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Commentary: The Winds of Fascism Blowing Across Europe

by Gaither Stew­art


ROME — I feel sick.

She says I’m sick in the head.

Actu­al­ly I’m sick in the heart, sick in my vis­cera. My head reels, I feel chron­ic ver­ti­go.

She says it’s only para­noia.

I tell her the old Pol­ish joke pop­u­lar dur­ing the mil­i­tary regime. He con­stant­ly felt spied on, tailed every­where, his phone tapped, his mail read. His friends said he was nuts. His wife sent him to an ana­lyst. As it turned out, his friends, his wife, his ana­lyst were right: it was only the secret police.

My prob­lem is over-sen­si­tiv­i­ty, hyper-sus­cep­ti­bi­ly, recur­rent polit­i­cal aller­gies and chick­en-heart­ed alien­ation. For decades now my gen­er­al anx­i­ety has been hatch­ing. Some­times I feel it swelling my nos­trils, as when I breathe the pollen-laden Rome spring air. From my vis­cera it creeps into my spleen and leapfrogs across to my liv­er. It crawls up through tubes to my lungs, ever high­er through my esoph­a­gus, lingers in the back of my throat and final­ly set­tles into my brain, first destroy­ing my amyg­dala before oblit­er­at­ing the whole cam­pus of my hip­pocam­pus.

It’s them!

Who? Who is it?

You know who! It’s them! Who else but the Fas­cists, I whis­per, and sing soft­ly a few lines of Red Flag to whip up my courage.

The Fas­cists?

Shhh. Not so loud, they’ll hear you. I mean, the sov­er­eign peo­ple did elect them! They’re already every­where like locusts in grain fields. You hear that ting ting ting tin­kling? It’s their Celtic cross­es, tin­kling and tin­gling and clink­ing, clink­ing and tin­gling and tin­kling and, and. . . .

Sil­ly, she says. You’re just hav­ing anoth­er attack. It will pass.

Lis­ten to them, the Celtic cross­es, tin­kling and tin­gling? No telling what side effects these fits have on my psy­che. There’s no rem­e­dy, I lament, hum­ming a few bars of the Inter­na­tion­al. Too late for con­tra­cep­tion, tardy for vac­ci­na­tions or fire­walls. We must be already infect­ed. Para­noia, indeed!

New real­i­ties

On the last day of April, we watched on the tel­ly the new fas­cist May­or of Rome ascend the Campi­dol­gio, gaze out over the peo­ple and the city’s impe­r­i­al past and the remain­ing signs of the Ven­ten­nio, the 20 years of Mus­solin­ian Fas­cism, and the new polit­i­cal paysage decreed by idle elec­tors who should have stayed their sandy beach instead. Stunned, we watched him fin­ger his Celtic cross and pro­nounce that he was may­or of all the Romans. Our may­or too! And down below they salute, their arms stiff in the old Roman way, the old fas­cist salute.

The events this spring in Rome, in Italy, have already res­onat­ed over the west­ern world. A déja vu from those 20 fate­ful years of the dic­ta­tor Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni that got Italy into the jam it’s in today. The restora­tion of the Fas­cists is no minor acci­dent along the way. It crowned the vic­to­ry of the Right in its New Mil­len­ni­um Ital­ian cam­paign. And what a Right! A Fas­cist Right led by Sil­vio Berlus­coni (who so recalls Mus­soli­ni), who was heard to utter these words about his vic­to­ry: “We’re the falange.”

As I write these lines, Berlusconi’s falange is occu­py­ing every nook and cran­ny it can get its hands on in the coun­try peo­ple of the world so love. First Berlus­ca swept the elec­tions to become the new leader. Then, on the heels of his blitzkrieg, the Fas­cist heirs of the old Fas­cist Par­ty — who now call them­selves post-Fas­cists, col­lect­ed the mag­nif­i­cent cap­i­tal city of Rome and ancient cap­i­tal of Europe. Fifty-year-old May­or Gian­ni Ale­man­no calls his Celtic cross a sym­bol, a sym­bol he removed from the body of a fall­en Fas­cist com­pan­ion and that he nev­er takes off! A street war­rior he was dur­ing gli anni di piom­bo, the so-called “years of lead” because of the bul­lets zip­ping through the air as Left and Right bat­tled on the streets of Italy in the 1970s and 80s.

