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Italian far right get boost amidst country’s economic troubles

Published time: March 07, 2011 07:26
Edited time: March 07, 2011 11:10

Unemployment in Italy is at a near record high, and a disconnect between lawmakers and the electorate in Italy is growing with opposition virtually dominated by anti-Berlusconi rhetoric.

Italy's "Dolce Vita" is turning bitter. Analysts believe much-needed economic growth might still be years away.

Meanwhile, grass-roots political movements are cashing in on this grim state of affairs – and among them, neo-fascist ones.

Casa Pound is Italy's most prominent and fast-growing radical-right movement. Its headquarters is located in the Esquilino quarter, the multicultural, multi-ethnic heart of Rome – a bustling community of Asian, Middle-Eastern and North African residents living side-by-side.

Named after US poet Ezra Pound, an unwavering supporter of Mussolini's fascist regime, the headquarters is home to 70 of the movement's members.

The walls are covered with the names and posters of their heroes, including some surprisingly taken from leftist milieu, such as Che Guevara.

Casa Pound's support has grown alongside the unemployment rate. A staggering 29 per cent of Italian youths are currently without a job.

"Italy is a country of old people. It is hard for the young to find a job, or make their voices heard. We are not only a generation deprived of our future, but also of our present," says student Francesco Polacchi.

But Casa Pound's present, with its brand of revamped "third-millennium fascism", as its members shamelessly put it, is one of rapid growth, in direct contrast to the country’s economy.

Through its intense agenda of discussion forums, ear-splitting rock concerts and squat actions, the movement is on the up and up. A recent membership campaign gathered over 2,500 paying supporters on just its first day.

Gianluca Iannone, Casa Pound leader, believes that fascism “was a grand period in Italy's past”.

But members also claim they are an anti-racist, anti-discrimination movement.

But are they just playing the political correctness game? Some fear this might be the case.

"Casa Pound is a dangerous phenomenon. I received a threat, over the phone, when I opposed public funding to a concert they organized in Rome. They sang me some intimidating lyrics of one of their bands' songs, then hung up," says Fabio Nobile from Left Federation Party.

The movement's members deny any wrongdoing, and claim the media and leftist politicians are misrepresenting them.