By Alessandra Bocchi | 1 February 2018
JACOBITE — On January 7, 6,000 Italian fascists marched to commemorate the 1978 deaths of three young “comrades” during Italy’s ‘Years of Lead’ – a bloody and tumultuous period characterized by deadly clashes between communists and fascist Blackshirts. Today, the Blackshirts are, once again, striking a chord before an election in March, in a country undergoing years of technocratic gridlock. Poverty levels have doubled in the last decade and youth unemployment stands at 35 percent. Immigration has also inflamed public opinion – a recent poll published by the Financial Times revealed that only 40 percent of Italians believe in a multi-ethnic society.
The future looks bleak: Politico recently reported that 51 percent of Italians under the age of 41 would vote to leave the European Union, and 71 percent think their country is on the “wrong track.” In this unforgiving climate, fascist and identitarian movements claim to offer an alternative that will address the needs of their country and, consequently, their support is growing. For this reason, it is important to understand the three main factions on what is known as the Italian far-right.
Today fascism is commonly used as a political slur, but in Italy its meaning and heritage are more complicated. Benito Mussolini created fascist ideology, but a century later it can be hard to pin down exactly what that legacy means to his followers. At the end of the war, fascists regrouped into a new party called Movimento Sociale, and had to be reintroduced into the democratic life of the country. So, unlike Nazism in Germany, fascism in Italy was never truly eradicated. This is partly because Mussolini was – and still is – widely seen as a historically more ambiguous figure than Hitler, since Italy’s racial laws were only introduced at the behest of the Nazis following Italy’s alliance with Hitler’s National Socialist regime. Until then, Italian Jews had played an influential role in the rise of Mussolini’s National Fascist Party to power. Furthermore, Italy’s racial composition was more diverse than that of Germany, and so did not always fit the stereotype of blond, blue-eyed Aryans preferred by Germany’s racial theorists. The ambiguity surrounding fascism’s racism and relationship to the Holocaust provided a degree of space for the toleration of fascists in post-war Italy.
Now, fascist groups are again making their presence felt on Italy’s political landscape. In a stunt last month, the far-right political party Forza Nuova blockaded the office of the newspaper La Repubblica for “spreading false information.” A new law designed to curb fascist propaganda currently stuck in the Senate doesn’t outlaw their rallies and, in November, Forza Nuova organized a march of about 2,000 people in homage to Mussolini’s 1922 march on Rome. […]