By Arturo Sabatini
In a well-ordered State, care for the physical
health of the people must come first.
health of the people must come first.
(Parliament, May 26, 1927)
The concept of race in Fascist Italy, in its deep biological, moral and political meaning, has its own physiognomy both in its origin and in its development. We must affirm the absolutely Italic aspect of such a profound problem; since it involves the life and the development of an ancient people which, as a result of a complex of common fundamental traits as well as others acquired over time, forms a clearly identifiable ethnic entity of 45 million people. This is due also to its special geographical position, perhaps the most unique among the human agglomerations of the continents which we anthropologists variously divide and classify:
"Italy has the privilege of being the most clearly identifiable Nation from the geographical point of view, and the most compactly homogeneous from an ethnic, linguistic and moral point of view."The concept of race among Fascists did not originate from doctrinaire presuppositions; it derived from one Man—perhaps the only one in the world—who had the audacity not only of addressing but of resolving such a formidable problem, namely the defense, strengthening, preservation and integration of our biological heritage: "to say that Fascism has imitated anyone or anything is simply absurd". The best proof of this assertion lies in the fact that our literature on race, understood in the modern sense, is very recent. But despite the scarcity of such literature there is a superb and enormous amount of work done by the Duce since his advent to power, which has always been done for the valorization of the race. He began this historic mission by arousing racial pride during that period which I would almost call formative:
"Here the nobility of our race is revealed. All of Italy today is of one heart. It all comes down to our essential qualities and gloriousness as Italians!"It is necessary to take note of the date of those words: 1917.
Pride in one's own race represents the first stage in the subsequent development of a formidable systematically-implemented plan; and in 1920 it erupted into an even more precise and defined form:
"The first fundamental pillar of Fascism is Italianity... Now we vindicate the honour of being Italian, because in our wonderful and adorable Peninsula the most prodigious and marvelous history of mankind has taken place."He already fixed one of the postulates of his mission, and in his speeches and writings—during a sad period in our history—he affirmed and proclaimed over and again "...we wish to unite in the same pride of race those in Corsica and those beyond the oceans to this great family of fifty million men" (1921); and in the same year—with certainty in his coming ascent to power, which he could already sense—he addressed the problem of race, setting it among the tasks which he aimed to solve:
"Fascism must deal with the problem of race. Fascists must occupy themselves with the health of the race, which is what makes history."This warning, which became a commandment, made note of such a formidable problem in a clear and precise way and in a completely unique way. In 1922—already Duce of Fascism but not yet Head of Government—he affirmed the connection between race, civilization and history:
"To celebrate the Birth of Rome means to celebrate our kind of civilization, it means to exalt our history and our race."With the dawn of a new and eminently constructive era:
"Italy is still responsible for giving civilization to all races, to all peoples... Rome is and always has been a testimony and imperishable document of the vitality of our race over the millennia... Fascism represents the prodigy of the Italian race which finds itself, redeems itself, and which wants to be great." (1923).And in the same year—in the beginning stages of his work as Head of Government—he proclaimed racial pride everywhere and more frequently, because the Italians understood its profound significance; in Piacenza, in Venice, in Milan to the members of the blue aristocracy, everywhere, with that incisive form of a lapidary language, a synthesis and notorious expression of a formidable thought and far-sighted conceptions which often allows him, with few words, to fix a program, to affirm a principle, to issue a warning:
"The eclipse of our race broke forth in 1915 and all the dormant, inextinguished virtues of our race sprang to the forefront and gave us immortal victory... This small and divine peninsula became too narrow for our race... This old and glorious Italic race knows sad hours, but it has never known the darkness of obscurity... I would like to draw your attention to the miracle of this renewal of our race, which leaps to its feet upon the announcement of any trial, fights and wins."He aimed to generate among his people a true and proper race consciousness, because he felt and understood the necessity of renewing its life cycle for the dawn of a new era of Italic civilization, which, through Fascism, was preparing itself for a civilizing mission in the world, a task already accomplished by our people on other occasions: "...a race which has made its fortune in very difficult conditions, that has dared, that has crossed seas and oceans, that has manifested sublime heroism in all ages."
At that time—and not only in Italy, it should be pointed out—race was a matter for anthropologists and amateurs, relegated to scientific institutes, limited to the doctrinaire and didactic fields, with a precious collection of skulls and fossil remains from different time periods, and was outside the confines of life. It did not enter politics; its vast, profound and frightful meaning was ignored by governments and by peoples. Mussolini was the first ruler to bring the concept of race to the forefront of life; because it contains and represents the very life of the peoples and their development; it is race which characterizes the collective personality of a people and its manifestations in art and thought, and it is also a biological entity which must be evaluated and considered in its morphological, physiological and psychological aspects.
