Evola’s Autodifesa (Self-Defense Statement)

transl. by J. Godwin

In April of 1951, Julius Evola was arrested in his residence at 197 Corso Vittorio Emmanuele in Rome by men of the Ufficio Politico della Questura (the political section of the Questura, the public prosecutor’s office). The accusation was that he had been the “master,” the “inspirer” with his “nebulous theories” of a group of young men who were accused in turn of having hatched organizations for clandestine struggle: the FAR [Fasci d’Azione Rivoluzionaria] and the neofascist-oriented Legione nera. Hence, they were all accused of “glorifying Fascism” [apologia di Fascismo] and of having “attempted to reconstitute the dissolved Fascist Party.” Evola was held in the Regina Coeli prison until the trial, which took place in the Court of Assizes in Rome and lasted from early October until 20 November 1951. Evola was defended by Professor Francesco Carnehitti and fully acquitted.
Gentlemen of the Court:

The original accusation on which my arrest was based referred to Article 1 of Law no. 1546 of 1947: that together with others, I had promoted the revival of the dissolved Fascist Party under the guise of various organizations, particularly the one alleged to be behind the group of young men called “Imperium.” It is not worth saying more than a few words about this accusation, which is devoid of any basis whatsoever.

Nothing, in fact, has been produced to my charge that would lead anyone to think that my relationships with these groups had developed in any way but on the purely intellectual and doctrinal level, concerning the doctrine of the State, ethics, and the outlook on life. And as for these relationships, emphasized tendentiously and arbitrarily by the Questura, I must say that they have not been any more significant than those that I have had with various other groups: monarchical, independent, or nationalist, as for example E. M. Gray’s group “Il Nazionale,” or that of “Meridiano d’Italia” [connected to NISI, the Movimento Sociale Italiano]. Certainly I have felt particularly drawn toward these young men of Imperium for two reasons: first, because they insist on the necessity of an inward and spiritual revolution of the individual as the presupposition for political struggle—and [Enzo] Erra, the director of Imperium, indicated this in precise terms daring his interrogation—and second, because among all the currents of the MSI, this group defended right-wing positions tied to spiritual and hierarchical values against the socialist tendency widely represented in that party.

I have been a complete stranger to secretly organized initiatives, nor has anyone ever spoken to me about them. As for a certain activism, I have often urged against furnishing arms to the adversary in that way, since no serious person thinks that there is any basis in Italy, given the international situation, for a real revolution or an antidemocratic coup d’etat. I have not only written this in a letter that the Questura has confiscated (but which it has taken care not to produce), but also elsewhere: for instance, in an article for 11 Nazionale entitled “Trarre partito dall’ostacolo” [Taking Advantage of the Obstacle]. There I said that the increased severity in antifascist repression intended by the new drafting of Scelba’s law aught to encourage the salutary renunciation of external and fairly anachronistic forms of expression and activism, in favor of concentration on a serious doctrinal preparation.

In general—since there has been talk of being an “ideological accessory”—in none of my writings has there been any incitement, even indirect or involuntary, to terrorist or clandestine actions. The Questura’s statement has tried to establish an absurd relationship between the constitution of the “Legione nera” and a point in my booklet Orienramenti, where it is said that the tragic character of our times demands a sort of “Legionairism.” But I specify exactly what that means: legionairism not as an organization, but as a spirit, an inward attitude. Here are the exact words: “The attitude of him who can choose the hardest life, who is able to continue fighting even when he knows that the battle is materially lost, and who holds to the ancient precept that loyalty is mightier than fire” (Orientamenti, pp. 5-6). The same meaning is expressed further on (p. 22), speaking of the “man standing upright among the ruins.” It concerns nothing other than an ethical, heroic, and spiritual attitude. Misunderstandings are not possible, and where they have occurred, I cannot take responsibility for them. I have never encouraged the formation of parties—I deny the very concept of the party—or of subversive movements. This is how I indicate what is to be done (p. 6): “A silent revolution, proceeding in the depths, where the premises are created, first inwardly and in the individual, of that Order which, when the time is ripe, will also manifest externally, supplanting like lightning the forms and forces of a world of decadence and corruption.” Permit me to cite two other passages. On page 5: “To get up again, to arise inwardly, to give oneself a form, to create an order and a direction within oneself,” instead of “furthering the demagogy and materialism of the masses,” taking a position — I say just that — ”against those who can think only in terms of programs, organizational and partisan problems.” On pp. 6—7: “In the face of a slovenly world, whose principles are ‘Who’ll make you do that?’ or ‘First the belly, then morality,’ or again ‘These aren’t times that allow one the luxury to demonstrate character,’ or finally ‘I’ve got a family’—one can retort: ‘We cannot be otherwise than we are: this is our life, this is our being.’ Whatever of positive value that can be achieved today or tomorrow will not be thanks to the abilities of agitators or politicos, but through the natural prestige and recognition of men who are equal to it, and thereby become the guarantors for their ideas.” After exhorting them to maintain this level of high ethical tension despite this whole ruined world, I am said to be—in the exact words of the Questura—a “malefic and shady character,” instigator of fanatical youth!

