This article aims to be a contribution to the ongoing debate among scholars concerning the question whether recently formed right-wing radical parties represent a new phenomenon and a break with the fascist tradition or whether they remain close to a fascist ideology. The author focuses on a specific national radical right-wing party: CasaPound Italia (cpi), founded at the beginning of this century, which declares itself to be ‘fascist’. While existing research insists on the intervention of external factors such as the economic crisis of 2008 in order to explain a new ‘wave’ of right-wing radicalism in Italy, this article will show the constant evolving of right-wing radical discourse over a longer historical period. The analysis will mainly delve into the ideological and political role played by three leading exponents of the Italian and European radical right: Pino Rauti, Roberto Fiore and Gabriele Adinolfi. Through a narrative style, and using a historical approach and qualitative analysis, this paper argues that their experiences represent the roots and sources for Gianluca Iannone’s project with cpi.
Political right-wing radicalism as challenge to the principles, methods and institutions of liberal democracy, and as a form of anti-establishment protest, has been a growing phenomenon in Italy over the last ten years.1, 2, 3 The populist Movimento Cinque Stelle [M5S; Five-Stars Movement] is most critical towards representative democracy and the Lega Nord party [LN; Northern League], which has definitively abandoned its regionalist stance by even erasing ‘Northern’ from the party’s name, has recently shifted its focus to anti-immigration, xenophobic and openly racist political propaganda.4 Alongside the abovementioned parties, which reached a considerable support by voters at last elections in March 2018 and joined in a governmental coalition, the political panorama in Italy is also characterized by the presence of extra-parliamentary movements and organizations that increasingly engage in the public debate by presenting radically positioned arguments and propositions. One of these is the social movement and political party CasaPound Italia (cpi), founded on December 27, 2003, when a group of neo-fascists led by the punk musician Gianluca Iannone (1974-) occupied a state-owned building near Rome’s Termini Central Station.5 At that time, Iannone was known to the wider public as the founder of ZetaZeroAlfa, a fascist punk band that since 1997 had played in a small pub in Rome called Cutty Sark, a meeting point for Rome’s far right. The name CasaPound had a great symbolic meaning, with a clear reference to the American poet and modernist Ezra Pound, who wrote extensively during the war against housing rent as usury, as well as anti-Semitism.6 Pound was the incarnation of the ideal fascist revolution, meaning by that the struggle against plutocracy. The symbol of the party is a stylized turtle, embodying the right to housing. The turtle carries its own home and is among the animals that live longest. But this symbol also refers to the Roman formation called Testudo, the army of Rome that, in the words of cpi, showed the greatness and force of the Empire, which emerged ‘from a vertical order and from a hierarchical principle’.7 Contextually, the octagonal shape is reminiscent of the historical monument Castel del Monte, built by the ‘last Cesare’ in Italy, the emperor Federico ii. The arrow is the same we find in other far-right movements’ flags in Europe, such as that of The Nordic Resistance Movement (nrm) in Scandinavia.
The activists have declared themselves to be ‘the fascists of the new millennium’, a self-chosen definition that has become a sort of political brand.8 As a matter of fact, on February 2018, during the electoral campaign in Naples, cpi spokesman Simone Di Stefano (1977-) stated in public that the party was the legitimate heir of Italian Fascism, as the Movimento Sociale Italiano [msi; Italian Social Movement, 1946–1995] was until its dissolution.9 This article intends to be a contribution to the ongoing debate among scholars concerning the question of whether recently formed radical/extremist/neo-fascist parties represent a new phenomenon and a breach with the fascist tradition or whether they remain close to a fascist ideological core. In the following, after a short presentation of cpi as the party appears today to the public, I will explain how I intend to proceed in order to give an answer to that question from a strictly historical perspective.
1 Recent History of CasaPound Italia
Until a few years ago, cpi presented itself as a ‘political movement organized as an association for social promotion’ and in fact sociologists such as Di Nunzio and Toscano have seen the cpi primarily as a national social movement.10 Their studies have focused on the relationship between individuality and the experience of collective engagement, not only in political gatherings, but also in leisure activities such as concerts, socializing in pubs, and sport. From this perspective, their research is aimed at understanding the limitations and the opportunities ‘that CasaPound militants have in their quests for subjective self-realization’.11 The party’s engagement in society covers indeed a wide range of different activities, from house-occupation and street protest to social welfare and housing programmes, from vigilantes’ excursions against illegal migrants in the peripheries of Italian cities or against illegal street sellers on the Italian beaches to pro-bono and health legal counselling, first aid teams, fundraising activities for foreign populations, aid to orphans and single-mothers. Concerts are still an important tool for communication, as the experience with Iannone’s band ZetaZeroAlfa shows, but no longer a privileged one. cpi is also engaged with a number of youth clubs dedicated to sports such as parachuting and martial arts, and with art galleries and theatre schools. The increasing of such activities goes together with an evident effort to distance themselves from violence. As already noted by Kristian A. Bjørkelo: ‘The success of CasaPound can be attributed to two main features of the organization. Firstly, it considers itself a social movement and has focused on popular activities outside of the traditional political sphere. Secondly, the group has actively avoided violent or thuggish confrontations.’12
However, scholarly analysis on the role of violence in cpi lead us to take for granted that the cpi still represents not only the radical, but also the extreme right in Italy.13 We reach such conclusion also with regard to Cas Mudde’s criteria for a differentiation between radical and extreme right, i.e. critique of liberal democratic principles versus opposition to constitutional directives.14 In Italy ‘apology of fascism’ is in fact a crime, according to the Scelba-Law from 1952, which refers to the Italian Constitution.15 Although analysing the reason why cpi is not prosecuted by law finds no room within the scope of this article, we can at least keep in mind that the party is clearly challenging the Italian constitutional order.
