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About Fascism and Anti-fascism in Italy today

This article has been written for the greek anarchist newspaper Apatris,where the greek translation will appear in the iusse n°39.

Originally published by Emilia Antifa.

Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of  these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

About Fascism and Anti-fascism in Italy today

In Italy, the presence of Fascism has never truly gone away. Both institutional (a large portion of the judicial system and the police remain the same despite the “democratic transition”), and militant (like the political party Movimento Sociale Italiano, the fascist terrorism of the 70’s, the hooligan scene of the 80’s and the reconstruction of the party Forza Nuova in 1997).

In the twenty years which were dominated by the right-wing prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the Neo-fascist phenomenon disappeared from the media (with the exception of the murder of Davide “Dax” Cesare in 2003), only to later reappear in October 2008 when a group of people from Casapound tried to attack the student demonstration of the so-called “Onda” movement; an attack which was repelled.

For a long time, the organization, which has been active since 2003, had tried to infiltrate the student movement through its youth organization Blocco Studentesco, but after its failure, they made another attempt at taking their place by use of force.

For many years the fascist menace remained a rhetoric against the influence of Berlusconi, albeit he lost his power in 2011 in favour of a series of “technical” governments which ruled under the aegis of the European Union until 2014 when the governing role fell upon the “Centre-Left” Democratic Party. Both the technical governments and that of the Democratic Party gave way to increasingly harsh laws against healthcare, schools, labour rights and pensions which passed with barely any opposition. This in addition to the complaisance of most unions, which compromised themselves with the left-wing party. At the same time, a violent repressive political climate began against the political opposition and undesirables. A wave of repression has intensified over the last two years: thousands of evictions, charges, arrests and omnipresent control from the police and CCTV, but also laws against begging and the imposition of gentrification. A campaign of fearmongering by the media has played a large part in this with continuous and uninterrupted coverage on themes of immigration and public safety, suggesting thieves and murderers are always around the corner. Throughout all of this, fascist organizations have resurfaced as a legitimized public force that needs to be dealt with on several different fronts.

The most important is Casapound, characterized by its emphasis on youth and its search for a public image which is both “pop” and contemporary. Dominant in the centre of Italy and a portion of Rome, Casapound began once again to open its branches in the northern part of the country.

Then we have Forza Nuova, a very strong movement in the north characterized by strong Catholic and traditionalist leanings that exploit the sense of insecurity shared by common citizens. They employ committees and patrols “of citizens.”

Recently, we have witnessed the rise of other groups such as Veneto Fronte Skinheads and Lealtà & Azione; neo-Nazi organizations that have commenced with expansion campaigns in numerous cities. Finally, there are a series of minor organizations, like Azione Identitaria and Generazione Identitaria, similar to the German “Identitarians”, and “Rossobruni (a group belonging to the third position, with rosso – red – in reference to Communism and bruni – browns – in reference to Nazism),” a combination of cultural groups and publishers that exploit themes and icons of the left in order to infiltrate capitalist movements.

This last movement is the son of the international organization “Jeune Europe” (from the 50’s) belonging to the former SS member Jean-François Thiriart, whose goal was to unite both the left and the right against the United States. In the 70’s they become known as “Nazi-Maoists” (under the name Third Position) and are responsible for terrorist attacks such as the Bologna massacre.

Although they might not belong to a particular organization, they are prolific both on a cultural and editorial level, perpetuating conspiracy theories. Internationally, they are strongly linked with Aleksandr Dugin’s National-Bolsheviks.

This multitude of organizations has seen a huge increase over the last few years and hate crimes and political attacks have multiplied: on the 12th of January an antifascist was stabbed in Genoa; on the 3rd of February a fascist shot 6 people in Macerata; on the 20th of February there was another stabbing, targeting a left-wing activist in Perugia; on the 22nd of February there was an attempted arson against the social centre Magazzino47 in Brescia and on the 5th of March, a man from Senegal was shot and killed in Florence, where already two people from Senegal were killed in 2011 by a Casapound activist. Along these attacks, their public presence has also become more prominent.

The radical right adopted a series of strategies that enabled this drastic change. Firstly, the various fronts of Italian fascism began working together instead of fighting with each other as they had done in the past. This was possible thanks to both the regrouping of numerous local groups under the leadership of national organizations – which meant a clearer repartitioning of the territory – and the role played by institutionalized fascists (Lega Nord and Fratelli d’Italia), providing political cover and triggering the opening of “Right-wing Cultural Circles” such as Casaggìand Terra dei Padri (Land of the Fathers), common meeting places for all of the different fascist organizations.

