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

Trump’s ongoing attacks on vulnerable populations are an expression of Bannon’s fascist traditionalism.

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon speaks at CPAC 2017 in National Harbor, Maryland, February 24, 2017. (Photo: Michael Vadon)

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 a dedicated early member 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.”

In an intellectual contribution to this new traditionalist struggle, Evola republished his translation of Léon de Poncins’s La Guerra occulta with a pointed “concluding chapter” in which Evola sharply rebuked the movement toward reform. Evola’s message spread throughout European fascist and traditionalist networks, from Franco’s Spain, where Degrelle befriended Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, to the expansive fascist and traditionalist circles of Latin America.

In Brazil, a leader of Catholic Action named Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira founded a group called Tradition, Family, Property (TFP) in 1960, which vehemently denounced Vatican II and priests sympathetic to the left.

TFP leaders brought their doctrine to other countries like the US, where a group of far-right leaders associated with the John Birch Society and Religious Right known as the “New Right” received traditionalism in earnest, developing a new US chapter in 1973. Meanwhile, Fenton created the Orthodox Roman Catholic Movement (ORCM) and, at the same time, Vichy collaborator and Roman Catholic Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre created the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).

As Catholic traditionalism spread throughout the world, TFP chapters increased their power base in South America. Argentina’s TFP, for instance, manifested the spiritual message of military dictatorships in Argentina to the extent that the 1976 junta adopted “Tradition, Family, and Property” as its slogan. To combat leftist guerrillas during the blood-soaked Dirty Wars, the Argentine far-right also relied on sadistic paramilitary forces known as Alianza Anticomunista Argentina, organized by occult fascist, Jóse López Rega, nicknamed “the Argentine Evola.” López Rega’s connection to Evolian terrorists tied into the Anni di piombo are well known.

Traditionalist Politics and Conservative Revolution

While the reformism of Jorge Bergoglio (later Pope Francis II) would emerge from this context in Argentina, his detractors within SSPX, ORCM, and TFP were similarly forged in the crucible of the Cold War and continue to make their presence felt. In 1984, Venezuela banned the organization for allegedly plotting to assassinate then-Pope John Paul II, not only were they thought to have paramilitary training camps but they were said to use the Pope’s image as target practice, and more recently, controversy has swirled over whether or not prominent members of the Venezuelan opposition are TFP members.

Of course, these networks are well connected to far-right traditionalists in Europe. The Front National’s ties to SSPX-linked lobbying group, Civitas, are fairly open. Beatrix von Storch of AfD is related to the director of the European TFP franchise Federation Pro Europa Christiana. In short, the traditionalist network present at the 2014 conference in the Vatican was the perfect opportunity for Bannon to cite “an adviser who harkens back to Julius Evola” as an important influence.

The unnamed adviser Bannon was talking about is likely Alexander Dugin, a prominent Russian fascist who is known for having close ties with Moscow State University and some of Russia’s military brass. Dugin made his name after the fall of the Soviet Union, when he helped mobilize a “National Bolshevik” network of fascists throughout Europe around the imperative of defeating globalization and fostering “a genuine, true, radically revolutionary, and consistent fascist fascism” in the words of his text, Fascism: Borderless and Red. Since then, Dugin’s traditionalism has been associated with the traditionalist tendencies to criminalize “propagandizing homosexuality” and end abortions throughout the world.

Playing his enthusiasm for fascism down in recent years, Dugin has developed what he calls the “Fourth Political Theory,” which posits that liberalism, communism, and fascism represent three failed epochs to be overcome through the revolutionary rebirth of authentic, conservative life. For Dugin, “Traditionalists advanced the program of fundamental conservatism” which was given “an exhaustive description” by Evola.

Through this conception of “conservative revolution,” which hews closer to fascism than to democracy, Dugin suggests that a cultural shift toward traditionalism might give way to broader political transformation. Rather than support the EU, Dugin suggests creating a federated zone of culturally homogenous ethno-states, which he believes would bring about “an unavoidable social dynamic characteristic of globalization and openness, but without those shortcomings that globalization has taken on a global scale.” In short, a kind of fascist international.

Dugin’s stated goal is “to pull out from the structure of the world the roots of evil, to abolish time as a destructive quality of reality, and in so doing fulfilling some kind of secret, parallel, non-evident intention of the Deity itself.” Interestingly, Dugin’s left-right syncretism and catastrophism closely mirror some of Bannon’s own statements; for instance, “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

As Bannon indicates, Dugin’s hope for a spiritual “conservative revolution” that will break apart the EU’s “Atlanticism” is backed by Russian support for Eurosceptic parties and movements that have also been embraced by Trump and, it would appear, much of the Republican Party.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year, the UK Independence Party’s xenophobic former leader, Nigel Farage, triumphantly called Brexit and Trump the signals of a “global revolution,” interestingly repeating the claims of fascist Kai Murros. When Bannon addressed the CPAC audience from the stage, he repeatedly called for an “economic nationalist agenda.”

Bannon’s recently revealed enthusiasm for Catholic traditionalist Jean Raspail’s extremely xenophobic text, Camp of the Saints, as well as the historical narrative of national rebirth, The Fourth Turning, only further clarifies the combination of xenophobia, ethnocentrism, and creeping fascism underlying the networks of contemporary traditionalism currently gaining power.

In short, Bannon believes that he is helping to bring about a sacred revolution to overthrow a multicultural, globalist “establishment” and wage war against what he frames as the ethno-religious enemy of Islam to pull the “Judeo-Christian West” out of a historic collapse and build a new spiritual empire. The reports of acid in the Jacuzzi and the alleged investigation into his address only offer small samples of the erratic, temperamental and bizarre behavior that accompanies such a fascistic ideology — and the mess he could leave around the world.

Now that Bannon is installed as Trump’s adviser at the center of the White House, the impact of his reactionary, traditionalist ideals are taking shape through the Trump administration’s ongoing attack on the most vulnerable populations.

To defeat this onslaught, the anti-fascist resistance must address not only the Trump administration but also the broader trans-Atlantic political and cultural shift that Bannon rode to power.

Note: The author has altered the text to show that Fenton was a dedicated early member of the John Birch Society rather than a founder and that Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira was a leader of Catholic Action rather than a follower of Maurras.

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