ‘too often when speaking of the fascist regime. 20. By 1919. 103 19 Emil Oestereicher. which served as a ‘fundamental organising and mobilising instrument in the Fascist armarium’. that formed the basis of later Party methods for crowd provocation and control.but developed important forms in their performances. the cult of irrational violence and aestheticization of violence . the Futurists were the first to rally to his interventionist campaign. New York: Philosophical Library (1961). Vol. p. militarism. ‘Intellectuals’. Futurism not only articulated a content similar to Fascist ideology . Rosa Clough. 1991). p. For it is this aspect. Harvard University (Cambridge. p. 6 (Dec.’18 The emphasis on technological development and the creation of a specifically modern culture proved to be important points of congruence for Futurism and the political platforms of the Fascist movement. Mass. p. but the ‘Germanic threat’ as a whole. The Fascist Persuasion in Radical Politics. among others. p. notably the agitation of the masses and the spectacle. 521 1 . and assume that all cultural projects given the name of Fascism sprouted fully grown from the head of Mussolini. Anne Bowler disagrees with this theory when she states that the originary moment of Futurism was critically related to the larger social and political crisis of Italy. and the captains of industry in the north. 15 16 In Anne Bowler. ‘The Content of No Content: State and Theatre in Fascist Italy’ in Working Paper Series. 20 Even though at first Mussolini took an attitude of benign neglect toward the movement. 783 18 Mabel Berezin. combined with nationalism and elitism. Clough. 529. ‘Politics as Art: Italian Futurism and Fascism’ in Theory and Society. p. New York: Elevier (1976). ‘Intellectuals’. that helped Mussolini to build a bridge between the traditional rural and commercial classes. A. New York: Pantheon Books (1960). Futurism found its ideal embodiment in the values of a nationalist campaign of war and destruction that was to inaugurate Italy's rise to world power.

disdain for culture and tradition.. conquering political power. ‘Bleriot. individualist.24 In the end. however. Richard Jensen thinks otherwise. its leader and founder. and the Fascists’ forging of an alliance with landowners. reprinted in idem Edoardo e Duilio Susmel. he was often quite explicit in issuing generous certificates of recognition to the Futurist movement. Mussolini. the ideal origins of Fascism are to be found in Futurism. 201 1 . This was just another stage of the breaking of the relationship between the two. writing in 1924. The Futurist revolutionary spirit was replaced with a fascist establishment that comprised with political necessities. now wanted to distance himself from Marinetti. The key to the revival of Fascism and its ultimate conquest of power was not Futurist style. urged the opposite view: ‘To anyone with a sense of historical connections. In the early 1920s. And yet even here there is evidence that the relationship between Marinetti and the Party was not without tension. eds. the Futurist stage of Fascism came to an end and debates started to appear. X. businessmen and other elements on the right. Marinetti. p.Student ID: 510586 In public. The outbreak of the war was the climax of the Futurist movement and the beginning of its decline: the challenge was met. In 1923. Firenze: La Fenice. but the sudden emergence in 1920 of rural squadrismo. as a political figure. actively collaborating in the creation of its culture and the diffusion of its ideology. Benito Mussolini seldom acknowledged his debts to the cultural movements that have contributed to Fascism’s formation. libertarian. became a marginal figure in the new political movement led by Mussolini. while Fascism was classicist. p. Fascism became too conservative for Marinetti. Marinetti shouted at him that there was no room for his presence in a ‘herd of seekers of the past’. 41 24 David Ohana. the Futurist project to create a new social order through the sublation of art into politics was destined to fail because of the movement's unwitting commitment to the specifically aesthetic 21 Benito Mussolini. The principal exponents of Futurism were among the founding fathers of the fascist movement and firmly followed to the totalitarian regime. 35 23 Emilio Gentile. for Futurism was antitraditionalist. it is still difficult to believe they provided the Fascists with a model for. the disposition toward violence. Giuseppe Prezzolini denied that there was any ideal connection between Futurism and Fascism as it had come to be in power. the intolerance of dissent. The struggle for modernity. He argues that ‘notwithstanding the Futurists’ evident knack for grabbing publicity and their taste for rambunctious activities’22. In private. Marinetti appeared on the first slate of Fascist candidates and led the violent assault on the offices of Avanti. and the original impetus disappeared. To these elements Futurism contributed almost nothing.’21 Even apart from Mussolini’s statements it is difficult to deny the participation of the avant-garde in the formation of fascist political culture. and the glorification of youth. Opera omnia. authoritarian. moralist. The Futurist Syndrome.’ in Il Popolo (28 July 1909). p. leftists and labour groups of all kinds. hierarchic. Benedetto Croce. (1951–1980) 22 ‘Futurism and Fascism .Richard Jensen’. and Catholic. desire for the new. antimoralist. However. When Mussolini expressed the desire to attract Catholics on his side. Il duce spoke of his debts to Futurism: ‘I formally declare that without Futurism there would never have been a fascist revolution.23 In 1919. the Fascist paramilitary movement run by ex-officers that attacked foreigners. not even every much assistance in. and anti-Catholic.’ And in support of his claim the philosopher listed the Futurist matrices of Fascism: the cult of action.

