It is, à la Brecht, a non-alienated theatre where the tragedy of Nazi-Fascism (and other tragedies as well, ones that are more current, like the millions of “democratic publics” watching-suckling the televisual phallus) is performed. It is a theatre based on the absolutization of the eye (testicle) in addition to the alienation of critical power, and therefore where the Oedipal drama can take place.
In a history and a society in which citizens are reduced to spectators, in a purely “theatrical” alienated collective—alas!—Oedipal theatre makes sense. It is a sense founded on the alienated eye: “The spectator is a voyeur. The desire to see is the desire to see the genital; and the desire to see is the desire to be one; to become what you behold; to incorporate the penis of another; to devour it through the eye.”1
“Psychologists define hypnosis as the filling of the field of attention by one sense only.”2
“The interplay of all the senses [. . .], the polymorphism of the senses, polymorphous perversity, active interplay” becomes scotomized and in its place the opposite of polymorphous perversity becomes absolutized, “the abstraction of the visual, obtained by putting to sleep the rest of the life of the body.”3
It all adds up: Oedipus-Mussolini-Hitler are the gaze, castrated from the rest of corporality; a pars pro toto that pretends to be a totality. Polymorphism is cancelled out by the phallus: by mediating castration one enters into the tragedy of the society of representation, in which pomp (whether hitlerian, mussolinian, or televisually “democratic”) can be summarized like so:
The exhibitionism of the phallic personality (the huge genital, the royal lingam) is fraudulent; an imposture, or imposition on the public; theater. The actor needs the audience to reassure him that he is not castrated: yes, you are the mighty penis; the Emperor’s New Clothes. To force the audience to give this reassurance is to castrate, have coitus with, the audience: the phallic personality needs a receptive audience or womb. Separately, both actor and audience are incomplete, castrated; but together they make up a whole: the desire and pursuit of the whole in the form of the combined object, the parents in coitus.4
And indeed, Nazi-Fascism represents itself from a restrictively ideological familist perspective.
Capital is behind it, jostling Oedipus’s marionette.
The tragedy is even more grim with Nazism. Alienated homosexuality appears in it in three ways: under the guise of the exaltation of militarized Arian homoeroticism, under the politically motivated process of condemning Röhm’s homosexuality with that of the SA (night of the long knives), and above all with the elimination, in the Lager, of non-integrated homosexuality.
In the only Konzentrazionlager in Auschwitz, where “ten-thousand people were passing through the gas chamber daily and not less than three million people according to the Commandant’s own calculation, were killed in this and in other ways,”5 there were certainly prisoners who were uniquely stigmatized, even with special badges, among them “a triangle […] pink for homosexuals.”6
It is certainly not a coincidence that Hess, the Gauleiter of Auschwitz, would call the Lager (where “dirty” Jews, homosexuals, and antifascists were eliminated) the “anus of the world.”
The repression of the anal as dirt and homosexuality (and by way of an alienated homosexuality, the Nazi one) here touches on repression’s most tragic outcome.
Between all of the monuments that commemorate the Nazi-Fascist massacres, why is there not one dedicated to the homosexual slaughtered by the Nazis?
Maybe because there is not even one dedicated to the commemoration-execration of the witches’ stakes.
Because even now a deep bond exists in reality between current capitalism and that of Nazi- Fascism: the repression of anality.
Neo-fascism’s massacres gorily demonstrate this. Was it a coincidence that the same day of the Brescia Massacre (eight dead and about a hundred wounded), a message reached local authorities and newspapers from secret neo-fascist associations?7 In the name of “Italy of the Caesars and the last of the Caesars,” and in defense of the “healthy segment of the people,” the message sentenced people defined as “jewish dogs [. . .] to the final solution [. . .] for having corrupted the youth, for having had relations with young people replete with homosexuality, detained, used, prostituted, and have made wretched young people use drugs, so as to subject them to their depraved desires.”8
It’s obvious that it is not possible to establish a precise link between this document and the perpetrators of the massacre. Yet, it is symptomatic of the reemergence of the mentality of neo-Nazi-Fascism by way of the juxtaposition of Judaism and homosexuality, as well as their condemnation to (!) the infamous Nazi “final solution,” which was consummated in the death camps.
