International Society for the Study of European Ideas issei 8th International Conference, 22 27, July 2002, Aberystwyth, Wales Conference Proceedings

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International Society for the Study of European Ideas


8th International Conference, 22 - 27, July 2002,  Aberystwyth, Wales

Conference Proceedings


Section 5: Language, Philosophy, Psychology

Workshop 510: The Developing Discourses of Immigration and Identity in Europe.

Workshop chair: Robert Gould
Racism’, ’European Union’ and ’Fatherland’ in the Political Discourse of Alleanza Nazionale
Marja Härmänmaa

Kytösuontie 8 A 3

00300 Helsinki


- 358 - 9 - 436 15 16
1. Introduction
After the fall of fascism a certain status quo was characteristic of Italian political life. The fear of communism, the unambiguous condemnation of fascism as an interlude in Italy’s history that would never again repeat itself, as well as the economic support of the United States, had guaranteed the Christian Democratic party (Democrazia cristiana, DC) an unchallenged hegemony from 1945 onwards. [Caracciolo, 1999, 541-565; Clark, 1996; Sassoon, 1987, 224-232; Tarchi 1996, 3]
However, in the 1990's everything was to change. Several social factors, such as the development of the international policy started in the 1980's and the corruption of the political leaders of the country finally caused the collapse of the DC. New parties filled the political vacuum it left behind. In the parliamentary elections of 1994 the right wing coalition of Forza Italia of Silvio Berlusconi, the Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance) and Lega Nord (the Northern League) won 42% of the vote. In the parliamentary elections of spring 2001 Berlusconi’s coalition again overwhelmingly defeated the other parties with 39% of the votes, thus confirming the change that already had happened in 1994. The rule of DC and the “First Republic” had come to their end. At the dawn of the third millennium, Italy witnessed the beginning of the “Second Republic”, whose protagonists are the right wing parties. [Caracciolo, 1999, 565-594; Clark, 1996]
This paper deals with the political discourse of Alleanza Nazionale, which is the most important extreme right party in Italy. By ’discourse’ I mean the functionalist use of language. I shall examine the choice of vocabulary, syntactic constructions and the way of argument. [Desideri, 1984; Fairclough, 1989, 1994, 1995; Fowler, Hodge, Kress 1979; Halliday, 1979; Hodge, Kress 1996] In particular I shall concentrate on how the party represents the notions of ’racism’, ’the European Union’ and ’Fatherland’.
The research is based on the three political programmes of AN:
Tesi di Fiuggi [Theses of Fiuggi], published in 1996,

Un progetto per l’Italia del Duemila [A Project for the Italy of Two Thousand], published in 1998 and

Libero Forte Giusto. Il Governo che vogliamo [Free, Strong, Righteous. The Government We Want], published in 2001.
All the programmes are also on the Internet on the party home page. [Http://]

2. MSI - from opposition to government
Otherwise as western historiography gives us to understand, fascism in Italy did not die with Mussolini in 1945, nostalgic movements that protested against the post-war situation being immediately founded. The first true neo-fascist party was Movimento sociale italiano (MSI, the Italian socialist movement). This party, formed by ex-fascists, was the only extreme right party in Italy till the 1960's. It never concealed its ideological relationship with Mussolini, but from the very beginning openly and uncritically praised fascism and declared itself as continuing its political line. It was therefore in no way compatible with any other “normal” European conservative right-wing party. Basically it was a protest party of few supporters, which opposed “the system”, the Republic’s values and its power structure. [Campi, 1996, 31, 36; Ignazi, 1989; Ignazi, 1994; Ignazi, 1997, 98-111; Tarchi, 1995; 1995b]
The parliamentary elections of 1994 were the first real victory for the party, which, for the first time, won 13.5% of the votes. The long period of opposition was over and it finally entered the government, gaining five portfolios. Its success was consolidated in the euro-parliamentary elections in June, in which MSI got 12.5% of the votes. [Ignazi, 1997, 98-111] In May 2001 it repeated the victory, thus becoming the fourth biggest party in Italy with 11.9% of the vote. In 1997 an Italian political scientist, Pietro Ignazi, wrote that its importance was growing day by day. [Ignazi, 1997, 113] Now it seems that it has definitively consolidated its position in the political life of Italy.

