November 24, 2022


Italy's Government Is Stuffed With the Far Right (Ben Munster, NOVEMBER 24, 2022, Foreign Policy)

Just before Halloween, around 3,000 young Italians gathered in an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of the northern city of Modena. For two days straight, they partied hard, blasting heavy techno deep into the morning--until locals tipped off the authorities. As dawn broke on the third day, a battalion of black-uniformed riot police swept in. The officers took names, rifled through cars and backpacks for drugs, and impounded a 150,000 euro ($155,000) sound system.

That same weekend, not far from Modena, another group assembled for a very different kind of celebration. Dressed in black and holding aloft a tricolor Italian flag, 2,000 travelers marched through the small town of Predappio, in the Emilia-Romagna region, to commemorate the centenary of the March on Rome by Benito Mussolini. Predappio was the birthplace of the dictator and has long been a pilgrimage site for his followers--even though fascist demonstrations are theoretically illegal in Italy. But unlike at the rave, the officers present just stood there, observing.

The weekend triggered a forceful response from Italy's interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi, recently appointed by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who ascended to power in September at the head of a far-right coalition with links to Mussolini-era fascism. In a series of speeches and comments to the press, Piantedosi took a hard line against certain gatherings involving 50 people or more, describing them as "invasions" led by meddling "foreigners." He debuted a tough new bill, pledging to punish organizers and promoters with up to 10,000 euros ($10,400) in damages and six years in prison.

The penalty would apply, of course, solely to the illegal raves. The illegal fascist march that occurred simultaneously was a "farce," Piantedosi said--but it "wasn't comparable."

The new law was seen by the opposition as grossly disproportionate, evidence of a pernicious double standard. But it was also a reflection of the difficult balance that the Meloni government has had to strike in its attempts to mediate between two conflicting goals. On the one hand, it must play to its base by pursuing culture war propaganda victories--targeting migrants and young partygoers, for instance.

On the other hand, it must keep international opinion onside. Meloni's initial solution has been to stow her more overtly hard-line allies at the margins of government while stocking key ministries with supposedly moderate officials who will stick to the establishment line on fiscal policy and Ukraine. But this is an illusion: Almost all hail from the far right.

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Posted by at November 24, 2022 3:17 PM