Instead of looking at populists’ lies, it’s worth taking a look at the few truths they rely on: voters do recognize that liberal democracies have not worked in their favour. Can we ever shake off the demagogues and assimilate the genuine, if disruptive, energies of populism into a responsive democratic process? Relying on mere chance could be a way to renew representation.
Italian democracy and its opponents
Analysing the political and social conflicts in post-war Italy, Francesco M. Biscione recognizes the seeds of civil war that “without interruption, have cast a shadow over our collective life”. An “underground Italy” far removed from the principles of the republican constitution can be found at every social level throughout the post-war period. These classes have finally found their political home in the movement conceived and led by Silvio Berlusconi.
The issue of violence in Italian history is broad and complex, and still lacks the critical references that could provide an overall framework with sufficient accuracy. That is not to say that there have been no studies of particular episodes and trends; however what we do not have is an exposition of the main issues that addresses the matter in its entirety. The question is of great importance, and is one that could enable us to assess the key moments and tendencies of real power in post-war Italian politics that are little known and have not hitherto been discussed.
The violence test
Let us use as our basis the position that, in the absence of any ongoing colonial and national problems (terrorism in South Tyrol was short-lived), no other developed western country in the post-war period apart from Italy witnessed such systematic and continual recourse to violence – from the immediate post-war period to the Mafia murders of 1993, the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001 and the resumption of Red Brigades terrorism. Broadly speaking, these were not outbreaks of the marginal violence present in each society, but of violence generated by political and social conflicts that therefore necessarily impact on the power relationships between social groups and political forces. The fact that this violence broke out against a backdrop of democratic and functioning institutions, which were performing their representative and governmental roles perfectly sufficiently, poses a major question from the outset. The violence seems to point to the existence of a conflict (or set of conflicts) to which the institutions have been unable, or have not known how, to give expression. If we reject the argument that this flows from some brutal instinct characterizing the Italian people, we must assume the existence of a deeper cause, namely the seeds of civil war that, more or less intensely but without interruption, have cast a shadow over our collective life.
A way to identify these seeds of conflict (or rather this level of conflict) may be to search for where they have emerged, and to list the most glaring instances of political violence. However, it should be made clear from the outset that violence is merely an indication of conflict: usually, it is not a conflict proper, but the stirrings of a conflict. The relationship between power and violence has changed slowly depending on the protagonists and the situations. In this context, we must also take account of potential violence, that is to say violence that has not yet broken out. For example, it is well known that during the 1948 electoral campaign, the two main parties – the Democrazia Cristiana (Christian Democracy, DC) and the Fronte Popolare (Popular Front, FP), each of whom distrusted the other’s positions and strategies – had access to weapons from the resistance period or directly from the military. Here, it is noteworthy that the election was conducted according to the rules and that it the results were not subsequently disputed. However, while the most violent attack on institutions in the Republican period was carried out as part of the “strategy of tension”,1 which itself incorporated an extremely powerful element of violence, the most effective attack was perpetrated by the Masonic Lodge, Loggia P2 (Propaganda Due), which sought to “cleanse” the functioning of the institutions “from within” without confronting them directly, in other words with an extremely limited use of actual force.
The possibility of obtaining a result when exploring the use of force is made problematic by the fact that not all violent demonstrations focused on a single objective, or on one that was immediately and directly identifiable. Which single interpretation could cover the “triangle of death”, the Portella della Ginestra massacre, the attempt on Palmiro Togliatti’s life, the Communist uprisings, the events of July 1960, the strategy of tension, the kidnapping of Aldo Moro, and the bombing of Bologna station in 1980? None, clearly.
Some results are perhaps obtained if we exclude from the list manifestly exceptional episodes such as the bombing at Bologna station in 1980 (which may have been linked through unknown currents of international politics to the explosion on the plane that crashed near the island of Ustica, the precise circumstances of which are only partly known, including obstructions to investigations) and uprisings of the traditional Left (particularly by the Partito Comunista Italiana – PCI), which can be clearly classified and do not throw up any questions.
