“Neo-fascist”. There is no other way to define an organization championing fascism. In Italy the apology of fascism is illegal. But the minister for Home Affairs, Matteo Salvini, in charge of applying the legislation, lets fascists to do whatever they want.
It happened in Prato, city in the central region of Tuscany. This is where a rally was organized by New Force (Forza Nuova), a far right political party hugely nostalgic for fascism. They wanted to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Italian Fasci of Combat (Fasci Italiani di Combattimento), and were allowed to do it. Yes, this is Italy in the 21st century. And this kind of Italy will bring to next European Parliament a big number of fascist-friendly MEPs.
New Force, old story
What is the Italian Fasci of Combat? It was an organization created by Benito Mussolini in 1919. In 1921 it was transformed into the National Fascist Party. Basically the Italian Fascist Combat is the political origin of the Italian fascism.
After 100 year New Force wanted to celebrate the Italian fascism. This fact alone should be an issue of concern, but there was a second major issue: the Italian authorities gave their agreement to the demonstration. The demonstration in Prato is not the only one of this type. In fact, New Force wanted to hold another one in the south of the country, in Sicily.
Furthermore, the minister responsible for home affairs, who is also the leader of the bigger of the two ruling parties, had nothing to say about it. He didn’t stop New Force, he didn’t complain against the local authorities. There are two kinds of fascists: the militants and those who don’t oppose them. Matteo Salvini is thus a fascist. The minister of interior is an outlaw.
The Italian anti-fascist laws trampled
The Italian Constitutions states that “it shall be forbidden to reorganise, under any form whatsoever, the dissolved Fascist party”. Just one sentence, which sounds very clear. Or at least it should. So, is a political movement celebrating fascism a fascist party itself under another form? If so, is it illegal, and should it be dismantled? New Force is there, well active and functioning.
In 1952 the Italian Parliament passed a law containing the definitions of “apology of fascism” and “fascist organization”. This is the so-called “Scelba law”, by the name of the rapporteur, Mario Scelba. The law specifies that “there is a reorganization of the dissolved Fascist party when an association, a movement or in any case a group of people no less than five […] addresses its activity to the exaltation of exponents, principles, facts and methods proper to the aforementioned party or performs outward manifestations of fascist character”. Sanctions are foreseen.
In 1993 the Italian Parliament passed another law containing specific anti-racist provisions. It has to be recalled that in 1938 the Fascist regime introduced racial laws, paving the way for discrimination. The so-called “Mancino law”, by amending the Scelba law, provides for imprisonment from one to three years and a fine from one to two million in the event of “racist ideas or methods” being praised.
Italy in trouble with legality, fascism and rule of law
In Italy fascism is thus banned by law, but officially tolerated. In view of the European elections, Salvini’s party will be in the position to bring to Brussels the biggest Italian delegation. It will be a delegation whose leader tolerates fascism. So, the biggest Italian delegation in the next European Parliament will be fascist-friendly. This is bad news for Europe.
Salvini dangerously close to “Italexit” supporters
In addition, Salvini is tolerating people who want to leave the EU. New Force is hostile to the European project. “Out from EU, ECB and euro”, is one of the items on the agenda.
“Italexit” is the slogan used by New Force. An Italian government flirting with such forces hardly inspires trust at EU level. If some Italians believe that Europe is a problem, the opposite is true as well. Italy is a problem for Europe. And after the May elections the problem could become even worse.