Fischia il vento

Thomas Jones

Pamela Mastropietro, an 18-year-old from Rome, left the rehab clinic where she’d been staying in the province of Macerata, in central Italy, on 29 January. Her dismembered corpse was discovered two days later, in two suitcases, in the countryside nearby. Innocent Oseghale, a 29-year-old Nigerian with an expired residency permit and a criminal record of drug dealing, was arrested almost immediately on suspicion of involvement in Mastropietro’s death.

At 11 a.m. on 3 February, Luca Traini, a 28-year-old Italian from the nearby town of Tolentino, drove through the centre of Macerata shooting at black people, wounding six, two of them seriously. He stopped at the town’s war memorial, got out of his car, wrapped himself in the Italian flag, gave a fascist salute and shouted ‘Viva l’Italia!’ before the police led him away. Last year Traini stood as a local election candidate for the Lega Nord; nobody voted for him. He is also said to have ties to the neo-fascist organisations Forza Nuova and CasaPound.

The Lega Nord was founded thirty years ago on a platform of independence for the fantasy land of ‘Padania’ – Italy north of the river Po – in the hope of unshackling the country’s wealthy northern regions from the dead weight of Rome and the unprosperous south. But in recent years, under the leadership of Matteo Salvini, it has more or less abandoned that project and repositioned itself as a national (and nationalist) party. Instead of rejecting rule from Rome, the Lega now wants to govern there itself.

The party used to direct its contempt at its fellow citizens from the Mezzogiorno; now that it wants their votes, it has turned its hatred further south, and is running an unabashedly racist, anti-immigration campaign – ‘Italians first’ – for next month’s general election. It’s currently polling at around 11 per cent, and there’s a decent (or indecent) chance of its forming part of a ‘centre right’ coalition government led by Silvio Berlusconi’s revenant Forza Italia.

On Saturday, 30,000 people gathered in Macerata for an anti-fascist rally in solidarity with Traini’s victims. There were dozens of demonstrations in other cities across Italy. Salvini said he was ‘ashamed’ that ‘on the day on which three Nigerians are arrested for the brutal murder of an Italian girl, the left should be in the streets marching against racism.’ Giorgia Meloni, the leader of Fratelli d’Italia, the third party in Berlusconi’s putative ‘centre right’ coalition, told the TV cameras that Forza Nuova and CasaPound aren’t xenophobic.

The ‘centre left’ Partito Democratico – splintered and foundering in the polls under Matteo Renzi’s leadership – was notable for its absence from the anti-fascist protests. But the timing was awkward for a party reluctant to alienate patriotic voters. Since 2005 (during Berlusconi’s last government but one), 10 February has been commemorated as il Giorno del Ricordo, Remembrance Day, in memory of the Foibe massacres. Thousands of Italians were slaughtered and tens of thousands made homeless by Tito’s partisans in Venezia Giulia and Dalmazia – then part of Italy, now mostly in Slovenia and Croatia – between 1943 and 1945.

An exhibition opened in Orvieto last week of photographs documenting Fascist crimes in Yugoslavia between 1941 and 1945. It was denounced by the Corriere della Sera columnist Gian Antonio Stella as ‘senseless’. He said that holding an anti-fascist rally on the Giorno del Ricordo, as the exhibition’s organisers were planning to do, was ‘rubbing salt in old wounds’. Meloni said on Twitter that the PD mayor of Orvieto ought to resign for sponsoring the exhibition, which she described as ‘Foibe-denying’. But she rather undermined her point by illustrating her tweet (since deleted) with a photograph of a platoon of Italian soldiers shooting five unarmed Slovenian peasants in the back.

The anti-fascist rally went ahead in the centre of Orvieto on Saturday evening. A few hundred metres away, in Piazza 29 Marzo, named in memory of the date in 1944 when seven local partisans were executed by the Fascists, a few dozen dour CasaPound goons were inaugurating their new premises.

No space for fascists | CasaPound out of Orvieto

No space for fascists | CasaPound out of Orvieto

The anti-fascists sang ‘Fischia il vento’. Fifty metres away along the Corso Cavour, towards Piazza della Repubblica, are the campaign headquarters of the Lega Nord. A poster in the window proclaims ‘la difesa dei valori occidentali’. Eighty years ago, Mussolini introduced a set of laws ‘per la difesa della razza’, ‘for the defence of the race’. The Italian constitution expressly forbids the reorganisation, in any form, of the dissolved Fascist Party.


  • 20 February 2018 at 4:10pm
    Charles Lambert says:
    I live in Fondi, a smallish town halfway between Rome and Naples. Dickens called it the first Neapolitan town, which would place it safely in what Salvini and the Lega (Nord) regard as the feckless south. A couple of days ago I went to the town's only Indian takeaway and found a group of Salvini supporters beneath an official Lega gazebo, surrounded by posters with INVASIONE in enormous capital letters. No one seemed that bothered. Meanwhile, the first posters to be attached to the official hoardings have been put there by Forza Nuova, an organisation that, if the constitution were applied, wouldn't exist. Now a fairly affluent town, thanks to the presence of Italy's largest wholesale fruit and vegetable market, Fondi still has very few families without emigrant relatives in Australia or the States.

  • 20 February 2018 at 7:04pm
    Joefarrell says:
    The rise of racism and the resurgence of Fascism in Italy is nauseating and worrying, but Italians are justified in complaining that they have had to bear alone the burden of dealing with the masses of poor people who have made the crossing from North Africa. The record of the UK and EU in this regard, their refusal to accept a reasonable number of immigrants are deplorable, and have contributed to the emergence of these appalling forces inside Italy.