A personal and national narrative of resistance to globalism

Twenty years ago I somehow managed to get my act together and get out of Paris, where I had haunted a cheap hotel for a year in the wake of the death of Princess Diana like the ghost of the Marlon Brando character in Last Tango in Paris.

And so I got in my car and drove down to Italy to write a biography of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

I had a very good contract with a major British publisher to write the book—my first—but had long since spent the advance and had yet to write a single word.  I did not have enough money even to pay the motorway toll on arrival.

I had stopped off in Paris, bewitched by a treacherous French journalist friend, to write an instant book on the death of Diana.  The idea was to make a fast buck to finance the Mussolini project.  That did not happen.  “You will make a lot of monnay,” his father, who masterminded the deal, kept on telling me.  I never did, and Paris cost me money and much more, nearly my life.

The sexy Italian woman manning the toll booth gave me a form to fill out and waved me through with a smile.

What a fantastic country Italy is—I thought—and aren’t Italian women just so amazing?

My destination was the small town in the Romagna where Mussolini was born in 1883—Predappio—not far south and east of Bologna in the foothills of the Apennine mountains, which run down the center of the Italian peninsula.  And it is where Il Duce, as they called him, is buried in the Mussolini Crypt at the town’s cemetery—like a saint.  He was captured at Lake Como and shot by communist partisans at the end of the war in April 1945 with his mistress Clara Petacci.  Their corpses were taken to Milan, where they were strung upside down from the girders of a petrol station.  A huge crowd gathered.  The corpses were cut down, and the crowd defiled them.  Italy’s postwar governments hid the Duce’s remains in a monastery, and it was not until 1957 that they agreed to his widow Rachele’s request to return them to Predappio.

It was infernally hot that first summer.

One day I left my bank checking card on the dashboard of the car and came back to find it buckled and unusable.

“Writing these big biographies is a steep learning curve, you know,” my editor at the publisher’s had warned.


Before leaving Britain in 1997, I had been a staff writer at the Daily and Sunday Telegraph for ten years but just could not resist going to Cuba on a two-week-long Cigar Tour freebie soon after a new editor took over who was looking to shake things up.  It was a big mistake, and I got fired.

My last byline for the Telegraph was “by Nicholas Farrell in Havana.”  Not bad, I suppose, as an epitaph.

Actually, I did not really mind getting the heave-ho.  I was fed up with journalism and wanted to do something serious with my life before it was too late—like write books.

The car was a frightful metalized burgundy Honda Prelude—a sports car for geriatrics—which was my father’s and which he (a retired dentist) had donated through gritted teeth to my cause.  In Paris, I lost it for several months because, worse the wear for booze one night, as usual, I forgot where I had parked it.  It contained my books, notes, and computer.  Luckily, a friend saw it one day.

“You make your own luck in life,” my father—still very alive at 93—likes to say.  He is a self-made man who rose from poverty in postwar Britain to achieve status and comfort.

I disagree with my dad on this, as on so much else.

Chance and destiny, for better or worse, neither of which anyone controls, are as fundamental as human endeavor.  God?

Actually, I had such a good time in Cuba that I had first suggested a biography of Fidel Castro to the publisher.

“Nobody’s interested in Castro,” he told me.

Just as well, probably.  I think Cuba, one way or another, would have finished me off for good.

But nobody in London was much interested in Mussolini either, as far as I could tell.  The kind of women that hung about the kind of bars I went to had never heard of him.

So when they asked So what do you do? I used to reply: “I’m writing a biography of Benito Mussolini, the fashion designer.”

Soon after my arrival in Predappio I noticed that the most prominent image on its coat of arms is a bunch of grapes, and that local people talk about Sangiovese all the time with smiling eyes.

Sangiovese—I discovered—is the mythical grape used to make the local dark red wine in the Romagna and which long ago was stolen by the cunning Tuscans just across the Apennines and used to make world-famous super-Tuscans such as monstrously expensive Sassicaia.

No matter.  The best affordable Sangiovese wine anywhere comes from Predappio.  Fascists call it nero (black), naturally.

There’s even a famous folk song called “Romagna e Sangiovese,” whose final verse before it launches into the raucous and resounding chorus “Evviva la Roma gna! Evviva il Sangiovese!” goes: “E quando vien la notte romagnola—ROMAGNOLA! / La mi’ murosa è bella e campagnola—CAMPAGNOLA! / Ci invita a far l’amore, l’amor senza pretese.”

