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“Our goal is to build a network of the conservative world in Europe and the West, a project that we have been working on for years but are intensifying in advance of the European elections and the U.S. presidential election, hence our visit to CPAC.”Francesco Giubilei, February 28, 2024

Right-wing activists and leaders from around the world gathered in Washington, DC, February 21–24 for the 2024 edition of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). This event, which has been organized by the American Conservative Union regularly since 1974, in recent years has become a magnet that attracts conservative and far-right forces from almost every corner of the globe.

Among the hundreds present at this year’s CPAC was a delegation from Nazione Futura, a far-right Italian think tank with close ties to the Brothers of Italy (FdI) party of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. The delegation was led by the organization’s founder and president, Francesco Giubilei, who also serves as the president of the Tatarella Foundation, a far-right cultural center and archive for the neofascist Italian Social Movement (MSI) and National Alliance—the predecessors to FdI. Also joining the delegation were Nazione Futura Secretary General Davide Gabriele, Editorial Director Pasquale Ferraro, Territorial Manager Enrico Ellero, and members of the national executive board Marco Mestriner and Nausica Cangini. They were also accompanied by Alberto Gava, president of the conservative association NovaVita and vice president in charge of national youth operations for the Christian Union of Entrepreneurs and Managers.

Like many attendees, the delegation from Nazione Future sought not simply to listen to speeches but to network with like-minded individuals and organizations. In fact, their activities included numerous public engagements with American far-right organizations, such as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the America First Policy Institute, and Americans for Tax Reform—not to mention additional meetings that may have occurred away from public view.

While Nazione Future was only one of the many groups present, tracing its journey to CPAC reveals much about the far right’s priorities and illustrates its accelerating internationalization, particularly the development of intercontinental links between the United States and Europe.

Expanding the International Far-Right Network

In announcing Nazione Futura’s participation in CPAC, Giubilei confirmed his desire to use this opportunity to deepen his relationships with his American counterparts, stating: “The Nazione Futura delegation, in addition to participating in CPAC, has a busy agenda of meetings and appointments planned with partner U.S. think tanks and foundations to further develop our relationship with the American conservative world in view of the November elections.” While many of these encounters may not have been documented, several stand out as clearly representative of the network being built between far-right organizations on both sides of the Atlantic.

Intercollegiate Studies Institute

The Nazione Futura delegation began its journey in the U.S. with a visit to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, on February 22. ISI was founded in 1953, with conservative icon William F. Buckley as its first president. The organization presents itself as a lone voice defending conservative thought on increasingly left-wing and intolerant college campuses; with a presence on more than 125 college campuses across the country—including many elite institutions, such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton—its influence is not insignificant. Further attesting to its influence is the list of ISI alumni, which includes many prominent conservatives such as Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, venture capitalist and far-right financier Peter Thiel, and Heritage Foundation founder Ed Feulner.

During its visit to ISI headquarters, the Nazione Futura delegation participated in a roundtable discussion about Italian and European conservatism and met with the organization’s president, John Burtka. Burtka, who assumed his role in September 2020, is a graduate of Hillsdale College, a prominent conservative Christian university that has regularly garnered attention for campus controversies; he has also written for numerous conservative publications, including The American Conservative and First Things.

Members of Nazione Future pose outside the Intercollegiate Studies Institute headquarters. In the center of the photo are ISI President John Burtka and Nazione Futura President Francesco Giubilei.

Heritage Foundation

Giubilei also reported meeting with representatives of the Heritage Foundation, one of the oldest and most influential think tanks on the American Right. Heritage was founded in 1973 and has long been at the forefront of the conservation movement—particularly responsible for the rise of the religious Right in the 1980s and the politicization of cultural issues since that time. While Heritage has found itself in the thick of almost all conservative political debates over the past half century, it has most recently garnered attention for its Project 2025, which the organization’s president, Kevin Roberts, describes as an all-out effort to “institutionalize Trumpism.”

At the core of the project is an 887-page document, the “Mandate for Leadership,” that goes into painstaking detail on how conservatives plan to staff a prospective second Trump administration and leverage the power of the presidency to enact a radical far-right agenda. As a recent report in the New York Times described it: “[the plan] is about consolidating authority and eroding accountability…It calls for a relentless politicizing of the federal government…and treats the law as an impediment to conservative governance.” To put these plans into action, Project 2025 also aims to build a database of 20,000 potential officials to staff a future Republican administration. This “right-wing LinkedIn” could be used to replace the 4,000 government employees who are considered political appointees, and perhaps others as well.

While Giubilei has not publicly shared details of his meetings with Heritage representatives, it is likely that topics related to Project 2025 were broached. This is particularly important, given that Italy is currently governed by a far-right coalition led by the Brothers of Italy, placing it in prime position to consider the types of administrative and staffing changes proposed by the project. Furthermore, with the party maintaining its position atop most public opinion polls, it is likely such considerations may play into its planning for the long term.

