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The topic has been present since her triumph in the Italian legislative elections and the answer to the question is a clear no. A review of her postulates and campaign promises shows that she is not. Neither are names created ad-hoc for her such as “post-fascist” or “neo-fascist”, and neither will be the government she will lead.
The problem was, in a way, created by herself, given that, at the beginning of her political career, even when she was Silvio Berlusconi’s Youth Minister, she made statements, including tweets, that showed understanding and even admiration for Il Duce, a despicable behavior into which other Italian politicians, of different positions, have fallen as the years have gone by.
Furthermore, a former center-left (Italia Viva) prime minister like Matteo Renzi has denied such media accusations against her, here from CNN, saying: “She is my political rival, but she is not a danger to democracy. To say that she is a fascist is completely false.”
She is not Trump, Bolsonaro or the Hungarian Orban. Neither was Kast, Boric’s rival in Chile, who was nicknamed that way to win the second round of the presidential election. Certainly, they can be described in other ways, for example, as “Pinochet supporter” in the case of Kast, but they are not fascists or Nazis.
Fascism is a political doctrine, originated in Italy with Mussolini and one of its most well-known (and murderous) variants was Hitler’s Nazism. It is taught throughout academia, along with other ideologies, such as liberalism, conservatism, socialism or communism.
So much damage was caused that it has a very bad name, and thus it is used to disqualify adversaries with a very negative implication, since attributing that doctrine to someone who is not a fascist can produce the misleading effect of saying that the doctrine “was not as evil” as claimed, when in fact it was and still is.
As a political doctrine, Fascism in almost all its variants was collectivist and statist, which was expressed in Benito Mussolini’s famous maxim “Everything within the State. Nothing outside the State,” which came as no surprise to anyone in Italy, since he had begun his political career in the Socialist Party.
Part of the ideology was the notion of a single party, as well as the persecution and repression of its opponents. There was a strong racial component in their postulates, although not all were racist or anti-Semitic, at least not in the sense that the Nazis were in Germany and in their occupied territories.
Also present was the desire for expansion and conquest, while expressing anti-liberal, anti-democratic and anti-Christian postulates.
As a political doctrine, some ideas have reached our days, and nothing shows it better than the validity of Nazi authors who never repented, such as the German jurist and political scientist Carl Schmitt, who asserted that politics was not between adversaries but between enemies and whose followers -whether they knew it or not- include some important ideologues who, from the ultra-left, tried to impose the new identity constitution on Chileans, failing in the attempt.
It is not helpful and it certainly is harmful to label many of those we dislike as fascists or populists. Brothers of Italy, her party, is right-wing, part of what is called in Europe the “social right” for its postulates, and among the most stirring issues were illegal immigration and certain traditional values, such as the importance of Italy and the family.
Her coalition was composed of minor groups, and of Matteo Salvini’s La Lega, former VP and Minister of the Interior (2018-2019), and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, three-time former Prime Minister (1994-95; 2001-06; and 2008-2011), rivals defeated above all by Meloni’s passion and charismatic style and the importance placed on traditional moral principles, on patriotism through her pride in Italianness, to which must be added the defense of Christianity, in particular, the Catholic tradition.
Thus, she managed to prevail within the coalition, especially over Salvini, who suffered a heavy defeat and low vote. As for Berlusconi, the triumph marks his return, but now he does not aspire, at least publicly, to lead the winning coalition, among other reasons, due to his age.
Within the 44.1 % of votes obtained by this coalition there are many votes that were once communist or Christian Democrat, the two great parties of the post-war period in Italy, both of which have disappeared as such or have split into other alternatives.
It is a conservative coalition in the Italian and European context, but in what it offered and in how it will exercise power there may be elements of the radical right, but they are not far-right, nor are they populism or fascism.
If there was any doubt, there are the statements she offered as soon as she was elected, in the sense of ratifying all her support to Ukraine as well as in relation to immigration where she repeated that “countries have the right to privilege immigration that is compatible with their culture. For example, in Venezuela there are millions of them, they are Christians. If we need migrants, let’s get them there.”
In truth, neither Italian law, nor Europe, nor international treaties allow you today to make this distinction, let alone discriminate, but it is a powerful statement of intent.
It is going to be a coalition government where there are convergences, but also divergences on a variety of issues including the European Union, the Russian invasion of Ukraine (there it differs from its partners especially on sanctions on Russia), energy, moral values, global warming.
In relation to the EU, Meloni has had a similar discourse to that which Mrs. Thatcher had for years, in her criticism of what she defined as an undemocratic bureaucracy not elected by anyone in Brussels and the consequent loss of national sovereignty, with an important difference, however, since the UK contributed much more than it received from Europe, while Italy needs help to balance its budget, which is in permanent deficit.
As Meloni moved towards victory, she gradually abandoned the idea of an “Italexit” to leave the EU, in favor of a discourse that has proved successful for former communist countries such as Poland or Hungary, that is, to defend their national interests more aggressively within the Union and then, only after that, to seek common solutions with other countries.
Meloni added that his model was Portugal, which obtained concessions for an economic recovery plan, asking that “if the socialist government of Portugal did it, why can’t Italy do it? Therefore, the EU is an example of the limitations to her power that such an alliance means, not only to her, but to any leader who wants radical changes.
Her promotion of conservative values led her to offer specific measures to support higher birth rates, since Italy is part of the list of countries where birth rates are decreasing, with numbers that would be even more regressive if it were not for illegal immigration.
Another issue of differentiation with Europe was the idea of creating so-called “hot spots” to curb illegal immigration, simply by blocking ships with migrants in the African ports from which they leave.
A last point of contention is the respect for international commitments already made on climate change, where Meloni has argued that behind her reluctance to use the word “warming” there is a different vision, since for her there is no catastrophic vision of this change, but only a simple evolution and not the end of the world.
For Meloni, Italy is an economic success story, rejecting the idea that it is a sick country, arguing that its problems are the consequence of misguided European policies today, and that, on the contrary, Italy was a post-war success story with an export model based on small and medium-sized enterprises.
Will hers be another short-lived government, another failed coalition? We do not know.
What we do know is that neither she nor her future government are fascists today, and that they are limited by Europe and by the coalition’s characteristics. Everything points to a right-wing conservative government, even radical in its rhetoric, but there is no evidence of this alleged fascism either in her or in her proposals.
This article is part of an agreement between El American and the Interamerican Institute for Democracy.
Ricardo Israel es un reconocido escritor, bogado, analista político y académico chileno. Fue candidato presidencial de su país en 2013. Actualmente hace parte del directorio del Interamerican Institute for Democracy // Ricardo Israel is a renowned Chilean writer, lawyer, political analyst and academic. He was a presidential candidate in his country in 2013. He is currently a member of the board of directors of the Interamerican Institute for Democracy