I move on to the second accusation: that I have “glorified ideas proper to Fascism” in articles published in various numbers of the reviews La Sfida, Imperium, and in Orientamenti, as “several consecutive actions of a single criminal design.”

In this regard I must first bring forward a very significant piece of data. This crime was imputed to me only in a second phase: it did not figure in the accusation laid before me by the Public Prosecutor when he interrogated me. Obviously it was an expedient, a “strategic conversion,” so as to ensure a “consolation prize” in case of the likely failure of the first and principal accusation. It is enough to look at the dates of the incriminating writings to be convinced of this: they date from six months to two years (!) before my arrest. Orientamenti bears the date 1950, and appeared about a year before it. Not only that, but it is a compendium of articles already published elsewhere and reorganized at the invitation of a group that is not the same as Imperium, and which only served as a distribution network for the review of that name. How can it be that these “consecutive actions of a single criminal design” went unnoticed for such an improbably long time? There are only two possibilities. Either one must conclude that the political surveillance of the Press has a very singular rhythm and promptness; or else—the only sensible hypothesis—these writings have been selected out of a quantity of my other writings in the same spirit, including more recent ones, that have appeared in well-watched pages such as Meridiano d’Italia, Rivolta Ideale, Lotta Politica—selected not for their intrinsic contents, but for the sole fact of their having appeared in the pages of the Imperium group, thereby establishing my nonexistent implication in the presumed illegal organizational initiatives that are imputed to this group. Such a device must be transparent to any objective judiciary.

There is more. The original report of the Questura deals hardly at all with the presumed crime of “glorification” that I am supposed to have committed with these writings. Arrogating to itself the competence, the authority, and the function of judging in matters of high culture, of philosophy, of racial doctrine, and even going into the merits of what I say on Darwinism, on psychoanalysis, on existentialism, the report of the Political Office of the Questura seeks rather to denigrate my status as a writer, presenting me as a dilettante known only to little groups of esotericists—and it is comical to see how ignorant the compiler of this report is of what “esotericism” means!—who has deluded these young neofascists with his philosophical, magical, morbid theories (it even goes so far as to speak of insania mentis!), and must be responsible for their unconsidered actions.

Thus they stray into a field absolutely foreign to the material of the accusation (of which see Article 7). And although it is extremely antipathetic to have to speak about oneself, I feel obliged to make a short rectification of such a distorted caricature of myself.

If I were nothing but a dilettante and a fanatic, unknown outside the circles in question, may I ask why publishers of the first rank such as Laterza (the publisher of Croce), Bocca, and Hoepli should ever have printed various works of mine, some of them concerning racism? More than one of these works has been reprinted, and several have been translated into various foreign languages. One may also ask how I was ever invited to give courses of lectures at universities in Italy (Milan, Florence) and abroad (Halle, Hamburg), beside having been an invited speaker at foreign societies that are open only to the principal exponents of traditional and aristocratic European thought, such as the Herrenklub of Berlin, Countess Zichy’s Cultural Association of Budapest, and the Prince Rohan’s Kulturbund in Vienna?

That which has been described in terms of unbalanced, shady, and “magical” theories actually consists of systematic studies on metaphysies, on Orientalism, on ascesis, on the science of myths and symbols—studies, once again, that are also appreciated abroad. In this regard I will only mention that this very year, the publisher Luzac of London, Europe’s most distinguished in this field, has published one of my works on Buddhism, The Doctrine of Awakening. The statement of the Questura demands rectification of another point concerning racism. Always trying to place me in a compromising light, it presents me as a nazi-fascist fanatic, who in his lectures abroad has attacked Latinity and denigrated Italianity in favor of the Aryan-Germanic idea, causing alarm right up the Fascist hierarchy, following warnings from consulates.

