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Mussolini and the No-Vax: Italy faces surge of far-right

Massive protests in Rome to rally against ‘all types of fascism’

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Demonstrators in Rome's St John Lateran Square yesterday take part in an anti-fascist march organised by Italy's main unions. Picture by Andrew Medichini/AP

Demonstrators in Rome's St John Lateran Square yesterday take part in an anti-fascist march organised by Italy's main unions. Picture by Andrew Medichini/AP

Demonstrators in Rome's St John Lateran Square yesterday take part in an anti-fascist march organised by Italy's main unions. Picture by Andrew Medichini/AP

Mussolini And The No Vaxers — it sounds like the name of an unlikely rock band, probably of the heavy metal variety. In reality, of course, it is much more serious.

Italians watching their TVs last Saturday night got a very unpleasant surprise. An anti-vaccination protest on central Via Del Corso — a street well known to just about every tourist who visits Rome  had become the theatre of disturbing scenes of urban guerilla strife, complete with riot police, water canon and tear gas.

An angry protest march, approximately 10,000 strong, had gathered outside the Italian parliament and the prime minister’s office. Nothing unprecedented about that, but things became much more disturbing when some of the protesters took a deviation, switching their attention to the headquarters of Italy’s biggest, most important and most left-wing trade union, the CGIL (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro) not far away on Corso d’Italia.

The dramatic TV images struck a worryingly familiar note. Angry protesters were smashing their way into the seemingly unguarded building. Men with batons and flagpoles, some of them bare chested, were setting about laying waste to the CGIL HQ in scenes that at times seemed uncannily reminiscent of the Trump-inspired march on Capitol Hill last January.

This, too, looked for all the world like another right-wing extremist attack on a democratic state.

Leading the way, by all reports, were exponents of the neo-fascist group Forza Nuova (New Force), relishing the chance to trash the sacred hearth of the Italian left. In reality, little material damage was done. The point is that, for months now, Italy’s relatively small ‘No Vax’ movement has been dominated by far-right activists.

So there we were, with the clock thoroughly turned back. A right-wing movement which takes its inspiration from Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini were attempting to inflict damage on a much loathed trade union which, obviously, takes its inspiration from the now defunct PCI (Partito Comunista Italiano).

By the end of the weekend, 12 people including two senior Forza Nuova figures, Roberto Fiore and Giuliano Castellino, had been arrested, while 38 police officers had been injured.

Among the injured were two nurses and two police officers who had been on duty at Rome’s central Umberto I Policlinico hospital on Saturday night when an injured ‘No Vax’ protestor was admitted to Emergency.

The protestor, however, refused to take a Covid test or abide by any of the hospital’s anti-Covid regulations. When he was moved into ‘isolation’, his companions outside burst into the hospital — smashing not only windows and medical equipment, but also attacking medical personnel, hitting one of them over the head with a bottle.

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The issue which allegedly prompted last weekend’s protest, of course, was Italy’s new, relatively severe ‘green pass’ legislation, which came into effect on Friday.

Two days ago, Italy became the first European country to require the so-called green pass in all workplaces, private or public. The pass is a digital or paper proof of vaccination, immunity or a negative test in the previous 48 hours.

Workers who turn up for work without informing their employers that they do not have a green pass risk a fine, ranging from €600 to €1500. Employers who do not run green pass checks also face similar fines.

Furthermore, the employee without the green pass will be categorised as ‘unjustifiably absent’ and could see their salary suspended.

This reinforcement of the importance of the green pass led to speculation of possible chaos at workplaces up and down the country on Friday.

In reality, though there were problems at the ports of Genoa and Trieste, the country did not grind to a halt, given that a majority of Italians have long since learned to accept the green pass requirement — be it at the cinema or restaurant.

Furthermore, Friday’s deadline prompted a half-million-plus surge in new vaccinations.

Clearly, however, the green pass was always going to be both controversial and open to political opportunism  and the extreme right are riding in on the fears and concerns of that estimated 10-15pc of the population which remains either anti-vaccine or vaccine-hesitant.

In reality, Italy’s vaccination programme has proved a remarkable success. Italy has by now fully vaccinated 80pc of the population over the age of 12and 86% of over-12s have received at least one dose.

However, the current highly politicised public debate on the Covid pandemic goes far beyond that.

The significance of last weekend was lost on no one. For example, the centre left Democratic Party (PD), the one time PCI, has called for Forza Nuova and other fringe fascist parties to be banned under the terms of existing 1952 legislation.

PD senator Valeria Fedeli said that the attack on the CGIL HQ “takes us back to the darkest and most dramatic moments of our history".

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the former governor of the European Central Bank (ECB), made a highly significant ‘solidarity’ visit to the CGIL last Monday, embracing charismatic CGIL leader, Maurizio Landini.

Bankers do not usually feel quite so warmly towards bolshy, lefist trade union leaders — but this was a moment to make a point about "the fundamental defence of democracy” in the face of Fascist totalitarian threats, historical or present.

Those threats, too, obviously prompted yesterday’s massive combined trade union protest in Rome, attended by upwards of 100,000 people.

If you think that talk of "fascist threats” is exaggerated, just consider this.

What was the name of the most voted candidate in the Rome City Council elections two weeks ago? A certain Rachele Mussolini, granddaughter of Il Duce, who garnered more than 8,200 votes.

She is the second Mussolini granddaughter (the other one was Alessandra) to attempt a political career, riding on the back of a more than famous surname. For the record, Rachele claims that her surname has nothing to do with her success  but she is probably the only person in all Italy who would suggest as much.

Rachele Mussolini ran for the far-right party Fratelli d’Italia, which currently tops opinion polls alongside the PD and the (northern) League on 20pc, making its leader Giorgia Meloni a potential candidate for prime minister.

Is the far-right electorate experiencing some sort of ‘recall to the forest’?

Incidentally, all eyes will be on the run-off vote today and tomorrow, of those same Rome mayoral elections, with Enrico Michetti of the centre-right facing off against centre left Roberto Gualtieri of the PD. Will last weekend’s fright work, ironically, in favour of the centre-left?


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