�The more powerful a state and hence the more political a nation,
the less inclined it is to explain the general principle governing social
ills and to seek out their causes by looking at the principle of the
state. . . ." --Karl Marx,
Critical Notes on �The King of Prussia and Social Reform�
As a premise to this diary of events, notes and comments
covering a period of one month following the whimsical and perverse electoral
choice of this country of 60 million people, I remind readers that since the
time of Machiavelli, Italy has often been a political guidepost in Europe.
Therefore, Italy�s peculiar preference today for an updated form of fascism
that once cost them so dearly and, furthermore, is headed by an accused crook
is worth a close look.
April 12-13, 2008: Silvio Berlusconi and his People
of Freedom Party (PDL) in alliance with the neo-fascist National Alliance (AN)
and the autonomist and populist Northern League (Lega Nord) swept general
elections this weekend with an 11-point advantage. A nightmare for many
Italians and an unbelievable twist of irony for the rest of the world, the
72-year old media magnate -- false hair, face lifts and lifted shoes, and
Italy�s richest man -- thus becomes the nation�s prime minister for the fourth
time. Even before assuming office, irrepressible Berlusconi is ensconced in
power where he will remain for a five-year term . . . and mortality permitting,
most likely longer.
Today Berlusconi has more powers concentrated in his hands
than in any Italian political leader since Benito Mussolini. In this cool
April, a full month before he is to assume office, he is making pronunciamientos
right and left on domestic and foreign issues and is in contact with his
favorite foreign leaders, George Bush and Vladimir Putin.
Italy�s new quasi two-party system creates a totally
different scenario from the diffused power of its traditional broad coalition
parliamentary governments. This time electors opted for the compact coalition
led by Berlusconi. In a watertight alliance with the (post) Fascist right,
Berlusconi has a solid Parliamentary majority allowing him to establish in effect
a one-man government, while at one stroke he eliminated from Parliament the
Communist left opposition he so hates.
Italy�s government-in-the-making is so far right as to make
Berlusconi�s previous governments appear leftist in comparison. Since his first
government in 1994 and his two subsequent governments during the 2001-2006
legislature, Italy has in fact witnessed a steady degeneration of its
representative political system.
In place of expression through the usual plethora of
parties, Berlusconian populism embodies the political spirit of Italy. His
Italian form of populism, however, already today displays symptoms of a further
mutation, this time to something much uglier: to authoritarianism or worse,
with tendencies toward fascism pure and simple.
One might wonder why one of the world�s richest men wants to
continue in what in chaotic Italy�s reality is a backbreaking job? As of many
dictators, one says that Berlusconi above all wants to be loved. A dangerous
clich� indeed. Not for a minute do I believe that being loved is the point. Not
for Silvio Berlusconi. In his world, love is for sale. He wants to be admired .
. . and envied. But above all it�s a question of power. As others of his ilk,
Berlusconi suffers from an insatiable need to command. In the final analysis,
he wants it all. Humility and measure do not exist in his character or
vocabulary. In his every manifestation Berlusconi appears as an unlikely
saviour of the nation and the statesman he so wants to be. The total egoist, he
recognizes no differences between what he controls politically or what he
possesses. As Italian philosopher Norberto Bobbio once wrote, �Berlusconi is
the classic tyrant who thinks that what common mortals only dream, for him is
permitted. The characteristic of the tyrant is the belief that he can do
The identity of the Italian has been shaky since the
unification of Italy a century and a half ago. For that reason the fascist
state which ruled Italy from 1922-1944 remains in the DNA of many Italians, the
eternal puppets of unpredictable power. If one speaks of the erosion of civil
liberties and a nascent police state in Great Britain, so much the more so in
Italy today. In these times of uncontrollable immigration, globalization, the
loss of jobs and lack of opportunities, dwindling incomes and pressures from
the European Union itself to obey the rules, the images of an Italy that once
counted on the world scene remain fixed in the popular memory. That fabled
Italy is Berlusconi�s obsession. And a majority of Italians seem to believe he
can bring it back.
No wonder the super capitalist, globalist European Union
(EU) has Italy under strict observation. And well it should. For official
Europe neither trusts nor understands Italy. Today, the Italy that has often
marked new social-political directions for the Continent, seems ready to veer
off into some uncontrollable and uncharted direction, poised to make an
unpredictable leap into the dark.
In the popular imagination, Italy is still Europe�s most
loved country, �the land where lemon trees bloom,� Goethe romantically wrote.
But Goethe was a poet and never understood Italy, either. He would be chagrined
that this Italy stands on the edge of an abyss. The Alps separating Italy from
the rest sometimes seems to be demonic, dooming Italy to outrageous behavior.
