Italian Fascist Conception
Italian Fascism promoted a variant of Mediterraneanism. In a 1921 speech in Bologna, Benito Mussolini stated that "Fascism was born... out of a profound, perennial need of this our Aryan and Mediterranean race". In this speech Mussolini was referring to Italians as being the Mediterranean branch of the Aryan Race, Aryan in the meaning of people of an Indo-European language and culture. Italian Fascism emphasized that race was bound by spiritual and cultural foundations, and identified a racial hierarchy based on spiritual and cultural factors. While Italian Fascism based its conception of race on spiritual and cultural factors, Mussolini explicitly rejected notions that biologically "pure" races existed though biology was still considered a relevant factor in race. It identified Italians as part of the white race, and claimed that as such Italy had the right to rule over the black race in Africa, while asserting that racial segregation of whites and blacks in its colonies.
Italian Fascism strongly rejected the common Nordicist conception of the Aryan Race that idealized "pure" Aryans as having certain physical traits that were defined as Nordic such as blond hair and blue eyes. The antipathy by Mussolini and other Italian Fascists to Nordicism was over the existence of what they viewed as the Mediterranean inferiority complex that they claimed had been instilled into Mediterraneans by the propagation of such theories by German and Anglo-Saxon Nordicists who viewed Mediterranean peoples as racially degenerate and thus in their view inferior. However traditional Nordicist claims of Mediterraneans being degenerate due to having a darker colour of skin than Nordics had long been rebuked in anthropology through the depigmentation theory that claimed that lighter skinned peoples had been dipigmented from a darker skin, this theory has since become a widely accepted view in anthropology. Nordicism was rebuked by prominent anthropologist Frank H. Haskins in his work The Racial Basis of Civilization: A Critique of Nordic Doctrine (1926) in which he rejected Nordicist claims of Nordic racial purity and superiority. Anthropologist Carleton S. Coon in his work The races of Europe (1939) subscribed to depigmentation theory that claimed that Nordic race's light-coloured skin was the result of depigmentation from their ancestors of the Mediterranean race. Mussolini refused to allow Italy to return again to this inferiority complex, initially rejecting Nordicism. In 1938, with the rise in power of Nazi Germany and Führer Adolf Hitler's emphasis on a Nordicist conception of the Aryan Race, Mussolini was concerned that if Italian Fascism did not recognize Nordic heritage within Italians, that the Mediterranean inferiority complex would return to Italian society. Therefore in summer 1938, the Fascist government officially recognized Italians as having Nordic heritage and being of Nordic-Mediterranean descent, and in June 1938 in a meeting with PNF members, and in June 1938 in a meeting with PNF members, Mussolini identified himself as Nordic and declared that previous policy of focus on Mediterraneanism was to be replaced by a focus on Aryanism.
From the late 1930s through World War II, the Italian Fascists became divided in their stance on Mediterraneanism, with the Fascist regime seeking unity with Nazi Germany, the influence of Italian adherents of Nordicism grew in the PNF which aggravated the Mediterraneanists in the party. Prominent Nordicists such as Julius Evola rejected Mediterraneanism and in particular Evola denounced Sergi's association of Europeans with Africans as "dangerous". Evola rejected biological determinism for race but was a supporter of spiritual Nordicism. Mediterraneanists remained dominant in the education system in Italy though Evola sought to challenge this.
The Manifesto of Racial Scientists (1938) declared that Mediterranean Europeans were distinct from Mediterranean Africans and Mediterranean Asians and rejected claims that European Mediterraneans were related to Semitic or Hamitic peoples.
In 1941 the PNF's Mediterraneanists through the influence of Giacomo Acerbo put forward a comprehensive definition of the Italian race. However these efforts were challenged by Mussolini's endorsement of Nordicism with the appointment of staunch spiritual Nordicist Alberto Luchini as head of Italy's Racial Office in May 1941, as well as with Mussolini becoming a convert to Evola's spiritual Nordicism in late 1941. Acerbo and the Mediterraneanists in his High Council on Demography and Race sought to bring the regime back to supporting Mediterraneanism by thoroughly denouncing the pro-Nordicist Manifesto of the Racial Scientists. The Council recognized Aryans as being a linguistic-based group, and condemned the Manifesto for denying the influence of pre-Aryan civilization on modern Italy, saying that the Manifesto "constitutes an unjustifiable and undemonstrable negation of the anthropological, ethnological, and archaeological discoveries that have occurred and are occurring in our country". Furthermore the Council denounced the Manifesto for "implicitly" crediting Germanic invaders of Italy in the guise of the Lombards for having a "a formative influence on the Italian race in a disproportional degree to the number of invaders and to their biological predominance". The Council claimed that the obvious superiority of the ancient Greeks and Romans in comparison with the ancient Germanic tribes made it inconceivable that Italian culture owed a debt to ancient Aryan Germans. The Council denounced the Manifesto's Nordicist attitude towards Mediterraneans that it claimed was "considering them as slaves" and was "a repudiation of the entire Italian civilization".
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