The keystone of fascist doctrine is its conception of the State, of its essence, of its functions, its aims. For Fascism the State is absolute, individuals and groups relative. (Benito Mussolini.)
From Machiavelli, G.B. Vico must yet be connected with the great Florentine from whom in a certain way he seems to proceed. In the heyday of “natural law” Vico is decidedly opposed to ius naturale and in his attacks against its advocates, Grotius, Seldenus and Pufendorf he systematically assails the abstract, rationalistic, and utilitarian principles of the eighteenth century. A scholar correctly states: While the “natural jurists” basing justice and state on utility and interest and grounding human certitude on reason, were striving to draft permanent codes and construct the perfect state, Vico strongly asserted the social nature of man, the ethical character of the juridical consciousness, and its growth through human history and not reason rather than in sacred history. Vico therefore maintains that doctrines must begin with those subjects that take up and explain the entire course of civilization. Experience and not ratiocination, history and not human reason must help human wisdom to understand civil and political regimes that were the result of not reason or philosophy but common sense, or if you will the social consciousness of man. and further on, “to Vico we owe the conception of history in its fullest sense as teacher of life, the search after the humanity of history, the principle that makes the truth progress with time, the discovery of the “political course of nations.” It is Vico who uttered the eulogy of patrician “heroic hearts” of the first founders of states, magnanimous defenders of the commonwealth and wise counselors of politics. To Vico we owe the criticism of democracies, the affirmation of their brief existence, of their rapid disintegration at the hands of fascism and demagogues, of their lapse first into anarchy, then into monarchy, when their degradation does not make them prey of foreign oppressors. Vico conceived of civil liberty as subjection to law, as just subordination of the private to the public interest, to the sway of the State. It is Vico who sketched modern society as a world of nations, each one guarding its own empire, fighting just and not unjust human wars. In Vico we find the condemnation of pacificism, that right is actualized by bodily force, that without force, right is of no avail and that therefore “he who cannot defend himself against injury is enslaved.” It is not difficult to discern the analogies between these affirmations and the fundamental view and the spirit of fascism. Nor should we marvel at the this similarity. Fascism, has its roots in the Risorgimento, and the Risorgimento was influenced undoubtedly by Vico. It would be inexact to affirm that the philosophy of Vico dominated the Risorgimento, (19th century movement for Italian political unity.) The influence of Italian tradition as summed up by Mazinni whose interpretation of the citizen as duty and mission is to be connected to Vico’s doctrine. Training for social duty said Mazinni is essentially and logically unitarian. Life for it is but a duty, a mission. And further on, “the declaration of rights, which all constitutions insist on copying slavishly from the French considered the individual as the end and pointed to only the half of the problem,” and again, “assume the existence of one of the crises that threaten the life of the nation and demand the active sacrifice of its sons.” Will you ask the citizens to face martyrdom in virtue of their rights? And now you ask them to sacrifice for one and all, suffer and die for the safety of the nation? In Mazzini’s conception of the citizen as an instrument for the attainment of the nation’s ends and therefore submissive to a higher mission to the duty of supreme sacrifice, we see the anticipation of one the fundamental points of fascist doctrine. Unfortunately, the autonomy of political thought of Italy seemed to exhaust itself immediately after the unification. Italian political thought, which had been original in times of servitude, became enslaved during times of freedom. A powerful innovating movement, issuing from the war and of which fascism is the purest expression.