Following the protests that took place against austerity measures in cities across Europe on November 14, the people of Rome – particularly those in uniform – expected the big national demonstration set for November 24 to represent the next logical step into the inferno. It was a day when everyone, regardless of political, social, or financial standing had agreed to take to the streets and make their opposition known. Finally unionists, students, fascists and antifascists were going to unite under one cause and something was bound to go horribly wrong.
Not quite. Three days before the protests, the imaginatively named antifascist group 'Rome Says No To Fascists' organised a sit-in to remind the mayor, Gianni Alemanno, that fascism is still illegal in Italy, and attempt to keep the most upsetting element of the afforemention motley crew, the fascist organization CasaPound, from marching with them.
In the end, however, the mayor gave the fascists permission to take part in the demonstration, with the caveat that fascist salutes, racist signs and anti-Semitic or Nazi sentiments would not be tolerated.
On the 22nd, two days before the demo, CasaPound announced that they would be moving their declared route away from the city center, where most of the other groups would be marching. We thought this was both cowardly and sensible at the same time, so on the day of the protest we decided to ditch the mainstream marchers and their boring old chants about poverty in favour of following the "terrible beauty" around and maybe witnessing some kind of apocalyptic vision of what the future holds.
CasaPound was born in Rome in December 2003, after a group of extreme-right youth occupied a building in the Esquilino district, not far from the Central train station. You'd think this would prove a pain in the mayor's ass, but he hasn't done much of anything to evict them. Antifascists claim this is because of his own involvement in far-right movements in his youth. Whether or not that's true is still unclear.
CasaPound's logo, the tortoise, symbolises their motto: "Own Your Own House." Housing policies have been at the core of the group's agenda at least since 2006, when they entered politics within the “Movimento Sociale Fiamma Tricolore” [Tricolor Flame] party. These days, CasaPound is officially a “social promotion association” complete with “two thousand members, offices throughout Italy, 15 bookshops, 20 pubs, eight sports associations, an online radio station, a WebTV channel, and a monthly and a quarterly magazine."
If you are looking to rationalise the madness, according to the German historian Volker Weiss, the reason CasaPound is experiencing such an escalating success is that it "has managed to create an attractive setting for young people by combining pop-culture and neo-fascism.” They also use classical literature; Quotes from Jurgen, Yeats and Pound are splattered all across their own promotional literature and speeches, in what looks like an attempt to cover their complete inabillity at any kind of political or moral thinking.
Their own name is inspired by the writer Ezra Pound, which didn't go down particularly well with the writer's daughter, who sued the group last year. Soon after that, CasaPound tried to change their name to CasaBene, after playwright Carmelo Bene, who once responded to the question “Are you fascist?” with a fart. As expected, Bene’s daughter wasn't happy about it either.
CasaPound's founder is Gianluca Iannone. He is also the lead singer of the hardcore band Zetazeroalfa. Asked about the controversy surrounding his group's name in an interview once, he explained: “Ezra and Carmelo are two great heretics of the twentieth century, that official criticism tries to normalise and trivialise, if not simply forget. It’s just a small homage to honour those who have made a flag out of being anti-conformist: a reference point for all free men, despite cultural or political affiliations.”
But let us get to the march. During the demonstration – attended by 3,000 people according to the mayor's office and 8,000 according to CP – stadium chants with catchy melodies ranged from demanding Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti's resignation, to simplistic rants in favour of public schools, and their traditional battle cry, “Our idea becomes action, social loan, revolution.”
Every now and again the crowd would break their song mid-concert to wave their flags around.
Much to our disappointment, everybody was extremely well behaved. There were no Roman salutes, no Nazi imagery – from the outside you couldn't tell if the guys with the red flags were fascists or communists. I was about to cry, but then I overheard Iannone saying he was inspired by Benito Mussolini to an interviewer, which reaffirmed my original thoughts about the group.
The march came to a close under the tunes of the Italian National Anthem. Everyone knew the first chorus and they all started belting it out, but then the second verse played and the whole procession was forced to stand awkwardly in silence.
The speeches were next. First up was CP Italia's two vice presidents who, after congratulating each other and their minions for the large turnout, also patted themselves on the back for not having burned down the capital like we all thought they would.
Then Iannone took to the stage, only to be drowned out by a helicopter circling above. Annoyed, he started snorting like a bull in chains, making his crowd grow slightly worried. Thankfully, the helicopter flew off soon enough, allowing Iannone to begin his rant uninterupted. I'm not sure who the "them" he kept referring to are, but they had managed to make him really angry.
“Because they think that we’re only a group of retards, because they are ugly inside and out, because we must return to an ethics in politics, because we are the Sherwood Forest and the Sherriff of Nottingham will do anything to stop us.”
And with that Robin Hood reference he was ready to bow out. “We’re going to hurt them, a lot!” he finished. Applause.
That was about it. If the protest seemed soporific, that can be attributed to their gentlemanly comportment of protesters and the worrying lack of ideas. Of course, the CasaPound Italia fascists believe themselves to be credible – through hastily made quotations and audacious and ready retorts, balancing themselves on the social chasm created by 20 years of bad politics – but I doubt anybody else thinks so. Or maybe that's just what I really want to believe.
See more of Gianmarco's photos here.
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