Gian­ni Ale­man­no, the for­mer youth leader of the neo-Fas­cist Ital­ian Social Move­ment, the heir of Mussolini’s Fas­cist state, is the first pro­to- or ex- or neo- or (as Fas­cists pre­fer) post-Fas­cist May­or of Rome. Installed on the Campi­doglio on the last day of April, Ale­man­no announced mat­ter-of-fact­ly that his first two mea­sures would be to remove the 20,000 Roma gyp­sies encamped in the city and many along the Tiber Riv­er. Roma, go home! As if gyp­sies had a home. Then, he will demol­ish Amer­i­can archi­tect Richard Meier’s brand new mon­u­men­tal muse­um that hous­es the shrine of Ara Pacis — the Emper­or Augus­tus’ Altar of Peace dat­ing back to Jan­u­ary 30, 9 BCE — which the Right dis­liked from the start while the for­mer Left may­or was build­ing it, even though it has become a top tourist attrac­tion in the city cen­ter. And then . . . and then, he set about nam­ing a string of Fas­cist cronies into his city admin­is­tra­tion.

Italy has not just shift­ed right­wards, out front of the rest as often in its past, a test tube for West Europe, but, in fear of the arti­fi­cial­ly cre­at­ed fears of immi­grants and ter­ror­ists, it has lit­er­al­ly hur­tled to the right. First, swarms of Ital­ians shoed in Berlus­coni and his Fas­cists and his alliance of the auton­o­mist-fed­er­al­ist-sep­a­ratist North­ern League and anoth­er auton­o­mist par­ty in the south. Then, Romans came out for May­or Ale­man­no and his band of pro­to- neo- ex- post-Fas­cists.

This new Italy of the Right — already called the Third Repub­lic — intends negat­ing not just the out­go­ing Cen­ter Left gov­ern­ment and its actions. Berlus­coni has already made his voice heard in East and West and espe­cial­ly at the Euro­pean Union in Brus­sels: he per­son­al­ly will arrange for gas for Italy from the Rus­sia of his friend Putin, he will nation­al­ize Ali­talia Air­lines against all rules to the con­trary, he will, he will, he will . . . do what he likes.

Rome is not only the cap­i­tal city, mod­ern­ized by 15 years of left­wing may­ors. Tra­di­tion­al­ly it is also a strong­hoold of the Left, the pride of the Left, with its effi­cient may­ors speak­ing a mod­ern cul­tur­al lan­gauge, open to exper­i­ments and devel­op­ment, point­ed toward the future. Italy’s cap­i­tal in the hands of the Nation­al Alliance (Alean­za Nazionale), Fascism’s direct heir, is an anom­aly, as is the country’s new polit­i­cal geog­ra­phy: the North with its cap­i­tal of Milan belongs to the auton­o­mist North­ern League, the South includ­ing Cal­abria and Sici­ly to the South­ern Automist Move­ment, Rome to the Fas­cists, and Italy to Berlus­coni.

The trans­for­ma­tion of Italy’s map couldn’t be more rad­i­cal. This event is not a nor­mal alter­na­tion in pow­er between two sim­i­lar par­ties. This is an elec­toral earth­quake. Even Ale­man­no was the last to expect his vic­to­ry in Rome. It was tak­en for grant­ed the Left would win again. The post-Fas­cist vic­to­ry changes the face also of Ital­ian pol­i­tics. The Cen­ter Left — the reformist Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty head­ed by Rome’s ex-May­or and ex-Com­mu­nist Wal­ter Ven­troni who dared run alone — lost its bet. In the elec­tions, it lost also the “rad­i­cal Left” — the Com­mu­nists, Social­ists and oth­er small Left-lean­ing par­ties with which it refused to run.

