April 21, 2019
Caio Giulio Cesare Mussolini, a third descendant of Benito Mussolini, is entering Italy’s political arena.Caio Mussolini’s nomination comes at a time when Italy’s politics are increasingly skewing to the right, and Il Duce is no longer demonized as he once was. (ALESSANDRO DI MARCO / AP)
By ANNA MOMIGLIANO The Washington Post
MILAN – During the political convention last weekend of the Italian far-right party Fratelli D’Italia (FDI), leader Giorgia Meloni described its platform as “revolutionary.” She vowed to “change everything in Europe” and to move “Europe’s capital” to Rome. While FDI’s campaign for the upcoming European Parliament elections abounds in predictions for the future, the party also seems to have an eye fixed on the country’s past — more specifically, its fascist past under Benito Mussolini.
Earlier this month, Meloni announced in a Facebook video that Mussolini’s great-grandson, Caio Giulio Cesare Mussolini, will run with the party in the May 26 elections. The video was shot in front of Rome’s Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, a well-known 1940s example of fascist architecture.
There’s little doubt that Mussolini was nominated because of — not despite — his relationship to Il Duce, who ruled from 1922 to 1943. Both Meloni and Mussolini avoided explicit references to fascist ideology, but Mussolini repeatedly hinted he views his great-grandfather as an inspiration.
In an interview with the newspaper Il Messaggero, Mussolini said that he “will always be proud” of his family name and that he hopes voters will appreciate the “Mussolini brand.” In his electoral billboards, he claims to represent Italy’s “history,” and the billboards use a controversial font popular with neo-fascist groups. His slogan is #scriviMussolini, or #writeMussolini.
Officials from FDI either declined to comment or didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.
A 50-year-old former navy officer, Caio Mussolini is the grandson of Vittorio, the second of Benito Mussolini’s five acknowledged children. (Il Duce is rumoured to have fathered others outside of marriage.) Like some other descendants of the former Italian dictator, Caio maintained an ambivalent relationship with family history. In a recent interview with Il Corriere della Sera, he claimed that he is “not a fascist,” but on April 16 he was scheduled to hold a lecture about fascist doctrine at a Fratelli D’Italia event in Padua. The lecture was cancelled after the local news outlet, Il Gazzettino, reported that Caio Mussolini was the “guest of honour” for the after-dinner lecture.
Caio Mussolini has other familial ties to right-wing politics in addition to his infamous great-grandfather. Caio’s father, Guido, was an activist for Forza Nuova, an identitarian radical party. His second cousin, Alessandra Mussolini, has served both in the Italian and European parliaments, with different affiliations, ranging from the radical right Alternativa Sociale to Silvio Berlusconi’s self-described “centre-right” Forza Italia.
The Fratelli D’Italia — or Brothers of Italy — party is the political heir of Movimento Sociale, the now-defunct neo-fascist party founded by veterans of the Italian Social Republic. Caio Mussolini’s nomination comes at a time when Italy’s politics are increasingly skewing to the right, and Il Duce is no longer demonized as he once was.
Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini — who also serves as interior minister and made international headlines for his tough line on migrants — recently announced he will not take part in the celebrations of Liberation Day, commemorating the fall of Benito Mussolini’s regime, because he views it as a “fascists vs. communists game.” Salvini has transformed his League from a small party pursuing the autonomy of Northern regions into a nationalistic party that, according to polls, could get 32 per cent of the votes.
“As the League has moved to the right, Fratelli D’Italia fears Salvini will cannibalize them,” says Matteo Cavallaro, a political analyst at Université Paris 13, who focuses on Italy’s far right. “So, choosing a guy named Mussolini is a way to get back the attention of its hardcore base that is mostly composed by fascism nostalgics.”