Alex Lantier on the World Socialist Web Site looks at Mussolini’s heirs which have returned to power in Italy.
Seventy-seven years after fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was shot by partisans as he tried to flee to Switzerland, Mussolini’s political heirs are back in power in Italy for the first time since the end of World War II. It is a historical milestone in the European bourgeoisie’s legitimization of fascism.
In Sunday’s election, the Brothers of Italy (FdI) received the largest single vote of any party, with 26 percent, as the social-democratic Democratic Party (PD) collapsed to 19 percent. Amid record abstention that left participation at only 63 percent, the FdI-led far-right coalition won an absolute majority in both houses of parliament. The FdI is the successor of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by top fascists who benefited from the blanket amnesty for fascist crimes in Italy approved by the Allied powers and signed by Stalinist Justice Minister Palmiro Togliatti in 1946.
For many, it might be a curious turn, once such a communist bastion now turned over to the other side.
Italy was the country that, after World War II, had the most powerful Communist Party in Western Europe. The mass strikes and armed insurrections against fascist rule in cities from Naples to Rome, Turin and Milan were recalled for decades as great struggles of the workers movement.
The prosperity of the urban areas, especially the industrial triangle of Lombardy-Piedmont-Liguria, contrasted with continuing hardship and poverty in the upland and rural areas, especially in the south. The modes of life and standards of comfort and morality in northern Italy and in Calabria are widely different; the former being far in front of the latter. Already at the beginning of the 20th-century socialist doctrines found their chief adherents in the north. During the years 1900 and 1901 strikes were increasingly numerous, chiefly on account of the growth of Socialist and working-class organisations and people not willing anymore to be used as ‘machines’ at very low wages, this not only in the factories but also in the agricultural sector.
Although in some industrial centres the working-class movement had assumed an importance equal to that of other countries, there was no general working-class organisation comparable to the English trade unions. Mutual benefit and co-operative societies served the purpose of working-class defence or offence against the employers. In 1893, after many vicissitudes, the Italian Socialist Labour Party was founded, and had 20 years later become the Italian Socialist Party, in which the majority of Italian workmen enrolled themselves.
Co-operation in general was most widely diffused, in proportion to population, in central Italy; less so in northern Italy, and much less so in the south and the islands. It thus appeared that co-operation flourished most in the districts in which the mezzadria system had been prevalent. Only in Turin, where the factory council movement undermined both union and employer power, did revolutionary practice go beyond the empty rhetoric of the maximalists.
Italy faced serious postwar economic problems and over the years the prices of simple products started to be paid by thousands of Lira. And it is that currency some want to return today.
It is true that the many postwar coalition governments did not make much of it. More than once inflation threatened the livelihood of many of those on fixed incomes, especially pensioners, administrative workers, and other groups not able to organize as effectively as industrial workers.
As in the previous century, the political crisis provided an opportunity for militant, patriotic movements. Like the ex-Socialist journalist Benito Mussolini his fasci di combattimento (“fighting leagues”), better known as Fascists, in Milan in March 1919. The group’s first program was a mishmash of radical nationalist ideas, with strong doses of anticlericalism and republicanism, today Fratelli at first presented also such a mismash. But Giorgia Meloni goes for the Roman Catholic Church in the first place and women taking care of making enough Italian children and great Italian families.
With the Fratelli di Italia now in power, Mussolini’s legacy is firmly entrenched in the Italian political establishment, and according to Alex Lantier and other voices this development is, moreover, not Italian but international. We may not close our eyes to it and should be careful how we let it develop.
In France, neo-fascist candidate Marine Le Pen won 45 percent of the vote in this year’s presidential run-off against Emmanuel Macron; she is a possible winner in 2027. New far-right parties, like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) or Vox in Spain, have rapidly become central to the official promotion of militarism, inaction on COVID-19 and mass detention of migrants..
Also in Belgium, we can see the popularity of right-wing groups growing.
So, we better look for the cause of the present evolution throughout Europe.
What political dynamic has underlain the rise of Meloni?
questions Lantier and specifies
It is not the growth of a mass fascist movement in Italy or elsewhere. A century since Italian King Victor Emmanuel III made Mussolini prime minister after the 1922 March on Rome of his “Black Shirt” fascist squads, there is no equivalent today of the “Black Shirts”—petty-bourgeois militias who murder strikers and socialists or massacre entire villages to punish acts of resistance.
Meloni’s rise is the product not of mass fascist sentiment but of a systematic disenfranchisement of the working class by the nationalist, bureaucratic organizations that the media and the ruling elite have for decades presented as the “left.”
Enrico Berlinguer, who led the Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI = Italian Communist Party) from 1972 until his death in 1984, became one of Europe’s leading proponents of Eurocommunism, or “national communism,” which advocated the flexible adjustment of communist principles to national or local needs and conditions.
In an effort to consolidate left-wing forces and to create a broader base for opposition to the Christian Democrats, the party changed its name in 1991 to become the Partito Democratico della Sinistra or Democratic Party of the Left (subsequently shortened in 1998 to Democrats of the Left). They too faced, like several communists in other countries, the crimes of Joseph Stalin and other leaders in communist countries of East Europe. To this day, there are still many people who wrongly associate communism with such dictators and fear that if a communist regime comes to power, the people would be oppressed.
Following the PCI party’s name change and its break from much of its communist past, dissident communists formed the more-orthodox Communist Refoundation Party (Partito della Rifondazione Comunista), and thousands left the party.
On each burning issue facing workers, the PD or the remnants of Rifondazione Comunistainside the Popular Union had the same basic position as Meloni.
The working class faces the task of coming to grips with the pseudo-left parties and national union bureaucracies that sit atop it and politically strangle it. They are gravediggers of left-wing struggles. From Greece’s Syriza (“Coalition of the Radical Left”) government, which imposed EU austerity in alliance with the far-right Independent Greeks, to Spain’s Podemos government, which oversees bank bailouts and arms Ukraine’s far-right Azov Battalion, they pave the way for the extreme right.
writes Lantier, who considers this being
the end result of a reactionary evolution that has spanned decades.
Please find Alex Lantier his article to read:
Mussolini’s heirs return to power in Italy
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