In September of 1941 I was summoned to Palazzo Venezia. I did not imagine that Mussolini himself wanted to speak to me. [Alessandro] Pavolini led me to him and was present during our conversation. Mussolini told me that he had read my work Sintesi di dottrina della razza [Synthesis of the Doctrine of Race], which had been published by Hoepli, that he approved of it and that he saw in the ideas presented in it the basis for the formulation of an independent and antimaterialist Fascist racism. “This is exactly the sort of book we need,” he said.
To understand the significance of these statements one must recall the situation at that time in Italy with regard to racism. Several months earlier, Mussolini had thought it necessary to take a stance on the issue of race and align himself with our German ally in this matter, too. But his most immediate motive was his desire to vivify the Italians’ sense of race and of racial dignity with regard to the natives in Italy’s new colonies. A further reason was the antifascist stance of international Jewry and in particular North-American Jewry. The racial question brings together inner, selective, cultural and ethnic problems. That is why Mussolini had encouraged the publication of the so called “Manifesto of Italian Racism” that contained ten or so points; a journal was founded, Difesa della Razza [The Defence of the Race], and later on two offices of race were created — one in the Ministry of Popular Culture and the other in the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Unfortunately, on the whole these measures were unsatisfactory. They had not been preceded in Italy by serious preparation and specific studies, and racial ideas were completely uncharted territory for Italian “intellectuals.” Thus, the group that had written the “Manifesto” and even the staff of Difesa della Razza was heterogeneous and hastily put together. Some anthropologists of the old scientistic school were put in the same bag with opportunistic journalists and writers who had stepped up for the occasion and had become racists overnight, as it were. The general impression they conveyed was one of amateurism, and too often petty controversy and slogans took the place of a serious and unified doctrine, a doctrine that should not have lost itself in biological specialism or vulgar anti-Semitism, but should ideally have presented itself as a coherent worldview and acted as a politically and ethically formative idea. I was personally moved to tackle this subject because of the less than flattering remarks I heard from abroad regarding Fascism’s handling of the racial issue. I began to extract from the traditional and aristocratic ideas to which I adhered, everything that could be deduced from them as a particular application to the issue of race, and thus could form an organic racial doctrine. Thus the first articles and notes appeared in various Fascist periodicals, and then the aforementioned book.
The central thesis, defended by me, was, in short, the following: with regard to man, the question of race cannot be discussed in the same terms nor have the same meaning as for a cat or a purebred horse. True men, beyond the biological and bodily element, are also soul and a spirit. Thus, comprehensive racism had to consider all three terms: body, soul, and spirit. Accordingly, one may speak of a racism of the first degree, concerned with purely biological, anthropological, and eugenic issues; next, of a racism of second degree, concerned with the “race of soul,” in other words the inner form of man’s character and emotional reactions; finally, of the crowning “race of spirit,” which is concerned with the supreme frontiers that differentiate men and make them unequal in their general world-view and notions of the beyond, of destiny, of life and of action, in other words, their “highest values.” The classical ideal, interpreted racially, is the harmony and unity of these three “races” in a superior type.
Mussolini accepted these views without hesitation. I cannot, like some memoir writers, quote the exact words spoken by the Duce. However, I can still relate in general terms the gist of what Mussolini told me, which showed that he was remarkably knowledgeable. “The conception of tripartite racism,” Mussolini said to me, “avoids the zoological conception and biologistic errors of German racism; it establishes the primacy of the spiritual values that are an essential part of our tradition and of the Fascist idea. Furthermore, it possesses great political value, since you have correlated the three aspects of the problem of race with the three parts of the human being distinguished by Aristotle. But it would actually be better to refer to Plato [here I dare say that I am repeating Mussolini word for word], who correlates those three parts with the three castes of the social corpus. The race of the body corresponds to the mass, to the demos, ‘which in itself is nothing, but is a force through which the dominators act’ [these were his exact words]; the race of soul could correspond to Plato’s ‘warriors’ or ‘guardians,’ while the race of the Spirit could correlate with the apex, the caste of thinkers, philosophers and artists.”
Actually, despite the alarmed signs of comrade Pavolini, at this point I permitted myself to interrupt Mussolini and say: “Mind you, Duce, Plato would have banished from his state thinkers, philosophers, and artists in the modern sense. It is the sages — sophoi — something entirely different, that Plato placed at the top of his ideal state, not ‘intellectuals.’”
“Very well then, let’s say sages,” said Mussolini, smiling.
1. Evola writes “amico,” “friend,” the term used by Fascists in place of the term “comrade,” which was associated with the Communists.