An election is coming up in Italy in September, and the Brothers of Italy party, led by co-founder Giorgia Meloni, is currently leading the polls. There has been scant attention to the election in the U.S., but European news coverage is interesting for what it tells us about the state of politics on that continent, which in some ways mirrors conditions here in America.
France 24 headlines: “Brothers of Italy, the far-right party on the cusp of power.” Polling suggests that Brothers of Italy will be the largest component of a winning “right/far right” coalition. But what makes Meloni and her party far right?
In recent European politics, “far right” just means skeptical of the wisdom of mass third-world immigration. And enforcing immigration laws evidently is popular with Italian voters, as with voters everywhere. Beyond that, Meloni’s political opponents smear her as a would-be fascist. However:
Piero Ignazi, a professor emeritus at the University of Bologna and an expert on Brothers of Italy, [said]: “The party’s identity is, for the most part, linked to post-fascist traditions. But its platform mixes this tradition with some mainstream conservative ideas and neoliberal elements such as free enterprise.”
You can be a fascist or you can be an advocate of free enterprise, but you can’t be both.
This sheds more light on what the European press means by “far right”:
Meloni also has ties with the US far right, having attended the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference and the National Prayer Breakfast alongside ex-president Donald Trump.
That explains a lot. CPAC, the National Prayer Breakfast and President Trump–how far right can you get?
The London Times seems a little more sympathetic to Meloni. Here, the paper highlights the Italian establishment’s hostility to her and its possible efforts to derail her candidacy:
Left-wing magistrates in Italy are preparing to launch spurious investigations into the right-wing leader Giorgia Meloni to ruin her chances of becoming prime minister, one of her closest aides has claimed.
In a stinging attack on Italy’s judiciary, Guido Crosetto, co-founder of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, told The Times that Italy’s magistrates were “as bad as fascists” and would seek to damage Meloni’s reputation in the coming weeks.
“It could be any accusation, and then years later they drop it — Italy is not a real democracy due to its powerful magistrates,” said Crosetto, 58. “The fascists put you in jail but everyone knew you were innocent, just an enemy of the regime. Now they arrest you and everything thinks you are guilty,” he added.
“Ever since 1994, part of the magistracy has decided almost all elections and the fate of parties and leaders, and they have almost always struck the opponents of the left. There is a part of the magistracy which is politicised and kills off its political enemies,” said Crosetto.
The Italian left constantly tries to tie Meloni and her party to Mussolini, but Crosetto makes a good point:
“People who praise Mussolini are idiots,” he said, adding, “Mussolini was a dictator who passed the racial laws, but that was a consequence of him being a dictator.”
But rather than discussing Mussolini, Italy should be recalling the centre-left Democratic Party’s ties to communism, he added.
“I find it ridiculous that everyone asks Meloni to justify Mussolini but no-one asks Enrico Letta, the leader of the Democratic Party, which descends from the Communist Party, to justify Stalin and Lenin — it’s the same thing,” he said.
Perhaps inadvertently, the Times makes Meloni sound rather attractive:
Combative, opinionated and with a strong accent from her native Rome that can make her sound permanently angry, Meloni is the latest European populist to tap into resentment of their country’s political class. Like most, she is anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic and critical of what the Italians call pensiero unico (single thought) — a term signifying something politically correct or woke.
But she is also an Atlanticist keen to dispel fears in Europe about the Italian right’s admiration of President Putin.
One last thing, which illustrates the fact that liberals’ attacks on conservatives often don’t turn out the way they intended:
Three years ago Giorgia Meloni, the rising star of Italy’s nationalist right, unwittingly found herself a hit on the country’s dancefloors. A speech in which she described herself as “a woman, a mother, an Italian and a Christian” was seized on by a couple of DJs unhappy about her views on gay marriage; they sampled her words, mixed them up and put a dance beat behind them.
But the stunt backfired: the song shot up the charts and rather than discrediting Meloni, it added to her growing popularity. “The song was too good and too danceable,” she later recalled. “What was meant to be a weapon against my ideas paradoxically became a powerful way of amplifying and spreading them.”
Funny how that works. This is the song:
If I were Italian, Meloni would have my vote.