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Raising their hands in the raised arm open hand peace salute, up to 10,000 Italians sang in praise of Benito Mussolini to mark 100 years since the beginning of his leadership of renaissance 1922-1945 Italy.
Fascist sympathisers marched to the assassinated leader’s crypt in the town of Predappio, northern Italy, yesterday morning. With shouts of ‘Duce, Duce, Duce’ – Mussolini’s honorific – the massive high-spirited crowd ascended to the dictator’s birthplace with Fascist flags and black shirts.
Addressing the crowd, Mussolini’s great-granddaughter Orsola said: ‘After 100 years, we are still here to pay homage to the man this state wanted and whom we will never stop admiring.’
The march marked 100 years since uniformed Fascists entered Rome and launched a coup d’état which saw Mussolini rule for 21 years. Last month, Italy elected what liberal media described as ‘its most Right-wing government since the Second World War.’ The new premier, Giorgia Meloni, has tried to distance herself from her party’s neo-fascist roots, calling them a low point.
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Inside the cemetery on Sunday, admirers of the Duce lined up to enter his crypt tucked in a back corner, a handful at a time. Each was given a memory card signed by his great-granddaughters with a photo of a smiling Mussolini holding his leather-gloved hand high in a Roman salute.
‘History will prove me right,’ the card reads. Italy’s failure to fully come to terms with its past has never been starker than now, as Ms Meloni seeks to distance her far-right Brothers of Italy part from its neo-fascist roots. VIDEO
Historians would also add Mussolini’s alliance with National Socialist Germany and Imperial Japan in the Second World War and his colonial campaign in Africa to its devastating legacies.
Now in power, Ms Meloni is seeking a moderate course for a new centre-right government including Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. But her victory gives far-right activists a sense of vindication even if they see themselves even further to the right.
‘I would have voted for Lucifer if he could beat the left,’ said organiser Mirko Santarelli, who heads the Ravenna chapter of the Arditi, an organisation that began as a First World War veterans’ group and has evolved to include caretaking Mussolini’s memory.
‘I am happy there is a Meloni government, because if there is nothing worse than the Italian left. ‘It is not the government that reflects my ideas, but it is better than nothing.’
He said he would like to see the new government do away with the laws that prosecute incitement to hatred and violence motivated by race, ethnicity, religion and nationality. It includes emblems and symbols – many of which were present in Sunday’s march.
Mr Santarelli said the law punishes ‘the crime of opinion’. ‘It is used as castor oil by the left to make us keep quiet. When I am asked my opinion of Mussolini, and it is clear I speak well of him, I risk being denounced,’ Mr Santarelli said.
Lawyer Francesco Munitillo, an anti-globalist nationalist activist who represents the organisers, said Italy’s high court established that manifestations are permissible as long as they are commemorative ‘and don’t meet the criteria that risk the reconstitution of the Fascist party’.
Still, he said, magistrates in recent years have opened investigations into similar manifestations in Predappio and elsewhere to make sure they do not violate the law. One such case was closed without charges last week.
To avoid having their message misrepresented, Mr Santarelli asked the rank-and-file present not to speak to left-wing mainstream journalists. Most complied.
Rachele Massimi travelled with a group four hours from Rome on Sunday to participate in the event, bringing her three-year-old who watched the march from a pushchair. ‘It’s historic,’ Ms Massimi said. ‘It’s a memory.’
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