A Brief Guide to the Italian Elections

The Italian general elections, scheduled for this Sunday, March 4th, are now hard upon us. They are unlikely to receive the kind of broad international scrutiny which attended the late French elections; nonetheless, in certain ways they will be even more consequential for the near future of Europe: Italy in the present moment is, together with Greece, the major gateway for the hordes of foreigners that now accost European shores, and is almost the exclusive port of entry for the waves of African infiltrators, who, unless we very rapidly change our ways, are destined in coming years to pullulate out of the Black Continent and toward our West in numbers astounding. Moreover, the consequences of this election could potentially reinforce, or hinder, the growing trend of nationalism in European politics. This election therefore most assuredly deserves our attention.

I therefore think it might be of use for my Alt-Right companions in arms to have some basic points of reference for those four parties with a real possibility of winning, as well as the men who most closely represent them. (Whoever is interested in hearing some word exclusively on Matteo Salvini, who most closely represents our own position, is invited to skip directly to the last section of this essay.) I leave aside a discussion of CasaPound and Forza Nuova, though they stand nearer to our views than any of the mainstream candidates. I leave them aside for the simple reason that their candidates cannot win, and the extremity of the hour does not permit us to indulge in idle democratic fancies. Also, for reasons of space, I will restrain myself primarily to the question of immigration here, which is the most pressing issue from a European perspective.

At present, the Silvio Berlusconi-Matteo Salvini coalition is at the forefront of the polls; but the Five Star Movement has also maintained a consistent presence. The race is tight enough that it would be foolhardy to make any predictions as to its outcome, especially given the surprising results of various elections and referenda in recent years throughout the Western world.

The Old Fox: Silvio Berlusconi and Forza Italia

Silvio Berlusconi of the “center-right” has been a fixture in Italian politics for almost as long as anyone of my generation can remember. He has served as Prime Minister for a total of nine years during his more or less quarter century in politics, which is a remarkable achievement in the constantly shifting terrain of Italian politics. He has survived an impressive onslaught of allegations (such as collusion with the Mafia) and official court charges (including defamation, bribery, and soliciting sex from minors), as well as a single serious court conviction (tax fraud). Despite all of this (or, one is sometimes tempted to wonder, because of it?) he continues to be a force to be reckoned with.

Berlusconi is charismatic as the devil. He has a countenance reminiscent il Duce—or at least did have, before innumerable plastic surgery operations transformed him into a waxen statue before his time. The Italians like to compare him to Trump, for good and for ill. He, like Trump, burst unexpectedly onto the political scene after becoming an extraordinarily wealthy building magnate and media tycoon; he, like Trump, has a tendency to dance over the top of scandal and to constantly arrest the public attention. He has publicly compared himself with Jesus Christ and Napoleon, and revels in retelling the latest jokes about him during his speeches. Unlike Trump, he knows how to laugh: after one of his enemies exploded a bomb at his private gate, he was recorded in a private telephone conversation laughing uproariously after commenting that the bomber just wanted to leave a message, but probably didn’t know how to write.

All of this is charming, but it is also largely beside the point. Berlusconi’s politics is nothing we can count on. It is a mixture of old-style conservatism and unabashed self-serving, which will lead without doubt to more of the same. His major theme during campaigns tends to be taxes; my American readers will already understand everything from this. Moreover, it is essential to remember that Berlusconi himself cannot serve as Prime Minister, since he has been found guilty of crime in an Italian court of law. It has as of this day been announced that Antonio Tajani, the current President of the European Parliament, will be the new prime minister in the event of a victory of Forza Italia. Tajani is in some ways a promising figure. He was a monarchist in his youth, and has demonstrated himself, especially by loose Italian standards, to be a generally clean and honest politician. He has, however, been long involved in the European Union to an extent which is sure to trouble anyone remotely skeptical of that governing body. It is also important to remember the shadow that would inevitably stand behind a Tajani victory; Berlusconi, though he remains himself ineligible, is jealous of his influence, and would not lightly concede it. A victory of Forza Italia would be a gamble with the future, to say the least.

