Last October we published an essay by Stefano Vaj, a leader of the Italian Transhumanist Association, responding to charges that he had ties to the Italian far right, and was himself a fascist. The seven members of the rival Italian Transhumanist Network have written the following indictment to document their charges.
On the Neofascist Infiltration of Italian Transhumanism
Italy is the only country in the world with two transhumanist associations, the Italian Transhumanist Association (AIT), and the Italian Transhumanist Network (NTI). Both are Humanity+ affiliated, and both are politically transversal. AIT, however, harbours an internal faction – the so-called ‘overhumanists’, from now on ‘sovrumanists’ (see below for a terminological clarification) – that is seen by some as far too close to neofascism for comfort. This is the reason for the split in Italian transhumanism, and this is the subject of this article.
The term ‘overhumanism’
‘Overhumanism’ is the name given to Stefano Vaj’s brand of transhumanism in the first English-language article on the topic of Italian neofascist transhumanism (The Political Roots of Overhumanism), but it could lead to a misunderstanding. While in English the term ‘overhuman’ is commonly associated with Nietzschean concepts, we’d like to clarify that the fascism-informed ideology espoused by the ‘overhumanists’ is not simply characterized by a general appreciation of Nietzschean thought, but specifically by Vaj’s minoritarian interpretation of Nietzschean thought. In order to avoid such confusion, we’d like to introduce a neologism to describe the ideology of the Italian neofascist transhumanists: ‘sovrumanism’. This might sound strange, but surely so did ‘Fascism’ when it first entered the English language.
In the Italian Nietzschean literature the term of choice to describe Nietzsche’s
thought is superomismo (superhumanism), while sovrumanismo (sovrumanism, in our translation) is exclusively found in the writings of neofascist author Giorgio Locchi – a clear influence on Italian sovrumanism and described by Vaj as “my personal guru and maitre à penser” in his article For a Total Ethnical Self-Defence –, and not coincidentally used by Vaj to define his ideology.
In his Political Expression and Repression of the Sovrumanist Principle (formerly known as Essenza del Fascismo), Locchi explains that “one cannot understand fascism without realising, or refusing to admit, that the so-called ‘fascist phenomenon’ is nothing but the first political manifestation of a larger spiritual and cultural phenomenon, which we can call ‘sovrumanism’ [sovrumanismo]”, that “the ‘sovrumanist principle’ [principio sovrumanista], in relation to the world surrounding it, becomes the absolute rejection of an opposite ‘egalitarian principle’ which gives shape to that world. If the fascist movements recognised the ‘enemy’, spiritual even before political, in the democratic ideologies – liberalism, parliamentarianism, socialism, communism, anarcho-communism – it is because within the historic perspective instituted by the sovrumanist principle, those ideologies represent as many manifestations […] of the opposite egalitarian principle, all aiming towards the same goal, with different levels of understanding, and all causes of the spiritual and material decadence of Europe, of the progressive weakening of European man, of the disintegration of Western societies”, that “with the purpose of the ‘mythical’ stance of a fascist movement, the analysis it makes of the first cause and origin of the European nations decadence and break-up process is essential. Nietzsche identified them with Christianity, as a transmission agent of the ‘judaic principle’, which he identified with the egalitarian principle”, and finally that “the issue of ‘totalitarianism’ is linked to a fundamental ‘political philosophy’ problem. Every society (or more exactly community), if it wants to be ‘sound’, has to be totalitarian.” (it is worth noting that Vaj fully endorses this odd reconstruction and political perspective in his foreword to Locchi’s article).
According to Roger Griffin, Locchi in his book Essenza del Fascismo (1981) “not only argued for the centrality to generic fascism of the myth of national or cultural palingenesis, but stressed the importance of Indo-Europeanism, Nietzsche, myth, anthropology, the human sciences, and writers of the Conservative Revolution such as Spengler to the future vitality of neo-fascism”, setting out “his own strategy to keep ideological fascism alive in the hostile climate of the post-war era” (see Griffin’s Plus ça change! The Fascist Pedigree of the Nouvelle Droite).
Ambiguity as strategy
When Charlie Stross wrote his Chrome Plated Jackboots, after stumbling upon The Political Roots of Overhumanism, he probably didn’t intend to attract such a level of international attention to the unusual going-ons in Italian transhumanism, but that’s exactly what happened. As a consequence, Stefano Vaj, AIT National Secretary, appeared on the IEET blog in an article introduced by James Hughes (On the Alleged Rightist Influence in Italian Transhumanism) making the case that he has no personal connections with Fascism and/or the far right. In so doing, he employs an unusual interpretation of the terms far-right, fascism and neofascism, so we’d like to clarify that when we use these terms we refer to their actual and commonly understood meaning (see Umberto Eco’s Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt, “absolutely vital to understanding the Fascist mind-set”, as Charlie Stross correctly pointed out), and not to capitalism as such. We do not refer to right or center-right European leaders, and even less to New Labour, unlike what Vaj seems to do in his IEET article.
