Ultras Contra Modernity
By Harold Byron
Republished with permission from the author. The original can be found here.
Buy and read Mark Dyal’s book, Hated and Proud: Ultras Contra Modernity. It is firstly a thrilling, enlivening and objective action story, and secondly an impassioned introduction to the wealth of thinkers that together build the makings of a political activist who imbibes a very prescient ethos. It is an extremely precise work which meticulously and at times too analytically, investigates the phenomena of football (or soccer) Ultras, often in their own words, which arose from the Italian Years of Lead.
An Ultra is a fanatical, radical and conscious football fan. He embodies his fanaticism in his courage in the face of conflict, his radicalism in his ethic of violence, and his consciousness in his politics. There are many types of Ultra, but it seems the most active, and most visible, is the Fascist, who expresses these things aggressively and affirmatively after Nietzsche, Evola, Pound, Sorel and Spengler. He has many similarities with the football hooligan, but where the hooligan is not conscious, and merely destructive, the Ultra is consciously and illuminatingly destructive. In fact, reading it only as an action story, only a true description of a group of people, and ignoring the context, leaves it still edifying. Mr. Dyal, within the text, however, takes every opportunity to distinguish them from the football hooligan, to demonstrate their self-understanding, and to prove that their philosophy is not secondary to, — or only a justification for — but truly informative of, their actions.
On the surface, their defiance is simply a riotous, spectacular, explosive party of “flags, smoke, bombs, flares, and songs,” but Mr. Dyal argues that theirs is a proud and sophisticated life of, as Baudrillard recognised, profound, irrational, demented resistance against something much worse. To specify: in their minds, they are, through connection to their city — and a profound sense of sacrifice — the “conscience” of football, defending the local, and all of tradition, against the globalised and globalising monster of Calcio moderno, or “modern football,” which represents the “postmodernisation of fandom and commoditisation of soccer.”
There are texts which all men should have been forced to read before ever forming a political opinion. I did of old read Nietzsche’s “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life,” Evola’s essays and his Ride the Tiger and Sorel’s Reflections on Violence, but originally did so with such a tragic misunderstanding of values — as, I believe, most do — that I might have well have been reading the rules of real tennis.
Hated and Proud is a foundation teaching the uses of these old tomes: Mr. Dyal means to produce a black and a white for us, and to discard what Evola termed crumbling and hybrid ideas. One instant reflection draws to Evola’s Heroism: we have a deep interpersonal commitment to sacrifice so as to live up to our honour-code, or our duty. For Ultras, this is best expressed with the legend of the arditi, the World War I infantry who became united through their experience of fighting together, and after the war were fundamentally separated, psychically, physically and spiritually, from anyone who did not fight. This is how the Ultra understands his distance from the herd.
Heroism comes as an ethic which is manifested in different ways (for example, in Nietzsche’s case, to reject, in Sorel’s, to activate, in Evola’s, to transcend), but always distance is noted: distanceas nobility, or an aristocratic removal of oneself from modernity. Mr. Dyal provides, as you would expect from the book’s history (beginning as an academic thesis), a comprehensive overview of these manifestations, but the true thoroughfare might be considered to be focused upon what motivates the Ultras to act. Of course, this gives us a why and a template in order to form our own honour-code.
There is in the book a sophisticated discussion of Nietzsche’s role in the forming of the mode of living that the Ultras have inherited from the city of Rome, but first we must mention what their city means to them. The Ultras recognise, intensely, their connection to place, and their campanilismo, their localism, is linked with glory, team and town. They recognise also what they are losing, they are acutely aware of their cultural dispossession — the fact that their ability to aggrandise Rome is being eroded. On a surface level, this is Romanità — a hyper-identification with Rome and self-conception as a Roman based in the myth (or folk-truth, or collective mentality) of Ancient Rome, also the name of Mussolini’s campaign of venerating Italian history within fascism — and we can easily recognize how translatable this passion is: we can all have this relationship to our cities, or at least our peoples, and the broader communities within which we reside.
Think first of the connection you should have to your family, and the future that they deserve, and expand that to those things that have enabled your family to produce you — all of society, therefore, can be understood as only an expansion of this extreme localism. This is their prompter nos, their “us.” This partisan mode of thinking, which you must reify in your bones, is what separates you from the modern world; in Evola’s terms, it is a suprahistorical agent. In perhaps the most profound explication of this, your city is only alive through you, and your will to life is your city’s:
‘For us, Rome is the reference point of a victorious life, the myth that gives us hope for a life that is strong and wise. It would be impossible, then, to live in fear of fights or of the police. Our Rome is that of the true Romans.’ In upholding aggression, honour, discipline, and the idea of glory through violence, the Ultras feel themselves upholding the true spirit of Rome.