It is symptomatic in the same way that the Italian Social Movement [MSI, Movimento Sociale Italiano], by publishing a manifesto in which it rejected any responsibility for the massacre, stigmatized the main suspect for the atrocious attack (whose “confession,” however, has little credibility)9 by defining him as a “crazy pathological liar, crook, peddler of stolen paintings, homosexual, common delinquent, probably from a communist family and upbringing.”10
The same “concept” is taken up by Giorgio Almirante, for whom “the only self-confessed guilty party for the massacre could not be a member of the MSI because he is a ‘noted pederast,’ and our party is the only one that is truly antihomosexual.”11
Therefore, the neo-fascist party openly claims to depend on homosexuality, since it posits itself on a negation of homosexuality, and for this same reason recognizes that without negating homosexuality the party wouldn’t exist!
However, it is worth analyzing their cited antihomosexual declarations.
In the MSI manifesto homosexuality (associated with communism instead of Judaism) is associated with madness, to thievery, to common delinquency: it is therefore a crime.
I’m not trying to suggest, here, that the context of elaboration of the message cited above and that of the MSI’s manifesto are the same. I simply want to emphasize that the vocabulary used by both documents registers a profound homogeneity of views, which gives rise to a stigmatization of homosexuality that has its direct forefather in the ideology that presided over the massacres of the Nazi death camps.
It is no wonder that in a city in which a very bloody massacre comes to fruition under the cover (at least apparently so) of similar ideologies, still today homosexuals are often brutally persecuted and beaten, as they say, in their traditional meeting spots (like Parco del Castello). Nazi-Fascism, before its political associations, is born in the depths of society’s own psychological fabric. A society that does not even succeed in being neo-capitalistically permissive is necessarily operational within neo-Nazi-Fascism: just look at the Pasolini’s assassination and all those who, less visible than he, have died without even being recognized by the news.
The germ of fascism can be found wherever homosexuality is persecuted, in whatever manner it may occur; even if the stigmatizer claims themselves to be anti-fascist.
[Excerpt from The Body and Revolution in Marx: Death, the Devil, Anality (Milan: Mimesis, 2015); original edition from (Milan: Moizzi editore, 1977)]
translator’s note: Luciano Parinetto (1934-2001) published The Body and Revolution in Marx: Death, the Devil, and Anality in 1977, when both Italian Marxist philosophy and politics were in crisis. It was a moment when the Italian Communist Party (PCI) was under heavy scrutiny by the energy of a growing wave of extra-parliamentary movements on the left. Parinetto preferred to characterize himself as a “marxian,” rather than a Marxist or a communist, believing that Marx provides insight not only into the functions of capital, but also the inherent relationality of the human subject. He distanced himself from what was, in his view, the rigidity of dialectical materialism and the consequent masculinist attitudes of many Italian Marxists in those years by working extensively on Marx’s philosophy of nature and the human. Prior works include a conceptual exposition of alienation in the German philosophical tradition, entitled The Notion of Alienation in Hegel, Feuerbach, and Marx (1968), and a study of Marx and religion, entitled Neither God nor Capital: Marx, Marxism, Religion (1976). The Body and Revolution in Marx critiques the mechanisms of social and psychic repression built into the orthodoxy of the Italian political left, a repressive architectonics not unlike that of fascism itself.