cpi has made enormous improvements in terms of openness and recruitment during the last years. The party counted approximately three thousand members in 2014.16 Per December 2017, cpi had 106 headquarters/local offices only in Italy, in all Italian regions. Per January 2018, the Facebook account CasaPound Italia had 230,000 followers. There is no doubt that cpi has invested a lot in greater visibility through innovative communication and dissemination channels such as the social media and printed press, in addition to the editing house Altaforte, the web radio station (Black Flag Radio) and to the web TV channel (Tortuga TV). The party’s most important official magazine today is Il primato nazionale – Quotidiano sovranista, easily available on the web.17 The new strategy aimed at increasing legitimacy has in fact brought results in terms of (positive) public attention.18 In fact, at national elections in March 2018 the party obtained 0.94% (310,793 votes) for the Chamber of Deputies. The cpi did not enter parliament, but these numbers must be compared with the 0,14% (47.911 votes) cpi obtained in the parliamentary national elections of February 2013 for the Chamber of Deputies.19 Even more important, the party has been able to influence the public discourse to such a degree that cpi slogan ‘Prima gli italiani!’ [Italians first!] became the slogan for Matteo Salvini’s League which is now in government.
2 Aims and Method of this Research
Drawing on existing literature covering mainly the attitudinal, organizational and communicative aspects of cpi since 2003, this article intends to deepen the ideological aspect of the party from a historical long-term perspective which is complementary to other social sciences’ method. My study moves from the assertion that cpi refers both to a century-old fascist tradition and to historical Fascism, i.e. the Italian interwar experience, as its major ideological source.20 In particular, all scholars have observed that cpi rhetoric often refers to the party’s revolutionary nature beyond the traditional left and right categories, reflecting the Fascist propaganda of the Fascist movement (1919–1922) and of the Salò-Republic (1943–1945).21 In fact, the socioeconomic dimension of cpi ideological discourse is directly inspired by the social (leftist) current that has always existed in Italian Fascism and neo-fascism.22 The party refers mostly to the social and labor legislation during the regime: the Labor Charter from 1927, the Verona Manifesto from 1943, and in general all documents that testify to the fascists’ engagement in social policy, corporatism and socialization.23 Contextualizing the increasing popularity of cpi with reference to both the financial crisis following 2008 and the political crisis following Berlusconi’s last government’s dismissal, Castelli Gattinara and Froio are among those who have outlined the typical third-wayism of cpi: ‘the refusal of neoliberal economic theories and the neo-nationalist defence of workers’ rights’.24 Moreover, scholars have demonstrated the influence of the poet Ezra Pound’s anti-capitalist and anti-communist discourse on cpi, as well as on both Fascism and neo-fascism.25
However, less attention has been paid by scholars to crucial aspects in cpi ideology today such as Euroscepticism, anti-globalism/mondialism, anti-Sionism, and racism in its new clothes: cultural racism, nationalism based on identitarian discourse (ethno-nationalism), and ‘welfare chauvinism’. Another aspect that has been only marginally touched is the metapolitical nature of cpi cultural activities such as open conferences and meetings. cpi for years has been occupied with a counter-cultural mission, in line with the Gramscian doctrine according to which a cultural revolution must precede a political one. Having this in mind, it is at first sight evident that cpi ideology is not only rooted in Fascist tradition from the interwar period, but also in more recent expressions of this tradition such as the Identitarian Movement. In particular, di Nunzio, Toscano, Albanese, Castelli Gattinara and Froio mention the relevance of three previous experiences within the radical right: not only the French Nouvelle Droite 26 of Alain de Benoist, but also the Italian Destra Sociale and Ordine Nuovo.27 However, this path of research is not further explored.
This article will show the constant evolution of right-wing radical discourse – of course characterized by both continuity and change – over a longer historical period. This means going back to the 1950s and looking at the ramifications of Italian neo-fascism from this period until the present day through a cluster of think-tanks, cultural circles/institutes, publishing houses and journals. In particular, I wish to look more closely at three political phenomena. They are all representative for Italian neo-fascism after 1945 and relevant for the comprehension of CasaPound Italia: the political circle Centro Studi Ordine Nuovo [cson; Study Center New Order] and the party Movimento Sociale-Fiamma Tricolore [FT; Social Movement-Tricolour Flame] led by Pino Rauti; the movement Terza Posizione [Third Position] and the party Forza Nuova [FN; New Force] led by Roberto Fiore; the cultural circles that grouped around Sinergie Europeee [European Synergies] and the Summer University, promoted by Gabriele Adinolfi. The analysis will mainly examine the political connections between cpi leader Gianluca Iannone and the three previous and/or contemporary leading exponents of the Italian and European radical right: Pino Rauti, Roberto Fiore and Gabriele Adinolfi. In fact, at the time when Gianluca Iannone first occupied the building in Via Napolone in 2003, he had connections with, and came from a milieu that obviously pre-dated CasaPound. This article argues that their experiences represent the roots and sources of Iannone’s project with the cpi.
With regard to methodology and sources, my work uses a historical-qualitative approach to examine patterns of continuity and/or discontinuity within the Italian radical right. On the one hand, I draw on existing literature published in English, French and Italian. On the other, I carry out content text analysis of publications from inside the Italian radical right. The work on written sources has been supported by observations made on a field trip to Rome in May 2017 and in May 2018. Moreover, special attention is paid to biographical data that contribute to casting light not only on the individual’s role, but also on the connections, national and transnational, between persons, groups and parties.
3 Pino Rauti, Centro Studi Ordine Nuovo and Fiamma Tricolore
Pino Rauti (1926–2012) had been one of the young volunteers of the Nazi-friendly Salò Republic (1943–1945) and for years one of the leaders of the ‘intellectualist-aristocratic’ current within the msi during the 1940s and 1950s, inspired by the traditionalist philosopher Julius Evola.28 This minority radical right-wing faction stood in contrast to the supporters of the party leadership, pragmatic politicians such as Giorgio Almirante, who co-operated with the governing Christian Democratic Party. 29 It was a minor faction, even in comparison with the ‘leftist’ wing of the msi, which advocated radical social reforms inspired by Fascist corporatism and a sort of third-way in foreign policy, opposing both the European Economic Community and nato.30 The young ‘radical elitists’ thought the party was too closely associated with the liberal democratic system.31 When Evola published Orientamenti [Guidelines] in 1950 and Gli uomini e le rovine [The Men and the Ruins] in 1953,32 his young disciples could not but identify themselves with the men with a ‘warrior spirit’ who could stand among the ruins, still in revolt against the modern world even after the battle had been lost.
