A new threshold has been crossed in European politics. Our publications have been pointing out the rapid rise of fascism and proto-fascism all over the world. First the fascist Swedish Democrats turned out to be the real winners of elections in Sweden. And now fascism won the elections overwhelmingly in the third largest economy of the EU, Italy. Woe to those who underestimated this threat and deceived the people. Fascism has not yet been established in these countries, but the fascists are in power.
This article was originally written in Turkish and published on the web site www.gercekgazetesi1.net on 28 September 2022. It has been translated into English by other comrades for publication on RedMed.
Election results point to multiple fault lines being triggered in Italy. The most striking one is the rapid change in the balance of forces between political actors and parties in this country where a deep economic crisis is intertwined with a political crisis. A series of political actors who were recently at the center stage have suffered defeat in the elections to this or that extent. The four parties that have lost the elections are led by four ex-prime ministers. For one, Azione-Italia Viva (Action - Long Live Italy), which is led by Matteo Renzi and is a joint list of two smaller parties, got slightly less than 8% of the votes. The Five Star Movement (known as M5S, in its Italian abbreviation) led by ex-Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte who won the previous elections by getting over 32% of the votes, got barely 15% in this election. The party of the third ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Forza Italia (Let’s Go Italy), got around 8% as well. The case of Silvio Berlusconi is slightly different since his party is part of the winning coalition, but since his party now is a smaller force of the coalition as opposed to leading it as before, it is still striking and we will visit this subject again. The fourth ex-Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, entered the elections leading the establishment left party called Democratic Party (PD), born from the remnants of the Communist Party of Italy. It became the second party but the overwhelming defeat of the coalition formed around PD against the fascist coalition was so momentous that he had to announce his withdrawal from the leadership of PD in the coming congress. In a sense, the list of losers of this election is like a cemetery of ex-Prime Ministers.
Fratelli d’Italia and the rise of Giorgia Meloni
As the ex-Prime Ministers lost, the winner of this election is Italian fascism, in particular Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy, Fdl) led by Giorgia Meloni. It should be noted here that this party is a direct inheritor of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), which itself is the continuation of the National Fascist Party of Mussolini, and that it continues to use the same symbol of a flame in the colors of the Italian flag (fiamma tricolore in Italian, the three-color flame) as MSI. Until recently, the Brothers of Italy occupied a secondary position in Italian politics. After assuming its contemporary name in 2012, it made up a small force inside the right-wing coalition led by Berlusconi and his party Forza Italia. Barely receiving 2% of the votes in its first election and failing the 3% election threshold, it made a leap (!) in 2018 and raised its vote to over 4%. Four years later, it is now the largest political force in the country with its 26% vote share. The party that could not overcome the election threshold in 2013 now has the power to make its leader the Prime Minister. This radical change is not merely an indicator of the immense depth of the political crisis in Italy; but also an indicator of the massive political earthquakes to come under the conditions of the Third Great Depression.
Let us point to some facts that show us how tremendous the victory of fascism and Fratelli d’Italia really is. Fratelli d'Italia’s vote share is 26% and the coalition as a whole got 45%. The second largest coalition, that of the establishment left, managed to get only 26% with the combined forces of four parties. Two factors played essential roles in these results, on one hand, the reflection of a worldwide phenomenon in Italy, and on the other hand a factor unique to the Italian conjuncture. First is the fact that the establishment left became a mouthpiece of the EU, getting knee-deep in cultural issues while refusing to address the working class. On the opposite side, similar to Marine Le Pen in France or Donald Trump in the USA, Fratelli d’Italia insisted on addressing the working class, even if through its distorted agenda. Fratelli d’Italia tried to mislead the Italian working people, taking the attention off the capitalists as the real culprits of their problems and scapegoating the immigrants instead. The message was distorted and wrong, but since the only party to address the workers, to offer solutions to their woes was Fratelli d’Italia; such messaging was bound to be heard especially considering the main opposition was the Democratic Party that, with the support of EU and IMF, put its signature on many assaults against the working people, starting from the infamous “Jobs Act”. Under these conditions, the Fascist coalition won even the “red” cities of yesteryear, and the Democratic Party was confined to the rich belt of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, regions that include Florence and Bologna.
