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“We are the Real Subalterns”

Manifestazione Casapound e Blocco Studentesco

Casa Pound Student Demonstration

1,344 words

“We are the real subalterns,” I was once told by an activist at CasaPound. His words were astonishing, not only because they so presciently invoke the relationship between CasaPound and the neoliberal Italian state, but also because they come from the American academic radical Left’s appropriation of Gramsci.

I didn’t have a chance to ask him if he’d chosen “subaltern” on my behalf, and frankly it didn’t matter at the time, for by then I was no longer flabbergasted by the political acuity of my hosts on the Roman social Right. In any case, he made his meaning clear with a 45-minute conversation on political and cultural sovereignty; anti-globalization; capitalism and the promulgation of vulgarity; and, most importantly, the use all of these forces make of a regime of multicultural morality. It was this regime that I ended up writing on, but I could have chosen any of the others, as each of them was richly and aggressively understood and combatted by the Romans.

Because I chose to know morality and how it is imposed on a population by a mixture of truths, shaming, and – in the case of a non-racial nation that would otherwise be unaffected by charges of racism – immigrant flooding, I essentially ignored the elements of Roman fascist thought that came from the traditional Left. After all, it is only the far Right that sees itself as the defenders of the people, culture, or nation. And, because I care more about philosophy, ideas, and non-market behaviors than political economy and its staid – and by now outdated – explanations of matter, capital, and value, I laughed at how easily I became a Nietzschean materialist at Marx’s expense.

With the Romans’ help I put considerable distance between the state and myself. An immersion in Nietzsche makes this almost an imperative, as few Western thinkers have been more anti-statist than the self-proclaimed “good European.” But how did fascists factor into my diminishing of the importance of the state? How did purported nationalists make light of the state? The answer lies in the young activist’s use of the word subaltern.

A subaltern is someone who exists outside the normalized representational structures of society. He, she, or it, does not conform to the hegemony of the cultural norms of the state, living outside the universe of the state’s moral obligation. The Left has normalized an understanding of the immigrant, racial/sexual minority, or colonial subject as the subaltern, and seeks to give voice to these voiceless souls through a well-developed language of guilt, evil, economic under-development, and outright racism.

CasaPound and other groups in the pantheon of contemporary Roman fascism, however, are using the word and all of its loaded connotations to wake people up to the fact that Italy no longer belongs to Italians. It belongs, instead, to global finance capitalism. It belongs to the fresh immigrants being pumped into the country to work in what is left of Italy’s agricultural, industrial, and cultural production. For many of us on the North American New Right, that would be enough – the story would end here. But in Rome, there is more. There is always more!

Subalternity is a chosen political identity for these Romans. It embraces the contemporary reality of the West for critical and proud Westerners like no other concept. More importantly, it makes possible certain realities that are otherwise unrecognizable. Becoming subaltern means giving up the assumption that we are the legitimate heirs of the West. It means the cessation of a utopian return to a past glory. It means a realization that we must create our world with our own ethics, and we must do so at the expense of the contemporary West. It means destroying any vestiges we may have of sentimentality for our state.

Just think for a moment on how far we have already moved toward this realization – how minor we have become – and how our revolt has destabilized the long-held and detrimental marriage between whiteness and being bourgeois/liberal (such that a revolt against the latter no longer means a flight away from the former). Take a look in the mirror and realize that you stare at a member of the only rebellion that liberal modernity and its capitalist states have yet to destroy. Subalternity has allowed CasaPound to go further than us, however, in realizing what is imposed on us – we, who can only be the cultural subjects of what we most despise – by the liberal state.

If one exists beyond obligation to the state, beyond its truth, morality, and what Deleuze and Guattari call its subjectification (literally, the creation of subjecthood through a subjectivity informed by academic disciplines, media technologies of control, images of thought, reductive explanation and uncritical utterance [opinion], and the creation of labor surplus value), then one is free from all of these things. One judges, values, evaluates, and becomes (other-than-)human to the beat of a different drummer – to put it lightly. One’s instincts are unburdened of their purpose to the state. One’s enemies come fuller into focus. One’s ability to create liberated spaces is enhanced. One experiences quotidian danger and uneasiness at the expense of bourgeois passivity and complacence. One more readily appreciates the value of struggle.