This also goes for certain events in the post-war period, for example the continuing execution of fascists in some areas after April 1945, which can be explained by the legacy of fascism and the struggle for liberation (we are talking of a civil war that lasted some 20 years), as well as for the so-called “triangle of death” – the murder in Emilia in 1946 of anti-fascists, most of them Catholics, which can be attributed to the survival of a revolutionary tendency that had been expelled from the PCI and would find expression in other forms in the 1970s and 1980s. The spontaneous uprising that followed the murder attempt on Togliatti, which the Communist Party itself was quick to bring under control, can also be clearly accounted for. Likewise, in the events of July 1960, the Left can be identified as being directly responsible for the campaign to prevent the Congress of the neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano (Italian Social Movement, MSI), which was scheduled to take place in Genoa, as well the threat to allow the Genoese faction of the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale (Committee of National Liberation, CLN)2 to take control of the city, an extreme but perspicacious political act that would have led to the fall of the government. The killings in Reggio Emilia and Sicily and the cavalry charges at Porta San Paolo in Rome, on the other hand, appear to have been prompted by a mixture of a militant anti-fascist forces and a government plan to give credibility to a communist uprising, thereby justifying the existence of an authoritarian executive.
A different approach was adopted in the move to destroy the far-Left which, until the mid-1970s, emanated more or less directly from the 1968 movement, as well as from a revolutionary tradition that the PCI had excluded from its ranks. Later, during the period when the secret services were in the hands of Loggia P2 and the situation became immensely confused, it was (and still is) impossible when looking at the far-Left to clearly distinguish between provocation and criminal, irrational, albeit honest revolutionary spirit.
Thus simplified, our hypothetical (and somewhat rudimentary) list does tell us something. The first constant to emerge, mainly during the centrist years when the DC formed a coalition with smaller parties, is the massacre of workers – not only by agents of the state but also by criminal gangs: Portella della Ginestra in 1947, Melissa in 1949, Modena in 1950, Reggio Emilia in 1960, and later on Brescia in 1974. Then there are the indiscriminate killings and the train bombings during the strategy of tension from 1969 to 1974. Lastly, there is the constant and by no means politically neutral presence of organized crime, particularly the Mafia.
The violent repression of social conflicts
If we look more closely, we can see the interplay of violence and social conflict. This explains the particular forms taken by violence in the various periods of social conflict, starting with the redefinition of the social-political power balance immediately after the War, which led to the rise of conservative forces in the late 1940s. During this period, repressions were justified by the widespread assessment of the workers’ movement as “the enemy within”. The crisis of the summer of 1960, by which point centrism was declining, revealed the fierce debate within the ruling class as to whether or not the country’s political development should take an anti-fascist direction. While anti-fascist forces won the struggle, their victory was marked by the emergence of a new approach to the use of state violence, which from now on was entrusted not only to the traditional organs of repression, but also to intelligence agencies. The first to adopt this approach was probably Fernando Tambroni, while he was minister of the interior. This might have rendered politics opaque, but not to the extent of erasing the link between the use of violence and politico-social struggle: the strategy of tension would have been unthinkable without workers’ demands and the demonstrations of the “warm autumn”,3 even if was impossible to ignore a rapid and progressive refinement of techniques of intervention in this area. Particularly from the second half of the 1970s onwards, many events are today still not totally clear (consider for example the kidnapping of Aldo Moro).
International balances and the Cold War clearly had an enormous impact on the whole question, but it would be wrong to interpret these episodes simply as a projection on Italian soil of the conflict between the superpowers. In my view, it was predominantly an internal conflict heavily influenced in ideological and organisational terms by the context of international tensions. Moreover, the use made by the ruling classes of violence – as opposed to the resources that evolved over time and intellectual positions – betrays a degree of continuity between the period of the monarchy and the republic. It is therefore possible to place the phenomenon of violence in a broader temporal context that extends beyond the Republican era, and to dissociate it from the Cold War, which may have been the biggest stumbling block to finding out more about this subject.
