Internal structure

How is CasaPound Italia (CPI) organized internally? Building on the literature on political parties and social movements, this chapter presents CPI’s internal configuration based on evidence from online data, open participant observation and face-to-face interviews with activists and high-ranking officials. Specifically, it discusses how strategic hybridization in the group organization have allowed CPI to gather the financial, human and symbolic resources that have granted its survival expansion, and recognition. We begin by presenting the formal hierarchical structure of CPI, focusing on its territorial and thematic organization (4.1). We then move on to analyse how CPI copes with the problem of collective choice (Kitschelt 2006) and present the rules governing leadership, personnel selection and internal decision-making (4.2). Two specific sections are devoted to recruitment: comparing group strategies and individual motivations to join the group (4.3); and the modes of engagement with CPI — paying special attention to youth, women and football fans (4.4). In the concluding section, we argue that the high profile currently enjoyed by CPI is due, at least to a certain extent, to its hybrid organizational configuration. Combining the features of political parties and social movements, the internal structure of CPI facilitates the recruitment and engagement of activists, as well as ensuring financial resources from different venues.

Formal organization: territorial and thematic units

Since CPI does not provide public information about its internal organization, neither on the Web nor in its internal literature, we had to reconstruct its organizational features starting with the information gathered during our participant observation and interviews.

Formally, CPI is registered as an Associazione di Promozione Sociale (Association for Social Promotion), which is the legal status of non-profit associations in Italy. The advantage of this status is that it allows CPI to gather financial resources through donations and the so-called ‘five-per-thousand’ law, under which Italian taxpayers devolve a compulsory share of their annual income tax to an association considered of public interest. Since CPI leadership was reluctant to provide information about the composition of its finances, we could not assess the extent to which this form of funding contributes to CPI’s budget. Tellingly, the ID code for devolving funds to CPI does not mention the name of CPI, but a more neutral L’Isola delle Tartarughe (The Island of Turtles: the arrowed turtle being the logo of CPI).

As an organization, CPI is strongly hierarchical and centred on the figure of its founding leader, Gianluca Iannone, and on an advisory body made up of a few individuals in charge of the core activities and ideas of the group. Internal debates originally took place through a blog managed by the leadership, but now mostly appear in CPI’s newspaper II Primate Nazionale, which is available both online and in print format (see Chapter 7).2 Overall, CPI is organized much like a mass political party, with a central headquarters (in Rome) and series of hierarchically subordinate local chapters (see Chapter 2). The internal organization follows two logics: a territorial division of responsibilities, and a thematic distribution of responsibilities. Geographically, CPI organizes like a party, with a number of local branches responding directly to the central organization. Thematically, CPI is more unusual, featuring a youth wing similar to that of most political parties, and a series of parallel project-based organizations or issue-specific associations.

The geographic organization of CPI is rather simple. All local chapters have a similar structure including a local leader and an advisory body in direct touch with the central authority in Rome. The Roman chapter oversees the planning of CPI’s major activities at the national and local levels, and notably the training of activists, and the management of recreational events, demonstrations and other campaigns. The hierarchical organization of local chapters thus ensures that all decision-making is centralized on the national headquarters, especially concerning the training of activists and the organization of events.

As explained by two local leaders, in fact, most decisions concerning the recruitment and training of local activists and the funding of local events have to be approved in Rome:

Intellectual education is a mainstay for CPI. From the national headquarters they send us lists of books, themes, and films for activists. Moreover, since we also manage a pub, we organize other types of events too, such as the ‘Irish month’, for which we ask [the national headquarters] for funding.3

Hence, similar to the model of the post-war mass parties, all local officials are trained in Rome by means of ad hoc sessions organized by the national leadership. The sessions include training on event management (concerts, movie projections, celebrations), but also working groups on the readings to suggest to activists and newcomers. These courses are then reproduced locally for local activists.

We organize training courses for militants at the local level, but local leaders go to Rome every now and then for a few days for their own training and an update. Here we have organized about thirty training meetings [the interviewee shows a folder with all the leaflets, catalogued by date, from the various meetings].*

We organize training courses about history and culture ... but also practical things, such as sewing for instance. And then we discuss important issues, like welfare state or immigration, and we discuss with the activists how to address them.

On these occasions, national leaders set the strategy for local political meetings focusing on broad political issues considered relevant for CPI in general. At the time of our fieldwork, the main issues were the Italian sovereign debt crisis, housing rights and the need to restore economic protectionism; local leaders can articulate the discussions around local issues (e.g. local social housing projects, local industrial plans, etc.). Overall, besides the themes sponsored by the national leadership, local leaders can also promote others, as long as these are considered to be coherent with CPI’s general agenda.

