In 1932 Mussolini predicted the 20th century would be ‘un secolo fascista’, a ‘fascist century’. However, the Axis Powers were defeated in 1945 and attempts to revive his movement have failed. March 2019 marks the centenary of the formation of the first Fascio in Milan, and is an ideal moment to assess just how badly Mussolini misjudged how politics would evolve in the future.
Roger Griffin will consider the factors that could explain Mussolini’s delusion that fascism was becoming the dominant ideology of the modern age, and what ultimately condemned the socio-political experiments undertaken by the two fascist regimes to abject failure, sealed with their crushing military defeat in April 1945. However, having refuted the duce’s prediction for the political climate over the next 70 years, Griffin then considers how radically the perspective changes if ‘secolo’ is taken to mean, not a century, but ‘a hundred years’. In particular, it poses the question whether the apparently inexorable rise since the end of the Cold War of xenophobic populism, identity politics, and the emergence of various new forms of right-wing movements and states, both secular and religious, might not be considered an argument for seeing Mussolini’s prophecy fulfilled, at least in part, even if far removed from the official Fascist dream of a new Italy whether in Russia, Hungary, Turkey or Brazil. So was Mussolini right after all, or at least more right than wrong? And what can liberal humanists and social democrats do about it? Moderated by Robin te Slaa.
Roger Griffin is Emeritus Professor in Modern History in the School of History, Philosophy and Culture at Oxford Brookes University. He is an expert on the socio-historical and ideological dynamics of fascism, as well as the relationship to modernity of violence stemming from various forms of political or religious fanaticism, and in particular contemporary terrorism. His theory of fascism as a revolutionary form of ultranationalism driven by palingenetic myth has had a major impact on comparative fascist studies since the mid-1990s. His latest book is Fascism: An Introduction to Comparative Fascist Studies (Polity 2018).
Robin te Slaa is a historian. He publishes about fascism and related topics. With co-author Edwin Klijn he’s working on a three-part history of the Dutch Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging (NSB). His book Wat is fascisme? on the origins and ideology of fascism was published in 2017.