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FTR #321 The Return of Il Duce, Part II

Listen: One Segment

Updating discussion of the return of the fascist Alleanza Nazionale as part of the coalition government of Silvio Berlusconi, this program further illustrates how the Berlusconi government is, through word, symbol and deed, breathing new life into Italian fascism. Berlusconi was a member of the crypto-fascist P-2 Lodge.

1. Beginning with discussion of the rehabilitation of Salo (the epicenter of late World War II Italian fascism), the broadcast highlights the interests of the fascist Alleanza Nazionale in the political resurrection of the memory of the Salo Republic. After Mussolini capitulated, his followers were established in the Northern Italian town of Salo, under the stewardship of the Nazi SS. “But the elections that swept the Berlusconi coalition to power in May also replaced the provincial leftists with rightists—and the project [a memorial to the Salo Republic] was through. Lombardy had agreed to fund the largest part of the modest starting costs–L70m (23,000 Euros), with a further L20m from the province and L10m from Salo. Salo will also provide accommodation—at first in a floor of the lovely Palazzo Fantoni, later, a permanent home in a more contentious building, the former home of the Decima Mas, a semi-autonomous, ferociously fascist paramilitary group. Memories, long calmed, are going to be stirred into life once more.” (“Marketing Mussolini” by John Lloyd; Financial Times; 8/4-5; 2001; p. I.)

2. As political analysts have noted, the actions in Salo have much more than symbolic importance. “The project—in spite of the municipal leftists’ hesitant consent—is being sucked into the raw and re-opened debate in Italy of a past that still has the capacity to explode into contemporary politics. The decision of the little town of Salo, once it becomes real and tangible, will be taken as a sign of a much larger movement: a movement to make comprehensible—even, for some, acceptable—the choice many Italians made in 1943 to stay loyal to fascism.” (Idem.)

3. “Paul Ginsborg, who holds a chair in contemporary history at Florence University and is a high-profile historian of the left, says: ‘Now the centre-right is in power, there will be huge pressure. This will be especially on the media and on schools, to change the textbooks, to construct different versions of key events in the past—fascism, the war, communism. ‘I don’t think this will come from Berlusconi—he’s not interested. But the Alleanza, the second party in government, has a real interest in a new history.” (Idem.)

4. Utilizing the brilliant work of Kevin Coogan, the broadcast draws on his consummately important text Dreamer of the Day Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International. One of the key figures in the Salo Republic was Prince Junio Valerio Borghese. As noted above, visitors to Salo will be housed in the former headquarters of Borghese’s Decima Mas. “A modern condottiere, Borghese was one of Italy’s most innovative and daring naval strategists, and headed an elite naval sabotage unit called Decima Flottiglia MAS (or X-MAS) during World War II. His use of midget submarines against the British caught the attention of Grand Admiral Karl Donitz, who arranged for Borghese to train German naval sabotage units. After the collapse of Mussolini’s government in 1943, Borghese’s men continued to fight for Germany under the overall command of SS General Wolff. His unit now became a brutal, anti-partisan army that targeted the Communist-dominated Resistance movement in northern Italy. It also fought against American Rangers and Canadian troops on the Anzio front. Decima Mas even had a spy outfit headquartered in Switzerland that worked closely with the SD [the SS intelligence service].” (Ibid.; p. 331.)

5. Mr. Coogan relates Borghese’s rescue by former CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton—a rescue that presaged Borghese’s work on behalf of the CIA and NATO during the Cold War. (Note that the OSS–Office of Strategic Services—was America’s wartime intelligence agency. The MSI—the Italian Social Movement—was the successor to Mussolini’s fascist party and the predecessor of the Alleanza Nazionale.) “At the end of the war, Borghese opened up contact with the OSS’s James Jesus Angleton. Angleton, who later became one of the CIA’s most powerful officials, ran the OSS’s ‘X-2’ counterintelligence branch for Italy during the war. He personally saved Borghese from certain partisan execution by dressing him up in an American uniform and driving him south to Rome for interrogation. Although Borghese was convicted of war crimes, the Italian Supreme Court of Appeals ordered him released from jail in 1949. After regaining his freedom, the Black Prince also became a hero for MSI hardliners.” (Idem.)

6. Developing a relationship with the CIA, Borghese helped develop the “Strategy of Tension,” a political policy of successfully manipulation of violence and terrorism for the purpose of suspending democracy. “Borghese’s importance for the CIA went beyond politics. The CIA-backed SIFAR spy agency began organizing secret squadrons (many composed of ex-officers of the SID, Mussolini’s secret police) for espionage and ‘counter-espionage’ operations against the left in 1949. The CIA then created an underground army of ex-fascist combat veterans in an operation codenamed ‘Operation Gladio’ (Gladio being the name for a Roman double-edged sword.) Gladio, however, couldn’t succeed without Borghese’s tacit approval.” (Ibid.; p. 332.)

