Tuesday, September 20, 2016

THE VACUUM OF POWER / IL VUOTO DEL POTERE (Amended English Translation by Ruth Perez-Chaves)

This article under the title "Il vuoto del potere" ("The vacuum of power") was originally published in the newspaper Corriere della Sera the year of Pasolini's assassination. He had begun to collaborate with Italy's most renowned newspaper in 1974. This text is also known as "L'articolo delle lucciole" ("The article of fireflies") and was included in the thorough compilation known as Scritti Corsari (Corsair Writings) published two years afterwards by Garzanti ed. (Milano, 1977). It seems that the first edition of Scritti Corsari with an introduction by Piero Ottone was published by Epoca around 1975.

Pier Paolo Pasolini
Intimate portrait of Pier Paolo Pasolini photographed by Dino Pedrali

Pier Paolo Pasolini: The article of fireflies (1975)

"The distinction between adjective fascism and substantive fascism dates back to the times of the magazine "Il Politecnico", this is, to the immediate postwar period…" This is how Franco Fortini starts an intervention about fascism (in L’Europeo, 26-12-1974); an intervention that as it is said, I subscribe entirely. On the other hand, I cannot subscribe the tendentious exordium. In effect, the distinction between "fascisms" fashioned at "Il Politecnico" is not pertinent and is not current. Such a distinction might have been valid only until ten years ago: while the postwar Christian-Democratic regime still effectively constituted the pure and simple continuation of the fascist regime.

But ten years ago, "something" happened. "Something" that did not exist and was not foreseeable in the time of the "Politecnico", not even a year before it happened (or even while it happened).

The real comparison between "fascisms" hence cannot lie "chronologically" between the Fascist fascism and the Christian-Democratic fascism: but rather between the Fascist fascism and the radically, totally, and unpredictably new fascism which was born from that certain "something" that happened a decade ago.

Because I am a writer, and I do write to create polemics, or at least to discuss with other writers, allow me to give a poetical-literary characterization of that phenomenon that happened in Italy about ten years ago. This would serve to simplify and abbreviate our discourse (and probably to understand it better).

In the early sixties, because of air pollution, and specially water pollution in the countryside (our blue rivers and limpid irrigation ditches), fireflies began to disappear. The phenomenon was swift and dazzling. After a few years the fireflies were not longer there. They are now a heartbreaking memory of the past: and an elderly man with yet such a memory can no longer see himself in the face of today's youngsters as he once was, and hence he can no longer hold to those beautiful feelings of before.

To that certain "something" that happened a decade ago I will therefore call "the disappearance of fireflies."

The Christian-Democratic regime went through two distinct phases, not only with absolutely nothing in common between them, exhibiting no continuity whatsoever, but also they had become historically unfathomable.

The first phase of this regime (as it has been called by the radicals) goes from the end of the war until the disappearance of the fireflies, and the second goes from the disappearance of the fireflies until today. Let us examine them one at a time.

Before the disappearance of the fireflies (Prima della scomparsa delle lucciole).

The continuity between Fascist fascism and the Christian-Democratic fascism is complete and absolute. I retain silence since there is no point in re-stating here the fair discussions in the pages of "Il Politecnico": the failure in the purges, the continuation of the legal codes, then police violence, the contempt for the Constitution. I will concentrate on the point that has been considered in regards to any historical analysis. The democracy which the Christian Democrats opposed to the Fascist dictatorship was strictly and shamelessly formal. It was founded on an absolute majority based on the votes of the middle classes and the rural masses, controlled by the Vatican. This control on the part of the Vatican was only possible if supported on a totally repressive regime. In this "universe" the "values" touted were the same as under fascism: Church, fatherland, family, obedience, discipline, order, thrift, and morality. Such "values" (as in the times of fascism) were also "real values." They came from the cultures and beliefs of the agricultural and pre-industrial Italy. But from the moment they were assumed as national "values", they could only lose their reality and turn into atrocious, stupid, repressive state conformity: that conformity of fascists and Christian-Democratic power. Provincialism, coarseness and ignorance were the marks of both the elites and the masses during fascism and during the first phase of Christian-Democratic rule. The paradigms of such ignorance were Vatican pragmatism and Vatican formalism.