The sad real­i­ty is that the resur­gence of the right-wing vote would have any­way swept away any com­bi­na­tion of the Left. The out­come tes­ti­fies to a major­i­ty of a real Right in the nation. Italy’s munic­i­pal and nation­al elec­tions were not about pro­grams which were sim­i­lar. Nei­ther Berlus­coni nor the new may­or of Rome were elect­ed for their pro­grams. Peo­ple want­ed dis­con­ti­nu­ity. A new direc­tion, even if it smacked of the old. As non­sen­si­cal as the alter­na­tive choice of Sil­vio Berlus­coni and Rome’s post-Fas­cists seems, peo­ple vot­ed against the polit­i­cal caste. Rome elec­tors of both Right and Left leapt onto Berlusconi’s band­wag­on.

The Right vote in Rome and Italy bears an indeli­ble “anti-estab­lish­ment” stamp, the same as
in most of Europe dur­ing the last two years. It is both a nation­al­is­tic and some­times an anti-Euro­pean Union voice, xeno­pho­bic, anti-immi­gra­tion and anti-glob­al­iza­tion, the voice of the pop­ulist spir­it sweep­ing across the Con­ti­nent. For many, the Cen­ter Left, the Left in gen­er­al, is per­ceived as an extra­ne­ous, for­eign body. At the same time, pop­ulist Berlus­con­ism in Italy and the anti-Euro­peanism in Sarkozy’s France and in Tory Great Britain, avoid old rules and com­mit­ments. The Euro­pean Right is instead marked by a Janus-like dual­i­ty: it is both estab­lish­ment and out­sider, rebel­lious­ness and pro­fes­sion­al­ism, anti-pol­i­tics and polit­i­cal caste, ide­o­log­i­cal and anti-ide­o­log­i­cal.

And the decep­tion works.

Here’s a look at this new “post-Fas­cist” Italy: on a nation­al lev­el, Gian­fran­co Fini, pres­i­dent of the neo-Fas­cist Nation­al Alliance, has become the new pres­i­dent of the Cham­ber of Deputies, the third in rank in the Ital­ian state. Fas­cists will occu­py two of 12 major min­istries, backed up by a horde of Fas­cist deputy min­is­ters and under sec­re­taries. In Rome, as in oth­er cities, provinces and regions through­out the coun­try, ex-Fas­cists are step­ping into posi­tions of pow­er.

And it has an ide­ol­o­gy, and how! — the Chris­t­ian roots of Europe, con­dem­na­tion of rel­a­tivism, moral or oth­er­wise, low tol­er­ance lev­el for oth­ers, pro­tec­tion and secu­ri­ty for cit­i­zens, all the com­po­nents of mod­ern pop­ulism. Old social blocks have col­lapsed, the class role weak­ened, inter­est groups inter­twined.

Mean­while, as the bour­geois Right march­es in tri­umph over the Con­ti­nent, the Left stag­gers, teeters and tot­ters in dis­ar­ray, suf­fer­ing from its minor­i­ty syn­drome, an elec­toral infe­ri­or­i­ty com­plex. Uni­ty on the Left remains a chimera. In Italy, one says there is much too lit­tle Social Democ­ra­cy and too lit­tle Left in the Cen­ter Left, which avoids the word “Left,” and too lit­tle polit­i­cal ini­tia­tive in the rad­i­cal Left which detests the word “Cen­ter.” Incom­pat­i­ble or not, the two have thus far proven to be a los­ing com­bi­na­tion. The alliance was inef­fec­tive in the out­go­ing gov­ern­ment, a los­er in the eyes of the elec­torate and espe­cial­ly in the eyes of the Left com­po­nents them­selves, today polit­i­cal orphans, for the first time with­out rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the new Par­lia­ment. Yet nei­ther the Cen­ter Left nor the Left can hope to gov­ern the nation alone. Too many of the Left, it seems, accept the role of per­ma­nent oppo­si­tion.