In November 1953, Pino Rauti gathered the group of those who were ‘immune to the democratic viruses’33 and fiercely opposed any compromise with the establishment. In 1954 he unofficially founded Centro Studi Ordine Nuovo [cson; Study Center New Order].34 In November 1956, on the occasion of the fifth national party congress, Rauti and eighty seven followers of the intransigent Evolian faction left the msi so that they could more easily pursue a ‘new order’.35 The proclaimed goal was ‘to attempt the restoration of the values destroyed and muddied by the plebeian anarchism of the modern world’.36 Moreover, they were ready to defend ‘the traditional remains that survived after the blast of the 1789 bubo spread plebeian pus all over the world’.37 That meant that an elite – ‘an Order of warriors and believers’, ‘the ancient knightly Order’, ‘men standing amid the ruins’38 – was supposed to defend the ‘spiritual principles’39 of tradition – authority, hierarchy, discipline and order –, according to Evola’s philosophy.
Piero Ignazi argues that from 1954 it is possible to make a theoretical distinction in Italy between an institutionalized right – the msi – and a radical or ‘revolutionary’ (their words) extra-parliamentary right.40 The distinction is indeed a theoretical and academic one; the very same people continuously went in and out of the msi and the contraposition between parliamentary and non-parliamentary activity was never clear-cut. In fact, as Roberto Chiarini puts it, the cson worked intensively with a cultural and ideological elaboration that allowed actualizing the political legacy from historical fascism.41
The cson was officially established in January 1957 as a think-tank for ideological-doctrinal discussion and dissemination of radical right doctrine.42 It is legitimate to claim that cson was for over a decade the most important right-wing extra-parliamentary group to oppose the moderate line of the msi, nonetheless always in contact with the mother-party. It had around 3,500 militants in 1966, and between ten and eleven thousand members. Most of these adherents were in Rome and in the South (Sicily), as well as in certain northern cities such as Milan and Padua.43 It published theoretical journals such as Ordine Nuovo: Mensile di politica rivoluzionaria [New Order: A Monthly for Revolutionary Politics, 1955–1965] and less theoretical and more militant bulletins such as Noi Europa: Periodico per l’ordine nuovo [We Europe: Periodical for the New Order, 1966–1968, only ten numbers].
cson was more than an intellectual circle for the Italian radical right. Scholarly research and judicial investigations have confirmed the links, in Italy and abroad, between cson on one hand and conspiratorial groups and state apparatuses and agencies on the other.44 Not only Pino Rauti was among the promoters of the so-called ‘Fascist’ or ‘Black International’, which met in Rome in 1950 and in Malmö in 1951.45 He was also a member of the right-wing network Jeune Europe and of Nouveaux Ordre Européen [noe; New European Order], founded in Zurich in 1951: a sort of umbrella organization that gathered all European neo-fascists and extremists affiliated with paramilitary and subversive groups ready to engage in political violence.46 At least since 1960 cson became the Italian interlocutor for the Spanish and Portuguese secret services, from which it received financial support, to which they sold weapons and with which they organized paramilitary camps.47 The most peculiar feature of the center was indeed its contact with the European radical and extreme right: Otto Skorzeny, Leon Degrelle, the French Organisation de l’Armée Sécrete (oas). Moreover, cson cooperated with the Italian (anti-communist ) Servizio Informazioni Difesa [sid; secret office for national defence].48 Finally, Rauti was since 1967 a correspondent for Aginter Press, the press agency that between 1962 and 1965 created a network of informers linked to the cia and to the security services of West Germany, Greece, Spain and South-Africa.49 During the 1960s the cson and its leader Pino Rauti were in fact among the protagonists of an obscure historical phase in Italian history characterized by a number of coup d’état attempts.50
However, within the scope of the present research, the cultural activity of the cson is our main interest. The center launched a series of lectures, courses, seminars and stages that became the model for many a metapolitical gathering within the Italian radical right in the following years. The main topics ranged from an alleged holy war in defence of traditional values and against plutocracy as subversive force, to an ideological revolt against the modern world beyond the East-West struggle. The last in spite of the fact that the center was well integrated into a European and American network ready to fight against communist forces wherever they should appear.
The cson is important for at least two reasons. Firstly, from 1956 to 1969, it was an important vehicle for the diffusion of Evola’s main tenets: anti-Americanism; anti-communism; elitism; ‘spiritual’ racism; and revolt against the modern world i.e. against rationalism, the Enlightenment, positivism, egalitarianism, individualism, hedonism and materialism. It provided as such ideological guidelines for the younger generations of right-wing militants. Secondly, it interacted with similar initiatives abroad, especially in France. Articles in the French monthly magazine Défense de l’Occident, published by Maurice Bardèche from 1952, were often cited and reviewed by Rauti’s magazines, and vice-versa.51 The metapolitical activities of cson preceded the publication of the French periodical Europe-Action (1963–1967), the establishment of the French far-right extra-parliamentary movement Ordre Nouveaux [New Order](1969–1973)52 and the establishment of the French think-tank grece (Groupement de recherche et d’études pour la civilisation européenne, 1968-).53
An important contribution to the Italian and European radical right was a new ideological orientation from the traditional and national authors of historical Fascism (Benito Mussolini and Giovanni Gentile) to new and more internationally known authors.54 The maestro Evola made his readers aware of the ideas of Oswald Spengler, René Guénon and Alfred Rosenberg. He also introduced Italian neo-fascists to Charles Maurras, leader of the French Action Française and Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, ideologist of the German nationalist and radical right during the 1920s and author of Das Dritte Reich (1923) which had a strong influence on the Nazi regime.55 At the same time, the cson contributed to disseminating knowledge about the variegated European expressions of fascism, before and after the military defeat in 1945: the Spanish Falange and José Antonio Primo De Rivera, the Romanian Legion of Archangel Gabriel and Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the Norwegians Knut Hamsun and Vidkun Quisling, the Belgian Leon Degrelle, the French intellectuals Pierre Drieu La Rochelle and Robert Brasillach.56 All these names are to be found in the paintings on the entrance walls of cpi in via Napoleone 8 in Rome.
