Mussolini's march into Italy's mainstream





The flames are going out all over Italy. Tomorrow, the flame which for more than 60 years has been the symbol of neo-Fascist continuity with Mussolini, will disappear from mainstream politics. The National Alliance, the last important home of that inheritance, is "fusing" with Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party to give the governing bloc a single identity and a single unchallenged leader.

The change has been a long time coming – 15 years and more. Mr Berlusconi broke the great taboo of Italian post-war politics after he won his first general election victory in 1994 and incorporating four members of the National Alliance into his coalition...

Under the wily leadership of Gianfranco Fini the "post-Fascists" have been gaining ground since [1994]. Tall, bespectacled, buttoned up, the opposite of Berlusconi in every way, the Alliance's leader impressed the Eurocrats with his democratic credentials when he was brought in to lend a hand at drafting the EU's new Constitution.

He leaned over backwards to break his party's connection to anti-Semitism, paying repeated official visits to Israel where he was photographed in a skull cap at the Wailing Wall. On one visit, in 2003, he went so far as to condemn Mussolini and the race laws passed in 1938 which barred Jews from school and resulted in thousands being deported to the death camps.


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