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Sascha Lobo on the election in Italy: The country is hopefully lost

2022-09-28T16:18:20.696Z

The election in Italy shows: Fascism is not over. It is like a smoldering fire that can flare up at any time, even in democracies.



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Giorgia Meloni at her party's campaign headquarters

Photo: Oliver Weiken / dpa

My father was Argentinian, but he lived in Italy for a while before coming to Germany when he was around 30 years old.

He loved this country, he later took on German citizenship mainly in order to be able to live in Italy one day.

He saw his own in the contradictions of Italy;

he believed that he had recognized an "Italian soul" as the essence of European civilization and followed this realization in many, sometimes strange, ways.

Which is why he raised me with a large number of Italian, especially Neapolitan proverbs: "If it's not true, it's well invented." Or: "He who lives waiting dies shitting." There are worse parenting guidelines.

But also better ones.

On a different, political level, my father understood the abysses of Italy, because the country, like his native Argentina, bore and still bears the same, great, catastrophic plague: the rampant, almost all-pervasive cancer of mafia-type corruption.

He outlined the difference between the two countries as follows: »As far as corruption is concerned, Argentina is hopelessly lost.

Hopefully Italy is lost.' Beyond the pun, no doubt amusing to Boomer, I never quite got what he meant by that and he wasn't a great explainer on his own.

But now Italy has elected a fascist party, a right-wing coalition, and "lost hope" describes it in a strange way.

The greatest danger is trivialization

Unfortunately, the "hopeful" refers only to the corrective of the EU, in addition to the notorious shortness of average government periods in Italy.

Because Italy needs money and support from Brussels and this dependency allows for a certain amount of pressure.

Hopefully.

In any case, "hopeful" doesn't refer to the commonly read belief that things won't turn out so bad, eaten as hot as they were cooked, the rightists would magically become sane in the end, and so on.

In my view, this is not a reasonable criterion at all.

And the reason for this is called fascism.

Some people use cleverly constructed, sensible-sounding arguments to argue that in the context of Italian politics one should actually say “post-fascism”.

I find that difficult on several levels.

As can be seen, for example, in »post-materialism« or »post-colonialism«, the prefix »post-« often serves a subsequent counter-movement.

This is very clearly not the case with the Fratelli d'Italia party.

When you talk about this party and its leader Giorgia Meloni, the greatest danger - which can also have an effect in Germany - is trivialization.

In the term post-fascism, there is somehow a wrong, reassuring message that fascism is over.

He's not.

One has to understand fascism as a constant, unquenchable smoldering fire in liberal democracies, which can flare up at any time and must therefore be relentlessly contained.

Admittedly, this is not necessarily taken from one of the common theories of fascism.

But it is a perspective that not only explains the election in Italy, but also the danger in many other countries, not least Germany.

There are various reasons why this smoldering fire is smoldering across Europe and also in the USA and is flaring up in some places.

Many of these reasons are based, somewhat simplified, on a simple truth: Western liberal democracies were built on the social foundations of racist, anti-Semitic patriarchies, and they won't go away because someone introduces a constitution.

Every aspect of the racist, anti-Semitic patriarchy has a concrete, understandable function:

  • Racism serves to construct a »us against them«.

  • Anti-Semitism corresponds to the scapegoat function.

  • The reproductive radical ideology of patriarchy serves to increase and thus expand the sphere of power.

A set of rules for combat

When serious problems arise in these liberal democracies, or when enough people believe them, the pre-democratic remnants often flash out.

Today's modernized 21st-century fascism differs from Ur-Fascism, as Umberto Eco called it.

But like its predecessor, modern fascism is built on this foundation.

At its core, fascism is a set of rules for struggle.

Every ideological square centimeter of fascism, the worship of heroes and leaders, the worship of strength, the associated hatred of everything weak, the oversimplification of the world, the often anti-intellectual irrationalism, the rejection of diversity, plurality and freedom of opinion, nationalism, the cult of tradition and so on: fascism turns a society into a fighting machine.

Modern fascism is not necessarily about war, as was the case with Ur-Fascism, at least not about the classic definition of war.

That can be the case, as can be seen in the case of the only state in Europe that can currently be called fascist, Russia.

But the fight of today's modern fascism is aimed at a supposed enemy within, namely the free, diverse and open society.

So the exact opposite of the racist, anti-Semitic patriarchy.

Its reestablishment is the aim of today's fascist movements.

Today's European-style fascism does not want to accept that a large number of social rules are traditional, but ultimately made up agreements and not irrefutable, natural truths: only a man and a woman can marry, there are only two genders, men have to be tough and women Mothers, the only moral and value system that makes sense is Christianity, mixing cultures is bad and dangerous and so on.

more on the subject

Right-wing alliance in Italy: How Giorgia Meloni won the electionBy Francesco Collini, Max Heber and Marcel Pauly

The winner of the election, Giorgia Meloni from the Fratelli d'Italia, said she had "a relaxed relationship with fascism."

The commitment of a top politician against a liberal democracy could hardly be clearer.

That translates into their politics and communication.

In her speeches, for example, Meloni uses a recurring, well-functioning, sometimes varying rhetorical element, the yes-no juxtaposition.

For example like this: »Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBTQ lobby.

Yes to Christian principles, no to Islamist violence.

Yes to secure borders, no to mass immigration.

Yes to our fellow citizens, no to the international financial world.

Yes to the independence of the peoples, no to the bureaucrats in Brussels.«

Many of the hallmarks of a fascist attitude to the world can be found in this passage alone, albeit in an elegant and downplaying manner.

Nevertheless, they can be easily deciphered.

