On Saturday 3 February, exactly one month before Italy’s 3 March general election, an armed rampage took place in the Italian town of Macerata. Eight people, African migrants to Italy, were shot by a white Italian — Luca Traini.
Traini, 28, is a fascist; his motivations were political. Following the attack, he draped himself in an Italian flag, and headed straight for a fascist-era war memorial, where he gave a fascist salute. On the way, he visited the spot where the remains of a young white Italian woman, Pamela Mastropietro, had been found a few days previously. A Nigerian man had been arrested in connection with her death.
An unsuccessful candidate for the far-right Northern League party, he is also an associate of more straightforwardly fascist outfits like CasaPound and Forza Nuova. And the far right did not abandon Traini after his crime: Forza Nuova made a declaration of solidarity with him; fascist Roman football ultras unfurled a banner in his honour; Matteo Salvini, leader of the Northern League, placed the blame for the attack on “an organised, determined and financed invasion” of immigrants into Italy.
The Northern League, now restyling itself simply “Lega”, in an effort to move from Northern Italian regional chauvinism into a broader far right project, is one of a number of far-right parties contesting the general election in alliance with former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party.
Berlusconi himself, a friend of Tony Blair, is barred from standing for public office until 2019 due to his criminal record. But he is widely seen as the public face and architect of the coalition which could bring Lega and other far right forces into the cabinet. The Italian far right has agitated so effectively around the issue of immigration that more mainstream politicians are swimming in the same current.
Interior minister Marco Minniti has said that his anti-migrant crackdown is the kind of policy needed to head off violence like Traini’s. Former Premier Matteo Renzi remarked that “Italians should be defended by the police, not mad gunmen” — implicitly agreeing with Traini that his shooting spree was an attempt to defend Italians against Africans. Berlusconi has issued a promise to deport six hundred thousand people: an attempt to outbid Lega’s policy of deporting 100,000 — a repeat of the kind of grim auction conducted between right-wing and far-right parties that saw France’s Front National extract a series of xenophobic policies from President Nicolas Sarkozy, ultimately to the FN’s political benefit.
Across Europe, the labour movement should unite in a bold campaign against xenophobia and anti-migrant prejudice, before it strangles our movement and brings thugs like Traini to state power. Xenophobia is not a vote-winner for us, or a political toy that the labour movement should play with — it is a mortal danger.