“And when the romagnola night comes—ROMAGNOLA! / And my lover is beautiful and rustic—RUSTIC! / It invites us to make love, love that is down to earth.”

Predappio was therefore definitely my kind of town.

In 1922, not long after the fascists came to power, they replaced the bunch of grapes with a fasces—the bundle of rods with axhead peeping out carried by the lictors in Ancient Rome, who were the symbol of authority and justice—which was taken up as the symbol of fascism.

That was surely a bad mistake, I felt, by Mussolini and his fascists.

It was bizarre—as I also found out very quickly—that since the fall of fascism in 1945 Predappio had been run by the communists.  But hardly surprising.

Italy had the largest communist party in Europe outside the Soviet Bloc until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the Romagna, one half of the Emilia Romagna region, was its power base.

Predappio is still run by the heirs to communism—although these days they are under mortal threat, as everywhere in Italy, from the modern version of fascism: populism.

And I noticed that every building associated with Mussolini in Predappio was locked up and abandoned, such as the simple stone house where he was born, or the gigantic fascist party building opposite the church, or the castle on top of one of the steep hills overlooking the town which, as the citation read, was a gift to him soon after he came to power in 1922, “from the people of the Romagna to its greatest son.”

It was as if the Italians wanted to cancel Mussolini and fascism from their history, but in only a halfhearted way—in other words, to postpone a final decision on the fate of these buildings, and so of fascism, to future generations.  Otherwise, they would have destroyed them completely.

Yet I also could not fail to notice the three or four fascist souvenir shops in the high street, which fly Italian flags from their facades, as if they were embassies in a hostile country, and which quite openly sell everything you need to be a complete fascist.

Can you imagine similar Nazi souvenir shops in Hitler’s birthplace in Braunau am Inn in Austria?

Why did the “comunisti”—as they are called—in charge of the council, I wondered, allow this?

They say that more people visit the tomb of Mussolini each year than visit the tomb of Dante in nearby Ravenna.

What also struck me about Predappio, which the fascists transformed into the Fascist Bethlehem, was the main square where they erected the key buildings of the regime, including the Casa del Fascio (Fascist Party headquarters), which looks just like a church, complete with bell tower, but also a real church in whose facade above the great entrance door they embedded a fasces that is still there.

It seemed to me that right there in that piazza was visible tangible proof in the shape of those two buildings of why fascism was doomed to failure.

According to the official version, the Catholic Church and the fascist regime lived in harmony more or less, as both shared a common enemy: communism.  The 1929 Lateran Pacts, which ended the schism between the Italian state and the Vatican that had endured since Italian reunification between 1860 and 1870, were—it is said—the natural product of that shared interest.  But the official version is not correct.  Fascism (which to begin with was pathologically hostile to the Church) always viewed the Church, if not as an enemy, as a rival: Both preached a faith whose aim was the conquest of the minds and hearts of the Italian people, and also in a certain sense of their souls, too.

In The Doctrine of Fascism, the clearest definition of fascist ideology—written in 1932 by Mussolini and the philosopher Giovanni Gentile—we read, “Fascism is a religious conception of life, which aims to found a ‘spiritual society.’”

This aim, which was so fundamental to fascism, placed it on a collision course with the Church.  The authors of the Doctrine were well aware of this, and, as a result, in the second half (written by Mussolini) they seek to reassure Catholics by making a distinction that is not convincing between the spiritual and the religious:

The Fascist State has not created its own “God” as at a certain moment, in the wild extremisms of the Convention, Robespierre wanted to do; nor does it seek vainly to banish it from the human soul as Bolshevism tries to do; Fascism respects the God of the ascetics, the saints and the heroes and even God as regarded and prayed to by means of the naïve and primitive hearts of the people. . . .


If each century has its own doctrine, we can see from a thousand clues that that of the current century is the fascist one.  That it is a vital doctrine is demonstrated by the fact that fascism has given birth to a faith: that this faith has conquered the soul is demonstrated by the fact that fascism has its own dead and its own martyrs.

Today, in Predappio, the church—whose bell continues to toll and so call the faithful to Mass—and the Casa del Fascio (whose bell has been silent since 1945) stand opposite each other, separated by that large and desolate piazza, as they always have done, most uneasily.

I found a cheap house to rent next to the castle, with a spectacular view of Predappio 14 hairpin bends down below, and of the narrow cosy valley heading off west in the direction of Tuscany.  (Florence, though another country, is only 55 miles away across the mountains.)

