Monthly Archives: December 2010

Fiddling while Rome burns: Berlusconi and the crisis of the Italian Left

Life seemed very normal in Rome when I was there the weekend before last. There were posters everywhere for a march against the Berlusconi government to take place that Saturday, December 11, but protests and popular demonstrations by those at all ends of the political spectrum are a fairly everyday occurence in Italy, and usually cause little remark. When I lived in Rome a few years ago, the brief life of the last Prodi government was nearing its end and I had to share my way home one Saturday with a right-wing protest march heading for the Colosseum, where marchers sported t-shirts with the delightfully Italian slogan of ‘No communists in the family… thank god’. Such marches usually pass without incident, as did the one on December 11. However political tensions were mounting in the lead-up to the parliamentary vote on the no-confidence motion in the Berlusconi government, to take place that Tuesday. Ever since Gianfranco Fini, former leader of the right-wing Alleanza Nazionale party had withdrawn his support for Berlusconi’s government last August in a surprising show of statesmanship, it had seemed as if his days as prime minister were numbered. Continue reading

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‘It wasn’t the Italy I dreamed of’… Remembering the Risorgimento 150 years later

‘It wasn’t the Italy I dreamed of.’ 2011 marks 150 years since Italy was unified as a nation, and the words of a disaffected Giuseppe Garibaldi in his later years still seem to cast their shadow over the commemorations. Italy has always had a troubled relationship with nationalism. Unified only since 1861 in a campaign which despite Garibaldi’s best efforts, did little to capture the popular imagination, the creation of the Kingdom of Italy didn’t manage to prise people’s loyalties from their own town, city or region, and onto the nation. The unification was seen as something carried out by politicians and soldiers, which had nothing to do with the lives of ordinary Italians, and the creation of a legal ‘Italy’ in 1861 could do very little to make Sicilians, Neapolitans or Venetians feel ‘Italian’. In the twentieth century, it was only Mussolini who managed to inspire some level of popular patriotism in Italians, and the distaste for his brand of patriotic pomp and where it led, meant that nationalism was once again discredited after 1945. 150 years later, I was interested to see how the Unification would be celebrated, or simply marked, across the country. Would the lack of popular enthusiasm for a united Italy both then and since, and the popular disaffection which followed be forgotten as officials seized the chance to glorify their nation’s past? Or would a more balanced, less celebratory tone be allowed to emerge? Continue reading

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