Vaj is very skillful in calibrating his message to his many different audiences, and if you read his article you will come away with the distinct impression that he must be ‘one of us’. Exactly the same impression that he might make on the ‘ethnoidentitarian’ audiences he often entertains, whose politics are close to the more xenophobic wing of Italian party the Northern League, the most controversial party in Berlusconi’s coalition, in whose newspaper Vaj occasionally writes and with whom Vaj is quite close and often collaborates (please note that Vaj is listed on this last page as a ‘consultant’ for the Northern League under his real name, a name that we will not to mention in this article, as we understand his choice to use a pseudonym in order to safeguard his professional activity, considering his controversial connections). Such audiences might be more impressed by ideas taken from Vaj’s For a Total Ethnical Self-defence. Reflections on La colonisation de l’Europe, by Guillaume Faye (a French far right journalist and writer, sentenced in 2000 by a French court for incitement to racial hatred, and ‘guest of honor’ in the last issue of Divenire, an AIT publication), than with the attacks on Berlusconi and the Vatican he launched from this website. And that same impression he might make on the openly neofascist members of internet forum Vivamafarka (‘Radical Right and Surroundings’) where Vaj is a moderator and ‘hero member’.
But who’s right?
A breathtaking lack of judgement
Before we examine more in depth the atypical brand of neofascism that lies beneath sovrumanism, let’s accept for a moment Vaj’s claim that he has nothing to do with the extreme right. If that’s the case, Vaj’s choice of publisher for his Biopolitica (2004) shows an appalling lack of judgment, as Società Editrice Barbarossa specializes exactly in far-right/neofascist material.
According to Antisemitism and Xenophobia Today, “About forty antisemitic books (in addition to those containing Holocaust-denial theories) remain in print, published mainly by small publishing houses usually linked to the far right. These include: Edizione il Cinabro of Catania; Edizioni dell’uomo libero of Milan; the Società Editrice Barbarossa of Milan…”. The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism describes Società Editrice Barbarossa as “extreme right publishers”.
Even a cursory look at their small catalogue will make this perfectly clear, but if you are still not convinced about the political stance of this niche publishing house, please make sure you don’t miss the truly eye-popping CD section.
And the publisher of Vaj’s latest book is not much of an improvement: Dove va la biopolitica? (2008) is published by Edizioni Settimo Sigillo, a small publisher specializing in “Fascism, Second World War and the Italian Social Republic, Nazism, Fascisms and other national movements, Paganism and Roman Traditional Religion”. The book is edited by Adriano Scianca, another sovrumanist and close Vaj follower, who is also in charge of “cultural activities” for Italian neofascist organization Casapound, and the author of The Identitary Struggle (La Battaglia Identitaria), in which he calls for “articulating a fully national revolutionary, archeofuturist thought, a direct descendent of fascist sovrumanism.” Scianca is also a prominent AIT member and a regular presence in the AIT journal Divenire.
Moreover, a substantial number of Vaj’s articles were originally published on, or have been republished by, L’Uomo Libero (Free Man), described as an “extreme right-wing periodical” in Antisemitism Worldwide, a
report produced by ‘The Stephen Roth Institute for The Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism’, under the patronage of the Anti-Defamation League and the World Jewish Congress. And according to the already mentioned Antisemitism and Xenophobia Today “L’Uomo Libero [...] advocates the struggle against mondialismo and a multiracial society; it is antisemitic and denies the Holocaust. In 1997 two issues supported nationalism and opposed immigration to Italy from developing countries, and referred to the existence of an ‘international Jewish power’ controlling and manipulating the Italian media. One of these issues focused on Holocaust denial and included an international bibliography of 1,200 publications on the topic”.
Even if we were to accept Vaj’s claim that he has nothing to do with the extreme right, his association with these publishers and websites would show such a persistent lack of judgment that, in our view, his position at the head of an H+ affiliated association would be simply unacceptable. But there’s more.
