The Cold War and American influence on the socio-political context of postwar Italy was seen on small screens and the big screen. These agents fostered anti-communist sentiment in the second half of the 20th century and aided the contemporary resurgence of the extreme right. From the outset of Radiotelevisione italiana (known colloquially and commercially as Rai, this is the public broadcasting network) programs like Carosello (1957 – 1977) promulgated consumer culture. After the dissolution of the First Republic, the proliferation of the internet enabled the Italian public to access explicitly left wing films for free, exemplified by the pirate streaming service Videoteca di Classe (The Class Video Archive). Videoteca di Classe platforms socialist and communist cinema from predominantly European and Italian filmmakers, from the retro Trevico-Torino – Viaggio nel Fiat-Nam (Trevico-Turin: Voyage in Fiatnam, Ettore Scola, 1973) to the contemporary political horror Go Home – A casa loro (Go Home, Luna Gualano, 2018), these films precluded mainstream distribution in favour of Hollywood productions. The guerrilla tactics of Videoteca di Classe become an anti-fascist trope through their political commitment that bypasses conventional distribution channels. This defies the contemporary political landscape, characterised by the extreme right of Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia, Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord and the resurgence of neo-fascist groups, such as CasaPound. Videoteca di Classe will be examined in the context of post-fascist Italy and the resurgence of the extreme right, where the cultural influence of the USA reverberates both in the state ideology and in the media. 

After the Second World War, the United States and their allies embedded themselves in the  political and social fabric of the nation. Benito Mussolini’s Italy fought alongside the Third Reich while the Italian resistance movement collaborated with the Allied forces. The chaotic decades following the war were punctuated by internal and external tensions. This oscillation between fascism and resistance remains important in understanding the resurgence of extreme-right and neo-fascist groups.1 After the war, Italy became an important asset for the United States to consolidate the Western Bloc against the Soviet Union. The national debt and subsequent indispensable monetary aid of the Marshall Plan (the European Recovery Program) enabled America to become a stakeholder in the nation (re)building process, orientating the country towards capitalism. Beyond economics, Italy became part of a cultural project that negatively portrayed communist and socialist ideals. The post-fascist era used television, cinema, newspapers and radio broadcasting to shape the national political consciousness. The popularisation of television in Italian households stands out as an important agent in the ideological reformulation of the country. 

The end of Italian neorealism, a distinctly social realist cinema, coincided with the birth of Italian television. Rai began its first official broadcast on the 3rd of January 1954. Television rapidly became the most popular item in the country’s households. By the end of 1954, this new technology reached 58% of the population and by 1961, 97% of Italians would have a television service.2 This signalled the Americanisation of Italian identity. It underscored the State’s promotion of consumerist ideologies, aided by the constant political and cultural influence of the United States. For these reasons, Carosello became a significant capitalist influence throughout the Cold War that aided the spread and allure of the American lifestyle, alongside deeply heteronormative and patriarchal representations of the nuclear family.  

Carosello logo, 1957

The Red Scare and Carosello

Understanding Videoteca di Classe as resistance and an anti-fascist trope requires us to foreground major socio-political elements: the tumult of the post-war years, American influence and post-fascist Italian identity. Americanisation refers to the cooperation between Americans and non-Americans in creating a transatlantic cultural transfer, which is also denounced as a one-way process of hegemonic cultural imposition.3 The term has pejorative connotations, to address the asymmetrical American influence. In Italy, the advent of television as mass-commodity in the ‘60s became important in the Western Bloc’s anti-Communist strategy. The efforts of the United States Government to impose American values onto Italians, to shift the internal politics of the country in line with those of Washington, are underlined by the objectives of the United States Information Service (USIS).4 This administrative branch oversaw the State Department’s international cultural information policies from 1945 to 1953, until it became the United States Information Agency on August 3rd, 1953. Critically, these bureaus were established during the Second World War in conjunction with the Psychological Warfare Division (PWD).5 The USIS covered motion pictures, American libraries, cultural centres, the Fulbright Program (which still exists) and international broadcasting. As Simona Tobia highlights:

