Bannonism: A Clear and Present Danger to the Planet
The sooner the nations of the world awake to the threat posed by fascists abusing electoral systems to gain dictatorial power, the possibility of a repeat of the fascist rise to power during the 1920s and 1930s can be snuffed out.
With the financial support of Mercer Family Foundation far-right heiress financier Rebekah Mercer, exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, U.S.-based Falun Gong cult leader Li Hongzhi, and the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, which is associated with the fascist Opus Dei Roman Catholic sect, Donald Trump’s sporadic political adviser, Steve Bannon, has implemented a multi-pronged approach to enabling fascist control of governments around the world. Bannon’s ideological approach to furthering fascism globally can be called “Bannonism.”
Bannon and his fascist political allies around the world have embarked on a project that seeks to take over existing major political parties of the traditional conservative slant and transform them into fascist parties. What has occurred with the U.S. Republican Party with it becoming a far-right cult of personality organization beholden to Trump is a case in point. Bannon and his allies hope to achieve the same results with the British Conservative Party and the Conservative Party of Canada.
Another tactic employed by the fascist is to create or dominate existing parties of the far-right and achieve initial representation in provincial or regional parliaments, councils, or legislatures. After gaining seats in legislatures with devolved political powers, the fascist parties can use their local power to aim for legislative seats at the national level, or, as in the case of the European Parliament, at the supranational level. An examples of this tactic includes the creation of the Brexit Party in Britain by Bannon and Trump ally and founder of the anti-European Union UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, the modern-day Oswald Mosley of British politics. Mosley was the leader of the British Union of Fascists prior to World War II. His politics, like those of Farage, originated within the British Conservative Party. The British Tories, which also launched the career of racist politician Enoch Powell, have served as a well-spring for nurturing fascism. Farage and UKIP went on to commandeer a majority of the UK’s seats in the European Parliament. Farage now hopes that his far-right Brexit Party can have the same success with the British Parliament. Bannon appreciates the role of the Tories have played in fostering far-right political leaders and he is taking full advantage of the fact that Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is the most far-right of any recent British Conservative government.
Bannon understands that making alliances with small far-right extremist political parties can pay off handsome dividends with patience and a healthy degree of financial support. The Nazis saw dismal election results when they first began to contest elections in Weimar Germany in the 1920s. They polled just 3 percent of the vote in the national election for the Reichstag in 1924. Their vote share fell to 2.6 percent in 1928, and they won a mere 12 seats out of 491 in the Reichstag. The Nazis fared no better in state elections. They saw 2.4 percent in East Prussia in 1928. In Bavaria, where the Nazi coup attempt failed in 1923, the Nazis inched up with 6.1 percent of the vote in the state election and 9 seats in the Bavarian Landtag. But patience and increased party funding from wealthy German industrialists, no different than the Mercers and the Koch family in the United States, paid off. In 1932, the Nazis won 36 percent of the vote for the East Prussian Landtag and 162 seats. That victory was followed by a Nazi coup that ousted the East Prussian government. In July 1932, the Nazis garnered 32.5 percent of the national vote for the Reichstag and 43 seats, which they were to use as leverage form a government the following year. Once Hitler became chancellor, the Weimar Republic – democratic Germany – was doomed.
One of Bannon’s staunchest fascist allies, Matteo Salvini, saw his far-right Northern League, which advocates independence for northern Italy, achieve major success in winning 29 out of 80 seats in the Regional Council of Lombardy. Salvini even entered a national coalition government consisting of his League and the Five Star Movement as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior. Salvini’s rapid rise in Italian politics made him a valuable ally for Bannon, who has established a secretariat for a de facto “Fascist International,” known as “The Movement,” in Brussels. Salvini, to Bannon’s delight, established close links with two other far-right European leaders, National Rally chief Marine Le Pen in France and Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.
Salvini’s political strength in Italy, stemming from his co-option of the Northern League, originally a fringe party in northern Italian politics, is what Bannon, a student of fascist takeovers in Italy and Germany, hopes to achieve in other countries. With Salvini’s support and that of other Italian far-right leaders, Bannon has ominously attempted to create a fascist academy to train a new generation of political leaders at the 13th century Trisulti monastery on the slopes of Monte Rotonaria in central Italy. Although the Vatican, Pope Francis I, and the current Italian government have opposed Bannon’s plans, the nation that launched the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini is seen by those like Bannon, Salvini, Farage, and others as a natural birthplace for a renewed international fascist movement.
These developments directly impact on the United States. The fascist co-option of the U.S. Republican Party has ensured that the opposition pro-democracy Democratic Party has been relegated to very weak minority status in some state legislatures around the country, particularly in the South and the West. Bannon and his fascist associates believe that takeovers of existing parties in certain other countries can achieve the same type of success. One of Bannon’s closest foreign associates, Brazil’s far-right neo-fascist Mussolini- and Adolf Hitler-admiring president, Jair Bolsonaro, worked his way into the presidency by joining the electoral slates of small far-right fringe parties, including the ill-named Brazilian Progressive Party, the Social Christian Party, and another inaptly named party, the Social Liberal Party. Bannon has provided political consulting not only to President Bolsonaro, but also to his three politician sons, all having higher ambitions beyond federal Senate and Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo municipal politics.