All this is clear and unequivocal today, because then foolish hopes were fed by intellectuals and opponents. It was then hoped that all that was not entirely true, and that formal democracy meant something in spite of appearances.

Now, before moving on to the second phase, I must dedicate a few lines to the time of the transition.

During the disappearance of the fireflies (Durante la scomparsa delle lucciole).

During this period the distinction between different forms of fascism, as discussed in the pages of Il Politecnico, might have still worked. In effect, the huge country that was getting shape within the country - I'm referring to the workers and peasant masses mobilized by the PCI - and the most advanced intellectuals and critics, had not yet noticed that "the fireflies were disappearing." They were pretty well informed by sociology (which in those years experienced a crisis in method of Marxist analysis): but this was as yet information not yet backed up by experience, formalistic at base. No one could suspect the historical reality that the immediate future would bring, nor identify what would be called "well being" with "progress" which would bring to pass in Italy what Marx in the Manifesto had identified with "genocide".

After the extinction of the fireflies (Dopo la scomparsa delle lucciole).

The nationalized and therefore falsified "values" of the old agricultural and pre-capitalist universe, suddenly no longer count. Church, fatherland, family, obedience, order, thrift, morality: none of these values count any more. Not even as false values. They survive in a marginal clerical-fascism (but even the MSI repudiates them). They have been replaced by the "values" of a new type of civilization, quite "other" with respect to the old peasant and pre-industrial order. The same phenomenon has been experienced by other states, but it is quite peculiar in Italy. Because it really amounts to the authentic "unification" of our country; whereas elsewhere it was imposed, following a certain logic, either on a united monarchy, and later on the unification brought by the bourgeois-industrial revolution. The Italian trauma of the contact between the pluralist "archaic" world and the industrial leveling has perhaps only one precedent: pre-Hitler Germany. Also here the values ​​of the various individual cultures were destroyed by the violent homologation due to industrialization, with the consequent formation of those huge masses, no longer old (peasants, artisans) and not yet modern (bourgeois), which were the wild, aberrant, imponderable body of Nazi troops.

In Italy a similar process is undergoing, and even with more violence, because the industrialization of the seventies is a decisive "mutation" with regard to the German industrialization fifty years ago. We are no longer, everyone else knows, facing "new times" but rather a new era of human history: of that human history whose phases are millenarian. It was impossible for the Italians react worse than they did before this historical trauma. They have become in few years (especially in the central-south) in a degenerate people, ridiculous, monstrous, criminal. Simply just go out on the streets to understand is enough. But, naturally, to understand the changes on the people, it is necessary to love them. I, in spite of everything, this Italian people I loved: even if outside the schemes of power (even more, in a desperate opposition to them), or even if at the margins of populist and humanitarian schemes. It was a real love, rooted in my way of being. I've seen thus "with my senses" the coercive behavior of consumerist power recreate and deform the consciousness of the Italian people to an irreversible degradation. This had not happened during the Fascist fascism, a period during which the behavior was totally dissociated from consciousness. In vain the "totalitarian" power insisted and reiterated its impositions of conduct: consciousness was not involved in them. The fascists "models" were just masks to wear and carry. When the Fascist fascism fell, everything was as before. I've seen this as well in Portugal: after forty years of fascism, the Portuguese people celebrated May Day as if they had held the last previous year.

Hence it is ridiculous that Fortini brought back the distinction between these two types of fascism as established in the early postwar: the distinction between Fascist fascism and the fascism of this second phase of the Christian-Democratic power not only has no equivalent in our history, but probably in all history.

Anyway I do not write this article just to argue this point, but it's in my heart. I write this article actually for a very different reason, and I explain below.

All my readers will certainly have noted the change in the powerful Christian-Democratic men: in recent months they have turned into funeral masks. It is true: they continue to flash their radiant smiles, with an incredible sincerity. Thickening in their eyes is the blessed light of true good humor; that is when it is not obscured by the winking glint of sharpness and cunning. Something that seems to please the voters as much as happiness itself. Furthermore our leaders continue imperturbably their incomprehensible rigmarole: floating on which we can make out the "flatus vocis" within the usual stereotyped promises.

