Modes of engagement
The hybrid range of CPI recruitment strategies is mirrored by the multiple modes of engagement offered to its militants and sympathizers. A variety of daily activities are in fact envisaged, with the goal of creating solidarity bonds within the group, and strengthening collective identity (Castelli Gattinara and Froio 2014; Di Nunzio and Toscano 2011).
CPI defines itself as a community that takes care of the material as well as spiritual needs of its members: there is no aspect of the everyday life of activists that CPI does not attempt to imbue with political content (see Chapter 5).
Accordingly, CasaPound organizes a multiplicity of collective activities open to all members. Activists are expected to spend most of their free time within the group. The idea is that militants perform most of their everyday activities within the community rather than elsewhere. Many of the activists we met during our fieldwork participated regularly in these activities and frequented CPI’s social spaces — shops, gyms, concert halls — on an everyday basis.
Once an individual has become a member of CPI, activism becomes extremely demanding. Militants engage in conventional activities, such as electoral campaigning, political meetings, organization of public events, as well as in various forms of protest politics, and cultural activities such as art exhibitions, book presentations, concerts and movie projections:
Becoming a political activist means devoting most of your free time to CPI. Of course, those who want can simply be sympathizers or just vote for us. That is fine, but being an activist is a different thing. It is an existential commitment: you have to share with the community your daily routine, your passions and fears, everything. With us, you do politics not only by voting or by taking part in a demonstration. You must take part in all of our activities, our debates, our concerts, our exhibitions and so forth.24
According to one national leader, by engaging in the different activities proposed by CPI and its associations, activists expand their political knowledge and skills. Joining CPI is thus the first step of a process of personal growth inside the community, made up of ‘thought and action’.25 Being an activist implies enrolment in traditional activities, but also requires a substantial commitment to the process of learning and sharing the group’s values, ideas and practices: ‘To be with us, there should be sacrifice and the effort to improve oneself to become part of a community.’26
Despite CPI’s official emphasis on the communitarian dimension of engagement, at least three specific patterns of participation can be distinguished, deserving specific attention. The first concerns the way in which the youth and student activism are integrated within CPI. The second concerns female activists and their roles in the group. And the third is the link between football fans and activism in CPI.