Ciao, Ceausescu

It may be worth noting that La Repubblica appears to have just called Berlusconi a dictator:

An empty regime by Ezio Mauro

Unable to save Italy, they’re trying desperately to save themselves. This is all that’s left of the titanic force of Berlusconism, the “liberal revolution”, the government of “getting things done”, the Lega’s wind from the North. A terrified political class, afraid even to show their faces to their own supporters, unable to manage the crisis and now unable to come up with the solutions in government which the country needs.

The only solution offered is a cut-price agreement, inadequate at best and probably useless, which they hope will distract Europe’s attention for long enough to offer some breathing space for the shared desperation of Bossi and Berlusconi, shut away in government offices that have turned into their last bunker.

Both the effective leaders of Europe (Sarkozy/Merkel) and the formal leadership (Van Rompuy and Barroso) told Berlusconi that he had three days to pass the necessary measures to get Italy out of the Greek circle of Hell. The Prime Minister agreed. Then, back in Italy, he had to deal with the brick wall of the Lega Nord; with open crisis in his own party and in Bossi’s; with the ungovernability of his parliamentary majority; and with the self-evident exhaustion of his own leadership and its total loss of authority.

He should resign, allowing the country to try and save itself while there is still time. But he is no statesman; he sees his own personal fate as more pressing than the fate of Italy. He is locked into a political death-agony like something from the last days of the Christiam Democrat empire*, which may end up producing a lowest-common-denominator agreement, but can no longer produce either a political programme or a government. Europe and the markets will pass judgment on this utter lack of responsibility. We should also take note: governments regularly fall when their political time is up, but regimes can never find a way to end**.

* un’agonia democristiana, da tardo impero
**mentre i governi cadono regolarmente quando una fase politica si esaurisce, solo i regimi non sanno finire

The key word is ‘regime’: this is strong stuff in the Italian context, as it specifically refers to non-democratic regimes – whether Communist or, er, what was the other one…

I’ve got a piece in the next issue of the Bulletin of Italian Politics about ‘the Italian transition’: the idea that the period since 1993 has been a period of transition from the Christian Democrat-dominated First Republic to some new and more politically ‘normal’ settlement, featuring (among other things) Left and Right parties which can change places in government without bringing the entire system into crisis. Against this idea, many people argue that 18 years (and counting) is a bit on the long side for a period of transition; maybe this is the Second Republic and we (or rather the Italians) are stuck with it. I think the extraordinary fragility and turbulence of the current Berlusconi government, which itself derives from the steady erosion of his original centre-Right coalition, tells against this; we’re clearly not there yet, as there’s no ‘there’ here. In the paper I suggest that, rather than compressing the period of transition, we should extend it: the real ‘transition’ is the transition from Fascism to democracy, which stalled in 1948 with the imposition of Christian Democratic hegemony, stuttered into life again around 1993 and then ground to a halt again under Signor B.

Fascism has never quite been forgotten in Italy; the Republic was built on massacres by Fascists and massacres of Fascists. This is not to say that Italian politics is riven with anti-Fascist and anti-Communist passions; on the contrary, the strongest and most widely-shared passion is the passion for centrism, the dream of being a normal European country without any ‘opposed extremisms’. But this means that the one essential requirement for an Italian leader is the ability to put the Fascist past decisively behind him or her, to lead a governo and not a regime. La Repubblica is a centre-Left paper, generally more ‘centre’ than ‘Left’; its writers share that passion for normality, and the underlying passion for avoiding civil war. As a result they generally give the government – any government – the benefit of the doubt; a typical Repubblica editorial will urge the government to be more responsible and moderate, even when it’s clear that they’re committed to being anything but.

No longer: the paper’s served notice on Berlusconi that he is the problem. He must go, and soon.


  1. Posted 26 October 2011 at 13:11 | Permalink | Reply

    Yeah, but unless I’m missing something, the message is that he has to go because unless he does, a package of very drastic cuts may not be passed

    • Phil
      Posted 26 October 2011 at 14:18 | Permalink | Reply

      I think it’s a bit more nuanced than that. I think the author’s saying that not doing anything would be even worse for Italy than for Berlusconi to do what he’s told (“the Greek circle of Hell”) – and so would dicking around trying to buy time (“this utter lack of responsibility”). It’s true that actual resistance to “Europe and the markets” is way off la Repubblica’s radar – but I wouldn’t expect that resistance to involve Berlusconi in any case.

      • Posted 2 November 2011 at 16:47 | Permalink

        I was thinking, though, re: your final sentence, that maybe for the first time in his entire political career, Berlusconi is not actually the problem.

  2. Cian
    Posted 28 October 2011 at 17:40 | Permalink | Reply

    Are the Italians likely to accept the cuts? Because from here the sheer naked contempt being shown by the French and the German leaders at this point is just extraordinary. Is there likely to be a movement to pull out the Euro, or even the EU?

    • Keith
      Posted 29 October 2011 at 01:06 | Permalink | Reply

      Well most of the anti EU sentiment in european countries seems to be on the Nationalist racist right and to be irrational. But the left are the ones who should be very hostile or sceptical at least as the EU has embraced neo liberal economics since the late 80s or 1990s and that means cuts cuts and more cuts.

  3. Keith
    Posted 29 October 2011 at 00:58 | Permalink | Reply

    Is Mr. B not the New Mussolini but the Italian Harold Wilson? The Euro currency is the Gold standard without the Gold and any new ruling figure will have to apply savage cuts without a policy for economic growth. This follows from the size of the Italian debt. Unless Italy is going to break the Euro people will look back on this period nostalgically as a social democratic golden age. Remember when we built council houses by the millions and the left thought Wilson was so right wing? Good old days before the right wing economic putsch.

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