Yet, after the victory of the right, Italy today is
April 28 Today Gianni Alemanno, a fiery exponent of
the neo-fascist National Alliance Party (Alleanza Nazionale), the political
heir of Mussolini�s Fascist Party and Berlusconi�s chief political ally, was
elected mayor of Rome. He is the
first rightwing mayor in over 60 years. His program: security, zero
tolerance toward illegal immigrants and the others of society. Alemanno
comes from the ranks of the
neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (Movimento Sociale Italiano-MSI) that
immediately after World War II emerged like a Phoenix from the ashes of Benito
Mussolini�s German puppet state, the Italian Social Republic in north Italy.
Alemanno�s upset victory reconfirms Italy�s bent for the reckless and the
April 30 Today, two days later, Gianfranco Fini,
president of National Alliance, and the personal heir in a direct line from
Mussolini�s Fascist Party and the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, was
elected (actually appointed by Silvio Berlusconi) president of the incoming
Chamber of Deputies. Signs of the times: On a walk through Rome while
campaigning for his fascist colleague, Alemanno, an arrogant Fini allegedly
demanded to see immigrants� residence permits.
Thus, neo-fascists now occupy two chief positions of power
-- the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies, third in the state political
hierarchy, and the mayoralty of Rome, in power and prestige worth more than
several ministries. Again, �they� are climbing, climbing to the top.
May 5: Symptoms of the times: The victim of a beating
by a Fascist-Nazi goon squad died in a Verona hospital today. On the same day
at the opening of the huge Turin Book Fair -- now competing with the Frankfurt
Book Fair -- the radical left of the Turin Social Forum burned an Israeli flag
in protest against Israel�s �guest of honor� role at this year�s book show. In
the evening on the nation�s major talk show the neo-president of the Chamber of
Deputies, Fini, said that the events in Turin were much more �serious� than the
murder in Verona. While in Verona, he reasoned, there was no ideological
reference in the young man�s murder, in Turin �the radical left was trying to
justify, with anti-Zionist slogans, its authentic anti-Semitism and
In effect, the president of the Chamber is laying the
groundwork for repressions of dissent like those he (Fini) commanded in Genoa
in 2001 (at the infamous G-8 conference where state police under neo-fascist
control terrorized, beat and tortured anti-capitalist protesters, for which all
police perpetrators have since been exonerated).
May 5: Though the new Berlusconi cabinet is not yet
complete, we learned today that George Bush is scheduled to return to Rome on
June 11 to visit his friend �Silvio.� Italy�s new �Sugary Sweet Dictatorship�
must beef up relations with Washington and with Berlusconi�s dear friend
�George� after the two-year hiatus of cool relations between the USA and Italy�s
outgoing center left government. Bush will doubtless ask his vassal for more
Italian military support in the East. And Berlusconi is always proud to send
Italian ragazzi into the battlefields on America's missions. At the same
time, Berlusconi needs US support for upgrading Italy�s relations with Israel
without offending the sensibilities of the Arab world with which the center
left government had closer relations.
May 5: The media today refer to reports of an Italian intelligence agency (AISI), according to which North-East
Italy with its magnificent cities of Verona, Vicenza, Padua, and Treviso has
the highest density of militant Nazi Skinheads in the country. The �Skinhead
Front,� originally modeled on British skinheads in the 1980s, counts several
hundred activists. Their symbols are swastikas, Nazi flags and Celtic crosses.
Their look is that of the �metropolitan warrior,� whose hobbies are the martial
arts and weights, and their values, class-consciousness and nationalism,
echoing the physical force of ancient Roman legionaries.
As a rule, Nazi Skins are thugs with shaved heads and a low
cultural level. Their Nazi Skinhead credo is a violent subculture typical of
populist roughnecks: xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic, which they display
mainly on city streets and in the soccer stadiums. Nazi Skins originate among
youth of the hinterland who dedicate Saturday night to �boot parties,� as they
call their physical aggressions of which the violent murder in downtown Verona
is an example. Theirs is a double militancy: boot parties and physical battles
in the stadium. Like mercenary goon squads anywhere they are always available
to be exploited politically.
Among Italy�s 80,000 organized violent soccer fans -- called
ultras -- according to the Interior Ministry 15,000 are of the violent
right, organized into 63 groups and organizations, guided by obsessive
socio-political slogans and military strategies. They constitute reservoirs of
violence and embryonic political cells, as were Mussolini�s squadracci
goon squads who took care of political murders. Soccer hooligans are capable of
alliances with ultras of other teams in common causes and are fearless.
In Rome some months ago, ultras of two teams allied to attack police
barracks. As every city in Italy is aware, who controls the ultras
controls a potentially powerful militia.
