by Luciano Parinetto
translated from the Italian by Matthew Zundel
[view as .pdf]
Even though Carlo Emilio Gadda admits that fascism arrived “after capital’s financial backing,”1 he nonetheless offers a historically inaccurate assessment of fascism’s emergence: he interprets fascism as a return to Eros in its unconscious and animalesque forms and Eros’s subjugation of the Logos’s motives, while, in reality, Eros is, in this case, strictly governed by the repressive Logos of advanced capitalism.
Following Freud, Adorno rightly emphasizes that during the process of Nazi-Fascist massification, “those who become submerged in masses are not primitive men,” even if they “display primitive attitudes contradictory to their normal rational behavior”;2 therefore “as a rebellion against civilization, fascism is not simply the reoccurrence of the archaic but its reproduction in and by civilization itself.”3
This reproduction has one of its deep reasons in the hypnotic relationship between the masses and the leader (here one might recall Thomas Mann’s Mario and the Magician), so that this suggestive leader, this
hypnotist awakens in the subject a portion of his archaic heritage which had also made him compliant towards his parents and which had experienced an individual re-animation in his relation to his father; what is thus awakened is the idea of a paramount and dangerous personality, towards whom only a passive-masochistic attitude is possible.4
With this last text of Freud, the erotic connection that ties leader (master) to herd (servants) through hypnotic suggestion, reveals itself as a relation that dialectically places its docile herd in a passive homosexual, and obviously an alienated, situation because it insists on the phallicism of the leader.
This is an aspect that also emerges in Gadda’s text which, also for its captivating style, is second only to Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism in its investigation of the phenomenology of the depths of fascism, and very effectively evokes its basic vertical-phallic hierarchy.
In Gadda’s own words, Mussolini “came to believe [. . .] that he was the only erect genital available in the piazza, the only thinking brain capable of howling from the balcony.”5 “He was, after all, the dominant generating organ—the phallus: primary, proprietary, paternal.”6 Thus, the fascistized masses are profoundly structured by a scotomization of the feminine and of the alienated anal, lured as they are by the alienation of the penile, which appears as phallic, in the magician that controls the masses: “At the time everything was male and Martial: even the tits of your wet nurse, and the ovaries and the Fallopian tubes, and the vagina and the vulva. The virile vulva of the Italian woman.”7
Through the conflictual return of the repressed, the fascist phallic absolutization has its own other in alienated femininity, since “Mussolini subjugates his crowd by way of its feminine aspect, its feminine flesh.”8 Moreover, it has its truth in alienated anal erotism, since “something vulvaceous” is “always sutured into the praise or in the denial that men make to their morals and corporals.”9
Mussolini’s phallic authority could not have imagined that there are passive female tendencies even among men, since in fascist society “even the men have ovaries and a uterus, they are more uterine and more ovarian than the women.”10
Thus, fascist phallicism is inextricably connected and dialectically opposed to alienated homosexuality in the animalesque form of the servile adoration of the phallus.
Even today there is the risk of a deep-seated (and, perhaps, unconscious) fascism.
That risk can even, perhaps, be found in the political parties draped in red, which do not repudiate the phallic (bureaucracy) hierarchy nor do they break with the homogeneity of alienated society and its INSTITUTIONS. On the contrary, they proclaim to want to be crutches for such institutions, to whose continuation these parties contribute the prospects of compromise and religiously preach for sacrifices from the masses, who are invited to save the assets of capital and to await the revolution after their death.11
Even the people who would declare themselves to be democratic and antifascist (and maybe subjectively and politically they are) retain a phallic paternalism, which makes for a relentless spy. Therefore, they belong to deep fascism, next to the fascisticized masses (males and females equalized in their passivity in front of the leader) who,
not finding real motives; that is, values; that is, other contents, which would serve the flag, which would be the motive and the value of their being, [. . .] attach themselves to the first word or to the first image that occurs in their brain: which is almost always the name and the image of a dipstick. I mean a dipstick déguisé; a dipstick travestito; a disguised and cross-dressed dipstick; a sublimated dipstick in the Homeland of Dipstick, in the Dipstick of the Holy Family, in the Dipstick of the Integrity of the Race [. . .], in Italy’s Immortal Dipstick Destinies [. . .], in Our Marvelous Dipstick Alpines [. . .], in the Dipstick-People [. . .], etc. etc.12
And, we might add, in the Dipstick-Institutions!