All this is a misunderstanding derived from incompetence and deficient information.

It must be realized that in modern racial studies, “Aryan” and even “Nordic” do not in fact mean German; the term is synonymous with “Indo-European,” and is correctly applied to a primordial, prehistoric race from which were derived the first creators of the Indian, Persian, Greek, and Roman civilizations, and of which the Germans are only the final adventitious branches. All this is shown in the clearest possible way in my works Rivolta contro it mondo moderno and Sintesi di dottrina della razza. The kind of racism I have defended, far from being an “extremism,” belongs within the efforts I made, also in other fields, to rectify the ideas that were developing in a deviant direction in Fascism, as well as in National Socialism. Thus, I countered the racism that was materialistic and vulgarly anti-Semitic with a spiritual racism, introducing the concept of “race of the spirit” and developing an original doctrine on that basis. Moreover, I opposed the Aryan-Germanic ideal defended by Nazism with the Aryan-Roman ideal; I certainly attacked the confused idea of Latinity, not in favor of the Germanic idea but to exalt the concept of pure Romanity, conceived as a more august and original force than all that which is generically Latin.

That is not all. The attorney of the Questura seems unaware that the lectures he mentions, and whose title was significantly “The Aryan-Roman reawakening of Fascist Italy,” were followed by others in various German cities, whose texts I have collected in Italian, extracted from Rassegna Italiana. Here I displayed what the ancient Classical and Roman idea had to offer for redirecting various ideas in vogue in Germany, and for raising them to a higher, spiritual level. It is possible that some Italian consul abroad, deficient in such studies, sent alarming reports. But as to the preoccupation that my racial theory is supposed to have caused right up the Fascist hierarchy, things stand very differently. After these lectures, Mussolini, on his personal initiative, wanted to speak to me to express his approval of my racial formulations, because he considered them useful for giving an independent, indeed superior, position to Italian thought vis-a-vis the Nazi ideology—on which the then chief of the Race Office, Dr. Luchini, could give precise testimony. And I must say that this recognition, made spontaneously by Mussolini to a non-Fascist—i.e., a non-party member, is one of the most gratifying memories of my life. In any case, I would say that the theory of race is only a subordinate and secondary chapter in the collection of ideas that I have defended, despite what some people believe.

Next, when the report of the Questura claims that for a certain period during Fascism I was “under surveillance” for personal motives obscurely mentioned—and, it adds, for magical activity!—there is not the slightest truth in that. It would be as well to remember, in cases of this sort, what people were obeyed in servile fashion by the Questura, whose officials were all enrolled in the Party, whereas I never was. As the affirmer of an independent way of thinking, as I will readily allow, I had devoted friends in Fascism, and also deadly enemies who tried to undermine me by every means, putting about all manner of rumors and slanders. Among those enemies were Starace and his henchmen, who even tried to use the Questura of the time, but with no results. And today it seems the Questura does not hesitate to exhume these old tales against me: used yesterday to make me appear antifascist, and today, on the contrary, to confirm the accusation of Fascism.

Why is there no reference, instead, to the fact that in 1930 the Political Office of the Questura passed an injunction on me for the suspension of the journal I edited, La Torre? And why was that? For “attacks against the Fascist squadristi.” Naturally, it was not a matter of squadrism per se, but only of some unscrupulous types who used the excuse of Fascism and squadrism for all kinds of license, and who in order to take advantage of me, who was attacking them, being protected by Starace, even used the police.

I do not intend to present myself either as an antifascist or as a victim of Fascism. But all this should be duly recorded in order to reveal the methods that are being used against me.

