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“We are the Real Subalterns”

Manifestazione Casapound e Blocco Studentesco [1]

Casa Pound Student Demonstration

1,344 words

“We are the real subalterns [2],” 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because I care more about philosophy, ideas, and non-market behaviors than political economy and its staid – and by now outdated – explanations of matter, capital, and value, I laughed at how easily I became a Nietzschean materialist at Marx’s expense.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.