Table of Contents:

Women in CasaPound

The ‘gendered-dimension’31 of far-right politics is considered to be increasingly important by academic scholarship and the media (Kottig et al. 2017; Spielings et al. 2015). While extant studies have focused on female leaders within established right-wing parties, little is known about the participation of women in the usually male-dominated grassroots extreme right (Avanza 2008; Blee 2002, 2017; Scrinzi 2017).

As regards the gender composition of CPI’s electoral lists, women are fairly well represented. This is no surprise, considering that Italy has a legal mechanism

MAP 4.1 The local sections of the Student Bloc in Italy in 2013 and 2018.

designed to ensure gender equality in electoral lists, whereby each sex cannot be represented in excess of 60 per cent.32 Accordingly, 47 per cent of the 716 candidates who stood for CPI during the 2018 general elections were women, which is slightly higher but more or less in line with most other parties. Considering that CPI did not elect any MPs, and that national electoral lists are often made up of sympathizers who are participating symbolically, we should not make too much of these results.

Still, in light of the presence of this gender quota, CPI’s choice of transitioning to the electoral arena certainly had consequences for the engagement and participation of women. Indeed, a number of women ran as main candidates for CPI in local elections, notably at the 2018 regional elections in Lombardy. Others acted as spokespersons for male candidates, sometimes managing to obtain national visibility despite the suburban scope of the elections, such as in the case of recent elections in the Roman suburb of Ostia (Torrisi 2018). Like other far-right groups and parties, CPI tries to give visibility to female militants and candidates, as well as sympathizers, in the belief that they appear to have greater legitimization than their male counterparts, who are more directly associated with violence and extremism.

In terms of movement participation, however, female activists display specific activist trajectories, both in terms of their motivations to join, and their modes of engagement within CPI. Unlike men, who stressed primarily the identity dimension of being members of CPI, the women we interviewed focused on personal factors and ideological motivations.

CPI is the real alternative for Italy. It brings fresh air compared to the MSI. I know the history of the MSI well — my father was a Senator for that party. It is thanks to him that I am here. He transmitted important patriotic values to me, and a love for the Italian nation. However, I also know that, to survive, these values can not be presented like 40 years ago. I am in CPI because I want to protect the Italian nation and not because I am a woman!

I am an activist because I want to be a mother and a worker, but it is difficult to be able to do both things at once. To be a mother, first you need a house, a job and a salary. These are the proposals of CPI.34

At the same time, female activists are integrated into the movement following the same personalized trajectory we have observed in the previous sections; their personal interests are progressively integrated into the political activities of the group:

I joined CPI thanks to M. [name of partner, a local leader]. When we met, he was already a local official for the movement. Thanks to him, I discovered a group of fighters, who take the side of the Italian people. Here, they also gave space to my interests, to my studies on regional poetry. I join demonstrations and I also promote cultural activities such as reading sessions to discuss regional poetry.35

Female interviewees thus describe their membership in CPI ideologically, as a form of legitimization of beliefs that they possessed even before becoming members. On the one hand, unlike men, they do not describe their approach to

CPI as an individual trajectory culminating in a collective identity, but lather as an intermediated process, channelled by the presence of men: their partner, their husband or their father. On the other hand, they confirm the idea of CPI as a hybrid container, where activism can take multiple forms to accommodate the needs and preferences of individual militants.

This, however, corresponds only in part to the evidence we collected through participant observation. While most of the female activists that we interviewed claimed that men and women should have an equal say, both within and outside CPI, they also stressed that ‘unlike feminists’ CPI activists ‘do not hate men’.36 The rationale is that women have prescribed roles, which distinguish them from men in the context of the family — as mothers; and in society - as the biological reproducers of the nation.