7. More about “Gladio” and its genesis follows. “Operation Gladio was first made public in August 1990, when then-Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti admitted its existence to the Italian Parliamentary Committee on Terrorism. To this day, much about Gladio remains mysterious. It seems that planning for the operation began to take shape in 1951, around the time Borghese was being actively courted by the CIA. Gladio was incorporated into Office ‘R’ of SIFAR in 1956. On paper, Gladio was a NATO-backed ‘Stay Behind’ operation: Any Soviet attack on Italy would encounter a pre-established a sabotage training school in Sardinia in 1954. Technically, Gladio was made up of two principal branches: 40 S/B (Stay Behind) units trained in guerilla warfare, and five rapid deployment units with names like Alpine Star, Sea Star, Rhododendron, and Azalea. American-supplied weapons, including hand grenades, sniper rifles, and explosives were also buried in 139 hiding spots.” (Idem.)

8. “The Italian government initially claimed that Gladio was part of a general agreement within NATO. NATO, however, officially denied any involvement. Revelations that Gladio-type organizations existed in non-NATO nations like Austria, Spain, and Switzerland further eroded the NATO cover story. Gladio really seems to have been what its name means: a double-edged sword to be used against both the Soviets and any elements inside Italy, from either the left or right, that might try to take Italy out of NATO. Gladio also served as the backdrop for the ‘strategy of tension,’ which repeatedly destabilized Italian politics with bombings and other terrorist acts. Popular fear of terrorism, from either the ‘left’ or ‘right,’ could then be used to justify a suspension of constitutional law or even, in a worst-case scenario, a military-backed Pinochet-like ‘white coup’ to insure Italy’s continued allegiance to the West.” (Idem.)

9. Before continuing to analysis of Berlusconi, his fascist coalition government and the retrenchment of Mussolini/Salo veterans under his administration, the broadcast reviews German political philosopher’s Carl Schmitt’s postulations, developed as part of his theory of “conservative revolution” during the Weimar Republic. “The suspension of constitutional law and a ‘legal’ military seizure of power to restore public order were both practical postwar applications of Carl Schmitt’s constitutional theories. Recall that Schmitt first became famous in Germany for his ‘theory of exception’ that justified the suspension of parliamentary democracy in an emergency. Schmitt argued that the distinction between sate and civil society had been rendered obsolete in the modern world by the clash of hostile interest groups, as evidenced by the class struggle.” (Ibid.; pp. 332-333.)

10. A key component of the “Strategy of Tension” and Operation Gladio, an associate of Borghese, and a part of the electoral coalition that Berlusconi rode to power was Giuseppe “Pino” Rauti—the founder of Ordine Nuovo. (For more about Rauti’s alignment with Berlusconi, see FTR#320.) “The most important of these [Gladio-related] groups was Giuseppe “Pino” Rauti’s Ordine Nuovo [New Order, or ON], which had split from the MSI after its 1956 congress chanting, ‘Fewer double-breasted suits and more cudgels.’ Rauti’s move was ideologically inspired by Evola, whom Rauti worshipped. Rauti also maintained close ties to Italian military intelligence: Organizations like Ordine Nuovo were regularly employed as street fighters against the left; they also engaged in bombings and killings, and helped create a popular climate for more repressive measures against ‘anarchy’ from either the right or left—a kind of political yin/yang that justified the flourishing of the secret state. As part of the strategy of tension, rightist operatives and police agents used left and anarchist groups that they had created, or legitimate sects that had been infiltrated.” (Ibid.; p. 334.)

11. After the successful electoral bid that was supported by Rauti’s forces, Berlusconi proceeded to appoint fascists associated with the old Salo Republic, the MSI and its newer reincarnation the Alleanza Nazionale. Other key Berlusconi appointees were from the Liga Norda of Umberto Bossi. “A former soldier of Benito Mussolini’s nazi-fascist Salo Republic has become a minister in Silvio Berlusconi’s government in Italy, in which members of the neo-fascist National alliance and the xenophobic Northern League have taken key posts after the right’s recent election victory.” (“The New Italy: The Rise of Fascism Within and Without” by Alfio Bernabei; The Searchlight; July/2001; p. 28.)

12. The program briefly reviews the subject of the Salo Republic, before discussing Mirko Tremaglia’s role with both Salo and with the Berlusconi administration. “Mussolini formed the puppet state in 1943 when, rescued by the Germans, he came under the direct control of Adolf Hitler. The headquarters were in Salo, northern Italy, which was, in fact, German territory. Soldiers of the Salo Republic were among the staunchest supporters of nazi-fascism. Their task was to slaughter Italian partisans who were by then fighting in a bitter civil war to weaken the German Army and the Italian Blackshirts in order to help the Allied forces, which were slowly moving north to liberate the country.” (Idem.)

