The debate on the fascist salute has returned to Italian society after on January 7, a thousand people gathered in front of the former headquarters of the Italian Social Movement (MSI) to remember the murder almost half a century ago of three young men from that party at the hands of extreme left militants. The video of that small crowd, arms raised It became a trending topic and reopened an old controversy.
This same Thursday, the Supreme Court of Italy clarified that the Roman salute is a crime only if it involves “a concrete danger” of reorganizing the dissolved Fascist Partywhen analyzing the case of some far-right extremists convicted of giving the fascist salute in 2016. In a ruling, it required a repeat trial on appeal against eight people tried for a neo-fascist commemoration in Milan, acquitted in the first degree by a 1952 law but convicted in the second instance by another legislation of 1993.
Should any demonstration of this type be prohibited, regardless of its intentions or consequences? A similar debate occurs recurrently in Germany or, to a lesser extent, in countries such as Austria or Hungary, where the rise of the extreme right has led the authorities to be increasingly attentive to any apology for fascism. And it doesn’t seem like they’re right.
Both in Germany and Italy (where the election of Georgia Meloni as president has contributed to reigniting the controversy) the opposite phenomenon to what has happened in Spain has occurred. After the dictatorships of Hitler and Mussolini, in both countries these types of gestures were very residual, but in recent years they have begun to be more common. And in Germany the law is very strict regarding any apology for Nazism.
Origin of the fascist salute
The fascist salute is the representative gesture of the fascist regimes of the 1920s and 1930s in Italy and Germany. It is also known as the Roman greeting, heir to the “Roman salute” dating back to ancient Rome, although it is not clear that the meanings were the same.
In the Roman Empire (the real one), this greeting was a sign of loyalty and respect towards the emperor. In the empire that Mussolini wanted to establish (the fake one), this gesture was a symbol of unity, obedience and loyalty to the State. Raising your arm became a propaganda tool in 1930s Italy used to consolidate power and encourage uniformity among citizens.
Fascist salute in football… and in discos
In Spain it was widely accepted before, during and after Franco’s victory in the Civil War., although over the years the image of hundreds of young people saluting the dictator with their arms raised or singing Cara al Sol became less and less frequent. With the arrival of Democracy, the fascist greeting remained as a vindication of those nostalgic for the Dictatorship in social gatherings, sporting events… and in Madrid’s nightclubs.
During the 80s it was quite common to see some young people raise their arms when the DJ played the popular song by Los Nikis “The Empire Strikes Back”a fun (and somewhat premonitory) exaltation of national values and better times, when In the Spanish Empire the Sun did not set, Our basketball team crushed Yugoslavia “by 20 points” and McDonalds “were on the rocks.”
The Nikis song was not a fascist song or anything similar, but it was soon seen that the group lost control of the lyrics and music in the hands of young people nostalgic for a regime about which, surely, they did not have much to say.
The group once regretted this instrumentalization of their song and, over the years, the arms stopped raising on the dance floors. In Italy they have now risen again in some political events. So what They don’t have “The Empire Strikes Back” as an excuse.