Fascism: The Night of Broken Glass in Rome

By Gaither Stewart

The United Nations High Commissioner For Human Rights, the Vatican and opposition parties recently criticized the recent decision of Italy’s newly elected rightwing government headed by Silvio Berlusconi and his neo-fascist allies to criminalize illegal immigration to Italy as well as for recent attacks on camps of Roma nomads. Political leaders in Rome instead confirmed the government’s firm intention to convert the government decree into state law, thus making illegal immigration to Italy a crime. 

Also today, members of the xenophobic Northern League, coalition partners in the new rightwing government headed by Silvio Berlusconi occupied a Roma camp in Mestre-Venice.

May 30: Fascist goon squads armed with clubs and chains carried out a “punitive expedition”, that is, an organized raid on shops of Asian immigrants in Italy’s capital. Ten or so men masked in scarves adorned with swastikas swooped down on immigrant-run grocery stores, a telephone call center, a laundry and various shops along the streets of one of Rome’s most multiethnic districts, smashing windows and the interiors of the stores. Yelling “dirty foreigner” and “bastards” the hoodlums beat up an immigrant from Bangladesh who was treated in a hospital. TV newscasts showed broken windows and glass along the sidewalks recalling similar events in the 1938 pogroms in Nazi Germany which came to be called Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) for the shattered store windows along city streets of Germany. The Night of Broken Glass became a symbol of violence organized by the Nazi-Fascist state against Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and the other. Despite the regrets expressed this Sunday by post-Fascist political leaders, violent segments of the extreme Right today feel legitimized by the Right’s recent electoral victory which swept so-called post-Fascists into power in Italy.

May 26: Fascist goon squads have returned to Rome’s major university, La Sapienza. Armed with knives and crowbars and itching for battle, twenty or more hoodlums from the extreme rightist Forza Nuova (New Force) swooped down on leftist militants caught plastering anti-fascist manifestos on walls near the university gates. After ten minutes of hand-to-hand struggle, several university youths were carried to a nearby hospital for treatment. It appears as a case of premeditated aggression, Fascist style. The clash at the university concerned a mass meeting planned by Forza Nuova at which the National Secretary of the Fascist organization, Roberto Fiore, was to speak, a meeting subsequently vetoed by the university Rector. While the organized goon squads launched their physical attack against leftists, Fiore was protesting to the newly elected neo-Fascist Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, demanding a revision. 

May 25: Molotov cocktails are again raining down on Naples’ nomad camps in flames. As people applaud their flight, Roma gypsies, many of whom Italian citizens, are still on the run with nowhere to go. Amnesty International labeled Italy “racist” which is a completely new phenomenon in this traditionally country tolerant country.
Meanwhile, opposition deputies in Parliament criticized the proposal of Rome’s “post-Fascist” Mayor Gianni Alemanno to re-name a street in the capital for the former neo-Fascist leader, Giorgio Almirante, the creator of the Fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI) and the direct heir of Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini.
From day to day the newly elected extreme rightist government of Silvio Berlusconi and his “falange” of neo-Fascists in key government positions with its emphasis on security stokes popular fears of threats from the others, gypsies, homosexuals and also the extreme Left now excluded from Parliament. Government strategy seems to point at the creation of a permanent state of emergency in the nation. No day passes that the deployment of the army in defense of citizens’ rights is not mentioned. Though an apparently remote possibility, yesterday I heard for the first time in many years the expression “martial law.”

A television talk show poll this evening showed that a great majority of Italians believe the clash between neo-Fascists and the extreme Left is intensifying, is destined to grow, and threatens to explode again as during the ideological street wars and terrorism in the 1970s and 80s.

The words Fascism and Fascist have again become commonplace in world languages. Let’s take a look at what those words mean in daily life.

Three hundred and fifty words about Fascism

Fascism is insidious.
Fascism comes about gradually.
Fascism emerges from the evil side of mankind.
Fascism as a social-political expression is hardly noticeable at first.
Fascism begins in backward social classes as a reaction to losing their role in society.
Fascism has two faces: an anti-political establishment face, in the USA the old familiar anti-Washington stance; and a reactionary face created by false consciousness.
Fascism on its way to power allies with capitalism and becomes the establishment’s mouthpiece and its police.
Fascism is the armed violent wing of capitalism.
Fascism defends private property against the threat of revolutionary expropriation.
Fascism in power exists on the backs of enemies.
Fascism in power becomes a deviate state power.
Fascism is mixed with the military hierarchy.
Fascism tries to resolve international problems with bluff and guns. 
Fascism in practice is rooted in meanness and narrow-mindedness, its doors wide open to social bullies of all colors and provenance.
Fascism is an all-is-permitted state.
Fascism’s promises of impunity justify the out-flowing of pent-up hate of bullies.
Fascism in power is cloaked in a veneer of nationalism and idealism.
Fascism becomes a popular demand for totalitarianism.
Fascism is only partly a class phenomenon, a movement with a specific social goal.
Fascism bursts every barrier and framework of control.
Fascism unleashes the most evil elemental forces of man.
Fascism is moral decay and decadence. 
Fascism is marked by cruelty and an absence of sympathy for the misfortunate.
Fascism is an atmosphere marked by a false face of sentimentality with a high rate of violence.
Fascism is distinguished by arbitrariness, destructiveness and reaction.
Fascism abolishes the concept of balances and control and fairness and compassion.
Fascism in power is uncontrollable.
Fascism in power is total and authoritarian, characterized by a centralized, autocratic state governed by a dictatorial chief.
Fascism operates for the benefit of a few.
Fascism is aggressive repression of opposition.
Fascism is nationalistic to the extreme, reducing the interests of the individual to the interests of an elite.
Fascism promotes promises of national rebirth with “cults” of unity, exceptionalism and supremacy over other nations and races.
Fascism is super-patriotism, super-nationalism, militarism, populism, anti-liberalism, elitism.

-Gaither Stewart, writer and journalist based in Rome, is a Senior Contributing Editor at Cyrano’s Journal Online. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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