Above all, Predappio was deeply rural and devoid of the awful temptations of big cities where I had spent most of my adult life.  And it was not Tuscany, thank God, whose spirit of place has been destroyed by well-heeled foreign tourists, especially British ones, who have bought up virtually every stone farmhouse to be had.  You cannot move in the Tuscan countryside without hearing educated wealthy English voices at the next table.  Behind every oleander bush or cypress tree there lurks an Englishman in a seersucker jacket and panama hat who when you pass by leaps out at you like a scarecrow, glass of Chianti Classico in his hand, and barks “Cheers!”

In Predappio, an event is a sudden summer storm, a nun in white on a bicycle, or a coachload of fascist tourists, and I was the only Englishman.

Somehow, I got the book done (500 pages, 50 pages of source notes).  It was massacred by the liberal-left in their press reviews, which I guess is better than being ignored, and it was praised by more enlightened reviewers, published in paperback, and translated into six languages.

I also fell in love.

I met her, Carla, in the bar next to the Mussolini castle—just a few short hairpin bends above my rented house—which is owned by the Catholic Church and was run by Marina, a lesbian.

Carla was 15 years younger than me and thought I was homosexual because I wore a big black hat.

It was a pretty raunchy kind of place in the middle of the Apennine nowhere, full of farmers and comunisti.

One of them, Sergio the cowherd, used to make slashing motions with a finger across his throat, every time he looked at me in the bar.  He was always smiling.  It was his idea of a joke.  “You inglese look for death,” he used to say, “you want death.”

That’s what everyone called me: Inglese (English).

I envied one farmer in particular, Afro, who was so sure of himself that he could maneuver girls around the dance floor as if he were at the wheel of a particularly punchy sports car.

Everyone sang karaoke.  I always sang “Light My Fire” by the Doors.

Carla had a boyfriend who was always with her, but she wanted to ditch.  I had no idea she was interested in me until one night after the usual session at Marina’s I was back home in my isolated house and she came crashing through the kitchen window—terrifying me—where I was cooking up comfort food at about 3 a.m.

“Why didn’t you just knock on the door?” I asked.

In London, my first wife became pregnant only once and miscarried, and I was young and did not especially want children anyway.

Before I met Carla, I thought I was pretty much incapable of having children, and this was confirmed—or so it seemed—when she forced me to do a fertility test.  The female gynecologist threw the piece of paper with the results down onto the table of her consulting room with a theatrical flourish and said, “Nulla.  There is no movement.  Niente!”

We now have six children—three boys, three girls—aged 14 down to 3.

When she met me she was not interested in God in the slightest.  But as a result—I joke—she rapidly transformed into a Catholic fundamentalist.  I am an agnostic and unlike atheists see no conflict between science and religion.  But that was not enough.  To keep the peace I had to convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, even though I am a man of little faith.


I suppose I wanted to understand what the word fascism means—a word that has become an all-purpose term of abuse for something people, mainly liberals, do not like: i.e., something “far right.”

What I discovered is that fascism is not far right at all.  In fact it is an alternative far-left revolutionary movement.

This is why the liberal-left were so angry with my biography.

Mussolini was the leading light in Italy of international socialism (communism) who ditched that to invent national socialism (fascism) 100 years ago in 1919.

In August 1914, he was editor of the Socialist Party’s daily newspaper Avanti! and the rising star of Italian revolutionary socialism (later called communism).  But the war forced him once and for all to face the consequences of a fundamental fact of life that he had been aware of for years: People are loyal more to their nation than to their class.  Yet according to classical Marxism, the historical process which would inevitably cause world revolution would mean the destruction of nations.  This is why communism was called first, internationalism, then international socialism.

But the war caused the socialist parties of Germany and France to sacrifice this sacred credo of their Marxist faith and fight each other in defence of their nations.  Mussolini agreed.  The Italian Socialist Party—which stuck to the strict neutrality policy demanded by Marxist orthodoxy—expelled him.

The embarrassing truth about Mussolini and fascism—embarrassing, that is, for the left—is that there was evolutionary continuity between socialism and fascism.  This natural evolution is crystal clear in Mussolini’s conveniently ignored or forgotten speeches and articles before 1919.  These show that well before the First World War he had already developed the essential elements of fascism and the strategy to launch a successful fascist revolution.

But they also show that he wanted to achieve this as a socialist within the Socialist Party because he regarded what he would call fascism as true socialism.  It was not to be.