America First Policy Institute

The Nazione Futura delegation also met with representatives of the America First Policy Institute (AFPI), a far-right think tank established in 2021 by former members of the Trump administration, including Brooke Rollins, the former Acting Director of the Domestic Policy Council, and Larry Kudlow, the former Director of the National Economic Council. The organization has continued the development of policy proposals for a potential second Trump presidency and has been described as a “White House in waiting.” This description seems apt, given that the organization includes at least 17 former senior White House staff members, including several cabinet members, such as former Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and former Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf. The organization has chapters in several key battleground states, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

Nazione Futura’s interest in the relatively new AFPI is consistent with its vocal support for Trump. Giubilei repeatedly mentioned Trump in tweets explaining his desire to travel to the U.S. at this moment and he posted several videos of himself attending Trump’s CPAC speech. He also linked Nazione Futura’s political agenda to Trump’s ongoing presidential campaign, writing on February 23: “Tomorrow Donald Trump will speak. Defense of freedom, contrast with wokeness and political correctness are the watchwords. Ready for the presidential elections in November.”

The Nazione Futura delegation met with members of the America First Policy Institute.

Americans for Tax Reform

Also on the agenda for Nazione Futura was a meeting with Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), including the organization’s president and founder, Grover Norquist, and its Italian-born vice president, Lorenzo Montanari. ATR was founded in 1985 and has long promoted an extreme neoliberal economic vision, perhaps best represented by the organization’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” which asks candidates to commit to oppose any tax increases during their time in office. Yet Norquist’s past political activity extends well beyond advocating for lower taxes. In the mid-1980s, he worked with Oliver North in his effort to send resources to the Nicaraguan Contras in what would later become the Iran–Contra Affair. At the same time, he traveled the world and worked in support of numerous anti-communist guerrilla forces, including RENAMO in Mozambique and UNITA in Angola. During this period he also became a vocal proponent of the anti-divestment movement, which sought to end the economic isolation of apartheid South Africa. In fact, in 1985 Norquist even attended the “Youth Freedom Conference” in South Africa, which was funded by South African businesses.

As with his meetings with other American partners, Giubilei remained mum on the contents of his meeting at ATR—although he did mention his admiration for the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge.” In a video posted on X (formerly Twitter) with Montanari, Giubilei asked the ATR vice president to explain the pledge and suggested that Italian politicians should make the same promise—to which Montanari confirmed ATR’s willingness to collaborate with Nazione Futura to bring the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” to Italy.

The Nazione Futura team met with Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and Vice President Lorenzo Montanari.

European Connections

While the impetus for Nazione Futura’s visit to CPAC was to further develop its American network, the conference also provided an opportunity to strengthen ties with European partners. Most notably, the delegation met with its Hungarian partners from the Center for Fundamental Rights, a Fidesz-aligned think tank, and its president, Miklós Szánthó. Nazione Futura has worked with the Center for Fundamental Rights for several years— for example, both are founding members of the Alliance for the Common Good, a consortium of five far-right organizations that promote stringently conservative positions on social issues. Furthermore, Giubilei spoke alongside Szánthó at the October 2023 “Europa Nostra” summit in Budapest. Among the many other Europeans in attendance at CPAC, Giubilei also encountered Santiago Abascal, leader of Spain’s far-right Vox (and posted this photo of them together).

Members of the Nazione Futura delegation greet Hungarian partners from the Center for Fundamental Rights.

What CPAC Tells Us about Today’s International Far Right

Beyond the details of any specific meeting, Nazione Futura’s very presence at CPAC is representative of the large-scale internationalization of the far right. Rather than view itself in exclusive, siloed, and nationalistic terms, the contemporary far right sees itself as an inherently transnational force. Of course, this does not mean that right-wing actors have embraced “internationalism” or a call for global unity—in fact, one of the taglines for this year’s CPAC was “Where Globalism Goes to Die.”

Instead, the internationalization of the far right means that the global Right—from economic libertarians to social conservatives to neofascists—sees itself as united in opposition to the same enemies that allegedly threaten a set of shared values. Therefore, right-wing forces find value in building international networks to share ideas and strategies. This is evident in Giubilei’s suggestion that Nazione Futura may promote the ATR’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” in Italy (ideas) and the likelihood that the organization’s meeting with the Heritage Foundation included some discussion of Project 2025 (strategies).

Furthermore, Nazione Futura appears well-placed to become a leading member of this international front in the future. Following the conference Giubilei confirmed that Nazione Futura made a proposal to CPAC leadership to host next year’s gathering in Italy (likely in Rome). Such a move would be in line with CPAC’s recent efforts to extend its reach globally—since 2017, editions of the conference have been held in half a dozen countries, including Mexico in November 2022 and Hungary in April 2023. As a February 26 headline for an interview with Giubilei in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica stated, “The Forbidden Dream of the U.S. Right—To Open a Hub in Italy: The Organizer of CPAC Has Discussed It with Francesco Giubilei.” It seems that with the support of Nazione Futura and organizations like it, CPAC may be close to waking up and finding its “forbidden dream” has become a reality.

Photo: Edit of original taken by Max Zweig.