The Nazi Skinheads also head the resurgence of anti-Semitism
in Italy, profanation of Jewish cemeteries and graffiti on the walls of Italy
praising the Duce, Hitler and the crematoria ovens. Intolerance and aggression
against weaker parts of society, against the others of society, emerge
from this subculture of violence masked under the slogan of exacting justice
alone. Fascist-organized nocturnal patrols of vigilantes, bearing the colorful
label of �City Angels,� claim they protect �honest citizens� in Bologna or
Milan from vicious immigrant predators.
The same racial intolerance and anti-Semitism are not only
fashionable among Nazi Skinheads and the ultras of fascist origin.
In the hinterland of big northern cities they originate also in the rural
reservoir of the Northern League whose leader, Umberto Bossi, likes to warn in
these days that if the left wants conflicts they should be careful, for he has
300,000 men in the North ready for them . . . and he means armed.
The Skinheads who assassinated the man in Verona allegedly
over a cigarette are members of a faction of the extreme rightist �Veneto
Skinhead Front.� It is composed of a couple dozen youths and of the Verona
soccer fan club. A spontaneous loose organization of like-minded youth, they
spout the same fascist ideologies and treasure the same Nazi symbols. From week
to week their aggressions have mounted. Beatings because of the look of the
other. Beatings to maintain control of the territory. In house searches, Verona
police have found cassettes of films of their aggressions, cassettes for
downloading and for sale.
Founded in 1986, the original Veneto Skinhead Front
maintains relations with other right-wing groups in Europe. Its members have
been involved in clashes with the police and left militants, and participate in
neo-Nazi manifestations throughout Europe.
A film, Nazi Rock,
narrates the rites and violence of the radical right rooted in and around the
beautiful city of Verona at the foot of the Alps and near Lake Garda. Its
leader was a certain Piero Puschiavo, also the leader of rock band whose music
is called Nazi Rock because the song lyrics are a mix of racism, hate for
immigrants, defense of roots and national identity and nostalgia for the old
fascist Republic of Sal� on the western shores of Lake Garda, as well as for
Adolf Hitler of whom they admire �everything except that he lost.�
The former rock leader is now the coordinator in the Region
of Veneto for the Tricolor Flame Social Movement, an extreme rightist splinter
group headed by a long-time fascist who doubts the gas chambers ever existed.
This same Luca Romagnoli was an honored guest at a Berlusconi political
manifestation in December 2006 before 2 million spectators, when Berlusconi
took Romagnoli�s hand and stroked the flag of the Flame movement. There has
always been an alarming affinity and feeling between the extreme rightist
organizations and Silvio Berlusconi.
When Berlusconi let Italy�s fascists out of the closet, he
also liberated the grassroots of their affiliated extremist movements who feel
liberated of past Nazi-Fascist crimes. Legitimated by the national political
system, they feel they were right all along. Thus they are now doubly aggressive,
as if to compensate for the post-war years when they were in the closet,
negated by the Italian Republic constitutionally based on anti-fascism.
If the violence on the right continues growing at today�s
pace (and there is much supportive data ignored or underplayed by the media),
then there is real cause for alarm. Especially when it happens in the Region of
Veneto, in the city of Verona, famous for Romeo and Juliet and art and opera
lovers. Or in nearby Treviso where a Northern League leader incited (jokingly,
one says) hunters to shoot at immigrants. Local heroes in this milieu are
Alessandra Mussolini, the dictator�s granddaughter, a member of Parliament and
part of Berlusconi�s coalition, and Roberto Fiore, head of the extreme right
and the violent Forza Nuova organization. This violent fascist right is closely
linked with the autonomist-separatist Northern League, in rich northern Italy,
Berlusconi�s chief ally and his biggest vote getter. The folkloristic Northern
League considers the Rome mayor�s Celtic Cross a symbol of their ancient Celtic
ancestors . . . not of the SS, as it was.
May 7: Today, reflections on Italy�s extreme right
are in order. For Berlusconi�s System Italy is incongruously under the fire of
its own radical right, Europe�s most powerful and aggressive right. The right
of past golpes. The right the
rest of the European right mistrusts. The right to the right of right that has
insinuated itself into public opinion, political parties, the press and into
the government itself. This right, largely concealed today, still resembles
that of Central American reactionaries or the right of Chilean and Argentinean
generals. This powerful radical right of the right is capable of shifting the
axis of public discussion and of attracting dark forces and ideas into its own
field, while it goes about dismantling, piece by piece, the construction of the
public spirit that secular, Catholic, liberal, communist and socialist builders
of modern Italy have realized in the 60 years since the creation of the Italian
The radical right is a transversal force. Stealthily it also
passes through center right parties. It insinuates itself into the center. In
Italy, this right is stronger and more rooted than the radical right in other
European countries. Powerful before the April elections and now certified and
empowered by the Berlusconi-fascist win, it is broadening its base and is
capable of making an imprint on the government.
