ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Quand le maire de Rome vole au secours du fascisme
by Gaël De Santis
Translated Saturday 27 September 2008, by
Italy. Right-wing politicians aim to put the balance of the Mussolini years “into perspective,” creating unease.
“It is unacceptable to consider fascism as an absolute evil only in the period in which it produced racial laws,” Tino Casale, the president of the National Association of Italian Partisans (ANPI), explained. Some of the top Italian leaders have forgotten this self-evident truth. “Those laws were just the natural result of the liberty-killing orientation that fascism pursued from the very beginning,” he warned in an interview with l’Humanité. He was reacting to statements by the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, and by defense minister Ignazio La Russa, both of whom are members of the National Alliance, the post-fascist party which will enter Silvio Berlusconi’s Peoples of Freedoms party at the end of the year.
“I don’t think so, and I never thought that fascism was absolutely evil,” was Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno’s answer in an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Sunday, during a visit to Jerusalem. “Fascism was a more complicated phenomenon (...) many people joined fascism in good faith and I don’t think that it is possible to speak of them in terms of absolute evil. [But] the racial laws that were desired under fascism and which contributed to its cultural and political end were, for their part, absolutely evil,” he continued. Then the vice Prime Minister, the leader of the National Alliance of the time, and present president of the National Assembly, had described fascism as “absolute evil” from Jerusalem, triggering a “democratic” turn in the Italian fascist right.
Proof that his “colonels” have not abandoned their former culture, the words of the defense minister, Ignazio La Russa, at the September 8 ceremony in Rome commemorating the armistice and the Resistance: “I would betray my conscience if I did not recall that other men in uniform, such as the Nembo [parachute division] of the Italian Social Republic army, [Editor’s note: which was founded by Benito Mussolini in 1943 after he had been deposed] also, from their point of view, fought in the belief they were defending their fatherland in countering in the following months the Anglo-American landing, and they therefore deserve respect, even in the difference of position, from all those who look at the history of Italy objectively,” he declared, before being bluntly condemned by the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, who paid homage to the 600,000 Italian soldiers who were deported to Nazi concentration camps and who refused to obtain their freedom in exchange for fighting for the Republic of Salo (1).
These words, which have just shown that, despite its transformation, the Italian right has not broken with its fascist past, have shocked the Jewish community, the main victim of the deportations, and the left. “Those who fought on the side of fascism and nazism were wrong. Beware of forgetting that they were wrong,” Massimo D’Alema stated at a party thrown by the Democratic Party. The communists preferred to underline the anti-fascist nature of the Italian constitution. “Anti-fascism is in fact the basis on which republican Italy is built. And for that reason, anti-fascism must not be a party political position, it must be the civil religion on which our constitutional cohabitation is based,” said Paolo Ferrero, the general secretary of the Communist Refoundation Party
(1) The Italian Social Republic (RSI) was a puppet state of Nazi Germany led by Benito Mussolini. The RSI exercised official sovereignty in northern Italy but was largely dependent on the Wehrmacht (German military) to maintain control. The state was informally known as the Salò Republic because the RSI’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mussolini) was headquartered in Salò, a small town on Lake Garda. The Italian Social Republic was the second and last incarnation of a Fascist Italian state.