“The main theme of USIS-produced material and of VOA broadcasts to Italy was the idea of advertising the American model, and the American ‘way of life’, American values and the US itself; their mission was to make the Italians feel they needed American wealth, wellbeing, and welfare as linked to the model of democracy and freedom which ultimately depended on the ‘Western choice’ of the Italian people.”6

At the dawn of the Italian economic boom (1958 – 1963), the American model and the popularisation of the “Western choice” are demonstrated by one of the first programs broadcast by Rai: Carosello. This television program stayed with the Italian audience from the first years of television broadcasting, premiering on February 3rd, 1957 until the series finale on January 1st, 1978.7 Carosello was an important vehicle in the ideological warfare of the Cold War. It was created in order to cover the expenses of television broadcasting and, at the same time, to educate the Italian public and orient them towards consumerism and the new lifestyle expected and envisioned by Western ideology. It was broadcast everyday, with less than two minutes of highly refined advertisements alongside icons of the Italian film industry – Alessandro Gassman, Anita Ekberg, Alberto Sordi – and the Italian entertainment industry, such as the timeless pop singer Mina. The program portrayed and promulgated patriarchal and heteronormative ideals, but the central tenant was the capitalist appeal of the new modern lifestyle in the United States. 

Mina on Carosello, 1967

The program continues to hold a lot of sentimental value for baby boomers, who grew up with Carosello. For 21 years, Carosello struck a balance between advertising and entertainment. The promotion of consumer culture was implicit, rather than explicit. This is highlighted in the 2017 television special: Carosello – La Grande Storia (Carosello – the Great History, Rai, 2017)8 featuring Paolo Mieli, an important journalist and editor of Italy’s leading newspaper Corriere della Sera. Capitalism and consumerism are engraved ideologies in the Italian mindset as Mieli underlines with nostalgia in the television special: “Carosello made advertising and consumption subliminal messages of artistic valour and for this reason it is dearly remembered.” Carosello continues to be referenced in pop culture. It introduced foreign lifestyles, especially American, to the Italian cultural landscape. The post-war commitment towards a pedagogy of consumerism is spoken of, with strange affection, in the documentary special Carosello – La Grande Storia.9 The stronghold of the program and its obvious mission to foster a positive view of the Western Bloc underlines the historic moment when Italian consumers began to feel an intrinsic connection between post-fascism, capitalism and modernity in their cultural identity. 

The socio-political impact of television and its role in promulgating the patriarchal and capitalist structures of Italian society is examined by many authors in the leftist film history of the country. For example, contemporary Italian auteur Nanni Moretti – whose works are part of the free archive of Videoteca di Classe – parodies the stronghold television has over its audiences in Palme d’Or winner Caro Diario (Dear Diary, Nanni Moretti, 1993). Satire of the mass communication medium is at the heart of this tender, semi-autobiographical feature. In the film, Moretti stars as himself and joins his friend Gerardo (Renato Carpentieri) on the Aeolian Islands. Gerardo is a devoted intellectual who has been in self-imposed solitude to study James Joyce’s 1918 novel Ulysses, who proudly declares that he has not watched television for the last 20 years. However, in their travels around these idyllic Sicilian islands, Gerardo finds himself captivated by mass-media and develops a quasi-addiction to popular soap operas. Ultimately, Gerardo will flee one of these remote localities in search of a television set. Moretti, with humour, underlines the visceral power of television broadcasting to bewitch the spectator and its subsequent influence to even the most sceptical viewer. This highlights the soft power that shaped the post-war generation through programs like Carosello, and the indispensable ideological subversion that militant cinema represents. 