For three-quarters of a century, this radical right has been
violent. It is very visible in parts of the Northern League in the hinterlands
of northern Italy, linked to the diffused mood of xenophobia and the demand for
separatism. League people in the backcountry of Lombardy and Veneto love to
speak of their ready arms and of separation from Roma ladrona (thieving
Rome). They have their flags and their Parliament and call North Italy Padania
for the valley of Italy�s greatest river, the Po, separating North Italy from
Nonetheless this right is most dangerously nested in the
viscera of the neo- post-fascist National Alliance, AN. Parts of the second
party of the government coalition have never digested the party�s �democratic�
reforms and its move toward the center. Therefore it is no surprise when the AN
president and top leaders -- members of the new government and the political
establishment -- assume radical right positions, as did Chamber President Fini
concerning the Turin anti-Israeli manifestations.
Here one wonders if the dog (Berlusconi) is wagging its
tail, or the tail (AN), the dog.
Gullible people believe that on the way to legitimacy Fini
and his ANI morphed into democrats. In my view nothing could be more false. As
writer Ignazio Silone said of socialists (once a socialist, a socialist
forever!), the same goes for fascists. Although during Stalinism many
communists reneged their faith and became ferocious anti-communists, I have
never noted that fascists, despite Mussolini or Hitler, genuinely mutate into
May 8, 2008: The scene: the splendid Quirinal Palace,
the former palace of the popes of Rome sitting atop the Roman hill of the same
name with the city of Rome sprawling at its feet, today the official seat and
residency of the Italian presidency. This evening President Giorgio Napoletano
(a former communist) swore in the new cabinet of Silvio Berlusconi in a
traditional ceremony repeated with the formation of each of Italy�s new
governments, for Berlusconi the fourth time.
Berlusconi had promised a cabinet of 12 ministers. Today he
named 21. Pressures from his coalition allies who gave him their votes forced
him to add nine ministers without portfolio, that is, ministers without
budgets. Particularly conspicuous are the four ministers of the post-fascist
National Alliance and the four of the Northern League proudly wearing their
folkloristic green neckties.
In the cabinets -- in Italy called �governments� -- that I
have experienced this must be the weakest and the most colorless, except its
four young and glamorous women. Berlusconi boasts that the right has the most
beautiful women . . . and he may be right in that. Except for a few key
ministries -- finance, interior, justice and foreign affairs -- headed by
Berlusconi�s most trusted allies, the new cabinet is marked by an absence of
strong personalities capable of disagreement with the Leader. For today it�s a
one-man show in Italy. The very
composition of this cabinet mirrors Berlusconi�s objective of one-man rule.
cleared the path of all obstacles in his ascent toward the top. He controls the
executive and legislative branch completely. After naming his own man justice
minister, he has made peace with the judiciary via a closer relationship with
the president of Italy who is president of the Superior Council of the Magistracy,
the control organ of the judiciary. Berlusconi created his own party, Popolo
della Libert� (People of Freedom), changing party names, leaders and programs
at will of the nation�s biggest political party. On national TV, Italians saw
him sprawled over the hood of an automobile one evening on a Milan piazza, ,
when he casually announcd to his disciples the formation of his new party to
replace his Forza Italia (Let�s Go Italy!). He preferred the name, Popolo della
Libert�, which was quickly adopted. He then crushed the radical left opposition
with a tailored electoral law which obliterated the communists he so hates and
reduced the trade unions to bickering bureaucracies. After taming Parliament
(which he scorns anyway) by personally naming a closed list of candidates who
were promptly elected by the �sovereign people,� he created a weak cabinet and
a working relationship with the relatively powerless president. As chief of
government he has much control over the three public television networks, in
addition to his own three networks. For the realization of his neo-corporatism,
he has established close relationships with the business world and named the
outgoing president of the Association of Italian Industrialists as his roving
ambassador For Made In Italy. Since in his previous government he successfully
resolved his conflicts with justice by passing laws ad personam and
strengthened his media control, no one any longer speaks of his enormous
conflict of interests as big as a New Year�s hangover.
is alteration of the constitution to make of Italy a presidential system with
wide powers concentrated in the hands of the president, powers comparable to
presidents of the USA or Russia . . . if not more. That is the state he dreams
of heading. Today the grim reality is that he has the parliamentary numbers and
the political clout to accomplish it.
Such are the
machinations of a man of unlimited ambition whose greatest regret must be that
he was not born American or Russian so that he could rule over an empire.
Instead, for many, he remains the Milan businessman of jokes, songs and
back-slapping bonhomie and vulgarity, albeit much more cunning than the others.