Together with references that illustrated the battle of the West during the 1950s and 1960s – the soldiers of the French oas, the European colonial armies in South Africa and Rhodesia – the cson made open historical references to the German SS: ‘The Aryan blood of the SS is still warm and so is that of the Kamikaze and of the Black Legionnaires and those of the Iron Guard who fell in the name of and for the eternal new order.’57 Another important contribution to the Italian and European radical right discourse was the elaboration of a theory of ‘general fascism’; this described a ‘Radical Right’ opposed to democracy and modernity. Again, the inspiration came from Evola’s 1950s articles, whose ideas were further developed in his book Il fascism from 1964.58 Meanwhile, the French director of the journal Défense de l’Occident, Maurice Bardèche, who was in contact with the Italian Evolian group, published Qu’est-ce que le fascisme? in 1961.59 Evola’s interpretation of fascism as a new myth for the twentieth century and as a new revolutionary cultural paradigm of traditional values in opposition to those from the French Revolution – published around the same time as George Mosse’s well-known theory60 – gave a new potential to fascism as an idea that could survive any military loss or short-term political setbacks.61 Later on, the events of 1968 gave further arguments to support an intellectual discourse that centered on the moral decadence deemed as a consequence of the cultural hegemony of the humanitarian, globalist and Marxist left.62 Fascism would be the ultimate cultural counter-revolution.
Furthermore, the theory of ‘general fascism’ brought the conviction that fascism was related not to the idea of fatherland, cultivated by historical fascism, but to the idea of an ideal nation. This nation transcends physical boundaries and includes all people who are loyal to tradition. The ‘spiritual nation’, according to Evola, was made up of all those who cherish the same view of life and abide by the same inner rules. It is therefore meant to consist of all those who believe in traditional values and belong to the same order.63 This perception of ‘nation’ became especially popular among European far-right radicals who in the 1950’s and 1960’s had no chance of gaining power in their respective countries and, therefore, sought legitimacy by making contacts across borders.64 As one of the founders of the cson put it: ‘Our fatherland lies wherever the struggle for the Idea is carried out’.65 Last, but not least, the cson was in line with the French radical right when it initiated a discussion about racism and anti-racism and on the need to move from biological to cultural definitions of ‘differences’ between ethnic groups (cultural differentialism). As shown by Pauline Picco, who focused on the anti-Semitic and racist discourse of French and Italian radical right, there were parallel discussions in the Italian semi-clandestine neo-fascist journal Ordine Nuovo and the French magazine Défense de l’Occident.66
The Italian neo-fascist authors rejected the biological determinism of racism between the wars and embraced the doctrine according to which superior races are not created by people with specific biological properties, but by people with ‘spiritual’ characteristics: men able to show a strong character, to govern themselves and master their own passions. Such men would ‘naturally’ follow the values of tradition. They referred to ‘an aristocratic and hierarchical vision of the world’ where there is ‘an organic and spiritual doctrine of races’.67 Racism is labelled as an ‘idea-force’, a ‘myth’ able to create ‘new forms of civilizations, new states and first of all new men’.68 In Ordine Nuovo, the critique of Rosenberg’s biological racism did not contradict the magazine’s admiration for the Nazi regime; it openly referred to the Teutonic Knights as being a founding myth for National Socialism.69 In fact, in Evola the concept of race is openly linked to the Aryan race, embodied by the warrior castes and the soldiers such as the Samurai or the medieval Templars.
In particular, Evola in Rivolta contro il mondo moderno [Revolt against the Modern World] from 1934 had introduced the concept of ‘qualitative differentiation’ (the ‘differentiated personality’) – that is, inequality between people, alongside solidarity in a society that is hierarchically organized.70 This concept, together with others – unbroken men, the legionary spirit, aristocracy, hierarchy, élite rule, political warriors, and holy war – entered the political discourse of the Italian radical right at the same time as France was struggling with de-colonization, war in Algeria and the first wave of North African migration.71 While abandoning the biological racism of the interwar period, both Ordine Nuovo and Défense de l’Occident opted for a ‘spiritual’ racism that in fact had serious theoretical and practical consequences.
On a theoretical plan, the ‘spiritual’ racism built on the Italian concept of ‘qualitative differentiation’ (the ‘differentiated personality’) or on the French concept of ‘différentialisme’ evolved later on into the sophisticated Nouvelle Droite ‘communitarian-differentialist’ ideology, which replaced all crude versions of biological racism.72 This ideology, which brings to claim the right to carry on an identitarian politics in opposition to globalization and homogenization as well as to liberal multiculturalism, is in fact dominant in the European far right today, not least in CasaPound Italia. As Alberto Spektorowski demonstrates, the idea of cultural differentialism is nothing but a new expression of European assertiveness and superiority.73
On a practical plan, a distinction among races, now called ethnic groups, did not disappear. On the contrary, the neo-fascists insisted on a hierarchy of races based on cultural criteria. Pauline Picco shows how, moving from the 1950s to the 1960s, the racist discourse in Ordine Nuovo evolved.74 Until 1960, the inferior races were still exemplified by the ‘Jews’, inasmuch as they incarnated the greedy mercantile spirit and they epitomized plutocracy, democracy, globalism and the decadence of the modern world. This discourse included conspiracy theories of an alleged Jewish plan for the conquest of the world, with references to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, anti-Zionism, historical revisionism – denial of the Holocaust – and declarations in favour of the Palestinian cause. After 1960, the Italian neo-fascists, influenced by their French colleagues of Défense de l’Occident who were coping with ‘the Afro-Asian invasion’ of the Western world, started to portray new ‘enemies’: the Black and the Arab.