To tell you the truth, we can propose any reading we want about Fascism and the core ideas of CPI. For instance, here in [city of the local branch], we meet once a month and comment on a book we have read. It may be one of the titles included in the list suggested from Rome, but we can also choose another topic related to CPI’s political goals ... for example I can suggest to activists: next time we discuss the history of the Social Republic. Or something on Ezra Pound or the like.7

As for the thematic organization of CPI, the group features a youth organization (Blocco Studentesco, Student Bloc, BS) and a series of associations promoting political participation on specific issues. Table 4.1 lists their names, the activities proposed, their legal status and the numbers of chapters they can count on.

Besides the youth wing (which counts 53 chapters: see section 4.3), Casa- Pound promotes seven other associations. The most prominent ones — which recurred frequently in our interviews — are CPI’s humanitarian charity Solidarites-l- dentiles (Solidarity — Identity) and La Salamandra (The Salamander), a unit of volunteers aiming to support Italy’s Civil Protection (Protezione Civile) in the prevention and management of exceptional events and natural disasters. The other associations were initially formed under the initiative of single individuals or smaller groups of activists. This includes various types of groups which enable CPI to mobilize on different issues, using a different (and less stigmatized) name,

TABLE 4.1 CasaPound Italia’s associations

Name

Field

Legal stains

Nr of chapters

Blocco

studentesco

Students’ association

None

53

Solidarity's Identity's Onlus

International Humanitarian volunteering

Legally

registered

association

  • 5 abroad
  • (Syria, Binnania, Kosovo, Palestine, South Africa)

La Muvra

Mountain Hiking, sport

Legally

registered

association

15

La Foresta che avanza

Environmental association

Legally

registered

association

20

GR.IM.ES

Health assistance

None

Not available

11 Circuito

Combat sport

None

Not available

Impavidi Destini

Disability

None

Not available

La Salamandra

Domestic Humanitarian volunteering (civil protection)

None

Not available

Scuderie7Puntol

Bikers

None

Not available

and creating links with civil society. For instance, Impavidi Dcslini (Fearless Fates) is an NGO assisting persons with disabilities and campaigning for their rights; GR.I.ME.S. (Special Team on Social Medicine) is a group of medics and paramedics who, through CPI, organized free services for health counselling; whereas La Foresta die Avattza (The Advancing Forest) is a volunteer association focusing on the environment and animal rights. In addition, CPI promotes sport activities notably through II Ciraiito (The Circuit — the network of CPI gyms) and excursions through La Muvra (The Mouflon — for mountain hiking). While some of these associations are now established, involving several activists and counting on official websites and a relatively professional staff, others can only count on Facebook pages and are relatively inactive unless individual militants invest in organizing events (see Chapter 7).

The rationale for the thematic organization of CPI’s internal units is threefold. First, as noted, these associations help CPI to recruit sympathizers, by offering engagement opportunities on specific themes, and services available to the public. Second, these associations help to craft the identity of militants, offering specific trajectories of militancy within the political framework offered by CPI (see Chapter 5). And third, and perhaps most importantly, these associations are important for the funding of CPI. Since ('.PI cannot count on the state funding associated with electoral participation, it gathers financial resources from non- electoral activities. Three of these associations, in fact, are registered and are able to receive donations through the tax return system outlined above. Furthermore, they can participate in public calls for tenders (gave d’appalto), and their charitable

Posters from CasaPound Italia’s associations

FIGURE 4.1 Posters from CasaPound Italia’s associations.

On the left a Sol.It), initiative advertising a food drive for Syria (2015); in the middle, the membership campaign of La Salamandra (2017); on the right, a poster from La For- esta die Avanza calling for the end of animal suffering in circuses (2011).

activities can be funded. The advantage for CPI is that these associations do not display the logo of CPI and thus escape the stigmatization of the right-wing extremist worldviews of the group. With reference to these linkages, the mayor of a small town in central Italy explained to us that he funded CPI’s association La Foresla die Avanza for a project of environmental requalification, without knowing that it was related to CPI.

Posters from CasaPound Italia’s associations

FIGURE 4.2 Posters from CasaPound Italia’s associations.

On the left, the poster of a boxing initiative by II Ciraiito in Turin (2012); in the middle, a campaign to collect equipment for the disabled organized by the NGO Impa- vidi Destini (2016); on the right, a poster from GR.I.ME.S. promoting free cardiology check-ups for people over 50 years of age (2018).

 
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