Town councilors in Rome from the Brothers of Italy party — including Rachele Mussolini, second from the left — hold a protest over waste management during a city council meeting in Rome in December 2019. (ANSA/AFP/Getty Images)
A century later, three of his descendants, all sharing his last name, have jostled for political power, and some have succeeded — democratically.
This week, one of the dictator’s granddaughters, Rachele Mussolini, 47, won more votes than any other candidate in Rome’s municipal election, earning a second term as a city councilor. She won more than 8,200 votes, more than she had in 2016.
She is part of the far-right Brothers of Italy party (Fratelli d’Italia) — a minor yet growing group with roots in postwar neofascism. The party, led by Giorgia Meloni, has campaigned on nationalism and nativism.
Mussolini’s grandfather, known as Il Duce, ruled from 1922 to 1943, during which he pushed for “spazio vitale,” or “living space,” for his imperial aspirations; promoted racial superiority; and suppressed, imprisoned or killed opponents.
“In the past, I got interviewed only because of my family name,” Rachele Mussolini said. “During my last term they started asking about the initiatives I promoted on the city council. I’ve worked hard.”
“I learned to live with my surname since I was a child,” she told newspaper la Repubblica. “At school they used to point at me, but then Rachele emerged and the person [that I am] prevailed over the surname, however burdensome that name is.”
When asked for her views on fascism, Reuters reported that she said she was against its glorification but declined to elaborate, saying: “To deal with this subject, we’d need to talk until tomorrow morning.”
Another of Mussolini’s granddaughters, Alessandra Mussolini, served in the European Parliament from 2014 to 2019, after previously serving in the Italian Parliament. And a great-grandson of Mussolini, Caio Giulio Cesare Mussolini, ran for the European Parliament in 2019 — and campaigned saying he hoped voters would appreciate the “Mussolini brand” and that he wanted to represent Italy’s “history.” He did not win a seat.
The legacy of Mussolini’s fascist rule still looms large in Italy — including enduring fascist monuments in town squares, fascist and rationalist architecture, and Mussolini memorabilia for sale at newsstands, Deutsche Welle reported.
Thousands of admirers of the late dictator flock to his small hometown annually. The town of Predappio’s mayor has proposed creating a museum of fascism — not to glorify it but to contain it.
“I want to use culture as a weapon of mass destruction for ignorance,” Predappio Mayor Giorgio Frassineti said in 2018.