Diverted desire is one of the deep wellsprings of Nazi-Fascism:
The libido as sexual energy is the direct investment of masses, of large aggregates, and of social and organic fields. We have difficulty understanding what principles psychoanalysis uses to support its conception of desire, when it maintains that the libido must be de-sexualized or even sublimated in order to proceed to the social investments, and inversely that the libido only re-sexualizes these investments during the course of pathological regression. Unless the assumption of such a conception is still familialism—that is, an assumption holding that sexuality operates only in the family, and must be transformed in order to invest larger aggregates. The truth is that sexuality is everywhere: the way a bureaucrat fondles his records, a judge administers justice, a businessman causes money to circulate; the way the bourgeoisie fucks the proletariat, and so on. And there is no need to resort to metaphors, any more than for the libido to go by way of metamorphoses. Hitler got the fascists sexually aroused. Flags, nations, armies, banks get a lot of people aroused. A revolutionary machine is nothing if it does not acquire at least as much force as these coercive machines have for producing breaks and mobilizing flows.13
Certainly the role of Hitler as an individual was negligible, but it remains fundamental inasmuch as it helped crystallize a new form of this totalitarian machine. Hitler can be seen in dreams, in deliriums, in films, in the contorted behavior of policemen, and even on the leather jackets of some gangs who, without knowing anything about Nazism, reproduce the icons of Hitlerism. [. . .] The conjunction, in the person of Hitler, of at least four libidinal series, crystallized the mutation of a new desiring machinism in the masses. [. . .] [Between them] is perhaps the essential point, a racist delirium, a mad, paranoiac energy, which put him in tune with the collective death instinct released from the charnel houses of the First World War. What almost everyone refuses to acknowledge is that the fascist machine, in its Italian and German forms, became a threat to capitalism and Stalinism because the masses invested a fantastic collective death instinct in it. By re-territorializing their desire onto a leader, a people, and a race, the masses abolished, by means of a phantasm of catastrophe, a reality which they detested and which the revolutionaries were either unwilling or unable to encroach upon. For the masses, virility, blood, vital space, and death took the place of a socialism that had too much respect for the dominant meanings. And yet, fascism was brought back to these same dominant meanings by a sort of intrinsic bad faith, by a false provocation to the absurd and by a whole theater of collective hysteria and debility.14
If Nazi-Fascism is diverted desire, one understands how, by way of capital, Nazi-Fascism has not been eliminated by Hitler’s suicide, or with Mussolini’s execution:
Alongside the fascism of the concentration camps, which continue to exist in numerous countries, new forms of molecular fascism are developing: a slow burning fascism in familialism, in school, in racism, in every kind of ghetto, which advantageously makes up for the crematory ovens. Everywhere the totalitarian machine is in search of proper structures, which is to say, structures capable of adapting desire to the profit economy.
We must abandon, once and for all, the quick and easy formula: “Fascism will not make it again.” Fascism has already “made it,” and it continues to “make it.” It passes through the tightest mesh; it is in constant evolution, to the extent that it shares in a micropolitical economy of desire itself inseparable from the evolution of the productive forces. Fascism seems to come from the outside, but it finds its energy right at the heart of everyone’s desire. [. . .] Fascism, like desire, is scattered everywhere, in separate bits and pieces, within the whole social realm; it crystallizes in one place or another, depending on the relationships of force. It can be said of fascism that it is all-powerful and, at the same time, ridiculously weak. And whether it is the former or the latter depends on the capacity of collective arrangements, subject-groups, to connect the social libido, on every level, with the whole range of revolutionary machines of desire.15
Certainly phallicism was a predominant characteristic of classic Nazi-Fascism (Mussolini and Hitler), but it was accompanied by narcissism and sadism16 as instruments for coming to power over masses that had been schizophrenized by Nazi-Fascism.
More precisely, sadian aggressivity, by Nazi-Fascism “artificially assembled,”17 by revealing it as the tragic and macroscopic phase of anal repression, proves by way of oral and anal Sadism, the contiguity of its leader-phalluses with Hegel’s cannibalistic and destructive master.