Vaj, in his IEET contribution, quotes a couple of articles published by the Italian newspaper Rinascita, The National Left Daily (one of which is available in the newspaper archives, and the other one at LaDestra.info, a far-right website), which supposedly exposes the “relationships with neo- or post-fascist sectors of Mr. Berlusconi’s coalition” of some of his critics at NTI. This is a breathtaking attempt at misrepresentation: it is Rinascita that happens to be a neofascist newspaper, despite the intentionally misleading name (more on that in a moment). And the author of the articles is not an impartial third party, but one Mafalda Grandi, a well-known sovrumanist and Vaj follower, and the name given as the registrant for the domain where Vaj’s Biopolitica is published online, as shown by the Whois of the site.
We should be grateful to Vaj, however, for mentioning Rinascita, as both the paper and its ambiguous politics are central to the understanding of the highly atypical brand of neofascism we are confronted with here.
But first, a clarification. James Hughes, in his introduction, mentions that “Americans have now had a year or two exposure to hysterical charges from right-wingers that every putatively progressive policy and politician from FDR to Obama was in fact ‘fascist.’” That might very well be the case, but that’s not what we are driving at. We are not trying to prove any larger points or to make any sweeping generalizations. We are simply stating the well documented fact that there is an Italian neofascist fringe that borrows heavily from the far-left, and that Vaj and the other sovrumanists have a close and continuing relationship with it.
Such a meme-complex, mixing far-left and far-right ideas, is obviously unusual, and we have always been very careful to specify that we are talking about an atypical brand of neofascism. Whether this borrowing from the left is genuine or simply part of an infiltration strategy is open to debate, but it’s not without historical precedent.
Back to Rinascita. To anybody familiar with Italian politics, the name Rinascita ( Rebirth) can only bring to mind the magazine of the Italian Communist Party (PCI). The magazine stopped publication in 1991, the same year PCI changed its name to Democratic Party of the Left and moved further toward social democracy. That move to the center caused the appearance of some groups to its left, one of which is the Party of Italian Communists, which happens to publish a magazine also called Rinascita ( of the Left). Not surprisingly, the journalists of this Rinascita are less than pleased by the presence on newsagents’ stands of a neofascist daily by the same name, and last year they published an investigative reportage centered on Rinascita (the neofascist one) and the surrounding microverse of publications and organizations: “Black Daily. An investigation on Rinascita, the neofascist daily that pretends to be left-wing”(Nero Quotidiano. Indagine su "Rinascita", il quotidiano neofascista che si finge di sinistra), in Rinascita della Sinistra November 27th, 2008.
Alain de Benoist
The reportage is an in-depth study of this unusual branch of Italian neofascism. Here are a few significant passages:
[ Rinascita] is a neofascist newspaper that hides behind leftists’ symbols and words. Their project of political chameleonism goes as far back as 1968 […] it belongs to a far-right network that tries to pass itself as leftwing. [...] Rinascita, says director Gaudenzi, ‘has never described itself as far-right’. Nevertheless, its contributors, the content of its articles, and the external links are all in the neofascist area. [Rinascita] continues the old habit of winking to the left, for example in criticizing American imperialism.”
According to the reporters
“the exponents of this area declare themselves to be against financial globalism, but also against class struggle and in favour of hierarchies. [...] For them the main emergency is that of a national rebirth, i.e. ethnic defense and the defense of Euro-Italian identity and tradition. Not only do they refer to the differentialist theories of Alain de Benoist but are close to the more extreme positions within the Northern League. From the hate for the US derives an arabophile stance, in an anti-Jewish role. As an alternative to American world dominance they propose an ‘eurasian’ geopolitical power [...] Whoever opposes America is seen as a reference point: in the past it was Milosevic’s Serbia and Saddam’s Iraq, today it’s Ahmadinejad’s Iran, but also ‘red’ strongholds such as Cuba and North Korea. [...] But this political transversality doesn’t stop this area from remaining racist, according to the tradition of defending Italian ‘blood’ from external contaminations (‘globalism’ as a ‘conspiracy to destroy races’ is the bête noir of this specific type of Italian neofascists). [...] The born-again Nazis do not choose a ‘Christian’ Europe, but look with sympathy to neopaganism and Islam.
The article mentions a ‘black web’ of neofascist websites and publications that gravitate around Rinascita. As it turns out, every one of AIT’s sovrumanist authors, all regular contributors to AIT’s publication Divenire, are to be found in this ‘black web’. These include Italia Sociale. The Periodical of National Socialism (where Francesco Boco, another sovrumanist author and Vaj’s follower, has declared his admiration for the Waffen SS – which he described as “a model for the future, a European army of political soldiers”– and where he enthusiastically reviewed Vaj’s Biopolitica), and the already mentioned magazine L’Uomo Libero. Just as Scianca, Boco is gaining a recognized role, in Italy, as a ‘transhumanist’ intellectual and ideologue, thanks to his articles in Divenire, where he has appeared in all of the three issues so far published.
