The environment: for a nativist ecology
While ecology is not a prominent theme for CPI, the group occasionally engages in environmental politics. This happens mostly when the issue acquires importance in public debates at the local or national level, and notably in response to the environmental campaigns of the Five Star Movement (Movimento 5 Stelle, MSS), debates on animal rights, and more recendy the Fridaysforfuture campaign. Through its internal associations, CPI supports what it calls ‘a non-compliant ecology’ (ecologia non conforme) — a nativist interpretation of environmental politics.
In the Italian far right, attention to environmental issues is not new. Early references can be found already in the late 1970s, in the activities of the intellectual Environmental Research Groups organized by Pino Rauti’s youth movement33 and later by the Nuova Destra (Tarchi 2010). These experiences paved the way to much theoretical and intellectual reflection on the link between right-wing politics and the environment, but left only minor traces in CasaPound’s worldview. CPI in fact defends a vision of the environment that is not naturalistic, in the sense that it does not put men and the environment on the same level, unlike the Nazi vision of ‘deep ecology’ (see Voss 2014). Rather, it conceives the environment as subordinate to the needs of men and
FIGURE 3.2 Poster from CasaPound’s NGO Lii Foresta die Anansa celebrating Arbor Day (2011).
The quote by journalist Arnaldo Mussolini (younger brother of the Duce) says ‘A new belief must arise in Italy, which 1 would call the cult of the tree.’ interprets it along the lines of its understanding of national communities. Since the environment mirrors the characteristics and traditions of specific lands and human communities, its inhabitants shall not be mixed with species and traditions originating in different settings. In this sense, CPI does not support the elimination of meat from the diet, but it is against large-scale industrial meat production because it reduces animals to objects, ‘eradicating them from their natural habitat, and forcing them to live a miserable life’ (La Foresta die Avanza 2013). Rather, CPI calls for a nativist 'Mediterranean diet’ based on the abandonment of ‘imported trans-Atlantic diets, which after World War II caused a surge in the percentage of meat consumption’ (La Foresta die Avanza 2013). The same argument justifies CPI’s opposition to vivisection, the use of animals in pharmaceutical experimentation and their exploitation in festivals and circuses.
Gender: tradition against individualism
As is the case for the environment, gender relations are not at the core of CPI’s ideology, but the group took a position on both issues as they acquired increasing relevance in the Italian debate. Ultimately, CPI interprets gender equality as a deviation from tradition.
Before 2016, CPI’s internal material rarely dealt with issues related to social constructs and power relations between the sexes, to women’s rights and homosexuality. Here too, CPI was set apart from most other extreme-right groups in Italy (e.g. FzNv), for it did not express a principled opposition to either abortion or euthanasia, nor any reference to religious values in politics.34 Gender issues acquired importance for CPI from 2016 onwards. This coincided with the discussion, and then approval, of the first law on same-sex unions (Law 20 May 2016, no. 76); subsequently, it related to the controversies concerning the teaching of so-called ‘gender theory’ in public schools (Garbagnoli and Prearo 2018); and, more recently, following the Umetoo campaign on Twitter. The emergence of these issues forced CPI to take a clear stance on gender- related matters, reflecting its opposition to gender equality.
CPI’s view on gender relations can be extrapolated from a book published by one of the national leaders of the group, which is entirely dedicated to this issue. Once more, gender is interpreted through the same ideological scheme that drives CPI’s worldview. The demands for gender equality are the result of a ‘dominant individualistic ideology’ that wishes to alienate individuals from the ‘culture’ and ‘traditions’ provided by nature, that is, their biological sex.
Accordingly, CPI’s view on the role of women in society is traditionalist, claiming ‘the right to difference between the sexes’ (Scianca 2011a: 120). Unlike conservative and ultra-catholic positions, however, CPI does not consider women exclusively as mothers: it recognizes that women can work and have a career, and therefore does not suggest that they should be discouraged from work or treated as ‘mothers to be’. Despite this, for CPI, women bear the main responsibility for family care, the education of children and domestic work. In this respect, a prominent campaign of CPI focuses on family policy and labour rights for women. The policy proposal called Tempo di essere madri (Time to be mothers) targets (Italian) working mothers, offering reduced working hours and economic compensation so that women can keep their jobs while also performing their domestic duty as mothers (Tempo di Essere Madri 2013).35 At the same time, CPI is against all forms of gender quotas, in the labour market and in education.