Nonethe­less, though no longer in Par­lia­ment, Italy’s rad­i­cal Left, as most of the Euro­pean Left — and unlike the US Left — has its polit­i­cal par­ties, its nation­al press, a net­work of soci­eties and cir­cles and social forums for gras­roots activ­i­ties and the train­ing of new polit­i­cal lead­ers. It thus nur­tures hopes of a return to par­lia­ment in the next elec­tions which in turn makes future par­tic­i­pa­tion in polit­cal pow­er the­o­ret­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble.

Winds of the Right blow­ing across Europe

Actu­al­ly it didn’t hap­pen from one day to the next. In ret­ro­spect, howeve,r it seems to have come about sud­den­ly while Italy was busy watch­ing the exper­i­ment with its first real Cen­ter Left gov­ern­ment, a coali­tion of the Cen­ter and the Rad­i­cal Left, includ­ing Com­mu­nists. For 20 months or so the exper­i­ment limped along, stum­bled, and then col­lapsed over a bagatelle. New elec­tions brought Italy back to the main body of Europe in which the Right is either a major­i­ty or at the helm of state of the four biggest coun­tries with a com­bined pop­u­la­tion of near­ly 300 mil­lion — besides Italy, Ger­many, France and Great Britain, the lat­ter still for­mal­ly gov­erned by a Labour Par­ty lean­ing right­wards and today in a minor­i­ty in the Tory-dom­i­nat­ed nation.

Despite its broad nation­al roots, the British Labour Par­ty lost heav­i­ly in local elec­tions this past week­end, includ­ing the loss of the may­or­ship of Lon­don to the Con­ser­v­a­tive can­di­date, in sub­stance resem­bling the simul­ta­ne­ous rout of the Left in Italy — the painful price the UK Left must now pay for the dis­as­trous alliance of Tony Blair with Bushi­an Amer­i­ca. In Ger­many, the Chris­t­ian Democ­rats gov­ern in a coali­tion with the Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty that chose an alliance with the Right rather than with the Left of Social­ists and Com­mu­nists of the Linke, the same choice the Cen­ter Left Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Italy had made. In France, Nico­las Sarkozy last year rode roughshod over the Cen­ter Left Social­ists and at the same time crushed both the extreme Right of the Nation­al Front and the French Com­mu­nist Par­ty on the Left, cer­ti­fied by the bour­geoisie for his crush­ing of the imper­ti­nent upris­ings in the Paris ban­lieues when he called the sons of immi­grants the “scum of the nation.”

In 2007 elec­tions in Greece, the Cen­ter Right New Democ­ra­cy Par­ty won in close elec­tions, while The Nether­lands and Bel­gium are both gov­erned by a coali­tion of cen­ter-ori­ent­ed Chris­t­ian Democ­rats and Social Democ­rats. In Por­tu­gal in 2006, the Cen­ter Right Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty won pres­i­den­tial elec­tions over the Cen­ter Left Social­ist Par­ty. Also in 2006, Swe­den, which had been dom­i­nat­ed by the Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty since 1932 — account­ing for Sweden’s broad social sys­tem — fell to the Cen­ter Right Alliance for Swe­den. A sim­i­lar right-lean­ing mod­el rules in most of East Europe, today still search­ing for an accept­able social-polit­i­cal mod­el. Emblem­at­ic of the times in the East: Ukraine is dis­play­ing its con­fu­sion by renam­ing its streets, Tol­stoy Street becomes John Lennon, and Max­im Gorky cedes to Abra­ham Lin­coln.

Is it any won­der then that I am sick, mala­to, malade, enfer­mo, krank? That I am a lone­ly para­noic stag­ger­ing under the onslaught of legions of con­ti­nen­tal Chichikovs?

