During a widely cited lecture he delivered in Rome in 2014, Trump political strategist Steve Bannon approvingly cited an Italian writer named Julius Evola, whose work he said is a key influence on the "traditionalist" worldview that currently guides Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"When Vladimir Putin, when you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of his beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism," Bannon said, per a transcript of the talk posted by BuzzFeed. "He’s got 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. A lot of people that are traditionalists are attracted to that."
The New York Times has written a profile of Evola's life and his work that reveals the thinker is renowned by today's white nationalists, who are excited that Bannon appears to have read up on the late Italian's writings.
"Julius Evola is one of the most fascinating men of the 20th century," notorious white nationalist Richard Spencer tells the Times. "Even if [Bannon] hasn’t fully imbibed them and been changed by them, he is at least open to them. He at least recognizes that they are there. That is a stark difference to the American conservative movement that either was ignorant of them or attempted to suppress them."
What is it about Evola that so excites white nationalists? Per the Times, he was a leading influence on the government of Italian fascist Benito Mussolini, who was particularly attracted to Evola's ideas about race.
University of Montana Professor Richard Drake explains to the Times that Evola's ideal society was organized by "hierarchy, caste, monarchy, race, myth, religion and ritual," instead of the liberal order that valued diversity, tolerance and liberty.
Most appealing to Bannon -- who is a self-described "Leninist" who wants to "destroy" the state -- is Evola's belief that creating change is "not a question of contesting and polemicizing, but of blowing everything up."
While Evola was a key influence on Mussolini, the Times notes that he eventually found the Italian fascists to be too compromising, and he saw the ideal "traditionalist" regime to be the one found in Hitler's Germany.
As Bannon noted in his speech in Rome three years ago, Evola is a key influence on Aleksandr Dugin, a top adviser to Putin who has helped forge alliances with far-right nationalist movements across the United States and Europe.
And while Bannon doesn't believe that the United States should see Russia as a model of perfection -- he disdains Putin's embrace of "kleptocracy," for example -- he does think that Putin and Dugin's ideas have a lot of important things to consider.
"We the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what [Putin is] talking about as far as traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism," Bannon said. "And I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing."