Politics

Neo-fascism in Italy: Europe's involution

Meloni's triumph is a resounding failure of the European project and a new setback in its long-standing promise of advanced democracies, human rights, culture and social inclusion for all.
In 1922, Benito Mussolini formed and led a coalition government of various right-wing parties. Although he obtained only 8.15% of the votes, the leader of the National Fascist Party came to power by forcing the Savoyard King's hand with the Black Shirts' March on Rome. Exactly one century after that “giornata particolare”, a spiritual heiress of Mussolini, Giorgia Meloni, is about to preside over the next Italian government. She is the leader and renovator of the post-fascist Fratelli d'Italia party, which has its origins in the MSI (Italian Social Movement) of Giorgio Almirante, a fascist who was a militant in the Republic of Saló, the last Mussolinian bastion allied with the Nazis in northern Italy.
In 1922, Benito Mussolini formed and led a coalition government of various right-wing parties. Although he obtained only 8.15% of the votes, the leader of the National Fascist Party came to power by forcing the Savoyard King's hand with the Black Shirts' March on Rome. Exactly one century after that “giornata particolare”, a spiritual heiress of Mussolini, Giorgia Meloni, is about to preside over the next Italian government. She is the leader and renovator of the post-fascist Fratelli d'Italia party, which has its origins in the MSI (Italian Social Movement) of Giorgio Almirante, a fascist who was a militant in the Republic of Saló, the last Mussolinian bastion allied with the Nazis in northern Italy.

Mainstream Italian and European media have tried to downplay the scope of this chilling election with distorted, euphemistic language. Some define Meloni's union with the xenophobic Northern League and Berlusconi's machismo-Putinism as "the center-right bloc", "the coalition of the right" or the "conservative alliance", while some, dragging their feet for fear of what others might say, speak of "the triumph of the extreme right".

In reality, we are facing a sweeping victory of a coalition led by a fascist-inspired formation — one that keeps the flame of Mussolini's tomb in its logo — in the third largest economy of the European Union. It is not just the extreme right: it is the eternal fascism as theorized by Umberto Eco that is returning to power, but dressed up in other clothes and appearances. This time as a young woman from a poor neighborhood, and an ally of the post-fascist international (American, Polish, Hungarian, French, Spanish). And lest we forget, shamelessly supported by the once anti-fascist media and Christian Democrat or conservative parties.

Meloni's undisputed victory, rising from 4.4% of the vote in 2018 to 26.2% in 2022, thus represents the definitive normalization of neo-fascist parties in the heart of Europe. It is no longer a question of distant Hungary or ultra-Catholic Poland. Italy is a founding member of the European Union. The triumph of Fratelli d'Italia is, in its deepest sense, a resounding failure of the European project and a very serious setback in its long-standing promise to advance democracy, human rights, culture and social inclusion for all. This founding premise was partly aborted by Germany's disastrous management of the 2008 crisis, which decided to punish citizens for the excesses of the financial sector and humiliate Syriza in Greece, thus fueling the expansion of the extreme right throughout the continent. You reap what you sow. 

The abstention rate of 36%, the highest since Italy left the World War behind with its anti-fascist Constitution, also reminds us that neo-fascism, as with fascism a century ago, always benefits from three closely interrelated factors: the whitewashing of its anti-democratic ideology by the mainstream media and its owners; the weariness and disaffection of an electorate that only feels compelled to participate in public affairs by choosing a ballot every four years; and by social democracy abandoning redistributive policies and its former vocation for social justice by unequivocally embracing the dogma of sadistic capitalism.

Nobody should be deceived by Meloni's feigned moderation in her victory acceptance speech. As seen during Vox's election rally in Andalusia, she is a full-fledged hothead, and her project poses undeniable dangers for minorities. Her plan is to undermine the rights of women, LGTBI collectives, immigrants and the poorest in society in order to favor big business, the most reactionary Church and other forces that want less democracy and not more. Her triumph is terrible news but ultimately it is logical. The dynamics of war are accelerating the involution of Europe, and Italy has always been, for better and for worse, the most precocious of political laboratories. After the Berlusconi ventenium and almost a decade of false social-democratic technocracy, the neo-fascists, once they recognize NATO and austerity, are suitable candidates to manage the new exceptionality. Thus, Italy is hurtling towards a government with authoritarian overtones that will be the main bolt of a bizarre Neo-Fascist Axis: Rome-Budapest-Warsaw.

Although there is no point crying over spilt milk, Nanni Moretti was right when he asked D'Alema to say "something left-wing"!

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Translator
Tim Swillens
Date
04.10.2022

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