Fascism, not migrants, is the real danger in Italy

February 14, 2018

Six African migrants living in Macerata, Italy, were shot by a fascist gunman on February 3. The shooting was a product of the rabidly anti-immigrant atmosphere being whipped up by politicians ahead of the country's March 4 elections. Eliana Como explains the background to the shooting and how the far right is both fomenting and benefiting from a toxic mixture of sexism and racism, in an article first published at the Switzerland-based A l'encontre website and translated by Todd Chretien.

AT THE end of January, a very young woman named Pamela from Macerata, Italy, was killed, cut into pieces and stuffed into a suitcase by a Nigerian man known to operate in illegal drug networks. The drug trafficker is in prison. But there is no peace for Pamela, and neither for us.

The barbaric femicide of a young Italian woman killed by an African immigrant in the waning days of Italy's election campaign has stimulated and propagated the worst racist instincts in the country, and has been instrumentalized by all parties. Pamela's mother appealed in vain to stop the machinery of hatred and put an end to vengeance and bloodshed. She affirmed that her daughter would have been horrified by the revenge killings.

After news of the young woman's death, all hell broke loose. Outrage over the umpteenth terrifying femicide unfortunately had nothing to do with it. Instead, the "jackals" appropriated the newspapers to make blood-curdling statements, full of hatred and racism, for use in a fiercely fought election campaign, appealing to the base instincts of the electorate, and unfortunately not only its right wing. Once again, all this is to the detriment of women. In fact, and even more sadly, it is perpetrated over the already broken body of a murdered woman.

Members of the Italian fascist group Forza Nuova march through Milan
Members of the Italian fascist group Forza Nuova march through Milan

A few days ago, we heard the far-right Northern League candidate in Lombardy invoking the "defense of the race" in the face of an alleged invasion of migrants. So while we were outraged, we were not surprised when, after the femicide in Macerata, the national leader of the League, Matteo Salvini, accused the left of having "blood on its hands." In unambiguous terms, he denounced Laura Boldrini, president of the Chamber of Deputies, who has advocated sympathetically for migrants and women.

IN THIS atmosphere, the inevitable occurred soon after. Luca Traini, the local spokesperson for the fascist organization Forza Nuova (New Force), who ran as a Northern League candidate in last year's municipal elections, passed over from rhetoric to action. He appeared in the streets of Macerata with a semi-automatic pistol and began shooting, injuring six migrants.

He was arrested shortly thereafter by the police as he wandered around, wrapped in Italy's tricolor flag, making the fascist salute with his arm raised. Searches of his house turned up, among others things, a copy of Hitler's biography Mein Kampf and swastika-emblazoned flags.

A fascist, nothing more or less, who has not repented even now that he is in prison, accused of homicide aggravated by racial hatred. It is no coincidence that Forza Nuova itself has eagerly offered to finance his legal defense.

Salvini poured gasoline on the fire, downplaying the specific facts of the case and relaunching his "out-of-control immigration" campaign. Meanwhile, former Italian president and current head of the conservative national electoral coalition Silvio Berlusconi announced his intention to expel 600,000 migrants if he wins the elections.

With chilling nonchalance, the League and the far right have transformed what would have been, in any other context, described as a terrorist attack with clear political motivations, into the reckless gesture of a young man.

Luca Traini, say the far right, was out of control, but he only wanted to "take justice into his own hands." The same phrase was used by Interior Minister Marco Minniti [spokesman for the neoliberal Democratic Party and a former member of the Italian Communist Party--PCI], who has used an iron fist against migrants, with raids and expulsions in Italy's main cities in recent months.

Of course, it is curious for one to apply the concept of "taking justice into his own hands" with respect to a man who did not attack the person who killed Pamela (because he is in prison), but instead shot down six men, guilty only of having the same skin color as Pamela's assailant. Our Minister of the Interior has no other concept of justice than the barbarous "do it yourself" mentality.

Simply put, for the press and the political class, this Luca Traina, who shot six strangers while draped in the Italian flag, is merely a "fool," while the real problem is immigration. The near-total silence about the shooting victims is disconcerting. Their names are hardly mentioned, only the color of their skin.

A FOUL mood reigns in Italy. Its leaders are Salvini and the neo-fascist organizations, but responsibility extends far beyond. Even center-left leaders--here Minister Minniti comes to mind--tolerate this climate and the rebirth of these organizations.

Forza Nuova and the far-right CasaPound organization are virtually illegal. Provision XII of the Italian Constitution prohibits "the reorganization, in any form whatsoever, of the dissolved fascist party."

And yet they are alive and growing, with the approval of many local and provincial administrations (including those run by center-left parties) and most "law enforcement" forces. They demonstrate freely and organize processions in broad daylight. In recent weeks, they have gathered signatures to run in the legislative elections.

It should go without saying that the entire Italian political establishment, from the center-right to the center-left--including recent technocratic governments that are supposedly apolitical--bears the responsibility of having pursued without interruption a regime of economic austerity which is the basis, almost everywhere in Europe, of social malaise and the rebirth of such racist hatred.

In all of this, another fact causes bitterness and a deep sense of injustice. In Italy, there is femicide, and then there is femicide, and the level of indignation rises or falls depending on if the murderer is an immigrant or an Italian. If the victim is an immigrant or an Italian. And if the victim is a prostitute, then the violence is not talked about it at all.

A few weeks ago, near my home in the province of Bergamo, a man killed a woman in a motel. It was hardly noticed. On the local TV station, the news crawled along the bottom of the screen in the news ticker. I wondered why, but I had a hunch.

A few days later, my guess was confirmed on page 25 of the local newspaper (Eco di Bergamo). This femicide did not make the headlines because she was a Nigerian and a prostitute. The title of the article left no doubt: "He left home carrying a gift."

The reporting took pains to provide context. A 61-year-old Italian man killed a 37-year-old Nigerian prostitute. According to the journalist (dear god, it was a woman!), the murderer "had a relationship with her for two years"--of course, he paid cash. But he fell in love, he wanted more. Now, without a job, the money he had set aside was about to run out.

But this murder did not constitute headline news, and there was no reason here to "take justice into one's own hands" because the "monster" was Italian. After all, he paid, and he brought gifts.

We must say this clearly: In Italy, there is no "immigration emergency." On the other hand, there is a real emergency: the rise of fascism. And alongside it, growing all around us, the most heinous sexism.

First published at A l'encontre. Translated from French by Todd Chretien.

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