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2020 ECPR Winter School in Methods & Techniques

Italy: From Neo-Fascism to Populist Extreme Right

Political Parties
Political Ideology
Piero Ignazi
Università di Bologna
Piero Ignazi
Università di Bologna

Fascism is dead but radical right is alive. Italy is experiencing this apparent contradiction.
All historians from Roger Griffin to Emilio Gentile share the same opinion: fascism has arrived at an end-game. The revival of symbols, flags, slogans impacts upon the imaginary. They could raise concern and even anxiety but they lack real substance. Because fascism needed an industrial society with all its contradictions and tensions; and, above all , an enemy: communism. These conditions are no longer there. However we still observe the rise of attitudes that overlap with fascist ideology: anti-liberal and anti-democratic thinking and postures. The present extreme right, or radical-populist, movements all over Europe express hostility to the cornerstones of liberal-democratic systems. They preach for an exclusionary, homogenous society where foreigners are banned; for a tough government which send to the wall any opposition; for traditional values which marginalize non-conformist behaviour.
These features are present also in Italy, with some qualification. The historic neo-fascist party (Msi) evolved into a post-fascist one in the mid-1990s (an) and then disappeared absorbed into Berlusconi’s party (PdL) in the late 2000s. That heritage has been maintained by a minor party, Brothers of Italy (credited of 5% in in the incoming elections), and by some minor fringes such as Forza Nuova and Casa Pound. However, the real Italian interpreter of the radical right is not a party of that lineage: it is the former autonomist Lega Nord, now labelled only Lega, to signify its national prospective. This party is the classical anti-immigrant, xenophobic and populist actor of the Italian party system, perfectly in tune with the French Front National and the Austrian FPO.
The paper will present an inspection of the radical turn of Lega, in the general context of the Italian extreme right evolution. Particular attention will be devoted to the attitudes of a sample of voters and militants
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