Italy’s Meloni distances herself from fascism on Liberation Day celebrations

ROME: Italy’s ruling coalition has no “nostalgia for fascism”, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Tuesday, looking to push back against critics who have accused her Brothers of Italy party of failing to distance itself from its neofascist past.

Meloni addressed the issue in a letter to Corriere della Sera newspaper on the day Italy celebrates the end of the German occupation in World War Two and the victory of partisan resistance fighters over the Nazis and their fascist allies.

“For many years now, and as any honest observer recognises, the parties representing the right in Parliament have declared their incompatibility with any nostalgia for fascism,“ Meloni wrote.

Brothers of Italy traces its roots to the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed in 1946 as a direct heir of Benito Mussolini’s blackshirts, and the legacy of fascism continues to torment Italy almost 80 years after the end of the war.

Meloni’s letter came the day after ANPI, a group representing former wartime partisans, had urged Meloni to disassociate herself from fascism, and followed a recent outcry triggered by Senate Speaker Ignazio La Russa.

La Russa, a senior Brothers of Italy figure who began his career in the MSI and collects Mussolini memorabilia, appeared to diminish the importance of the partisan Resistance by saying the postwar Constitution made no mention of antifascism.

Meloni clearly distanced herself from La Russa’s comments.

“The fundamental fruit of 25 April was, and undoubtedly remains, the affirmation of democratic values, which fascism had trampled upon and which we find carved into the Republican Constitution,“ she said.

However, some opponents said she had not gone far enough.

“What she should do is have the courage to say clearly and definitively ‘we are antifascist’”, said Giuseppe Sala, the centre-left mayor of Milan.

Meloni compares her party to the U.S. Republican Party and Britain’s Conservative Party, with the defence of national identity, traditional family and cultural heritage among the top issues on its political agenda.

Meloni herself praised Mussolini in her youth but has since changed her stance, repeatedly condemning the infamous racist, anti-Jewish laws enacted by the dictator in 1938 and stating she had “never felt any sympathy for fascism”. – Reuters