What's in a Quote?
“Like all sound political conceptions, fascism is action and it is thought; action in which doctrine is immanent, and doctrine arising from a given system of historical forces in which it is inserted, and working on them from within.”
These are the opening words to the 1932 Doctrine of Fascism, the defining document of the fascism of the interwar era, written by both Benito Mussolini and Giovanni Gentile. It’s generally acknowledged that the first half was the product of Gentile while the latter was the creation of Mussolini. The sentence quoted above is a suitable example of Gentile’s actualism with its roots derived in Hegelian thought, and unfortunately the source of much confusion.
Gentile was an early supporter of Mussolini and therefore had a significant influence on fascist doctrine including the importance of “action.” The early years of the PNF’s existence were defined by a low-level civil war against communist and socialist partisans, which resulted in thousands of deaths. Obviously, during this period doctrine would take a back seat to victory, which it did. Upon assuming power, fascism began an aggressive charge in the doctrinal arena in an attempt to gain intellectual legitimacy to sustain its presence beyond the lifespan of the original founders. All of the fascist leadership from Balbo to Gentile were able to write and articulate their views coherently. They believed that any action had to have its basis in thought; action did not exist for itself.
People who claim to adhere to fascism, but in reality smear the name take this quote from Gentile completely out of context, claiming that fascism first and foremost is action, something that exists for its own sake. Whether it’s done out of pure laziness or ignorance we’ll never know, but it is necessary to know the truth.
The fascist emphasis on action derives from the Hegelian belief that action exists in a dialectical relationship to thought, with thought and action both existing and becoming each other in a dynamic relationship. The existence of one without the other would lead to stasis and spiritual death. The progress of individuals and society is based upon the progressive development of syntheses, reconciling the different aspects of society into a united whole. This was/is the foundation of fascist philosophical thought as reflected in the literature.