Their longing to experience gratification by way of sucking has changed [in the regressions to the oral-Sadistic stage] to a need to give by way of the mouth, so that we find in them […] a constant need to communicate themselves orally to other people. This results in an obstinate urge to talk, connected in most cases with a feeling of overflowing. […] Their principle relation to other people is effected by the way of oral discharge.18
“The leaders are generally oral character types, with a compulsion to speak incessantly and to befool the others.”19 But the borders between orality and anality are not—in this regard—really traceable and the oral discharge is also configurable as anal:
That there are certain connections between anal erotism and speech I had already learnt from Prof. Freud, who told me of a stammerer all whose singularities of speech were to be traced to anal phantasies. Jones too has repeatedly indicated in his writings the displacement of libido from anal activities to phonation. Finally I, too, in an earlier article (“Über obscöne Wörte” [“On Obscene Words”]), was able to indicate the connection between musical voice-culture and anal erotism.20
However, the deviated oral-anal erotism of charismatic leaders like Hitler or Mussolini obtains this discharge by towering over their crowds on their phallic pedestals. Here, too, they also communicate through their GAZE. “The most frequent pathway along which libidinal excitation is aroused” are “visual impressions.”21
To do this mainly requires a hypnotist, that asserts that he is in possession of a mysterious power that robs the subject of his own will; or, which is the same thing, the subject believes it of him. [. . .] The hypnotist, then, is supposed to be in possession of this power; and how does he manifest it? By telling the subject to look him in the eyes; his most typical method of hypnotizing is by his look. But it is precisely the sight of the chieftain that is dangerous and unbearable for primitive people, just as later that of the Godhead is for mortals. Even Moses had to act as an intermediary between his people and Jehovah, since the people could not support the sight of God.22
Children, primitives, the masses, neurotics (the obsessive ones: the religious), all, with varying degrees of difference, have an analogous relationship with the GAZE of the father-god-dictator. And this relationship is a particular type of love relationship:
From being in love to hypnosis is evidently only a short step. The respects in which the two agree are obvious. There is the same humble subjection, the same compliance, the same absence of criticism, towards the hypnotist as towards the loved object. There is the same sapping of the subject’s own initiative; no one can doubt that the hypnotist has stepped into the place of the ego ideal.23
Like Thomas Mann in Mario and the Magician, Norman Brown has also attracted attention to fascism as an erotic-hypnotic alienated relationship established by the GAZE.
“The command to sleep in hypnosis means nothing more nor less than an order to withdraw all interest from the world and to concentrate it upon the person of the hypnotist [who] is based on the natural property of a look. [. . .] The hypnotist, then, is supposed to be in possession of this power; and how does he manifest it? By telling the subject to look him in the eyes.” [. . .] Identification with the representative person, whom we “look up to,” takes place through the eye. In psychoanalytic jargon, the super-ego is based on “incorporation through the eye” or “ocular introjection”; it is the sight of a parental figure that becomes a permanent part of us; and that now supervises, watches us. [Remember that the crowd, in front of Hitler and Mussolini’s platform, can be found below, like a child in front of their father.] In other words, the super-ego is derived from the primal scene. The primal scene is the original theater; parental coitus is the archetypal show; the original distance is between child and parent. [. . .] “Theaters and concerts, in fact any performance where there is something to be seen or heard, always stands for parental coitus.” It is in the primal scene that we learn to take vicarious pleasure in events of which we are only passive spectators.24
- Carlo Emilio Gadda, Eros e Priapo: da furore a cenere (Milano: Garzanti, 1967), 17-18. [All translations of Gadda are mine as there exists no English translation of Eros and Priapus: From Fury to Ashes. Other quotations cited by Parinetto have been cited here using their English translations and pagination.—Trans.]
- Theodor Adorno, “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda,” in The Essential Frankfurt School Reader (New York: Continuum, 1982), 122.
- Adorno, “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda,” 122.
- Sigmund Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVIII (1920-1922), 127.
- Gadda, Eros e Priapo, 60.
- Gadda, Eros e Priapo, 73.
- Gadda, Eros e Priapo, 73.
- Gadda, Eros e Priapo, 86.
- Gadda, Eros e Priapo, 89.
- Gadda, Eros e Priapo, 126.
- [This is an allusion to the so-called “Historic Compromise,” which the Italian Communist Party (PCI) initiated with the center-right Democratic Christian (DC) party in the mid-1970s in order to gain traction in parliament. The move was widely criticized by youth movements and the extra-parliamentary left, who saw it as antithetical to Communism’s revolutionary goals.—Trans.]
- Gadda, Eros e Priapo, 124.
- Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983), 292-293.
- Felix Guattari, “Everybody Wants to be a Fascist,” in Chaosophy: Texts and Interviews, 1972-1977, ed. Sylvère Lotringer, trans. David L. Sweet, Jarred Becker, Taylor Adkins (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2009): 165, 168.
- Guattari, “Everybody Wants to Be a Fascist,” 171.
- Gadda, Eros e Priapo, 131-146.
- Gadda, Eros e Priapo, 131.
- Karl Abraham, “Oral Erotism and Character Formation,” in Selected Papers on Psychoanalysis (London: Karnac Books, 1979), 401.
- Adorno, “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda,” 132.
- Sándor Ferenczi, “Silence is Golden,” in Further Contributions to the Theory and Technique of Psycho-Analysis (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1927), 251.
- Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905). The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume VII (1901-1905): A Case of Hysteria, Three Essays on Sexuality, and Other Works, 156.
- Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, 125.
- Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, 114.
- Norman O. Brown, Love’s Body. Reissue of 1966 Edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 122-123. [Here Norman O. Brown includes quotes from Freud, Group Psychology, 96, and Géza Róheim, Animism, Magic, and the Divine King (New York: A.A. Knopf & Co., 1930), 149-150.—Trans.]