Studying the internal supply-side and external mobilization

To study how CPI’s internal-supply side and external mobilization factors relate to its visibility in public debates, we use data derived from party manifestos and literature, official campaign and online material, books, face-to-face interviews, and fieldwork notes. Data collection started in 2012 and then continued intermittendy until April 2019. The dataset was assembled in an archive including fieldwork notes and pictures collected during open participant observation of three core events organized by CPI and at numerous other informal meetings. The archive also features CPI’s internal literature (listed in the Appendix 2), the music and lyrics of CPI’s official band ZetaZeroAlja (ZZA), campaign material and election manifestos, online press releases and social media content from Facebook, as well as the recording of 17 face-to-face interviews with leaders and activists in six Italian cities.7 The material collected during interviews and open participant observation was analysed through qualitative text analyses, looking at the presentation and discussion of aspects and issues that we deemed of relevance, and reporting illustrative quotes from interviews and texts. To limit the risk of subjective interpretatioas in the qualitative data analysis we structured the discussion of this material to be rooted in the five aspects of CPI’s politics (related to internal-supply side and external mobilization) illustrated above and discussed in detail in the empirical chapters.

A first set of data facilitated examination of CPI’s ideology, but also its themes and policy proposals. This material includes ‘party literature’ (Mudde 2000: 22), such as the books and comment pieces published by CPI leaders, notably in the group’s newspaper II Primato Nazionale (The National Primacy, IPN), available online and offline. Furthermore, considering the importance of music in the diffusion of ideas (Eyerman 2002; Kahn-Harris 2007) and in the far-right milieu (Tei- telbaum 2017), we also analysed the lyrics of CPI’s official band ZZA. We retrieved CasaPound’s policy suggestions from official documents, notably party manifestos presented ahead of the 2013 and 2018 Italian general electioas (e.g. Budge and McDonald 2006; Laver 2014). We follow a standard content analytical approach (Laver et al. 2003), using the quasi-sentence coding scheme developed by the Comparative Agendas Project (CAP) to study policy attention (see Appendix 4 for further details)/ We then use descriptive statistics to map the importance of the different policy issues in the group’s electoral supply, and to measure change over time.

When needed, we integrated this data with other propaganda material (flyers and advertisements for public events available on CPI’s website and Facebook pages). This material provides information about CPI’s internal structure, such as the territorial distribution of the headquarters, size of membership, and details about decision-making procedures and the administration of group activities. To examine the territorial distribution of CPI’s chapters we use official data on the location of headquarters and other offices available on the group’s website. Each entry was associated to a geolocation, which enabled the creation of map charts, highlighting the presence of CPI in Italian regional capitals, and changes over the time between a first observation (when data are available) in 2013 and in 2018.10 We use data from the Ministry of the Interior on CPI’s electoral results for the general elections (https://elezionistorico.interno.gov.it).

To study the collective identity of the group we mostly used face-to-face interviews, and gathered visual and written material from open participant observation during CPI’s public and private events. The fieldwork lasted from January to September 2012; it covered CPI’s territorial units in Florence, Milan, Naples, Rome, Turin, and Verona. Access to fieldwork was negotiated in late 2011, when we got in touch with CPI’s national leaders. Conscious that our fieldwork would take place in an environment where we would be both the object and the source of suspicion (see Russell Flochschild 2016) and that a rapid internet search would be sufficient to find out who we are and what we do, we decided to present ourselves as researchers and to openly describe the nature of our proposed research. The selection of the venues for fieldwork followed a double logic: on the one hand, we chose territorial chapters in different geographic contexts in the north, in the centre, and in the south of Italy; on the other, we sought variation in their longevity.

In addition, we were also formally invited to attend three public events organized by CasaPound: the national festival ‘Direzione Rivoluzione’ (Direction Revolution, September 2012), the demonstration ‘Italia in Marcia’ (Italy on the Move, November 2012), and the congress ‘Mediterraneo Solidale’ (Mediterranean Solidarity, September 2015). This was complemented by occasional observations at public events organized by CPI between 2013 and 2017, including conferences, art exhibitions, demonstrations, and concerts. While numerous conversations, informal interviews, and exchanges with CPI militants took place during the fieldwork but could not be recorded, we were allowed to hold and register 17 face-to-face interviews. These involved three high-ranking national officials, who formally spoke on behalf of CPI, the local secretaries of the five territorial headquarters that we visited, and a number of other activists who accepted to participate in the study individually. From a sociodemographic perspective, 15 of our interviewees were men and 2 women, aged mostly between 17 and 35. The interaction, even informal, with activists allowed observation of socialization and organizational practices within the group, as well as the processes of formation of collective identities that promote and sustain involvement in CPI through interpersonal relations, shared symbols and codes (Brewer and Gardner 1996; O’Reilly 2005).

We used established techniques in the field of social movement studies to account for the nature and intensity of CPI’s external mobilization, distinguishing different tactics using Political Claims Analysis (Hutter 2014; Kiousis et al. 2006; Koopmans and Rucht 2002; Koopmans and Statham 1999) as detailed in Appendix 3. Furthermore, we studied CPI’s political communication combining data from the interviews, from CPI’s official website, and the Facebook accounts of CPI and its leaders and candidates. In doing so, we explored the group’s activity in media environments, the content of its online campaigns, and style of its communication on social networks. Online interactions with other organizations are addressed by data on mutual reactions on Facebook collected and analysed by the website Patriaindipendente.

 
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