A season of defeat on the Italian left, so new and so gloomy, hasn’t happened since the postwar period. The affirmation was clear (and at a bargain price thanks to the unjust Rosatellum) and undemocratic (if you consider the real votes).
The results not only upset the Italian party framework but the democratic institutions themselves, sustained by the constitution created by the anti-fascist Resistance, because the victorious coalition led by Meloni is inspired by neo-fascism.
We persist in saying ‘post-fascist,’ mistakenly: It does not refer to the irreplicable 20 years of Mussolini but to the 70 years of undermining democracy, represented by the MSI and its party evolution, a litany of pressure tactics, often internal to the state apparatuses and with ties to international actors, which have splattered the history of the republic with blood.
Be careful not to view this upheaval as only concerning Italy. This earthquake concerns the very unity so far achieved in a Europe that prefers to look the other way because the war in Ukraine is in the midst of a devastating escalation, with gas pipelines attacked, Russian promises of nuclear war and ‘consequential’ US responses.
Of the three comments that arrived on the victory of FdI, three are particularly striking: that of the Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki, with whom Meloni shares everything: God, homeland and family, authoritarianism and pro-Atlanticism relaunched in the light of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Then there’s the spokesman of the pro-Franco Vox group, openly nostalgic for and even pro-Mussolini, Santiago Abascal who sees in the victory of the FdI “those who show the way.”
But above all the first, simple headline of The New York Times: “Breakthrough for Europe’s Hard Right.”
This is coupled with the widespread awareness and evidence that the driving force of Europe has now become the eastern illiberal democracies of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, with the Baltics all engaged in the reconstruction of a strong re-legitimation of their respective sovereignties, fueling nationalism, xenophobia, racism and restrictions to the rule of law. Like any good nationalism, it is hostile and proclaims itself superior and antagonistic to that of others.
The affirmation of the extreme right in Italy reveals the condition of extreme fragility of the residual European Union. What happened to the European Union desired by founding fathers like Altiero Spinelli: supranational and in solidarity on economics, institutions, rights, welfare, open borders and foreign policy? Either it falters or it is not there, under the weight of the economic crisis, pandemic and war. It churns out mountains of money, which non olet and which can turn to its advantage any “democracy” regime, as Predrag Matvejevic would say.
But what is the perception of European citizens? What if poverty increases for all and wealth for the few, if the energy crisis and sanctions cut family budgets, if rearmament is the primary condition for spending by central countries in maintaining the foundations and history of the Union (such as Germany, which committed €200 billion to enter a gray area despite the taboos wrought by its too-often inauspicious history)?
It is therefore a shift to the right for the whole of Europe, which was certainly already in progress but which is radicalized now that the Italian extreme right is in the government. No one is under any illusions about the initial counterproductive volleys from Ursula von der Leyen (“We will ensure the respect of rights”) or the true concerns of the French prime minister. The European Union we have known no longer exists. It wobbles to life only thanks to the support of two great nations, Germany and France, where Macron’s leadership is in serious jeopardy. His support can be said to be a clear political minority in the country, due to the emergence on the right of the Marine Le Pen “French brother” phenomenon.
Fratelli d’Italia, in the vain of the neo-fascist “arguments” of the last 70 years, is today nothing less than Italian nationalist sovereignty writ large upon the international stage, the renewed heir of populism based on the ideology of the extreme right. Its goal is immediately “stopping migrants at any cost” — assisted more than a little by the EU’s externalization of its borders and the shameful disparity in treatment between Ukrainian refugees and those of the desperate rest of the world — a governing rationale as clever as it is violent. This extreme national sovereignty comes in a strong and obsolete form previously unseen; Salvini, from this point of view, is an impostor with origins in a separatist bloc.
In the face of the eruption of this new nationalism, part of a tendency in European political history that sees even Sweden affirming a racist far-right force, the EU will not stand. This eruption will challenge the fundamental contents of the Italian Constitution that bind a founding country like Italy to the Union: Article 11, which bans war as a means of resolving international crises, could be in danger, the constitutionalist Andrea Manzella wrote recently in the pages of Corriere della Sera. This is above all thanks to Putin, whose aggression against Ukraine feeds Europe’s preparation for war.
Giorgia Meloni is riding this disaster, all the more so because the deep economic crisis will help justify the nationalist demands in Europe, from the populist reopening of requests on the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan to the “revision of the Treaties.” In this way, she appears as the “true Europeanist” in the face of the divisive energy crisis.
Above all, Meloni operates under the protective umbrella of the United States, because, as Blinken says, “We are eager to work with Italy’s government … Italy is a vital ally.”
By virtue of Europe’s repeated loyalty to NATO, where there is the Atlantic Alliance there is no European foreign policy. This is a constitutive political result — Atlanticism in the Cold War was anti-Communist — of the anti-democratic history of the MSI, the heart and soul of the “thought” that inflames Giorgia Meloni.