Only in Spain, tough Ger­man­ic Spain, stand­ing like a proud and lone­ly Don Quixote, only in Spain does a Social­ist Par­ty gov­ern, today the most pro­gres­sive land in Europe. But it, too, is under neo-lib­er­al­ist fire. Lone­ly but in neo-lib­er­al eyes an intol­er­a­ble Spain! A Social­ist who dares to keep his word on with­draw­ing troops from Iraq! Lone­ly and crit­i­cized also by the Left for dar­ing to lean on con­ser­v­a­tives to push through his pro­gram! Oh God! How to do the right thing? But not to wor­ry, the Right says. Zapatero’s new four-year term will pass quick­ly, after which Spain’s Fas­cist Right can leap back onto cen­ter stage.

In the wake of the spread of uni­for­mi­ty and the gospel of order and secu­ri­ty, one might won­der if all these Cen­ter Right gov­ern­ments are in cahoots? It would seem so. Is this the real face of the Euro­pean Union? It seems so. Is this part of the World-Gov­ern­ment-New-World-Order process? Looks like it.

But how did it hap­pen that the Left which for over a cen­tu­ry fash­ioned social Europe has now lost out to the neo-lib­er­al Cen­ter Right? And what about the Euro­pean Social Idea? One answer is the sad real­i­ty that human beings are con­ser­v­a­tive. Peo­ple want to be led, led well and hon­est­ly, but led by the hand. In gen­er­al, peo­ple just want to be “hap­py.” As a rule the Right is adept at mak­ing illog­i­cal impos­si­ble promis­es of hap­pi­ness and cre­at­ing the sense of false con­scious­ness of hap­pi­ness. Peo­ple need and want to hear those promis­es, as unlike­ly as they may be, of good times to come.

Europe is again rich. And as a result dai­ly life is more and more “bour­geois.” For the con­ser­v­a­tive major­i­ty, red flags and the ham­mer and sick­le mean blood­shed, uncer­tain­ty and dis­or­der. Some mem­bers of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment recent­ly went so far as to pro­pose a ban on the ham­mer and sick­le sym­bol. Bour­geois val­ues have nev­er left much space for left­ist ideas.

Once cre­ative and inno­v­a­tive, the mak­er of rev­o­lu­tions, the Euro­pean bour­geoisie is today large­ly Right. Espe­cial­ly in Italy and France. We for­get that the Euro­pean bour­geoisie per­mit­ted Fas­cism and Nazism, cre­at­ed it in fact, in order to pre­serve its social rule, pri­vate prop­er­ty and the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem threat­ened by the Rev­o­lu­tion that West­ern Social­ists
were nev­er able to pull off. To many, Fas­cism was mere­ly an annoy­ance that saved the bour­geois sys­tem. In fact, Fas­cism tempt­ed the bour­geoisie in all of Europe. In that sense, the Euro­pean bour­geoisie con­tin­ues to believe — in its over­whelm­ing false con­scious­ness — that the gov­ern­ment exists for it and for its inter­ests. In today’s Euro­pean show­case, bour­geois Lib­er­als, who across Europe as a rule vote Right, are Power’s ally and stand in the way of gen­uine social progress and effec­tive redis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth.

Though in that sense Euro­peans have opt­ed for false hap­pi­ness, I still don’t believe the ques­tion of Social­ism-Com­mu­nism has been defin­i­tive­ly set­tled. On one hand, the inex­plic­a­ble mys­tery for neo-lib­er­als is that tra­di­tion­al­ly Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­tries in Scan­di­navia enjoy the world’s high­est stan­dard of liv­ing, and that those mixed economies, part social, part cap­i­tal­ist, work. Though Com­mu­nism, crushed by its Sovi­et past, is no longer con­sid­ered a viable alter­na­tive to neo-lib­er­al democ­ra­cy, its mem­o­ry is alive. Marx wrote that the ghost of Com­mu­nism haunt­ed Europe. Today, in the minds of many, the mem­o­ry of that ghost per­sists, a ghost so pow­er­ful that the Right reg­u­lar­ly dan­gles its threat before the eyes of vot­ers each time they go to the polls.

