Sack Di Canio and send him home!
A WEEK is a long time in politics, so said Harold Wilson, and it seems when politics meet football, some people's memories don't last a full season. Sunderland football club has appointed self-proclaimed fascist Paolo Di Canio as manager, and is pretending that all that matters is his ability to get results.
"Football is nothing to do with politics", they and those who defend their decision claim. From what we hear of Di Canio's ways we wonder. But for those who are satisfied with Di Canio's much-quoted assurance that he is " a fascist, but not a racist", there should be no need to go right back in history.
True, perhaps, racial antisemitism was not as central to Mussolini's original fascism as it was for Hitler's Nazis. The Fascist party had Jewish members and supporters, and Il Duce was admired by Jabotinsky's right-wing Zionist Revisionists who went on to form the Irgun Zvai Leumi terrorists in Palestine, and became today's governing party in Israel. If the Italian fascists decided instead to support the Arab revolt in Palestine, and directed anti-Jewish propaganda to the Maghreb (at least as much for the white colons as the Muslims) this was a matter of geopolitics and strategy.
True, too, perhaps, that fascist brutality in Italy itself did not discriminate. They broke up workers' organisations, jailed and beat up socialists and other opponents without regard for their origins.
None of this was compensatory for the Libyans and Ethiopians who were bombed and massacred to make way for Italy's colonial empire. Nor for the Italian Jews rounded up for the camps, when Mussolini decided it was time to fall in with his allies' racial plans.
But when our rulers heard that some Socialist or trade unionist had been killed or had to flee the blackshirt thugs they probably told themselves that this was worth it if Mussolini could make his trains run on time, as was claimed. "Had I been an Italian, I would have been with you from the start. You have shown a way to beat the bestial appetites of Bolshevism." said Winston Churchill on a visit to Italy in 1927.
For others, like Sir Oswald Mosley, or the the Rothermere-owned Daily Mail, the charm lasted longer, in Mosley's case until the cheques ran out and he had to turn to Adolf for support.
After the war, since Italy, though not Musso, had surrendered, and the Italian fascists were seen as potentially needed allies against the workers' and partisans of the Left, the Allies did not bother with any war crimes trials. After all, the victims of the fascist war crimes had been mostly Arabs and Africans, so they did not really count. Nor did the Slovenes, when Britain protected General Roatta, who had been responsible for massdeporations and killings there.
Fascist generals were protected, and neo-fascists enlisted for NATO's Gladio network. Perhaps they too can say they were not racialist, as their victims were mainly fellow-countrymen, such as the 85 killed in the 1980 Bologna station bombing.
It was reported today that Di Canio attended the funeral of one of the Bologna station bombers. But what was already notorious was his fascist salute to far Right Lazio fans, which he explained was a a gesture to his people.
Nowadays there is no room for doubt about the violent racism and antisemitism of Italian fascist groups, and Lazio 'Ultras' are proud of their reputation for racist chants and thuggery. It was naturally assumed they were behind the organised attack on English Spurs fans in November, though magistrates said later it was a rival gang. The Lazio fans did not miss up on their chance for antisemitic chants however. And even if Sunderland bosses didn't know their history, they might have vaguely recalled the incident in Rome before declaring that football is nothing to do with politics.
organised attack left fan with stab wounds
Who are Lazio Ultras?
Di Canio's "people", Lazio Ultras
Di Canio at Bologna bomber's funeral
Miners demand their banner back
Now after former Foreign Secretary and South Shields MP David Miliband resigned his directorship of Sunderland, Durham miners demanded their union banner back from the Stadium of Light, and many ordinary but loyal supporters voiced their protests, we get a change of tune. Di Canio appears on TV waving a Sunderland scarf and says he is neither a racialist or a fascist. After what looked suspiciously like flying a kite for fascism's acceptability, it seems for now we are treated to a PR exercise. Whether this display of supposed 'sincerity' will erase the previous shows with right arm extended to "my people", we will see. Better he be sent back to his 'people, and the Sunderland bosses apologise for insulting theirs, but I suppose that might cost too much.