Militant Anti-Fascism

Fascism and Neo-Fascism

Recently, during a demonstration commemorating the killing of an extreme right-wing militant, a large number of people were seen giving the fascist salute in his memory, sparking significant controversy regarding the legality of the gesture. It appears that the judiciary has issued conflicting opinions on the same matter, leading to the consideration of the Supreme Court to provide guidance on the issue. In practice, the Supreme Court has ruled that the fascist salute constitutes an offense only if accompanied by an incitement to political violence; it is then up to the judges to determine if such incitement is present. This does not seem to clarify the legality of the gesture much. On the other hand, the issue stirs debate across Europe, but we will not delve into the problem here, as it appears peripheral. The real question is whether a democracy can tolerate political movements that seek to revive or are inspired by the fascism of the last century.

First of all, it is necessary to clarify what is meant by fascism and democracy, concepts often used in different and improper ways. If fascism is understood as the historical movement, it is certain that it definitively disappeared 80 years ago and could not re-emerge today in the same way that the Pope cannot declare a crusade anymore or the Bourbons return to the throne of Naples. Fascism developed in a context completely different from ours, in which other ideologies such as German Nazism, Spanish Falangism, and Japanese imperialism also emerged, all of them different movements. In history, certain mentalities can persist almost unchanged for centuries and then almost completely vanish in a short time. The disasters of the Second World War completely annihilated the world in which fascism could thrive. However, if fascism is understood as all forms of violence and evil present in Italy and the world, then it is obvious that it will never be eliminated, as nothing is perfect and evil is always present. A common logical confusion also arises when associating those who support positions similar to those of fascism with this movement: being against abortion, gay marriage, or sovereignty limitation does not automatically imply being fascist, but these can be convictions shared by many other ideologies. It is not fair to consider support for policies to promote childbirth as fascism just because the fascist regime also promoted such a campaign. Moreover, not every authoritarian political system that does not allow dissent should be considered fascist; otherwise, most of the modern world, from Arab regimes to China, would be fascist, as would our entire past, from Caesar to Charlemagne to Peter the Great. By stretching the concept of fascism beyond every historical context, there is a risk of applying it to every political system, including communism and democracy, making the term almost omnipresent and meaningless.

Historically evaluating this or that element of fascism and giving a not entirely negative judgment on fascism is part of democratic freedom. For example, neo-Bourbon movements reevaluate the Bourbon kingdom, celebrate those who supported it, and even though they wave Bourbon flags, they certainly do not intend to restore the monarchy. Therefore, let's talk about neo-fascism: it is different to try to subvert democratic freedoms by force (fascism) and to be inspired by fascism while accepting the method and democratic institutions (neo-fascism). It should be noted that neo-fascists accept democratic freedoms and often vehemently defend them. The Italian Social Movement (MSI), a neo-fascist party, has always been considered legal in Italy and has even voted confidence in some governments; it was admitted because it did not seek to subvert democracy by force. Similarly, the Italian Communist Party (PCI), despite being a supporter of the Soviets and led for twenty years by Togliatti, a collaborator of Stalin, was admitted because it renounced violent revolution to overthrow bourgeois democracy, as was argued at the time. In a broad sense, there were no dangers of fascism (and communism) 50 years ago, it would be absurd to fear them now.


Democracy and Freedom

It is true that in a society where there is not a broad, extensive consensus on democracy, there cannot be democracy. If communism and neo-fascism had been outlawed as antidemocratic movements, there would have been no democracy. On the other hand, democracy is characterized not only by pluralistic elections but above all by freedom of opinion, without which the former would make no sense.

Now, if someone wants to give a positive judgment on fascism, thinking that it has also done good things, they should be able to do so freely. Personally, I don't see anything to celebrate about fascism, but if some want to do so, I don't see why they shouldn't be allowed. There are neo-Bourbon movements that, for example, in resistance to post-unification banditry, see it as a war of liberation. As long as it remains an opinion, it is permissible; it would only be illegal if someone attempted with violence to recreate the Kingdom of Naples, but no one is seriously thinking about such a thing, just as no one is thinking of returning to fascism.

The fundamental point is that the use of violence is not allowed, and therefore it should be severely punished. What undermines democracy are attacks on trade union headquarters, looting, and violence in the streets that, within certain limits, end up being tolerated.

It can also be thought that in a democracy, if participation in a group is prohibited, it ends up exalting its importance. It is true that the Constitution is inspired by principles contrary to fascism (and Soviet communism), but this does not mean that such thinking is prohibited. Democracies are based on freedom of expression of thought, while illiberal regimes (not just dictatorships) prevent it and, in general, manage to impose (at least partially) a certain way of thinking. Now, if our Constitution were to prohibit fascist-inspired thought, then it would be fascism in reverse and not a democracy. Laws do not provide historical judgments, but they can prohibit certain behaviors: the Constitution itself is not an unchangeable divine law, but it provides procedures for amendment.

As a transitional provision (later in practical terms), it prohibits the reconstitution of the Fascist Party. But in the sense of a party that wants to overthrow democracy, a definition that could also be applied to many extreme left-wing movements (perhaps even to the PCI of Togliatti). It never concerned the MSI, which although formed by nostalgic ex-fascists, did not seek to subvert democracy by force.

In substance, to re-propose fascism (or communism) would be out of touch with reality; let's say that a Mussolini today would be laughable. After all, prohibiting it would give it an importance it does not have. The prohibition of the reconstitution of the PF was precisely intended in the sense of a party that threatens democratic freedom. The fact that a party recognizes certain fascist principles as just does not necessarily imply that it is a danger to democracy. A danger to democracy could be the woke movement, which criminalizes dissent from prevailing thought.

Personally, I believe that fascism was a disaster, but if others consider it a good thing, they must be free to say so; otherwise, it would be fascism in reverse. I don't claim to be the definitive judge of truth, so some assessments are right and others are wrong: in democracy, no one has the ultimate and definitive truth. Some reassess the work of Stalin; I believe it is absurd, but I believe it is not forbidden to support it. But the problem here is not whether fascism was all bad or whether there was also something good: but whether having a certain personal opinion favorable to certain aspects of fascism is permissible or not.

The decisive point is that in all democracies, neo-fascist movements (not fascist, which no longer exist) are admitted and sometimes even in government. In Germany, the AFD reaches 10%, in the Netherlands and Italy, they are even in the government. After 70 years in which in (almost) all democracies parties that in some way refer to fascism have been admitted, and some of them are even in government, would it ever be possible to outlaw them? And if it happened, could we still talk about democracy? The prohibition concerns only those groups that intend to overthrow democracy by force.

The fact that extra-parliamentary left-wing movements (not democratic left) demand their dissolution confirms that they too do not accept democracy and in fact dream of a different society, let's say neo-communist. This is why militant anti-fascism is precisely for those who do not support democracy (historically constituted), but believe that the TRUE popular will should coincide with certain principles that are actually those they share.

Democracy consists of pluralistic elections in an atmosphere of free thought: if some ideas that were fascist (communist, Martian) are shared by the majority, then we remain within the democratic framework unless freedom of thought is lacking. In short, we are not in a democracy if we admit gay marriage, but if its admission corresponds to the will of the majority and the minority can express themselves freely against it. It seems to me that today a threat to democracy could be woke ideology and not fascism or communism.