The concept of race in Fascism—understood in the sense of defense, strengthening and selection—bears only one name: a Constructor for us, a Precursor for others. The various anthropologists, biologists, science enthusiasts and the other leaders noticed it a little later, when the formidable problem had already been clearly set by us, and its march was in progress since the beginning of the Fascist Era. In subsequent developments we preserved the originality that is entirely specific to our movement.
It has by now been clearly demonstrated, through almost twenty years of work, that the Duce, in presenting and subsequently undertaking such a vast work with a harmonious and complete vision, felt all its profound significance, not only historical and political, but also biological. This subject must make the scholars of every Nation consider the mass of teachings that flow from it. Perhaps never before in history—until today—have problems of such vast significance, affecting the very life of a race, a people, or a Nation, been addressed in a totalitarian manner. The statement made in Turin, that "we will create the physical and moral type of the new Italian", is not an abstract phrase, because in that future there is already a present documented by the results obtained in the young generations which have already been deeply affected by this strongly constructive and modifying action. Results which I myself have been able to partially see by observing the many hundreds of young people called upon and selected for an important function in service of the Nation. They have undergone a true somatic transformation due to certain morphometric changes, such as the fundamental ones of thoracic perimeter and stature, compared to the generations of just a few years earlier.
The strengthening of our race must be the goal that drives young people and makes them aware of our millennial mission through the inherent qualities of our people who, being dormant, always rise to new splendor through the cycles of history with the emanation of genius. The new generations must be jealous guardians of this ancestral heritage, since Rome has never given up its place, and it illuminates the world again today with the light of its high civilizing mission:
"The Fascist government desires to go back and rediscover the unmistakable vestiges of Italian genius throughout the centuries. This is the most magnificent monument of gratitude and pride that a generation, conscious of the renewed destinies of the Fatherland, can erect for the glorification of its own race."In Italy the creators, the masters, the architects, the condottieri have always been a pure Italian trademark; the land where Caesar, Dante, Michelangelo and Napoleon were born likewise gave birth to the Man destined to build the new Empire of Rome, not only geographically but even more so spiritually and biologically, aware of the value of his people, susceptible and worthy of being shaped for new destinies by His hands, the hands of a Creator and Constructor.
"Our Italian race, in all times, has been capable of achieving miracles... We are proud to be Italian and to belong to this people that has 30 centuries of civilization... this people which three times has given to the astonished world the seal of its powerful civilization."With pride in his own race, he felt the need to protect and defend this biological heritage, and he followed—also in his racial policy—that systematic constructive method that developed over time, and, as is his style, he immediately followed up every thought with action; and so, even before fixing its postulates in legislation, he gradually implemented a defense of the race in the practical field, specifying for the Italic people and for others a constructive, moral, defensive and selective concept of race: a new order.
The cornerstones, the crucial starting points for this cyclopean undertaking are represented first by the National Agency of Maternity and Infant Welfare: "We must pay serious attention to the destiny of the race, we must care for the race starting from motherhood and from infancy"; and by the agricultural land reclamation with the transplantation of families to rural areas, since "...it is you [rural folk] who represent the race in its most profound and immutable sense... race and soil are inseparable; through the soil the history of the race is made, while the race dominates and develops the soil."
Also by the demographic campaign, when the spectre of declining birth rates showed the gradual exhaustion of the biological and therefore historical cycle of some European peoples who are already facing or do not yet realize the frightening future, not yet aware of the absurd antithetic of number and quality: "fertile peoples have the right to imperialism, those who have the pride and the will to propagate their race on the face of the earth".
And by the precise rules that protect and impose physical education upon the youth "..who, in the parade, had the profound impression of the new race that Fascism is manfully molding".
And finally, after the conquest of the Empire, by the racial laws to safeguard and defend our biological heritage, to prevent and eliminate pollutions and admixtures, including the necessary purge of contaminations and deformations in the cultural and spiritual spheres, in order to provide an integral solution to the currents of thought worthy of the generations of Mussolini:
"History teaches us that empires are conquered by arms, but are held by prestige. And for prestige it is necessary to have a clear, severe racial consciousness, that establishes not only the differences, but also very clear superiorities."In no other human agglomeration today are the concepts of race, people and Nation joined and united together in a harmonious vision as they are in our peninsula, spanned as it is by the most vital meridians, surrounded by the sea and by a high inaccessible mountain chain which, like the sea, isolates it from the continents, even from the biological point of view. These are the factors which led to the gradual formation of an ethnic group which, in its ancestral traits as well as in those traits acquired over the centuries, possesses a sum of common requirements; racial unity, which for us also includes the concept of people and Nation. This biological, political and moral complex profoundly affects the regenerative action desired by the Duce, which is the defense, strengthening and selection of the race for an ever greater appreciation of the physical and psychological energies of our people, united in a single fascio: the Italic people:
"You know and everyone knows that also on the question of race we will follow the right path."