Op/Ed #1: Fascism is back on the rise

By: Nicole Beswitherick

Son of a blacksmith, born in 1883, Benito Mussolini was named after the Mexican revolutionary leader, Benito Juarez. He was a born revolutionary as people may say. Growing up, Mussolini saw the hunger and the struggles people in the working class had been experiencing; he was one of them. Later on, he became a leader of the Socialist party and editor of its newspaper but broke ties with them over an issue of Italian neutrality in WWI. When Mussolini began his banner, an army of followers soon came underway, some of them known as the “Blackshirt Militia”.[1] People funded this movement when seeing Mussolini as a tool to suppress the radical revolution that they were afraid of.

Mussolini’s fascist movement promised a lot of things like extreme radicalism and extreme conservatism. But its main goal was action, which was achieved through violence. Fascism was fought in parliament, the press, etc. The arguments and fights to get rid of it were stopped when those of the opposition had been sent off to prison, exiled, and in some other cases, murdered.[1] Fascism later turned out to be a more subtle reason to win the support of the Italian people.

A photo merging the faces of Donald Trump and Benito Mussolini, as people see a resemblance is their leadership styles [Photo courtesy of AP/Richard Drew/Salon)

In 1935, the Ethiopian war rallied nationalists more strongly around the fascist regime and showed Italians that fascism meant war. During and right before WWII, (1936-1943) there was a bigger distinction between fascism and antifascism. Underground movements were increasing in popularity, and fascism did not collapse entirely until Mussolini’s lieutenants cast him away, allied military victories got involved, and there was a rebellion of the people.[1] Although fascism did eventually fall, could it be on the rise again? Could it be seen in North America?

On 25 September 2022, Giorgia Meloni (leader of the nationalist Brothers of Italy) took the lead in a far-right victory for Italy. She is set to become the first female PM in Italy, with her party that is directly descended from the fascist movement of Benito Mussolini.[2] Meloni is known to pummel the European Union (EU), international bankers and migrants, and this has all spread concern about the reliability the nation has in the Western alliance.[3] The Brothers of Italy party had won 26 percent of the vote, the highest of any single party. In 2018, her party won only 4.3 percent of the vote.[4] This makes Meloni the “prohibitive favourite” to become the first female prime minister in Italy. Undoubtedly, the Italian population is slowly gaining interest in a far-right nationalist group.

Even though Meloni is a strong supporter of Ukraine, many of her coalition partners have a deep-rooted admiration for Vladimir Putin and have criticized sanctions against Russia.[1] This is another issue the West is seeing. Seeing as Meloni is the leader of such a far-right party which comes directly from the fascist Mussolini, it is no wonder that people are worried about a rise in fascism. It’s happening in Italy right now. But is fascism an issue in the West?

Food and gas bills are skyrocketing under the “onslaught of inflation and prolonged wage stagnation.”[5] Billions of dollars have been redirected by Western nations in this time of economic crisis to fund a war in Ukraine. The liberal class is terrified of a rise in neo-fascism and characters like Donald Trump who subserviently bid in the war industry and corporations.[5]

Brothers of Italy leader, Giorgia Meloni [Photo courtesy of Sky News Australia]

The liberal class is in debt, and that means that those who publicly denounce the foolishness of permanent war and NATO expansion, exploitation of workers in globalization, neoliberalism, etc, come increasingly more and more from the far-right.[5] This rage from right-wing people has been classified as “Christian fascism” in the United States and is making gains in Hungary, Poland, Italy, France, and others. Extremism is a holding of extreme political or religious views, also known as fanaticism. It is essentially radicalism, and there are political leaders (demagogues) who are promising moral and economic renewal, revenge on “enemies” and a return to lost glory. Remind you of a guy with orange skin, yellow hair, and who shouts, “Make America Great Again?”

Fascism has always been with us, and it might never truly go away even though it was already thought to. Far-right activists are gaining more supporters, especially over the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it may not rule out democracy, fascism and far-right nationalists are on the rise and the groups keep getting bigger.

[1] The Rise and Fall of Fascism – American Historical Association

[2] Is Italy Seeing the Rise of New Fascism? – Foreign Policy

[3] Giorgia Meloni Wins Voting in Italy, in Breakthrough for Europe’s Hard Right – The New York Times

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2022/sep/25/italy-general-election-2022-results-live-giorgia-meloni-latest-news

[5] https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/the-return-of-fascism

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