A “subversive” bourgeoisie
All the major social and political tensions of a united Italy, most of them dating from era of the monarchy, can be understood as a single conflict between two essential components of the bourgeoisie – as two different ways of interpreting the mission of the ruling class, and this not on marginal issues, but on the central question of civil development during that period. This conflict arose from a desire on the part of the masses to affirm themselves as a constituent part of society’s political order and power, and more or less explicitly incorporated the problem of democracy. In other words, the social struggle – that is to say, the suddenly visible demonstration of the great historic movement that embraced the disinherited – found no peaceful or uniform response in Italy, unlike in other European countries. Instead, it met with ambiguous, contradictory responses that were designed to impact on the political, cultural and ideological development of the mass struggle, and mainly on socialist culture.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, it was widely acknowledged that Italy’s main task was to defuse the explosive cocktail of poverty and the threat of potential uprising that was still known as the “social question”. However, the actual response to the mass movement, not only in Milan but throughout Italy, took the form of the 1898 massacres, with which important sectors of the ruling class sought to block each and every attempt at reform. This action prompted fierce criticism, not only from socialists, and led to a serious breakdown in the bourgeois intelligence services. This breakdown demonstrated the impracticality of a repressive policy and, in a way, smoothed the path of the governments headed by Giuseppe Zanardelli and Giovanni Giolitti, in doing so opening up the way for far-reaching reforms.
However, this policy, despite coming after a debate and a collective tragedy, gave rise to neither consensus nor respite. While Giolitti worked to repair the damage incurred over the previous few years and to establish a system of social legislation capable of interpreting new industrial relations in a modern way, broad sectors of culture were pulling in the opposite direction. One only has to skim through the writings of Giovanni Papini and Giuseppe Prazzolini to grasp the contempt for democracy and the hatred for socialism that were encouraged by supporters of the ruling class. From within this broth of anti-socialist and anti-democratic radicalism, there emerged towards the end of the first decade of the twentieth century the ingenious reactionary idea, linked to the work of Santi Romano, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Enrico Corradini, of incorporating mass society while getting rid of democracy.
The passing of the experiment associated with Giovanni Giolitti – which, for all its shortcomings, was an attempt to swing Italy towards democracy – and the support for an authoritarian culture undermining the foundations on which attempts to broaden democratic participation were based, constituted a kind of original sin committed by Italy against democracy. Moreover, from the crisis that gripped Giolitti’s policies to the “March on Rome”,4 the alternative in Italy did not take the form of proletarian revolution, but was instead the choice between an “institutional” model for the broadening of the participating base and a “subversive” model that prefigured the channelling of the masses into an authoritarian nation-state and its economy.
The lack of practical and theoretical clarity displayed by the champions of the first model facilitated the victory of the second, but it would not have been victorious without the intervention of hundreds of magistrates, prefects, civil servants, teachers and public officials, most of them hailing from the ruling class of the liberal state. The fact that its ruling class preferred a right-wing uprising to a consensual sharing of power points to undercurrents that remain obscure.
Hence, the use of violence in the Kingdom of Italy was neither sporadic nor unusual, but rooted in deep-seated relations of power, and therefore, in a way, permanent. Little is to be gained from distinguishing between lawful violence (e.g. Bava Beccaris in 1898) and unlawful violence (e.g. the actions of fascist action squads), since such a distinction is only significant in the context of an unambivalent and shared interpretation of the functions of the state. Whatever the case, a sector of the ruling class imposed the use force, while other sectors rejected it. In other words, prior to any broadening of participation of mass society, the ruling class that controlled the country split between potentially democratic and potentially reactionary liberals, and could no longer find any common ground. Hence, it may be said that the Italian state did not act as the engine-room for the ruling class (as in other countries, which had adopted a unitary, national approach to democracy), since general and conclusive decisions of the type that characterizes a political class were not centralized. A democratic state could not have been formed unless (or until) the bourgeoisie incorporated democracy as a political line.5 This takes us to the heart of the vast, unresolved question of the historical roots and the development of democracy in Italy.
Italy may be the only western country where democracy has not been built by the bourgeoisie, but by the ruling elites of mass parties. That explains why the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the nation is marked by the secrecy, corruption and gangsterism that have been so prominent in our recent history.
Anti-fascism’s highpoints and its crisis
Italy’s transformation into a republic could have helped form a cohesive national community based on a democratic awareness. This was only partly successful, however, because of the bond that linked anti-fascism to a reconstruction of the national identity. By anti-fascism, I do not mean a form of ideological and rhetorical self-representation. To re-interpret the anti-fascist movement against its ideologization, and thus to throw the spotlight on its concrete contribution to Italian history in relation to other tendencies in Italian society, is not to diminish its meaning and importance, but rather to confirm its immense political, ethical and institutional value. If we take anti-fascist ideology to be the hegemonic element in Italian culture, society and politics, then the political movement that supported it may be seen as the real force that built the country’s democracy and institutions.
