X Close

The Left was blinded by Berlusconi Those who succeeded him were more dangerous

Bunga (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Bunga (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)


June 13, 2023   6 mins

In 1994, when Berlusconi launched his political party Forza Italia, I was 12 years old. At the time, the last thing I was interested in was politics, and yet Il Cavaliere, as he was known, soon became a part of my life — for the simple fact that, along with every other kid of my generation, I spent my afternoons watching Japanese anime cartoons on the Mediaset channels he founded. In the three months leading up to the general election, which Berlusconi won, Mediaset ran Forza Italia ads around the clock. I soon knew the party’s cheesy jingle by heart.

Many of the elements of Berlusconismo were already present in that first campaign to become prime minister: Berlusconi’s larger-than-life persona, his unscrupulous use of his media empire to propel himself onto the political stage, his proto-populist marketing-style approach to politics. Yet, for several years, as far I was concerned, Berlusconi was little more than an annoying interruption between episodes of my favourite TV shows.

This changed in the final years of high school, when I became involved in Left-wing politics. One of the first things I learned was that being Left-wing in late-Nineties Italy meant being against Berlusconi. Even though I didn’t realise it at the time, what I was being exposed to was perhaps one Berlusconi’s most toxic legacies: the fact that, by then, the Italian Left had come to define itself almost exclusively in opposition to Berlusconi — as anti-Berlusconismo.

This changed, briefly, with the advent of the anti-globalisation movement. The horizon of Left-wing politics was extended beyond national borders (and beyond Berlusconi) to embrace — in our naïve vision at least — the entire planet. There were much bigger threats than Berlusconi looming out there: neoliberal globalisation, transnational corporations, free-trade agreements, and global financial institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO.

That movement culminated in the massive demonstrations that were held against the G8 summit in Genoa in July 2001 — one of the largest protests in Western Europe’s recent history, and one of the bloodiest. It culminated in violent clashes with, and brutal repression by, the security forces, and in the fatal shooting of 23-year old anarchist Carlo Giuliani by the police. For everyone on the Left, and especially for those who had witnessed first-hand the violence in Genoa — including myself — the blame for those tragic events fell on one person: Silvio Berlusconi, who had won the elections for the second time just a few months earlier.

As the anti-globalisation movement waned during Berlusconi’s second term in office between 2001 and 2006 — the longest served by any Italian leader since the Second World War — Italian Left-wing politics once again came to be defined by anti-Berlusconismo, though for a few years the latter overlapped with opposition to the war in Iraq (for several years, Italy was the third-largest contingent of the US-led coalition). In 2008, after a two-year centre-left government led by Romano Prodi, Berlusconi was elected as prime minister again. By the time the euro crisis hit in 2010, he had been in power for almost a decade. Meanwhile, anti-Berlusconismo had metastasised into a political obsession: if only he could be removed from the equation, everything would be fine.

This came to a head in late 2011, when a financial crisis forced Berlusconi to resign. Within hours, a large crowd had gathered in front of the Quirinal Palace — the official residence of the President of Italy, where Berlusconi went to tender his resignation — to celebrate his departure. As someone who had grown estranged with Italian Left-wing politics in the previous years, the whole thing struck me as odd. I was no fan of the man. But even accepting the official narrative of events — that the crisis had been the result of financial markets punishing Berlusconi for his poor handling of the economic crisis — I couldn’t see how an elected government being forced to step down by financial speculators could be a cause for celebration — especially for those on the Left.

The short-sightedness of the celebrations became tragically obvious when Italian president Giorgio Napolitano appointed Mario Monti, a former European Union commissioner and international adviser to Goldman Sachs, to form a “technical government”, which proceeded to administer a devastating austerity “cure”. In a way, the whole affair exposed the myopia of anti-Berlusconismo. By obsessively focusing on Berlusconi and his threat to democracy, the Italian Left had ended up ignoring — or worse, embracing — the more significant structural trends that had been weakening Italian democracy for the past 20 years and more: the gradual erosion of sovereignty at the hands of the EU and later the euro; the growing power of the technocratic apparatuses of the state, such as the Bank of Italy and the President of the Republic; the undermining of Italy’s strategic interests by its supposed allies, exemplified by the Nato-led attack on Libya in 2011.

While Berlusconi didn’t explicitly push back against any of these things — he was, after all, staunchly Atlanticist and pro-European — he did try, though never with enough conviction, to strike a balance between Italy’s international obligations and his vision of the national interest. This was particularly apparent in his foreign policy, through which Berlusconi tried to assert a relative degree of autonomy and independence. Aware of Italy’s dependency on foreign energy imports, Berlusconi won favourable gas and oil deals by cultivating strong friendships with the leaders of energy-producing countries: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and, most notably, Vladimir Putin.

