Marinetti, Futurist and Fascist

David Mitchell inspects Marinetti’s various admirations: the beauty of speed and war, and the destructive gestures of anarchists.

During the nineteenth century the Romantics mounted a tremendous verbal attack on the ugliness and inhumanity of the industrial revolution and its concomitants, philistine commercialism and demagogy. For Ruskin and Morris, as for Cobbett, Belloc, Chesterton, and the guild socialists, the solution was a return to the small-scale collectivism of an idealized Middle Age.

But with Nietzsche, the Romantic protest took a nihilistic turn, calling for the destruction of anything that stood in the way of a creative elite which must soar beyond Good and Evil and approach its task free of moral scruples. Bakunin and Sorel dreamed of an heroic revolt of the masses; syndicalist labour leaders talked of ‘building the new society within the shell of the old’ (which they planned to shatter by Direct Action); and, on a more rarified level Henri Bergson expounded a philosophy of élan vital, stressing the concepts of speed and motion.

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