Between 1943 and 1948, anti-fascism rapidly became the only mass culture, and the only collective ideology with national aspirations, to emerge in Italy in the twentieth century. It was the only koiné capable of being the fabric that held a national community together, and a range of socialist, liberal and Catholic cultures took part without forsaking their respective positions. Anti-fascism was also the only mass movement that embodied the principles of the bourgeois revolutions of 1889 and the ethics of individual responsibility, which the absence of a Protestant tradition had hitherto restricted to now disappearing minorities. The broad historical function of anti-fascism was to resolve the problem of the inclusion of the masses in the state, the very problem that had triggered the rise of fascism. Anti-fascism was also – and this is its definitive and indelible contribution to Italian history – the concrete way in which the values of democracy that enabled the country to re-enter the circle of modern nations were affirmed in the wake of the dictatorship.
The shortcoming of anti-fascism was not its “negative” connotation, in other words that it was “against” something, but the fact that it was difficult or impossible for it to become the culture of Italy. It was further hindered both by fascist remnants (although they were disqualified and marginal figures in the Republic) and by the huge non-participative constituency that fell under the constitution without ever embracing it, which was insensitive and largely indifferent to democracy, and which in 1946 voted heavily in favour of the monarchy and the l’Uomo qualunque (“simple man”) party.
This was the first real conflict in Italy after the liberation and was the original cause of the break-up of the parties of the CLN. There had been periods of dissent between the parties before 1947-1948 – the history of anti-fascism is an extended litany of differences and compromises; nevertheless, the collaboration between anti-fascist parties represented a unitary approach to the establishment of a new state, in which the common aim of the construction of democracy had priority over all other options.
Up until the summer of 1945, Italian anti-fascism had been part of the worldwide movement that had fought Nazism. There was no question that anti-fascism was a mass movement that had firm roots in the traditions of the country. There was also no question that it could construct new ways of communal living and create new foundations for international alliances and convergences in foreign policy. However, anti-fascists soon discovered that, holding their activities and initiatives back was, as Ferruccio Parri proclaimed in the debating chamber of the Consulta Nazionale (National Consultation) on 26 September 1945, “an unruly tide of discontent that assailed the government and the rule of the parties”, backed by “people who felt frustrated, misfits and adventurers […] a spirit of ill-feeling and vengeance among the defeated – to the extent that things have been turned on their heads and the guilty ended up judging the judges”.6
De Gasperi’s turning-point
I have defined this combination of forces as the “republican underground”, and have drawn attention to its non-participative, but absolutely essential, role: a form of hidden but irresistible vitality that influenced Italy’s political, civil and institutional life far more than might have been expected. The Right, which could not really be called fascist, determined the evolution of the political framework in Italy that forced Alcide De Gasperi to make major changes to the basic position of the DC in 1946 and 1947.
However the exclusion of socialists and communists from the government in May 1947 should not be seen as a direct result of the impending Cold War, or simply as an outcome of De Gasperi’s ambition to bring Italy into the orbit of US foreign policy, which was influenced by the Truman-doctrine and soon afterwards culminated in the Marshall Plan. In terms of domestic policy, the turning-point in 1947 was the crowning moment of a comprehensive and conclusive repositioning of the DC as a party of the centre, which is why the exclusion of the Left ran parallel with other activities: the pursuit of the votes of the monarchists, who commanded a majority in the south of Italy although the DC had broadly come down in favour of the republic; the reconversion, in a Christian Democrat sense, of Sicilian separatism after its armed wing had been isolated; winning the support of rural dwellers, who tended naturally to the DC, by strengthening links to the Vatican; and seeing off the growing threat of the establishment of a second Catholic party, implicit in the support that sections of the church hierarchy gave to qualunquismo.