Emi­gra­tion on my mind

The sit­u­a­tion is bleak, I’m bleak, and I don’t feel bet­ter about it. Not at all. While Right Europe wor­ries about immi­gra­tion to Europe, I have emi­gra­tion on my mind. But to where? Spain per­haps? But in less than four years Zapatero’s time will be up. The Fas­cist falange will prob­a­bly return. And then where would a prospec­tive emi­grant go? Across the strait to Moroc­co, maybe. Tang­i­er has a cer­tain appeal. Latin Amer­i­ca, too, is appeal­ing, albeit risky. It could only be Venezuela or Bolivia or Cuba. But even Cuba! First tourism, then Fidel’s retire­ment, now cel­lu­lar phones and com­put­ers. Who knows where revi­sion­ism there will end? So I come back to Europe. For some rea­son I rule out Ice­land. But Fin­land might be nice. After all, 12 of 20 gov­ern­ment min­is­ters are women! A world record. Still, Finnish con­ser­v­a­tives won last year’s elec­tions while Social Democ­rats, Social­ists and even Com­mu­nists all con­verge around the Cen­ter. I must con­fess that I’m per­plexed by the sta­bil­i­ty up there in rich Fin­land.

Mean­while, sick and lone­ly, I’m again study­ing the Ulti­ma Thule idea, which has long fas­ci­nat­ed me. It is in reserve as a final emi­gra­tion des­ti­na­tion.


2 comments for “Commentary: The Winds of Fascism Blowing Across Europe”

  1. Are these folks just unable to help them­selves or is this cal­cu­lat­ed?

    Death threats taunt Italy’s 1st black min­is­ter ahead of vis­it to North­ern League heart­land
    Pub­lished June 19, 2013
    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    ROME – Italy’s first black Cab­i­net min­is­ter is fac­ing Inter­net death threats before a vis­it to a region known for its anti-immi­grant polit­i­cal base.

    Cecile Kyenge, a Con­golese-born doc­tor who has lived in Italy since 1983, has been the tar­get of racist dia­tribes ever since she was named inte­gra­tion min­is­ter in April. Last week, a local politi­cian from the xeno­pho­bic North­ern League par­ty was expelled after she post­ed on her Face­book page: “Why does­n’t some­one rape her (Kyenge), so she can under­stand what vic­tims of atro­cious crimes feel?” She implied that immi­grants were respon­si­ble for vio­lent crime in Italy.

    Kyenge on Wednes­day acknowl­edged “racist episodes” in Italy but declined to brand the coun­try as a whole racist.

    Kyenge is attend­ing a week­end mul­ti­cul­tur­al fes­ti­val in the north­ern region of Vene­to.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 19, 2013, 8:42 am
  2. One of the dif­fi­cul­ties in build­ing a civ­il soci­ety is deal­ing with all of the psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly defi­cient troglodytes the seem com­pelled to run for elect­ed office:

    ‘Orang­utan’ slur high­lights open racism in Ital­ian pol­i­tics
    By Alan John­ston BBC News, Italy

    When Cecile Kyenge agreed to become a min­is­ter in Italy’s lat­est gov­ern­ment she was well aware that she would have to break new and dif­fi­cult ground.

    Not only was she tak­ing on the con­tro­ver­sial immi­gra­tion brief, she was also about to become Italy’s first black min­is­ter.

    But per­haps even Ms Kyenge has been sur­prised by the feroc­i­ty of the back­lash.

    She has been repeat­ed­ly sub­ject­ed to racist slurs of the crud­est kind.

    The lat­est came over the week­end from a vice-pres­i­dent of Italy’s the Sen­ate, Rober­to Calderoli, a promi­nent mem­ber of the anti-immi­gra­tion North­ern League par­ty.

    Address­ing its sup­port­ers he said; “I love ani­mals… but when I see pic­tures of Kyenge I can­not but think of — even if I’m not say­ing she is one — the fea­tures of an orang­utan.”