It is intimated by Giorgio, a member of the Ultras Romani group, that only one who lives within the greatness of Rome every day deserves to join a celebration of the city. This is true of our place within our societies: noble we must recognise that the guiding ethical components of globalisation are purposefully stifling our survival instincts, and eroding all of humanity’s active behaviours. Mr. Dyal denotes these components the values of the marketplace, which are safety, security, stability, comfort, equality, tolerance, inclusion and peacefulness, and later states that they exist to “make Europe and the world one free market.”
What Giorgio intimates, therefore, is termed an inherent antagonism to universal altruism. This connection to place necessarily disallows feelings of inclusiveness with others. For them, even “Italy matters very little, except as a terrain of Roman conquest,” but the truth is always that these exaltations are towards the larger goal: pride.
The Ultras utilised their agonism as a way to distance themselves from these modern values which make up the bourgeois forms of life. Most particularly, their nobility is seen to be earned by doing one’s duty: only in doing so can we form the monumental view of history, to elevate what needs to be elevated: myths and narratives of aggression, heroism, conquest and struggle, and, yes, to dismiss what needs to be dismissed: the values of the marketplace. But of course always aware of the real, we must remind ourselves of the words of Nietzsche:
Plato is a coward in the face of reality — consequently he takes refuge in the ideal: Thucydides is a master of himself, — consequently he is able to master life.
After all, Plato is a man whose hero was the famously ugly child-botherer Socrates, who said, “Do good to friends and do harm to no one.” No! Achilles would have, after killing Hector, cut up his body and eaten his raw flesh! We need not eat our enemy’s flesh, nor wish to, but we do need to come to terms with these ideals if we are to defy the homogenised form of life.
The Ultras in Italy do this through “anthropological revolution,” that is, to create, essentially, a Super-human. In this way, our entelechy is never violence itself, but an ethic of it: we need never — indeed should never — instigate violence, only be physically and mentally ready for engagement. This might be termed a mode of life that accepts thuggish brutality; Bowden’s cultured thug. Mr. Dyal instrumentally conflates Sorel’s understanding of bourgeois traits with Nietzsche’s understanding of the modern. This way, we can understand the difference between the envious, ferocious and striving classical life and the peaceful, tolerant and inclusive modern.
So where the Ultras “have chosen war as their normal mode of interaction” with their enemies, we can simply have no fear of danger. Our commitment to this form of life perhaps cannot be as visible as theirs, or as sacrificial, or as rooted in brotherhood and tension, but it must be just as passionately embodied. After all, Mr. Dyal notes that it is the willingness to move beyond the inherently bourgeois individualism that can set you apart — the coraggio and the sprezzo del pericolo. This is their mentalità, their discipline towards virtue, their sacrificial loyalty. It is a “struggle for self-determination in the face of the unthinking servility that the State demands of our lives.”
But the life of an Ultra is not to be understood only as one of negation, but of affirmation. A later chapter of the book details the enormous Circo Massimo protest of December 2007, which followed the changing of football stadium laws which made the Ultra way of life nearly illegal. Attending this protest, Mr. Dyal noted the themes of the active Ultra speakers there, and keenly notes that there was more a celebration of their ideals than a negation of modernity’s: that it “perfectly promoted the ‘life affirming’ nature of the Ultras.”
So as the Ultras do, we can understand Ourselves as Thracians and Spartans, and as Mercians and Bernicians, and this need not bring unnecessary conflict. That is layered, for some conflict is necessary (and war makes life poetic: it is the father of all good things), but because I will never present a degenerating or regressive idea, it is worth expanding: it is now only possible for us to imagine an immediate future within which our prompter nos, our “us,” is in Europe, as Europeans. However, we do not live within a creed-nation, we live within — and henceforth always will — a smaller community within a people. And so day-to-day, to overcome modernity’s social media and liberalism’s global forces, it might do to invoke some pettier nationalism. And we must do this with smiles on our faces, for this is the organic community.
So buy and read Hated and Proud. It is a timely work of great importance. The book is an actionable discourse written by a man who clearly understands the ethics which the Ultras were attempting to implement. Imbibe its words and expound its groundings, rid yourself of ecumenicalism, erase the nation and embrace the people who made it. Hold the markers of your identity to be local, and allow hostility to rise in yourself against the global. Love your form of life, exalt all of it — “live dangerously.” Quanto Sei Bella Europa.
writes Noble Youth, a collection of short articles discussing political philosophy, ethnic spirituality and European Identitarianism. It is part of the creative movement of self-aware Europeans dedicated to the creation of conscious, worthy art.