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FTR #321 The Return of Il Duce, Part II

Lis­ten: One Seg­ment [1]

Updat­ing dis­cus­sion [2] 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 [3]. 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 [4]. 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 [5]. “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 [6]; 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.)