In 2008, for example, Berlusconi signed a “friendship treaty” with Libya, promising $5 billion over 20 years to compensate for Italy’s colonial occupation in the early 20th century; in exchange, Libya agreed to sign off on lucrative energy contracts and to prevent unauthorised immigrants from travelling to Italy. Before that, he had tried to talk Bush, with whom he was on good terms, out of invading Iraq. Similarly, he backed joint energy projects between Gazprom in Russia and the Italian energy company Eni at a time when the EU was pushing for less dependence on Russian gas. Berlusconi also criticised the American missile defence project, the eastward expansion of Nato, and the West’s support for Kosovo’s independence for being “provocations of Russia”.

“Our relationship with Berlusconi is complex,” wrote Elizabeth Dibble, the deputy chief of mission at the United States Embassy in Rome, in a 2009 cable. “He is vocally pro-American and has helped address our interest on many levels in a manner and to a degree that the previous government was unwilling or unable to do.” Yet, the diplomat noted, there were other areas where Berlusconi “seems determined to be best friends with Russia, sometimes in direct opposition to American, and even European Union, policy”. Once the euro crisis hit, Berlusconi also tried to resist, to a degree, the aggressive austerity policies demanded by the EU and Germany, locking horns with Merkel, Sarkozy and Brussels on more than one occasion.

All of which meant that, by 2011, a consensus had formed on both sides of the Atlantic that Berlusconi had to go. In 2015, former Spanish prime minister José Luis Zapatero recounted to the Italian daily La Stampa the events that took place at the G20 in 2011, just a few days before Berlusconi’s resignation: “I will never forget what I saw at the G20 meeting in Cannes… Berlusconi and Tremonti [Berlusconi’s finance minister] were under immense pressure to accept an IMF bailout. But they staunchly refused. Shortly afterwards, I heard Monti’s name mentioned in the corridors. I found it very strange. Was it a coup d’état? I don’t know, all I can say is that the proponents of austerity wanted to decide Italy’s economic policies in place of the government.”

Indeed, over the years, it has become apparent that the financial crisis behind Berlusconi’s fall wasn’t simply caused by financial markets — but by the European Union itself. As even the Financial Times acknowledged, the ECB under Mario Draghi “forced Silvio Berlusconi to leave office in favour of unelected Mario Monti”, by discontinuing the central bank’s Italian bond purchases — thus deliberately causing interest rates to rise above safety levels — and by making the ousting of Berlusconi the precondition for further ECB support.

Regardless of what one thinks of Berlusconi, it’s hard to imagine a more disturbing scenario than a supposedly “independent” and “apolitical” central bank resorting to monetary blackmail in order to expel an elected government from office and impose its own political agenda. Yet the evidence suggests that it was a monetary coup d’état that took place in Italy in 2011. The consequences would become tragically apparent in the following years: Italy has essentially been put into “controlled administration” by Brussels and Frankfurt — and, increasingly, Washington. The kind of relative autonomy that Berlusconi had succeeded in carving out for his country is today a distant memory. Today, blind obedience to the Euro-Atlantic status quo is firmly expected of Italy’s governments, lest they want to face the consequences of stepping out of line — a point that Meloni understands all too well.

None of this means that we should glorify Berlusconi, of course. All the charges laid against him over the years — his murky business deals with shady characters tied to the Mafia, his sex scandals, his patronage of the country’s political elites, his unscrupulous use of his media empire, his use of politics to advance his own economic interests — are, after all, true, and very serious. And whenever he had to choose between the country’s interests and his personal ones — over Libya, for example — he always ended up choosing the latter. Yet, there is little doubt that Berlusconi, for better or worse, was Italy’s last statesman. Despite being dismissed as a threat to democracy, it was his departure that really opened the door to Italy’s post-democratic, and therefore post-political, turn. Since he left office, our elected governments have morphed into mere implementers of foreign diktats — and anti-Berlusconismo did nothing to stop it.


Thomas Fazi is an UnHerd columnist and translator. His latest book is The Covid Consensus, co-authored with Toby Green.

battleforeurope

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

44 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Christopher Barclay
CB
Christopher Barclay
10 months ago

Forza Italia was not founded to push out an established party. It was founded to replace the Christian Democrats who disbanded in 1994 due to scandals involving corruption and Mafia links. Berlusconi was not a populist outsider who forced his way into politics but a man who was part of Italy’s business establishment. He a member of the P2 Masonic lodge.
The account is an accurate reflection of the coup conducted by Merkel and the EU against Italian democracy as they also did later in Greece. Both these coups occurred before the 2016 Brexit referendum and were considered quite acceptable by Remainers.

