FUTURISM, BETWEEN FASCISM AND BOLSHEVISM
In our complicated and turbulent time, when the media use Soviet anti-Ukrainian stamps at its own discretion, we want to leave everything by giving way to art. However, there are still some prejudices about the definition of the art of the early twentieth century. In the time of the total domination of Marxism-Leninism, people were only consciously concealed in the consciousness of the crystallized ideology of the KGB. The same was true of art. The Soviet utopian art of constructivism did not appear from nowhere, they became not desirable children of Italian futurism.
More than 100 years ago, namely on February 20th in 1909, in the Le Figaro newspaper was published the First Manifesto of Futurism, which proclaimed its main elements of courage, agitation and rebellion. "There is no beauty outside the struggle. There are no masterpieces without aggressiveness! We want to sing an offensive movement, fever insomnia, a gymnastic step, a dangerous jump, a slap and a kick of a fist..." – it was written in it. The author of this manifesto was an Italian playwright, futurist writer and friend of Benito Mussolini, and therefore a fiery supporter of fascism – Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Marinetti's central point of aesthetics and philosophy was a cult of strength, so he glorified the colonial conquests of Italy in Africa and the Balkans.
So what is common between Soviet constructivism and Italian fascist futurism? Gilbert Keith Chesterton once wrote in "Illustrated London News", that fascism can find many features of futurism. Most likely, the British writer expressed this idea, not knowing about the friendship between Marinetti and Mussolini. However, it is quite obvious that fascism contained some elements of futurism, since it was born 10 years later. Futurism in the representation of Marinetti and Mussolini genuinely reflects certain modern needs and typical Milanese context. The cult of speed, desire for strong solutions, contempt for the masses and at the same time fascinating appeal to them, susceptibility to hypnotic power of the crowd, exaltation of national feeling, aversion to bureaucracy – all these emotional positions shifted from futurism to fascism in nearly finished form!
The convergence of futurist Marinetti and the future fascist Mussolini took place several times: they were among those who were imprisoned for street propaganda of the Italian invasion of Dalmatia during the battle of Marne in 1914, for anti-military actions in Rome in April 1915, and finally, most importantly, for the organization of armed units – "Fasci d'Azione Rivoluzionaria" in Milan in 1919 and an attempt to protect the Italian kingdom. As Marinetti himself recalls, before the meeting with Mussolini, Italian futurists in their subsequent manifestos promoted the creation of the first unions – "arditi". Therefore, it is not surprising that after the "dangerous jump, slap and punch" on the Italian monarchy in 1922, many futurists joined the "Fasci di Combattimento". Wellknown "Marcia su Roma" gave the inspiration to fighters with routine!
Here's what speaks of the parallel existence of futurism and fascism, the Italian center-right and art historian Giuseppe Prezzolini: "Mussolini has an amazing futuristic character. There is no doubt about this. The path that fascism moves is the reason that it is as it is, and its current programs are generally hostile to the present-day program, but not the reality of futurism as art. Fascism, if I am not mistaken, craves hierarchy, tradition and respect for power. Fascism seeks to call the spirits of old Rome and the classical past. Fascism wants to remain in the categories of thought drawn by the great Italians and the great Italian institutions, including Catholicism. Futurism, on the contrary, represents its complete opposite. Futurism is a protest against tradition, the struggle against museums, classicism and the reverence of teachers…"
Like Marinetti, his predilection for fascism was also determined by Prezzolini, but only until then, until Italy became a close associate of Nazi Germany, the Third Reich. Prezzolini refutes the proximity of futurism and fascism when the basic ideas of fascism are ripe in their own doctrine. "The Manifesto of the Basis of Futurism", he says, reveals the true essence, because "futurism wants to destroy museums, libraries, crush moralism and every possible opportunist and utilitarian cowardice". But all this cannot be reconciled with fascism, which seeks to restore all moral, even moral values of Italy! It also surprises us…
Marinetti has determined that Futurism is an art of free verse, free expression, words in freedom, but fascism instead demands even more rigor in general education, returning to Latin.
One extremely controversial point concerns the issue of internationalism. Fascism is a political effort that is extremely Italian, it's not a miracle. Mussolini himself argued that Italian fascism was not capable of forming alliances with fascists in other countries or with the movements borrowed from the strain of Italian fascism. Because of this, all the other fascists are nationalists in the bone marrow that is definitely set against the Italian nation. As an example, Prezzolini casts an encroachment on the territory of Italy by the Magyar fascists, whose sole ultimate goal is to return Fiume to the Hungary, or the Croatian Ustašes, who dream of the Italian Trieste.
In view of this, one cannot but admit that futurism, on the contrary, is a movement of an international character. Do not be surprised! Marinetti himself admitted that in all parts of the globe in the 1920's and 1930's already there were Russian, American, Australian or German futurists. It should be emphasized that futurism has found its logical place only in one state – in the USSR. It was here that bolshevism and futurism formed a happy union in the form of Soviet constructivism, which intimidated us once with our specimens in childhood. The official art of bolshevism, thanks to the efforts of Joseph Stalin, the great contemporary art admirer, became futurism. Monuments of the October Revolution and later monuments to the Red Army and the KGB members, party propaganda posters, even Soviet books bear the mark of futuristic art and its ideas. But, one should warn the reader that this follows exclusively ideological anti-people's character!
And this is absolutely logical and understandable. Two revolutions – futuristic and bolshevik, two anti-stories, seeking to destroy the consciousness have always been allies. Both want to ruin the past and rebuild everything on a new industrial foundation. The factory as a symbol of the proletariat was an inexhaustible source of bolshevik political ideas, but it was also an inspiration for futuristic art.
And here we’ve got a key question: how can futuristic art keep pace with Italian fascism? It was a misunderstanding that was born only from the circumstances of the proximity of people – Marinetti and Mussolini, only from the occasional collisions, from the present mess of various forces that led to Filippo on the side of Benito. The enigmatic unity of futurism and fascism, due to the friendship of their ideologues, worked perfectly only during the days of the revolution, but became intolerable at the time of the fascist government, the state order.
Italian fascism cannot accept the destructive program of futurism, because with its Italian logic, it must restore the same values that contradict futurism. Discipline and hierarchy in politics are also discipline and hierarchy in literature and art. Words become empty when political hierarchies are ineffective. Fascism has already considered futurism as all that could serve as the first stimulus, and therefore suppressed in the second that entire revolutionary, anti-classical and rebellious, from the point of view of art and state order and discipline.
Futurism in Italy in fascism epoch did not become dominant, because it was oppositional, destructive, not classical and not traditional. In the USSR everything was the opposite: destruction and chaos became a good field for futurism. But, as an example, and the key difference: in fascist Italy futuristic sculpture remains only a sketch, while in the USSR it becomes a reality and a mouthpiece of the ideology of Marxism-Leninism.
by Denis KOVALIOV