BY GAITHER STEWART
Alex and his Droogs, looking for trouble. The nihilistic and deeply alienated working class youth portrayed in A Clockwork Orange was a precise harbinger of things to come. The Italian Skins is just a latter day incarnation of the same forces at work.
ROME DIARY- The Rebirth of Italian Fascism or Fascism With a New Face, or some such
April 12-13 Silvio Berlusconi and his People of Liberty Party in alliance with the neo-Fascist National Alliance won general elections by which the media magnate, 71-year Berlusconi, Italy’s richest man, became Italy’s Prime Minister for the third time.
Why should one of the world’s richest persons want to continue in what in reality is a backbreaking job? One says of Berlusconi as of many dictators that above all he wants to be loved. In general I reject this cliché. I believe that he and most others of his ilk simply need to command and in the final analysis want it all. In his every manifestation Berlusconi is an unlikely statesman and saviour of the nation which he so wants to be. He recognizes no limits to what he should control and possess and how he appears to the world around him.
April 28 Gianni Alemanno, a major exponent of the neo-Fascist National Alliance Party (Alianza Nazionale), heirs of Mussolini’s Fascist Party and Berlusconi’s chief ally, was elected Mayor of Rome (Sindaco).
April 30 Gianfranco Fini, President of National Alliance, and heir in a direct line from Mussolini’s Fascist Party, the Fascist Republic of Saló, and the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), was elected (appointed by Silvio Berlusconi) President of the Chamber of Deputies, similar to the Speaker of the US House of Representatives.
May 5 The victim of a beating by a Fascist Nazi Skin group in Verona died in a hospital today. On the same day at the opening of the Turin Book Fair the radical Left of Turin Social Forum protested against Israel’s role of “guest of honor” at this year’s book fair. In the evening the Fascist President of the Chamber of Deputies, Fini, said in the nation’s major talk that the events in Turin were much more serious because while in Verona there was no ideological reference in the young man’s murder by Fascists in Verona, in Turin “the radical Left is trying to justify with anti-Zionism an authentic anti-Semitism and real political-religious prejudices.”
The Radical Left reacted and attacked the neo- President of the Chamber of Deputies: “In the moment in which everyone should mourn the death of the a young man and demand the maximum punishment for his assassins, we instead see political speculation by the President of the Chamber of Deputies who absolves the Fascist thugs ready to unleash new violent repressions like those he (Fini) commanded in Genoa in 2001 (at the infamous G-8 conference where state police terrorized, beat and tortured anti-capitalist protesters).
May 5 The new Berlusconi government has not yet been completed but George Bush is already scheduled to return to Rome on June 11 just after the USA-EU summit in neighboring Slovenia, which currently holds the alternating six-month Presidency of the EU. Doubtless the new Italian “Soft Dictatorship” must immediately beef up its relations with Washington and Berlusconi’s friend Bush after the two year interim of cooler relations with the outgoing Center Left government. I suspect Bush wants more Italian military support from Berlusconi who is always ready and proud to send Italian troops together with Americans. Berlusconi also needs US support for beefing up relations with Israel, hopefully without offending sensibilities of the Arab world with whom the Center Left government had closer relations.
In Italy the Skinheads emerged as an offshoot of the British Punk movement of the late ’60s…
According to one Italian intelligence agency (AISI) the North-East of Italy with its magnificent cities of Verona, Vicenza, Padua, and Treviso, has the highest density of militant Nazi-Skin in the country. The “Skinhead Front”, originally modelled on British skinheads in the 1980s counts several hundred activists. Their look is that of the “metropolitan warrior.” They indulge in boxing and martial arts, weights. Their values include class belonging and nationalistic sentiments, and echo somewhat the physical force of ancient Roman legionaries available for a socio-political role.
An Italian skinhead. Although very active in the North, many of these youths actually spring from transplanted Southern Italian families. As a rule, they have tended to form “microgangs” with 3 to 5 members, hate the police and young people from middle-class neighborhoods, whom they like to torment. Many have already crossed the line with acts of petty thievery, but more serious crimes are expected as they mature.
Swasticas, Nazi flags and Celtic crosses are their symbols. Their cultural level is low, thugs with shaved heads. Their Nazi Skin credo—intelligence experts says—is a violent subculture typical of roughnecks, xenophobic, racist and anti-Semite, demonstrated from city streets to the soccer stadiums. Recruits come from culturally weak youth who dedicate their free time on Saturday night to “boot parties” as they call their physical aggressions. The violent murder in the center of Verona is a tragic example. Their militancy is double: Saturday night boot parties and physical battles in the stadium. Their political motivation is chiefly symbolic, though they are always available to be exploited by the state or rightwing elites perennially in need of “class bodyguards.” Among the 80,000 organized violent soccer fans in Italy—called “ultras”—according the Interior Ministry 15,000 are of the violent Right, organized in 63 groups and complex organizations, guided by obsessive socio-political slogans and military strategies, reservoirs of violence and in fact embryonic political cells. Moreover, though they rally around their own home teams, they are capable of alliances with others in common causes for example against the police as shown in Rome some months ago when they attacked police barracks. It is obvious that who controls the ultras controls a potentially powerful militia. The Naziskin alarm does not end with Saturday night aggressions or stadium battles. They head the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Italy, profanation of Jewish cemeteries and graffiti on the walls of Italy praising the Duce, Hitler and the crematorium ovens. This racial intolerance and anti-Semitism are not only fashionable among Nazi Skin and the ultras, but also in some Northern League students circles and extreme Left groups.
This intolerance and aggression against weaker parts of society emerge from a subculture of violence only masked under the slogan of exacting justice alone.
The five youths who assassinated another youth allegedly over a cigarette are members of an extreme Right group, “Veneto Skinhead Front,” of 17 persons, ages 17-25, and of the Hellas Verona fan club. A rather spontaneous loose organization of like-minded youth, of the same Right Fascist ideologies and Nazi symbols. Their aggressions continue from week to week, for the most futile of excuses, beatings for the look of the other, beatings to maintain their control of the territory. In house searches Verona police have found cassettes of films of their aggressions. Some cassettes can be downloaded or circulate in the city and are sometimes sold.
The original association was founded in 1986 and maintains relations with other Right groups in Europe. Its members have often been involved in clashes with the police and Left militants and participated in Neo-Nazi manifestations throughout Europe. Their appearance, as usual, is an eloquent sign of the advanced putrefaction of bourgeois society, and the morally empty values of capitalist society that leave huge swaths of working class youths uninspired, unemployed, alienated and violently hostile to a status quo they hardly understand but which they blame on “the other” hence the anti-Muslim xenophobia they often exhibit. This fact notwithstanding, their political direction is frequently muddled and contradictory since several Italian skinhead factions vehemently oppose Bush and his illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Gaither Stewart, well known for his dispatches and essays from Europe, is Cyrano’s Journal’s Special European Correspondent based in Rome. This article is part of a series of reports he’s preparing chronicling the rightward drift in Italy and other parts of Europe.
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