Neo-Fascist Leader Emerging In Italy

On September 25th, 2022, the polls close on Italy’s general election. Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the party Brothers of Italy, is expected to emerge victorious. This win would mean Italy has elected its first fascist leader since Mussolini’s regime of the Second World War.

Meloni and her party regularly attempt to verbally distance themselves from the term “fascism.” However, there are a number of similarities that are difficult to ignore. Meloni’s party slogan is Dio, Patria, Famiglia – which translates to God, Homeland, and Family. This slogan has vast connotations to the fascist era. The party’s logo consists of the Italian tricolour in the shape of a flame, which is the identical logo of the obsolete Italian Social Movement (MSI), which was a party created in 1946 by supporters of Mussolini’s regime. Furthermore, supporters of the Brothers of Italy were seen at a rally performing a fascist salute. A recently surfaced video of Meloni has her quoted as saying how “Mussolini was a good politician. There have been no politicians like him in the last fifty years.”

What is somewhat difficult to see on the surface is that Italy has something of a familiarity with fascism. In November of 1946, at the same time that the Nuremberg trials against Nazi Germany began, Italy released thousands of its fascist prisoners from prison. What is astounding is how many of these former prisoners then took jobs in administration — Ettore Messana, whose name appears in a United Nations list for war crimes, was appointed Inspector General for public safety in Sicily. MSI members formed the National Alliance Party in 1995, maintaining the symbolism, and presented themselves to be neoliberal conservatives.

Italy’s unstable economic and political system and refugee crisis means thousands of Italians join self-proclaimed fascist groups, and in 2012 the Brothers of Italy were founded. Its current leader, Meloni, was previously an activist in the MSI Youth Front in a period where fascism has become commonplace amongst young people. There are many myths surrounding Mussolini’s regime — contrary to popular belief, public housing was introduced in 1903 and not under his reign like many Italians believe today.

Mussolini’s alliance with Nazi Germany and Hitler was rooted in appeasement. Prior to the Second World War, Mussolini was aware that Europe was headed for war, and formed an alliance with the up-and-coming power nation that was Germany. This alliance introduced many anti-Semitic and fascist laws into the country, on behalf of Nazi ideology. Mussolini’s ideology itself was not too dissimilar — his was originally routed in nationalism and imperialism and focused on restoring Italy to its former glory of the Roman Empire, which he aimed to do by aligning with Germany.

There is a distinct difference between the regime of Mussolini and the potential regime of Meloni. Italy is, and probably will be for a while, a democracy. Italy is a member of both NATO and the European Union, neither which existed in the 1930s.

“Whenever we speak about the war and racial laws in Italy, we always identify ourselves with the role of victim and anti-fascists, and this has prevented us from admitting to ourselves that we were fascists,” is a quote by author Antonio Scurati. Italy isn’t alone in its denial of its past. It is quite reasonable to say that Germany is the only country that has ever been made to confront its past and the consequences of having a far-right leader. Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Addressing past conflicts and mistakes and problem solving is the only way to ensure history isn’t on a loop, making the same mistakes and electing the same people.