Finally, the ‘differentiated man’ (‘l’uomo differenziato’) could also be associated with a right-wing extremist militant fighting for law and order, against the liberal democratic system. In fact, in 1969, when Rauti decided to return to the msi, several young neo-fascists from the Evolian group adopted a more militant stance and a minor group funded the extremist movement Movimento Politico Ordine Nuovo [mpon; Political Movement New Order or simply ON, 1969–1973].75 I agree with Franco Ferraresi when he states that we should see Ordine Nuovo as a unitary phenomenon from 1954 to 1973, because of the ‘profound ideological and personal continuity’.76 Indeed the ON represented the trait d’union between the most radical fraction of neo-fascism during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and the right-wing terrorism of the 1970s.77
After he re-joined the msi in 1969, where he was welcomed in the central committee of the party, Rauti entered parliament as an msi deputy. At the same time, he had to defend himself against several accusations of being personally involved in terrorist acts. He was never convicted of any charge, though judges questioned his moral responsibility for the violence perpetrated by the extremist fringes of Italian neo-fascism. During the 1970s, he moved closer and closer to the social faction within the msi. In doing so he helped bring about an alliance between Evolian traditionalism and ‘spiritual’ racism, not least authoritarianism, and a concern for social issues.78 In particular, up to the 1980s, Rauti promoted a long-term strategy of resistance against cultural Marxism; he now referred to the leftist third-wayism of the Fascist movement and the Salò-Republic. Moreover, Rauti insisted on an ‘alternative’ way to both liberal capitalism and Marxist communism, anticipating the slogan ‘Per una alternativa’ that was adopted by CasaPound Italia forty years later.79 It is worth noting that many ideological references present in cpi literature today, such as the communist Nicola Bombacci, the economist Giuseppe Solaro, the politicians Carlo Costamagna, Angelo Tarchi and Stanis Ruinas, come from 1980s dissemination of Fascist history.
In 1990 Rauti succeeded in becoming the general secretary of msi, but Gianfranco Fini ousted him only one year later. Under the new leadership, the msi definitively abandoned anti-capitalism, corporatism and the third way (both in economic terms and in foreign policy) in favour of a neo-liberal stance that made the political alliance with Silvio Berlusconi and governmental power possible.80 While the msi’s turn towards moderation – the so-called svolta at the Fiuggi Congress in January 1995 – which resulted in its transformation into the national-conservative party Alleanza Nazionale (AN) was irreversible, Rauti rejected the process of normalization within the Italian far right and revived the heritage of historical Fascism.81 Two months after the Fiuggi Congress, in March 1995, he founded the neo-fascist party Movimento Sociale-Fiamma Tricolore (FT). It is interesting that in an interview published the very same year, Rauti expressed his admiration for Ezra Pound: ‘the greatest poet of the twentieth century; “our” poet at all’.82
Rauti’s ‘spiritual’ racism and third-wayism was simply transferred to FT, where he continued to advocate socialization and a corporative reform of the Italian Senate, together with ideas of ethno-pluralism, a strong state and of organic and authoritarian Western culture. In other words, the FT has been ideologically the legitimate precursor of cpi. Though weak electorally, this party has been able to keep alive his followers’ loyalty especially to Fascism’s former soldiers, the fanatical and violent Blackshirts. However, ideological intransigence has also come along with political realism. Thanks to a series of strategic electoral alliances with the center-right coalition of Silvio Berlusconi, Rauti won a seat in the European Parliament from 1994 until 1999. Expelled in 2004 from the party he had created, the historical neo-fascist leader offered his support to Roberto Fiore and his party Forza Nuova.
4 Roberto Fiore, Terza Posizione, International Third Position and Forza Nuova
Roberto Fiore (1958-) was, in the 1970s, a well-known leader of the extra-parliamentary extremist Italian right. Together with Giuseppe Dimitri (1956–2006) and Gabriele Adinolfi (1954-), he was in 1976 one of the founders of Lotta Studentesca, later Terza Posizione [TP; Third Position, 1978–1982], a Roman neo-fascist militant group that until its dissolution had a great ideological influence on the young, rebellious extra-parliamentary right.83 Terza Posizione advocated a position that was equally distant from communism and capitalism, in line with the ideological premises of the fascism-movement: ‘Né fronte rosso, né reazione, lotta armata per la Terza Posizione!’ [neither red front nor reaction, armed struggle for the Third Position]84
The movement fiercely opposed the gradual moderation process in the msi on revolutionary and anti-system motivations.85 It resisted this party’s support for nato and a liberal economic policy, a move that in the 1970s had the aim of taking over power from the Christian Democrats. Terza Posizione, as the ON had done before, consolidated its identity as a national-revolutionary and leftist movement opposed to both Soviet and American imperialism and, as such, it supported other revolutionary movements for national liberation. Like ON, it was ideologically influenced by the ‘maestro’ Evola whose books on traditionalism and essays on racism and anti-Semitism were discussed in closed meetings.86 According to the founders, there was no contradiction between the conservation of traditional values, a metapolitical predisposition to ideological indoctrination and a revolutionary political attitude.
