Fascist youth embroils Italian PM

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has emerged as one of the most influential leaders in Europe. The significant success of her far-right party, Brothers of Italy, in the European Parliament elections has bolstered her standing both domestically and internationally. She is increasingly seen as a key figure shaping the continent’s future political landscape.

Meloni has made considerable efforts to distance her party from its dark past, rooted in Italy’s neo-fascist movement. Despite the nationalist and anti-LGBTQ laws her government has promoted over the past two years, her image in Europe remains positive. She is perceived, as she desires, as a moderate. However, Meloni now faces a resurgence of fascist specters from the past—or perhaps the present.

Tensions in Italy have been high since the start of the week when the Italian news and investigative site FANPAGE published a lengthy exposé featuring hidden camera footage. The videos show members of the “National Youth,” the young activists’ arm of the Brothers of Italy, making numerous racist, antisemitic, fascist, and Nazi statements.

In the footage, several young party members are seen singing praises to former fascist leader Benito Mussolini, giving fascist salutes, and shouting “Sieg Heil” and anti-Black slogans like “Black is beautiful, except when it’s on skin.” Some activists also make antisemitic remarks such as, “I hate the Jewish race. There is the white race, the black race, and the Jewish race, and I despise it.”

Another senior activist is heard expressing disgust over having to write a welcoming message to a Jewish parliament member from their party. Many of the activists shown in the videos hold key positions within the party, including those considered its future leaders.

Feeling the need to address the issue directly, Meloni issued a clear statement in a letter to senior party members. She urged party leaders to “utterly condemn antisemitism, racism, and nostalgia for totalitarian regimes.”

“I am angry and saddened by how we have been portrayed due to the behavior of some of our young members,” Meloni wrote. “There is no place among us for those who attempt to play a role that only serves the narrative our opponents try to create about us. We have no time to deal with those who want to take us backward. I have said it dozens of times, but if necessary, I will say it again: There is no place for racist and anti-Semitic views in the Brothers of Italy, and no place for those who long for the totalitarian regimes of the past century or any form of foolish folklore.”

Meloni emphasized the right to be “right-wing” and “to call ourselves patriots,” but simultaneously stressed the importance of “looking to the future, not the past.” “There is no deception here,” she wrote. “Anyone who thinks there can be a public image of the party that does not align with private behavior simply does not understand who we are and, in any case, is not welcome among us.”

While left-wing opposition parties quickly attacked the Prime Minister in parliament, demanding the immediate expulsion of the antisemitic and fascist youths from the party, Meloni initially relied on statements from party member Luca Ciriani, who dismissed the investigation, claiming “parts were taken out of context.” Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, also from her party, went on the offensive, stating he was “more concerned about the antisemitic remarks of left-wing protesters burning Israeli flags in Italy’s squares in response to Israel’s war in Gaza.”