3. Negation of Racism
After the crucial elections of 1994 the party officially changed its name from MSI to Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance), a clear sign that it wished to be rid of its reputation of a fascist party of opposition and integrate itself into the political power system. For the same reason there are certain surprising topics in the first programme that one does not necessarily expect to find in the platform of a political party, one of which is ’racism’.
In the first programme, AN explicitly denies being racist. But, as Robert Hodge and Gunther Kress say, negations represent one form of a modal operation, which must be interpreted in terms of an underlying positive form. Since, even though the speaker does not accept the statement, denying it shows that he/she knows that it exists. [Hodge, Kress, 1996, 137-145] Because ’racism’ is so often associated with the right-wing parties, AN uses various linguistic strategies to deny being a racist party.
One important semantic field that has offered words and expressions to political language is religion. As Erasmo Leso says, religious terminology came into Italian political language at the end of the eighteenth century, when modern political vocabulary and the modern political system started to develop. With the French Revolution, a process of socialization and democratization started in Europe, and thus the political consciousness of people increased. Religious terminology offered an adequate means of propaganda and also reflected the ever more important position of politics in social life. [Leso, 1994, 713, 720]
The religious terminology had been typical of the protagonists of Italian unification in the nineteenth century, called Risorgimento, and of fascist discourse. Mussolini was fond of religious metaphors that effectively conveyed the religious character of fascism as well. [Lazzari, 1975, 60-61; Leso, 1994, 720, 744]
In TF Alleanza Nazionale has also had recourse to religious terminology to emphasise its lenient nature:
the lay religion of tolerance [TF II, 8/8]
In addition to very strong expressions, such as “absolute opposition to racism” [TF, premessa 4/7] and religious vocabulary, the party uses legal language to make the message more convincing:
Explicit and definitive condemnation without right of appeal. Alleanza Nazionale unservedly condemns every form of anti-semitism, even when they are glossed over with anti-Sionism and anti-Israeli propaganda. Every last vestige of anti-semitism will be outlawed, [...] [TF II, 6/8]
Legal language is one characteristic of AN’s discourse which can be explained in terms of its socio-historical context. One reason for the victory of the Berlusconian coalition in the parliamentary elections in 1994 was the corruption of DC, the party in power during that period, and the bribery scandal that engulfed the whole country at the beginning of the 1990's. [Caracciolo, 1999, 572-585] ’Justice’ and ’legality’ are thus fundamental arguments in the political rhetoric of AN by which the party can strengthen its image as one respecting the law. [Härmänmaa, 2002] In this example the use of the third person and the special syntax in which the object is isolated into a separated, verbless sentence makes the rhetoric even more convincing.
Except the Jews, no race or people are mentioned in the programmes. Instead, the party has used the terms ’different’, ’strange’, and ’foreigner’, and in other cases the common term ’extra-comunitary’, meaning ’one who comes outside the EU’. Obviously AN uses this linguistic strategy to avoid categorizing people. Especially significant are the quotation marks around the term ’different’. This is a question about so-called estrangement, by which the term is shown to be bad or inadequate. In this case the party suggests that being different is impossible according to its logic.
Racial hatred is one form of totalitarianism: the most cruel is the lack of recognition of “a different”, of a stranger, of a foreigner. [...] Our condemnation of racism is in the condemnation of totalitarianism, of force as a means to break the law. It is our conviction that without respect for the individual and peoples, there is no democracy, because democracy is the sovereignty of the people. [TF II, 5/8]
Also, by associating racism with the negation of human values, with contempt for people and men, the party implicitly conveys the idea of its own humanitarianism.
The use of the fourth form of the personal pronoun ’we’ (the possessive form ’our’ in the quotation), sign of the so-called embrayage [Desideri, 1984, 23-24; Greimas, Courtés, 1979, 119-121] underlines the personal attitude: not the ’party’ as an abstract institution, but the people in it assume the responsibility for this philanthropical decision. In this case, the use of the fourth form is thus much more effective when appealing to emotions.