More specifically, a relevant ideological source of inspiration for the TP was the Legion of the Archangel Gabriel, the ultranationalist movement founded by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu in 1924 in Romania and expression for clerical fascism during the interwar period. No need to say that Codreanu had been a model also for Evola, while his name today is painted on the cpi walls. For the TP any reference to the Romanian movement had two clear advantages. It allowed bypassing the stigma of the historical fascism by referring to an experience that was less known and whose fascist nature was even under discussion. Furthermore, the Iron Guard party, which never reached the phase of being institutionalized into a fascist regime, could be presented with its original revolutionary potential. And the TP was indeed interested in taking distance from historical fascism.87
In particular, the TP was fascinated by the initiative shown by The Legion in setting up social projects – construction of bridges, aid to old people – beyond the inefficiency of the Romanian governmental bureaucracy. The TP was aiming at the same efficiency: a form of social and civic rebellion that was not anarchy because it was integrated in a centralized, hierarchical and traditional vision of political mobilization.88 It resulted that the members of TP in 1979 mobilized to support the (illegal) construction of popular homes in Rome as to fight for the right to housing.89 The ideological positioning of the TP ‘between American individualism and Soviet collectivism’ had finally another inspiration in Juan Domingo Peron and Evita Peron. The Italian right-wing movement adopted the slogans that the Argentinian general had used for his country: ‘socially right, economically free and politically sovereign’.90 Again, both social aid and Peronism are two fundamental asset of todays’ cpi.
However, the biography of individual neo-fascist militants within TP confirms the extremist nature of this movement. Giuseppe Dimitri, one of the three founders of TP, in his early twenties was responsible for the armed defence of the militants whenever there was an action – leafleting, for instance. He was also in charge for the so-called ‘Legion’, a sort of political-military academia of the TP movement or an ideal community with the intent to form the New Man within the organization and consequently the future ruling class.91 In line with the previous experience of the cson, the Legion was supposed to prepare the New Men on a political, military, cultural and even religious plan, both in character and spirit, so that they were ready to fight for real if necessary. Through military training and reading of both Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Goebbels’ Kampf um Berlin (translated into Italian in 1978) the legionnaires were learning how to die for an idea. As declared by Dimitri himself: ‘The concept of the New Man was very beautiful in words, but we wanted to actualize it and put it into practice. In the face of the traditionalists who were filled with talk, we did things. Evola talked about warriors; well, we tried to be.’92 According to the magistrates who analysed the inner structure of TP, the organization was clearly founded on two levels: a political one where leaders were occupied with the ideological indoctrination of the youth, and a military one where leaders did not exclude to fight the system – the state, the police and not least the msi, which was accused of having betrayed the fascist revolution – through the use of arms.93
In fact, in the aftermath of the bomb massacre at Bologna railway station on August 2, 1980, where eighty five people were killed and over two hundred injured, the TP became the target of investigation. After the police found a large quantity of explosives and weapons in a local office, Adinolfi, Dimitri and Fiore, together with other forty young militants, received an arrest warrant for subversive association and reconstitution of the Fascist Party. TP was legally dissolved in 1982. Dimitri left jail in 1988, after having served eight years’ imprisonment.94 Both Fiore and Adinolfi avoided arrest by fleeing abroad. The court stated that they were not tied to the Bologna massacre, but in 1985 they were condemned in contumacia for subversive association.
Roberto Fiore remained in the United Kingdom until 1999, due to the political refugee status granted during the years that Margaret Thatcher governed.95 In London, he came in contact with Nick Griffin, one of the leaders of the neo-fascist British National Front party (bnf, 1967-). When Griffin left the bnf, Fiore helped him found the International Third Position (itp), an umbrella group that had the intention of uniting European ultranationalist parties.96 It was Fiore who introduced both Julius Evola and Third Positionist ideology to the British National Front and, later, to the itp.97
The ideological programme of the itp, clearly rooted in the interpretation of ‘general fascism’ as counter-revolution against all materialistic ideologies that can be traced back to the French Revolution of 1789, is an interesting primary source for understanding neo-fascist discourse in the new millennium.98 Within the scope of our research, we should underline at least two points that show an evident continuity from cson’s ideology and the French Nouvelle Droite up to cpi political discourse, via Pino Rauti and Roberto Fiore. Firstly, with regard to racism and anti-Semitism, the biological concept of race is replaced by a cultural one, referring to the ‘richness and diversity in humanity’ as a good to be preserved against the conformity of ‘multi-racism’.99 Yet, behind the new version of différentialisme for the third millennium, it is evident that the itp ideological programme promotes racial purity as much as historical fascism or neo-fascism did. On the one hand, the text introduces the concept of a ‘Racial Separatism’ that is based on an alleged respect for human racial diversity; on the other, it declares that ‘resettlement of races to their countries of origin will play a major role’ in the struggle for ‘a more peaceful world’.100 At the same time, we see the same sort of anti-Semitism that we meet in cpi; there is a unilateral defence of the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination, and a parallel unilateral condemnation of Zionism and the ‘illegal’ Israeli regime.
Secondly, the itp programme’s final anathema against the modern world is directed at the private banking system, which is accused of ‘practising the most refined usury the world has ever known’.101 The itp demands that all debt, domestic, national or international, be cancelled without compensation on the grounds that ‘International Finance is one of the greatest evils of the modern world’. At the same time, the itp advocates a so-called ‘third position on ownership’, which in practice consists in ‘a plethora of producer and service co-operatives, small businesses, craft workshops, Guild structures, artisanal associations, smallholdings, family firms and family farms’.102
While he was still a fugitive in the UK, and after a short engagement in FT, Roberto Fiore decided to organize a new Italian neo-fascist movement. The Forza Nuova party (FN) was founded in September 1997, two years after Fiuggi, and was meant to be a new reference point for both the youth fringes of the Italian radical right and conservative right-wing traditionalists; a party for parliamentary deputies, autonomous groups and skinheads. This political initiative, in many ways in competition with FT, happened in cooperation with Roman right-wing circles linked to rock groups. One of these was Iannone’s band, ZetaZeroAlfa, formed the very same year. The FN attracted no more electoral support than FT (less than 1%). Nonetheless, it contributed to the diffusion of fascist ideology: the party’s third-wayism was clearly inspired by Fiore’s political past and his experiences in the itp, and from Rauti’s FT. And exactly as it is the case with FT, FN also in many aspects anticipated the ideological package of the cpi: exclusionary nationalism; rejection of a multi-racial society (the argument is that multi-racialism ‘causes’ racism hence racism presented as ‘antiracist’ stance), and the defence of ethnic identities; opposition to immigration and to globalization; exit from nato and removal from the US sphere of influence; quest for nationalization of strategic economic sectors; fight against ‘usury’ and for the cancellation of public debt.103 Even the call for a repeal of the Scelba-Law and Mancino-Law,104 which are believed to destroy freedom, was to be adopted by the cpi. However, Forza Nuova had, and still has, an ultra-catholic identity not usually found in other Italian neo-fascist parties.
