Beyond the Acid-Filled Jacuzzi: Sinister Truths About Bannon’s Fascism

by Alexander Reid Ross, Truthout | News Analysis –

Stephen Bannon is an enigmatic man. According to The Washington Post’s well-traveled report, he is so difficult to pin down that he effectively had no fixed address during the three years before becoming Trump’s top adviser.

Although Bannon filed for residency in Florida, evidence shows that he may not have lived there. Some speculate that he may have claimed residency in Florida to avoid California’s high taxes. However, his ex-wife apparently did live at his declared home, and the landlord reported some doors in the house dead-bolted, some doors missing entirely, and the Jacuzzi destroyed and “covered in acid.”

Further reports indicate that Bannon was paid $376,000 from 2012-2015 for 30 hours of work a week by an anti-Clinton media company funded by Robert Mercer and connected to the Koch brothers called Government Accountability Institute at the same time as he worked at Breitbart, often staying at the Breitbart Town House on Capitol Hill, as well as in New York, London and Miami.

While Bannon’s suspicious residency history is being picked over extensively by journalists and Florida state prosecutors alike, another more deeply sinister aspect of his story has failed to attract sustained public scrutiny: his adherence to an international, traditionalist movement closely linked to occultist fascists like Julius Evola and Alexander Dugin.

Bannon’s roots in traditionalism were observed earlier this year when BuzzFeed released a transcript of a June 2014 conference that he attended in the Vatican. Organized and attended by rightist and Catholic groups like the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, the event gave Bannon an opportunity to identify allies on the far right in what he called “the international Tea Party movement.”

Speakers included Luca Volontè, a trustee at CitizenGo, which provides online platforms for far right petitions like the anti-choice One of Us citizens’ initiative. Intended to halt public spending on abortions, One of Us was created by Carlo Casini, another speaker at the 2014 Vatican conference. Participating groups in One of Us included Zivile Koalition e.V., a lobbying organization created by Beatrix von Storch of the radical right party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). The list goes on.

Bannon’s comments at this conference reflected the kind of mixture of radical right, conservative and fascist elements assembled under the title of traditionalism and lending their support to the populism of the Trump campaign, among other rightist mobilizations.

Calling the president of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute “the smartest guy in Rome,” Bannon told the conference about his mission to win “an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism” on behalf of “the Judeo-Christian West.” This war cannot be fought through decadent modern culture, Bannon insisted, but through a return to tradition. Rather than look to the EU, then, Bannon suggested turning toward Russia: “Putin is standing up for traditional institutions, and he’s trying to do it in a form of nationalism,” he said.

This form of nationalist Eurasianism, according to Bannon, comes from “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.”

Evola was not an outlying traditionalist who influenced fascism, as Bannon would have it; rather, Evola was an overt supporter of fascism. In 1930, Evola insisted, “We would like a more radical Fascism, more fearless, a really absolute Fascism, made of pure force.” He then joined the arch-Blackshirt Roberto Farinacci, notorious for pouring castor oil down his victims’ throats, in editing the publication Il Regime Fascista.

In a letter to the Fascist cultural minister, Evola explicitly stated his intention “to give an anti-Semitic orientation to Fascist spirituality.” He was a leading participant in the fascist movement and sought to push it further. Dissatisfied with mere populist fascism, Evola actually called himself a “superfascist.”

Evola’s dedication to ultraviolence inspired a generation of fascists whose merciless attacks on civilian infrastructure killed hundreds of innocent people in bloody massacres that characterized what became known as the Anni di piombo, or Years of Lead.

In recent decades, the European New Right (ENR) — a group of banal, fascist ideologues that formed in the late 1960s — has summoned the full collective force of their limited imaginations to paper over Evola’s fascism and present him as a palatable, avant-garde traditionalist. Even a cursory look at the historical context of Evola’s rise, however, reveals Evola’s fascist commitments and the covert fascism of those like Bannon who seek to carry on his legacy under the guise of “traditionalist Catholicism.”

Tradition, Family, Property

Traditionalist Catholicism is a growing movement in Europe and the US, having emerged from the counter-enlightenment tradition and reactionary rejection of the French Revolution. Against Liberté, égalité, fraternité, traditionalists identifying with the Pope (ultramontane) rather than local, more radical, priests and bishops, called for a return to family and property.

Through the 19th century, ultramontane Catholics increasingly turned toward Catholic Action and its support for a socially responsible corporatism beholden to crown and altar. The leading ultramontane group, Action Française, prefigured the rise of fascism and the Lateran Accords, a series of agreements between Mussolini and the Church in 1929 that granted autonomy to the Vatican. Action Française leader Charles Maurras’s later collaboration with fascism, as well as the fascistization of ultramontane monarchist Léon Degrelle, further influenced the politics of post-war radical right populism that would manifest in the Front National.

Many US Catholic traditionalists like Joseph McCarthy and cofounder of the John Birch Society, Francis Fenton, embraced virulent anticommunism, condemning the destruction of traditional family values. However, at the end of the 1950s and into the 1960s, the Church embarked on Vatican II, a reform period moving away from the Latin mass and even opening up to left-wing human rights missions throughout Latin America. A number of prominent traditionalists, like Fenton, declared that Communism and Freemasons had “deeply infiltrated the Church.”

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Reprinted with permission from Truthout