4. Organizing immigration
When it comes to immigration, AN declares that it favours it even though together with the leader of the Northern League party, the secretary of AN, Gianfranco Fini, has drafted a new stricter law to regulate immigration. However, in the programmes AN treats immigration extremely cautiously. For example, “immigration flux”, the universally used term to describe immigration as a natural phenomenon to emphasize its danger, is used very sparingly. Actually, the party presents immigration in its platform merely as an unavoidable phenomenon that needs to be controlled and organized, not as a danger. We find very vague expressions like:
the discipline of the phenomenon [LFG, 14]

programmed admission [LFG, 15]

coordinating immigration fluxes [LFG, 15]

the direction of placement [LFG, 15]

The party also prudently describes the action of the authorities to control immigration as “active intervention” [LFG, 15] or “sifting of immigrants by the authorities” [LFG, 15], without giving any precise indication of the real nature of the measures which might be taken.

5. The European Union as an authority
No political programme can be accepted without some authority. As Chaïm Perelman says, authority is used in rhetoric to confirm an opinion or a value judgement. In other words argument based on authority has importance only when a statement cannot be proved objectively. Authority may be that of public opinion, or a certain social group like priests or scientists, a religion or a dogma. By relying on an authority one always shows respect, but because the public, to approve the argument, has to respect the authority as well, the choice of authority also reveals the values of the public. [Perelman, Olbrechts-Tyteca, 1971, 305-310; Perelman, 1996, 108-109]
The EU was still probably more popular in Italy than in any other EU -country at the beginning of the 1990's. For example, if there was any discussion about joining the monetary union, it was very limited. Exclusion would have been seen merely as a national disgrace. For this reason the EU becomes an authority by which the party justifies its policy.
In the spirit of Maastricht and to strengthen the whole EU [TF V, 34/35]

Without mentioning the loss of all the credibility of Italy’s future in the concert of the industrial nations [TF V, 20/35]

Also according to the explicit decision of the European Parliament [TF III, 30/64]

The social market economy as a European model [LFG, 16]

To emphasise the positive attitude towards the EU, in Fiuggi’s programme the EU is called the “European club” (“club europeo”) [TF IV, 2/12], which gives the impression that it is a privilege to be a member of this exclusive society. ’Europe’ becomes a trademark of the party’s policy since it works to “Europeanize” political life [TF III, 2/64], to develop a society that would be “more integrated into the European reality” [TF III, 22/64]:
An Italy which wishes to retake its European course and its place in the history of the world [TF I, 1/6]
Here the term “retake” (riprendere) gives us to understand that during the First Republic Italy’s policy would have been non-European and that the country would have drifted out of history, thus providing another reason why one should vote AN.

6. Everything for the Fatherland
In spite of its Europe-mindedness, AN is a strongly patriotic party - as were MSI and fascism too. The patriotism of the party shows itself in the new name “Alleanza Nazionale”, National Alliance. The name conveys the idea that the common cause that unifies its members and its supporters is national, not related to a certain social class or a region. Patriotism emerges also from the epithet “Italian right” [PID, 74; LFG, 1], a name by which the party often calls itself.
For AN there is no contradiction between its Europe-oriented policy and patriotism. The “Europe” that it promotes is a “Europe of fatherlands”, “a historical alliance of nation States”, whereas the party calls its political line a “Euro-policy that respects national interests”. [TF IV, 1/12]
To emphasise the commitment to the cause of the fatherland, the party again uses religious vocabulary. It is significant that the term ’sacrifice’ was a key word in fascist discourse as well. [Lazzari, 1975, 63, 69]
The Missinians [the supporters of MSI] are people who have both heart and brains in equal measure, who have shown to be able to sacrifice themselves to an ideal cause and who wholly understand that the interest of our Fatherland comes before the logic of any party. [TF, premessa, 2/7]
Patriotism also shows up in how the party refers to the audience. Instead of ’electors’ or ’people’ AN currently uses the term ’Italians’. The reform of domestic policy is called the “Italian revolution” [TF III, 18/64], which evokes the Risorgimento, the unification, a great event in the country’s national history, also called the “Italian revolution”. And the target of the party is to “work according to the national vocation and interest”.[LFG, 2]