Besides being the leader of FN in Italy, Roberto Fiore continued to lead the International Third Position as it metamorphosed into the European National Front (2004–2009), a coordinating structure for European far-right ultranationalist parties. In 2008–2009, he was an elected member at the European Parliament. After the dissolution of the European National Front, the majority of former members joined a new pan-European party in February 2015, under the leadership of Roberto Fiore and British National Party chairman Nick Griffin: The Alliance for Peace and Freedom (apf). The apf has recently been defined as a fascist political alliance, gathering all Europeans ‘opposed to liberal democracy, multiculturalism and the European Union’.105
5 Gabriele Adinolfi, Centro Studi Orientamenti e Ricerca, Sinergie Europee and the Summer University
As a third example of evident ideological continuity within the Italian (and European) radical right, in opposition to the Fiuggi Congress, I will turn the attention to Sinergie Europee [European Synergies] and at the Università d’Estate [Summer University] in the middle of the 1990s, both under the coordination of Gabriele Adinolfi (1954-). As already mentioned, Adinolfi was a founder of Lotta Studentesca and, later, Terza Posizione together with Fiore and Dimitri. Earlier, he had been an msi militant and a member of other extra-parliamentary groups. According to what the founders said in interviews, in Terza Posizione Adinolfi was responsible for the whole organization and for the political and ideological indoctrination of the militants, while Fiore was following the ‘foreign politics’ of the movement.106 Like Fiore, Adinolfi was condemned in contumacia in 1985 for subversive association during the Bologna massacre trial, but by then he had already fled to Paris. While living abroad, he abandoned active political militancy and his career took an intellectual turn, as a writer and publisher.
It was in 1985 that Adinolfi founded the Centro Studi Orientamenti e Ricerca [csor; Study Center Guidelines and Research, 1985–1995,), a name that reminds us both about Rauti’s cson and Julius Evola’s pamphlet Orientamenti [Guidelines] from 1950. The aim of the center, as we can still read on a forgotten, but visible home page, was ‘to offer an element of reflection and analysis to the radical right considered excessively vitalistic, as well as to provide a platform for confrontation-meeting with any other non-conformist formation.’107 Centro Studi Orientamenti e Ricerca, which ceased its publications in 1995, produced in fact five political documents108 and several bulletins at quarterly intervals. Since then, Gabriele Adinolfi’s intellectual activity has been dedicated to the proliferation of fascist ideas grounded in anti-Americanism and the vision of Europe as a third force. This includes the idea of Europe as a new imperial Euro-Asiatic order based on a political ‘axe Paris-Berlin-Moscow’.109 This order, according to Adinolfi, works towards the re-affirmation of national sovereignty over the European integration project, through defusing globalization and overcoming capitalism in search of a social third-way. Adinolfi’s rhetoric insists on opposing the ‘trinity of work-solidarity-duty’ to the ‘trinity of capital-selfishness-individual rights’.110 He declares that he wants to protect the ‘lobby of people’ against the ‘oligarchic lobbies’. At the same time, and in quite a contradictory manner, we read that he wants to ‘train’ new elites who are able to provide cultural and economic leadership. In other words, Adinolfi has placed himself on the same path already trodden by Evola and Rauti during the 1950s, i.e. a cultural fascist revolution, a ‘radical commitment to a metapolitical and parapolitical plan’.111 Simultaneously, Adinolfi has kept in touch with far right circles not only in Italy and France, but also in Spain and Belgium.
Sinergie Europee was, in fact, the natural implementation of Adinolfi’s metapolitical commitment. In the middle of the 1990s it was intended to be a loose organization that aimed to coordinate all ‘anti-American’ and ‘anti-globalist’ forces in Europe. It had branches in France, Belgium and Germany, and in Eastern Europe. It facilitated communication between the circles of Alain de Benoist’s Nouvelle Droite and ‘euro-Asiatic’ fascist groups in continental Europe. Its fascist ideology was spread through the journal Orion edited by Società Editrice Barbarossa, which is still publishing and disseminating titles on radical right culture, left-wing fascism, Islam, fantasy, ‘national communism’ and Eurasia, futurism and anti-mondialism (anti-globalization). An important initiative taken by Sinergie Europee was the planning and promotion of annual meetings in Italy for ‘political formation’; these gatherings went under the name Università d’Estate and were organized by both Fiore and Adinolfi. The sixth of these, in 1998 Trento, saw the participation of intellectuals from all over Europe, discussing issues of economics, geopolitics, political science, philosophy and spirituality.112 The ideas of political scientists such as Robert Michels (theory of the elites) and Carl Schmitt were on the agenda. Regarding geopolitical issues, it is remarkable that as early as 1998 the talks dealt with topics such as planetary migratory flows and demographic recession, as well as American imperialism and how to regenerate the Euro-Asiatic continent. After the Fiuggi Congress, and in spite of it, they were able to gather representatives from FT and FN, as well as councillors from the post-fascist AN party and from the federalist Lega Nord party. However, the originality of the Summer University and its metapolitical character must not be overestimated. The initiative was not only a continuation of the intellectual efforts of Pino Rauti in the 1950s and 1960s; it can also be seen as a mere copy of the so-called Campi Hobbit [Hobbit Camps] that were established in 1977 and also held in 1978 and 1979 by the movement Nuova Destra, the Italian branch of the French Nouvelle Droite directly connected to the msi party.113
In 2000 Adinolfi was able to return to Italy. He was at that time the most active and influential ideologue of the Italian extra-parliamentary right. With such a reputation, he could travel Italy all around promoting the book Noi Terza Posizione [We Third Position], written together with Roberto Fiore and published the same year by the well-known right-wing publishing house Settimo Sigillo. He also intensified his collaboration with the far-right journal Orion and his articles were translated and published by the radical right French journal Rivarol. Adinolfi led the Summer University initiative through his network and think-tank Centro Studi Polaris [Polaris Scholarship Center] for ‘formation, communication and cultural research’ and through the news website NoReporter.114 Finally, he became also the editor for the neo-fascist historical magazine Occidentale. Rivista di critica non conforme, which dates from the 1970s. As director of the magazine, Adinolfi chose Gianluca Iannone.
