Violence

A final element contributing to the formation of CPI’s collective identity is violence. The use of violence is part of CPI’s conflictual understanding of doing politics, in which the opponent is an ‘enemy’ identified with all people and beliefs that might threaten the survival of CPI and its ideas. Although CPI claims to reject violence as a political instrument, its ideology and rhetoric inherently imply violent elements, such as the cult of the Fasti Ilaliani di Combat- timento (Fasci of Combat) and the Squadre d’azione (Action squads). Since the group cannot afford to simply reject violence, it takes on different meanings. We focus on three dimensions here: violence as part of CPI’s self-proclaimed repertoire of action; narratives of violence among militants; and practices of violence for identity-building purposes.

First, violence represents an integral part of collective action for CasaPound, and is an instrument of self-determination and self-defence for the group. On the website, the FAQ section contains a specific question asking whether CPI is a violent group and the answer:

CPI is engaged in politics, not hooliganism. It is not interested in flexing its muscles. It calls for a tranquil strength. At the same time, it cannot allow anyone to question its right to act and exist. We want debate, but we don’t shy from confrontation if this is forced upon us and if our political and physical survival is at stake.

(CPI 2016)

A similar understanding of violence emerges from violent narratives, and notably from some of the lyrics of ZZA’s songs. In these, violence represents a revolutionary' instrument necessary to overthrow consumerism and cultural homologation, and, more generally, to oppose the dominant economic system. At the same time, violence is described as an instrument to pursue self- determination and fight oppression and marginalization. Self-defence and the need to protect one’s safety and ideas from the external world thus become practices through which one demonstrates loy'alty to the community.

We are the ones that beat you up on Saturday night because you have forgotten good manners. We are kinder than you all in some respects, but not in others.

(‘Kryptonite’, ZetaZeroAlfa)

The use of violent language, however, is not limited to music. In fact, most of the activists we interviewed made use of a ‘battlefield’ type of language, which includes a wide array of expressions, words and concepts linked to the idea of war, conflict and struggle. CasaPound’s activists define their political engagement in terms of values and concepts such as the desire to ‘live like a warrior who has to storm the enemy trenches’.7 Within this rhetorical framework, CPI’s headquarters in Rome are defined as ‘a trench which is under surveillance 24 hours a day’,8 while national leaders are — as we have seen — ‘soldiers’.7 In a similar way, the motto ‘not one step backwards’ refers to a ‘street’ culture - which all activists would allegedly share. Accordingly, violence and struggles would be regulated by experience, honour and courage.

Thus, activism conies to represent a collective experience of virility. On the one hand, this narrative reaffirms the idea that violence is a necessary instrument for defending the group, its ideas and its legitimacy (Di Nunzio and Toscano 2011). On the other, violence becomes a forni of comradeship and a code of conduct, or a celebration of bold gestures, struggles, strength and courage.

As emerges from CPI’s official novel Nessun Dolore (Di Tullio 2010; see Chapter 4), activists must seek to imitate the behaviour of the epic warrior fighting his enemies, because ‘fascists [are] tired of hiding’ (p. 71) and because ‘an act of courage is an act of pure beauty’ (pp. 35-6). These narratives of clashes and battles have socializing and educational functions for activists. They advocate ‘lessons in kicks, punches, and life’ (p. 137) where the activist-hero is irrationally brave, bold and laughing in the face of danger.

It is the first rule they teach you: some things must be done, always. [...] Even if they [the opponents] were a thousand it would not matter, because the first rule you learn is this one, and it carves a path deep inside you, it builds a structure made of steel in your bones, and silences pain and fear. [...] What chances are left for the adversaries of those who charge them invoking the name of ancient gods, arousing the very essence of the earth, and let themselves explode with laughter?

(Di Tullio 2010: 13)

The fight against an opponent and the experience of combat are also necessary for the group to define its nature and limits. One of the themes used by CPI in addressing young activists is the cult of the struggle, of physical confrontation and of disciplining the body during combat. ‘Fighting is a destiny’, reads the motto of II Circuito, CPI’s fighting club, echoing the lyric of a song by ZZA whose words also appear on activists’ t-shirts. Indeed, the statute of II Circuito specifies that:

The Circuito is not a sports club, nor an amateur sports association, but is simply a coordinating structure aimed at spreading CPI’s ideas through combat sport. The Circuito is only open to those who identify themselves with CPI’s programme and social project; it cannot be the sports equivalent of a catwalk nor an instrument for personal advantage. It is a place where everyone contributes with their own sports skills and passion for martial arts in order to support sport and CPI’s cause.

(CPI 2013b)

If violence contributes to the connection between individual militants and the community during (actual or imagined) confrontations with political opponents, it also builds internal bonds through inward-oriented practices, notably pogo dancing during concerts. The exercise called cinghiamattanza [literally translated as: ‘chain-slaughter’], perhaps the best-known practice of CPI both inside and outside the extreme-right milieu, has a similar function. Our interviewees define it as a dance - although some have described it as a type of martial art - during which a group of bare-chested men whip each other using their belts without the buckle. The goal is to regain control of one’s corporeity, ‘against decadence’. In one activist’s description, the cinghiamattanza is intended to help rediscover pain, which has been banished from society, and to learn how to fight injustice:

[The cinghiamattanza] is the idea of going back home with a red mark left by a blow inflicted with a belt ... It’s the idea of joining the fray despite the physical consequences, or the bravery to take back control over one’s own body. In today’s society, the fear of physical pain leads to annihilation. Even if you suffer an injustice, you never put yourself in question. Therefore [the cinghiamattanza] also aims to educate the guys to

Some activists describe the cinghiamattanza almost with a mythological language. Those who practise it feel ‘more alive than ever before’ and find ‘their place in the world’ (Di Tullio 2010: 98).

This is a game in which ever)' participant is truly a winner, because there are no champions nor prizes, you know very well the enemy you need to defeat because you see him every morning in the mirror. This is not a competition for cool kids: you are not playing polo nor a card game. This is not the Thursday night five-a-side football game with the colleagues from work, nor the shadowboxing workout for showgirls that fires you up in your pseudo-exclusive gym. Here you hit and you get hit, all against all, no one against no one, brothers, warrior caste, saints of leather and flesh, blessed with the bruises of tomorrow.

(Di Tnllio 2010: 96-7)

The cinghiamattanza is a collective practice about which leaders and activists are very reticent to speak publicly, being aware of the risks of stigmatization. In a comment posted on CPI’s blog Ideodromo, a CPI leader complained that ‘still today many commentators see in the cinghiamattanza a mixture of homosexual libido and death impulses’ (Ideodromo 2013).

 
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