During demonstrations we stand side by side with our male camerati because we are all the same, we are all activists, we fight for the same objectives — to protect our nation, have a house, a job and a family. But women are also the guardians of life. This is why it is silly to claim that men and women are just the same. I believe that women are different and that they are complementary to men.37

In general, activism in CPI is interpreted within a masculine framework, mobilizing the strength of the militant, his fearless nature and his image as the ‘hero of the nation’. In this respect, women often describe themselves using similar attributes: ‘Activism for me is a fight. It is a struggle and I am strong.’38 At the same time, they do not participate in the games and social activities that reproduce models of masculinity based on physical strength and aggressiveness. During pogo dancing and violent rites of identity building (Chapter 5), women do not mingle with men, but simply look at them from a distance, because ‘it is their game and we watch them having fun’. While women are occasionally involved in most of CPI’s activities, in fact, their presence is consistent in only two specific areas. First, they promote and manage the initiatives of CPI’s project for women’s right ‘Tempo di essere tnadri’ (discussed in Chapter 2 and Chapter 6). Second, they take care of domestic tasks during social events (see Blee 2002), including cleaning, cooking, and serving food and beer.

Football fans

The link - actual or alleged — between right-wing extremism and football fans is often at the core of academic and political debate.37 Notably, the neo-fascist tenets manifested by ideologically extreme-right groups of ultras are often interpreted as a fascist-inspired resistance against dominant socio-cultural models and political values in contemporary Italy (Testa and Armstrong 2008). Since the composition of ultras groups in Italy tends to reflect the character of the communities from which they are drawn, football hooliganism in Rome often unites a dual passion for the local teams and the political ideas of neo-fascism. However, the relationship between CPI and the stadium is ambiguous. During the 1990s and early 2000s, CPI’s competitors from Forza Nuova successfully infiltrated organized soccer clubs and the stadiums in Rome to recruit militants among hooligans (Caldiron 2013). But in more recent times actors seeking to recruit in these milieus often faced open hostility (Testa and Armstrong 2010).

Hence, the milieu of the curva is not central for political engagement in CPI, because the group offers its activists and supporters dedicated spaces and activities aimed at linking political views and group identity. While important, the stadium does not represent the main arena to articulate and express CPI’s political identity.

Of course, I go to the stadium, but, for me, doing politics is different from simply going to the stadium wearing a t-shirt with the logo of CPI and of my football team.41

However, the stadium plays an important role for recognition by outsiders of CPI and its members. In this respect, in the late 2000s some groups of ultras sought association with CPI, as they recognized it as a group mainly engaged in social activism, rather than being interested in purely ideological projects, or oriented towards the elections. Over the years, the movement style of CPI, and its propensity towards bottom-up action, turned it into one of the most respected political groups within the ultras environment (Testa et al. 2013). CPI therefore developed an ad hoc strategy towards political participation in Italian stadiums. When the circumstances were favourable, it built links with pre-existing football groups (e.g. in Rome), or alliances with groups that had connections with the curva, such as in the case of the youth centre Cuore Nero (Black Heart) in Milan. In other cases, and notably in some cities in Tuscany, it created sub-groups of supporters that directly connected with the central organization.

We only go to the curva where it is permitted to enter as a political group. I mean without ... starting a war! We did it in Rome, with Padroni di Casa [The Landlords]. In Arezzo we have a group called Io e i miei amici [My Friends and I],42 whose members have certain political ideas and certainly belong to CasaPound.43

CPI has used the stadiums strategically to achieve visibility and recognition within a milieu in which the extreme right had been long present, but was often ostracized by open hostility towards political parties and ‘the system’. Getting into the curva was thus functional to CPI’s project for hegemony over the far-right milieu, precisely to mark its difference from the existing parties of the Italian extreme right. In this way, CPI sought to bring the world of the ultras closer to its own social activism outside the stadiums, promoting its distinctive profile and youth-oriented approach to politics. Indeed, the ultras’ world features prominently in the novel written by a leading figure of the movement, which describes, in a romanticized way, the stages that could lead a young person to become a CPI militant. The main character of the novel, which is titled Nessun Dolore: Una Storia di CasaPound (No Pain: A Story of CasaPound), describes coming into contact with CPI at the stadium:

They had created their own group of supporters: the Landlords. Being one of them meant having a different style, within and outside the stadium. [...] It was a style of supporting, but also a way of life, based on a few strict rules. [...] Those roughly one hundred young men were not merely organized supporters: they represented the arrowed turtle of CasaPound and the encircled lightning flash of the Student Bloc. (Di Tullio 2010: 93)

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