Mussolini’s great-grandson defends Italy’s Fascist era

Mussolini's great-grandson, who is running for a European Parliament seat with a small far-right Italian party, tried to nuance his fascist grandfather's legacy in comments to the foreign press in Rome on Wednesday.

Mussolini's great-grandson defends Italy's Fascist era
Caio Giulio Cesare Mussolini is running in the European elections. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The fascist era was “a very complicated, complex period”, said Caio Giulio Cesare Mussolini, at a press conference in Rome for the Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) party.

“You can't define it in terms of right or wrong, good or bad,” he said.

While the anti-Jewish laws of 1938 had been “a mistake, a shame”, the fascist period had left its mark on the country in other ways with, for example, its road network, he added. Many older people he met while campaigning expressed nostalgia for that period, he said.


In Italy it is still a crime to defend fascism, but asked about that law he said that the courts often ruled on the side of freedom of expression. The current ban on the fascist salute should be extended to the raised clenched-fist of the communists, he added.

Although Mussolini is only 10th on the party's electoral list, he features prominently on its posters. And there were plenty of journalists on hand to hear what the Italian dictator's great-grandson had to say.

The 50-year-old former Italian naval officer was born in Argentina, where his grandfather, Vittorio Mussolini, the second son of the dictator Benito Mussolini, fled in 1945 at the end of World War II. He now works for an arms firm, a subsidiary of the Leonardo group, formerly Finmeccanica.

Alessandra Mussolini campaigning for Forza Italia in 2008. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

He is not the first descendant of the fascist dictator to enter politics. Benito's grand-daughter Alessandra has been an MEP since 2014, having already served as a senator and a deputy in the Italian parliament. She is now a rival candidate — in another region — on a list led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Benito Mussolini, the creator of fascism, came to power in Italy in the 1920s, established a one-party dictatorship and was an ally of Nazi Germany during World War II. He was executed at the end of the war. 

Italy's relationship with its fascist past is complicated, to say the least. Unlike in Germany, where the country's wartime leaders are overwhelmingly reviled and Nazi symbols a taboo, Mussolini's birthplace continues to attract admiring pilgrims, Il Duce trinkets are a common sight in souvenir shops and several mainstream Italian politicians have been known to publicly express admiration for the dictator.

READ ALSO: The Italians who worship Mussolini

Mussolini souvenirs for sale in Italy. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Silvio Berlusconi, head of Forza Italia and four-time prime minister, once remarked while in office that “Mussolini never killed anyone”, despite his collaboration with the Nazis to send Italian Jews to their deaths and his troops' brutal occupation of Ethiopia.

More recently Matteo Salvini, leader of the League and Italy's interior minister, has said that “a lot of things got done” under Italy's Fascist government, hailing Mussolini's infrastructure projects and pension system while dismissing his race laws as “madness”.

Salvini, who is also Italy's deputy prime minister, is prone to invoking the dictator's words on social media: last July, on the anniversary of Mussolini's birth, he posted the phrase “So many enemies, so much honour” in an echo of a well-known Fascist slogan.

READ ALSO: Is Italy's League a ‘far-right' party?

Photo: Paco Serinelli/AFP

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Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.