Benito Mussolini and his black shirt thugs in the National Fascist Party came to power in Italy with the March on Rome:
The March on Rome was an organized mass demonstration and a coup d’état in October 1922 which resulted in Benito Mussolini’s National Fascist Party (PNF) ascending to power in the Kingdom of Italy. In late October 1922, Fascist Party leaders planned an insurrection, to take place on 28 October. When fascist demonstrators and Blackshirt paramilitaries entered Rome, Prime Minister Luigi Facta wished to declare a state of siege, but this was overruled by King Victor Emmanuel III. On the following day, 29 October 1922, the King appointed Mussolini as Prime Minister, thereby transferring political power to the fascists without armed conflict.
This past weekend, the Italian Neo-Fascists were peacefully returned to power in a democratically held election by Italians who have forgotten their history on the eve of the centennial of Italian fascism (you can bet they will be celebrating the centennial).
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an expert on extremism, writes at The Atlantic, The Return of Fascism in Italy:
[Giorgia Meloni and the Brothers of Italy party represents continuity with Italy’s darkest episode: the interwar dictatorship of Benito Mussolini.]
If Meloni comes to power at the end of this month, it will be as head of a coalition whose other members—Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia—were each once the main force on Italy’s populist right. Brothers of Italy, which was polling at 23 percent earlier this month, has overtaken these more established parties and would represent the bloc’s largest component.
Brothers of Italy, which Meloni has led since 2014, has an underlying and sinister familiarity. The party formed a decade ago to carry forth the spirit and legacy of the extreme right in Italy, which dates back to the Italian Social Movement (MSI), the party that formed in place of the National Fascist Party, which was banned after World War II. Now, just weeks before the 100th anniversary of the March on Rome—the October 1922 event that put Mussolini in power—Italy may have a former MSI activist for its prime minister and a government rooted in fascism. In the words of Ignazio La Russa, Meloni’s predecessor as the head of the Brothers of Italy: “We are all heirs of Il Duce.”
Meloni in many ways sounds more like other modern national-conservative politicians such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and America’s MAGA Republicans than Il Duce. “There’s a leftist ideology, so-called globalist,” she told The Washington Post recently, “that aims to consider as an enemy everything that defined you—everything that has shaped your identity and your civilization.”
Meloni’s enemies list is familiar: “LGBT lobbies” that are out to harm women and the family by destroying “gender identity”; George Soros, an“international speculator,” she has said, who finances global “mass immigration” that threatens a Great Replacement of white, native-born Italians. Meloni shows affinity for authoritarian strongmen: Like Marine Le Pen, until recently the leader of the National Rally party in France, Meloni has expressed support for Russian President Vladimir Putin—although she hasmuted that enthusiasm since his invasion of Ukraine.
Meloni is comparable to Le Pen in other ways. Both are examples of what political scientists call “genderwashing,” when female politicians adopt a nonthreatening image to blunt the force of their extremism. Meloni’s signature look involves flowing outfits in pastel shades. To uninformed foreigners, her ascent could look like female empowerment; she poses as a defender of women, even as her party has rolled back women’s rights. In localities it governs, Brothers of Italy has made abortion services—the procedure has been legal in Italy since 1978—harder to access. Municipal authorities in Verona, where the party has shared power with Salvini’s League, declared the city “pro-life.”
Meloni and her French counterpart diverge, however, over their respective movements’ extremist history. Le Pen pushed her father out of the leadership of the National Front (National Rally’s forerunner) because of his overt racism and Holocaust denialism. Meloni, though, has never fully disavowed her connection to Italy’s neofascist tradition even as she claims that her party is merely “conservative” and that fascism is a thing of the past.
The tricolor flame in the Brothers of Italy logo contradicts that claim: It celebrates her party’s connection with its fascist past by reviving the MSI’s emblem. The Brothers of Italy also perpetuates its forebear’s values. In particular, the natalist obsession of Il Duce’s 20-year rule, with its “Battle for Births,” has survived in the Brothers of Italy’s present-day concern about boosting the birth rate, its proposal to link social-welfare assistance to mothers and those engaged in child care, and its attempts to limit reproductive rights.
