WorldThe shadow of fascism returns to Italy

The shadow of fascism returns to Italy

The demonstration was called for five in the afternoon in Piazza del Popolo (People’s Square), the heart of Rome. It should be static and protest against the Government’s decision to make it mandatory to have a vaccination certificate in order to be able to work from next Friday. There were over 10,000 people. A mix of ultra-right party militants, outspoken fascists and anti-vaccines. But there was another plan underway, hatched through the Telegram and inspired by the January attack on the US Congress. Half of the participants separated from the demonstration and went in search of other goals. First, the main organizer of the action, the ultra-right Force Nova party, wanted to take over the Chigi Palace, seat of the Italian Government. The ultra-rightists managed to reach one of the wings and began the riots. But it was too complicated. So they opted for the building of the General Italian Confederation of Labor (CGIL), the country’s main union, and tore it apart. An unusual attack that put all of Italy on alert.

The violent guerrilla that formed in central Rome on Saturday, which lasted seven hours and ended with 12 people arrested (among fascist party leaders, ex-terrorists and representatives of the anti-vaccination world), was a turning point in the state’s relationship with these groups. A social and political cocktail that was stirred up during the pandemic and found some coverage in right-wing parties such as the League and the Brothers of Italy, steeped in electoral ambiguity regarding the vaccination campaign and restrictions.

Protesters against the vaccination passport enter the CGIL union headquarters in Rome on Saturday.OAR CAILLI (Reuters)

For the first time, however, the Executive is considering banning groups of this type. A path that the Scelba law (by Mario Scelba, minister of the interior at the time) has foreseen since 1952, as the deputy of the Democratic Party (PD) and constitutionalist Stefano Ceccanti recalls. “This can be done through a court decision or by decree. An option for immediate emergencies. But until now, this path has never been resorted to, it has always been by sentence”, he points out. This Monday afternoon, in what can be interpreted as a first step in this direction, the Rome Prosecutor’s Office ordered the police to block the site of the Força Nova party.

The law refers to Article 12 of the Constitution, which prohibits the reconstruction of the Fascist Party. It can be applied when an organization pursues anti-democratic objectives such as those of the fascist party “by using or threatening to use violence as a political method, or carrying out external demonstrations of a fascist character”. Two such parties — Nova Ordem and Vanguarda Nacional — have already been banned by a judge. The path of the decree, which the Government is analyzing, has never been used. “At this moment, it would be complicated and could generate the opposite effect”, explain sources of the Executive, which on Sunday studied the inconveniences that such a measure could have.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has not publicly commented on the possible ban. But on Monday he went to visit the secretary general of the union attacked, Maurizio Landini. There, he condemned violence against what he considered “fundamental guardians of democracy.” The PD, however, asked for this route to be used and for consensus to be sought in Parliament. But he faced the refusal of the right: Liga, Brothers of Italy and Força Italia.

A neo-fascist party born in 1997

The heart of the weekend’s revolt is Força Nova, a neo-fascist political party founded in 1997 by Roberto Fiore and Massimo Morsello, historical militants of the extreme right and members of terrorist organizations such as the Nucleo Armado Revolucionario (NAR). Fiore has been on the run from justice for over a decade. Today the party has no more than a few thousand members and is led by him and Giuliano Castellino (sentenced to four years in prison in 2019 for assaulting a police officer). Both also come from the Chama Tricolor, a split from the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a party that brought together all the remnants of fascism in Italy and was presided over for years by Giorgio Almirante. Afterwards, Gianfranco Fini founded the National Alliance, a party that decided to enter the institutions and abandon that ideological reference, in a decision that became known as Svolta di Fiuggi. And from the aftermath of that organization the Brothers of Italy party was created, today led by Giorgio Meloni and an ally of the Spaniard Vox.

Police try to disperse violent protesters outside the Italian government headquarters.
Police try to disperse violent protesters outside the Italian government headquarters.MASSIMO PERCOSSI (EFE)

The law, in the case of the Força Nova party, is clear and must be applied. This is the opinion of historian Emilio Gentile, the ultimate authority in the study of fascism. “They define themselves as fascists and the violent method used on Saturday is that of Mussolini’s squadrons: attack the workers’ headquarters and destroy them. If they proclaim themselves that way, they have a right to be treated as they are. Otherwise, let them eliminate this law”, he says.

Mussolini’s granddaughter was the most voted councilor in Rome

The neo-fascist parties, such as Força Nova and CasaPound (they call themselves third millennium fascists and have already had representation in several have had representatives in various Italian municipal administrations), are today completely residual. But they found in the denial and anti-vaccination environments the social strength that was lacking in recent times.

Saturday’s scene in Piazza del Popolo, with radical football fans, night club bouncers, merchants irritated by restrictions and outspoken fascists, shows a social portrayal of discontent that some parties try to take advantage of by incorporating figures more or less close to that world . Rachele Mussolini, granddaughter of the dictator and member of the Brothers of Italy party, was the most voted candidate in elections held on the 3rd and 4th in Rome. Like many of her party colleagues, she does not condemn fascism or celebrate the 25th of April, the national holiday and Liberation Day of Italy. Nostalgia, as Meloni defines it to avoid talking about fascists, still wins votes in Italy.

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