“Coming to Italy, the country is in the grip of an economic depression at the national level since the beginning of the new century, i.e. even from before the worldwide depression started in 2008. Its GDP is lower today than it was as at the beginning of the millennium! It is the country with the highest debt stock in Europe (2.6 trillion dollars or 150 per cent of its GDP). Various coalition formulae have been tried among the different parties since the 2018 elections, but all have collapsed after a while. (…) It is for this reason that a “technocratic” government under the premiership of Mario Draghi, until recently the governor of the European Central Bank, has been formed, with parties also giving ministers to the government. (…) The European Union, had revealed that it had set aside the lion’s share in the pandemic support fund to Italy (…) In our opinion, the dominant globalist wings of the Italian bourgeoisie are testing, with firm support from the institutions of the EU, their last opportunities to overcome the crisis the country is going through before a veritable tremor hits Italian society.”
We had concluded thus in a lengthy article on the rise of fascism across the world we had released in May of last year (2021). Italy was able to resist the tremor that we had spoken of for only a year and a half. The Draghi government took steps for the “reforms” necessary to acquire the huge sum of €200 billions that the European Union pandemic relief fund had set aside for Italy. But then the government stumbled upon its political limits. The “technocratic” coalition collapsed in mid-July, and Draghi resigned. Now Italy is preparing for parliamentary elections coming up on September 25th, thus experiencing the calm before the deluge.
Why the “deluge”? (1): the tsunami of proto-fascism
What tremor did the globalist bourgeoisie maneuver to prevent for one last time with the hand of the Draghi government? On the one hand, to reshape the economy according to the demands of the European Union; but on the other hand, to form an effective barricade against the rise of a racist-nationalist, anti-EU and anti-immigrant political tendency. This is because not all sections of the bourgeoisie are on board with the fascist solution yet. Not every bourgeois has given up hope on the EU solution.
Fascism in Italy is on tremendous rise, assuming two different forms. The first is the movement we label as “proto-fascist”, with a strong parliamentary presence. It is a form of fascism that has not yet emerged with all its might and violence, but is preparing to do so. It is represented by Trump in the US and Marine Le Pen in France. In Italy, however, two parties instead of one represent this movement. One is named Lega, led by Matteo Salvini. This party became a coalition partner in the government after a great success in the 2018 elections. Its popularity rose up to 35% in opinion polls. Nonetheless, the decision of the party to participate in the Draghi government due to its inner contradictions (for it does include representatives of the globalist bourgeoisie, who are not committed to fascism) generated disillusionment among those masses of the Italian workers and poor people who are very sensitive about immigration and the EU. Thus, a drift towards the second proto-fascist party occurred.
This second party is none other than Mussolini’s own, named “Fratelli d’Italia” (short-hand “Fratelli”) after a series of metamorphoses. It is led by a woman, Giorgia Meloni, with a mouth drooling venom. This party appears to have the highest ranking in opinion polls.
If these two parties were to participate in elections in a divided manner, the danger would not have been this grave. However, the Italian center-right and the “extreme right” (i.e. proto-fascism) have struck a successful electoral alliance. They also recently reached an agreement on the program that they will promote in the elections. What also distinguishes Italy from, say, France, is that the center-right party is acting in tandem with the fascist ones. In France, even the most traditionalist and conservative right (most importantly the Republicans - Les Républicains) follow a policy of “cordon sanitaire” (roughly translated as “quarantine”) against Marine Le Pen. Even though more and more followers of this party vote for Marine Le Pen and her party at least in the second round with every passing year, the official attitude of the party is to isolate the fascists under the label of “republican solidarity”. Italy is the only great European country in which the center-right is in direct cooperation with the fascists. (This rule was undone in a single autonomous region in Spain at the beginning of this year. However, the center-right Partido Popular avoids direct cooperation with the proto-fascist Vox on a national level.) The leader of the center-right in Italy is Silvio Berlusconi and his party Forza Italia. This trio (Meloni, Salvini, and Berlusconi) emerges as the single bloc that will get the largest share of votes with 45% in the elections.
As if this weren’t enough, the election system (partially first-part-the-post, partially proportional) appears to allow this bloc to have a disproportionately larger parliamentary representation in proportion to its votes. According to the calculations of a trustworthy polling institution, Istituto Cattaneo, the Berlusconi/proto-fascist alliance will control 61% of the parliamentarians in the parliament, and 64% of the seats in the senate. Their closest rival is the unrecognizable avatar of the old Communist Party, re-branded as the so-called leftist “Democrats”, with 26% of parliamentary representation (il manifesto, August 10th, 2022).
