Italy is not Germany, fascism is not a taboo here. The Constitutional provisions and the laws forbidding the creation of fascist organizations “under any form” have not been enforced. There used to be a mainstream party, the Italian Social Movement, which admittedly inspired itself to Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic.
That said, until now any extremism – be it rightist, leftist or post-ideological – has found in the Italian Republic a swamp and then its tomb.
The Italian Communist Party was the strongest in the Western world, but it never entered the Government palaces.
The brutal violence employed by far right and far left groups during the Seventies and the Eighties was, despite all its cruelty, a desperate, last-ditch attempt to find any political relevance after it had became clear that the electoral way was closed.
In 2014 the Five Stars Movement, which promises to wipe out the whole existing establishment, looked on the verge of taking power, but in the end it was humiliatingly defeated by the Democratic Party.
Italians like to talk big in the cafes or when talking to journalists or pollsters, but within the voting booth they think back to their family, their home and their bank account, and they choose a conservative option.
The first man who didn’t understand the intimate nature of Italians was Benito Mussolini, who thought that they were a belligerent race after they accepted compulsory military drills on Saturdays. The same mistake was made by his neo-fascist admirers, but also by communist hardliners like the terrorists of the Red Brigades, who found themselves facing the leftist trade unions which took the streets against them.
Then came Beppe Grillo, the leader of the Five Stars Movement, who thought that the Italians were ready to start a revolution because they were clamoring for it on the Net.
The last victim of this illusion is likely to be Matteo Salvini, who turned the autonomist Northern League into a nationalist party opposed to the European Union and to immigration, forging an alliance with the rightist Brothers of Italy and starting a close relationship with the French National Front.
Could he be the man who turns a (dark) dream into reality? Some small signals point to the opposite direction.
His grand rally in Rome failed to attract the huge crowd which was expected, despite the fact that the audience was beefed by allowing in some embarrassing sympathizers belonging to the neo-fascist organisation Casa Pound. On the other side, thousands of people took the streets of the capital in a counter-rally.
The Venetian wing of Mr Salvini’s party, led by the popular Mayor of Verona Flavio Tosi, distanced itself from the new agenda, even threatening to present a separate slate in the imminent regional elections: a move that could cost Mr Salvini the Governatorate of the Venetian Region, a traditional stronghold of his party. Mr Tosi’s mutiny is also due to internal power struggles within the party, but the discontent of some members for Mr Salvini’s new agenda undoubtedly had a part.
Finally the new hero of the Italian right, Graziano Stacchio, the owner of a gas station outside Venice who shot and killed a thief, refused to run for election and unexpectedly stated that he fells no pride whatsoever for his action.