Talk of a fascist takeover by the potential next Italian PM is misplaced
Last fall, members of the Brothers of Italy — the party of Giorgia Meloni, widely-tipped to replace Mario Draghi as Italian prime minister — received a stern internal memo. It said, in short: no more fooling around, no more extreme statements, no more references to Fascism and — above all — no more Roman salutes.
Sometime later, in April, they received another memo. It came on the eve of the celebrations that every year the “far-Right” Milanese movement dedicates to Sergio Ramelli, a young Right-wing militant killed outside his home in 1975 by Communist activists. The memo strongly urged the party’s members not to attend the demonstration. Meanwhile, the party — in the city of Lodi, in Lombardy — had already taken steps to expel a local leader who was a member of a political group considered too radical.
From the outside, these three episodes might appear to be of little importance. But for the Italian radical Right — what was once called “the Area” — they are impossible to ignore. To them, it shows that Brothers of Italy is no longer an “extreme Right” or “post-Fascist” or “identitarian” party. And neither are they simply trying to put on a respectable mask and sweep their Fascism under the rug. I have known a lot of “post-Fascists”, and Giorgia is not one of them. Indeed, if you ask most people on the radical Right, they would say she’s little more than a mildly conservative, economically liberal, centrist.
Giorgia Meloni is a nerd, not a radical. She studies and reads a lot, she disdains terms like “sovereignism” and she works day and night to fashion herself as an old-fashioned pro-family conservative. She’s not inspired so much by Marine Le Pen as she is by Viktor Orbán (conservative on cultural issues, rather pro-establishment on economic issues). She prefers Roger Scruton to Alain De Benoist. If she weren’t a politician, she might try to fashion herself as a sort of female Jordan Peterson. She’s a realist: she knows she has to pay regular visits to the Aspen Institute to reassure the powers that be. She’s often described as a people-pleasing populist because of her Roman “cockney” accent.
But she isn’t. And she certainly won’t become one in the future. Just look at how quick she was to pledge her allegiance to Nato’s anti-Russian crusade, despite the sympathy for Putin harboured by many of the party’s sympathisers. If anyone thinks that a Giorgia Meloni-led government — in the unlikely event that it ever sees the light of day — will pave the way to “Fascism”, they are deeply mistaken.
On the other hand: if you are hoping that she will lead the revolution – against “Europe” or “the establishment” – you are likely to be disappointed. Might she vex the EU establishment like Orbán does? Possibly. But will the centre-Right allies whose support she needs to get into government — first and foremost Berlusconi — allow her to go down that road? (And even more importantly: Orbán can get away with what he does mainly because Hungary is not in the euro and, unlike Italy, can’t be financially blackmailed.)
But it is likely she would take a much softer approach to future Covid restrictions — and that in itself is likely to make a lot of Italians happy. But don’t expect much more than that. Indeed, I’m willing to bet a lot of “moderates” on the Left and on the Right would (secretly perhaps) approve of her. She is, after all, a serious politician. But behind her she has a weak and ideologically-fractured party. She might even be a good prime minister, but don’t expect a revolution.