One hundred years ago, on January 18, 1921, Gabriele d’Annunzio’s adventure in Fiume ended. The article by Walter Galbusera, Anna Kuliscioff Foundation
On January 18, one hundred years ago, Gabriele d’Annunzio left Fiume after the “Bloody Christmas” which marked the end of the Carnaro Regency. The Rijeka story was an important episode in the history of the “short century” which accelerated the Italian political crisis of the first post-war period and took on a “revolutionary” character, advocating a new international political and social order. For many it was the occasion of the global protest against the system which, starting from patriotic-nationalist motivations, questioned the established world order, starting with the League of Nations, inherited from the Versailles peace, defined as the “world trust of rich states “.
Rijeka coexisted with heterogeneous concepts and aspirations for renewal in an attempt to give an answer to the anxieties and malaise of a generation that had waged war and felt that it was different from the previous one in the way of conceiving existence, human and social relationships. , individual freedom and the organization of power. The most original expressions of “Fiumanism” anticipated moods, ideas, initiatives that would characterize the experience of the youth movements of the sixties under the banner of slogans such as “be realistic and ask for the impossible” or “the ‘imagination in power ”. Women’s emancipation, sexual freedom, the vindication of the marriage of priests, the acceptance of homosexuality, the spread of drugs became dynamic components of the “city of life”.
The idea is cultivated of making Fiume the crucible of a global revolution involving all the peoples who are victims of the imperialist states and minorities, such as blacks and the Chinese of America. With the “Carta del Carnaro”, drawn up by Alceste De Ambris and “corrected” by the poet with literary language, the “visionary” project of building a new economic structure on institutional foundations, completely alternative to state socialism, clearly emerged. to make the principles of liberte-egalite-fraternities of the French Revolution truly payable. The theoretical foundations were laid to give life to an inter-class system based on the main rights of individual freedom and on the social function of property. The “Republic of Trade Unions”,
The fact that very different orientations coexisted in Rijeka explains why after the “Bloody Christmas” the fortunes of the legionaries were divided. The attempt to keep them united due to an unlikely return of the poet on the political scene in an anti-Mussolini function soon ended mainly because d’Annunzio was not interested in it and chose the path of compromise with the new regime. Many former legionaries took part in the march on Rome on 28 October 1922, including General Ceccherini or the lawyer Giovanni Giuriati and the daring young Ettore Muti who both climbed the highest ranks of the regime. Other legionaries chose to fight fascism. Thus Alceste De Ambris who died in conditions of extreme poverty in France despite Mussolini’s insistence that he agree to run the fascist workers’ corporations. Like him, Captain Mario Magri, who participated in the constitution of the “Arditi del popolo”, underwent seventeen years of confinement and died shot by the Nazis in the Fosse Ardeatine. Riccardo Gigante, mayor of Rijeka in 1919 and then fascist podesta of the city, was one of the numerous victims of the sinkholes in May 1945.
Without Gabriele d’Annunzio, even with his cumbersome role, it would have been impossible to carry out the Rijeka enterprise but the limits and contradictions of the “city of life” are reflected in the complex figure of the poet. For some d’Annunzio was the interpreter of the contradictory and visionary aspirations of the generation of Europeans emerging from the Great War and Fiume was the revolutionary essence that he identified in the celebration of himself.
For others d’Annunzio was the prophet towards whom adventurers, soldiers and demobilized officers with no prospects, amateurs of the revolution and the counter-revolution or the protagonist of a wonderful theatrical adventure where the hero, the man of letters and the comedian enter the scene in turn, and often all together. Or, again, the author of an original response to the crisis of values ​​of the first post-war period, through the expression of a confused but sincere will to build a society in which the working man would have achieved total individual freedom in harmony with the community.
The events in Fiume cannot be traced back to a simple national-conservative phenomenon, incubator of fascism, even if it is true that they deeply affected the discipline of the army, accelerating the disintegration of Italian institutions. In reality Mussolini, with no intention of accepting d’Annunzio’s leadership in unlikely revolutionary projects on Italian territory, was never a real protagonist of Fiume. Indeed, despite appearing from the columns of the People of Italy as a staunch defender, the future “leader” made him the subject of a “political exchange” with Giolitti, abandoning the Legionaries to their fate. This did not prevent him from taking possession of the mass political liturgy of “Fiumanism” which recovered the Romanite as a myth and the celebration of heroism in the patriotic war.
Greetings, mottos and songs of the legionaries such as “Eia eia, alala!”, “A noi!”, “I do not care!”, “I dare and I do not plot”, “Who is not with me and against me”, “Youth ”(The song of the Arditi on the Piave), or the black shirt and fez of the arditi, the cult of the fallen, anniversaries, oaths, marches, became the authentic symbols of fascist propaganda in the collective imagination. The same speeches from the Government Palace in which the poet, first using this technique of suggestion, conversed with the enthusiastic crowd through rhetorical phrases and questions, will be imitated by Benito Mussolini who will make the politics-spectacle of the poet his own. All this has contributed to making the mistake of judging “Fiumanism” a simple episode of Fascism, thus crediting the exploitation that the regime made of it.
Recalling Fiume, alongside that of the “Commander”, the figure of Alceste De Ambris, a libertarian revolutionary, founder in 1912 with Filippo Corridoni of the Italian Union of Trade Unions, deputy to parliament in 1913, interventionist and volunteer fighter who, even without joining he contributed to the Sansepolcrista program of 1919 with him. It was with him that the Rijeka government marked a turning point, both on the political ground (the Charter of Carnaro and the Republic of Fiume, prudently resized by d’Annunzio to “Regency”) , who in an attempt to extend the insurrectionary movement in Italian territory to proclaim the Republic. But the concrete utopian De Ambris also shows flexibility and realism, what d’Annunzio lacks to avoid the “Bloody Christmas”, when he advises the poet to accept a compromise.
Few events, like that of Fiume, marked an entire generation so deeply and explored political and cultural dimensions that are still current today. Reflecting today, reflecting on these events, calls for a commitment, even more necessary in the current international context, to build Europe as an instrument of cohesion, growth and defense of freedoms, essential conditions for guaranteeing a future of prosperity and peace. to the new generations.

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