How can we assess whether Italy is becoming a fascist sympathizer country?
By Pietro Cesaro
In Italy, it is being discussed a lot whether a kind of fascist feeling is coming back lately. Of course, it seems to be a global subject rather than a phenomenon occurring exclusively here. An increase in authoritarianism is indeed common to lots of countries with completely different civic cultures, take as examples Brazil, the US and Turkey, which have completely different visions of democracy.
In Italy though, the situation has some more interesting features, as the yellow-green government is a unique experiment of right-wing populism (the new “Italian” League) and a confusing mix between rightist and leftist demagogy (the Five Star Movement). Therefore, it is important to take some time to track the possible authoritarian drift within our borders.
Alessandra Mussolini in defence of her grandfather
How can we assess whether we are becoming a fascist sympathizer country? There’s still no clear evidence, but the niece of Benito Mussolini — Alessandra Mussolini — is threatening to sue people who insult her grandfather on the social media. She also liked a post about the well-known conspiracy that Facebook is owned by Mark Zuckerberg, a Jew bringing forward the “politically correctness” supposedly imposed by Jewish media.
Aside from sheer nonsense, this interesting news makes you think how just a few years ago it would have been impossible for Alessandra Mussolini to threaten generically in such a manner: fascism indeed was seen as an unmentionable taboo. This is a sign that public opinion, or at least a part of it, is gradually shifting towards a new concept of fascism. Only one decade ago, “il Ventennio” was considered as a distant, intractable, barely nominated historical period — the Voldemort of Italy.
This situation, however, represents a great opportunity for Italian people, since it is now important to start a public debate. Indeed, we must understand that fascism might not only be a historical event confined to the last century, but could instead represent a latent wave that is persistently present in the collective memory of the Italians.
Fascism or authoritarianism?
In this sense, the chat between two Italian writers — Michela Murgia and Corrado Augias — on “Quante Storie” aired on Rai 3, is noteworthy. The first easily defines people like Bolsonaro, Trump, and Salvini, as fascists, while Augias has a slightly different view: he reckons they are authoritarian, but he states that fascism is an historic event occurred in given economic and social circumstances. Nowadays, we can easily assert that the democratic institutions, which can be defined as the last defence against an authoritarian drift, are stronger, at least in Europe.
However, what should make us question more seriously the issue, is the fact that, even prior to the Nazi regime, intellectuals thought that people like Hitler wouldn’t have became powerful enough, thanks to the presence of strong institutions setting the margins for dictatorial drifts. Michael Moore, an American documentary-maker, reckons there are lots of similarities between the social and historical circumstances of pre-Hitlerian Germany and Trump’s America: a positive economic profile and a sort of underestimation of the threats that people like them represent to democracy.
Is this the case of Italy? Rather than a fully-fledged return to fascism, the situation can be described as an authoritarian wave mixed with strong populist sentiments — from both the right and the left — and an extremely weak economic condition. However, a generally stronger awareness of the importance of democratic institutions is still present today, even though democracy has its lowest approval rate since 1945. Moreover, there might be another anti-European blow in May 2019, following the European elections.
An experiment gone wrong
An inspiring book that turned into a movie regarding this theme is “Die Welle” (The Wave), a story about a social experiment gone wrong, showing how easy it is to let the latent feeling of extremism rise even in the school environment, where culture and awareness of our past mistakes are the bread and butter. The most important thing the film teaches us is to observe objectively what is going on, being aware of the social circumstances that are enhancing the power of populists and being ready to use any democratic tool we have to fight them, if necessary.
This is what it seems to be happening in the US with the midterm elections: we should never forget how lucky we are to have these democratic tools, be thankful for what all we can say and do, and study the more and more to increase their recognition. In Italy thus, the situation is comparable to that in America: it is still possible to stop an authoritarian drift, as the future is in our hands. The next political and economic challenges are crucial: to become again an important interlocutor as a country, we need to remain united within the European Union. Only then can we preserve a decent economic weight as a geopolitical entity, and this is very clear even to Conte, Salvini and Di Maio, ambiguously anti-Europeans for show.
The awareness of all this will represent the first step to stop the self-benefiting authoritarian process of social and territorial divisions in the next decade, since remaining within the European legislative context will preserve us from nationalist swings.
Finally, to fight the return of fascism in Italy, crimes like the apologia for fascism must be engraved on our civil heart, rather than on a code.
This law governs the crime of creating an association with over five people who use violence as a tool of political fighting to advocate the suppression of the individual freedoms guaranteed by our wonderful constitution, to denigrate democracy, its institutions and the values of the resistance. Let these words be part of our civic sentiment, and we will not give birth to a new Benito.