It starts with the assertion that the (patriarchal norm) family is exclusively natural, implying that LGBTQ people and their connections are unnatural.

»Unnatural« is one of the oldest narratives used to justify and fuel violence against gender and sexual minorities.

The fact that Christian principles are not opposed to Muslim principles, but rather Islamist violence, is a trick that is as simple as it is infamous.

The "international financial world" is an anti-Semitic term in various modifications of the right-wing extremist world, behind which lies the delusional idea that rich and powerful backers controlled the world as part of a conspiracy.

There are indeed major problems with integration

Finally, the rejection of the bureaucrats in Brussels is directly related to the fact that the Hungarian authoritarian Viktor Orbán Melonis is a role model - and he is beginning to sense that Brussels is willing to exercise considerable power with its money flow when in doubt.

There is already talk of attaching conditions to the large amount of money that Italy urgently needs from the EU.

For example, the preservation of the rule of law, the existence of which is always a thorn in the side of right-wing extremists and especially fascists.

One point from Meloni's list, however, needs to be emphasized in the light of right-wing electoral successes across Europe: immigration.

Immigration, especially from Muslim countries, combined with a lack of integration, is a key focus of right-wing narratives and thus right-wing successes.

On the one hand, right-wingers exaggerate and lie.

On the other hand, in the countries with the most recent right-wing extremist electoral successes, such as Sweden and Italy, there are actually major integration problems, resulting from a mixture of government failures, racist resentment in society and the unwillingness of parts of those to be integrated.

It's nothing new, but it's a bitter and dangerous insight from the extreme right's electoral success in Italy and Sweden: If Europe doesn't solve the problem of poorly functioning integration, there is a risk that the continent will become melonized.

Conservative to left voices only need to agree on one thing

This problem can certainly not be solved by glossing over it or ignoring it.

If both statistics and the personal experience of too many people raise doubts about a functioning integration, the right wing exaggerations and messages of hate have all too easy a game.

In a liberal democracy, the most important firewall against fascist activities is in the minds of the many.

It is therefore necessary to convince the public again and again that fascism can never be the solution or even part of the solution, no matter what the problem is.

There is not just one strategy.

In a democracy, arch-conservative to left-wing voices are needed, which can and should contradict each other in the strongest possible way in almost all political areas - but are united in their rejection of fascism.

In addition to the right-wing evergreens of anti-immigration and racism, a number of other factors have favored the fascist election victory in Italy.

For example, the economic problems, disinformation and propaganda, not least by Putin's troops and (paid) allies, the constant reactionary media invocation of a left-wing and woken world conspiracy, or the clear and entertaining language of Giorgia Meloni.

Who, as a person, doesn't make a threatening impression at first or second glance if you can't or don't want to decode her highly toxic statements.

But alongside the issues of immigration, refugees and integration - on which Italy has long been shamefully left alone by the EU - two other reasons for the election stand out.

On the one hand, the extremely widespread loss of trust in politics in Italy, which is being reinforced by corruption and favoritism across parties, administrations and institutions.

Which has led to a cynical, anything-anything-the-main-thing-different attitude in many people.

On the other hand also Corona.

Italy was hit very early and severely by the corona pandemic in Europe, and the photos and videos of trucks with corpses in Bergamo have burned themselves into the continent's collective memory.

This striking horror has led to very tough corona measures being taken in Italy at times, from which society in turn suffered greatly.

Although the measures were justifiable, an unexpected axis emerged here.

During the course of the pandemic and the vaccination campaign, many opponents of the measures staggered between corona denial, opposition to vaccination and conspiracy theories.

Then an offer, tempting for some, based squarely on fascist hatred of the weak emerged.

After all, the abolition of all measures would have "only" affected the weak.

Suddenly, a corona cross front of bourgeois and fascists arose, who had started from different sides - but met in that they were willing to sacrifice the lives of weaker people to restore their own normal everyday life.

The "strengthening" of the "people" by "removing" the weak is a central one, perhaps

the most

fascist social narrative: Whoever is not capable of fighting machines hinders the fighting body of the people and may, can, should be eliminated.

That is why fascism, contrary to the talk of cohesion, always includes a portion of social Darwinism.

Cleverly, Meloni assumed the position of the only effective opposition force at the head of the opponents of the measures and vaccinations and was thus able to win votes from people for whom a Mussolini successor party would have been unthinkable before.

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One strategy for success for fascists is alliances with conservatives

Such contradictions are simply woven into the country, my father often claimed, especially in politics.

One of the anecdotes he told only a few hundred times was that in the late 1960s he happened to encounter the march of a "Nazi-Maoist party" in Rome.

Such absurdities, with their resonating comedy, easily tempt the Italian fascists to be downplayed as perhaps vulgar but controllable folklore.

This would put you in the same dangerous notch as Union European politician Manfred Weber (CSU), who not only campaigned for Berlusconi before the election, for which he was fortunately publicly and strictly reprimanded by Markus Söder.

No, Manfred Weber also explicitly recommended in a video, as Twitterers have pointed out, the choice of the "centre-right coalition", a formulation that trivializes fascism anyway.

Yes, a prominent CSU functionary expressly recommended the election.

But that is exactly the strategy for success for fascists in democracies: alliances with conservatives who, in their hubris, believe that fascists can already be contained as the supposedly lesser evil.

The first neo-fascist female prime minister in Europe is a catastrophic threat because, like Trump, she will use her term to assassinate liberal democracy.

One of the leading music-making rhyming philosophers factually correctly stated in 2021: »Fascists never stop being fascists.« 

Especially not when they rule.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-09-28

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