Almirante, Giorgio

   The historic leader of the Movimento Sociale Italiano/Italian Social Movement (MSI), Almirante was an unapologetic defender of the Republic of Salowho nevertheless managed to bring the neofascist movement in Italy a degree of respectability. He was born in Salsamaggiore in the province of Parma in 1914. During the final years of the war he took part in the brutal civil war waged between the partisans and Benito Mussolini’s dying regime, as an officer in one of the republic’s most notorious militia units, the Decima mas. After the war, he was elected one of the MSI’s six deputies in the Constituent Assembly. Almirante was elected leader of the MSI in 1947, but in the 1950s and 1960s, the MSI’s relatively moderate wing, headed by Arturo Michelini, won control. Almirante was not prepared to compromise with the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy Party (DC), or to turn the MSI into a party that worked within the political system. As much as any communist, he rejected the institutions and economic system of capitalist democracy. As late as 1968, Almirante, despite his age, led neofascist hooligans in a street battle at the faculty of law at the University of Rome.
   Despite such adventures, Almirante was reelected leader of the MSI in June 1969 upon the death of Michelini. He followed a more realistic policy of integrating the MSI into the political system and openly accepted democratic procedures, but successfully managed to retain the party’s attachment to the principles of fascist ideology. He showed skill at exploiting the preoccupations of the “silent majority” alarmed by the anarchistic state of the nation’s factories and universities, and linked the party with the monarchists to form the so-called National Right coalition in the elections of 1972, winning over 8 percent of the national vote. Almirante’s strategy became known as “fascismin a double-breasted suit,” a phrase that captured his willingness to jettison the more obvious symbols of fascism, without rejecting its substance. At the same time, however, he was unable (or unwilling) to distance the MSI from the numerous far-right subversive organizations that spread terror in Italy in the early 1970s, and consequently he never managed to complete fascism’s transformation to respectability. The MSI’s vote declined steadily after 1972. Almirante shrewdly picked Gianfranco Fini as his heir apparent shortly before his death in Rome in 1988. Without Almirante’s strategic vision, the wholesale modernization of Italian neofascism put into effect by Fini since the early 1990s would have been impossible, but his legacy is an ambiguous one. Unlike Fini, Almirante never dreamed of apologizing for the brutalities and excesses of the Fascist dictatorship or for the death squads of Salo.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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