For if Futurist aesthetic principles articulated a language of nationalist violence and destruction explicitly congruent with the basis of Italian Fascism's ascendance to power.Student ID: 510586 imperatives of its program. 45:11 (1995:Nov. including the specific political goals outlined in Futurist manifestos that could not find their systematic and sustained realization in actual works. the Futurist's orgiastic ideal of a truly Fascist society. p. ultimately. 34-41 1.25 Anne Bowlers’ argument is that while the Futurist movement was explicitly political from its inception. 25 Anne Bowler. Theoretically speaking. could never match up to the Futurist aesthetic ideal. ‘Politics as Art’. compromising.Richard Jensen looks at the impact of Marinetti and his disciples on Italian politics and the rise of Mussolini’ in History Today. In other words. more pertinent is the artist's disillusionment and ambivalence as the dictatorship turned to the practical needs of political order. critical conflicts between the Futurist movement and the nascent Fascist regime derived from inherent discrepancies between the aesthetic and political dimensions of the Futurist project. In particular the conciliatory stand adopted by Mussolini in 1920 toward the monarchy and Church conflicted with the Futurist's call for their wholesale destruction as the last vestige and symbol of a romanticist. Life. BIBLIOGRAPHY: ‘Futurism and Fascism . bourgeois world order.) p. 790 1 . Futurism upheld the corporativist ideal of the individual as a cog in the larger wheel of the collectivity that lay at the core of Fascist ideology. it was precisely Futurism's aesthetic vision of politics that could not help but be disappointed by the emergent regime's inevitable turn toward routinization and compromise. yet the anarchistic impulses of Marinetti proved problematic. For while Marinetti's characteristically anarchistic antics proved eventually embarrassing from a political point of view. simply speaking. the Futurist project for the creation of an art that would give form to a new social order could not in the end succeed because of the Futurists' inability to subsume their aesthetic vision under the imperatives of a concrete political order.

Anna Lawton. Günter Berghaus. No. F. Mabel Berezin. Vol. T. Italian Futurism and Fascism: How an artistic trend anticipated a counterrevolutionary tendency. The struggle for modernity: nationalism. 203-215 3. Mass.. Anne Bowler. ‘Beauty and the War’ in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. (1951–1980) 5. Günter Berghaus. avant-guerre. Three Intellectuals in Politics. Jori Finkel. 23. ‘Šeršenevic. Vol. 6 (Dec. 149-160 16. ‘The Content of No Content: State and Theatre in Fascist Italy’ in Working Paper Series.html 9. Futurism and politics: between anarchist rebellion and fascist reaction. 2. pp. ‘"The Beautiful Ideas Which Kill. Futurism. The Futurist Syndrome. Benito Mussolini. 2010 in Doug Blanchard. ‘Fascism and the Intellectuals: The Case of Italian Futurism’ in Social Research 41. 42. reprinted in idem Edoardo e Duilio Susmel.com/2009/07/beautiful-ideas-which-kill-Futurismand. Centre for Research and Politics in Social Organization. Emil Oestereicher.’ in Il Popolo (22 July 1909) David Ohana. Marinetti. 6. Opera omnia. (Autumn 1974) 10. 3. pp. Harvard University (Cambridge. 2007)." Futurism and Fascism’ http://counterlightsrantsandblather1. 20. and the "Chain of Images": From Futurism to Imaginism’ in The Slavic and East European Journal. Giovanni Gentile. Vol. Firenze: La Fenice. James Joll. 2006) 19. X.html 2.Student ID: 510586 Alan Woods. ‘New Research on Futurism and Its Relations with the Fascist Regime’ in Journal of Contemporary History. 1 (Jan.. 2 (Summer. and the language of rupture. 1988) 20. eds. ‘Bleriot. 1942). Emilio Gentile.marxist. Marjorie Perloff. ‘Marinetti: Oh. No. 6 (Summer. 8. Oxford: Berghahn Books. 1991). ‘La guerra. 7. New York: Praeger (2003) 11. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (1986) 1 . (25 February 1904) 13. 61-67 12. Enrico Corradini. pp. http://www.blogspot.’ in Il Regno. The futurist moment: avant-garde..’ in Il Resto del Carlino (24 May 1918) 15.’ in Il Popolo (28 July 1909). ‘Contro Vienna e contro Berlino. What a Futurist War’ in The New York Times. New York: Pantheon Books (1960) 18. ‘Latham.com/ArtAndLiteratureold/italian_Futurism_and_Fascism. pp. (August 27. Emmanuel Chapman. and Fascism. ‘La data sacra. Vol. 1996 17.’ in L’Italia Futurista (25 July 1916) 14. No. 1909- 1944.. Marinetti. ‘Politics as Art: Italian Futurism and Fascism’ in Theory and Society. 763-794 4. 1979). No. Benito Mussolini. Sussex Academic Press.

Umberto Boccioni. Futurism: The Story of a Modern Art Movement. reprinted in 2005 22. Robert Hughes. Theda Shapiro. Umberto Boccioni. Painters and Politics. New York: Elevier (1976) 25.’ in La Voce (26 August 1909) 24. Art and the Century of Change. Scipio Slataper. Opere complete.’ in Lacerba (1 September 1913) 26.Student ID: 510586 21. Foligno: Franco Campitelli (1927) 1 . London: Thames & Hudson. New York: Philosophical Library (1961) 23. ‘Ai giovani intelligenti d’Italia. The Shock of the New. ‘Contro la vigliaccheria artistica italiana. Rosa Clough. 1991.

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