The Rinascita (of the Left) journalists then proceed to illustrate how the infiltration tactics employed by today’s “left-wing” neofascists originate in the 1960s, when their predecessors (christened ‘nazi-maoists’ by the media of the day) attempted, unsuccessfully, to infiltrate the students’ movement, and how their ideological ‘borrowing’ is little more than ideological camouflage employed in an attempt to infiltrate protest movements dominated by the left.
If you have read The Political Roots of Overhumanism, much of this will be familiar, but it is worth noting how the journalists of Rinascita (of the Left) seem to have independently reached the same conclusions regarding this unusual and little-known neofascist fringe as the politically transversal Estropico.org, where The Political Roots of Overhumanism is published.
An unfortunate juxtaposition of transhumanism and neofascism
At this point we would like to clarify that we do not necessarily ask for the expulsion from AIT neither of Vaj nor of the other sovrumanists, as we’re staunch supporters of freedom of speech and expression.
Our main concern is with the exposure provided by AIT to sovrumanists, exposure which is leading to a growing confusion between transhumanism and sovrumanism. This unfortunate juxtaposition of transhumanism and neofascism has already begun. In 2008, an Italian intellectual heavy-weight, science historian Paolo Rossi, published a short book titled Speranze (Hopes), in which he criticizes both those that for decades have been announcing an ever near end of the world, and those whose unbound hopes makes them foresee a future heaven on Earth. Among the latter, the author includes the transhumanists, to whom he devotes ten or so pages, in which he surveys the writings of international authors (mostly Nick Bostrom), and then those of Italian transhumanists. Vaj’s book (Biopolitica) is dismissed by Rossi with two words, “considered neo-nazist”, and the author’s attention moves on to Scianca’s writings. His correct impression is that Scianca pines for a ‘community of destiny’ (Schicksalsgemeinschaft) of Hitlerian memory. Not only does Rossi dedicate more space to Scianca than to Bostrom, in his quick survey, but he establishes an association between fascism and transhumanism which will haunt us for years to come – all thanks to the hyperactive sovrumanists and to AIT’s decision to give them exposure.
Once Riccardo Campa, founder and president of AIT, decided to offer the position of national secretary to Stefano Vaj, now over two years ago, we came to the conclusion that the only path left to us, in an attempt to prevent such confusion, was to set up an alternative Italian transhumanist organization. You could describe the birth of the Italian Transhumanist Network as a ‘not-in-my-name’ moment. In the meantime, the AIT sovrumanists have been actively proselytizing within their specific political milieu and, perhaps due to the subsequent arrival of a growing number of sovrumanist foot soldiers, AIT seems now to be flirting with a post-modern form of posthumanism increasingly unmoored from transhumanism’s Enlightenment roots. We hope to be wrong on this, but the antagonistic and militaristic language and style employed on the website of AIT’s latest initiative, the European Transhumanist Front, doesn’t reassure us.
In his introduction to Vaj’s IEET article, James Hughes describes Vaj’s Biopolitica as “reassuringly bioliberal”, but in further discussion elsewhere he clarified that he hasn’t actually read it and that his opinion was based on reassurances from people who have – we can only assume that means some non-sovrumanist members of AIT – and that his comments do not represent an endorsement. Despite this useful and honest clarification, and while we fully understand Hughes’ desire to protect transhumanism’s reputation, his original comments will be certainly exploited and presented as a ‘seal of approval’, therefore unwittingly facilitating the sovrumanists’ infiltration project.
Biopolitica is a masterpiece of plausible deniability, which is why we will not present a selection of quotes from it. Instead, we encourage you to read it (in an automated translation, if necessary) rather than accepting somebody else’s opinion of it – ours included. This will preempt Vaj’s usual tactic of sidestepping the issue by accusing us of quoting him out of context, and will put the responsibility of endorsing his book squarely on the shoulders of whoever decides to do so. Furthermore, Stefano Vaj is only the tip of the sovrumanist iceberg and only a systematic interpretation of this emerging movement, as we hope to have presented here, can explain its background, aims, and the kind of posthuman future it aspires to.
We are convinced that if you do read Biopolitica, you’ll understand how it happened that such a ‘bioliberal’ book found itself included in a list of recommended readings on the neo-nazist forum Stormfront.org (‘White Pride World Wide’) titled “Essential books for a sound racial education” (“Libri essenziali per una sana educazione razziale”), shoulder to shoulder with well-known racist authors like Gobineau, Guenther, Duke, Klassen, Kemp, and others. Or on the reading list of Italian neofascist party Tricolor Flame Social Movement.