The Young Weasel: Matteo Renzi and the Partito Democratico

Matteo Renzi, candidate of the leftist PD, is surely a creature of the globalists. He (and the “technical government” that followed his collapse, which is universally recognized by the Italians as the same regime wearing a different face) has been primarily responsible for manufacturing the
immigration crisis in Italy. It was Renzi who presided over the beginning of that crisis, it was Renzi who was responsible for almost every step in its aggravation, and it would be Renzi to continue without hesitation along those lines were he to return to the government.

The mass immigration of Africans and Middle Easterners into Italy is so unpopular in Italy that even Renzi has been forced to modify his rhetoric on it. He recently stated that “it would be better to help the Africans in Africa” rather than importing them here to Europe. But this very idea has been one of the talking points of certain “far right” elements for some years. (Not one of the major candidates, unfortunately, has the courage to state that it would be better not to “help” the Africans at all, but, at most, to leave them to their own devices.)

It is unlikely this change in approach will save him, however; he is generally unpopular after his utterly inept term in office. Renzi’s return to rule would be a disaster for the Italians, and a serious blow to the Europeans. Supposing there is any hope of turning the unwieldy bark of contemporary European politics around without first capsizing it altogether, the weasel aforementioned is to be opposed thoroughly and unambiguously as the charlatan and spineless stooge he is.

The Two-Star Candidate: Luigi Di Maio and the Movimento 5 Stelle

Il Movimento 5 Stelle, the Five Star Movement, has put up a clean-cut young man (he was only born in 1986) by the name of Luigi Di Maio.

There have been attempts in the recent past to associate the Five Star Movement with the same populist right which forced Brexit and elected men like Trump and Kurz to office—but this is simply fatuous. The Five Star Movement is populist only in the worst sense of the term; it panders to the mysterious god of the demos and follows that deity’s every obscurest whim. In consequence, it is impossible to pin down on any major issue.

It is still unclear, for instance, what Di Maio would do about immigration or what his stance on the European Union might be. He is certainly all for fiscal responsibility of one kind or another, and would desperately like to reduce the stipends of the Italian parliamentarians. That is nice, but at this historical juncture it would be like administering a band-aid to a chainsaw wound.

We can also be sure that a Five Star government would push for bike lanes in every city and universal access to internet for all citizens. If any one of my readers supposes that this is the stuff of statesmanship and high rule, then by all means, Di Maio is strongly to be recommended.

A Scrapper for the Populist Right: Matteo Salvini and the Lega

This brings us at last to Matteo Salvini, the candidate for the Lega, or League, and the man who, to my mind, is really the last hope for saving the present shambles known laughably as the Italian republic.

The Lega, originally the Lega Nord, takes its name from its early goal of breaking northern Italy and southern Italy into two different countries. Matteo Salvini is almost single-handedly responsible for transforming this local and essentially regional Lega Nord into a national rightist-populist phenomenon Lega. Toward this end, he has quite naturally distanced the Lega from its original separatist intentions. Whatever he might think about the north-south question, it is certain he will, save as he be suicidal, never speak a word the more about it. If he dared to so much as touch on the question, the mechanism of Italian politics would grind him up without further ado.

Salvini is a rough and ready, sharp-tongued, quick-witted man, and has demonstrated himself utterly unafraid in the face of his detractors. He most refreshingly refuses to play certain of the more offensive games of contemporary politics. As but an example, he speaks openly of the globalist elitists who are financing and promoting immigration, and has no fear taking the name Soros in vain. He has also submitted a few fantastic rants in the European Parliament. During one of these, when someone began to press for censorship of Facebook, he responded that the parliamentarians needed “to visit a good doctor” and to “pack their bags and get a real job,” or else to start thinking about the true problems confronting Europe.

I will recount three episodes to indicate what kind of man Salvini is.