Dear Diary

Guerrilla Tactics at Videoteca di Classe

The big screen was an important battleground in ideological Cold War(fare). Much has been published about Hollywood versus Soviet cinema.10 While Hollywood created and perfected the blockbuster, punctuated by big names and economic gains, Soviet cinema developed the canon of socialist realism. International co-productions became an important vehicle for the Soviet Union to permeate Italian and Western cinemas. Marsha Siefert notes that, “The Soviet efforts to co-produce films on their own terms exhibit a multilayered dynamic process in the negotiation and export of cultural influence during the Cold War.”11 Cinema was a vessel to export and disseminate political thought between the two political fronts.

In their long lists of films illegally available for free, the Videoteca di Classe pirate streaming service showcases an important filmmaking duo: the late Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet. These leftist auteurs occupy a narrow space in Italian distribution, especially throughout the 20th century, by being largely relegated to the film festival circuit and independent art house exhibitions. Working prolifically across France, West Germany and Italy, Sicilia! (Sicily!, Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet, 1999), Geschichtsunterricht (History Lessons, Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet, 1972) and Dalla nube alla resistennza (From The Clouds to The Resistance, Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet, 1979) stand out as key works from their filmography. Critically, these are great exponents of a cinematic language that places itself between a Brechtian aesthetic and Bresson austerity. Despite regularly working in Italy, distribution of their work was limited and almost unknown to the mainstream Italian audience. 

Videoteca di Classe re-presents their films to a younger, digitally literate generation. It freed these films from financial barriers and the constraints of small theatrical releases usually concentrated in big cities, like Rome’s arthouse cinema the Nuovo Sacher. Videoteca di Classe echoes the logic of counter-capitalist thought that prioritises access over income. Straub and Huillet’s films are re-situated in the contemporary moment, in direct dissidence with the consumerist values of modern Italian society. The proliferation of these class conscious films is a form of resistance against the extreme-right and fascist empathising government of current Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.


Videoteca di Classe also features many Italian filmmakers in its archive. The Italian leftist film production studio Unitelefilm was established in 1963 and directly aided by the Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI, the Italian Communist Party). The studio worked both autonomously and in collaboration with the PCI until 1979, when its archive and resources were given to the still existing organisation Archivio Audiovisivo del Movimento Operaio e Democratico.12 Unitelefilm worked with emerging and established auteurs, such as Ettore Scola, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, and Bernardo Bertolucci. Working internationally with Soviet studios (notably Defa, Soykinokhronika, Mafilm and Studi A. Sahia) Unitelefilm spearheaded fruitful collaborations with documentarists who recorded revolutionary history.13

Trevico-Turin. Voyage in Fiat-Nam

The advent of the internet coincides with a cataclysmic shift in Italian politics: Tangentopoli and the dissolution of the First Republic. Tangentopoli uncovered endemic corruption at all levels of government and led to the collapse of nearly every established political party in the country. The highest-profile casualty was the Democrazia Cristiana (DC, Christian Democracy Party), who dominated Italian politics from 1946 to 1994.14 The DC is an important element in the analysis of obstacles faced by communist and socialist films in Italy, as they largely influenced the collective understanding of capitalist ideology. As the name suggests, the party worked closely with the Vatican to reinforce Catholic and capitalist ideals. Throughout their years in government, the Communist party was their strongest opposition. Thus, the DC spearheaded a continuous and extensive wave of anti-communist sentiment that pervaded the post-war and Cold War period. 

The 1992 Italian general election saw generally loyal DC regions turn to the Lega Nord (Northern League) party.15 This is an important shift that is reflected today in the present government. The Northern League is an extreme-right nationalist party, created in 1991 under the leadership of Umberto Bossi, who remained its main exponent until the leadership change with Matteo Salvini in 2013. The party brought together a wide range of autonomist movements and leagues that already had a strong presence in the north of the country since the ‘70s.16 Traditionally glorifying the north and demonising the south, the Northern League has evolved by substituting animosity for Rome and southern Italy with the European Union. The renewed popularity of this extreme-right party has been confirmed by its present coalition with the leading party Fratelli d’Italia