The turning point therefore redefined the DC’s political and social identity, and ensured the electoral supremacy that it was to enjoy for the next four decades. The DC remained anti-fascist, particularly at leadership level, as far as its historical references and ideology were concerned, but nonetheless offered to represent social forces with which anti-fascism had nothing in common. This constituted one of the key moments in the establishment of political order in the Republic of Italy; it is also worth recalling that anti-fascist unity functioned effectively during the most delicate activity of the period, the drafting of the constitution. For that reason, moralistic tones are inappropriate. Moreover, the fact cannot be ignored that, because of the imposition of universal suffrage, which banned omitting certain groups from the right to vote, this was the only possible route to follow. Furthermore, the opposition was not a force that could be exorcised with political measures; if the newly-born democracy was not going to look like a Jacobin-style, anti-fascist dictatorship (which no mass party wanted), the response had to be appropriate. The exclusion of the Left from the government naturally converged with the formation of the Western Bloc and coincided with the demands of US policy. However, we need to take a closer look at the importance that De Gasperi gave to the “numerical” limitations of anti-fascism, whose base fell far short of representing the national majority. Of equal importance was the weight De Gasperi gave to its qualitative limitations. The Italian communists, who became the largest party on the Left after being joined by the Italian Workers’ Socialist Party in 1947, experienced – already during the CLN, and later as a party of government – the extreme embarrassment of being a national force while at the same time being ideologically and politically loyal to the Soviet Union and the nascent communist bloc.
The “Republican underground” in the writings of Aldo Moro
Sections of this “underground” that had been openly opposed to the CLN leadership from 1943 to 1948 and were more or less involved in De Gasperi’s turning-point were to be found in a range of political and cultural circles; they owe much to the existence of an opposition that was large and popular, although not homogeneous, and lacking direct, credible political expression. They included Giannini’s L’Uomo qualunque; certain Vatican circles that were more or less hostile both to the CLN government and to the DC’s initial role in charge of the government; and a regional component of the movement in the south.7 We therefore have comprehensive, corroboratory information both on the activities and strategies used to alter or overturn the political balance established during the post-war period, and on the wide range of opposition positions that supported them.
But what happened next? Could it be said that, after the crushing of the CLN and the “constitutionalization” of the opposition following the electoral victory of the DC and the other moderate parties in April 1948, the disagreement that had been at the heart of the political conflict in the immediate post-war period had been ipso facto resolved? That the opposition to and reservations about anti-fascism (and more or less explicitly the constitution) that had marked that period disappeared into thin air? If it is true that De Gasperi’s government killed off the possibility of wide-scale institutional conflict (over, for example, the republican model or the constitution), it is also true that it shifted the focus of the conflict onto the hazardous and more obscure terrain of the application of the law and the constitution, and the concrete management of the state apparatus (i.e. the institutions).
The vicissitudes of the Right – this does not include ghettoized and self-ghettoized fascists within the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) – can best be observed and assessed by studying the leftwing DC current, which confronted the Right as a direct interlocutor and as an internal party opponent. Aldo Moro made penetrating observations on the subject. Indeed, it may be said that his political thinking was to a great extent marked by his certainty about the breadth and validity of De Gasperi’s political project. For example, in 1977 he wrote: “We must be grateful to De Gasperi for encouraging the vast mass of the people with traditionally Christian beliefs to confront other ideas and to accept free and open political choice”. On the other hand, Moro acknowledged that this had resulted in a permanent conflict within the DC. In a speech to the DC Congress in 1962, he said that:
The Christian Democrats unite the same moral reason and the same political conviction, and therefore the same rejection of, and the same strength to oppose, any potential force that aims to subvert the free order of a democratic Italy. Therefore we must be all the more vigilant, and resist all the more strongly, since the nature of the danger facing institutions is not calculated in votes or parliamentary seats, nor is it contained solely in the party that traces its ideas and history to fascism, namely the MSI. We know very well – and we have already emphasized – that the roots of fascist totalitarianism lie deep in the social body of the nation: where there are privileges that refuse to give way to the justice demanded by a democratic society; where there is narrow mindedness, egoism and introversion; where there is a fear of freedom rather than a belief in its creative, redeeming strength (all things considered, a strength that regulates and provides guarantees); where people look at things and at the course of history superficially; and where people rashly put their trust in the illusion that violence has the capacity to resolve issues.
