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Cole writes: "It is not an accident that Benito Mussolini called his party 'Nationalist Fascism.' The two go together."

Benito Mussolini, the fascist leader of Italy. (photo: Getty)
Benito Mussolini, the fascist leader of Italy. (photo: Getty)

"I Am a Nationalist" - Donald Trump Apes Mussolini in Drive to Destroy America

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment

24 October 18


rump proudly says he is a “nationalist.”

He is, of course, saying this to shore up support among white nationalists. The Nazi sites on the web were all having wet dreams in the aftermath.

From the 1990s, polling has found that about 10% of Americans support far right militias. These are the white nationalists. Trump came to power by mobilizing that 10% and combining it with Republicans and independents.

It is not an accident that Benito Mussolini called his party “Nationalist Fascism.” The two go together. Trump performs the “fascist” part of this two-part term every time he does a rally, so he doesn’t have to say “I am a Nationalist Fascist,” i.e. a Mussolini-ist. But that is what he is.

Somehow Benito Mussolini is not often brought up in contemporary American political debates. His armies slaughtered 330,000 Allied troops during World War II, including large numbers of Americans. Two of my uncles fought in World War II in the European theater, and I’m not willing to let Mussolini skate. Of 45,000 Italian Jews, 8,000 were delivered to Nazi death camps and a similar number were forced to flee abroad. Some $1 billion was stolen from them as a community. I’m not sure how Trump’s Rasputin, Steve Bannon, gets away with praising this mass murderer and then being invited to major cultural and political gatherings in the West.

Erminio Fonzo in a 2016 article (1) explains that the big industrialists in Italy formed the “Nationalist Association” in 1910. Their policies and actions in the subsequent decade helped undermine the liberal Italian state. Fonzo writes that they were “anti-liberal, protectionist, clerical, opposed to any improvement for the lower social classes and favoured expansionism at any cost.” Most American industrialists today cannot be characterized this way, but a fraction of the business class here holds these very values, and Trump is their exemplar. The only difference is that they are not monarchists, and they tend to support Evangelicals rather than Catholic priests.

Mussolini forged links with elements of the Nationalist Association during WW I, when he broke with the Socialists over their insistence on neutrality and lurched to the far right of militarism. His new, fascist party received a good deal of money from the Ansaldo arms manufacturing company, just as Trump’s increase for military spending is intended to attract campaign monies from US armaments firms.

When he turned against socialism, which upheld the welfare of the working class, Mussolini substituted nationalism. He said, “the nation is a history of sentiments, traditions, language, culture, and race.” Concerns of welfare for the workers and the poor, he thought, only arise among “a people that has not integrated itself into its proper linguistic and racial confines.”

Race, language, national identity, exalting an imagined people and its glorious history, contrasting it with hated others– this was the heady brew Mussolini substituted for attempts of workers to unionize or limit their work hours or abolish child labor. It was of course, a cruel illusion that the nation was undifferentiated and unified by “race.” By the early 1930s Mussolini was casting Italy’s workers into profound poverty, favoring his backers, the business classes.

So when he came to power Mussolini declared the Nationalist Fascist Party to be his vehicle, as a way of co-opting the illiberal business classes.

Mussolini became dictator. He had been a journalist at some points, and manipulated the press to shine a bright political light on him and on his doings.

Part of what he meant by Nationalism was an exaltation of the Roman Empire and an aspiration to revive it as a vehicle of modern Italian power. Nationalist renewal was central to his vision–making Italy great again. He considered Arabs and Africans inferior races (an early 20th century way of talking about what Trump calls “shithole countries.”) He dreamed of expanding Italian hegemony into the Arab world, and turned Libya, which Italy had aggressively conquered in 1911, into one big concentration camp. This is sort of like what Trump is trying to help the Israelis do to the Palestinians in the Palestinian West Bank under Israeli colonization.

Trump didn’t mean he is a patriot. He used the word nationalist deliberately, and admitted that it was a word held in bad odor. He wants to bury the people who object to the word, which is intended to strengthen white nationalism.

It is important that everyone understand how dangerous what Trump said is. He intends to destroy the United States as it has existed in modern history, as a country of the rule of law, a country of laws and not of men, a country with a free press. He intends to mobilize his supporters in the far rightwing gangs, in the police and the armed forces as Black Shirts if he can, to break heads. He intends to move the country to Fascism. That is what he means when he says, “I am a nationalist.”