    He went on to say that Ms Kyenge was attract­ing ille­gal immi­grants to Italy, and that she should be a min­is­ter in her “own coun­try”.

    This is fair­ly typ­i­cal of the kind of abuse that has been direct­ed at the min­is­ter by North­ern League activists.

    One accused her of want­i­ng to impose “trib­al tra­di­tions” on Italy.

    And anoth­er actu­al­ly went so far as to call for Ms Kyenge to be raped so that she would under­stand what some­one who might be raped by an immi­grant might go through.

    Ms Kyenge, the one promi­nent black fig­ure in par­lia­ment, seems to have become the focus of a very large amount of the open­ly racist sen­ti­ment in the Ital­ian polit­i­cal are­na.

    So far she has coped with con­sid­er­able dig­ni­ty.

    Amid the furore over his “orang­utan” remark, Mr Calderoli was forced to apol­o­gise.

    Social change

    Ms Kyenge accept­ed this but said that if Mr Calderoli could not trans­late his views into prop­er polit­i­cal dis­course he should per­haps step aside as the Sen­ate’s vice-pres­i­dent.

    In the back­ground to all this lies some quite pro­found social change.

    Italy is now hav­ing to absorb larg­er num­bers of immi­grants.

    Back in 2000 there were only about one mil­lion of them here. Today there are about five mil­lion — about 8% of the pop­u­la­tion.

    And right now, with so many Ital­ian fam­i­lies of all back­grounds find­ing it dif­fi­cult to cope eco­nom­i­cal­ly, per­haps ten­sions are inevitable.

    As Ms Kyenge her­self put it: “Some peo­ple are strug­gling to accept that the coun­try has changed.”

    Pro­fes­sor James Wal­ston of the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty in Rome, who analy­ses Ital­ian atti­tudes towards race, wrote recent­ly in his blog: “To these peo­ple a woman like Cecile Kyenge would be accept­able if she was a docile house ser­vant on the lines of the 30s Hol­ly­wood stereo­type.

    “The fact that she is a suc­cess­ful eye sur­geon and now a self-assured cab­i­net min­is­ter is threat­en­ing for them.”

    The North­ern League has set itself against what it calls an “uncon­trol­lable influx of immi­grants”.

    This is an impor­tant part of its elec­toral plat­form.

    And a long-time observ­er of the par­ty, Pro­fes­sor Rober­to Bior­cio, of Milan’s Bic­oc­ca Uni­ver­si­ty, sees Mr Calderoli’s remarks as part of a cal­cu­lat­ed effort to focus more on this emo­tive area.

    “I’m under the impres­sion that Calderoli and cer­tain sec­tors of the league want to draw atten­tion back to the issue of immi­gra­tion,” he said.

    “As usu­al, they do it in the most provoca­tive man­ner — but it has helped them in the past.”

    Away from the par­ty polit­i­cal fray, casu­al racism sur­faces in many areas of Ital­ian life.


    But far from the head­lines, in the course of every­day life, immi­grants talk of being sur­round­ed by racism.

    “You hear com­ments on the bus, in the mar­kets, in schools,” said Pape Diaw, a leader of the Sene­galese com­mu­ni­ty in Flo­rence.

    “To think that the Ital­ian peo­ple are racist is wrong. But there is... a type of racist men­tal­i­ty. ”

    He said that politi­cians were reluc­tant to tack­le the issue, and that with ten­sions build­ing there was a risk of a social explo­sion.

    It would have been pret­ty neat if the next gen­er­a­tion of human crit­ters could have con­tin­ued down the path of reject­ing the luna­cy of racism via pos­i­tive inspi­ra­tion, but the revul­sion inspired by the cretins in the North­ern League just might get the job done too.

    Your depress­ing thought for the day: inspi­ra­tional revul­sion might be human­i­ty’s last best hope at this point in his­to­ry. Up With Human­i­ty!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 15, 2013, 12:02 pm

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