Calling Mexicans “rapists,” making crude sexist remarks, advocating torture, attacking Muslims and mocking disabled people aren’t enough for Donald Trump.
The billionaire presidential candidate is now quoting Adolf Hitler’s best buddy, Benito Mussolini. The Italian dictator’s pompous saying, “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep,” was re-tweeted by Trump on Feb. 28.
When Chuck Todd asked the real estate tycoon about this on “Meet the Press,” Trump replied, “Look, Mussolini was Mussolini. It’s OK to — it’s a very good quote, it’s a very interesting quote, and I know it.” (Politico, Feb. 28)
Trump likes this “very good quote” because Mussolini viewed himself as a lion and working people as sheep. So does Trump.
From renegade to dictator
Unlike Trump’s rich daddy, Mussolini’s father was a socialist blacksmith. His mother was a schoolteacher. Their eldest child was named after Mexican president Benito Juárez, a freedom fighter who defeated French occupiers in 1867 and built schools. (history.com)
Benito Mussolini joined the socialist party and became editor of the party’s daily newspaper, “Avanti!” (Forward!). In 1911 he was arrested at a rally protesting Italy’s invasion of Libya, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. (“100 Years of Bombing Libya,” Mark Almond)
But after World War I broke out, Benito Mussolini became a renegade who demanded Italy join the imperialist bloodbath. He spat on the slogan “Workers of all countries, unite!” and was ousted from the party.
World War I was a disaster for Italy, with 650,000 soldiers killed and almost a million wounded. Italian workers and peasants didn’t want to die for their bosses and landlords. An anti-war movement arose.
Mussolini organized thugs to beat up protesters. He was paid to do so by British intelligence agency MI5. His Majesty’s Secret Service gave Mussolini 100 British pounds a week, equal to 6,000 pounds or $9,000 a week in 2009 money. This cash jumpstarted the fascist movement and allowed Mussolini to publish his newspaper, “Il Popolo d’Italia.” (Guardian, Oct. 13, 2009)
The CIA has bankrolled one Mussolini-type after another all over the planet. Among their murdered victims were Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973 and Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in 1961. A U.S. Senate committee chaired by Frank Church revealed some of the gory details of the latter in 1975-76.
Mussolini labeled his thugs “fascists,” which is derived from the Latin word “fascis.” This was a bundle of rods with an axe that were used in ancient Rome to execute poor people and slaves. Fascists were the Italian Ku Klux Klan.
Italian workers revolted after the war and seized factories in Torino. Unlike Russia’s Bolsheviks, however, Italian socialist leaders proved incapable of leading the working class to power.
Some leftists discounted the fascist danger and even believed Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III wouldn’t tolerate such a gangster. A notable exception was Communist Party leader Antonio Gramsci, who later spent a decade in Mussolini’s prisons.
But Mussolini was just what Italy’s wealthy and powerful needed to stem the working-class upsurge. Against a backdrop of poverty and political demoralization, Mussolini made phony promises and incited hatred against other peoples, just like what Trump is doing today.
After the fascists staged a theatrical march on Rome in 1922, the king handed power over to Mussolini.
Italian fascists were called black shirts because that’s what they wore. Black shirts wrecked union halls and were notorious for administering castor oil to opponents. They assassinated a socialist member of parliament, Giacomo Matteotti.
None of this violence stopped the world’s rich and powerful from backing Mussolini. Newspapers even claimed, “Mussolini made the trains run on time!” In 1923 Time magazine praised Mussolini’s “remarkable self-control, rare judgment and efficient application of ideas.” (“Luce and His Empire,” W. A. Swanberg)
Winston Churchill said, “Fascism has rendered a service to the entire world. … If I were Italian, I am sure I would have been with you entirely.” (The Telegraph, London, Sept. 2, 2010)
Wars and misery
Mussolini’s public works programs made the unemployed break rocks while the super rich — like the Agnelli family who owned the Fiat automobile company — enjoyed a bonanza.
The fascist regime continued Italian imperialism’s colonial war against Libya, whose people never stopped resisting. The Libyan leader, the 69-year-old Omar Mukhtar, was publicly hanged on Sept. 16, 1931.
A century after Libya was first invaded by Italy, U.S. and other NATO powers bombed the African country relentlessly. Libya’s leader Moammar Gadhafi was lynched, dying at his post on Oct. 20, 2011.
Italy first tried to invade Ethiopia in the 1890s, but was decisively defeated at the Battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896. In 1934 Mussolini invaded Ethiopia again, using poison gas. A million Africans were killed. So were thousands of Italian soldiers.
Black America defended Ethiopia. The solidarity campaign was led in Harlem by future congressman Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and the Communist Party USA. On Aug. 3, 1935, over 25,000 people marched in Harlem in solidarity with Ethiopia against Italy. Hundreds of Italian-American workers joined the protest. (“Communists in Harlem during the Depression,” Mark Naison)
Thousands of Italian troops also died in the Spanish Civil War supporting fascist dictator Francisco Franco.
Mussolini’s joining Hitler to invade the Soviet Union was his downfall. Italy’s Defense Ministry admits that 20,800 Italian soldiers were killed at battles around Stalingrad. Another 64,000 were captured. The battle of Stalingrad, which ended on Feb. 2, 1943, was the turning point of World War II, with 800,000 Axis forces dead, wounded, missing or captured.
Stalingrad was an electric jolt to Italians who saw in early 1943 that Mussolini could be overthrown. Communist-led partisans fought Italian fascists and German occupying troops for two years.
The U.S. and Britain invaded Italy a year before they invaded France because they feared a socialist revolution would break out there. Future CIA director Allen Dulles conducted secret negotiations with Nazi Gen. Karl Wolff, the commander of SS (Schutzstaffel) troops in Italy. (“Dulles,” Leonard Mosley)
Italian communist partisans captured Mussolini and executed him on April 28, 1945. His naked body was hanged upside down in Milan. The Italian people — and the peoples of Libya and Ethiopia — were avenged.
Donald Trump may not be a Benito Mussolini. But he peddles some of the same poison.