Here, Moro extends the idea of fascism to the point where he represents it as a sickness of the mind, but in stressing in such searing but well-chosen terms that “the roots of fascist totalitarianism lie deep in the social body of the nation”, he has in mind precisely the Italy that the DC had built during the period between the liberation and the first republican government. Moro frequently, and particularly during the 1970s, returned to the idea that the Italian Right had much deeper roots and more extended ramifications than might be inferred from the number of parliamentary seats or number of votes for the MSI, and acknowledged that the DC had itself represented the movement. In an interview published in the weekly Tempo in May 1973, he said: “The real Right is always dangerous because of its reactionary nature, and because of the threat that it inevitably poses for democratic order. Its impact is much greater than the political party and its share of the vote. These are not claims, but basic political facts.” And again, on 7 December 1974, he expressed his conviction before the parliament that “the Right in Italy is stronger and more dangerous than its parliamentary representation suggests”.8
A message from the “people’s prison”
Moro pointed out the consequences of this state of affairs because he identified within the Right not only the base for mass of resistance to the nationalisation of the electricity sector, which was considered at the time to be one of the centre-left’s most spectacular and innovative features, but also the politico-social forces that “inspired” the strategy of tension. In one of the most striking passages of the so-called Memoriale that he wrote in the “people’s prison” of the Red Brigades, Moro replied to his inquisitor’s question as to who was behind the strategy of tension as follows:
Supporters were generally people who throughout the course of our history, whenever they have an opportunity, have been on the side of those who reject uncomfortable innovations and want to go backwards. They include DC voters and sympathizers who refused to pay the not unreasonable price for the nationalization of electricity, though without causing the DC to lose many votes. Then, together with others, they demanded backtrack on reforms, and a more decisive political style in general. (Trans M.C.)9
While not wishing to hold Moro to a position that, though undoubtedly his, is one that was not published by him, his interpretation is unquestionably consistent and closely argued. Indeed, Moro’s views suggest an extension of the issue of the underground to that of republicanism as a whole – something that is corroborated by historiographical study. However, there is a third approach that follows from the political-cultural tradition of the Partito d’Azione (Action Party): this is rooted in the work of Carlo Levi, and focuses on identifying a politico-social area that is extraneous to democratic practice and not linked to anti-fascism.10
To conclude: these considerations of violence in both the pre-fascist and republican eras, together, and the perspective they allow on the post-war period, enable us to identify a political-social area that has few ideological characteristics (at least compared with the main national political ideologies) and is therefore inconspicuous, but that is nonetheless to be found everywhere in society at every level throughout the period of the First Republic. This underground is only apparently integrated into an anti-fascist, constitutional interpretation of the state; in fact, because of its values and formation, it is far removed from the basic principles of the republican constitution. This highlights the breadth and intensity of a key aspect of the political and social conflict in the republican period – or rather, that part of the conflict that developed outside the most evident tensions (e.g. secular/Catholic, communist/anti-communist, fascist/anti-fascist and trade union struggles) and the institutional dynamic.
When the underground came to the surface
After the collapse of the DC, these classes finally came into view and found their political home in the movement conceived and led by Silvio Berlusconi, who had divined the possibility of bringing these forces together since 1994. For some 15 years, there has been a fierce struggle, manifested as attempts at reciprocal delegitimization, between Italy’s two major coalitions over the historical and genetic difference between the coalitions: the anti-fascist inspired Centre-Left, and the Centre-Right, which stemmed mainly from the underground of the First Republic. The most recent election has set the Centre-Right free from being seen as a temporary political phenomenon that, with each new defeat, threatened to collapse.
The political tensions of recent years hence appear in a new light, and the question arises as to what changes the new situation can bring with it. Here it is hard to escape the view – prejudicial and misleading maybe, but certainly inevitable – that it was Italy that invented fascism, that the dictatorship was created by Italians before they had to endure it, and that fascism took over the reins of power not to confront a threat of revolution but to get rid of the blind alleys that characterized a fragile and uncertain democracy.
It may be that Berlusconi is in no way a fascist, but there is also no doubt that Fascism and Berlusconism share a combination of populism and reactionary dirigisme, and for long periods they have been analogous phenomena in Italian history in a number of ways. The nub of the problem is not so much Berlusconi’s political programme (which cannot be accused of containing an anti-constitutional or anti-fascist line), but the close links it has with broad swathes of Italian society with whom it manages to address very skilfully, and who have long acknowledged him as their leader. In this respect, Berlusconi has an undoubted advantage over everyone else: he knows, and he knows how to “interpret”, those sectors of society that are a closed book to politicians and to newspapers.