Though the label
Sugary Sweet Dictatorship (Dolce Dittatura is now of common usage in the
Italian press) is an oximoron of the first order, it eloquently describes
Italy�s complex history and its maddening contemporary reality which few
mortals comprehend. Berlusconi,
however, does. And for a
time, limited only by his mortality, Silvio Berlusconi will continue to dictate
to the nation in one way or another.
today is strangely politically calm.
May 9: Contradictorily, Italy is in Marxian
terminology a political nation. Especially so during the 20th century when it
followed Mussolini�s fascist dream. Shortly afterwards, Italy then boasted of
the West�s biggest Communist party, a third of the population voting Communist.
Since both fascists and communists provided extensive political education, one
believed that Italians were politically sophisticated. Reality is, they are no
less gullible than �the people� everywhere. Last century, in the 70s and 80s,
millions of frustrated and passionate people were tempted by the illusion of
armed revolution. And today, ahead of most of the Western world, over 80
percent of Italians vote in each election. Yet. their gullibility, their
capricious volatile nature and frustration led them to vote again for
Berlusconi and his right dream.
The first goal of
Berlusconi�s Sweet Dictatorship is to de-politicize the nation. His ready
optimism in the face of grim realities reflects his efforts to erode political
awareness by the constant creation of false values and false consciousness.
Like Marx�s Prussian (Critical Notes on the King of Prussia and Social Reform),
Berlusconi wants to make of Italy an unpolitical nation. His aim is to reduce
the political system, the bourgeoisie and working classes to uninformed and
politically uneducated masses. Such is the nature of an unpolitical society.
May 9: Today, in a positive comment on my recent
article about the winds of the right blowing over Europe, a reader raises the
question of equating right and fascism. His question is pertinent. The answer
is �no,� they are not always the same. There are conservative movements of the
right, that, though socially unjust, do not merit the term fascism. But, I
would add, they often do.
whom historian Eric Hobsbawm labeled Europe�s most original communist thinker
of the 20th century and who co-founded the Italian Communist Party, defined
fascism thus: a movement of the petty bourgeoisie reacting to a loss of
political importance in society. It has two faces, one revolutionary, the other
conservative. It starts by emphasizing its first face but it soon allies with
capitalism and turns on its revolutionary wing.
Today, as in
Gramsci�s times, Italian fascism is also a rural phenomenon. Actually �rural�
today means the densely populated areas of the small towns in north and south
Italy as well as the workers suburbs of Milan and Rome where Berlusconi�s great
electoral reservoir is found. That same spirit then spreads to the cities and
to the nation. (This �rural� container is little different from the banlieues
of Paris and of heartland America.)
Fascism is thus only
partly a class phenonenon because it overflows and breaks the dikes of every
organizational framework, again, as is happening in Italy today, as is
happening in the USA. The phenomenon of fascism unleashes elemental and
uncontrollable social forces. Ultimately these forces underline the decay of
society and the political system inherent in its low cultural level.
Sixty years have
passed since Mussolinian fascism collapsed. Yet the basic characteristics of
fascism remain unchanged everywhere, in any climate or latitude. So how can we
label what is happening here? Today? In 2008? Is it a revolution, one wonders?
Is �Sugary Sweet Dictatorship� enough? How will history designate it? What are
its characteristics? What adjective most effectively describes the Berlusconi
System-government that was officially sworn in today: authoritarian,
totalitarian, corporatist, or fascist? All four names are current in Italy.
in politics is defined as a form of social control characterized by strict
obedience to the authority of the state, a control enforced by oppressive
measures if need be, marked by an inevitable erosion of civil liberties. The
authoritarian government is undemocratic and exists quite well without the
consent of the governed.
is more method. It describes the workings of a state that regulates both public
and private sectors. A modern totalitarian regime may maintain itself in power
by propaganda disseminated through controlled mass media and the creation of
false consciousness, or also by a personality cult, invasive rules, regulations
and laws, the restriction of free discussion and dissent, the use of mass
surveillance, terror, false-flag operations and the strategy of tension.
Fascism is a
combination of the above, both total and authoritarian, characterized by a
centralized, autocratic state governed by a dictatorial chief, close control of
the economy and society and aggressive repression of opposition. Fascism is
nationalistic to the extreme, reducing the interests of the individual to the
interests of the nation, promoting a kind of national rebirth by with �cults�
of unity, exceptionalism and supremacy over other nations and races. Integral
characteristics of fascism include: patriotism, nationalism, militarism, populism,
anti-liberalism, anti-communism, state planning and corporatism.
state-government today most closely corresponds is obvious.
such is an integral component of the fascist state as conceived by Italy�s
Benito Mussolini. Corporatism implies the merging of state and business
leadership, together with belligerent nationalism and militarism, in effect a
dictatorship of the extreme right. In practice corporatism and fascism are one
and the same.