Yet in reality they are nothing but masks. I am certain that if we would raise these masks, you would find not even a pile of bones and ashes: nothing but a void.

The explanation is simple: there is a dramatic vacuum of power in today's Italy. But this is precisely the point: there is a vacuum nor of legislative or executive, neither of a leader, in short, there is a vacuum of political power not in any traditional sense. But a power vacuum in itself.
How did we - or rather, how did these men of power - get to this point?

The explanation is simple: the powerful men of the Christian-Democratic party have passed from the "phase of the fireflies" to that of "the disappearance of the fireflies" without noticing it. However even if we might consider this almost criminal, their absolute unawareness has been total: they have never even suspected that the power they retained and dispensed was not merely undergoing a natural stage of evolution, but was radically changing its nature.

They were under the illusion that in their regime everything would remain the same: that they would, for example, eternally be able to count on the Vatican, without observing that the power they continued to dispense no longer knew what to do with the Vatican as a center of peasant life, so backward and impoverished. They were under the illusion that they could still count on a national army (as their fascist predecessors had done) without seeing that the power they continued to wield was already maneuvering to create new armies, transnational in nature, resembling technocratic police forces. And the same must be said of the family, obliged, and now denied the guarantee of continuity it had enjoyed since the fascist period, to thrift, to morality. Now [the family] was subject to the power of consumerism imposing upon it radical changes, including divorce and even more, without restraint (or at least to the limits allowed by the permissiveness of the new power, worse than totalitarian as violently totalizing).

This is what the men of power in the Christian-Democratic party have undergone, in the belief that it was they who were administering all these upheavals. They never observed that it was "something else," incommensurable not only with them but with a whole form of civilization. As always [see Gramsci] it was in language that the symptoms could be read. In the transitional stage – this is "during the disappearance of the fireflies" - the Christian-Democratic bigwigs suddenly changed their way of expressing themselves, adopting a totally new language (as incomprehensible as Latin). This was particularly true in the case of Aldo Moro. This is strangely enough in this case of the man least implicated in all the horrible events orchestrated since 1969 till today, in an attempt, so far formally successful, to hang on to power at any price.

I say formally because, I repeat, the powerful Demo-Christian leaders, with all their maneuverings like an automaton and smiles, are covering over a void. Real power proceeds without them; and they only have in their hands those useless pieces of apparatus that can make real nothing more than their doleful double breasted suits.

However, in history "void" can not subsist: it can only be preached in the abstract and because of its absurdity. Chances are, in effect, the "void" of which I speak is already filled in, through a crisis and a reform which can not fail to involve the whole nation. It is an index of this happening, for example, the "morbid" waiting for a coup d'état. Almost as if it were just meant to "replace" the group of men who have so atrociously governed us for thirty years, leading Italy to the economic, ecological, urban planning, anthropological disaster. In fact, the replacement of these false "wooden heads" by other wooden heads (perhaps not less but perhaps more mournfully carnivalesque), held by the artificial reinforcement of the old fascist power apparatuses, would be useless (and it is clear that in this case the "troops" would already by its constitution, Nazi).

Real power which those same "wooden heads" have served for the past decade without recognizing the reality: now there is something that may just have started to fill in the "void" (eroding the possible participation in the government of that great communist nation that has born out of Italy's gangrene: because it is not about "governing"). As yet we may only form abstract, fundamentally apocalyptic images of such a "real power": we cannot imagine what "forms" it might take if it were to take over from those who have been taking it for a simple technical "modernizations." In any case, speaking for myself (if that has any interest for the reader), let me simply state: nevertheless the large-corporation it may be, I'd give the whole of Montedison for a single firefly.

Keywords: Fascism, Power, Italy, Constitution, Christian-Democrats, Christian Democratic Union, CDU, Vatican, Coup d'état, Scritti Corsari, Corsair Writings, Garzanti, Consumerism, Communism, Antonio Gramsci, Aldo Moro, Franco Fortini, Karl Marx, postwar, dopoguerra, Nazism, troops, police, funeral, firefly, Montedison.

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