Rise of the right in Europe: Italy’s Meloni is ‘firmly in the saddle’
Italy's Premier Giorgia Meloni in Rome, May 25, 2024.| Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse via AP

Voters across Europe head to the polls June 6 to 9 for elections to the European Parliament. In countries around the continent, the parties of the far right are expected to make major gains.

This article is the first in a series, “Rise of the Right in Europe.” It is a collaborative project of three newspapers, Junge Welt in Germany, Arbejderen in Denmark, and Morning Star in Britain. Each installment in the series will examine the far-right threat in a different country.

This first article features an interview by Junge Welt with Giuliano Marucci, a journalist in Italy and founder of the left-wing media collective Ottolina TV. It has been edited for length.

Read other installments in the series: Rise of the Right in Europe.

Junge Welt: Italy has been governed by three right-wing parties for one-and-a-half years. Surveys show that the governing coalition has been able to maintain its approval ratings. What is this success based on?

Giuliano Marucci: It is more due to a lack of alternatives. Although there are attempts by the social democrats (Partito Democratico, PD) and the Five Star Movement (M5S), to form an opposition bloc, they do not represent a credible alternative government.

Why is that?

Because they have no independence from the diktats of the EU, the European oligarchy, and Washington. The more progressive positions of the Five Star Movement would not be able to assert themselves in such a center-left alliance. At the same time, Giorgia Meloniʼs Fratelli dʼItalia (Brothers of Italy – FdI) has a solid voter base. Although they disagree on some issues, such as the war against Russia, they are ultimately united by their opposition to the old enemy: the “communists”—in other words, anyone who does not fit in with their own political project.

What is the composition of this camp?

These are small and medium-sized enterprises, but also banking groups such as Banca Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit. Above all, however, it consists of small self-employed people and entrepreneurs who profit from employment in undeclared labor and tax evasion.

It also includes the impoverished petty bourgeoisie that has been left behind by globalization. If you like, it’s the classic electorate of the alternative right. However, there has been no sign of “alternative” since Meloni took office. It has completely adapted to the old right-wing establishment.

Meloni has succeeded in being seen as a favored partner by forging even stronger ties with the U.S. She can sell herself as the guarantor of a stable government. And as there are no significant counter models, neither “from below” nor “from above,” she is firmly in the saddle. Whatʼs more, she occasionally appeals to the peopleʼs gut feeling, but at the same time presents herself as so serious and adapted to the system that this does not cause any worries in Brussels or Washington.

And how are the roles distributed within the coalition?

Meloniʼs party leads it and is clearly in the tradition of fascism, especially rhetorically. The party members are traditional, conservative right-wingers who cling to the image of Benito Mussolini as the “guardian” of national independence.

Then there is Forza Italia, the party of the late Silvio Berlusconi. It is very business-oriented, and its interests are primarily focused on power politics, such as access to EU funds. And its voters are in favor of national capitalism. Forza is more critical when it comes to the war against Russia as well as the Ukraine policy and views subordination to the international establishment with a certain degree of skepticism.

Third in the group is the Lega. It is close to the U.S. “alt-right” movement. It was born as a federalist and partly separatist party of the richest part of the country in the north. Its electorate consists mainly of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs in northern Italy. However, this base was largely absorbed by FdI.

What actual policy has the government implemented so far—and who benefits from it?

Meloni tends to follow the strategy of slowly wearing down modern democracy and the welfare state in order to subordinate the country more and more to the interests of the financial industry.

She did make a few hints, for example, that she would oppose the major international players on behalf of the Italian financial system and levy a tax on extra profits. But just one day later, she went back on that.

Meloni was the strongest opponent of Mario Draghiʼs previous government. But now that she is in power herself, she is continuing his policy. She has also made a few electoral gifts, such as the withdrawal of social assistance for the unemployed, the so-called citizenʼs allowance. This was good for her entrepreneurial clientele, as the citizenʼs allowance helped many Italians, especially in the south, in their fight against low wages.

The second election gift is the announcement of a tax reform, the so-called fiscal pact. This favors those who perhaps have an SUV at home and a summer house on the beach, but who could not afford this standard of living if they had to pay higher taxes.

Should Meloni fear the trade unions or the left?

The trade unions are against the government and have a large membership, but little political weight. Although [the 6 million-strong trade union federation] CGIL is huge and in part consists of very militant elements, it is not capable of really organizing itself and mobilizing beyond the local level or formulating a clear political line.

The labor market in Italy is highly precarious and fragmented. Those who are turning against the government are the so-called “center-left.” In other words, students, young intellectuals, the academic world, the educated middle classes, Italians with middle to high incomes and public-sector employees.

However, they do not represent a majority. And with the state broadcaster RAI, the government has quite a lot of leverage to influence public opinion in its favor.

Translated from German to English by Marc Bebenroth.

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Junge Welt
Junge Welt

Junge Welt (Young World) is Germany's largest daily circulation left newspaper, published in Berlin.