Berlusconism: The Sugary Sweet Dictatorship
Each of the four
terms -- authoritariansim, totalitariansisn, fascism and coporatism -- comprise
characteristics of several contemporary �democratic� governments in the USA and
Europe -- especially apparent in the USA and Berlusconian Italy. Berlusconi is
not satisfied with even a quasi presidential form of government, certainly not
with a parliamentary system with which he has no patience. For him decisionism
and authoritarianism are synonymous, the system he believes �the people�
In practice, his
ideal system is a leap forward toward dictatorship, soft, sweet or sugary as it
may be. In his entourage, in his party, in his Parliament and cabinet, in his
Italy, the most loyal to the chief occupy the crucial positions. While his
other appointments are very young, very inexperienced, with no political
back-up and no specific capabilies that qualify them for their jobs. The smell
of power, the sensation of power and the extensive privileges and emoluments
that go with power make Berlusconi�s men subservient to the Leader.
system has been defined as a new �corporate right.� Despite internal
differences and nuances among his allies, they all accept the indisputed Leader
as the unifier of their diverse identities. In the breakdown of the new Italian
right, the particular presence of the Northern League stands out. This Northern
League-fascist imprint, populist and rich in fascist overtones, in turn
influences Berlusconi, sweeping him further rightwards. The stamp of this
anomalous majority is destined to influence today�s Italian political system so
out of tune with the rest of the European right.
It is a trusim
that the smell of power is a strong cement. Whatever internal conflicts might
arise in this right, they will have little effect on the endurance of
Berlusconi�s regime . . . and regime it will be. Populism and soft dictatorship
are here to stay. Berlusconi wants no battle with anyone. Not even with the
almost tame opposition. As he repeats to all his people, he wants to avoid mistakes,
as if they were pulling off the great train robbery of the century. A quiet
legislature with no scrapes, no errors, no internecine warfare. Much more than
the �saviour of the nation� and the �statesman of the century,� his aim is to
push through constitutional changes for a genuine presidential system . . . with
him at the helm. His �magnificent obsession� remains the Quirinal Palace, the
Presidential Palace on the hill.
Far in advance of
the swing to the right in the bigger countries of West Europe -- Germany, Great
Britain and France -- events in these days dramatize Italy�s vigorous leap to
the extreme right, marked by a drift toward authoritarianism, a leap
accompanied by a squeeze on mass organizations and the crushing of dissent.
Some observers wonder if the elimination of the (radical) left from the Rome
Parliament -- a left still present in all other European parliaments -- was a
decision of the right, or of the bourgeoisie, or of capitalism . . . or of all
three together. Or was it the Trilateralists or the Bilderbergers? However that
may be, it smacks suspiciously of a top-level plan.
Today I received
disturbing information from an old friend concerning a plot: In 2006, after the center left was elected in
Italy, a highly placed DC operative told this friend, �Wait a little longer.
After Chirac leaves in France, we will have our man at the Elys�e Palace. Then
Italy will see good old Silvio telling his jokes again . . . and they will all
sing the chorus to the neocon song.� This brings
to mind earlier years in post-war Europe when the Company (CIA) was
running rampant and paying off anyone on the way! And decades later when one of
them said to me in an off-the-cuff interview about Italy: �We run things here.�
The Italian left
was in fact severely punished by an electoral law which neither center right
nor center left bothered to touch. It is also true that the Americanized center
left Democratic Party which lost the elections, has renounced Social Democracy,
becoming more center than left. It now seems that all parties to the right of
the radical left intended simplifying the political spectrum by expelling that
left and eliminating opposition to Italy�s market-driven society.
temptation is a system modeled on the USA. A system without opposition is the
dream of aspirant regimes. Perhaps Berlusconi�s Italy is not yet identifiable
as fascism, which was something with different historic roots and
characteristics -- albeit something terrible with its corporatism, militarism, nationalism
and racist laws -- something that perhaps cannot be repeated today.Nonetheless,
Italy has fallen headlong into the snakepit of a still unpredictable
Today, a certain
Italy is only dangerously calm.
May 9: While Berlusconi reflects on the
nomination of under secretaries, I want to recall the history of fascism which
still fascinates Italians as if it happened yesterday. Both culturally or
politically, Italy�s present is intertwined and permeated with the idea of
Mussolini (1883-1945), the Fascist dictator from 1922-1943, centralized all
power in himself as the leader, il Duce. In his thirst for grandeur and his
attempt to create a new Italian empire, he allied with Nazi Germany and led
Italy into disaster and to his own downfall. After Italy�s military defeat by
the Allies, Mussolini�s colleagues turned on him and held him under arrest
until German paratroopers rescued him and took him to German-occupied north
Italy. Like a modern Napoleon on Elba, Mussolini established a tiny
German-dependent puppet state, the Italian Social Republic or Repubblica
Sociale Italiana, RSI, called also the Republic of Sal� for the charming town
of Sal� on the western shores of Lake Garda where it was headquartered.
