This is part of the introductory essay to the American edition of Julius Evola’s Men amid the Ruins. As the essay is very lengthy (over forty thousand words) I’ll be posting it part by part instead of cramming too much information into too small a space. Credit goes to where it is due; notably to the author, Dr H.T. Hansen, and of course to everyone at Inner Traditions.
Part VI: Evola’s Relations to Fascism in the Years 1935-1945
We have already become acquainted with Evola’s strongly critical yet hopeful attitude toward Fascism. In spite of this, and partly due to his very refusal to compromise, he had friends and protectors in the ranks of ardent Fascists who wanted to help build a better world and who, like Evola, saw their ideals vanishing before their eyes. Thus he enjoyed support, and was always able to publicize, make contacts, and travel. There was only one thing he was never able to do, interestingly enough: to reach the Russian front as a fighter. Evola had long dedicated himself to this venture, as he wanted to do his part in beating back Communism. But his application was delayed again and again, chiefly because as an officer who was not a member of the Fascist party he was regarded as undependable. Even when he declared his willingness to seek party membership to reach his goal, he received a negative reply to his request. He simply had too many enemies in the bureaucracy.
Official Fascism did not think highly of him. In spite of this, he was able to partake in one initiative, if only as a supplier of ideas. This was the Scuola Mistica del Fascismo (The Mystical School of Fascism), which had been founded in 1930 under the auspices of Arnaldo Mussolini. In this school Evola saw the realization of one of his favourite plans, which would later surface again and again (for example, in his evaluation of the SS or in Men among the Ruins). Its purpose was to form a core with a strongly spiritual worldview, or, as Evola would have rather called it, an Order that would take on the spiritual leadership of Fascism. It was a matter of the much desired “new Fascist type of man,” who would correspond to the knightly and ascetic goal of sacrifice for a higher ideal. But it soon became clear that the day-to-day problems of the regime and finally the course of the war would leave no room for “Fascist mysticism.”
What, then, were Evola’s relations with Mussolini (the head of the government), and how can some authors for example, Werner Gerson (a.k.a. Pierre Mariel) and, even worse, Elisabeth Antebi, describe Evola as Mussolini’s “eminence grise”?
Already in 1935 Mussolini had noticed Evola’s essay “Razza e Cultura” (Race and Culture) in the magazine Rassegna Italiana, which he was in agreement with, whereupon he had let the editors know that he supported such theses. It is unknown whether Mussolini knew of Evola before this, although it is very possible that he had studied Imperialismo pagano, just as he had read Reghini’s political essays. However, the first personal meeting between Evola and Mussolini came about only in 1942, when the latter arranged a meeting after reading Evola’s Sintesi di dottrina della Razza (Synthesis of a Doctrine of Race; Evola’s racial ideas will be explored in a later chapter). Mussolini praised the book warmly (his personal copy has been preserved, complete with his notes in the margins) really more so than the work deserved, as Evola himself writes (Cammino, p. 155). Mussolini even said it was exactly these ideas that he wanted to comprise the official Italian doctrine on race. In the same breath he proposed that Evola should call these teachings a “Fascist” (as opposed to “National Socialist”) doctrine, as was then done in the title of the German edition, Grundrisse der faschistischen Rassenlehre (Berlin, 1942). With this, Mussolini had reached his aim: a racial doctrine of his own, different from Germany’s. II Duce also advised all the important papers and magazines to publish positive reviews of the work.
The next known meeting between Evola and Mussolini followed in September 1943, immediately after Mussolini’s liberation by Skorzeny, at Hitler’s headquarters in Rastenburg, near the East Prussian border. It came about in the following manner: Evola had excellent relations with Germany (more about this in the next section) and was, if only through his mastery of the German language, an ideal mediator between that country and Italy. Even though both countries were still allied militarily, Mussolini had already been deposed by the Badoglio government, and Germany feared that despite promises to the contrary, Italy would abandon the military front. Because Evola was well known, if not as a Fascist, at least as a friend of the Germans in Italy, he was invited to seek safety in Germany, which he declined. However, at the end of August 1943 he went to Berlin after all, to at least lead some discussions about the situation in Italy.
When he was ready to travel back, the Office of Foreign Affairs told him that his friend Giovanni Preziosi, who had become a minister, was staying incognito in Bad Reichenhall near Munich and wished to see him. Evola immediately went there. At the moment of departure, he and Preziosi received the news of the separate ceasefire that Badoglio had negotiated with the Allies, which, of course, had to be interpreted as treason by the Germans. Preziosi, and with him Evola, who acted as his interpreter, was asked to come to Rastenburg, where Hitler had his headquarters at that point, to discuss the new situation. Indeed, they were immediately received by Ribbentrop, who expressed Hitler’s wish that the forces loyal to Mussolini form a counter-government as soon as possible. Naturally, this was barely possible since the fate of Mussolini, now imprisoned at Gran Sasso, was unknown. Then the news of Mussolini’s liberation by Skorzeny arrived, and soon after Mussolini himself arrived in Rastenburg. According to Evola’s descriptions, in the discussions that followed Mussolini revealed himself to be full of illusions, as he did not know (or did not want to know) what had transpired in Italy. And so the Salo Republic, with the more official title Repubblica Sociale Italiana (RSI), was proclaimed under German protectorate.
