Italy’s PM says fascism is ‘consigned to history’. Not everyone is so sure

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At the site in Milan where Sergio Ramelli, a far-right student, was killed almost half a century ago by anti-fascists, a leader gathers his loyalists, summoning them to attention with a shout of “camerata,” or “brother-in-arms,” followed by Ramelli’s name. The scene unfolds with stiff right arms outstretched, palms facing down, a fascist salute reminiscent of Italy’s past. While this spectacle may strike outsiders as extraordinary, it’s a familiar occurrence in Italy, where similar commemorations happen annually.

Italy’s current government, led by the Brothers of Italy party, traces its roots to post-war fascism. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni insists her movement has evolved, distancing itself from its origins. However, skepticism persists regarding the party’s alignment with far-right ideologies.

Paolo Berizzi, a journalist under 24-hour police protection due to threats from extremist groups, contends that fascism lingers in the Italian psyche. Despite Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini being ousted in 1945, his legacy endures. Mussolini’s regime, marked by brutal repression, concentration camps, and antisemitic laws, left a lasting imprint on Italian society.

Though Mussolini’s fascist party was banned post-war, elements persisted under different guises, notably the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI). Neo-fascist politicians gradually gained acceptance, with Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition including them in 1994, marking their mainstream emergence.

Giorgia Meloni, once a member of the MSI youth wing, has steered her party away from far-right positions since becoming Prime Minister. Despite previous controversial remarks, her rhetoric has shifted towards mainstream European conservatism. However, critics argue she still subtly nods to her political roots.

Some fear Meloni’s reluctance to crack down on extremist groups stems from her own party’s past affiliations. The 1952 Scelba Law, intended to curb fascist resurgence, has seen limited enforcement. Forza Nuova, a fringe far-right party advocating extreme positions, exemplifies the persistence of radicalism in Italian politics.

Forza Nuova, though not represented in parliament, garners attention through protests and violent actions against immigrants. Founder Roberto Fiore defends the party’s actions, portraying them as defending freedoms against perceived threats. Despite facing comparisons to fascist regimes, Fiore maintains a defiant stance, rejecting condemnation of Mussolini’s regime and advocating for controversial geopolitical positions.

In our conversation, Fiore attempts to justify his party’s actions, minimizing the violence of Mussolini’s regime and promoting divisive geopolitical views. His rhetoric underscores the ongoing struggle to confront Italy’s fascist legacy and the challenges posed by radical ideologies in modern society.

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