Now that all that has been clarified, and all tendentious accretions removed, I pass to the question of fact, as to the accusation of having defended “ideas proper to Fascism,” But here I find myself perplexed, because the accusation neither names the articles with which it is concerned, nor—as is common practice—indicates specific passages corresponding to the worst of the crime; nor, more generally speaking, does it indicate what these “ideas proper to Fascism” might be.
[At this point the Public Minister, Dr. Sangiorgi, declared that it was not a question of specific passages in Evola’s works, but rather the general spirit of them. Regarding the categorization of “ideas proper to Fascism, “ he added that in his view they could refer to monocracy, to hierarchism, and to the concept of aristocracy or elitism. After all that had been put, on request, into the court record, Evola continued.]
Very well. As for monocracy, that is nothing but a different name for monarchy, in the original and not necessarily dynastic sense of the term. As for hierarchism, I will say at once that I defend the idea of hierarchy, not that of hierarchism. Once that is clear, I should say that if such are the terms of the accusation, I would be honored to see, seated at the same bench of accusation, such people as Aristotle, Plato, the Dante of De Monarchia, and so on up to Metternich and Bismarck. I reject the accusation of defending ideas proper to Fascism, because the expression “proper to” contained in Article 7 means “specific to”; means ideas that have not simply been present in Fascism, but ideas that can be found only in Fascism, and not elsewhere.

Now, in regard to myself this is absolutely not the case. I have defended, and I still defend, “fascist ideas,” not inasmuch as they are “fascist” but in the measure that they revive ideas superior and anterior to Fascism. As such they belong to the heritage of the hierarchical, aristocratic, and traditional conception of the State, a conception having a universal character and maintained in Europe up to the French Revolution. In fact, the position that I have defended and continue to defend, as an independent man—because I have never been enrolled in any party, not in the PNF [Partito Nazionale Fascista], the PRF [Partito Repubblicano Fascista], or the MSI—should not be called “fascist” but traditional and counterrevolutionary. In the same spirit as a Metternich, a Bismarck, or the great Catholic philosophers of the principle of authority, De Maistre and Donoso Cortes, I reject all that which derives, directly or indirectly, from the French Revolution and which, in my opinion, has as its extreme consequence bolshevism; to which I counterpose the “world of Tradition.” All this results in the clearest possible way from my fundamental work, delivered to the Court, Rivolta contra it mondo moderno, whose two parts are entitled precisely “The World of Tradition” and “Genesis and Face of the Modern World.” In the preface I indicate that this book is the key to the proper comprehension of my specifically political writings; and the English critic McGregor speaks thus of the work, in his review of its second edition: “Rather than the masterpiece of the Italian Spengler, I would call this book the bulwark of the European aristocratic and traditional spirit.” This position of mine is well known, and not in Italy alone. Also in a very recent book by the Swiss historian A. Mohler (Die konservative Revolution, Stuttgart, 1950, pp. 21, 241, 242), I have been honored to be placed beside Pareto, and considered as the principal Italian exponent of the so-called “conservative revolution.”

Thus, in my view there is no cause to speak of a glorification of “ideas proper to Fascism.” My principles are only those that, before the French Revolution, every well-born person considered sane and normal. I leave undetermined for today the dynastic and institutional question. However, all that I write, including the incriminated articles and Orientamenti, could be interpreted equally well as the defense of the pre-constitutional and traditional idea of monarchy and hierarchy: a defense that none of our laws criminalizes, because if Article 1 of the Emergency Laws has its counterpart in Article 2, which prohibits the reconstruction—at least by violent means—of the monarchy, Article 7 has no counterpart in a prohibition of the glorification of a “monarchical” ideology. As to historical Fascism, if I have supported those aspects of it that can be justified within this order of ideas, I have combated the ideas in it that are more or less redolent of the materialistic political climate of recent times; and such criticisms of what is today commonly considered as Fascism are frequent in the very writings that are being proposed to incriminate me. I will limit myself to a few essential points.

1. I am opposed to totalitarianism, counterposing to it the ideal of an organic, differentiated State, and considering “fascist hierarchism” as a deviation. In Orientamenti, pp. 13-14, one reads that totalitarianism represents a wrong direction and the abortion of the need for a virile and organic political unity: “Hierarchy is not hierarchism—the latter an evil that is trying to flourish in a minor mode today—and the organic conception has nothing to do with sclerotic statolatry or a leveling centralization.” I have taken an antitotalitarian position even more extensively and energetically in an article that I submit to the Court entitled “Stato organico e totalitarismo” [The Organic State and Totalitarianism], which appeared in Lotta Politica, the official organ of the MSI. I have defended the same thesis, transposed to the cultural plane, in the incriminated essay in Imperium (no. 2) where, criticizing the ideas of the writer Stending, I recognize with him that the evil from which modern culture is suffering is its fragmentation, due to the paralysis of a central, directive idea; but I oppose the totalitarian solution, in which there is not a spiritual, super-elevated, and transcendent principle, but rather the brutal political will to tyrannically enslave and unify the culture, of which we see the ultimate result in Sovietism.