As he told his socialist comrades at the November 1914 meeting of the party in Milan at which he was expelled, “You believe you are losing me: you delude yourselves.  You hate me because you still love me.  You still love me because I am and shall always remain a Socialist. . . . One cannot change one’s soul—Socialism has rooted itself in mine with blood.”

To insist, as those in command of the cultural citadels of Europe and America still do, that Mussolini was the bought agent and creature of the banks and big business, and fascism a bourgeois counterrevolution—therefore “far Right”—is fake history.

Yet so effective has this fake history been that the word fascist is synonymous with far-right, and it has become an all-purpose term of abuse, whereas the word communist has not.  And now the word populist is the target of the same fake history machine.

In fact, fascism has much more in common with communism than either has with capitalism or democracy.  This is why—for instance—the Times regularly defined Soviet communism in the 1930’s as “fascist,” and why the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was a far more natural alliance than the subsequent alliance between Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin.

Fascism did not abolish the class war.  It exchanged the Marxist class war for a new class war: that of producers (of whatever class) against parasites (of whatever class).  The rich, who tolerated fascism as a lesser evil than communism (this was Winston Churchill’s attitude as well), tried in vain to tame it.  But fascism regarded many (though not all) rich people—especially bankers and rentiers—as the parasitical class enemy par excellence.

That fascism regarded the state as the solution, not the problem, separates it from the Anglo-American, or Anglo-Saxon, conservative and libertarian “bourgeois” right for whom the opposite is the case.

Mussolini realized that only national socialism and not international socialism was possible, and all major communist revolutions would prove him right.  George Orwell, a patriotic socialist who despised communism, was one of the few on the left to accept this in a 1945 essay, “Notes on Nationalism,” when he defined Soviet communism as nationalist.

Human willpower, not the historical process, had to have the leading role in revolution—Mussolini realized—and a charismatic leader able via the press and the piazza to instill in the people religious faith in the revolution was therefore vital.

He further realized that the revolution could in no way be a proletarian revolution, and thus he rejected the classical Marxist dogma that revolutionary consciousness was the exclusive possession of the proletariat.  His was the correct revolutionary vision.  In no 20th-century communist revolution would the proletariat play any significant role.

Most of the key features of the communist revolutions in the 20th century were first set out by Mussolini in his fascist vision of socialism.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the birth of fascism a century ago has extraordinary resonance today.  The tectonic tension between people and elites and between nations and empires that caused the First World War is once again playing havoc in Europe.

Today’s elite—whether no-borders internationalists, global slave-labor capitalists, metropolitan thought-controllers, or E.U. imperialists—hiss the word populist as an all-purpose term of abuse.  What they mean is, “i.e., fascist.”

Yes, populist does mean “fascist,” but not in the way they intend; it means “fascist” in the way Mussolini intended.

Populism attracts mass support, notably among the poor and the young, angry at the refusal of parliaments and traditional political parties to defend their jobs and their identity.

Just as Italians of all classes flocked to fascism because it offered a dynamic alternative to the paralysis of the Italian parliamentary system and the contempt of the Italian Socialist Party for La Patria, so do they flock to populism.

British and American populism is different from populism in Europe—for a simple reason.

Anglo-Saxon law is based on liberty; European law on rights.  In Britain, for example, you are free (or were, until Britain joined the E.U.) to do something unless the state has passed a law that stops you.  In Europe, you are not free to do anything until the state has granted you the right to do it.

Britain’s supposed far right UKIP is quite distinct from fascism because it sees the state as the problem, not the solution.  It wants liberty from the state, not rights from the state.

But populist parties or movements in Europe—whether of the so-called far right or of the so-called far left—are direct descendants of fascism.  The French Front National, for example, or the Greek Syriza, or the Italian “Vaffa!” (“F-ck Off!”) MoVimento 5 Stelle, all—as fascists did—regard the state as the solution.

What does unite all populist parties of the right (and Donald Trump in America) plus many populist parties of the left is a passionate determination to defend the nation, its culture and way of life, from today’s political, economic, and cultural imperialists and their institutions, such as the European Union, Goldman Sachs, CNN, and the BBC.

There are, of course, crucial differences.  Populism does not (yet) aim, as did fascism (and communism), to abolish democracy and replace it with dictatorship.  It is patriotic (defensive).  So far.  Fascism (and communism), once in power, quickly became nationalist (aggressive).

Like fascism (and communism), populism shares a contempt for parliaments that have so tepidly failed to stand up to the new imperialists.  Populists do not despise democracy.  Not yet.  Not quite.