Italy never underwent a process equivalent to Germany’s de-Nazification after World War II. At the start of the Cold War, the Allies wanted to block Western Europe’s largest Communist party from power. They took a minimalist approach to purges of fascists and other punitive measures that could cause social unrest in Italy. They also looked the other way when Giorgio Almirante and other fascists who had served Il Duce founded the MSI in 1946. By the 1960s, the MSI had become the fourth-largest party, yet it remained largely on the sidelines of Italian politics because of the electoral strength of the left.
The political will of the MSI to return the far right to power never waned. The collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe created a new space for the right to flourish. In came the billionaire Berlusconi and his new party, Forza Italia. Berlusconi’s short-lived center-right government of 1994 also included the Northern League (the original name of Salvini’s party) and brought the MSI’s neofascists into a governing coalition for the first time in Europe since 1945.
Their party was rebranded as the National Alliance, yet the MSI’s tricolor flame remained. The National Alliance’s leader, Gianfranco Fini, wore business suits and discouraged fascist salutes among the party faithful, but he hailed Il Duce as “the greatest statesman of the 20th century.” Meloni had joined the MSI’s youth wing in 1992, as a teenager. Four years later, as a young activist electioneering for her party, she echoed Fini’s praise for the dictator. “I think Mussolini was a good politician,” she told a TV interviewer. “Everything he did, he did for Italy.”
The current popularity of Meloni’s party in part indicates the weakness of the Italian center-left, which has struggled to package its ideas in ways that connect with voters. Above all, it signifies an acceleration of Italy’s democratic backsliding. In many respects, Meloni’s current coalition is an updated version of the governments Berlusconi went on to form during the 2000s—which, over time, took on more and more of his neofascist partner’s politics. In 2009, the process was formalized in a merger of Forza Italia and the National Alliance to form a new party, People of Freedom. Berlusconi’s coalitions demonized immigrants and detained them, and stoked anti-communist fears (even though the Italian Communist Party had ceased to exist).
Throughout, Berlusconi played on nostalgia for fascism’s promise of law and order even as he whitewashed its violence. “Mussolini never killed anyone,” he told Britain’s Spectator magazine in 2003; “he sent people into confinement to have vacations.” The Fascist prisons on islands such as Ponza, where torture was practiced, were no holiday resorts. His statement also denied the Fascists’ mass killings in Italy and its colonies, including Libya, and ignored their participation in the Holocaust.
Meloni served as minister of youth in Berlusconi’s last government (2008–11), which proved a laboratory for policies she has made her own. In 2008, one of Berlusconi’s ministers claimed that high immigrant birth rates, together with Italy’s aging population and sluggish demographic growth, would cause Italians to disappear “in two or three generations.” Such fear-mongering finds an audience because of Italy’s historically low birth rates, yet it also foments racist attitudes about who should be having babies.
This nationalist preoccupation echoes Mussolini’s warnings. “Cradles are empty and cemeteries are expanding,” Il Duce declared in 1927. “The entire white race, the Western race, could be submerged by other races of color that multiply with a rhythm unknown to our own.” Meloni’s twist on this theme is “ethnic substitution.” Since 2017, she has tweeted repeatedly that Italian identity is being deliberately erased by globalists such as Soros and European Union officials, who have conspired to unleash “uncontrolled mass immigration.” The paranoid style in Italian politics translates into xenophobicproposals to deny citizenship to children born in Italy to foreign parents and to cut foreigners’ access to welfare benefits.
The People of Freedom merger entailed a loss of autonomy for the neofascist tradition. The breakup of Berlusconi’s coalition in 2011, when the euro-zone crisis forced his resignation, created an opportunity for its far-right partner to make a fresh start. The Brothers of Italy formed the following year.
As it has grown, Meloni has walked a double line, trading in far-right conspiracy theories at times, while claiming to be a traditional conservative at others. The approach has proved ominously successful. Ignazio La Russa is now the vice president of the Italian Senate; and last year, Mussolini’s granddaughter Rachele, who has been a Brothers of Italy politician since 2016, was reelected to Rome’s municipal council with more votes than any other candidate.
