Steve Bannon says he is ‘fascinated’ by Mussolini

Mythili Sampathkumar

Steve Bannon, former chief strategist to President Donald Trump, said he is “fascinated” by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

Speaking to The Spectator magazine while on tour in Europe, Mr Bannon said Mr Mussolini “was clearly loved by women. He was a guy’s guy. He has all that virility," Bannon said. "He also had amazing fashion sense, right, that whole thing with the uniforms. I’m fascinated by Mussolini”.

The former editor of the right-wing outlet Breitbart News said the former Italian Prime Minister during the Second World War was “one of the most important figures of the 20th century”.

The fascist Mr Mussolini, “a revolutionary socialist, was the first populist of the modern era and the first tabloid newspaper journalist,” was an “understandable” figure to be enamoured with for Mr Bannon, the magazine reported.

But, the controversial American political strategist does not label himself a fascist like Mr Mussolini. “This is all theoretical bull****. I don’t know. Populism, fascism — who cares? It’s a media smear of the populist movement,” he said.

The two “are not even related,” he said.

In Mr Bannon’s mind, Brexit was about immigration and “expression of national populism. It’s about ‘subsidiarity’, taking power away from the state and giving it back to the common man: ‘You stop ceding decisions to a scientific, engineering, financial, managerial, technocratic elite, which is how globalism came about,’” the magazine reported.

He has been criticised for pushing an agenda in the White House that was tied to white supremacists, specifically coaxing Mr Trump from not alienating them.

“No, not at all. I hated every day. I’m not a staffer,” Mr Bannon said when asked if he missed working at the White House.

But, he still has “great admiration” for Mr Trump and said that since his August 2017 departure, their “lawyers talk because it’s the middle of [the Russia] investigation. I don’t talk to the President...because it’s better that we don’t chat.”

Mr Bannon also hit out at “state-controlled capitalism,” saying “big government and a handful of big companies…[are] the biggest danger we have”.

Slamming technology companies in particular, he said that “they absolutely control our borders. They debase your currency, they debase your citizenship, and they take your personhood digitally”.

He said people are just “serfs” to these companies.

One of the first stops on Mr Bannon’s tour of Europe was in Italy ahead of the 4 March elections, which he called “the most important thing happening politically in the world right now”.

Italians then voted in a large number of populists from two parties: the Five Star Movement and their opponents La Lega.

Mr Bannon then headed to Zurich, Switzerland, to speak at an event held by the right-wing weekly magazine Die Weltwoche where he said: “The populist surge is not over: it’s just beginning”.

Later on the tour, he stopped in Lille, France to speak to a cheering crowd at a Front National party convention. The anti-immigration party of politician Marine Le Pen is in the midst of a rebranding moment and Mr Bannon told them: "You're part of a worldwide movement bigger than France, bigger than Italy...history is on our side".