By Dino Greco
Having again, shamelessly opened his black heart to absolve Mussolini, and his deeds, Silvio Berlusconi sparked outrage, shame rejection, dismay – and so on and so forth – among almost all major players and commentators in national politics. Worse, he vomited his own indecent words on “Memorial Day”, in front of the notorious Platform 21 of Milan’s central station, from which [during 1943-45] sealed train wagons went direct to the Auschwitz slaughterhouse.
So for a day, maybe two more, the subject of the Holocaust, filthily handled by the undisputed and idolized leader of the [right-wing] PDL, party has dominated, and will dominate the political debate. But – make no mistake – all will soon be reabsorbed into the “normal” political discourse of Italy, this strange country with a very short memory.
The easiest thing for most seemed to be to dismiss Berlusconi’s sentences as those of a “raving revisionist”. And this is certainly what they are. But, in hindsight, none of the things he said is a first. That Mussolini never killed anyone and that the place of confinement where anti-fascists were imprisoned was a holiday resort, that Il Duce did good things, that Italy was not as guilty as Germany, and that Mussolini allied with Hitler to avoid a battle with a country which seemed destined to become the future master of Europe: all these aberrant rants, including nostalgic impulses and historical denials along the lines of [Italy's new fascist movement] Casa Pound, had already been heard before. Except one. The one with whom Berlusconi has tried, as is his custom, to distance himself from himself. ‘My whole history, past and present – he said – shows my condemnation of fascist dictatorship.’
Well, perhaps it is precisely this that deserves reflection. Because Berlusconi’s whole story, past and present, is bound by a very black, very dark, thread, which binds his ”entry into the field,” his rise to power and the birth of the so-called Second Republic, marked, since its inception, by the rehabilitation of fascism, not only the strain diluted in the waters of Fiuggi*, but also the most extreme and filo-nazi wing. A fascism reinstated with full legitimacy in the institutional life of the country.
But it is not only about dangerous political associations, opportunistically soothed by Berlusconi to expand his electoral base. There is in fact a substantial fascism, which Berlusconi has personally cultivated as consubstantial with his deepest convictions, nourished by his personal acquaintances and his closest political associates: take that mixture of populism and secessionist xenophobia of the Northern League; take the specific acts of government, consistently designed to weaken Parliament; take his compulsive attacks on the constitutional system, and above all, labour law.
The control and the seizure of much of the press and almost all TV channels, the liberal use of ‘ad personam’ laws, – do they not represent a slide towards a form of total domination of political life? Of course this process is still unfinished, but it is basically totalitarian. The same worrying origin can be traced to the Cadillo’s economic assets, the base material on which he built his kingdom, the exchange of unmentionable favours and the inextricable underworld tangle with which he built his system of power, do they not represent a country whose democracy has already collapsed and is at risk of irreversible chaos.
Now, the fact is that the entire unhappy parable of our public life, and the degeneration of the party system that has reached such extreme levels, has found no serious opposition from the ‘Constitutional Arc’ that gave birth to the compromise between the forces of the Resistance. This anti-fascist compromise [between the communists, socialists, liberals and christian democrats] disintegrated some time ago. The fact is that the core policies that have been the championed by the Right during its long occupation of power had long been in incubation amid the defeat of the Left led that amounted to surrender – first cultural and then political .
It is this yielding, this loss of vision and autonomy on the Left that has allowed Monti to succeed Berlusconi, with extreme consequences: under the auspices of the ECB and with the consent of the Democratic Party, we see the definitive archiving of the Constitution and the establishment of a class domination exercised through alliances with veritable nonchalance.
This explains why, a few days ago, Mario Monti argued that an alliance of the centre parties with the PDL is by no means to be considered a blasphemy, on the only condition that feudal relic of Berlusconi is out of the way (and this, mainly for aesthetic reasons). This is not a mock election campaign, and it should be taken seriously. This reactionary populism is a variant of the dictatorship of finance capital, but it caters for the same interests, and fights on the same battle grounds.
The paradox is that, if anything, the ['centre-left'] Democratic Party, for a full year loyally supporting Monti, a loyal partner in the insane hyper-neo-liberal measures that it has often claimed as its own, and even exalted, now feels betrayed by Monti, the former European chair of the Trilateral Commission, a club of the global elite. Understandably, Monti is now keen to continue the strategy that has earned him such enthusiasm in the Democratic Party, which, for its part, rather than investing its energies all in a critique of neo- liberalism, has focussed on combating those fighting Berlusconi, or ‘antiberlusconismo’. The Democratic Party protests, screams and asks (in vain) that Monti honours the deal for which it had so generously sacrificed itself. But politics, despite sometimes seeming to proceed in a zig-zag, in fact follows a logical and precise geometry.
If the Democrats have so far embraced the line dictated by the European Union, to the point of discarding – only a year ago – the ballot box that would have probably seen them victorious, why should Monti, who has followed that EU line most slavishly now represent a problem? And on which political discontinuity can the Democratic Party rest its campaign proposals given that in the last part of the legislature it approved literally everything from the liquidation of [labour rights in] Article 18, cuts to pensions and attacks on welfare to the introduction the housing tax and the constitutionalization of the EU’s ‘balanced budget’ fiscal compact?
Today, with the exception of the [radical/populist left coalition] Civil Revolution, all the political parties engaged in the election campaign – ignoring the fog, diversions and media scuffles where the politics is difficult to discern – have programmes that fit within a very narrow agenda. The competitors facing each other – Monti and Bersani – propose policies whose differences can be reduced to small ‘variations on a theme,’ inscribed in the same plan for society.
For this reason, neither the one nor the other can ever permanently get rid of Berlusconi, who in the desertification of democracy and in the pastures of the powers that be, will always find places to draw water.
* the 1995 congress when the fascist MSI dissolved itself into the ‘post-fascist’ National Alliance led by Gianfranco Fini
Translation/edit: Revolting Europe