The crackpot far right populism of Matteo Salvini

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Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini (Image via Wikimedia Commons - edited)

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's extreme Right-wing policies signal a possible resurgence in European nationalism, writes Shahzada Rahim.

IT IS BELIEVED that Julius Caesar was of divine descent because Venus, the goddess of love, had married a Trojan prince and later became the mother of the legendary founder of the Julian family. Julius first married with Cornelia, the daughter of the powerful opposition faction, headed by Marius, the staunch opponent of Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, the head of the aristocratic family. A year or two later, when Sulla became the emperor of the State, the young Caesar was ordered to put away his wife, which Caesar refused because of his gross powerful support in Rome. Sulla then responded: “You fools, you are supporting a dangerous fellow”.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Northern League, won most of the seats in the Italian Parliament alongside its ideological prototype, the far-Right centric Five Star Movement in the last general election. The young modern Caesar, with his supporters in the Italian Parliament, thus ascended to the throne of far-Right resurgence in Europe. Today, Italy’s far-Right has become the spearhead of ultra-nationalist populism across Europe.

Salvini currently serves as Italy’s Interior Minister that gives him firm authority over national security, immigration and policing. But the modern young Caesar has not only dreams for Italy — rather he is now looking beyond it as the world is already suffering from the intense political polarisation. In Europe, this polarisation has further broadened because of the emergence of neo-populist parties on the mainstream political landscape, which are putting a grave challenge to the existing traditional unionist liberal-centric parties.

Last year, the prominent far-Right leaders gathered in Prague for a two-day conference to discuss the future political strategy with their unified stance on immigration and other issues such as closed borders. The prominent far-Right figures included Marine Le Pen of France and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands. Matteo Salvini headed the conference by promising a new future for Europe. Though both Le Pen and Wilders failed to win the significant majority in their respective parliaments, Salvini achieved what he always wanted — significant majority.

According to various analysts, Matteo has the courage to bring all the far-Right and ultra-nationalist parties in Europe under one umbrella by pushing the very phenomenon of popular nationalism beyond the borders. Presently, the two prominent far-Right parties are controlling Italy’s Parliament — the alliance is between Salvini’s party and the Five Star Movement.

On the other hand, the American far-Right hardliner, Steve Bannon, after his expulsion from the White House, has travelled to Italy where he met Salvini to support his ultra-nationalist initiative in both Italy and beyond. According to reports, Bannon has suggested and proposed a plan to bring together all the far-Right parties of Europe under one single joint initiative. In Bannon’s opinion, it is the best time for all the nationalist parties of Europe to uplift themselves beyond the national elections by preparing themselves for the upcoming European Union elections. And, Matteo Salvini is firmly supporting Bannon’s grand project of a New Europe that would be based on national sovereignty and Euro-centrism.

The objectives of all far-Right parties regarding the European Union is the same: they oppose the Brussels monopoly over public spending across the European Union. With this tougher objective, the far-Right parties have recently gained a base ground in various countries not only among the nationalists but among unionists, too. These countries include Hungary, Denmark, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Germany, Poland and even Europe’s finest social democracies such as Norway and Finland. The mainstream message of all these parties is the same — strong borders and no immigrants.

In a Time magazine interview, Salvini said “history goes in cycles”. According to him, the cycle of this history belongs to the far-Right. He is promising to remake Europe from within by blocking immigration and expelling all the undocumented immigrants who are a burden on Italy’s ailing economy. Since they came to power, there has been an 80 per cent drop in immigration because Matteo Salvini has already deployed a large number of coastal guards on the Italian shores to block the entry of immigrants.

In a broader European context, a new axis is emerging against the unionist liberals, where on one side there is Salvini and his allies, Merkel and Macron on the other. Moreover, the far-Right axis has already attracted a firm support from Russia and China because they condemn the hysteria of mainstream liberal parties of Europe against them. In Russia, it is called the “politics of opportunity”, in which one group supports the other for utility. Both Salvini and his America patron have welcomed the support for the “the organising principle” that will save Europe from destruction — Salvini said, “Changing Europe is a big goal. But I think it is at our fingertips”.

The modern Caesar is a dangerous fellow and he can’t be stopped easily.

Shahzada Rahim is a postgraduate student with a keen interest in writing on history, geopolitics, current affairs, philosophy and international political economy. You can follow him at @rahimabbas3.

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