Italy PM rejects fascist nostalgia after youth wing scandal


Acoording to BBC reports: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has told members of her Brothers of Italy (FdI) party that she was “angry and saddened” after an investigative outlet published two reports showing members of the party’s youth wing making fascist salutes and using racist and antisemitic language.

“There is no room [in FdI] for racist or antisemitic positions, in the same way as there is no room for nostalgia for the totalitarian systems of the 20th Century, or for any other display of foolish folklore,” Ms Meloni wrote in a letter.

She added she had “no time to waste with those who want to, unwittingly or not, become a tool in the hands of our adversaries”.

“Those who are unable to understand this, who have not understood the path [we are on] or who are unable to keep up cannot be part of Brothers of Italy.”

In the first report put out by investigative outlet Fanpage in mid-June, members on FdI’s National Youth wing (Gioventù Nazionale – GN) can be heard chanting slogans like “For a cleaner world, come back, Uncle Benito [Mussolini]” and “Sieg Heil!”

The videos were gathered by undercover journalists who infiltrated the group posing as potential new members.

Two weeks later, a second instalment of the investigation showed several members and local leaders making derogatory remarks about disabled people, as well as racist comments and antisemitic remarks.

Fanpage said that after the report came out, several former members of the FdI youth wing got in touch to share their experiences within the group. Many said they had witnessed similar behaviour in local branches across Italy.

Several of the more high-profile members of the GN featured in the investigation were seen as rising stars within the main Brothers of Italy party.

One of them, Elisa Segnini, who could be heard in one of the videos as saying she had “never stopped being a racist or a fascist”, has since resigned from her role as cabinet secretary to an FdI MP.

Local chapter leader Flaminia Pace stepped down from her senior role within the GN after she was caught on camera mocking a Jewish FdI senator, Ester Mieli.

Commenting on the Nazi-inspired slogans and the antisemitic rhetoric used by GN members, Italian senator and Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre, 93, told Italian TV: “The deviations that have come to the fore recently… have always existed, but used to be hidden, not paraded about.”

Ms Segre added: “At my age, must I witness this once more? Will I be thrown out of my country again, like I was in the past?”

Minister Luca Ciriani of FdI said the reports were based on “fragmented, decontextualised images taken in a private setting”.

Other FdI party members, however, condemned the behaviour of the youth wing members. The President of the Senate, Ignazio La Russa, said the language used by GN went “against the values of our party” and condemned “all forms of racism and antisemitism”.

Ms Meloni, however, did not immediately respond to the Fanpage investigation. She acknowledged it for the first time last week, when she criticised the outlet by saying it had used “methods worthy of an [authoritarian] regime” when it infiltrated the youth wing of her party.

“Why did [Fanpage] only do this with FdI?,” she asked, adding: “Is this even allowed?”

But she also added that “racist, antisemitic or nostalgic ideas” were “incompatible with Brothers of Italy”.

Simona Malpezzi, an opposition senator of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), said Ms Meloni should have “thanked the Fanpage journalists who shone the light on an extremely serious issue concerning the youth wing [Ms Meloni] is so proud of… She should distance herself from the people who used to be considered the party’s rising stars.”

Ms Meloni has previously praised GN. At a political event last December, she said her younger supporters were “wonderful”, saying: “Many are jealous of us because we have young people who still believe in politics… It’s rare and it’s precious.”

Since becoming the leader of a right-wing coalition and Italy’s prime minister in 2022, Ms Meloni has often found herself at the centre of controversy involving her Brothers of Italy party, which has its political roots in the far-right Italian Social Movement (MSI) – set up by former Mussolini supporters after World War II.

In June, the spokesperson for agriculture minister and key Meloni ally Francesco Lollobrigida resigned following the publication of wiretapped calls and messages that contained racist and antisemitic comments.