(1) Erminio Fonzo (2016) A path towards Fascism: nationalism and large- scale industry in Italy (1910–1923), Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 21:4, 545-564

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+12 # Farafalla 2018-10-24 18:39
"fusil e libretto, fascista completo"
+32 # AldoJay69 2018-10-24 18:40
Except, Juan Cole, you give Trump far more credit than is due. He doesn't know what he means!
He has taken all his guidance from Fox News. Evidence, his cabinet.
From Fox TeeVee, where never is heard a discouraging word, (if you're white,) Trump sees whites reigning supreme, and he as the supreme white.
Fox, to him, FEELS right.
In truth he is a stupid, stupid, man.
That's FAR more dangerous!
Disclosure: I'm white.
+17 # wrknight 2018-10-24 20:38
Quoting AldoJay69:
Except, Juan Cole, you give Trump far more credit than is due. He doesn't know what he means! ...

Don't count on it, and don't think for a minute that he doesn't envision himself the supreme dictator. He may be stupid, but you don't have to be smart to think you are invincible.
+29 # C. H. Winslow 2018-10-24 18:41
Donald Trump is not a serious nationalist. His game is international, and he has no developed thoughts beyond his immediate short term interest or whatever his narcissism requires of him at any given moment. His appeal comes from those who respond to his nativism, any brand of which he could alter in a moment. Right now, he is almost manically defending himself from being impeached, losing his financial empire, and/or going to prison.

Trumpists have trapped us into living through a very dangerous time. I am out campaigning for candidates I think will rescue the country from possible disaster and near certain decline. That is all I know to do at this time.

Make a contribution to RSN and then go out and talk to people, especially women, in the suburbs. You might help us save the country for its future promise to mankind.
+7 # lfeuille 2018-10-24 21:09
Doesn't matter. The people around him, advising him are serious.
+36 # Jaax88 2018-10-24 19:00
This comment by Cole is encouraging. Thanks Juan for bringing into the spotlight the danger to America of Trump and of the slime ball GOP for not walking away from him. I have noticed in photos of Trump he mimics Mussolini at times at his rallies by lifting and jutting out his jaw. it makes him look like a self-congratula ting barbarian and idiot.
+12 # Kootenay Coyote 2018-10-24 21:11
The similarities between Mussolini & Trump are rather numerous. But remember how Mussolini ended up: hanging silently by his heels in a bus station.
+2 # Ralph 2018-10-26 16:25
Sounds good. When do we start?
+15 # janie1893 2018-10-25 01:25
Mr. Cole is correct. Trump is manipulating the USA as a capitalistic entity that produces profit for himself, his family and, perhaps, others. He is deliberately promoting the political division among Americans because he would love having civil war break out. Then he will be a war president, long a dream of his, and that will give him unlimited power to suspend most democratic activities and to act without consent of the House and/or the Senate. We will know he is the god he has always thought himself to be!
+15 # relegn 2018-10-25 06:30
Whether or not our Supreme Leader understands what calling himself a "nationalist" implies those Wealthy right-wing conservatives who support him know exactly what the word means and are thrilled.
+18 # they said what? 2018-10-25 08:02
As C. H. Winslow said, "he has no developed thoughts beyond his immediate short term interest." And nationalism serves his interest. He may lack a coherent set of values, or any core beyond self-interest, but Juan Cole did not, AldoJay69, over-estimate the danger he presents. The turmoil and hysteria of nationalism consistently serve his interests. He has unleashed the fascist underbelly of our democracy to serve his own interests. Dangerous, with or without a theoretical or "moral" basis.
+1 # AldoJay69 2018-10-28 18:41
To clarify; my point is that if Trump is credited with complex, original thought, of which he is clearly incapable, then the search ends for the conspirators that he fronts for.

Trump is a mascot, a decoy. Nothing more. His strings are dangled by "the fascist underbelly of our democracy," not the other way around.

We ignore that difference at our peril.
+4 # C. H. Winslow 2018-10-25 14:39
We begin by campaigning for votes and voting ourselves. If authoritarians take away our vote and all our other means to change political leaders, we have only the redress that Locke outlined in the last chapter in his Second Treatise, words nearly identical to some of those used in Jefferson's Declaration. But I do believe that we have a host of peaceful and legal measures we can take long before we get to the Trump Leviathan.
-7 # Depressionborn 2018-10-26 13:41
Socialism will destroy us as it now destroys Europe. We must avoid socialism to keep America great. We the people will do it, not gov control freaks and self serving welfare state well meaning socialist-rsn posts notwithstanding .
0 # AldoJay69 2018-10-28 18:44
If you would learn to use punctuation, I might be able to follow your thought.
+1 # Porfiry 2018-10-27 11:05
Will we have to go through military defeat and humiliations as did Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy before we are free of these autocrats?

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