It Flourishes — But Englishmen Need A Guide
By CHRISTOPHER DEVLIN
T soun s a little artificial or out-ofdate-1 ke saying "Gay Divorce" or ..
" Mr. Baldwin's Decision " like touching up the Gondoliers to suit modern dities. Unfortunately, one might easily worse than go to the Gondoliers for an
tpression Of modern Italy. Too easily. )r many of the most officially intelligent tins in Eagland, from The Times to the udents Vtanguard, from the Archbishop Canterb4ry to Mr. W. H. Auden seem iw comforted together in a wish-opinion aich you Can put something like this :7 Demur my means human liberty, and vice ver a. Italy isn't a democracy. Therefor there's no human liberty in Italy.
My artic concerns the second premise. it a briel note is necessary on the first.
gic of Democracy LI
If democ acy really means human liberty, en democracy must mean t. The essential equality of classes within the state. .
2. The right relation of the individual to the community.
ESSENTIAL EQUALITY OF CLASSES. No class can really be inferior to another class. But it can be treated as if it were, and so come to feel itself inferior; and that results either in sub-human servility or in a rancorous desire to make others inferior. So that where this inferiorityfeeling is present, democracy is absent.
RIGHT RELATION OF INDIVIDUAL TO CoMMuNrY. If individual willingly surrendeijs certain political liberties for the good f the community, he is a good democral But if he surrenders his freewill and conscience, he is no longer a democrat he is a brute.
Hall n Crowd Behaviour Is demo: acy in this first sense non-exist in liar One is taught to believe so, d then suddenly one hears the labourer ove onel's window carolling Al nostri 9nti as he hammers the stones, and exanging amicable back-chat with the offiLI in the top window of the palazzo to his left, and the clerks on the verandah the bank opposite.
Or you live in the country and look down the crowds walking to a village festa in tich pontifical high mass will be followed
by a 'donkey race and a cycle race, and ' then a "penitential procession " (I) and then a lucky dip, concluding with a concert, cartlinalitial Benediction and a terrific burst of fireworks. You see a fat black tight bright figure, the complete detestable bourgeois, strutting in animated conversation with a lanky dusty labourer, tie-and-collarless in frayed trousers and hob-nailed boots.
A disgusting exhibition of class-betrayal.
But worse happens when they get into the churches. • Down at Bari, for instance, patricians and students and contadini scrambled and elbowed each other to get a closer view of the oriental ceremonies, and buy the. booklets that explained them. In England, this sometimes happens, on Armistice Day or the finish of a Derby, but it is rather indulged in as if it were an
orgy, all right once in a way but not to be encouraged as a habit. in Italy it is the normal rhythm of life--especially in con nection with church festivities. In fact, most English people find Italian crowd-behaviour quite indecent. Perhaps it is, but it is not undemocratic.
Related to New Pattern
One could multiply instances like this a thousand times, and perhaps they seem very superficial. In any case heaps of people have said the same sort of thing much better before.
But the point lies not in these infinitesimal instances themselves but in their relation to the new pattern of Italian living.
So many people seem to conceive nowadays two ltalys—a dream-image which is all picturesque jingle and artist models, and a waking image which is Mussolini's jaw-bone and eight million bayonets; everything good is relegated to the dreamimage and forgotten about; no attempt is made to modify either or to reconcile both.
Dopolavaro Not a " Port-Sunlight"
To me, that workmen should still sing opera anal • behave like free citizens, dea manded at least a negative explanation. I found not only a negative but a positive explanation in a building near-by Which had " Dopolavoro" inscribed on the wall.
Although the corporations make for more common interest between employers and employees than between either among themselves, yet that certainly has not destroyed the solidarity of the working class. For wherever there is a working population there is a voluntary dopolavoro—an afterwork club where men can entertain, educate and look after themselves. There are about 20,000 such clubs in Italy with over three million members. One's ideal of spiritual class-solidarity may be the J.O.C., but no sincere democrat can withold praise from these Italian clubs.
We praise private enterprises which start libraries, summer-resorts, first-aid clinics for the "lower classes," But in Italy all these and many'inuch more ambitious projects are being run by workmen for workmen themselves—the State providing the means not as a humanitarian concession but as their right in social justice as wealth-producers.
Popular Theatre One of the favourite after-work hobbies are amateur dramatic and operatic associations. Not all enjoy the affluence of the railwaymen's club which has a private theatre in Rome to hold 1,500, besides 100 guest-rooms for railwaymen visitors and their families. But universal and more interesting are the great collapsible theatres which perambulate the towns and villages with a technical staff, and in which workmen the summer before last produced for their different districts 183 plays and 83 operas—local compositions, or old favourites of Verdi and Shakespeare, or vast open-air performances like Perosi's Resurrection of Christ before 20,000 spectators in the square of St. Mark in Venice.
Not perhaps the choice of plays that Mr. Rupert Doone would approve for dissemination among the masses. Still the masses come to them, which is a phenomenon that has yet to be observed at the Group Theatre.
Vertical Divisions If this were an account of the dopolavoro, it would be a very stingy one. -But I only brought .them in because it was an after-work club which first made me realise why Fascism hasn't stopped workmen from singing, and in fact has let them sing more often. And it was my second incident, the village feast of Monte Porzio-Catone (Cato was born there but the feast is in honour of St. Antoninus) that made me set a reason for the solidarity df that vast 'section of people which includes engineers, street-cleaners, farm-hands, shopkeepers, and so on.
The vertical divisions of the corporate system apply to the villages too, but in the case of the country places the divisions of greater importance are the passionate attachments that districts or provinces, worlds apart from each other, have for their own very peculiar songs, dances, games, customs and costumes, which rise to their height during • the feast-time of the patron saint, but which are liable to break out at any moment on the least provocation.
This provocation is amply supplied. Everywhere in their infinite variety they are encouraged, endowed and boosted by contests, prizes and exhibitions.
Of course Fascism has nothing to do with the origin or spirit of these. It has done no more than revive or preserve or restore them to their primitive purity. But that is a good deal in these days of standardisation.
It means that the Stale has found a better way of making people happy than just by exterior organisation. It has dug channels for those deep, delicate, complicated springs of natural religion, " pietas," which in ancient days was the perennial life of stabler civiliSations than we have ever known. Fascism has tapped these springs and is content to let them flow. And what is more, infinitely more, to let them flow where they belong. into the ocean of revealed religion; and only in the back-wash to become patriotism, for patriotism (" pietas") is a supernatural virtue derived fronz religion.
Even in theory, Fascism no longer trespasses on religion; while in practice, any zealous priest who works among the people will tell you that never within living memory has there been such a harvest waiting. Up to the point where patriotism and religion meet, Fascism guides the people. But at that point, like Dante's Vir gil, it steps aside. It is up to Catholic Action to do the rest; there is a longish way to go, but it has started with a flying leap.