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Graphic by Harold Arthur McNeill

1,158 words

Finnish translation here

“In a society that has abolished every kind of adventure the only adventure that remains is to abolish the society.”

—Situationist graffito, May 1968

As a political ideology, fascism was a mixed bag of 20th-century ideas. Its athletic presence hung with flirty, politically expedient schemes like universal suffrage, in many ways last century’s fascism was defined by its responses to other political movements of the time—like Marxism and liberal capitalism. 

But, just beyond the historical details of fascism, there is something eternal. Italian writer Umberto Eco called it “Ur-fascism” —meaning “primitive” or “original.” Unfortunately, his snatchy “fourteen points” were overly concerned with the top-down totalitarianism of fascism’s notable dictators and their party boys. His “ur-fascism” wasn’t “primitive” enough. It wasn’t “eternal” at all.

The word “fascism” has become sloppy shorthand for any violent, intrusive police state. For most people, fascism evokes a people forced into lockstep conformity by an all-powerful government. 20th-century political fascism had many other features, and they were instituted differently in different nations. Oppressive, runaway governments are also not unique to 20th-century fascism. Marxism, Catholicism, and Islam have all produced cruel, iron-fisted police states. If being more afraid of your own government than you are of its external enemies is a measure of totalitarian tyranny, America’s own “progressive” surveillance state is headed that way. Fascism and totalitarianism may be confused in the popular imagination, but they aren’t the same thing.

The fasces was a powerful symbol before Mussolini was born, so it is possible to separate the symbol from his regime and see it in its own right. I am not concerned so much with the usage of the fasces as a symbol of magisterial power in Republican Rome. I am more interested in the phenomenon this pre-Roman symbol appears to represent. Fascism has been described as a “male fantasy,” and I agree that the fasces symbolizes a distinctly male worldview. What is it about the fasces that captures the male imagination?

Most people associate the “evils” of fascism with a top-down bureaucratic institution, but to me the fasces itself appears to symbolize a bottom-up idea.

The bound rods of the fasces represent strength and the authority of a unified male collective. That’s its “primitive” appeal. True tribal unity can’t be imposed from above.  It’s an organic phenomenon. Profound unity comes from men bound together by a red ribbon of blood. The blood of dire necessity that binds the band of brothers becomes the blood of heritage and duty that ties the family, the tribe, the nation. The fasces captures the male imagination because it appears to symbolize the unified will of men. Men prefer to believe that they offer their allegiance by choice, whether they truly do or not. Free association–or the appearance of it–is the difference between free men and slaves. If you can’t just walk away, you’re a prisoner. If you choose to stay, if you choose to align your fate to the fate of the group and submit to the collective authority of the group, you are a member, not a slave. As a member, you add the weight of your manhood to a unified confederacy of men.

The fasces became a popular decorative motif for American government buildings in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and its symbolism is consistent with an earlier Latin motto adopted by the union: e pluribus unum. “Out of many, one.” 20th-century political fascism itself was preceded by the Italian fascio—voluntary “bundles” or unions of men uniting to assert their collective interests. Mussolini was member of a fascio before he was a “fascist.” This idea of men choosing to band together and increase their strength was most eloquently explained by the ape “Caesar” in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011). Breaking a single stick, and then gathering a bundle, Caesar shows his imprisoned comrades that, “Ape alone . . . weak . . . apes together . . . strong.”

When the fasces is revered, it symbolizes “our power.” When the fasces is reviled, it is despised because it has become a symbol of “their power.”

Virile men do not unite to become sandbags. The fasces symbolizes men bound together with an axe, ready for action, issuing a threat of violence—of “or else.” The fasces is a warning, a promise of retaliation, a paddle on the wall for traitors, slackers and law-breakers.

In The Way of Men, I wrote that “The Way of Men is The Way of the Gang.” Primal masculinity is rooted in the practical, tactical ethos of a gang of men struggling to survive and triumph over external forces.

From this perspective, I see the fasces as a “universal gang sign.” It symbolizes, better than any other symbol I can think of, the moment when men tie their fates together and align themselves against nature, against other men, against . . . the world. The fasces depicts the genesis of “us,” of “our team,” of “our culture,” of “our honor”–the formation of a collective identity. It symbolizes then moment when the war of all against all becomes a war of men against men, of “us” against “them.” The fasces symbolizes the moment when men create order from chaos.

This pure, primal manliness can only be realized under stress. It can only rise out of chaos, as a reaction to external forces. From there it matures, shaped by time, into an honor culture, and from that culture–that combination of collective history and custom that characterize the identity of a people–comes Tradition. Everything I recognize as good and worth saving about men and masculinity thrives in this cultural sweet spot between the purity of the warrior-gang and the spoiled, conniving depravity of complex merchant-based cultures.