7. “Mare nostrum”
Patriotism also appears in the way AN represents its foreign policy as to:
strengthen Italy’s role in the international theatre [TF III, 62/64]

[offer] a new Italian main role [TF IV, 8/12]

strengthen Italy’s model of defence in the Mediterranean theatre [TF IV, 8/12]
Depicting the international policy as a theatre suggests “performing” and “acting” in front of a public, on a “stage” instead of showing that it is actually a question of decision-making, of assuming responsibility for it and of the actions which implement these decisions. This is an example of what Halliday has called “anti-language”. Anti-language means changing the meaning of words: inanimate objects become living things, adults children, weapons products, difficult easy. As in this case as well, anti-language is used to make problematic things seem harmless. [Halliday, 1976; Hodge, Kress 1996, 72] In talking about roles, theatres and scenes, AN presumably means Italy’s activities in international organizations and/or in specific geographical areas.
An interesting choice is talk about “regaining Italy’s prominent and active role in Mediterranean countries and in the Middle East” [TF IV, 1/12], since it is possible to regain only something that one has first had and then lost.
At the end of the nineteenth century, following the model of the big European countries, Italy’s young kingdom too started to conquer colonies in the areas now called Somalia and Ethiopia, and it won Libya in 1912 in the war against Turkey. Although after 1912 Italy also colonised Rhodes and the islands of the Dodekanneso, one can hardly talk about a “prominent” or “active” role, not at least in the Middle East, where Italy has had no importance since the collapse of the Roman Empire.
Appealing to ancient Rome to justify nationalistic ambitions had been one characteristic of the rhetoric of the patriotic bourgeoisie at the end of the nineteenth century. ’Rome’ and ’Roman’ had been a central element in Gabriele D’Annunzio’s language, a great Italian writer and politician who had a decisive influence upon Mussolini, as well as on the fascist discourse, in which the dictator was called “il Duce”, who taught the people to be “worthy of ancient Rome” and who counted the new era, which it was supposed to start, in Roman numbers. [Leso, 1994, 739; Lazzari, 1975, 71] Rome was also the argument for fascism’s ever more aggressive foreign policy.
Although the term ’Rome’ does not appear in AN’s programmes, on several occasions the party makes indirect appeals to it:
thousands of years old tradition of the people [PID, 42]

a glorious, exceptionally grandiose past [PID, 43]

8. Conclusion: A New Model of Fascist discourse
As Patrizia Bellucci has already noted, since the language of AN is surprisingly correct, refined, dispassionate and rational [Bellucci, 1995, 46], it is completely different from the fascist discourse, which was suggestive, hypnotic and magical and which appealled more to the instincts and sentiments than to reason. [Desideri, 1984, 45-100; Lazzari 1975] But it could not be otherwise, since AN wishes to present itself as a balancing and legal element that will secure the country from the disaster the Christian Democratic party left it.
What then reminds one of the fascist discourse is, in my opinion, the patriotic rhetoric and especially the appeal to eternal Rome. However, it is worth pointing out that AN is not the only one to appeal to ’Rome’. Even though after the second world war it seemed that ’Rome’ would disappear for ever from the Italian political language, it seems to have made a come-back: Berlusconi has also realized its symbolic value, and last spring organized a meeting of the Nato and Russia in a village decorated with the symbols of the ancient Rome.

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