As the country started flirting with fascism, the internet mobilised. The world wide web is the propeller that fuels the resistance at Videoteca di Classe. As piracy evolved from counterfeited VHS and DVDs, the pirate economy transitioned from inexpensive to free.17 Videoteca di Classe stands as an anti-fascist agent, in opposition to the Italian mafia who sell bootlegged DVDs (among other counterfeited goods). The absence of revenue is a political act of the leftist streaming service. Their commitment to anti-capitalist cinema stands in stark contrast to deeply entrenched Hollywood production values in Italy. The piracy of Videoteca di Classe is continuously hindered by state regulations for illegal streaming, but collectivism and community are a part of the movement. Independent, left-wing online newspapers keep readers updated on new ways to access the website through virtual private networks (VPN) and updates around when the website is online or offline, due to censorship.18  

The contemporary resurgence and establishment of extreme-right parties at the highest levels of government are signalled by the new Prime Minister and Fratelli di d’Italia’s leader Giorgia Meloni. Their rhetoric is racist, capitalist, xenophobic and Catholic. Meloni is on the record speaking favourably of Benito Mussolini. Similarly to the DC, the capitalist and catholic alignment of contemporary politics alienates LGBTQIA+ rights, immigration, abortion rights, and a reform of capital and class divisions. The violence of neo-fascism underscores the urgency of Videoteca di Classe’s mission. Domestically, politically motivated violence is increasing, as demonstrated at the Michelangiolo high school in February.19 Internationally, ships carrying migrants and refugees rescued from the Mediterranean sea have not been allowed to dock at Italian ports. Matteo Salvini’s interventions in the Gregoretti ship violated International Conventions on the matter.20 The free video-archive resists government rhetoric that aggressively promotes xenophobia and racism. 

In the diverse range of films offered by the pirate streaming service Videoteca di classe, the leftist nature of their archive underlines the subversive nature of their piracy as an anti-fascist agent against the neo-fascist rise in the country. As underlined in this article, small screens and the big screen have a powerful impact on the formation of social and cultural consciousness. Videoteca di Classe strategically and militantly shares “hidden” films to the wider public: a younger, digitally literate Italian generation. This piracy subverts the capitalist dynamic of film distribution and, at the same time, becomes an important and free instrument against neo-fascism. The cinematic pirate resistance highlights a political and aesthetic antidote to Hollywood, capitalism, and right-wing positions. Piracy becomes a socio-political vehicle that resituates leftwing cinematic history in the digitally-infused present. It peacefully opposes the violence legitimised by the current Italian government, through the art of the moving image.


