- The victory of the parties of the right in the Italian elections means that for the first time since the fall of the dictatorships in the 1970s a fascist party will head a European government. In October 2022, a hundred years after Mussolini’s March on Rome, a fascist will once again be prime minister of Italy.
Giorgia Meloni is a skilful politician but she is no mere ‘conservative’, as the media endlessly describe her. She helped to create the Fratelli d’Italia as a rejection of the old fascist MSI’s evolution towards integration into mainstream bourgeois parliamentary politics. Her speeches are full of classical fascist rhetoric and coded antisemitism – in defence of family and nation against ‘cosmopolitan’ financial speculators.
Responsibility for this frightening development lies firmly at the door of the mainstream parties – notably the centre-left Partito Democratico and the supposedly ‘anti-establishment’ Movimento 5 Stelle – that supported the government of Mario Draghi. This bankers’ banker locked Italy more firmly into the neoliberal grip of the European Union and enthusiastically backed NATO’s proxy war with Russia in Ukraine. The Fratelli were the only major party to stay out of this government and they were able to soak up the discontent it created.
2. The fascist breakthrough shouldn’t be overstated. Votes for the main right-wing parties in the Chamber of Deputies were 12,409,981 in 2018, 37% of the vote. In 2022, they fell to 12,299,648. So 110,000 fewer people voted for them this time but their share of the vote rose to 44% thanks to the fall in turnout. The right’s success is a product of the failure of the other parties and the resulting alienation with the political system at a time of pandemic, economic instability, ecological catastrophe, war, and inflation.
Moreover, Meloni’s success is overwhelmingly electoral. She has been able hugely to increase the Fratelli’s representation in parliament by winning votes mainly from the other right-wing parties, the Lega and Forza Italia. She hasn’t been able to build the kind of fascist street movement whose offensive against the left and trade unionists launched Mussolini into the premiership.
Nevertheless, the victory of Meloni and the Fratelli is an extremely threatening development. It will give encouragement and legitimacy to fascists everywhere. The Fratelli will use their role in government to strengthen the social and institutional base of the far right and push through reactionary policies. All the right-wing elements in the state apparatuses and openly fascist groups such as Casa Pound will gain in confidence.
3. The new government will continue the attacks mounted by its predecessors on working people, especially migrants and refugees. Already the Fratelli have confirmed they will scrap the very modest citizen’s income that was one of the few social reforms achieved by the 5 Stelle in office. They also plan to weaken the right to abortion. These attacks need to be met with massive resistance. International solidarity with struggles against Italy’s far right government will be important. And wherever Meloni goes she should be denounced and isolated as the fascist she is. The international conference organized by Stand Up to Racism in London on 15 October assumes a special importance in this context. We will continue to organize resistance to fascist mobilizations internationally.
Meloni and her government aren’t invincible. They don’t represent a deepening or widening of the right’s social base. Moreover, there will be plenty of divisions inside the government. Neither Silvio Berlusconi of Forza Italia nor Matteo Salvini of the Lega share Meloni’s enthusiasm for the Ukraine War. To hang onto his leadership of the Lega Salvini will have to assert himself against Meloni. A determined movement of mass resistance that breaks with the bankrupt policies of the centre-left can exploit these weaknesses and force Meloni out.
4. The fascist breakthrough in Italy is a warning to us all. Humankind faces a deeply dangerous multiple crisis spawned by the capitalist system. But this can be exploited by the far right, as we have seen recently not just in Italy but also in France and Sweden. For the left to offer an alternative they need to break with strategies based on parliamentary manoeuvres and alliances with the neoliberal ‘extreme centre’. Only the methods of class struggle that mobilize working people against the bosses and their state offers a way forward.
The Coordination of the International Socialist Tendency
30 September 2022