CasaPound and contemporary Roman fascism is at war with modernity. It is at war with every aspect of the modern bourgeois form of life, felt most keenly in the forces imposed upon Rome and Romans by American capitalist multiculturalism. As such, it embraces any common enemies that have fought against said capitalism, openly adopting the strategies of the traditional and radical Italian Left (hence the creation of CasaPound through squatting). And this puts CasaPound in league with those on the radical Left who are fighting the WTO, IMF, EU, USA, and G8 – even when those Leftists are self-proclaimed anti-fascist. It also makes CasaPound and the social Right difficult to fight – they are camouflaged in a sense, striking at the soft underbelly and unpoliced areas of the state. But doing so does not make them traitors, cowards, or slavish communist revolutionaries out to “destroy something they could not help create.” Instead, it makes them revolutionaries, period. It makes them rebels against the tyranny of multicultural global capitalism. It makes them freedom fighters against the very dear forces that keep us enslaved to routine.

Gianluca Iannone, co-founder of CasaPound, once said that race and identity politics played no part in the founding of the movement. Perhaps he said so while still enveloped in the luxury of a Rome that was still largely Roman. Nonetheless, it was designed to loosen the dominant terms of legitimation that much of the world’s Right had come to use, terms given it by the Anglo-Americans, no less. So, while he sought to distance himself and his movement from other forms of Rightist action, he also created a breach with the obvious tactics the state would use to legitimate its own position vis-à-vis the evil racist fascists. In other words, he wanted to create something that the state could make neither sense, nor use, of. He wanted something that placed no value in the legal, contractual, or institutional bases of the state, but instead offered the Romans that which the state could never give and could only take away: sovereignty to create their own possibilities.

The lessons CasaPound offers the North American New Right are clear: become revolutionary. Become something that cannot be codified by the liberal state. Become something so active, so affirmative, and so different, that liberal sensibility is deterritorialized, never to capture our minds and bodies again. Become not only subaltern but also an enemy of the state.

Alas, as CasaPound makes clear, this will take some Leftism and much anarchism to accomplish, as well as some discomfort and critical thinking on our part. It will take the North American New Right becoming something so radical that Pierre Krebs’ “New Culture” might be its only legitimate moniker, and Nietzsche’s “Übermensch” ours.



  1. coinherence
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    “Subalternity is a chosen political identity for these Romans. It embraces the contemporary reality of the West for critical and proud Westerners like no other concept. More importantly, it makes possible certain realities that are otherwise unrecognizable. Becoming subaltern means giving up the assumption that we are the legitimate heirs of the West. It means the cessation of a utopian return to a past glory. It means a realization that we must create our world with our own ethics, and we must do so at the expense of the contemporary West. It means destroying any vestiges we may have of sentimentality for our state.”

    Very bracing.

    This is one measure of the distance we have come from the paleo camp.

  2. Posted March 7, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    A Note of Clarification:

    1. The idea that we should give up the notion of being true heirs of the West was meant to be a temporary strategy, not an ontological certainty. Perhaps, I suggest, we get trapped in the idea that we are conserving something.

    2. Far more importantly, I was contacted this morning by Sebastien de Boëldieu of CasaPound. He took offense at my attributing the notion of subalterity to CasaPound and not the individual with whom I spoke. I was around CasaPound in 2007 before it actually became what we know as CasaPound Italia. Instead people were coming into the movement from other parts of the Far Right. CasaPound did not officially exist so anything said then cannot be attributed to today’s organization.

    Some of you may have noticed my reticence to speak about CasaPound. This is because they speak so beautifully for themselves, and because they never asked me to speak for them. I am here first and foremost as a representative of the spirit and complexity of the Roman social right, not as a mouthpiece for any of its organizations.

    So, in reading the above essay, keep in mind that the concept subalterity cannot be accurately attributed to CasaPound Italia.

  3. rhondda
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    This is excellent. Thank you. It seemed odd to me that critical race theory and anti-colonial theories were written by people totally immersed in western culture. They did not come from that famous ‘subaltern’ whomever he/she was. One of the worst is the feminist Peggy Mcintosh who wrote the essay Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack on white privilege also conveniently known as male privilege. I call it ‘ the strategic guilt tactic’.
    This is what is being taught at universities as ‘truth’.
    If you read it, may I suggest not to get angry, but say ‘so what’ after each description and/or ‘is this true?’. As received knowledge it is bull**** and cannot stand up to critical analysis. Of course, they do not want you to go that route. It’s guilt all the way down and eyes shut.