The second factor is the crisis in Italian politics over the last years, the maneuvers of Fratelli d’Italia and the mistakes of its opponents. Once the governing coalition of Lega-M5S elected in the 2018 elections dissolved at the start of 2021, a national unity government was formed around the ex-head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi. In a country struggling under a devastating economic crisis, this government made the workers pay for the crisis through a bitter austerity program. Moreover, most of the major parties in Italy got hold of a ministry in this government. Lega and Forza Italia from the fascist coalition, the Five Star Movement which was at the time the strongest political actor due to its anti-establishment image, Italia Viva of the former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and the Democratic Party as the leading establishment party all partook in the Draghi government. Even stranger yet, as a display of sheer political ineptitude, many parties, and in particular the Lega and the Five Star, accepted to bear the responsibility of this austerity government without even taking a strategically important ministry, such as internal affairs, economy or defense. The only major party to remain outside of this national unity government was Fratelli d’Italia. Indeed, when the vote of confidence for the government was held in the parliament, out of the only 56 votes against it, 31 belonged to Fratelli d’Italia, more than half. Therefore, Lega and Five Star gave Fdl the opportunity to be the sole opposition to the austerity government. Fdl used this opportunity masterfully and gained a significant advantage over its competitors, including its fascist rival of Lega. The results are crystal clear after the recent elections. The gains of Fratelli d’Italia against Lega (which is first and foremost a party of northern Italy) in the latter’s strongholds like Veneto and Friuli are remarkable. Furthermore, when one considers the well-known north-south tensions in Italy, the damage dealt to Lega as a result of their involvement with the Draghi government and the importance of the victories of the southerner Meloni, who speaks with a heavy Roman accent, against her northern rival from Milan becomes all the more striking.
The immense gap in votes, coupled with the first-past-the-post system that allows the winner of the election in a region to be directly elected as a member of parliament, means that the power of Meloni in the parliament will be greater than her 45% vote share. Despite the exact MP allocations being still unclear, the predictions point to a scenario where the fascist coalition will be able to completely control both of the houses of the Italian parliament without relying on outside support. This is momentous in Italy, where such a strong government was not formed in recent times. If the governing fascist coalition can push this advantage and maintain a stable government, breaks in the Italian bourgeoisie away from the mainstream EU and NATO line in favor of fascism will accelerate. We note in passing the possibility of tactical maneuvers and alliances incorporating the second largest party of the fascist coalition, Lega of Matteo Salvini, who is more open to the influence of the EU, in an attempt to undermine Meloni.
Furthermore, the fascist coalition does not yet have the required majority of three-fifths in the parliament to be able to change the constitution by itself; but it seems they will require just a little more to achieve that. It is highly likely that they will try to achieve the required numbers through political haggling, as is customary in Italian politics, and change the Italian constitution that still bears, even if superficially, the marks of the victory against fascism by the anti-fascist forces led by the communist party. Hence it is not a remote possibility that the current constitution, a result of crushing fascism, will be eviscerated by the fascists.
“Centre-right coalition” or fascist coalition?
The careful reader might have noticed that the coalition led by Meloni was called a “fascist coalition” in the last paragraph. Those who were able to follow the results of the elections from the Western media might have heard this coalition called a “centre-right coalition” by some, or a “right-wing coalition” by those who did not lose their sense of shame completely. We also called the coalition formed by almost the same actors (Forza Italia, Lega, and Fratelli d’Italia) in 2013 a “right-wing coalition”. If we insist today to use a different expression than most of the media, this is not because of our desire to set ourselves apart or to look tough. We try to point out a phenomenon concealed by the stenographers of the bourgeoisie.
