1. On October 29, 1922, after leading the March on Rome, Mussolini was appointed Prime Minister. More than a “sudden victory” −part of the mythology of fascism itself that was born in northern Italy three years earlier− the March was the culmination of a slow process of normalization of the Black Shirts ( squadristi) that the ruling class has long opted for as an “antidote to the left”. The March made official its “fusion” with the Italian bourgeois state. 100 years after her, Giorgia Meloni and her Fratelli d’Italia (FdI), heir to the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a post-Mussolinist party, won the elections. The analogies are troubling, but in very different contexts. The March took place in the midst of post-war radicalization and polarization, the expansion of mass politics and the -already descending- revolutionary wave. Today the FdI’s victory takes place in a climate of political demobilization, apathy and only thanks to the implosion of the centre-liberal technocratic forces that historically blocked its rise.
2. Carlo Ginzburg, a point of reference regarding the public uses and abuses of history −whose father, an anti-fascist editor was assassinated in Rome in 1944−, remarked long ago that “fascism is the future” (sic), in the way it “successfully appeals to the emotions” and “has deep roots in Italian society” (bit.ly/3UIA3Vi), a prediction that seems to have come true. Faced with the imminent victory of FdI, “a party with clear fascist roots”, Ginzburg expressed concern: “(…) we are not dealing with literal fascism, but many of the FdI voters are linked to it. I have always avoided using the word ‘fascism’ out of its historical context, but I remember that in 2016, when I saw Trump, I found it irresistible”, something that in turn made him think about the need to broaden his definition (bit.ly/3fPWo4K). Although today, for him, “it is only about some elements of fascism”, it is difficult to fight against them after all the historical defeats of the left, which, moreover, “in Italy already exists only as a residue” (bit.ly/3UmqzQ0).
3. Contrary to doxa of “fascism as anti-liberalism”, Alberto Toscano, on the sidelines of the anniversary of the March and the victory of Meloni (bit.ly/3G5BCbV), emphasized that in Italy fascism was entrenched in power by absorbing the liberal coordinates and cadres. It has been supported by capitalist elites frightened by the specter of Bolshevism ( biennio rosso) and did what it promised: it crushed the unions, the strikes, shrank the State and introduced a ferocious austerity based on violence −“liberalism by illiberal means”− as Clara Mattei ( The Capital Order: How Economists Invented Austerity and Allaned the Way to Fascism, 2022, p. 480). He was applauded by the main liberal ideologues –Ludwig von Mises: “for this, fascism will live eternally in history” (D. Losurdo, Liberalism: A Counter-History, 2011, p. 328) − and the press of him ( The Economist, Sure). Although today the main denouncers of Meloni’s “fascism” are the liberals −the same ones who have been administering… the austerity that catapulted her to power−, they can afford it: the left is not a threat. If not, they would already be embracing her as they did with Mussolini.
4. Given the differences in context, the direct analogy between fascism and current right-wing populist movements and parties is wrong. Instead of similarities, there are plenty of contrasts. Sounding the alarm “fascism” the term used not in the historical/analytical sense, but as a “political operation” −whether with good intentions or just to garner the vote for the (neo)liberal center− obscures more than it explains. By imposing comparisons and references, it deforms the anatomy of the actors in question. Recalling Ginzburg’s desire to broaden the definition of fascism, FdI and Meloni are a perfect case of “post-fascism” conceptualized by Enzo Traverso ( The New Faces of Fascism, 2019, p. 3-41), so it is a movement that has a clear fascist lineage, but lacks certain attributes (street fighting cadres, the desire to replace liberal democracy with a “totalitarian” order that Mussolini ended up with, etc.) and that instead of “opening a new era” it will end up −most likely− imploding like its centre-liberal predecessors.
5. Post-fascism is “a phenomenon in crystallization”: conditions that determine it can still change, but it is intrinsically “negative”. He lacks a vision of the future, mixes nostalgia for the lost past with kitsch (the collection of fascist figurines of Ignazio La Rusa, co-founder of FdI) and trivialization (Meloni’s speeches). Beyond the ahistorical notions of “eternal fascism” (Umberto Eco) or bon-mots of “every era has its fascism” (P. Levi), it is convenient to historicize seeing the evolution of political ideas dialectically: thus, for Traverso today’s extreme right, with its obsession with “cultural wars”, goes back to the era of Kulturpessimismus pre-fascist and instead of embracing the “irrationality” that ended in fascism, it remains attached to the “rationality of the market” and the defense of “traditional values” together (sic) with individual liberal values ”threatened” by Muslims, migrants or “cultural Marxism” (Traverso in: G. Lukács, The Destruction of Reason, 2021, p. 43). 100 years after the triumph of fascism, post-fascism merges with pre-fascism.