A “double level” system was put in place: on the one hand there is the political organization, with its own style and proud Nazi fascist militants; on the other a whole series of “covering” organizations in the shape of voluntary associations and sport and cultural clubs etc. which would otherwise be shut down if they were to explicitly display their racist logos and names.

A good example would be Lealta & Azione (Loyalty & Action), the Italian section of the Hammerskins (formerly part of the Ku Klux Klan) comprising of genuine Neo-Nazi Boneheads (displaying swastikas, shaven heads etc), who grouped together several organizations, for example: Onlus, who collect food for Italian families; Memento, who “protect Italian monuments”; Gruppo Alpha (Alpha Group) a university group that organizes many conferences for the Rossobruni and distributes notes and book summaries; Lupi delle Vette (Wolves from the Peaks) to organize mountain excursions; I Lupi danno la zampa (Wolves show their paws) to help stray dogs and dog shelters; Una Voce nel Silenzio (A voice in the silence) to support persecuted Christians in Muslim countries; Wolf of the Ring for martial arts and combat sports, and finally, Un calcio alla Pedofilia/La caramella buona (Kicking Pedophilia/The good candy), who organize events “against pedophilia”, understood of course as a byproduct of homosexuality.

These “covers” allow the use of public and private spaces (like municipal rooms and spaces linked to the Church), enabling a slow contamination of people who consider themselves apolitical. However, they still remain “facades” that present themselves as a viable alternative to Capitalism and to the decay of society

The roots of this façade of viability lie in an engagement with class related issues and people’s everyday problems, such as the economic crisis, housing, unemployment, criminality and a common sense of insecurity which they relate directly to race.

The damaged Financial system and Capitalism are the fault of the “Global Elite’s” – who are of course Jewish – and immigrants, who are deemed stupid and cruel, are a weapon to corrupt Italian blood.

This is an important change of direction, as Italian Fascism once focused primarily on old-style nationalism rather than “cultural” racism, and portrayed itself as strongly conservative, not as a “revolutionary” force.

All of this was made possible by the economic and social collapse and the persistent presence of fascist activists in abandoned areas: their headquarters based not in city centres, but rather in the cities’ outskirts and in small provincial towns and villages.

We must not be deceived by the failure of these organizations in the elections: the true powers in parliament are those “institutional” parties who have a long-standing explicit alliance with more “militant” parties that aim to colonize the streets.

We must not panic. Their numbers are not those of the Hungarian Neo-Nazis. However, where those involved in politics exist in small numbers, even a few hundred people might constitute a national force.

Italian antifascism was caught unprepared. It is true that the movement has been repressed, but it is also true that this repression would not have been so devastating without an underlying weakness.

The majority of anticapitalist and antifascist forces remained tucked away in their little ghettos, in their social centres, in their safe neighbourhoods, in the city centres and in universities. These forces also hindered themselves through their own micro-political conflicts; the same old arguments and debates, articulated in a way which is not at all accessible to people from the outside.

With the growing presence of fascist movements, in many cities we have seen the emergence of both antifascist citizen assemblies that try to act as links between the different antifascist organizations, and of Militant Antifa groups that oppose fascism both on a street and propaganda level.

These two approaches have started to cooperate on a local level in order to guarantee both a quick response and a public presence (Lucca Antifascista, Macerata Antifascista, Genova Antifascista etc, neighbourhood assemblies or aggregations of neighbourhoods like in Milan and Rome).

In some cases, this has led to the formation of regional aggregations, like in the case of Emilia Antifascista (which includes the cities of Reggio Emilia, Modena, Carpi and Bologna, along with town and villages in the provinces), bringing together Anarchist and Communist groups and individuals from different backgrounds.

Instruments of counter-information played an important role (websites, social media pages and dossiers on local fascists) together with the production of modern, attractive, aesthetic, cultural and political instruments (flyers, memes, stickers etc) that provide new inputs in Antifascist milieus. This was sparked by the heterogeneity of network groups, allowing for complete coverage: from hooligans in stadiums to the music scene, from the making of graphics, to the writing of research material.

Obviously, we need to keep in mind that the full aggressive potential of the fascists hasn’t yet been deployed and that the main threat is their indirect influence in the public sphere, enabled by their street presence.

The development of an antifascism that is both militant and autonomous in relation to “simple” political groups, represents an important step towards resisting and counter-attacking fascism and might also be an opportunity to involve old as well as new militants, thus renovating Left-wing practices.

However, this is only half of the job. Without political forces that vocalize the needs of the oppressed classes in a revolutionary sense, and that are able to involve them on a mass level, the Antifa struggle will remain passive and defensive.

It is a matter of accompanying the left leg with the right one: if one goes in a different direction, the other falls to the ground. (Don’t let the left hand know what the right hand is doing).

Because Antifa means attack.

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