Fascism is not only coming to power, it is doing so with a crushing majority. That is the deluge But that is not all.
Why the “deluge”? (2): Fascist gangs and organizations
Other than these proto-fascist parties that concede to the parliamentary games of electoral politics to one extent or another, and more importantly do not yet possess the armed hordes – militias, gangs etc. - who would pursue the policy of civil war that fascism represents, there are straight-up fascist organizations that do possess violent gangs. These are far from being as powerful as the parties in the first group, but nonetheless should not be taken lightly. The most important members of this second group are Casa Pound that has had minimal electoral successes, and an extra-parliamentary organization named Forza Nuova.
This second attempted to storm the office of Prime Minister, Chigi Palace, in the midst of protests by anti-vaccine crowds, on October 9th, 2021. Understanding that they wouldn’t be able to achieve their goal, they raided and vandalized the central building of Cgil, the largest and (with the exception of “grassroots unions”, which are of a different kind) most left-wing trade union federation of Italy due to its old Communist Party ties.
True, these organizations are small today. But to relax now because of their present size is not to recognize the laws of dialectics. The coming to power of fascism through parliamentary means with a crushing majority in any country would alter the entire conjuncture of that country. On the one hand, the voters that would elect the governmental coalition would expect the promises of preventing immigration, privileging of those with Italian origins (“prima gli Italiani”), and resisting the austerity policies dictated by the EU to be delivered. On the other hand, the two parliamentary parties (Lega and Fratelli) that bear the ideological and political stamp of fascism would have to tolerate the actions of their “naughty” little siblings that would be seen as “extreme” in other times (“our boys” psychology). Therefore, these small, fully fascist organizations will have access to opportunities much greater than their own actual size.
As a result, when the proto-fascist duo stumbles in any field, the small fully fascist organizations will try to increase their power through complaints to the people and exposure. In addition, the small organizations can grow larger by abusing the political atmosphere of the country, and therefore eventually pose a threat of competition to the large parties. This would create two distinct dynamics: one for the proto-fascist parties to further radicalize, another for the organizations based on violence to grow stronger.
In short, the issue is not restricted to the elections or electoral politics. We would also like to remind those who are keen on belittling the coming of fascism to power through electoral means that in both great cases of classical fascism (Italy 1922, Germany 1933) the movement was able to establish its own iron dictatorship by first coming to power by utilizing electoral mechanisms (even as a minority).
Finally, we would also like to draw our reader’s attention to another fact, namely, that the year 2021 has witnessed the process of the “coming out of fascism” in four different countries – USA, France, India, and Italy. This process of “coming out” is one in which proto-fascism, which had kept its distance from armed gangs or militia (i.e. paramilitary forces) for long years, enlarges its road to power to encompass violence and paramilitary forces, either via spectacular violent events with great reverberations (USA, India, Italy) or through calling on to the society with declarations abundant with threats of civil war and carnage. We have therefore characterized 2021 as a year of “transition from proto-fascism to fascism”. The great electoral triumph of Italian fascism has emerged on the horizon within this context.
The approaching economic crisis
We also ought to touch briefly upon the economic condition in Italy as a factor that further exacerbates the overall situation. We have pointed out in the excerpt from our article from a year ago, which we cited at the beginning of this piece, that the Italian economy has seen no aggregate growth in this century. We have also noted that Italy’s public debt is both in absolute value Europe’s largest, and that it corresponds to 150% of its GDP. Therefore, within the Eurozone, Italy is second in debt only to Greece, which has been plunged into a deep crisis since 2009. Draghi was handed governmental power to solve this issue by EU money. He failed.
Now, features of a new conjuncture are added to this already grave picture. As is known, both the ongoing impact of the Third Great Depression and the obstacles that the Ukrainian war engenders triggered a hike in both energy and foodstuff prices, which in turn raised inflation all over the world. The central banks of all developed capitalist countries tore themselves away from the anti-Depression low-interest policies, and raised interest rates. The European Central Bank was the slowest to join the bandwagon, but since last month it also followed suit and jacked up interest rates.