Some of the choices of the governing majority will depend on this low-lying, murky layer of Italy. The whole institutional framework is determined by the tensions of a majority that, for historical and genealogical reasons, has different ideas about social life from those set out in our constitution. It is true that no plan for a different constitutional order, or for an idea around which a different kind of state might be constructed, has yet emerged, but this means that institutions will be further undermined until they lose all fundamental meaning – and then anything will be possible.
In the early days of the new government, something intemperate and brutal could already be observed in the press campaign, in the tones adopted by politicians, and in the choices proposed in respect of transit camps for immigrants, in which we see citizens’ demands for safety become confused with elements of ethnic hatred and xenophobia. That is not to say that the legislation that will emerge will be illegitimate or unlawful, but the climate that is developing in Italy is disturbing. And not only for Italy.
Strategy of Tension: The series of bombings in the 1970s and 1980s attributed far-Left groups, whose sympathizers in turn blamed state-sponsored far-right agent provocateurs linked to the so-called Gladio, an anti-communist guerrilla network set up by the CIA, Nato and the MI6. The "strategy of tension" included the Piazza Fontana bombing in 1969, the Piazza della Loggia bombing in Brescia in 1974, and the Bologna railway bombing in 1980 (which killed 85 people and wounded 220) -- ed.
Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale (CLN): the anti-fascist coalition formed after Fascist Italy's captitulation in 1943, associated to partisan groups in the North during the "Republic of Salo" -- ed.
"Warm autumn": Autumn 1969 in Italy saw a government crisis following the break-up of the centre-left coalition, along with a series of strikes by various trade unions. It was debated whether to integrate the PCI into the democratic system, however this option was controversial. On 12 November 1969 almost 20 million workers went on strike. Exactly one month later, four bombs exploded in Milan and Rome almost simultaneously (the beginning of the strategy of tension) -- ed.
On 27-29 October 1922, 30 000 members of the National Fascist party marched on Rome, forcing a transfer of power to Mussolini -- ed.
Of importance here are Gramsci's thoughts on subversion "from above", which in turn derives from a "poorly developed state and national spirit in the modern sense" that has links with popular subversion. Antonio Gramsci, Quaderni del carcere (Prison notebooks), Valentino Gerratana (ed), I, Turin, Einaudi, 1975, pp. 323-327.
Atti della Consulta nazionale. Discussioni dal 25 sett. 1945 al 9 marzo 1946 (Proceedings of the Consulta Nazionale. Debates from 25 September 1945 to 9 March 1946), 18.
Cf. Andrea Riccardi, Il "partito romano" nel secondo dopoguerra (1945-1954) [The "Roman party" in the second post-war period (1945-1954)], Brescia, Morcelliana, 1983; Sandro Setta, L'Uomo qualunque 1944-1948 [The Simple Man 1944-1948], Rome-Bari, Laterza, 1975. Also see Angelo Michele Imbriani, Vento del Sud. Moderati, reazionari, qualunquisti (1943-1948) [Southerly wind. Moderates, reactionaries and qualunquisti (1943-1948)], Bologna, Il Mulino, 1996.
These quotations are taken from Aldo Moro, Scritti e discorsi (Writings and addresses), Giuseppe Rossini (ed), 6 vols., Rome Cinque Lune, 1982-90: Vol. VI, p. 3700, Vol. II, pp. 1069-70, Vol. V, pp. 3046 et seqq., Vol VI, p. 3250.
F. M. Biscione (ed), Il memoriale di Aldo Moro rinvenuto in via Monte Nevoso a Milano (The Aldo Moro Memorial after Moro returned to via Monte Nevoso, Milan), Roma, Coletti, 1993, p. 49.
See Carlo Levi, L'orologio (The watch), Turin, Einaudi, 1950, e Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (Christ stopped at Eboli), Turin, Einaudi, 1947, particularly p. 227 (the issue of uninterrupted Italian Fascism).
Published 14 July 2009
Original in Italian
Translated by Michael Cunningham
First published by Lettera Internazionale 96 (2008)
Contributed by Lettera Internazionale © Francesco M. Biscione / Lettera Internazionale / EurozinePDF/PRINT
Austrian magazine dérive on agonistic urban democracy and new alliances from below; why tenants’ groups need to reclaim institutions; and how better communication prevents disappointment in participatory processes.