Italy | 05/20/2022

Italy 2022 May

Winds of war, rearmament and machism

The national gathering of the Alpine troops in Rimini with around 70thousands of soldiers and veterans once again represented a rally of machism and harassment against women around the city, above all against workers of bars and restaurants along the event. The local feminist group of NUDM has publicly denounced such rude attitudes, collecting several reports on many more episodes of catcalling, groping, intimidation and verbal abuses that happened during those days.

In a context strongly marked by militarism and rearmament, since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the reactions to such a militarist parade in Italy have been controversial and often deplorable. After the initial indifference, to silence the episodes, right-wing politicians took the defence of the molesters, while also the provincial leaders of the women of the PD tried to minimize the aggressions. In order to reply to the accusations, the pressure was put on the victims regarding the lack of official reports to the police, while the Minister of Defence was soon forced to demand a probe into the alleged harassment. In the following days, a petition signed by over thirteen thousand people called for a ban on Alpine gatherings.

The ‘Black Track’ from mafia to neofascist organizations

Thirty years after the ‘Capaci massacre’ in which the mafia killed the judge Giovanni Falcone, together with his wife and three policemen, the broadcast of investigative journalism REPORT revealed the involvement in the bombing attack of a well-known neo-fascist terrorist, Stefano Delle Chiaie, leader of ‘National Vanguard’. The former attorney general in charge of the case admitted to having investigated Delle Chiaie’s relations with the boss Totò Riina and the connections with the conspirator of Freemasonry Licio Gelli, implicated according to the investigators in a strategy of destabilization of the state. After the disclosure of this so-called ‘Black Track,’ the police ordered even a home search against the author of the news, with PC seizure indeed perceived as a sort of intimidation against press freedom, which was justified by the public prosecutor as a way to acquire new judicial elements on high-level alliances of Cosa Nostra in that period. Such a judicial approach covered by the delivery of silence, in order to avoid “public disorientation”, has rather arisen public concerns on press-freedom repression.

Revisionism and militarism as the main sources of a nationalist comeback

This ‘black’ connection between past and present neofascist organizations is evident even in new Casapound Italy (CPI) initiatives, with the launch on the 28th of a protest march in Rome against the government. Sudden opposition to the demonstration came by leftist parties and associations, calling public institutions to forbid the rally, happening not by chance on the anniversary of ‘Della Loggia square massacre’ with a bombing attack against an anti-fascist demonstration in Brescia on that same day of 1974, causing eight victims and more than one hundred injured. Such a symbolic choice has led even a group of social democratic MEPs to launch the proposal of a European Antifascist Observatory within the Parliament, as a follow-up of INGE special committee on ‘foreign interference in democratic processes in EU’. After rising protests and concerns CPI demonstration was banned and turned into a sit-in in front of neofascist headquarter in Rome where tens of supporters gathered and their leader, Gianluca Iannone, gave a speech from a balcony, posing like the Italian dictator.

Even in the previous weeks, on the 8th of May, the rally in Dongo for Mussolini’s execution anniversary in 1945 was the occasion to perform Roman greetings, carrying insignia and symbols of the fascist regime. A curious feature of these two public initiatives is that the latter wasn’t banned as happened for the one in Rome, thus representing a schizophrenic approach of the institutions towards the political viability of these groups. Regarding the international situation and the conflict in Ukraine, in a previous press release, CPI neither sides with Putin, nor with Nato, stating rather the need for Italy as a power within European nations, then alluding to foreign fighters and to the “honour to the young Europeans who now shed blood to the utmost sacrifice”. The other main neofascist organization in Italy, ‘New Force’ (FN) is currently being dismantled, with its official website subjected to seizure by the Rome prosecutor’s office. Indeed, the phase of retrenchment of political influence and international connections, suffered by the two main far-right Italian groups is defining some main trends. The first one is connected with a new approach, mainly focused on historical revisionism, as a pretext for their legitimation. Another trend is related to the proliferation of local smaller groups. One of the most recent examples is the appearance in Reggio Calabria of a giant street poster with a sign and symbol of the self-styled ‘New Popular Front’, a far-right group introduced by the motto “stronger than steel” and the connection to Azov Battalion logo of the nazist ‘sonnenrad’. Much more worrying is another ongoing trend within the institutional far-right, which seems to attract former neofascist militants with the promise of a political career. The main concern is represented by Meloni’s ‘Brothers of Italy’ party leading the right-wing coalition in the electoral polls, thus becoming the most appreciated party with around 22% towards the national elections of 2023.

Right-wing media: from Euroscepticism to pro-Putin propaganda

The perspective of Giorgia Meloni as the next Italian Prime Minister represents a “new threat rising”, as reported even by The Washington Post in the aftermath of French elections, where her eurosceptic fellow, Marine Le Pen lost the political competition. Another main concern in mainstream media from an international perspective seems to be related to the undue room granted to Russian journalists on talk shows, in the name of balanced information. The climax of this situation was represented by the interview with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, invited to a program on one of Silvio Berlusconi-founded private channels. The suspect of news outlets used to spread fake news and circulation of pro-Putin lines brought at the mid of May the parliamentary committee for security, Copasir, to open a probe into disinformation. After this episode, even the European Commission published a statement to remind EU broadcasters that they “must not allow incitement to violence, hatred and Russian propaganda in their talk shows.”

Far-right social media activities and narratives

Even on social media activities the Italian far-right seems focused either on local initiatives regarding the next administrative elections or rather on the promotion of so-called ‘communitarian’ initiatives, mainly concerts or evenings. CPI posted many events not only in northern Italy or in Rome, but even in Sicily, where they promote the opening of a new club, called ‘Barbadoro’ in Palermo. Mimetism and elusive tactics, regarding symbols and slogans, are the predominant features of themes in the social networks, trying to hide the neofascist matrix behind generic groups, where a nationalist approach is spread, taking advantage of public indignation related to episodes involving ‘foreigners’, or even discontent for the higher cost of living.

Mission ‘Trip Flop’

A bitter controversy is rising about the League leader, Matteo Salvini’s initiative to organize a so-called “diplomatic mission” to Moscow on the 29th of May, in order to set up a mediation for the conflict in Ukraine, according to the promoters’ declarations. After the “Metropol Hotel” scandal, revealing shady affairs and deep connections among Russian oligarchs and Salvini’s trusted people in recent years; the announcement of a political meeting at the Kremlin without previous consultations with Draghi’s government – where the League is part of the parliamentary majority – made many organizations and parties accuse the League leader of pro-Putin propaganda. Following investigations have discovered that the travel tickets would have been at the expense of the Italian Embassy of Russia, thus confirming the ongoing cooperation with Putin’s establishment, despite the European sanctions. Salvini has rejected insinuations of economic agreements with Moscow, though the Russian Embassy has then confirmed its participation to the travel organization, which in the end didn’t take place for reasons of political expediency.