13. As indicated above, in Berlusconi’s Italy, what was old is new again. Tremaglia’s role as leader of “the Two Italys” (one at home and one abroad) is revealing in light of the P-2’s operations abroad. “The elevation to the role of minister in Berlusconi’s team of Mirko Tremaglia, 75, described as a Salo Republic military [veteran] who has never sought to distance himself from his past, has provided the clearest indication of the degree of encouragement the newly formed government intends to give to the neo-fascists throughout Italy and the world. Tremaglia’s main task will be to look after the interests of the many millions of Italians living abroad and may seek to revamp Mussolini’s cherished ambition of the ‘two Italys’, one within the border and one abroad, acting in unison to form an internationalist fascist vanguard.” (Idem.)

14. Tremaglia’s appointment was not an atypical occurrence under Berlusconi. “The presence of Tremaglia and of so many cabinet ministers directly associated with fascism or neo-fascism, although widely expected after the election result, has outraged a number of Italian commentators. The list of ministers reads like a who’s who of the neo-fascist or xenophobic tendencies. The Communication Minister, Maurizio Gasparri, was the national president of both the neo-fascist Fronte della Gioventu, or Youth Front, and Fuan-Destra Universitaria and joined the MSI when Fini became its leader in 1988. The Environment Minister is Altero Matteoli, who was also regional leader of the MSI. The Agriculture Minister, Giovanni Alemanno, was a member of the MSI and secretary of the Youth Front. The minister in charge of devolution and social change is none other than Umberto Bossi of the xenophobic Lega Nord, the once separatist movement that over the years has done so much to ignite racist sentiments first against southern Italians and then against immigrants as a whole.” (Idem.)

15. Reviewing Berlusconi’s membership in the P-2, the program alludes to the coup attempts conducted under the umbrella of Gladio and the Strategy of Tension. “These were piloted by whoever was behind Gladio and the P2 Masonic Lodge. References to ‘Berlusconi l’amerikano’, spelt with a ‘k’ in place of the ‘c’, have appeared in the Italian press, as has the term ‘biduista’ applied to the current government and taken as an allusion to the P2, the so-called ‘government within the government’ that was headed by Licio Gelli and listed the premier among its members.” (Ibid.; pp. 28-29.)

16. At a large and widely-publicized anti-globalisation demonstration in Genoa in July of 2001, the demonstrators were handled by Gianfranco Fini, the Deputy Prime Minister. The treatment allegedly accorded them echoes the fascist politics of the Musolini era. “ROME LETTER: ‘If you want to know just why the police decided to raid the Genoa Social Forum centers on the Saturday night, you should put that question to the honorable Fini.’ The speaker is Vittorio Agnoletto, spokesman for the Genoa Social Forum (GSF), the main Italian, pacifist anti-globalization movement. The ‘honorable Fini’ is ex-Fascist Alleanza Nazionale leader and current Deputy Prime Minister, Gianfranco Fini.” (“Was Former Fascist Behind Genoa Crackdown?” by Paddy Agnew; Irish Times; 8/1/2001.)

17. After discussing the self-discrediting violence that many of the demonstrators at Genoa engaged in, the article goes on to ask some important questions. “Consistent reports through the last week, however, that detained protesters were made to shout ‘Viva il Duce’ and ‘Uno, due, tre, Pinochet’ would suggest that elements in the security forces went beyond their brief. . . . ‘What was Deputy Prime Minister Fini doing at police HQ in Genoa? What were four Alleanza Nazionale deputies doing in the Carabinieri Operations Room?’” (Idem.)

18. Shortly after the demonstrations, a bomb attack in Genoa suggested that the “years of lead” and the Strategy of Tension might not be past events in Italy. “A bomb extensively damaged the courthouse in the northern Italian city of Venice early yesterday morning, before a visit to the city by Mr. Berlusconi, [Reuters reports from Venice]. The prime minister called for calm, but described the bombing as ‘a worrying escalation of violence’. He said Italian institutions had become the target of what he called ‘an international movement that was not born in Italy but appears to have as its aim a fight against the Italian government..’” (“Berlusconi Defends Call to Move Food Summit” by Jo Johnson; Financial Times; 8/10/2001; p. 2.)