During a television confrontation with a rather outspoken leftist politician named Pina Picierno, Salvini made the mistake of calling her “Signorina Picierno” (Miss Picierno). She hotly informed him that she was not “Miss Picierno,” but “only Pina Picierno.” Salvini, after muttering under his breath and rolling his eyes to the heavens, proceeded to call her “Pina Picierno” for the remainder of his debate with her, in many cases finishing every clause of every response to her with name in full. (“The countries of Northern Europe take one month to identify refugees, Pina Picierno, while Italy takes a year and a half, Pina Picierno; we have to appoint people capable of determining who is a refugee and who is not, and non-refugees, Pina Picierno, must be immediately deported, Pina Picierno…”)

On another occasion, again on a television show, the anchorwoman trotted out the tired accusation that Salvini’s views were somehow “inciting hatred and violence.” She quoted several comments posted by presumed Salvini supporters on Facebook to bolster her claims, and asked Salvini if he did not feel responsible for these “hateful comments.” Salvini, by way of response, took his Smartphone in hand on the spot, and began reading word for word the obscene and violent statements that were being written against him on his own Facebook feed in that instant, by viewers of the interview presently underway. He then demanded to know if the anchorwoman was to be held accountable for these statements, and cordially asked her to return to serious matters.

Lastly, after the recent shooting of a number of Blacks by a White Italian, he was accused by several imbeciles of being the cause of the violence. Rather than blubberingly distancing himself from “hate groups,” as would have been the overriding instinct of too many American politicians, he retorted simply that the real blame for the violence lay on those who had forced these migrants upon Italian society in the first place.

His views in many ways mirror our own. He supports stopping mass immigration immediately, and rigorously pursuing the repatriation (or, when this is impossible, the expulsion) of illegals. He has stated he would abolish the gypsy shanty towns which blister out across the face of Italy. He opposes jus soli, the wild notion (embodied to some extent, alas, in American law) that a child born on Italian soil of non-Italian parents should have an automatic right to citizenship. He upholds the right of a man to defend himself in his own home from burglars, rapists, and attackers without being prosecuted for doing so (as is sadly the case at present in Italy, as in other European countries). He believes that the punishment for certain crimes, as for instance repeat-offense rape, should include chemical castration. He opposes gay adoption. He has spoken approvingly of Putin and Trump. He also upholds a universal flat tax of fifteen percent, which would be a vast improvement over the present miserably laborious system. If elected, Salvini would surely be a politician of the rank of Viktor Orbán or Sebastian Kurz—supposing, naturally, that his government did not collapse immediately upon his election.

It is difficult to say to what extent Salvini agrees with us so far as the deeper questions go. I suspect his views on the racial question harmonize with ours more than might sometimes seem. He is capable of using the harshest language when speaking of immigrants, though he is careful to state repeatedly and vocally that his stance has nothing to do with “skin color.” In his speeches, he takes up a kind of “Italy First” attitude which is reminiscent of Trump’s position (to which Salvini makes frequent and approving reference). He likes to refer his more controversial propositions back to questions of citizenship; for instance, when menacing the gypsies with eviction, he always states that if they live in Italy they deserve no special privileges, but have to be ready to “be good Italian citizens.” (The idea of a common gypsy being a “good citizen” is of course risible, but we will set that question aside.) Yet I am not alone in suspecting he would be none too pleased, for instance, if his daughter came home with a gypsy for a boyfriend.

It is difficult not to like Salvini despite his failings. He has the same unapologetic magic of Trump. But past the narrow limits of our damaged day, from any higher perspective, Salvini’s quality is contestable. As regards a true vision for the future of the West, I am of the view that Salvini has nothing whatever to offer. He is best understood as a brash representative of a more traditional constitutional liberalism, which, while being manifestly preferable to the system presently in place, is also that which brought about the system presently in place. Salvini really wants to get back to a quiet, secure, nicely democratic Italy of yesteryear; he would like to join this pastoral vision with the economic and political efficiency of the North of Europe, and with the scientific innovation of America. He would be perfectly content with this; but we cannot be.

For the immediate protection of Europe, Salvini is without question the best candidate we have at our disposal. For the realization of its higher future, he cannot represent anything other than a stepping stone.

John Bruce Leonard
John Bruce Leonard, Editor-in-Chief of Arktos, studied philosophy, letters, and languages in a university curriculum based exclusively on the great books of the Western Tradition. After taking his degree in Liberal Arts he moved permanently to Italy, where he nourishes his ever-living preoccupation with the heritage and the future of Europe.