2. A specifically Fascist conception was that of the so-called “ethical State” of Gentile. I have harsh words for it (Orientamenti, pp. 20-21). Some like to depict Fascism as an “oblique tyranny.” During that “tyranny” I never had to undergo a situation like the present one. As things stand in this regard, the axiom that I take from Tacitus is: “The supreme nobility of the rulers is not to be masters of slaves, but of lords who also love liberty in those who obey them” (p. 14).

4. Concerning the problem of sovereignty, I reject every demagogic, dictatorial solution. The true authority—as I say (p. 15) — cannot be that of “a tribune or chief of the people, holder of a simple, unformed spiritual power devoid of any chrism from above, resting his precarious prestige on the irrational energies of the masses.” In so-called “Bonapartism” I see “one of the dark apparitions of Spengler’s Decline of the West,” and I recall the phrase of Carlyle on “the world of servants who want to be governed by a pseudo-hero” (pp. 12-13).

5. I have repeatedly attacked the idea of “socialization,” which, as you know, was a watchword of the Fascism of the Salo Republic. I have not adhered to its doctrine (the Points of Verona), albeit approving the behavior of those who fought in the North on principles of honor and loyalty. In socialization I see Marxism in disguise, a demagogic tendency. On this, see Orientamenti, pp. 11-12, and more than a third of the incriminated article “Due intransigenze” [Two Intransigences] (Imperium, no. 4). The influence that I wanted to exert on the young men of the Imperium group and other youthful currents was, in fact, in the direction of a counter-position to the materialist and leftist tendencies present in the MSI.

The defense of the corporative idea should not constitute a crime, given that it is found in today’s legal parties—e.g., the PNM [Partito Nazionale Monarchio] and the MSI—and even in some currents of political Catholicism. However, I criticize certain aspects, according to which Fascist corporativism was a simple bureaucratic superstructure that maintained classist dualism. To this I opposed an organic and anti-classist reconstruction of the economy within the unions themselves (pp. 12-13).

Last, a brief summary of the theses contained in the articles in Imperium no. 1 and in La Sfida.

The first of these simply recalls the meaning of the word imperium in its Roman origins: it was synonymous with auctoritas and with power derived from divine forces, from above. I then affirm that the crisis of the modern political world reflects the crisis of such a principle or power, and of the heroic values connected to it.

The article in La Sfida signed with the pseudonym “Arthos” and summarized in Orientamenti pp. 8–9 is based on Metternich’s principle: “One does not negotiate with subversion.” I take the theme from a saying of Engels: that the liberal revolution merely prepares for the communist one and works for the latter. I then say that just as the communists base their subversive radicalism on this conception, one should also start from it when trying to act in the opposite direction: i.e., in the counterrevolutionary direction of a true reconstruction, without making concessions to subversion.

No references to Fascism or to men belonging to it are to be found in either of these writings. That is all.

Having thus demonstrated that in the incriminated writings—just keeping to those and without referring to my other books, as scientific honesty would have demanded—I am against totalitarianism, against demagogic dictatorship, against the “ethical State,” against every form of deconsecrated authority, against a “merely individual and formless power,” against despotism—Tacitus’s words—against socialization, even against a certain corporativism, I request that the matter should rest there and that the crime of “glorification” should be retracted. In fact, the central ideas defended by me, as I have said, could appear in Fascism, but they are not “proper” to Fascism, as article no. 7 claims. What remains belongs essentially in the domain of ethics and the conception of life, and, as for politics, it comes down to an attitude of intransigence that is traditional, and if you wish “reactionary”; in a resolute stance against subversion, individualism, collectivism, demagogy, in whatever form it appears, against the world of politicians and men without character.

What the Court is called upon to decide in my case is this: is the climate in today’s Italy such that declaring that one wants to hold oneself aloof from any partisan or organized activity, and defending such a position as a writer, on the doctrinal plane, warrants being brought before a tribunal as guilty of an “ideological crime”?