Germany supported the little fascist state, which had no
economy nor government, in order to maintain order, combat Italian partisans
and persecute Jews. Italians loyal to Mussolini and rural youth recruited in
north Italy around Lake Garda and the Veneto Region then engaged in a civil war
against Italian partisans, a war in which Mussolini promised to turn Milan into
the Stalingrad of Italy. To regain popular support, he made many promises -- to
remove the monarchy and pursue the real ideology of fascism depicted as
progressive and social. Still, he maintained close personal relations with
Hitler, urging him to destroy Great Britain, a prerequisite for peace in
Europe, he believed. As the war drew to an end, both Germany and victorious
Allies raped and devastated Italy, the fault of fascism and Mussolini�s
grandeur complexes. After a humiliated Mussolini lost the support of his people
and his German masters, he was captured by Italians partisans, summarily
executed and his body hung by his feet on a Milan piazza.
In this atmosphere, supporters of Mussolini in 1946 created the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (Movimento
Sociale Italiano, or MSI). For 25 years the MSI existed as a paralegal movement
until, in a tactical move, during the Cold War it removed some of its fascist
symbols and recognized Italian democracy. But it still included extremist
organizations infiltrated by rogue Italian and American intelligence engaged in
false flag operations such as the masscre at the Bologna train station in 1980
that killed 80 people: the aim was to terrorize people into voting for
authoritarian government and to cast the blame on the Communist Party.
I had the
personal testimony of fascists associated with Gladio, NATO�s top secret
stay-behind paramilitary Cold War organization. Gladio, intelligence agencies
and the extreme right operating with CIA assistance have been accused of the
1978 abduction and murder of the Christian Democratic leader, Aldo Moro, guilty
of attempting to bring the Italian Communist Party into the national
government. Though Red Brigadists executed the Moro crime, I have long believed
that that second edition of the Red Brigades -- by then most of the original
organizers were in jail -- was maneuvered by the CIA and Italian intelligence.
MSI organizations were implicated in rightwing coup d��tat attempts in the
1970s and '80s and were engaged in violence during the lead years of terrorism,
gli anni di piombo. Finally,
in 1995, the MSI changed its name to the National Alliance Party (AN) and
became Berlusconi�s chief and most loyal ally and coalition partner.
AN president and
the neo-president of the Chamber of Deputies, Gianfranco Fini, is thus the
direct heir of Mussolinian fascism. He personally fostered the transformation
of MSI to Alleanaza Nazionale, which he describes as neo-liberal right-wing and
centrist-oriented. Unconvinced neo-fascist hardliners instead founded parallel
movements such as that of the Duce�s granddaughter Alessandra Mussolini�s
Alternativa Sociale (Social Alternative). She is on Berlusconi�s team and was
elected to Parliament in his ranks.
For 50 years, the
MSI stood for intransigent anti-communism, a strong executive, aggressive
government, opposition to the superpowers in international politics, and a
third way between liberal capitalism and socialism. The MSI-AN DNA remains the
same, though Fini and its leaders are subservient to Berlusconi who has
incorporated all those themes as his own. Berlusconi�s Peoples Freedom Party is
absorbing also the MSI-AN organization, a two-way process by which it too
becomes the heir of Mussolinian fascism.
One doubt remains
in my mind. Considering the complex history of the fascist MSI-AN, who, I
wonder, is absorbing whom? Berlusconi, Fini? Or is Fini, surreptitiously, bit
by bit perhaps assimilating Berlusconi?
May 11: Speaking to the national assembly of
Alleanza Nazionale in Rome to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Giorgio
Almirante, the founder of the neo-fascist MSI, Gianfranco Fini proclaimed: �We
won!� The AN president meant the final victory of the right and in effect he
summed up the ideological battles of the 20th century for the souls and
allegiance of the European working man . . . and perhaps he meant too the
vindication of Benito Mussolini. �The radical left no longer exists,� Fini
added triumphantly, �but we are here and we have carried right thought to the
nation. Therefore we must assume in its stead the defense of workers and social
themes.� (Mussolini�s program!)
irresistable return to the Fascist-Nazi prediliction for ritual, Fini then read
out one by one the names of Italy�s fascist heroes-saints, including that of
Almirante, the spiritual father of Italian neo-fascism. �We are not the sons of
a minor god,� Fini said to the notables of Italy�s political world. Though no
one present asked, I had the thought that many must have remembered just whose
sons they are.
