'My great-grandfather was no monster,' says Mussolini relative
No candidate in the Euro elections in two weeks' time brings a "heavier" surname to the ballot sheet than Caio Giulio Cesare Mussolini. Yes, "Il Duce" was his great-grandfather.
With black type like that in the pedigree, many might be tempted to hide it, even to change surname. Not Caio. He is "proud" of the family name.
The 50-year-old former Italian navy officer, who will be running for far-right Fratelli d'Italia (FDI) in the huge South Italy constituency including Sicily, Calabria and Puglia, is not embarrassed by the imposing "handle" to his jug.
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When I suggested to him in Rome last week that many of us would see his great-grandfather as a "monster", a war criminal, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands (first in the Abyssinia war of the 1930s and then in concentration camps), he replied: "Wars happen for various sets of interests, you win them and you lose them... At that time, rightly or wrongly, the Germans were our allies..."
Yes, I objected, but the Racial Laws were not "war".
Introduced by Mussolini in 1938, the Racial Laws, of course, restricted the fundamental civil rights of Italian Jews, costing them their jobs, their assets and sending many of them into confinement, eventually into concentration camps.
"The Racial Laws were a mistake, a shameful thing...
"Many Jews took part in the March on Rome (Mussolini's taking of power in October 1922), they were convinced that the Mussolini regime would continue to respect their rights...
"Mussolini had Jewish friends... but the racial laws were a shameful mistake, and one that worked against Italy's best interests..." replied the great-grandson, adding: "The judgments that you make about any historical period are never black and white.
"You are Irish, take your own recent history, some people would see Bobby Sands as a hero, whilst others would see him as a criminal...
"Do I think Mussolini was a monster? No, no, he was a head of state
with the responsibility to govern."
As we have said,
from Mussolini to Steve Bannon, the far right is on the march and this time they are marching on Brussels not Rome.
- Paddy Agnew