The origins of CasaPound Italia

CasaPound Italia was officially established in 2008 as a charitable organization. The origins of the group, however, must be found in the socio-political context of the late 1990s, when CPI’s current president Gianluca Iannone founded the music band ZetaZeroAlfa (ZZA), which would come to represent an important cultural phenomenon within the Roman right-wing landscape. Over the following years, the ZZA became a core identity feature of a small group of young extreme-right militants (see Chapter 5), meeting at the Cutty Sark pub (now managed by CPI), to discuss the history of Fascism, football, love, violence and

The logo of ZetaZeroAlfa

FIGURE 2.1 The logo of ZetaZeroAlfa.

globalization. As reported in the website of CasaPound, the texts of ZZA’s songs gave voice to the demands of those young activists who did not feel represented by the far-right parties of the time, and who identified more with the extra-parliamentary right than with the electoral tradition of the MSI as a political party (CPI 2012a).

In the early 2000s, the group engaged in a number of showcase political actions, which marked their diversity from the style of action of most existing far- right actors. Faced with the need to find a place to meet and gather, they started occupying abandoned buildings. Social-centre squatting in Italy has its roots in the mid-1970s, as a radical left mobilization to ‘claim the city’ (Della Porta and Diani 1999). By the 1990s, the movement had reached its apogee, with the widespread occupation of public spaces and empty buildings throughout the country (Piazza 2011), but until then right-wing squats had been fairly exceptional, and generally short-lived (Rao 2014). The group led by Iannone set out to change this tradition. First, in 2002, they targeted a building in the suburbs of Rome, which they named CasaMontag (The House of Montag, CM) and used it to organize music gigs and cultural events." This was the first of a series of Occupazioni non Conformi (Non-Compliant Occupations) that took place in the early 2000s, and which would come to represent a fundamental pillar for CPI’s activism and propaganda. Yet CM did not have, at least initially, a political aim; rather, it served as a meeting space, in which activists could gather to debate politics, play music, draw and read

The logo of CasaPound Italia

FIGURE 2.2 The logo of CasaPound Italia.

comics. The set-up of CasaMontag, which lasted for about a year, was the result of an immediate, direct action, presented as a concrete answer to an urgent need: that of finding a place to meet and gather with other like-minded activists and sympathizers. Only later would CPI develop the understanding of occupations as a political response to the housing crisis, and of squatting as a fonn of political activism (see Di Stefano 2013).

The origins of CasaPound are therefore connected with the progressive politicization of squatting practices. On 26 December 2003, a group of activists led by Iannone decided to occupy an apartment block in the Esquilino Hill neighbourhood, close to the main train station in Rome. This time, the motivation for the squat - which would be named CasaPound (‘The House of Pound’) - was political and, most notably, linked to housing issues. It was the first of CPI’s Occupazioni a Scopo Abitativo (Occupations for Housing Purposes), and housed the national headquarters of CasaPound Italia, together with 23 families — including those of prominent members of the organization (II Riformista 2010). The political nature of this CasaPound squat was radically different from that of CasaMontag. Now, the occupation was motivated by the need to deal with the housing crisis in Rome, as shown in the banner that was hung outside the occupied building: ‘Rent is usury. Stop the increase in the cost of living!’ (Di Nunzio and Toscano 2011: 25).

Despite several judiciary and political attempts to evacuate the building until 2018 (La Repubblica 2018), at the time of writing the CasaPound squat is still at the core of CPI politics. The building physically hosts the headquarters of the organization, and most of the national events organized by CPI. Symbolically, the occupation reinforces the social movement image of CPI even though in more recent years the group has been progressively engaging in the election arena. Indeed, while CPI leadership proudly claims that they are and will always be different from traditional parties (Rao 2014), CPI’s relationship with electoral politics has not been so linear. A few years after the squat of CasaPound, Gian- luca Iannone and his group officially joined the MS-FT and rapidly became the dominant minority faction of the party, especially within the youth wing. In 2006 Iannone himself ran as an independent candidate for MS-FT, but this relationship was short-lived. Already in 2008, CPI splintered from the party due to disagreements concerning its organization and decision-making. According to CPI leaders, MS-FT did not allow young people to express themselves and engage in politics in an autonomous and non-conventional way.3 Specifically, Iannone was expelled from MS-FT after he led the occupation of the party’s national headquarters demanding the organization of a new congress. The statement released by Iannone on that occasion is emblematic:

Today, 23 May 2008, the ‘men of action’ [...] have occupied the national headquarters of the Fiamma Tricolore (Tricolour Flame, FT) party — which two years ago was smashed and to which we had given a new dynamism, ideas, and political credibility. This action responds to the work we have been doing for years, with the spirit of self-sacrifice and sense of belonging that characterises us. A spirit constantly betrayed by an ‘apparatus’ that does not even abide to the obligations imposed by the party statute — the highest normative source for a party. An apparatus that is insensitive to the demands for meritocracy that its movement-wing has been advancing for a long time. An apparatus [...] that is only interested in selling to the highest bidder a political leeway that we have built with our militancy and that, today, we take back.

(CPI 2008)

Acknowledging that MS-FT had become old hat, in terms of symbols, ideas and modes of action,4 the splinter group would thus quit the party to found CasaPound Italia. As can be noted in the quote above, CPI’s leaders emphasize the tension between their propulsion towards social movement activism, on the one hand, and the slow, old-fashioned, exclusive nature of party politics, on the other. This ambiguous relationship with both protest and party politics will become a crucial feature of CPI in the following years, as we shall illustrate in the next section.

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