Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

President Donald Trump blends all too nicely with Italy's fascist dictator Benito Mussiloni. (Photo: Screenshot)

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

It is important that everyone understand how dangerous what Trump said is.

Juan Cole

 by Informed Comment

Trump 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 Italy, 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,


© 2021 Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of  "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008).  He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. 

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

'Infuriating': Biden Rebuked for Continued Opposition to Supreme Court Expansion

"What does Biden 'agree' with doing?" Mehdi Hasan asked. "What does the leader of this country want to do to stop the increasingly fascistic assault on our democratic institutions and basic rights?"

Kenny Stancil ·


'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·


Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·


'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·


'We WILL Fight Back': Outrage, Resolve as Protests Erupt Against SCOTUS Abortion Ruling

Demonstrators took to the streets Friday to defiantly denounce the Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority after it rescinded a constitutional right for the first time in U.S. history.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo