Steve Bannon, Trump’s strategist, comes across as sensible and well-informed, judging by this 2014 speech. Unfortunately, he is short on new solutions, to say nothing of a new worldview, but that would take a genius. At the moment, I’m more interested in the small things, such as this:
…when you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of his [Vladimir Putin’s] beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism; he’s got an adviser who harkens back to Julius Evola and different writers of the early 20th century who are really the supporters of what’s called the traditionalist movement, which really eventually metastasized into Italian fascism. A lot of people that are traditionalists are attracted to that.
I have no doubt that Bannon spoke of Alexander Dugin. It’s encouraging that Bannon didn’t call Dugin the Kremlin’s ideologue-in-chief, demoting him to “advisor.” I doubt even that – I doubt Dugin has ever advised Putin (on what, I wonder, the broken tablets of the hyperborean race?) or even spoken to him at much length – but who can tell for sure? As for its content, Dugin’s mishmash apparently includes a good deal of Julius Evola as well as Réné Guénon and late Eurasianists. Their traditionalism is rather dubious but they like the name so let’s use it, with a pinch of salt as usual.
What I doubt is Bannon’s claim that Evolist “radical traditionalist” thinking “eventually metastasized into Italian fascism.” It seems that it depends too much on the meaning of “eventually.” If Bannon referred to the regime and ideology of the 1920s and early 1930s, I don’t think Evola has much relevance. If “eventually” indicates the anticlimactic final years of fascism, 1941-45, especially the nineteen months of Salò, the extent of Evola’s influence is debatable. If Bannon had in mind Italy’s postwar neo-fascism, he got it right. Evola became the grand old man of extreme reaction, worshipped by violent right-wingers in Italy and, later, by all sorts of oddballs all over the place.
Whatever the intellectual underpinnings of Fascism (I’m capitalizing the word to refer to the Italian party and regime), Evola was still in his playboy phase when Mussolini became prime minister in 1922. The baron published his first political work in 1928, and there is no evidence it was taken seriously by pro-Fascist intellectuals. It was only from the mid-1930s that Mussolini started paying attention to Evola’s writings – specifically, to his views on race. In 1941 Mussolini came close to endorsing them: Evola’s “spiritual” racism helped Mussolini negotiate with his German patrons. But Evola’s heyday came after the war with his acquittal in the FAR trial and books like Revolt Against the Modern World, The Men and the Ruins, and Ride the Tiger.
[More of my Dugin-related scribbles here.]