To understand the target of this critique, one must understand the position of the Italian left at the time of publication. The PCI gained considerable strength during the resistance movement against the Italian Social Republic from 1943 to 1945, and despite not having won an electoral majority in the elections of 1946 and 1948, it was influential in the cultural politics of postwar Italy. Between the late 1940s and the 1970s, Italy underwent a period of dramatic economic development, making it a leading European industrial power, and causing a major shift in the development of various industries, including automobile, film, and television production. As postwar capitalist modes of production flourished, the PCI held onto its electoral power as the second-largest political party in the country (after the center-right Christian Democrats), and the largest communist party in Western Europe. They maintained this position in government until the end of the 1970s, thus forcing the party to respond to radical cultural and lifestyle shifts as a result of over three decades’ worth of economic development. The PCI preached personal austerity as a combative measure to the transformation of Italy’s mass culture and the morally dubious capitalist-driven pleasure economies that resulted. In a 1978 interview, the PCI’s economic spokesperson, Giorgio Amendola, framed this strategy both as a form of personal emancipation and morality, and a way to work towards progressive political gains: “We [. . .] want to push forward certain criteria which are not only economic but also moral, of a working class which does not want to imitate the bourgeoisie but which wants to acquire a new, more collective and more fraternal way of living.”12
Such policy positions were, for Parinetto, a betrayal of the communist promise of true emancipation. The capitalist-driven culture of postwar Italy was dangerous, he thought, not only because it turned workers into consumers, but because it turned the communist party into a religious institution that incorporated bourgeois moral procedures of religious didacticism. In Parinetto’s formulation, the PCI had become like the Church preaching to its “believers”:
The sale of Marx brought out by revisionists has in turn become, by an irony of history, RELIGION: so much so that one of the major spokespeople of this electorally won revisionistic church, Saint Amendola, has been able to address workers (transformed into believers) with a Lutheran homily concerning the faith built into needless sacrifice, without guarantees, ”without opposition,” waiting for god-capital to demonstrate its arbitrary benevolence and save them.13
Parinetto wanted to break up the revisionist rhetoric touted by the PCI in order to advance a heterodox reading of Marxist revolutionary theory. This he did by revisiting Marx’s early polemical writings on the human (e.g. The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, The Holy Family, and German Ideology), and putting them in conversation with Freudian psychoanalysis. In doing so, his arguments are in dialogue with those thinkers who deeply influenced the New Left: Wilhelm Reich, Herbert Marcuse, and Norman O. Brown. Moreover, Parinetto found key interlocutors in Deleuze and Guattari, whose Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1972) shapes many of his arguments in this book.
Parinetto’s philosophy is thus attuned to a current of thinking often described as Marxist humanism, insofar as he centers his analysis on the concept of a subject through the relational matrix of the body, rather than decentering subjectivity within the project of emancipation (for which Louis Althusser’s antihumanist structural Marxism provocatively argued). In so doing, Parinetto’s focus on the body also departs from that of Marxist-Leninists, such as Mario Tronti in Workers and Capital, who view the body in terms of labor power—a predominantly masculine concept. Marxist-Leninists retained the rigidity of a social vision split between base, structure, and superstructure, maintaining that issues relating to gender and sexuality would be resolved after the revolution. Parinetto is largely in agreement with Italian feminist critiques of this view: a revolution that does not consider the capacity of the female (or in Parinetto’s view, the perverse, “transsexual”) body, does not a revolution make. Parinetto turns away from these predominant Marxist positions, as well as many Italian feminist thinkers, in order to bring out the repressed and abject elements of corporeality—the erotic, the perverse, sexuality, anality—elements either neglected by Marxist philosophy, or temporally relegated to “after” the revolution.
To date there exists no introduction to, or study of, Parinetto’s philosophical thought in English. Even in Italy, Parinetto is almost entirely unknown, even though both his journalistic and philosophical output was prolific. His memory has survived in large part through the editorial and authorial efforts of Nicoletta Poidimani and Manuele Bellini, both of whom were Parinetto’s students at the University of Milan.14 In describing her teacher, Nicoletta Poidimani has quoted the Greek philosopher Diogenes: “Some people were laughing at him because he was walking backwards beneath the portico. Diogenes replied: ‘Aren’t you ashamed to reproach me for walking backward; you who walk backward through life’s journey?’” Parinetto often relied on this quote in his teaching, she writes. For him, it “underscores the pedagogical function of the ‘other’ (diverso), who mirrors other people’s ‘normality,’ which he understood as misery. And he would make this point while walking backward, signifying his own alterity with his body, with this bodily gesture.”15 In this short excerpt from the resplendent The Body and Revolution in Marx, it is precisely the perverse body, a body that deviates from a “normal” path, which figures as Parinetto’s central point of concern.
