In Italy, to speak of the extreme right, of fascism, or of Neo-fascism is like walking on hot coals. The use of the terms 'fascism' and 'neo-fascism' already constitutes a serious problem in itself. I will stick to the definition of neo-fascism given by Stefano Bartolini, professor of political economics: 'one means by neo-fascism those organisations that explicitly refer themselves to the legacy of historical fascism, that present peculiar characteristics, such as the constant search for a 'Third Way', that define themselves as in some way 'revolutionary'. They are those that in common slang go affectionately by the name of the 'grandchildren of the Duce'.
Contrary to what one might think, the interior of the Italian neo-fascist universe turns out to be quite heterogeneous. The latest arrival is the so-called Casa Pound, which constitutes one of the neo-fascists’ most innovative experiments. The name of the group refers to the American poet Ezra Pound, who during the second world war first openly supported fascism, and later the social republic. 'Casa Pound Italia was founded in 2007 in Rome, on the back of the experience of the occupied social centre Casa Pound and other residential occupations,' explains Cristiano Coccanari, member of Casa Pound Italia, and the individual responsible for the movement’s online radio service Radio Bandiera Nera, or Black Banner Radio. 'We are an organisation of social advancement that aims to use the power of volunteering to defend its social visions,' Coccanari clarifies. The association is increasingly organised, with bases throughout Italy. Its principal concerns are the fight against usury and inflation, and the promotion of its social lending project. Its slogan is 'act!'
The direct link between Casa Pound and Italian fascism is clear: 'What we love of fascism is the attention to justice, the great social and administrative achievements in the interest of the entire national community,' Cristiano Coccanari declares, 'and the work done to render Italy a destined community from the Alps to Sicily, and not a mere geographic expression.' All doubt is dispelled. It is one of the reasons why Casa Pound has raised numerous polemics from left-leaning quarters, including a parliamentary question posed by Senator Salvatore Tomaselli (Partito Democratico) in February of this year, in which he wished to know how the Government interpreted the initiatives and programmes of the organisation, considering that the constitutional Charter affirms that: 'The reorganisation, under any form, of the dissolved fascist part is forbidden.'
Casa Pound denies the wish to form a party, and its members declare that they do not consider themselves to be of the 'extreme right': “we attempt to overcome and to consign ourselves to the history of the label of 'right', together with those of the left. The challenges and the problems that the third millennium hands us are not of the left or of the right, nor are the solutions”. But the talk begins to jar as it moves to speak on national sovereignty. 'The idea of national recovery presupposes a full recovery of sovereignty on the part of the national community, represented by a state, which we understand as ethical, organic, and the spiritual expression and reference of the community itself.'
As for immigration, Casa Pound Italia believes that it is the effect of globalisation that forces the poorest to escape to a 'supposed European Eldorado'. Cristiano Coccanari clarifies this point: 'The result is a dramatic war among the poor that creates growing unemployment among the Italians due to the indiscriminate exploitation of the 'new slaves'. It is hypocritical to say that there are jobs that the Italians don’t want to do anymore. It would be more correct to point out that there are starvation wages that Italians cannot accept, because they are below their survival threshold.' He concludes, stating that 'we also call again for a block to migratory flows that are by now well beyond the tolerance threshold.'
European autarchy, national recovery, a stop to multinationals and the multi-rational society, the right to housing an education, energy sovereignty, the cinema as the strongest weapon for the healthy man and for the fee nation, the rewriting of the Italian Constitution; some of the points of the programme of Casa Pound Italia that professor Stefano Bartolini , in his article 'The grandchildren of the Duce' amidst legacies, changes, persistences and developments at the dawn of a new century”, defines as a programme of 'fascism of the left'. According to Bartolini it is about a return to origins, to revolutionary fascism, and an attempt to redo the make-up: 'the neo-fascists of the 21st century adapt the forms of communication, change the symbols, invent new names, but remain that which they have always been, not abandoning the more violent activities.'
Nevertheless, Casa Pound claims the fact of representing an experience 'different from how it pleases one to draw it'. The various anti-fascist groups think differently, denouncing the attacks suffered from this 'fascist organisation', and in many cities calling for the closure of Casa Pound branches. Between controversies and attacks, Casa Pound attracts many young people today, and also many of the over-thirties, with militants and followers who come, though not only, from the many different quarters within the universe of the right. And all this is thanks to the importance given to communication and practical actions, actions sometimes inspired by those of the anti-globalisation movement. Bartolini warns: 'The Neo-fascists have coded before the public many of their most unpresentable ideas, they move in a dynamic and demagogic way on explosive social issues, and are able to put aside their more directly nostalgic symbolism if necessary. In these circumstances, nothing tells us that they are failing to win new arenas and launch pads to attempt the assault.'
In short, the children of Pound have succeeded in retaking those social spaces forgotten by politics, especially by the left, addressing themselves, through practical activities, to the working classes and the excluded. They remain, however, a minority, though certainly not a silent one. And so one asks oneself: what will the future of this 'fascism of the third millennium' be?