By Hans Schoenberger and Curt Cashour
CAIRO, Egypt – Italy’s enduring furore over a law that punishes people considered to be “scum” and “fascists” with a 100-year prison sentence—and euros—suggests a far greater risk of fascism in the modern world than the moods of European elites.
The 85-year-old Italian fascist, Bernardo Provenzano, died this week in prison, after spending more than half a century in custody. Provenzano was kicked out of the German neo-Nazi scene in the 1950s, and ended up on a list of proscribed extremist groups in 1977. Italians sentenced under the same anti-fascist statute found themselves incarcerated for a century.
Even as late as July, the Italian parliament was busy passing a slew of new fascist laws and amending the current law in an attempt to tighten the authoritarian grip of the state. The move reminded many of the days of fascist rule in Italy, when national laws enjoyed broader public support than even the harsh conditions of the military regime.
Fascism was re-entering the political mainstream in Europe, in part because politicians were unable to address Europe’s growing migrant crisis and to address the rise of the far-right. Fascism was sometimes able to capture the popular mood by making a connection between Italian migrants and German anti-Semitism—a move reminiscent of the anti-Semitic marches of the 1930s.
In recent years, political parties riding the wave of European populism and adopting explicitly fascist social programs, agendas and tactics such as the struggle against immigrant crime, may have convinced Europe’s rulers that fascism was to be re-taught and re-issued to Europe’s youngsters, men and women ready to pledge allegiance to the Italian flag.
Antonio Sabàto Jr. is the Chairman of the Righteous Persons Foundation. He is a Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at The Heritage Foundation and a Distinguished Professor of Economics at Global University in Rome.