The victorious coalition existed in this form since 2013, when the three aforementioned parties came together. But the real roots go back to the Berlusconi governments of the 90’s, and the coalition of Berlusconi, Lega (named Lega Nord back then), and the predecessor of Fratelli d’Italia. In the 90’s, 2000’s and even in 2013, Berlusconi was among the most powerful political actors in Italy. Lega and Fratelli d’Italia were auxiliary forces at best. For example, even during the downturn of Berlusconi in 2013, his share of the vote was 21%, whereas it was 4% for Lega and 2% for Fratelli d’Italia. It is at this time that the Italian press got into the habit of naming this coalition as “centre-right”, for understandable reasons. Since 2013, turmoil has shaken the very core of Italian politics. First in 2018, the second largest party of the coalition, Lega, made its unprecedented giant leap. It became the third largest party in the country, and the largest in its coalition. At this stage, Berlusconi was still the second largest party in the coalition by 14% of the votes just behind Lega and its leader Salvini’s 17%. Even then our web site Gerçek pointed out the absurdity of calling this coalition “centre-right”. This absurdity has been surpassed after the recent results. The coalition is led by the fascist Fratelli d’Italia with 26% of the votes, followed by the other fascist party Lega. Berlusconi is a distant third with his 8% (there is also another party named Noi Moderati, or “Us, moderates”, whose votes do not even make up 1% so we ignore them here. We leave it to the reader to appreciate the irony and the instructive significance of “moderates” marching behind fascists in lockstep). Yet still many loosely call this the “centre-right”, some out of habit and others in order to consciously conceal from the people the nature of this coalition and the necessity to fight against it. It seems obvious to us that after the landslide in the political landscape of Italy, a coalition led by two fascist parties should be called a “fascist coalition”. The presence of Berlusconi in this coalition does not indicate its “centrist” character but rather the ease with which successful fascist parties can tag bourgeois parties along.
Victories of fascists and our tasks
The victory of the fascist coalition caused great enthusiasm in other fascist parties of Europe. The rising star and the right hand of Marine Le Pen in the French RN (Rassemblement National, the National Rally) Jordan Bardela was quick to congratulate Meloni’s victory. Vox from Spain and AfD from Germany were not far behind. As the entire European fascist movement knows fully well, the victory of the fascist alliance in Italy will necessarily embolden and strengthen fascists in other countries. The crisis is not local to Italy, but it is an earthquake that will be felt all over Europe.
Even though we cannot discuss it in a deeper way in this article, we must mention that aside from fascists, Russia also declared to establish good relations with Italy. All three political powers of this coalition, including Berlusconi, had a pragmatic relationship with Russia. Nevertheless, starting from Meloni, all of them gave “oaths of loyalty to NATO and EU” and tried to calm the worries of the Italian and European bourgeoisie. It is unreasonable to expect that this coalition will quickly move away from the EU and NATO line and establish closer relations with Russia. However, if the wave of discontent among the people against the energy crisis rises in the winter, the fact that Meloni is the weakest link in the anti-Russian European front will likely make Italy the first place to break away.
The fact that a fascist will lead Italy must serve as a wake-up call to every socialist in the world, in particular in Europe. The urgent task in front of socialists is to turn their faces back to the working class, fight tooth and nail to regain the ground lost inside the working class to fascists during the decades of cultural politics. This does not imply turning our back to other oppressed sections of the people, religious and national minorities, women, and oppressed gender identities. In fact, we must relentlessly tell these oppressed social groups that their salvation can only come through an alliance with the working class, that the fascist hand that reaches for them can only be broken this way. The ideological reflection of this is to see clearly the blind alley of intersectionality, post-colonialism or their variations for what they are, an escape from class, and thus make a return to Marxism.
The political and physical defense of the economic and political organizations of the working class is the most urgent task in Italy and Europe. Working class organizations must come together in a Workers United Front, under separate banners, without losing political independence, so that they can march separately and strike together to achieve these goals. Moreover, starting from unions, all working class organizations must prepare for their self-defense in whichever way necessary. It must not be forgotten that only a tooth for tooth fight can repel the fascist threat. Successes in the electoral processes can aid this but those who dream of beating fascists merely through elections are delusional.
Fascism has won a battle but the war will be decided upon the struggles starting from today. The only solution to shift the unfavorable balance of power towards us is to organize a Workers United Front that is ready to defend the working class, its organizations and oppressed sections neighbourhood by neighbourhood, workplace by workplace. A Workers United Front capable of repelling this threat and protecting the working class as well as all sections of the society that will come under attack by fascism, will also provide the basis to leap forward. This way, it will be possible to hammer the fascist front and then continue to the final victory of the working class.