“We stand today ... before the awful proposition: either the triumph of imperialism and the destruction of all culture, and, as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration, a vast cemetery; or, the victory of socialism.”
Italy’s “Hot Autumn” was one of the most profound moments of the global radicalisation of the late 1960s and 1970s, a period of massive strikes, student revolt and social struggle that lasted a decade. On the streets, movements for education, housing rights and women’s liberation transformed the conditions and social expectations of millions of people.
Last year, amid climate catastrophe, COVID-19 and economic turmoil, Collins Dictionary named “permacrisis” its word of the year. The term “polycrisis” has also become a buzzword in establishment circles. You don’t have to be a socialist to recognise that capitalism isn’t doing well.
One hundred years ago, in October 1922, Benito Mussolini’s paramilitary blackshirts marched on the Italian capital to demand the dissolution of the government of Prime Minister Luigi Facta. The March on Rome is the foundational myth of fascist power. Through this daring act, so the story goes, the strongman Mussolini installed himself as head of the Italian government.
The Italian general election was a historic win for the far right. A coalition of the three major parties won 44 percent of the vote, enough in Italy’s byzantine electoral system to form a clear majority in both houses of parliament. Most importantly, it was driven by the meteoric rise of Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, a party rooted in the post-Mussolini fascist tradition, which secured 26 percent of the vote, making it the single largest party in parliament.
At the end of 2021, Italy was crowned “country of the year” by the Economist magazine. The new “national unity” government of former Goldman Sachs investor and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi was lauded. For once, Italy had “acquired a competent, internationally respected prime minister”, and political parties from the centre-left to the far right “buried their differences to back a programme of thoroughgoing reform”.