Nor was Italian fascism, unlike Hitler’s version of fascism, especially racist by the standards of the times, either when conceived or in its early years—although fascists did ironically loathe the Germans and Austrians who had so nearly defeated Italy in the First World War.  Nor was it antisemitic, until Mussolini formed his fatal alliance with Hitler—who most certainly was antisemitic from the word go—in the late 1930’s.

But nor are most populists today racists, unless you define their determination to put a stop to mass immigration and multicultural imperialism as racist.  And if anyone is antisemitic, it’s the far left who despise Israel.

Sometimes, when I was a child, I used to run away from home.

My family lived in a house in the country in southern England between London and the English Channel, surrounded by miles of woods and fields.

My brother Simon, one year younger than me, and I called it “our estate,” even though our family were not the owners.

My parents were always arguing, and I hated it.

I used to cry each time they argued and pray in bed that God would “Make Mummy and Daddy happy again.”  My prayers were not answered.

And every now and again, when I was upset, I used to take off into the woods and hide and not come back.

Eventually, they would come and try to find me.

“Nicky’s run away,” I could hear my brother, who is now a million pound a year barrister, chanting.  “Nicky’s run way.”

I would watch—like a Red Indian—my father thrashing around dutifully but hopelessly in the undergrowth, calling my name.

Most people do not leave the country they were born in.

When people ask me why I left Britain to live in Italy, I don’t have an honest answer.

It was not Mussolini that brought me here.

Perhaps it was running away all over again.

I certainly fell for books by great American and British authors who spent time in the Mediterranean—Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, George Orwell.

But they did not remain.  They came and they left.

One who did remain was Lawrence Durrell.

His enchanting account—Bitter Lemons—of living in a village in Cyprus in the 1950’s during the struggle for independence from Britain entranced me.

In Turkish Cyprus (as it now is) I once met the celestial rogue Sabri Tahir who masterminded so hilariously for Durrell the purchase of a village house from the cobbler’s wife and her enormous family in a village near Kyrenia, which is immortalized in the book.  I asked Tahir to sign me a copy of Bitter Lemons, which he did.

It was not above all the sun or the sea or the women or the food or the wine that I sought—or the extraordinary architectural and artistic masterpieces that make Italy the beating heart of European civilization.

It was a way of life more in tune with the human soul.

I just found Britain, especially London—where I lived for 20 years—so totally and utterly soulless.

Yes, I know, if you want to meet the movers and shakers, London is where it’s at and all that jazz, just like New York, Washington, or anywhere in California.  Etc.

Frankly, I do not give a damn.

We are being destroyed by globalization.

And that is what each and every mover and shaker in such cities is selling.

The destruction of nations and communities and families.

The replacement—to give one example—of real food with fake food.

Fake everything!

I sit here in Italy on the terrace of the farmhouse we eventually managed to buy on the coast near Ravenna, the last capital of the Western Roman Empire—where the poet Dante who was banished from Tuscany died in 1321—just behind a village called, yes, Dante’s Beach, and, though the money to complete restoration has run out and the Italian economy is in a mess and work is hard to find thanks to the straitjacket of the euro, I look at the 360-degree view of countryside and I can hear the sea a mile away if the wind is blowing inland and watch brilliantly colored bee-eaters tumbling about in the sky or the magisterial marsh harriers floating low over the fields which are reclaimed marshland.

And I am accompanied by the best Sangiovese ever made while my wife and children and our numerous dogs cause havoc all around me.  The man who makes this heavenly wine sells it direct to the public from his vineyard.  You cannot buy it in shops or supermarkets.

People know about him only by word of mouth.  We heard about him from the church where we go to Mass—Sant’Apollinare—whose interior contains some of the most spectacular Byzantine mosaics anywhere, which date from the Sixth Century.

It costs just €2.50 euro per liter ($2.90).  I buy it in five-liter plastic containers—like petrol.

I am not ecstatically happy, of course I am not.  But I am so very glad I came here.

Tragically, however, Italy is in grave danger; like Europe, she is literally dying.

Unlike my wife, most Italian women do not produce babies.  Italy has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world (1.34 children per fertile woman).  It faces a demographic crisis which will mean that, according to research I have done with a Dutch think tank, if there were no more net inward migration, her population of 60 million would decline to 20 million by the end of this century.  This is precisely why people like the billionaire liberal-left pinup George Soros want mass immigration into Europe.

In Italy these days, only Muslims have six children.  Muslims and me and my wife, Carla—with a helping hand from the Holy Ghost.