It is this new conjuncture that puts great pressures on capital accumulation and fiscal management in Italy. High interest rates will slow down investment and result in firms in debt, and especially the small and middle-sized enterprises (which constitute an important element in Italian industry) to face difficulties. From a fiscal policy angle as well, debt management in Italy will grow very difficult, because while the Eurozone shares a common monetary policy, fiscal policy is determined by each country separately. Therefore, when the European Central Bank, i.e. the common monetary authority of the entire Eurozone, raises interest rates, the more generously-spending southern countries face difficulties vis-à-vis the more tight-fisted northern countries, with Italy and Germany on respective extremes. This is because each country’s cost of borrowing is different. The “spread”, that is, the difference, between Italy and Germany is the highest. Italy will have a hard time turning around its debt.
As the the first factor (the hardships the units of capital will face and therefore avoid investments) deepens economic recession, this will make it harder for the government to collect taxes, the need for more debt will grow further. The issue will grow in a vicious circle. A harsh winter awaits Italy.
Therefore, political struggles in Italy will be conducted in an environment of economic crisis, in which every new economic decision will yield ever-harsher results. It is clear that this situation will bear winds for the sails of more extreme solutions.
The photograph above this piece shows the Berlusconi – Salvini – Meloni trio together. The left-liberal daily il manifesto has used it with the title “Russian salad” in Italian. The meaning of this is to emphasize the possibility for the new government to drop the globalist, pro-EU, American-serving, and pro-NATO policies of the Italian bourgeoisie, first and foremost about the Ukrainian war, given the ties between the proto-fascist movement in the US and Europe with Putin.
We had analyzed in detail the proto-fascist movement’s flirtation with Putin in another article. Here, let us just note in passing that this flirtation must be characterized as a “marriage of convenience” with a very weak ideological side. Both sides are in stark opposition to the (for now) dominant, globalist (pro-Davos) wing of the bourgeoisie. Therefore, Putin’s Russia time and again offers a helping hand to the proto-fascist movements, sometimes including financial support. The movements, in turn, follow a policy of special affinity towards Putin’s Russia.
Proving already troublesome for the EU, this tendency may bear especially calamitous results in the context of the Ukrainian war. Salvini had appeared in the General Assembly of the EU Parliament with a T-shirt with a Putin portrait on its chest in the past. It is also not a secret that Meloni has important differences from the pro-EU and pro-NATO wing of the Italian bourgeoisie (Draghi epitomized this wing). But both leaders for now have been following a low-profile in this matter. The reason is not a secret: the strength of the anti-Russian views among the general population due to the ongoing propaganda since the beginning of the war. It is even released that the program the three-part alliance recently agreed upon contains a clause that says Italy should “completely position itself on the side of Europe, the Atlantic Alliance, and the West” (il manifesto, August 10th, 2022).
Would this attitude change once the proto-fascist alliance wins the election? Any change would cause tremendous tremors in the Western system, the NATO, and within the imperialist world. Therefore, the upcoming elections in Italy are not only going to create fissures within the Italian bourgeoisie or the existing EU system, but are also pregnant with great impacts on the world system at large.
The working class and the toiling people must prepare against fascism!
Fascism is probing its chance for capturing power once again in Italy, after the US (January 6th, 2021) and France (May 2022). Its chance of success this time is incommensurably higher. The Italian and European proletariat must shake off the influence of the post-Leninist left, who close their eyes to all the danger by labeling proto-fascist movements “populist”, and must prepare for clashes against fascism in factories, neighborhoods, schools, and streets. Electoral politics don’t really promise a positive potential in the fight against fascism for now. Even if it did, that would have been only half the job, or even less.
Fascism is a movement of civil war. It establishes its power by targeting first revolutionaries, socialists, communists, and then the unions and all sorts of workers’ and toiling people’s organizations. Therefore, the workers in their unions, the toiling people in their neighborhoods, students in their student unions should rapidly develop their networks of solidarity, and prepare to protect every factory, every neighborhood, every school. Self-defense technique training and supplying all necessary tools and gear are of primary importance. Councils in factories, committees in schools and neighborhoods must be established, and all this work must be unified in the framework of a united workers’ front. After all this work is accomplished, then this united front can participate in elections, and may even prove successful. But to think that fascism can be forced to retreat and be defeated only through the parliament and the ballot box would be the most hollow parliamentary daydream.
Capitalism is dragging humanity into fascism and world war. We must tighten our ranks under proletarian leadership against this threat without further ado.
This article was first published in Turkish on the web site (www.gercekgazetesi1.net) of the DIP (Revolutionary Workers’ Party). It has been translated into English by another comrade.