Italy’s fascist prime minister Giorgia Meloni travelled to Caivano, a town near Naples, on 31 August. Local media had reported that two girls were raped by a group in an abandoned sports complex used by the Camorra organised crime group in the town. Most of the abusers were under the age of 14, one was 19.
In Caivano, Meloni pledged that there will be nowhere that the Italian state is not in control. Dozens of police cars were stationed around her. A police helicopter buzzed overhead as she spoke.
This was partially to prevent a protest over the estimated 169,000 families across Italy who were told by text they’d have their benefits cut. That cut affected many of Caivano’s 37,800 residents.
Caivano was built to house Neapolitans whose homes were destroyed in an earthquake in 1980. It has zero facilities, and the gangsters that profiteered from its construction still profit from it today. There is no train or metro link, and people have to walk over a mile to a bus stop.
In the centre of its Parco Verde white sacks full of asbestos lie dumped. Last Tuesday over 400 cops took part in dawn raids on the estate as Meloni visited. And the government is to announce a crackdown on juvenile crime with expulsion orders to those aged between 14 and 18 and other measures.
Caivano is at the heart of “La Terra dei Fuochi”— the Land of Fires— a region where the Camorra illegally dumps and burns commercial toxic waste. Organised crime has been a weapon for the Italian state rather than an enemy.
It was the state that managed the so-called “strategy of tension” against the left, including the bomb at Bologna station in 1980.
This was rightly blamed on fascists and the Mafia—but it was done in cahoots with the authorities. Organised crime and fascists operated repeatedly as criminal wings of other interests, including Christian Democracy, masonic lodges, even factions in the Vatican.
The origin of Camorra gangs in Naples was extorting money then sponsoring candidates in elections. In Sicily landlords were not interested in running their estates so they paid enforcers who became the Mafia.
The Mafia and Camorra acted as a cushion for the Italian ruling class. In the 1920s when fascist Benito Mussolini took power, he needed control of the mechanisms of repression, so he took on some organised crime.
This was also a way of weakening regional political networks. Charges of Mafia association were typically levelled at peasants and tenant farmers but generally not at landowners.
Between 1925 and 1928 over 11,000 suspects were arrested in Sicily. When the man in charge started to look at the links between the mafia and the fascists, he was sacked for producing too much paperwork.
During the Second World War the US military used organised crime as a bulwark against mass resistance to fascists.
Former New York governor, Charles Poletti’s interpreter, Vito Genovese, was a Mafioso who made large donations to Mussolini’s fascists and entertained Nazi leaders in his castle. Genovese took the US fuel and food sent to feed the population in the south of Italy and sold it on the black market.
Those links gave the gangsters huge leverage in the setting up of the modern Italian state.
Now the fascists are in office and have approved a series of measures that give white collar criminals a free pass.
For offences such as corruption and embezzlement, the government has softened punishments. It has raised the limit for cash payments from 2,000 euros to 5,000 euros.
Meloni’s clampdown is not about protecting ordinary people. It may lead to repression and encourage violence in the poverty slums of the South, but the tops will always be safe.