Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nostalgia for Mussolini?

I am constantly amazed by the way that Mussolini is treated by Italians. The rest of the world is pretty united in the view that he was not only an evil dictator, but a second-rate evil dictator at that. Yet here amongst the people that knew him and his policies, there is not much consensus.

While on the surface, almost everybody must reflexively condemn him, not far beneath there is a hint of nostalgia for someone who was strong enough to get Italians to clean up their act. His racism is often played down, while his successes (which there were actually quite a few domestically) are missed.

By the strong fascist right-wing in Italy, Mussolini is someone who had the right idea but just didn't do it right. I think this is scary.

I am sure that the fascist regime had domestic successes. For example, they were one of the few governments to stand up to the mafia. However, the notion that the only way this can be achieved is with a strong (read "ruthless") dictator is an idea that should have died with the French Empire.

Yet we continue to see hints of this nostalgia scattered throughout Italian culture, which is the tip of a very dangerous iceberg.

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