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Sunday, March 17, 2013

X MAS: The Right-Wing Politics of Rome

Raffaella Duelli
Incredible, but true.  On consecutive days in June, Rome's mayor, Gianni Alemanno, participated in a ceremony honoring Francesco Cecchin, a right-wing militant murdered by left-wing militants in 1979, at once a participant and victim of the Anni di Piombo (the Years of Lead).  And then--as if one politically confrontational act were insufficient--he gave the city's hallowed Capitoline Museum over to an award ceremony, sponsored by X Mas--a military organization that fought against the Partisans and the Allies in the two years after 1943 and was at this moment bestowing the third yearly edition of the Duelli-Gallitto Prize, named after a former Fascist commandant in X Mas, Bartolo Gallitto, and a non-combatant participant, Raffaella Duelli--yes, a woman.  Both were citizens of Rome. 

We've written in these pages about Cecchin, but not of X Mas.  As you've probably guessed, the letters don't stand for Christmas.  The organization dates to 1940, when the 10th Light Flotilla, also known as Xa (for Decima - 10th) Mas, was born.  As unlikely as it seems, its purpose was to sink "enemy" ships--mostly British and some American ones--in Italian waters, using "manned torpedoes" (basically explosives work carried out by frogmen).

A Rome wall in the Trieste quarter, 2012. 
MAS... [figlia nostra/our daughter]

After Mussolini was ousted from power in the fall of 1943 and subsequently freed by the Germans, the group was reconstituted as X Mas, ostensibly an independent military corp, but in reality there to serve the Repubblica Sociale Italiana, a puppet government of Fascists, under Mussolini, also known as the Republic of Salo'.  For two years, X Mas worked with the occupying German army, hunting down partisans, participating in roundups of Italian men for work in Germany, contesting the Yugoslav armies that threatened the country's northeast frontier, and otherwise assisting the Nazis as the Allies made their gradual advance up the peninsula.  Its members were ultra-nationalist and believed deeply in the value of armed conflict, including the "bella morta" (beautiful death) in combat. 

Get yours now
It's not entirely clear where the "mas" comes from.  The acronym "mas" was used by the poet and Fascist Gabriele d'Annunzio for his Latin motto: Memento Audere Sempre/Remember always to dare. 

Gianni Alemanno, center, as a young man

In this case it's right-wing and one-time street punk Alemanno doing the daring: daring today's liberals and leftists to tolerate his indiscreet and provocative behavior; daring the city's young leftists not to take offense; daring the city's sensible voters, and the international political community, to see him as something other than a fool.  How sad for this great city to be governed by a man who cannot manage to set aside the passions of his adolescence.    

For other discussions of the right-wing in Rome, see (among others) a post on Zippo and one by Paul Baxa. We've mentioned Mayor Alemanno in many posts; just search "Alemanno," but this short one may say it all.


1 comment:

Joan said...

Just another comment on the mayor. I spent Christmas 2010 and 2012 in Rome. I realize that Rome had the same mayor both times. But I think he might be becoming more comfortable with doing less for the holiday. In 2010 Piazza Venezia had not only a huge tree, but a Nativity scene and a Santa in lights. Lighted angels went up the Cordonata and were still there when I left on December 28. In 2012, the Piazza had only a big Christmas tree and a bed of red and white flowers along with a bed of something green. No angels on the Cordonata. The day after Christmas the crane was there dismantling the big tree. Ah well!