Neo-fascist surge in Ostia fuelled by economic doldrums
ROME - CasaPound, a neofascist organisation that gained a 7.2 percent increase in a recent election in the coastal town of Ostia, seem to be on the rise. To understand why this is happening now and who has decided to endorse the prospect of a neo-fascist mayor, the history and message of the group must be looked at.
Ostia is obviously a unique case. The quiet coastal town, half an hour from the centre of Rome, has had anything but a calm history. The port makes it a natural place for the illegal smuggling of goods and, therefore, organised crime followed. Like many places in Italy, there are a few Mafia clans working mostly in the background yet in Ostia their presence is obvious.
Public 'executions' of rivial gang members are not unheard of, violence, intimidation, and extortion are all realities of life for this community. The blow that must have been felt when the local government was dissolved due to charges of corruption would have left any community shaken, for Ostia it must have proven the mayor was as bad as the mafia.
After two years of direct rule from the mayoral office of Rome, Ostia was allowed to run an election for its next mayor. The Five Star Movement beat a coalition between Brothers of Italy, a far right party and other parties, including former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s party. CasaPound increased their share of the vote from 1.8 to 9 percent in this recent round of votes.
What about CasaPound is bringing in votes? Simone Di Stephano, vice-president and front man of CasaPound, said “compared to the far-right, CasaPound are fascinated by the revolutionary fascism, the futurist breed, the most beautiful element of it.” And in a way, this is true; CasaPound is appealing to the residual hopes of the disenfranchised, those that have it badly enough to think that fascism may well is the only option when all alternatives fail. This is also why CasaPound is potentially dangerous; they are willing to test their ideas through conferences with leftist thinkers. As Di Stephano says, “I always say that I’m not right-wing. I look to socialism for the roots of fascism,” and to get the votes he must emphasise the similarities in order to remove the taboo from the political theory.
The economy of small town Italy is certainly in bad shape, statistics on unemployment paint a grim picture. It is no surprise that the young are a turning away from conventional democracy which they see as failing them. Anecdotally, 85 percent of votes in a technical college, Faraday, went to CasaPound according to one youth voter. The young voters are seemingly splintering from the adult majority. One voter, historically left leaning, began voting for CasaPound when he became a father. Immigration is one visible and readily tackled issue for the far-right pundits who advocate ultra nationalism and euro sceptic policies.
This is only one side to CasaPound’s popularity, a problem that begins to eat its own tail under scrutiny. CasaPound have long been advocated by the Spada mafia clan, despite CasaPound’s denial of this statement. One Mafioso’s wife wrote on facebook “"November 5 is approaching (the election date) and I hear almost everybody is singing the same song,” in reference to CasaPound.
While one wife’s political facebook post means almost nothing, it starts to look much worse considering alleged Mafioso Roberto Spada’s friendship with Luca Marsella and Carlotta Chiaraluce, key CasaPound actors in the Ostia area. Once again, facebook demonstrates unequivocal evidence of the friendships between the Mafioso, notable for assaulting a journalist on camera, and the leadership of the party.
Marsella and Chiaraluce, reportedly dating, have much to gain from the support of a man that one Brothers of Italy counsellor got fired for asking “to take back Ostia.”
Chiaraluce’s family have deep economic ties with the marine economy of the town. The family has an established boat rental firm in the Tor Boacciana area, a medieval tower on the Tiber.
It encloses the ruins of ancient the ancient Roman port city on one hand and Nuova Ostia on the other. The combination of political, economic, and social control over this seaside town offers up the terrifying possibility of the town becoming run by an oligarchy of neo-fascists, mafia, politicians, and businessmen with the black and white markets bleeding into one another.