Furthermore, CPI explicitly supports the idea of ‘traditional’ families consisting of a man and a woman, but it does not consider civil and religious marriages important and it does not oppose divorce (Scianca 2017). While homosexuality is depicted as an expression of neoliberal individualism which poses a threat to the nation and menaces reproduction, CPI does not promote explicitly homo- phobic views:
That same-sex couples exist is a fact. Of course, not all of them live their condition with moderation and good taste, but the same can be said of too many heterosexual couples — and in any case, good taste is a question of style, and certainly cannot be enforced by law. We do not consider it a problem that such unions may receive civil and administrative recognition, with the attribution to the couple of specific rights and obligations. However, we are folly opposed to any hypothesis of adoption of children by gay couples.
While these interpretations are CPI’s official position on these issues, activists often struggle to integrate them. In fact, CPI has been at the centre of several episodes of intolerance and discrimination — including homophobic insults (SkyNews Italia 2013) and threats against the former governor of the Apulia Region, Nichi Ven- dola, one of the first openly homosexual Italian politicians (II Messaggero 2013b).
International relations: nostalgia for empires (with Putin and Assad)
For CPI, international relations are primarily about the promotion of the nation’s interests and sovereignty. Specifically, CPI’s worldview is informed by ‘third-position’ understandings developed in the 1970s, according to which Italy should represent an alternative to both the US and Soviet models. Applied to the contemporary scenario, this results in a set of loosely connected proposals calling for the withdrawal of Italy from NATO, the reintroduction of compulsory military service, higher spending for the army and for the development of war technologies.36 Additionally, the dream of reinstating the Fascist colonial empire has inspired some recent claims that Italy must ‘go back to northern Africa’ (CPI 2018) to establish colonies that would also help to halt immigration from Eritrea, Somalia and Libya.
FIGURE 3.3 Poster publicizing a debate on civil rights promoted by CasaPound Salerno, featuring guests from the mainstream right Italian party II Popolo della Liberia (2011).
In terms of world politics, CPI did not celebrate the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, nor did it welcome the grand tour of Europe by the American Steven Bannon. In line with third-position views, CPI considers the United States as an imperialistic power threatening Italy’s sovereignty and civilization. Notably, the NATO bases on Italian territory are considered to represent a breach of national sovereignty and a threat to security by an occupying power.37 While CPI does not support Russia either, it appreciates the figure of its current president Vladimir Putin, for his strategic position on the recent conflicts in Donbass, Crimea and Syria (CPI 2018), and for his idea of reinstating the imperial Russia that was overthrown by the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. On the one hand, the idea of a Russian empire resonates with CPI’s ‘civilizational’ nationalism; on the other, Putin’s international politics promote the idea of ‘a new multipolar world that is alternative to the unipolar one dominated by the US and the dollar’.38 In this sense, for CPI, Putin is mainly the icon of a nationalist ‘cultural project alternative to US globalism’ (CPI 2018).
Similar arguments explain why CPI supports the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. As an authoritarian leader lighting both US imperialism and ISIL’s religious fundamentalism, Assad promotes a secularist nationalist understanding of society that resonates highly with CPI’s worldviews. Indeed, CPI promoted numerous solidarity actions in support of the Syrian regime through its association, Solidarile Identitfc (Solid.) (see Chapter 4), and within the framework of the European Solidarity Front for Syria — a network of political associations from several countries supporting the government of Bashar al-Assad.39 ‘For Syria, for Assad!’ is also the title of one of the songs on the 2017 album by CPI’s band ZelaZeroAlfa.
Support for authoritarian regimes around the world also has a pragmatic dimension, in that CPI advocates for the stability of emigration countries as a way to halt the inflow of asylum seekers to Europe. This resonates with CPI’s ethnopluralist understanding of society, and the idea that ‘the problem is not Islam per se, but Islam here in Italy’. Accordingly, there is some evidence that supporters and activists of CPI have occasionally participated, as volunteers or observers, in recent conflicts in Syria, Donbass and Crimea (L’Espresso 2018).
FIGURE 3.4 Poster publicizing a debate on ‘Assad’s Syria: a bulwark of freedom’, promoted by CasaPound and the Fronte Europeo per la Siria (2013).