Danielle Treille
DT
Danielle Treille
10 months ago

Oh, he was a member of the P2 Masonic Lodge, well whoopee! Berlusconi was an incompetent buffoon. His so-called leadership was marred by and racked with poor judgement and decision-making, not to mention scandalous sex affairs.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
NS
Nicky Samengo-Turner
10 months ago

see my post.. you are misinformed

Danielle Treille
DT
Danielle Treille
10 months ago

Says you. And you are….?

Danielle Treille
DT
Danielle Treille
10 months ago

Says you. And you are….?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
NS
Nicky Samengo-Turner
10 months ago

see my post.. you are misinformed

Danielle Treille
DT
Danielle Treille
10 months ago

Oh, he was a member of the P2 Masonic Lodge, well whoopee! Berlusconi was an incompetent buffoon. His so-called leadership was marred by and racked with poor judgement and decision-making, not to mention scandalous sex affairs.

Christopher Barclay
CB
Christopher Barclay
10 months ago

Forza Italia was not founded to push out an established party. It was founded to replace the Christian Democrats who disbanded in 1994 due to scandals involving corruption and Mafia links. Berlusconi was not a populist outsider who forced his way into politics but a man who was part of Italy’s business establishment. He a member of the P2 Masonic lodge.
The account is an accurate reflection of the coup conducted by Merkel and the EU against Italian democracy as they also did later in Greece. Both these coups occurred before the 2016 Brexit referendum and were considered quite acceptable by Remainers.

Stephen Quilley
SG
Stephen Quilley
10 months ago

“There were much bigger threats than Berlusconi looming out there: neoliberal globalisation, transnational corporations, free-trade agreements, and global financial institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO”

This sounds like the left to me- now in deep cahoots with the party of Davos. Transnationalism, transhumanism, trans genderism, racist anti-racism’ – all attacks on the colour blind civic national order rooted in tacit Judeo-Christian values.

Grodley H
GH
Grodley H
10 months ago

Global corporations, captured media, governments and NGOs simply have to orchestrate the next ‘Never Trump’, ‘Never Boris’, ‘Never Berlusconi’ movement and the modern Left will line up with them, desperate to appear to stay on the moral high ground.

Last edited 10 months ago by Grodley H
Grodley H
Grodley H
10 months ago

“I couldn’t see how an elected government being forced to step down by financial speculators could be a cause for celebration — especially for those on the Left”
The UK Left celebrated the same sort of coup against Liz Truss, oblivious to the precedent it set for ousting any future leader that planned to spend more into the economy than it took out in taxes.

Nick Faulks
NF
Nick Faulks
10 months ago
Reply to  Grodley H

Couldn’t be more right. Sunak is the first PM imposed by a foreign backed coup.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

Just like William of Orange, otherwise known as William III.

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
10 months ago

In fact, I did think of that. Whether it is a good precedent needs further thought.

Nick Faulks
NF
Nick Faulks
10 months ago

In fact, I did think of that. Whether it is a good precedent needs further thought.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

Utterly ludicrous unhinged comment. We have never elected our prime ministers.

Nick Faulks
NF
Nick Faulks
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

So you’re saying he is not the first PM imposed by a foreign backed coup?

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

So you’re saying he is not the first PM imposed by a foreign backed coup?

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

Just like William of Orange, otherwise known as William III.

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

Utterly ludicrous unhinged comment. We have never elected our prime ministers.

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Grodley H

Absurd use of the word “coup”. Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng got it badly wrong; their whole programme was a completely tone deaf attempt to “unchain Britannia” which might have had a lot of merit but greatly increasing borrowing to do it without proper planning was poor judgement on their part. Whatever else you think of him, Sunak’s judgement proved correct. Politics can be a harsh business.

Of course Truss was a free market believer in liberal immigration policies, so it was just so amusing to see her briefly for some bizarre reason having the crown of national saviour being bestowed on her by much of the Conservative Right.

Nick Faulks
NF
Nick Faulks
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Truss was defenestrated because long gilt yields had, in the wake of a concerted speculative attack, hit the unprecedented level ( unless your memory goes back before 2008 ) of 4.2%. Saviour Sunak arrived, steadied the ship and now they are at 4.4%. Why doesn’t he have to go, just asking?

