A ministry of Italy’s government says it will remove from its walls a photo of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after its recent display led to an uproar from trade unions and a former minister.
Mussolini’s legacy is in the spotlight as Italy prepares to install its most right-wing government since World War II, led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, whose roots go back to the post-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI).
The Mussolini portrait will be taken down “to avoid polemics and manipulations,” the ministry of economic development said in a statement.
The picture had been put up as part of an exhibit to celebrate the ministry’s 90th anniversary, which included portraits of all its former ministers.
Mussolini, who ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943, was included in the gallery as he was also Minister for Corporations (a precursor of the current ministry) in 1932, the ministry said.
The public sector chapter of the CGIL, Italy’s largest trade union, openly expressed its outrage, condemning the “deplorable” display and calling for its immediate removal.
Meanwhile, former centre-left leader and economic development minister Pier Luigi Bersani objected to being hung alongside Italy’s late dictator.
“I kindly ask… to have my picture removed,” he tweeted.
To add insult to injury, it came to light that Mussolini’s portrait was also hanging in Rome’s Palazzo Chigi, the prime minister’s formal residence and the seat of the Council of Ministers.
Following the portrait’s removal, certain factions of the right complained of a “cancel culture” and historical revisionism.
“Are we going to join the cancel culture too,” asked Ignazio La Russa, Italy’s newly appointed speaker of the Senate and a veteran far-right politician who began his career in the MSI and collects Mussolini memorabilia.
“You don’t cancel history by eliminating a photo,” tweeted Francesco Giubilei, a conservative commentator and author.
Meloni is set to become Italy’s prime minister and has frequently come under fire for her neo-fascist roots and open admiration for Mussolini in her teenage years. The soon-to-be premier has now distanced herself from such a hardline background and considers herself to be a mainstream conservative.