In harmony with
Fini�s script, neo-Interior Minister Roberto Maroni of the Northern League, in
another part of Rome announced stringent new measures against illegal
immigrants, declaring them criminals to be arrested and deported. In effect,
the left press noted, new racial laws! Italy�s borders are to be closed to Roma
(Gypsies) and to the �perfidious� Romanians, widely considered the Mexicans of
Italy. The latter caused the Bucarest govrnment, now part of the EU, to remind
Rome that blocking borders is a flagrant violation of the EU�s Schengen Accords
permitting the free movement of the Union�s peoples from one country to the
May 12: Today, Berlusconi filled in the last empty
slots in his political power network with the nomination of 37 under
secretaries attached to the various ministries, including eight for himself and
eight more to his neo-fascist allies. While in Bologna, in the north, the
political battle over the use of neo-fascist vigilantes raged, in the Rome
Viminal Palace the interior minister prepared a government decree making
illegal immigration a crime.
May 13: Les jeux sont faits! The Berlusconi
government system, the Sugary Dictatorship, is in place. The wheels of state
can now begin to turn. Where it will stop, well, no one really knows. But we
can speculate on what all this means.
May 14: Racial laws are returning. TV newscasts
show eerie scenes of flames rising against nighttime skies in the suburbs of
Rome and Milan and Naples. Dangerous old words are again fashionable -- tight
police control, armed traffic police, special commissars, oppression,
deportation, revolt, ghettos, camps. Nightmare alley images of fires rising in
the night do not lie. Away with the Roma is the mood! Gypsy camps are burning
in the night. Incited by the mood of intolerance from above, citizen vigilantes
armed with clubs and organized criminals of the Camorra are invading makeshift
Roma camps around the big cities. Molotov coctails ignite the shacks and tents
and ramshackled cars and vans. It�s Krystal Nacht for Italy�s Gypsies
who have been here forever, many Italian citizens. Hitler, one recalls, began
with the expulsion of the Gypsies, the perfidious Zigeuner.
May 15: As the the new government of Silvio
Berlusconi inaugurates Italy�s Third Republic, the attempt to quantify the
fascist role is pertinent. For the number of neo-fascists installed in key
positions in the Sweet Dictatorship is staggering. Here, from the top down, are
those who trace their political geneaology straight back to Mussolini,:
Fianfranco Fini occupies the third power position in Italy, the presidency of
the Chamber of Deputies, while Gianni Alemanno is solidly entrenched as the
mayor of Rome. Alleanza Nazionale occupies four major ministries, and has
another eight under secretaries infilrating other ministries. The web of power
then extends downwards, down into city, provincial, and regional
administrations, into the media world, the world of business and finance, and
the enormous bureaucratic network of commissions and committees and consultants
and lobbies that ultimately influence the direction of a nation. Especially in
the rich north the fascistoid Northern League occupies a like number of
positions. And over all the power structure, Berlusconi�s falange, the
corporatist authoritarian People of Freedom Party, Italy�s biggest political
significance of the march to power of System Berlusconi (the person Silvio
Berlusconi and his People of Freedom Party, the neo-fascist AN and the populist
Northern League, their cabinet, their Parliament, their media and public and
private organizations) is the defeat of even the century-old idea of a working
class movement in Italy. It seems to extinguish the faintest glimmer of hope
for even a mild form of modern socialism. A sad spectacle, the caged left,
trapped in a dark corner of extra-parliamentary opposition, today adrift and
deprived of feasible ideas for its rebirth.
in the limelight, Berlusconi�s People of Freedom prance around the
political stage, unbridled arrogance surging from their very pores while their
electoral promises begin to dissipate. And freedom for whom? One asks. From whom?
The freedom for longer work days, proclaims the right. Freedom for more
productivity, advise the new state ministers. Freedom for longer work hours at
Europe�s lowest pay, complains the left. Freedom of precarious six-month work
contracts so as not to be bound to a lifetime of toil, proclaim hypocrites.
Freedom for wives and mothers to work longer hours exactly as their husbands . .
. at lower pay. Freedom to labor and work instead of long and dreary university
study. Freedom to serve people and nation in the armed forces in Afghanistan,
in support of Berlusconi�s precious friend, George W. Bush.
May 15: Official Italy seems calm today.
political calm seems to reign over the riotous, unruly, anarchic peninsula
state of Italy which, according to Giovanni Giolitti, five time prime minister
early last century, was not at all difficult to govern. Though, as he said, it
As in Cold War
years, so in the Berlusconi era, the fear of leftist communists and the desire
of many Italians to be a normal nation has led to today�s unconscious
toleration of the rise of a nascent form of authoritarian government with many
characteristics of fascism.
in Rome, Gaither Stewart is Cyrano Journal�s Senior Editor and European
Correspondent. Well known for his dispatches and essays from Europe, Gaither is
currently focused on the re-emergence of fascist parties and far rightist
movements on the European continent.