Grodley H
GH
Grodley H
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

It’s not a matter of whether the Truss/Kwartang plans were wrong or right, it’s whether those plans should be overturned by a bunch of international currency speculators (i.e. inveterate gamblers). Anyone who thinks that was okay should be prepared to accept the same when it happens to a government who’s policies they support. I don’t support the Tories and never have, but it’s not a good precedent to set if you allow currency speculators to decide who runs your country. My point is that the Left lined up with them and cheered it on. If Corbyn or someone like him had come under the same sort of attack for ‘reckless spending plans’ or whatever then they would have been beside themselves.

Last edited 10 months ago by Grodley H
Nick Faulks
NF
Nick Faulks
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Truss was defenestrated because long gilt yields had, in the wake of a concerted speculative attack, hit the unprecedented level ( unless your memory goes back before 2008 ) of 4.2%. Saviour Sunak arrived, steadied the ship and now they are at 4.4%. Why doesn’t he have to go, just asking?

Grodley H
GH
Grodley H
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

It’s not a matter of whether the Truss/Kwartang plans were wrong or right, it’s whether those plans should be overturned by a bunch of international currency speculators (i.e. inveterate gamblers). Anyone who thinks that was okay should be prepared to accept the same when it happens to a government who’s policies they support. I don’t support the Tories and never have, but it’s not a good precedent to set if you allow currency speculators to decide who runs your country. My point is that the Left lined up with them and cheered it on. If Corbyn or someone like him had come under the same sort of attack for ‘reckless spending plans’ or whatever then they would have been beside themselves.

Last edited 10 months ago by Grodley H
Nick Faulks
NF
Nick Faulks
10 months ago
Reply to  Grodley H

Couldn’t be more right. Sunak is the first PM imposed by a foreign backed coup.

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Grodley H

Absurd use of the word “coup”. Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng got it badly wrong; their whole programme was a completely tone deaf attempt to “unchain Britannia” which might have had a lot of merit but greatly increasing borrowing to do it without proper planning was poor judgement on their part. Whatever else you think of him, Sunak’s judgement proved correct. Politics can be a harsh business.

Of course Truss was a free market believer in liberal immigration policies, so it was just so amusing to see her briefly for some bizarre reason having the crown of national saviour being bestowed on her by much of the Conservative Right.

Grodley H
GH
Grodley H
10 months ago

Global corporations, captured media, governments and NGOs simply have to orchestrate the next ‘Never Trump’, ‘Never Boris’, ‘Never Berlusconi’ movement and the modern Left will line up with them, desperate to appear to stay on the moral high ground.

Last edited 10 months ago by Grodley H
Grodley H
GH
Grodley H
10 months ago

“I couldn’t see how an elected government being forced to step down by financial speculators could be a cause for celebration — especially for those on the Left”
The UK Left celebrated the same sort of coup against Liz Truss, oblivious to the precedent it set for ousting any future leader that planned to spend more into the economy than it took out in taxes.

Stephen Quilley
SG
Stephen Quilley
10 months ago

“There were much bigger threats than Berlusconi looming out there: neoliberal globalisation, transnational corporations, free-trade agreements, and global financial institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO”

This sounds like the left to me- now in deep cahoots with the party of Davos. Transnationalism, transhumanism, trans genderism, racist anti-racism’ – all attacks on the colour blind civic national order rooted in tacit Judeo-Christian values.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
NS
Nicky Samengo-Turner
10 months ago

Berlusconi was no buffoon, and the man in his shadow, his partnet Ennio Dorris was a very clever investment manager and financier, who revolutionised Italy’s mass affluent/retail asset management business via his Mediolanum empire. Berlusconi also had, albeit a ” reluctant admission” to the so called financial ruling ” salotto buono” of Italy, Mediobanca, Lazard, Agnelli’s then Holding companies , Generali and their very few close financial allies.

However, the tide in Italy was turning and not least due to US investment banks seeking to ” overthrow” this cartel and the one and only US bank in this circle, Citibank ( thanks to my Italian father there) and the left finally succeded in demolishing the Salotto buono… but putting nothing in its place.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
NS
Nicky Samengo-Turner
10 months ago

Berlusconi was no buffoon, and the man in his shadow, his partnet Ennio Dorris was a very clever investment manager and financier, who revolutionised Italy’s mass affluent/retail asset management business via his Mediolanum empire. Berlusconi also had, albeit a ” reluctant admission” to the so called financial ruling ” salotto buono” of Italy, Mediobanca, Lazard, Agnelli’s then Holding companies , Generali and their very few close financial allies.