6 Gianluca Iannone: From CasaMontag to CasaPound Italia
At the beginning of the third millennium, when he became director of Occidentale, Gianluca Iannone (1974-) had already an interesting career behind him as member of a minor extremist extra-parliamentary right-wing group which was dissolved by law in the 1990s for hate-speech and racism. In 1995 he had been one of the founders of the Rupe Tarpea Produzioni, an independent record company that produced, and still produces, Nazi rock groups such as Hobbit, Intolerance, and Iannone’s group ZetaZeroAlfa. He was also one of the leaders of the Romanist hooligans, the animator of the fascist pub Cutty Sark and the owner of the ‘non-conventional’ bookshop Testa di Ferro in Rome, which disseminated nostalgic fascist literature from the interwar period.115
His charismatic appeal on the far right youth was indisputable. Armed with such a reputation, Gianluca Iannone became the leader of the ‘right-wing’ house occupations in Rome. The very first carried out by the Roman neo-fascists was the squat of a state-owned building in the outskirts of Rome in 2002: CasaMontag.116 CasaMontag, which became the first example of right-wing Occupazioni Non Conformi [onc; Non-Conventional Occupation], which aimed to use musical events to get young people to discuss politics in a non-structured way. As a metapolitical center for gatherings of the Roman far right, there is no doubt that Iannone’s CasaMontag was inspired by the experience of the Summer University organized by Iannone’s colleague Adinolfi. Only one year later, in 2003, Iannone led the expedition that brought to the occupation of the building in via Napoleone: CasaPound. That squat went under the slogan ‘Occupazioni a Scopo Abitativo’ [osa; Occupations for Housing Purposes]. Several others followed. Daniele di Nunzio makes a clear distinction between onc and osa, arguing that the former has a metapolitical nature while the latter has a social purpose.117 Considering the lively cultural activity within (and on) cpi’s walls today, I do not see that this distinction is still so relevant.
However, as a promoter of onc and responsible for CasaMontag, Iannone became in 2003 the leader in Rome of the so-called Not-Conventional Area: the whole of the right-wing social centers. As such, he became in the first place a reference person in Rome for the post-fascist party AN, at that time in government with Silvio Berlusconi and the Lega Nord. When Iannone occupied CasaPound in December 2003, the take-over of the building in via Napoleone was in fact possible because of the protection by AN, together with the appeasement on the part of the left-wing city mayor Walter Veltroni.118 After the first years’ support to AN, Iannone turned to Fiore’s FN, but Fiore’s refusal to stand Iannone as a candidate at political election in 2006 brought to rupture between the two. Iannone’s next move was to support the neo-fascist party FT by Pino Rauti. During the period 2006–2008 Iannone was active as leader of a youth current in FT trying to conquer the leadership of the party, without success. Another rupture occurred in 2008 when the Not-Conventional Area around Iannone and CasaPound officially left FT. 119 At that time Gianni Alemanno, Pino Rauti’s son-in-law, became mayor of the city of Rome (2008–2013). The very same year Gabriele Adinolfi published the ideological pamphlet, Sorpasso neuronico (2008), which is a sort of declaration of independence from the part of the radical right near Iannone: ‘With regard to strategy, I only repeat myself. I believe that power is stratified on three completely different levels, which we have to take into account in order to locate ourselves, to lobby and to participate in the qualification of the elites.’120 CasaPound Italia was concurrently founded as political movement and offered its electoral support to the euro-sceptical and xenophobic party Lega Nord, today in government under the leadership of Matteo Salvini.
The party cpi must be understood within a long-lasting Italian and European fascist tradition, which overcomes the strictly contextual frames of the party’s existence. This article has been focused on the political experience of three Italian political activists who have been active in different periods since the 1950s. All of them belong to the area of the Italian far right and all of them had or still have political connections with cpi leader Gianluca Iannone. The historical exploration has shown that there has been a constant evolving of right-wing radical discourse in Italy, from the msi to cpi, though maintaining some central assets such as cultural racism and anti-capitalist third-wayism. The qualitative analysis of written texts has shown a direct line connecting the experiences of Centro Studi Ordine Nuovo, la Nouvelle Droite, Terza Posizione, Campi Hobbit, Centro Studi Orientamenti e Ricerca, Sinergie Europee, the Summer University and finally CasaMontag and CasaPound Italia. Promoting fascism as a cultural, non-armed struggle – a counter-revolution – that has a metapolitical dimension, and dedicating special attention to the youth when enforcing political engagement, all these movements have contributed to the survival and dissemination of typical fascist ideology. In line with not only the Gramscian philosophy, but also Evola’s and de Benoist’s doctrine, the Italian representatives of the radical right have emphasized the role played by cultural hegemony with the intention to keep alive a specific political project opposed to liberal and inclusive democracy.
My analysis confirms the patterns of ideological continuity in Italian and European right-wing radicalism, arguing that today’s political discourse has deep roots in a long-standing fascist tradition. I will say that cpi is a good example for the contemporary far right, both radical and extremist, that is strongly connected with previous versions of right-wing radicalism and extremism. As Mammone observes, cpi exemplifies ‘a modern blackshirt Janus with one face looking backward and the other forward towards the future’.121 cpi’s drive to modernize discourse, iconography, as well as expressive and stylistic codes, must not lead us to believe that this party represents a break with Italian or European neo-fascism. On the contrary, cpi, far from being a new phenomenon, has simply replaced other (older and/or politically incorrect) actors/movements/parties.