LUCIANO PARINETTO (1934-2001) was an Italian philosopher, poet, and music and literary critic. He taught philosophy at the University of Milan, and is remembered by his students as a ”heretic” for his dissent from commonly held philosophical assumptions and styles. Drawing on German idealism, Enlightenment philosophy, alchemical thought, and contemporary postmodern critique, Parinetto’s writing attempts to loosen the rigidity of theoretical orthodoxy. His most enduring and imaginative engagements are with Marx.
MATTHEW ZUNDEL is a doctoral candidate in Italian Studies at NYU. They are currently writing their dissertation on the use of perversion as a political concept in philosophical writing and social movement materials from Italy during the 1970s. More broadly, their research interests incorporate questions of gender and sexuality, cultural studies, affect, and critical theory, alongside performance, literature, and film cultures in Italy.
- Brown, Love’s Body, 124.
- Brown, Love’s Body, 121.
- Brown, Love’s Body, 121.
- Brown, Love’s Body, 125.
- Lord Russell of Liverpool, The Scourge of the Swastika: A Short History of Nazi War Crimes (London: Greenhill Books, 2002).
- Lord Russell of Liverpool, The Scourge of the Swastika.
- [Here Parinetto refers to one of a series of the politically motivated massacres that hit Italy in the 1970s (giving the decade its nickname, “Years of Lead”) in his hometown of Brescia, also known as the Piazza della Loggia Bombing. The event took place on May 28th 1974 and a neo-fascist terrorist group was thought to be involved; however, the case remained open until 2008.—Trans.]
- The entire message can be read on page three of l’Unità, published on May 29th, 1974.
- On this point see: Achille Lega and Giorgio Santerini, Strage di Brescia, potere a Roma (Milano: Mazzotta, 1976).
- See the poster displayed in Brescia on the occasion of the 1975 regional elections produced by the Italian Social Movement and the National Right [DN, Destra Nazionale], signed by Saipem Cassino Roma 1975.
- Lega and Santerini, Strage di Brescia, 93. [Giorgio Almirante was an Italian politician belonging to the National Fascist Party (PNF, Partito Nazionale Fascista) in the 30s and 40s, before helping to found the MSI in 1946. He served as Secretary General of the MSI from 1969-1987.—Trans.]
- Cited from David Forgacs, “The Communist Party and Culture,” in Culture and Conflict in Postwar Italy: Essays on Mass and Popular Culture, edited by Zygmunt Barański and Robert Lumley (New York: St. Martin’s Press), 103-104.
- Luciano Parinetto, “Premessa,” in Corpo e rivoluzione in Marx: morte diavolo analità (Milano: Mimesis, 2015), 23. The emphases are Parinetto’s and the translation is mine. Notably, the theme of religious orthodoxy is a core focus of Parinetto’s oeuvre, dealt with at length in his The Notion of Alienation in Hegel, Feuerbach, and Marx and Neither God nor Capital mentioned above. Unfortunately, none of this work is yet available in English.
- Of interest here are three volumes that introduce and explicate some of the main themes of his work: Nicoletta Poidimani, ed., Luciano Parinetto: l’utopia di un eretico (Milano: Mimesis, 2005); Manuele Bellini, ed., Corpo e rivoluzione. Sulla filosofia di Luciano Parinetto: con la bibliografia complete della sua opera (Milano: Mimesis, 2012), and Manuele Bellini, Dialettica del diverso. Marxismo e antropologia in Luciano Parinetto (Milano: Mimesis, 2018).
- Poidimani, “L’utopia di un eretico,” 7. Translation mine.