Reportage. A long procession filled the streets of Rome on Saturday to demonstrate against a growing tide of far-right neo-fascism that has dominated headlines ahead of the March 4 national election.

Italian anti-fascist marchers triumph over violence

In a climate of terror, in which TV stations are obsessively reporting on “nightmare rallies,” a very different event took place on the streets of Rome this weekend: a sea of peaceful anti-fascist and anti-racist demonstrators, brought together by the trade associations ANPI, CGIL, ARCI, and Libera.

A banner held up by those in the first row of the march says it all: “Macerata — anti-fascist and anti-racist.” It was a reminder that the turning point for everyone came after the militia-style attack on black people in Macerata by the fascist and Lega Nord supporter Luca Traini. Afterward, on Feb. 10, 30,000 people took to the streets, ignoring Interior Minister Marco Minniti’s threats to ban the march and the initial step back taken by the organizations which had convened it.

The Left of all stripes was out on the streets Saturday—with all its disagreements and divisions, of course. Liberi e Uguali were present, as well as the Democratic Party and the representatives of Potere al Popolo.

The government had a presence there as well. Representing Minniti were, undoubtedly, the almost 4,000 policemen on duty. But Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni also made an appearance, as well as the Secretary of the Democratic Party, Matteo Renzi, although the latter hid backstage, for fear of being booed.

Let’s not mince words: It was only a token appearance by these latter. And if they ended up doing it at all, paying no mind to those who accused them of opportunistic electoral anti-fascism, it was only because of the event on Feb. 10 in Macerata, which brought together a vast crowd of the grassroots Left, and showed that there is, in the end, a red line that absolutely cannot be crossed: anti-fascism.

The big demonstration this weekend was a joint victory for all those who took to the streets in these days of high tensions, when, after the events in Macerata, the neo-fascists have stepped up their provocations, in Rome, Bologna, Naples, Turin, Pisa, and in practically all the suburbs throughout Italy.

All this while the disastrous theory of “extremists on both sides” keeps making the rounds on the airwaves, as the biggest media and news outlets are committed to frame the events in terms of a theatricalized conflict between the “ultra-Left” on one side and the neo-fascists on the other.

As if these two sides were, in the end, the same kind of thing. As if expressing one’s opposition to fascism and its more or less disguised revivals, which always bring violence with them, were the same thing as taking to the streets and claiming the legacy of fascism, going against the explicit words of the Constitution, like the followers of Casa Pound and Forza Nuova are now doing openly. And they are rewarded for it, no less, and quietly allowed onto the electoral lists, giving them more and more space in which they can manifest politically.

It wasn’t some extremist “thug,” but rather the writer Sandro Pertini, who said that “to be an anti-fascist means to fight the manifestations of the neo-fascists.”

And we must not forget that it was the right-wing political forces who created this structural climate of violence and xenophobic and racist hate that has infected this election season, committed as they are to an ideology of bringing back the past with a vengeance.

Accordingly, Forza Italia has raised a long-mummified Silvio Berlusconi up from the dead; the Fratelli d’Italia have taken up again the old watchwords of Almirante’s MSI (tied to the murder of anti-fascist partisans, but recently celebrated with great pride during a conference sponsored by Emiliano, the governor of Puglia); and, most egregiously, Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord has revived the supremacist principles of fascism in an explicitly ethnic and racist key.

Fascism is not dead, after all. The “black wave” is now rewriting the history books, gaining converts in the murky waters of the social disaster in Western Europe, which feeds fear, anger and resentment, first of all against migrants, and then against those who are most defenseless.

These developments will not end with this election, not at all. Accordingly, we will not lower our guard—or our tone of voice.

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