The Bolsonaros would have never been a serious factor in Brazilian politics had it not been for the strong support they receive from Brazil’s right-wing Christian nationalist evangelical community, which is steadily supplanting the traditional political influence of the Roman catholic Church across the nation. Christian nationalists are serving as a convenient vehicle for right-wing extremists to gain political power, from the U.S. state of South Carolina, where they dominate politics to the remote Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic, where a far-right Christian extremist currently serves as foreign minister.
It is now very apparent that Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Party march on Rome in October 1922 served as the inspiration for the march on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Mussolini’s march was not taken seriously by either Prime Minister Luigi Facta or King Victor Emmanuel III. On October 28, 1922, after Mussolini besieged the Italian government with some 25,000 Blackshirt militia supporters, the King handed over the reins of government to Mussolini and his fascists. By 1925, Italy was a fascist dictatorship. The Parliament was dissolved and replaced by the “Chamber of Fasces and Corporations.” It is clear that the January 6 American coup plotters intended to replace the U.S. Congress with a rump parliament consisting of only Trump supporters. With the elimination of much of the Congressional leadership through assassination, the January 6 coup marchers and internal Republican enablers at the White House and in Congress would have ensured the rejection of the 2020 electoral victory of Joe Biden and declared Donald Trump the winner. Such an act would have ushered into being an American fascist dictatorship using the example set by Mussolini in Rome in 1922.
Although Prime Minister Facta declared a “state of siege” in Rome as the Blackshirt militias marched on the city in October 1922, the King refused to sign the order to deploy the military to quell the Fascist insurrection. Similarly, neither acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller nor Joint Chiefs staff director, Lt. General Charles Flynn, the brother of Trump’s former national security adviser, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, ordered the National Guard to protect the U.S. Capitol from attack. In November of last year, Michael Flynn called for Trump to declare martial law and order the military to conduct new elections in the “battleground” states that Trump lost to Biden. The fact that there have been sieges by pro-Trump fascists, similar to the U.S. Capitol attack, on the state capitol buildings in Michigan, Georgia, Oregon, and Washington state are a clear indication that the Mussolini example will continue to be followed by fascist forces everywhere. In February 2020, the Trump-friendly president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, entered the Legislative Assembly with armed police and soldiers in what was called an attempted coup. The fascists have the stage for similar anti-parliamentary actions everywhere.
It should be noted that Mussolini’s successful march on Rome in 1922 was followed the next year by a march by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi supporters in Munich, the capital of Bavaria. Hitler hoped to repeat the success of Mussolini in laying siege to the Bavarian government and overthrowing it in a “Beer Hall Putsch,” or coup d’etat. Unlike the situation in Rome, Bavarian troops opened fire on the vastly outnumbered 2000 Nazis, killing 16 of them. Hitler was given a lenient prison sentence for his role in the march and putsch attempt. When Hitler and his colleagues were freed from prison, they were more dangerous than ever, having garnered sympathy from some of the conservative-leaning members of the German electorate. This should be kept in mind by juries and judges handling the criminal cases of hundreds of Trump supporters arrested for their role in the U.S. Capitol attempted putsch. The granting of bail to some of the accused Capitol coup plotters is setting the stage for significant problems in the near future.
The playbook for the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was the October 1922 insurrection of Mussolini’s fascists in Rome, albeit with two different outcomes. Bannon has been serving as Trump’s resident ideological fascism chief since joining the ex-president’s campaign in 2016. In many respects, Bannon has been for Trump what Nazi ideological chief Alfred Rosenberg was to Adolf Hitler. Rosenberg promoted Nazi ideology to not only nations under German occupation but to countries around the world, including the United States, where a pro-fascist first-generation German-American, Fred Trump, Sr., became enamored of fascist and racist beliefs in his hometown of New York City. Bannon’s promotion of fascism goes back to at least his time as editor for the far-right Breitbart News, a media operation funded by Rebekah Mercer and her father. Today, Mercer money has supported the far-right social media platform Parler.
United Nations Secretary António Guterres recently told the UN Human Rights Council that the threat posed by global neo-Nazis and white supremacists have been “cheered on by people in positions of responsibility in ways that were considered unimaginable not long ago.” Guterres added, “We need global coordinated action to defeat this grave and growing danger.” He is correct.
The sooner the nations of the world awake to the clear and present transnational threat posed by fascists abusing electoral systems to gain dictatorial power, the possibility of a repeat of the fascist rise to power during the 1920s and 1930s can be snuffed out – now and far into the future and, hopefully, permanently.