Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Moscow Rehabilitating Mussolini Because Putin’s System is So Much Like His, Kolesnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 12 – The rehabilitation of Italian fascism and of its leader Benito Mussolini in the Russian Federation now is “no accident,” Andrey Kolesnikov says, “just as comparisons with corporatist regimes with Putin’s” aren’t accidental either. What is intriguing is how this rehabilitation is being promoted.

            “The comparison of the current Russian regime with Mussolini’s was provoked by a post of Igor Molotov, a Russia Today” publicist, after he watched a film by Vladimir Solovyev, the Moscow television commentator, about the Italian leader. Molotov praised Solovyev for making clear that fascism and Nazism “are different things” (

            Indeed, the publicist continues, “Mussolini was a glorious man who gave the world a third path, one that in part Russia is following today.”

            In his film, Solovyev stresses why Italian fascism has so many parallels with and uses for the Putin regime: “Mussolini united Italy with the idea of its great ancient past” As Kolesnikov points out, “all autocrats unify their countries by referring to a great past. The legitimation of the Putin regime” is built mainly on the greatness of Soviet history.”

            Moreover, Mussolini was committed to order and died a socialist “because he was for the people,” the commentator continues. “That too is very autocratic: The idea of order and its restoration … is something which all leaders of a personalist type” like Mussolini and Putin share.

            “In Italian fascism like in Spanish falangism and German nazism,” he continues, “we recognize the Stalinist regime” down to the smallest details with only this difference: “fascism and Nazism were anti-communist and anti-Bolshevik as well as anti-liberal and anti-masonic movements.” Nazism was more consistent and Italian fascism “more eclectic.”

            “Gleichshaltung, the full development of loyalty to the regime of the entire people, corporatism which involves the inclusion of any social, age, or gender group in one or another organization, and a new spirit of ‘breakthrough and poetry’ in the Italian case beginning with d’Annunzio – all these as aspects of fascism,” Kolesnikov explains.

            There is a legend which may be close to the truth that in 1919 or 1920, Lenin received a delegation of Italian socialists and told them that they had missed a chance to involve Mussolini in their movement: “he is a brave man,” the Bolshevik leader supposedly said. “He could have led us to victory!”  Trotsky reportedly said something similar about the Italian fascist.

             Biographers of Mussolini have pointed out that the Italian leader “rode on two horses – respectable conservatism and revolutionary fascism,” now using one and now the other, Kolesnikov says. And “Change of Monuments” leader Nikolay Ustryalov was also intrigued by this and wrote an entire book about the Italian. 

            Mussolini was not an anti-Semite, the Russian commentator says; but his fascist regime “by its nature had to become both anti-Semitic and xenophobic.” And “inspire of Solovyev’s asserts, Italian fascism was not a soft regime.” It maintained itself with the black shirts who “terrorized the population.”
            The Putin regime already today shares many of the characteristics of Mussolini’s, Kolesnikov points out. It has “elements of corporatism, legitimation through historical policies, nationalism, imperialism and isolationism, state capitalism, political authoritarianism, the absence of rotation in leaders, a regime of personal power, and fictional democratic institutions.”

            More than that, the evolution of Putinism in these directions was not difficult to predict.  Kolesnikov recalls that in January 2000, he wrote an essay for Vedomosti entitled “Tea with Putin,” a reference to Franco Zefirelli’s film, Tea with Mussolini, in which the Italian dictator wins over the support of an English woman by making promises he has no intention of keeping.

            And Kolesnikov concludes by citing Raymond Aron’s fundamental insight that “a regime ‘striving toward liberalism without democracy’ has no chance to become liberal,” perhaps the best explanation why Putinism for all its Potemkin-like democratic forms could only end as a recrudescence of fascism rather than liberalism or democracy.

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