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What Explains Fascism's Durable Roots in Italy?

No documentary about Benito Mussolini and Italian fascism would be complete without a trip to the town of Predappio, the birthplace of the former dictator and the location of his tomb. The Mussolini crypt is a place of pilgrimage for so-called nostalgics of the darkest decades of Italy’s recent history.

So that is where my film crew and I found ourselves on a rainy September morning in 2019 while filming my documentary, titled Fascism in the Family. In it, I look at the story of my grandfather, who had been a fascist mayor in Mussolini’s regime. But it was not the past that brought us to Predappio. It was the present: Italy’s far right was on the rise, using some of the rhetoric and language borrowed from eight decades earlier.

On Sunday, millions of Italians are expected to cast their vote for Giorgia Meloni and her Brothers of Italy party, which has roots in the neofascist Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) formed by former members of Mussolini’s regime right after World War II. The MSI’s symbol – a flame in the green, white and red of the Italian flag – is the Brothers of Italy logo even today.

I might not have foreseen that day in Predappio that three years later, it would be Meloni who could become Italy’s prime minister – at the time, Matteo Salvini of the Lega was the rising star. However, the political sentiments I heard then are the same ones that have carried her this far.

In Predappio, we saw a small but steady trickle of people, mostly men, cross the vast and meticulously tended cemetery to wander up to the crypt. They loitered respectfully for a few minutes and left. Some brought offerings. A card had been left at the crypt’s door, with a bunch of now-withered flowers, expressing sorrow and anger at how Mussolini had been “betrayed” by Italians all those years ago.

We spoke to some of them. Why had they come? “To show our respect. He was a great leader who cared about Italy. His mistake was the alliance with Hitler and playing a part in the Holocaust. Before that, he also did a lot of good for Italy.”

Read entire article at Al Jazeera