With no more frontiers to explore, save space–which can only be allowed, even in fantasy, as a neutered bureaucratic project–the modern, effeminate, bourgeois “First World” states can no longer produce new honor cultures. New, pure warrior-gangs can only rise in anarchic opposition to the corrupt, feminist, anti-tribal, degraded institutions of the established order. Manhood can only be rebooted by the destruction of their future, and the creation of new futures for new or reborn tribes of men. It is too late for conservatism. For the majority of men, only occupied structures and empty gestures remain.

The way of men can only be rediscovered in Night and Chaos.

Ur-fascism is the source of honor culture and authentic patriarchal tradition.

Ur-fascism is a response to anarchy.

The political position of The Way of Men is “anarcho-fascist.”

This anarcho-fascism is not an end; it is hungry for a new beginning.


The secrets of the hoarie deep, a dark
Illimitable Ocean without bound,
Without dimension, where length, breadth, & highth,
And time and place are lost; where eldest Night
And Chaos, Ancestors of Nature, hold
Eternal Anarchie, amidst the noise
Of endless Warrs, and by confusion stand.

—Milton, Paradise Lost


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  1. Arindam
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    This interesting essay brings to mind Jack London’s classic story, ‘The Strength of the Strong’ – which is, among other things, an analogy of the rise and fall of civilization.

    I’d postulate the following cycle: Egoism (greed) destroys the harmonious traditional society, by practising and promoting the doctrine of ‘every man for himself and the state for all’ (Kropotkin’s summary of the bourgeois mindset). Competition between individuals invariably gives way to competition between groups (as individuals discover ‘the strength of the strong’). Competition between groups ultimately leads to cooperation (as men grow weary of endless conflict, and observe the benefits of cooperation within their groups) – which, over time, generates a harmonious society, with its customs, norms and traditions – and the cycle starts anew.

    Fascism – in my mind, was about shifting from competition between individuals (capitalism) to competition between groups. Yet, if a number of fascist states prevail in a given continent, (ex: Europe in the 1940s), then the next logical step would be for them to organize some sort of cooperation on this larger scale – perhaps ultimately giving Europe the kind of political unity that China enjoys.

  2. Craig
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Really enjoyed your essay. I agree patriarchal men need to revive and start a new subversive order. It’s in the making now.

  3. Fugasnaya
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    It is really a very interesting premise. If you take a look at the Wikipedia entry for Mussolini you will see that Benito’s father drew heavily on the Anarchism of Mikhail Bakunin. Bakunin named the Jew and opposed the Tsarist state in Russia, ultimately he spent years chained to a wall in a Tsarist dungeon, eventually escaping *over land* to Japan. Bakunin personally knew Karl Marx and came to despise him, calling him out as a corrupt Jewish hypocrite at the First International.

    Despite Mussolini’s father admiring Bakunin, and presumably Benito himself admiring Bakunin, Anarchists later attempted to assassinate Mussolini twice. Interestingly both of them were Italians who had left the country for either France or the United States and returned for their work to kill Mussolini. This doesn’t mean they weren’t real Anarchists, but it does raise questions.

    Ultimately though, Anarchism taken literally from the Greek means “without leader” and it is fundamentally opposed to the state. Clearly Mussolini contradicted Anarchism. That said, the symbol of the Fasces does not contradict Anarchism, it epitomizes it in exactly the way you described in your essay. If those of us sympathetic to his kind of thinking learned anything from World War 2 it should be that we must avoid omnipotent leaders and their cults of personality at all costs. I do think we have reached a point in human technological development that the concept of the state as we know it has essentially become a fundamentally tyrannical burden for all intelligent and productive persons. We need to create a multi-polar world (to quote the late Hugo Chavez) that governs by mutual consent. The question is, how?

    Propaganda of the deed used against the state is a given, but with what do we replace the state? Do we abolish private property or just go after finance capitalism and the Jew? Before his death Chavez called for a Fifth International to put forward and actualize new ideas in the name of multi-polarity. The Fourth International was dominated by Trotsky and his Jews, against Stalin, and it has shaped leftist thought up to the present day. It must be supplanted and its cultural significance destroyed at all costs if we are to mount effective resistance in the form of Popular Front(s).

  4. RJ Moore
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Anarchism (without order/hierarchy) as a literal term can still be reconciled with a sort of Aryan caste ideology simply by pointing out that Aryan and European egalitarianism is elitist, at least in many of its original formulations; thus one can be an ‘anarchist’ and demand consultation from ones peers without being a leaderless flash mob or an apologist for the lumpenproletariate. The Lumpens have no ‘rights’ except to be ruled by better men, which is in itself anarchic with regard to the bureaucratic or moralistic state.

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