The black wave that has brought back xenophobic and fascist violence to Italy is only a surprise to those who have not noticed the poisoning of public discourse in an election campaign dominated by the theme of security, and injected every day with massive doses of hatred against marginalized groups.
A widespread sentiment of fear represents fuel added to this fire, poured on incessantly by the Right, which aspires to govern the country and is leading millions of impoverished and frightened Italians to imagine that their lives could be changed if they engaged in a national manhunt against other disadvantaged underdogs who happen to be of a different skin color.
This rightward current that is being felt throughout Europe is fueled in Italy by prominent politicians like Berlusconi, Salvini and Meloni, true “entrepreneurs of fear,” if we use the apt and prescient term coined 10 years ago by the French sociologist Pierre Musso.
With the stabbing of a boy while he was putting up election posters for Potere al Popolo in Perugia, the swastika painted on a plaque commemorating Aldo Moro in Rome, Forza Nuova breaking into the TV studio during Giovanni Floris’s show, and the beating of a leader of the extreme right in Palermo, the incitements to violence have crossed over from words to action. And ever since the invasion by skinheads of the headquarters of an organization supporting migrants in Como, and the shooting spree against black people by the Fascist and Lega Nord supporter in Macerata, far-right organizations have quickly sought, and been granted, the use of public squares for their rallies, feeding a climate of high tension.
Italian law prohibits the recreation of the Fascist Party, but these groups are very careful to present lists and symbols that avoid making explicit reference to Fascism, in order to be allowed to campaign for the elections just like everyone else. Yet, at the same time, they admit—like Simone di Stefano, the secretary of CasaPound, did on the TV show Porta a Porta—that they are “the heirs of the experience of Fascism, of the RSI and the MSI,” referring to the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (Mussolini’s regime from 1943 to 1946) and the Italian Social Movement (a neo-Fascist party formed after the war by the followers of Mussolini).
It is necessary not to sink down to their level in order to fight them, thus falling into the trap of “extremists on both sides,” and following a script that we have sadly already played out in the past. Keeping watch and peacefully demonstrating are the correct antidote to counter the hatred they spew, and for keeping them from assuming the mantle of victims.
Laura Boldrini was right to condemn the brutal assault against a member of the Forza Nuova in Palermo, calling for a stop to the invocation of anti-fascism as a pretext to justify violence, because, according to the President of the Chamber of Deputies, “anti-fascism is a culture of peace.” And Grasso, the President of the Senate, was right to warn that “political hatred is devouring the country, and, if we want to avoid deaths, we cannot wait any longer.”
We must react in a democratic way against the fascists who are rising up, like we did in Macerata and in Bologna, by occupying the streets with marches and peaceful demonstrations. Not by toning down criticism, as the Democratic Party is suggesting. And not by asking citizens to close the shops and schools and stay indoors, as the Mayor of Macerata did, causing the cancellation of a massive manifestation that had already been scheduled by the ANPI, the unions and the forces of the Left. These same organizations will be demonstrating in Rome on Saturday, this time together with the Democratic Party, which is now banking on the same old calls to order, thinking these would get them a few more votes.
Renzi is now parading the current Interior Minister as a strongman against immigrants, in an attempt to snatch some votes from Salvini’s Lega Nord. But it is highly doubtful that this attempt will prove successful. This is because it was in the suburbs and in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods that Renzi’s party saw its great losses in recent years, and, if people are asked to choose between the original and a bad imitation, the original will carry the day.