6 Apr 2013

Italian fascists CasaPound praise ‘normal Italian’ Di Canio

The controversy over Paolo Di Canio’s comments in support of fascism and Mussolini are by-products of a continuing campaign by Italy’s far-right to rehabilitate their image and re-write history.

The controversy over Paolo Di Canio's comments in support of fascism and Mussolini are by-products of a continuing campaign by Italy's far-right to rehabilitate their image and re-write history.

In Italy a growing social movement has been working to change the image of fascism, appropriating left-wing tactics and targeting disaffected students.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Italy’s hard-right CasaPound grouping claims Di Canio’s comments are typical of many Italians.

As the economic crisis worsens, CasaPound has been expanding across the country. Starting off as a squatted social centre in Rome, the unapologetic fascists now claim 5,000 members across the country.

As a group hoping to gain legitimacy, it sees Di Canio’s comments, and the high-profile backlash against him, as another step forward for the modern blackshirts.

Taking its name from the poet Ezra Pound, the group has no elected representatives but boasts of taking over 25,000 votes in the Lazio regional elections this year.

Spokesman Sebastien Magnifica explained that CasaPound supports Di Canio’s comments and believes he is facing a “McCarthyist” witch-hunt for holding views the group claims are becoming increasingly normal.

“For us it’s very important to know that a huge amount of people don’t have bad views of fascism. There are fond memories of that time, a Mussolini calendar was the best selling calendar this year.

“Di Canio is a normal Italian person. I do not think it matters if he calls himself a fascist, what matters is if he can manage the team, he is not doing propaganda.”

During several of his games for Lazio, Di Canio made fascist “Roman” salutes for their right-wing fans. Defending his actions at the time, he said: “I saluted my people with what for me is a sign of belonging to a group that holds true values.”

He has said Mussolini was “a very principled, ethical individual” who was “deeply misunderstood”.

However it is in Rome, where Di Canio grew up and remains a hero at SS Lazio, that the rehabilitation of fascist ideas among young Italians is at its strongest. CasaPound’s student wing Blocco Studentesco has over 100 representatives sitting on elected student boards.

CasaPound has its own theatre events, art galleries and organise football matches; it even provided support in Abruzzo in the aftermath of the 2009 earthquake, but it is also known for violent clashes with left-wing students and police.

Magnifica adds: “We are present in every ground, sports, culture and politics. We call ourselves fascists. Fascism has never been so popular since World War Two and we are part of that.”

The group defends Di Canio’s claim that you can support fascism without being racist, but behind the group’s cultural front lie the usual hallmarks of the far right: rallying recruits around immigration and warning of an impending “war” between poor Europeans and migrants as the country’s unemployment rate rises to 11 per cent and 37 per cent for young people.

Its statements echo the words of Paolo Di Canio.

“Fascism was the most stable system Italy has ever had, it is natural and you must accept it. We oppose immigration but not immigrants; we are fascist and not racist.”

In 2011 a market trader, Gianluca Casseri, shot dead two Senegalese immigrants in Florence. He had close links to CasaPound and Italyâ??s cultural fascist movement. In the aftermath of the attack the daughter of poet Ezra Pound moved to stop the group using his name.