  1. “La Nascita Della Repubblica Di Salò,” Il Post, 2013, https://www.ilpost.it/2013/09/23/repubblica-di-salo/.
  2. “Rai.it,” Rai.it – La storia (RAI), accessed January 16, 2023, https://www.rai.it/dl/rai/text/ContentItem-20844e48-74d8-44fe-a6f4-7c224c96e8e4.html.
  3. Simona Tobia, “Did the Rai Buy It? the Role and Limits of American Broadcasting in Italy in the Cold War,” Cold War History 13, no. 2 (2013): pp. 171-191, https://doi.org/10.1080/14682745.2012.746665, 172.
  4. Office of International Information and Cultural Affairs (1945–1948); Office of International Information (1948–1950); Office of International Information and Cultural Exchange Programs (1950–1952) and International Information Administration (1952–1953).
  5. Simona Tobia, “Did the Rai Buy It? the Role and Limits of American Broadcasting in Italy in the Cold War,” Cold War History 13, no. 2 (2013): pp. 171-191, https://doi.org/10.1080/14682745.2012.746665, 175.
  6. Simona Tobia, “Did the Rai Buy It? the Role and Limits of American Broadcasting in Italy in the Cold War,” Cold War History 13, no. 2 (2013): pp. 171-191, https://doi.org/10.1080/14682745.2012.746665, 175.
  7. “Rai.it,” Rai.it – La storia (RAI), accessed January 16, 2023, https://www.rai.it/dl/rai/text/ContentItem-20844e48-74d8-44fe-a6f4-7c224c96e8e4.html.
  8. “Carosello – La Grande Storia ,” Carosello – La Grande Storia , accessed 2023, https://www.raiplay.it/programmi/carosello-lagrandestoria.
  9. “Carosello – La Grande Storia,” Carosello – La Grande Storia, accessed 2023, https://www.raiplay.it/programmi/carosello-lagrandestoria, min 1- 4.
  10. Peter Romijn, Giles Scott-Smith, and Joes Segal, “Co-Producing Cold War Culture East-West Film-Making and Cultural Diplomacy,” in Divided Dreamworlds?: The Cultural Cold War in East and West (Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press, 2012), pp. 73-94, 73-74.
  11. Peter Romijn, Giles Scott-Smith, and Joes Segal, “Co-Producing Cold War Culture East-West Film-Making and Cultural Diplomacy,” in Divided Dreamworlds?: The Cultural Cold War in East and West (Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press, 2012), pp. 73-94, 74.
  12. Archivio Audiovisivo del Movimento Operaio e Democratico also known as the AAMOD, which translates as the Audivisive archive of the working class and democratic movement. The AAMOD is a no-profit independent organization that inherited the archive of Unitelefilm after its closing in the late 1970s.
  13. “Archivi Aamod,” PCI – Unitelefilm – film – Archivio Aamod, accessed February 14, 2023, http://patrimonio.aamod.it/aamod-web/film/detail/IL8000000006/22/fondo-unitelefilm.html.
  14. The Christian Democracy Party is known in Italian as the Partito della Democrazia Cristiana and it will be also referenced in this article as DC.
  15. Miriam A. Golden, “International Economic Sources of Regime Change,” Comparative Political Studies 37, no. 10 (2004): pp. 1238-1274, https://doi.org/10.1177/0010414004269821, 1238-1240.
  16. Daniele Albertazzi, Arianna Giovannini, and Antonella Seddone, “‘No Regionalism Please, We Are Leghisti !’ the Transformation of the Italian Lega Nord under the Leadership of Matteo Salvini,” Regional &Amp; Federal Studies 28, no. 5 (March 2018): pp. 645-671, https://doi.org/10.1080/13597566.2018.1512977, 647.
  17. Gregory F. Treverton et al., “The Shape of Counterfeiting and the Example of Film Piracy,” in Film Piracy, Organized Crime, and Terrorism (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corp., 2009), pp. 27-29.
  18. Guy Van Stratten et al., “Videoteca Di Classe: Resistiamo Con Il Cinema,” Codice Rosso, January 13, 2022, https://codice-rosso.net/videoteca-di-classe-resistiamo-con-il-cinema/.
  19. “L’aggressione Agli Studenti Del Liceo Michelangiolo Di Firenze.” Il Post, February 20, 2023. https://www.ilpost.it/2023/02/20/aggressione-studenti-liceo-michelangiolo-firenze/.
  20. ZINITI, di. “Migranti, Salvini Sotto Accusa Per Il Blocco Della Nave Gregoretti. Di Maio: “Voteremo Autorizzazione A Procedere””. La Repubblica, 2020. https://www.repubblica.it/cronaca/2019/12/18/news/migranti_-243765910/.

About The Author

Amanda Robusti recently graduated from the Master of Arts in Cinema Studies at San Francisco State University and previously obtained her BA in History of Art at Goldsmiths University of London. In her writings, art and critical theory have often come together in the investigations of violence, state power, and the resistant modes that oppose these structures. Over the years, her research interests evolved to focus on affect, bodies and sexuality, alongside experimental cinematic expressions, and especially experimental animation. An evolution underlined by her master’s thesis - The Limbo of Shapes, Queer synaesthesia the revolutionary act of affect - which focuses on the animator and filmmaker Norman McLaren.

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