    • Posted March 7, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      I’m surprised and delighted even to find a handful of positive comments. I’m very delighted to see you here rhondda. That Invisible Knapsack paper is something I must have suppressed. Thanks for bringing it back to my attention.

      I have a vision that involves us taking over all critical discussion of dissonance and counter-culture. After all, the academic Left won the war. They are now the bosses they never wanted to be!

  4. Jack Laurent
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I really want to comment.. but I don’t know where to begin. I like it, I’ll begin by saying that.

    Personally I don’t think emulating the “sub alternative” “counter culture” “whatever” will work at all because of the basis of the kind of thing in the first place. Organization, hierarchy, discipline and so on are the things we desperately need to be able to physically do something, and these are the tools of states and tools that came organically out of humanity.

    By taking on the mindset that you’re an outsider, you not only attract outsiders who don’t understand the purpose of these tools, but you begin to think in the same manner yourself and you inadvertently thrown down the weapons that genuinely work in favor of a fuzzy concept of “ultimate revolution” i.e. the same pipedream that the rabble of the left have been repeating for decades but nothing ever happens because they don’t know how to go about it.

    I see it like this (this is a useful line for fans of occupy wall street); Libya or Egypt or even Syria. If you take it on face value, there were “revolutions” happening there; the people (well some of them) took up arms against a government that wasn’t doing anything for them in particular and in their disorganized way they swept through the cities causing damage and then with outside help in the case of Libya they were able to depose their leader.
    But what happened next? Nothing happened next. Nothing changed. Because they themselves were disorganized they weren’t able to do anything, and so someone else took over and the “peoples revolution” (as at least some people thought it was) never came about.
    The trick then is to *be* organized from the very beginning, to have trained people who know what they’re doing to able to step in when the time comes. Because if not, then “someone else” is going to do it. There’s no reason why *you* have to merge with the rabble and become as inept as they are in order to just be with them when they lose the fight, there’s no reason why *you* can’t train them to be the winners by teaching them about the tools they need to understand in order to physically succeed and not be brushed aside at the last minute.

    That’s how I’ve come to see it, and that’s generally my Occupy Wall Street argument. Maybe it doesn’t apply in Rome, I’m not saying that it does, but certainly street protests and subcultures will usually be comprised of people who’re stoic individualists who don’t want to conform for various valid reasons, but my point is that until those people are taught about the points of organization and discipline they even if they arrive at their proverbial destination, they won’t be able to do anything when they get there.

    It’s not a hard sell either, these “tools of state” we need are organic, they developed out of human society and they’re used to defend YOUR tribe BY members of YOUR tribe. That’s where they came from, one of the most prevalent misunderstandings is that any kind of discipline, organization and hierarchy is a “tool of oppression”, well obviously they are begin used in that way, but without understanding these tools ourselves we’re never going to be able to summon up enough collective strength to break free of the people who’re using them against us now.

    It’s very important to understand this.

    • T
      Posted March 7, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      The point of this article is to reorient the opposition to the paradigms of multiculturalism and liberalism through a re-articulation of what it means to oppose these paradigms that are instantiated in the governments that rule over us. It is not calling for anarchy, but a mode of opposition that lies outside the cultural hegemony of the left, and, most importantly, a spiritual or psychological shift within those who wish to combat the left/”global finance capitalism.” In essence, it is a Nietzschean revaluation of values in light of the historical development of the west- we must be oriented toward the future and aware of our facticity. As Heidegger noted in his lecture the “Phenomenological Interpretation of Aristotle,”only through a genuine historical consciousness are we “prepared to grasp concretely a radical idea and gain our existence in it.” Without this internal shift, we are just repeating the failures of our predecessors, which we do not want. Also there is no contradiction between organization and the theoretical position Dyal is putting forth- they can work hand in hand.

  5. Kerry Bolton
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    Brilliant. CasaPound is an inspiration. the more info. about them, and their ideas and strategies the better. The Anglophone-Right is not even in the same league, and is light years away in its thinking. That these ideas are now being discussed here is a glimmer of light.

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