One comment for “FTR #321 The Return of Il Duce, Part II”

  1. This probably shouldn’t be wildly surprising at this point, but it looks like Beppe Grillo – the comedian-turned-populist-turned “kingmaker” after securing over 25% of the vote in the recent Italian elections – has a bit of an anti-semitism problem along with various other far-right ideas that have infiltrated the larger “5 Star” movement. Few in the Italian press are mentioning this, and it’s part of a broader trend:

    Thursday, Mar 7, 2013 4:45 PM UTC
    Italy kingmaker’s anti-Jewish views under scrutiny
    By By Frances D’emilio

    ROME (AP) — Comic Beppe Grillo’s populist tirades were seen as a benign outlet for popular anger in the days his protest movement was a sideshow in Italian politics. Now that he’s one of Italy’s most powerful figures, his views are coming under greater scrutiny — and a history of anti-Semitic statements has started to raise concern outside the country.

    Grillo’s 5-Star Movement captured a quarter of the votes in last month’s national elections, making him the kingmaker in a ballot that left none of the mainstream parties in control of Parliament. Given that political clout, foreign observers have expressed alarm over comments Grillo has made about a Jewish lobby controlling information, about Jewish Hollywood producers out to get actor Mel Gibson and about how he finds Israel “frightening.”

    The statements have yet to create much of a stir in Italy itself, where anti-Jewish and other racial slurs can find a surprisingly high level of tolerance. But anti-defamation advocates say Grillo must now be held to account due to his new position of power.

    “As an entertainer, he was only accountable to his public. Now, he’s accountable to all of the people of Italy and his antics and ravings about Jews and Israel become a much more serious concern,” said Michael Salberg, New York-based director of international affairs for the Anti-Defamation League.

    “The expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment by someone who attracted nearly 25 percent of the vote is a matter of concern,” Salberg said, while adding there was no indication that Grillo’s popularity with voters was tied to anti-Semitism.

    Last year, in an interview with Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot, Grillo claimed that a Jewish lobby controls all the information Europeans learn about Israel and the Palestinian territories. The anti-Semitic thread winds back years, with an entry Grillo made in his much-followed blog shortly after Gibson made derogatory comments about Jews during his arrest for drunken driving in 2006.

    “The Hollywood producers of Jewish origin and even the others if there are any,” Grillo railed, were threatening Gibson’s career. If the actor “had said …’Israel could cause the outbreak of the Third World War’ perhaps they would have reopened Alcatraz just for him and then thrown away the keys,” Grillo wrote.

    Giving his own views, Grillo added: “Israel is frightening. Its behavior is irresponsible. There! I’ve said it! And I’m not even drunk.”

    So far Italian Jewish leaders have made no public comment on Grillo’s anti-Jewish, anti-Israel remarks. Jews form a tiny minority among Italy’s predominantly Roman Catholic population.

    Menachem Gantz, the Israeli journalist who conducted the 2012 Yedioth Ahronot interview of Grillo, said his quick rise and his strong election showing are “scary” and “dangerous” for Italy.

    A Rome-based American journalist and a longtime observer of Italian society, Lisa Palmieri-Billig, also noted a strong racist and anti-Semitic streak among some of Grillo’s supporters. She wrote this month for the website of AJC, a worldwide Jewish advocacy organization, that the 5-Star Movement has “not yet taken an open stand against expressions of racism and anti-Semitism, regarding the content of his bloggers.”

    The concerns being raised abroad about Grillo’s anti-Semitic comments have gotten scant attention in the mainstream media.

    Turin daily La Stampa became one of the few newspapers to examine the issue with an article this week headlined “American Jews in alarm: anti-Semites among the 5-Star” supporters. It cited the conservative publication American Thinker’s warning that “dangerous times” lie ahead for Europe if a “Clown hates the Jews” — a reference to Grillo.

    Asked why Italian society seems unperturbed by suspicions of anti-Semitism swirling about Grillo, Palmieri-Billig replied that it might be because “there is a section of Italian public opinion that follows this line (of) stereotypical conditioning.”

    lGrillo’s 5-Star lawmakers are all neophytes to politics, with such fresh faces as a 25-year-old unemployed Neapolitan woman who studied theater. By a show of hands, the Movement’s lawmakers selected as their whip for the Chamber of Deputies a young Roman woman who in a blog posting a few weeks ago praised Benito Mussolini’s fascist rule, saying it showed a “very high sense of state and protection for families.”

    “The whip praises ‘good’ fascism,’” Rome daily La Repubblica wrote in a headline on Tuesday. That same day, the whip, Roberta Lombardi, contended that her words about fascism were taken out of “historical context.”

    Only a few days after that January posting, Berlusconi, trying for a comeback in the election, drew outrage when he said on the sidelines of a Holocaust commemoration ceremony that, apart for Mussolini’s anti-Jewish laws, the dictator accomplished “good things.”

    “There has been a revival of legitimization of neo-fascist ideas,” said Palmieri-Billig. “And there’s been a lessening of the taboo of anti-Semitism and racism.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 11, 2013, 1:22 pm

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