Evola supported this undertaking even though (or maybe because) it was obvious that one was fighting a losing battle at this point there could be no doubt about the outcome of the war. This is all the more astounding since Evola, a monarchist, aristocrat, and “reactionary,” was participating in a form of government that according to its name alone was “socialist” and “republican” – both tendencies that Evola had always rejected. This republic, for example, lacked the monarchical superstructure that Mussolini had upheld throughout the whole Fascist period until June 25, 1943. The socialist tendencies of early Fascism also played a larger role, probably as a reaction to the fact that it was King Vittorio Emmanuele who had had Mussolini arrested. But Evola did not want to desert something for which he had held such great hopes. His “legionnaire’s spirit,” the resolve to fight to the bitter end, also left him no choice, although there were great discussions with Mussolini about the monarchy that was so dear to him, and about Vittorio Emmanuele. As he writes in his autobiography:
I did not want to follow the ‘Salo Fascism’ in the ideological arena at all, but had to show my respect for the martial side that was bound to the legionary spirit: the decision of hundreds of thousands of Italians to stay loyal to their ally and to continue the war as the king and Badoglio had falsely promised right after July 25 – although these hundreds of thousands knew they were manning a lost position, so that at least their honour would be upheld. This was unique in the post-Roman history of Italy.
Because the Salo Republic did not meet his expectations, after his return to Rome Evola started to prepare the nucleus of a spiritually based rightist movement for the post-war period, which later might possibly develop into a party. This group, in which an old friend of Evola’s, the constitutionalist Carlo Costamagna, also participated, bore the name Movimento per la Rinascita d’Italia (Movement for the Rebirth of Italy). But soon the Allies had taken Rome and, as Evola himself puts it, “men from their secret service were so kind as to promptly pay me a visit.” While his mother kept the men at bay, Evola was able to get away, and to reach Vienna by way of Verona (the source of this report is J. Evola, Diario 1943-1944, Centro Studi Evoliani, Genoa, 1975). Evola’s relations with Mussolini had hereby ended, even though another essay of his was circulated widely in magazine form at Mussolini’s request: “Considerazioni sui fatti d’Italia” (Thoughts About the Events in Italy; Politica Nuova, September 28, 1943).
According to rumour, Mussolini was afraid of Evola’s magical powers and formed the well-known gesture against the Evil Eye whenever he was mentioned. It seems that Evola even lost journalistic assignments because of this. It is also certain that Mussolini was superstitious, and that Evola had the reputation of bringing bad luck in the circles then current. This reputation remained intact even in the post-war era. It is supposedly the real reason that Evola could not publish in the very successful magazine Il Borghese in the 1960s. However, in 1990 Renzo de Felice published in Bologna the Taccuini mussoliniani (Mussolinian Diaries) by Yvon de Begnac. De Begnac had had very close contact with Mussolini and had kept continuous notes about this. Mussolini had mentioned Evola fairly frequently, and always in a positive sense. So at least at that time their relationship does not seem to have been characterized by fear. Independently of Evola’s sharp criticism of Fascism, as we have already discussed, the few direct contacts (not more than three or four times) that Evola had with Il Duce hardly make up the important role that an “eminence grise” plays.
An interesting story should be mentioned in this context, although it unfortunately cannot be proved. In the Zeitschrift fur Ganzheitsforschung (Journal for Holistic Research, vol. 34, no. I, Vienna, 1990), Dr. Theodor Veiter reports that Evola, through his work as co-editor at the official magazine Affari Esteri (Foreign Affairs), came to have strong differences of opinion with Mussolini and had to go underground forthwith. At the beginning of the war he had supposedly moved to Vienna, where he lived, as he told Dr. Veiter personally, as a “U-boat” out of fear of Mussolini’s henchmen, who had orders even to “murder” him. Back then, he also had close contact with Professor Walter Heinrich, who beside his academic activities also had esoteric interests (see Walter Heinrich, Der Sonnenweg [The Solar Path], Ansata, Interlaken, 1985) and further with Rafael Spann, a son of Othmar Spann. They supposedly founded a sort of think tank called the Kronidenbund, so called in reference to chronos (the Greek word for “time”) and the god of the same name (Saturnus in Latin) who ruled the Golden Age before Zeus ushered in decadence. At that time, Dr. Veiter had known Evola in person. He also knew Mussolini personally.
Domenico Rudatis has also told us that in Vienna Evola lived under a false name and with a forged passport, as there were efforts to keep him under surveillance. However, he could not ascertain when this had occurred, whether at the beginning of the 1940s or only following the aforementioned escape, after the Allies had captured Rome. Evola’s own version of this episode of the forged passport (Cammino, p. 163) definitely seems to point to the time after the flight from Rome, even though his account mentions neither an exact time frame nor a motive. Maybe the reason for this is the fact that Evola had at that time been commissioned by certain circles within the SS to write the Storia segreta delle societa segrete (Secret History of Secret Societies). As part of this effort, he had access to the archives of the SS, which had confiscated the documents of various esoteric societies, especially many Masonic lodges. Evola never desired to make more details of this known, but perhaps a false identity was an advantage in this work.