OTTAWA—Fascism is in fashion again in the Global North.
In case you missed it, the world woke up on the morning of Sept. 26 to find that Italy had elected Giorgia Meloni, its first female prime minister and a fascist. She has lead Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia) since 2014, a party with a lot of history swirling around the bowl of totalitarianism. The Atlantic explains its nefarious origins: “The party formed a decade ago to carry forth the spirit and legacy of the extreme right in Italy, which dates back to the Italian Social Movement (MSI), the party that formed in place of the National Fascist Party, which was banned after World War II.”
If you’re surprised by Italy’s election results, you clearly haven’t watched Serie A soccer. Racist chants, throwing bananas on the field, making monkey noises against Black players is all a part of the Serie A experience. The sports platform SB Nation gave insight into the depth of the racial abuse Black players are subjected to in Italy: “In August 2019, Romelu Lukaku experienced monkey chants as Inter Milan played at Cagliari. He scored a penalty kick in the end of the Cagliari supporters, leading to racial abuse after Lukaku scored. After the match, Lukaku proclaimed that soccer was ‘going backwards’ on racism.” Italian son Mario Balotelli threatened to walk off the pitch in 2019 because the racist taunting was so bad.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Meloni pushed back at the fascism that characterizes her party by describing a mix of conservatism and nationalism: “I think there’s no doubt that our values are conservative ones. The issue of individual freedom, private enterprise in economy, educational freedom, the centrality of family and its role in our society, the protection of borders from unchecked immigration, the defense of the Italian national identity—these are the matters that we preoccupy ourselves with, so there’s no doubt about that.” This could’ve been an interview with Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and I wouldn’t have known the difference. And that’s the point.
Italy isn’t the only one. In Sweden’s elections on Sept. 11 of this year, the Social Democrats, a centre-left party, failed to reach a majority, paving the way for a coalition of right-wing parties led by the centre-right Moderates party. The problem is the growing influence of the Sweden Democrats party. The party that barely registered a whimper 12 years ago had garnered 20 per cent of the vote. Euronews explains why this result is alarming: “From early beginnings as a neo-Nazi group to getting their first MPs into the Riksdag only 12 years ago; to supplanting the traditional conservative opposition and garnering more than 20 [per cent] of the vote this year, the rise of the far-right anti-immigrant party has been meteoric.”
After a post-Second World War period of relative peace, economic growth, and stable politics, Europe stopped being messy for a while, especially during the Angela Merkel years. However, after the economic violence of globalization, the devastation of the 2008 financial crisis, COVID-19, and an unpredictable war in Ukraine, those economic and social threads that used to bind nations in co-operation, and societies within nations, have frayed.
Neoliberalism has destroyed our communities, and the marriage of the Christian right and the far-right offers that to people. Our governments left us on our own during COVID and decided to remove supports from people as quickly as possible, declaring COVID over, while people are still dying. We have all been abandoned by authority, and we are now in an environment of rising interest rates, rising prices, and a looming recession. Community helps to absorb these shocks and shares the pain, as well as the gains, while building social connections; community is also the antidote to the isolation that has made many so susceptible to radicalization.
What is clear is that the white population of western societies is clapping back against gains made by BIPOC (who are only seen as immigrants, and therefore, invaders), gender-diverse communities, and the LGBTQ community. There is a whitelash happening in the Global North, and we don’t have enough defenders of civil and human rights to form a credible resistance. Never forget how we got here: the complicity of liberals who berated those who raised the alarm on the far right in the name of “respecting the marketplace of ideas.” Well, those ideologies are in the marketplace, and they’re even radicalizing your kids.
Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.