In the Swiss magazine Weltwoche, British journalist Nicholas Farrell draws a comparison between Grillo and another famous Italian who founded his own populist movement nearly a hundred years ago: Benito Mussolini. Farrell is an expert on the fascist dictator, having written a much cited 2003 biography of Il Duce.

Mussolini also claimed that his fascist group “Fasci di Combattimento” was not a party but a movement, because political parties were the problem, not the solution. He too saw himself and his followers as cleansers who would finally clean up the frail and corrupt system. And he likewise claimed to represent the youth and freethinkers, those who no longer believed in programs and statutes but in rejuvinating action.

Farrell even finds similarities in the two men’s choice of words. Whereas Mussolini spoke of parliament as a “deaf, gray hall” that he refused to enter, Grillo describes his refusal to cooperate in a similar style: “The old parties are coming to an end. They should give back what they stole, and leave. Either they follow us, or they are doomed.” The mockery of the parliamentary system under the guise of true democracy is a trick that all opponents of democracy espouse, regardless of where they come from.

It is easily overlooked nowadays, but fascism at its heart was a leftist movement. Mussolini never made a secret of his orgins: “I am and always will be a socialist. My convictions will never change. They are implanted into my bones,” he told his comrades as they expelled him from the party at the outbreak of war in 1914 because of his pro-war stance. Farrell concludes that “Mussolini’s fascism was black, Grillo’s is green, but they both have a red heart.”