First Far-right Leader in Decades, Is Fascism Returning to Italy?

Giorgia Meloni is set to be Italy's first female Prime Minister after the 2022 general election. However, her party has been accused of having fascist ties, which Meloni vehemently denies.

Brothers of Italy for the Win

Meloni is the head of the right-wing party FdI, which has the slogan “Italy and the Italian people first!” Part of her initiative will be to lower taxes, halt immigration, and reduce European bureaucracy.

Critics and international media have warned that her party's beliefs are reminiscent of Italy's fascist regime, led by Mussolini. Meloni has denied these claims, but Italy is still unsettled by her appointment, as she is the first ‘far-right' leader since World War II.

Teachable Moment

But what is fascism? Fascism is defined as “a form of revolutionary radical nationalism, usually labeled ‘ultra-nationalism,’ which aims for a ‘rebirth’ of the nation.” The specific characteristics associated with fascists vary between scholars, but it is generally accepted that the most notable characteristics are authoritarianism and extreme nationalism.

Benito Mussolini coined the term ‘fascism' in 1919. He founded and led the National Fascist Party from 1925-1943. The word ‘fascist' comes from the Italian word “fascio,” which is used to represent militant brotherhood. The term “fasces” is signified by an axe bound with sticks, which was used in ancient Rome to symbolize the magistrate's power. The symbol was later adopted by the fascist movement in Italy.

Right vs. Far-right

Giorgia Meloni has been not-so-affectionately deemed Italy's first far-right leader since World War II by the international media. She is being compared to Benito Mussolini, who was Italy's dictator for many years preceding the war.

The right wing is defined as a group or individual with conservative or capitalist views, while the far-right wing refers to a more extreme, nationalistic viewpoint. These viewpoints include fascism or other oppressive ideologies. This practice is described as “anti-liberalism, rejecting individual rights, civil liberties, free enterprise and democracy. (Or) nationalism that seeks to expand the nation’s influence and power.”

But Does Meloni Fit the Mold?

Sources constantly debate whether Meloni's party is considered “far-right.” Many define it as overly fascist, bordering on Nazi-style politics that are by nature authoritarian and bigoted.

Some sources say that far-right simply means parties that sit to the right of a nation's center-right politics. Examples of these types of parties include UKIP and the National Rally in France. Dutch politics professor Cas Mudde says in his book that the party can be divided into “extreme right” and “radical right.” The extreme right rejects democracy completely, and the radical right accepts democracy but opposes aspects of liberal democracy such as minority rights and the separation of powers.

According to the Italian newspaper The Local, the label ‘estrema destra' (extreme right) is generally reserved for neo-fascist groups such as CasaPound and Forza Nuova. These two groups seek to revive the ideas of Mussolini's era.

Because Meloni's party is a political descendant of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a group that was formed by Mussolini supporters after WWII, her party is often given the post-fascist label. Her party uses the same tricolor flame symbol that was used by the MSI, and although members wanted it removed and replaced, Meloni defended the use of the symbol for historical significance.

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