What can we expect if the first female-led far-right government comes into being after next week’s election? Meloni seems unlikely to tone down her extremism or change her alignment with illiberal parties in Europe, such as Hungary’s Fidesz. After all, pursuing hard-line anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ policies in the name of defending white Christian civilization has worked well for them. Like Orbán, Meloni has made common cause with U.S. Republicans, attending the Conservative Political Action Conference and the National Prayer Breakfast.
America’s Party of Trump fascists cheered Meloni’s rise to power. The Independent reports, Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ted Cruz under fire for celebrating Italian far-right victory:
House and Senate Republicans aligned with former president Donald Trump are hailing the emergence of the first Italian fascist leader since the Second World War as a sign that the world is embracing Mr Trump’s brand of authoritarianism and a harbinger of a GOP victory in November’s midterm US elections.
Election returns showing that far-right leader Giorgia Meloni and her Fratelli d’Italia party — literally “Brothers of Italy” — emerged from snap parliamentary elections with a plurality of seats touched off a wave of celebrations among far-right elements of the Republican Party, many of whom also pointed to a recent victory by a far-right party in Swedish elections as evidence that the GOP’s brand of strongman populism is increasingly en vogue.
Colorado GOP representative Lauren Boebert took to Twitter to suggest that the recent European election results show how “the entire world is beginning to understand that the Woke Left does nothing but destroy”.
She added: “Nov. 8 is coming soon and the USA will fix our House and Senate!”
This month, Sweden voted for a right-wing government.
Now, Italy voted for a strong right-wing government.
The entire world is beginning to understand that the Woke Left does nothing but destroy.
Nov 8 is coming soon & the USA will fix our House and Senate! Let freedom reign!
— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) September 25, 2022
Her colleague Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia also hailed Ms Meloni’s win over the weekend, though she misspelled the Italian leader’s name in a tweet offering congratulations.
“Congratulations to Giorgia Meloni and to the people of Italy,” she wrote.
Senate Republicans also celebrated the right-wing Italian victory and pledged to work with Ms Meloni’s incoming government.
So beautifully said.
Congratulations to Giorgio Meloni and to the people of Italy. https://t.co/XdM8U2mFgt
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) September 26, 2022
[Insurrection leader] GOP Senator Ted Cruz of Texas called the result “spectacular” and posted a video of Ms Meloni’s victory speech to Twitter.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) September 26, 2022
His colleague Tom Cotton of Arkansas also said the Senate GOP would be standing by to assist Ms Meloni, whose political party traces its roots to the fascist Italian movement founded by the late dictator Benito Mussolini.
Congratulations to Giorgia Meloni and the winners of the Italian elections. We look forward to working with her and other Italian leaders to advance our shared interests. America is stronger when Italy is strong, sovereign, prosperous, and free.
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) September 26, 2022
“Congratulations to Giorgia Meloni and the winners of the Italian elections. We look forward to working with her and other Italian leaders to advance our shared interests. America is stronger when Italy is strong, sovereign, prosperous, and free,” he wrote.
The Republican lawmakers faced condemnation for cheering on the Italian results.
— Ruth Ben-Ghiat (@ruthbenghiat) September 26, 2022
Then there are the Arizona fascists:
AZ gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake went on Tucker Carlson Tonight to talk about how “excited” she is over the recent election in Italy, praising and comparing herself to fascist Giorgia Meloni. “This is somebody I can relate to,” Lake says.https://t.co/tBISwHtCYp pic.twitter.com/G9aRuQ0nd6
— AZ Right Wing Watch (@az_rww) September 27, 2022
of course again 🙄 pic.twitter.com/e5G2qvZObZ
— AZ Right Wing Watch (@az_rww) September 27, 2022
— Wendy Rogers (@WendyRogersAZ) September 26, 2022
My family proudly served in every service branch of the U.S. military during World War II, the war to rid the world of fascism. Millions of other Americans proudly served their country, and all Americans made sacrifices for the war effort.
Now too many of their descendants are embracing fascism in the Republican Party. This is un-American and defiles the service and sacrifice of millions of Americans who sought to free the word from fascism.
These Republicans are treasonous traitors to their country in my book, there is no role for them in government. They must all be defeated. There must be zero-tolerance for fascists in America. We will not go quiety into that dark night of fascism.