However, the tide in Italy was turning and not least due to US investment banks seeking to ” overthrow” this cartel and the one and only US bank in this circle, Citibank ( thanks to my Italian father there) and the left finally succeded in demolishing the Salotto buono… but putting nothing in its place.

Nick Faulks
NF
Nick Faulks
10 months ago

The manner of the replacement of Berlusconi by Monti was remarkably similar to that of of Truss by Sunak.

Steve Brown
SB
Steve Brown
10 months ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

Truss and a long list of other reckless populists (left and right) fell because of the damage inflicted by profligate macroeconomic policies. They do not have the honesty to tell their supporters that when an economy is operating close to full capacity (see UK Q3 2022) tax reductions must be paid for by reduced spending. Otherwise inflation will rise and interest rates will go through the roof. I am no fan of Sunak, but Truss was replaced because she was useless not by some sinister coup.

Nick Faulks
NF
Nick Faulks
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Brown

The question is how she was “replaced” and by whom.

Last edited 10 months ago by Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
NF
Nick Faulks
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Brown

The question is how she was “replaced” and by whom.

Last edited 10 months ago by Nick Faulks
Steve Brown
SB
Steve Brown
10 months ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

Truss and a long list of other reckless populists (left and right) fell because of the damage inflicted by profligate macroeconomic policies. They do not have the honesty to tell their supporters that when an economy is operating close to full capacity (see UK Q3 2022) tax reductions must be paid for by reduced spending. Otherwise inflation will rise and interest rates will go through the roof. I am no fan of Sunak, but Truss was replaced because she was useless not by some sinister coup.

Nick Faulks
NF
Nick Faulks
10 months ago

The manner of the replacement of Berlusconi by Monti was remarkably similar to that of of Truss by Sunak.

Nathan Ngumi
NN
Nathan Ngumi
10 months ago

Silvio Berlusconi’s legacy is a mixed bag, like any other modern leader.

Nathan Ngumi
NN
Nathan Ngumi
10 months ago

Silvio Berlusconi’s legacy is a mixed bag, like any other modern leader.

Richard Barrett
RB
Richard Barrett
10 months ago

In the 1990s, I hated Berlusconi for propping up the Italian old regime, and for blocking what could have been a new leftist way forward for Italy. In more recent years however, he came to be seen as a threat to EU-NATO hegemony, which put him up a few points in my estimation.

Richard Barrett
RB
Richard Barrett
10 months ago

In the 1990s, I hated Berlusconi for propping up the Italian old regime, and for blocking what could have been a new leftist way forward for Italy. In more recent years however, he came to be seen as a threat to EU-NATO hegemony, which put him up a few points in my estimation.

Arkadian X
AA
Arkadian X
10 months ago

For a change an interesting article by this author.
Will Meloni prove to be a stateswoman or a pawn?
(To the editor: it is Romano, not Romani, Prodi)

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
10 months ago

For a change an interesting article by this author.
Will Meloni prove to be a stateswoman or a pawn?
(To the editor: it is Romano, not Romani, Prodi)

Peter B
PB
Peter B
10 months ago

Why are we forgetting that Berlusconi was a convicted criminal (tax fraud) who leveraged his position to avoid actual imprisonment ?
Still, perhaps Mr. Fazi is right to call him “Italy’s last statesman” and not some dodgy oligarch … I don’t think so !
The idea that Italy suddenly became “post-democratic” *after* a billionaire who owned half the media became Prime Minister is frankly absurd.
Isn’t it curious how much financial fraud there is amongst these leaders – Sarkozy, Berlusconi, Lagarde, Chirac, Kohl, … . And how all these countries seem to specialise in things like presidential immunity from prosecution. Not one resigned. Not one served any jail time.

Arkadian X
AA
Arkadian X
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Absolutely, but the author’s point (zero calcare’s Doppelganger) is that
1) Berlusconi was elected (because of the flaws you mention, rather than despite them), and that
2) the opposition became simply an anti-Berlusconi without offering a real alternative (not dissimilar to the opposition in Scotland *not being* Sturgeon and the SNP).

Peter B
PB
Peter B
10 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

All true. But it certainly helps getting elected (and re-elected) if you own the media (like Berlusconi or Putin).

Arkadian X
AA
Arkadian X
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Again, absolutely. But the issue here is that the left was/is so much in thrall of Berlusconi that even when in power could do nothing, except squabble.

Peter B
PB
Peter B
10 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

That’s just in the left’s DNA from the very start.

Peter B
PB
Peter B
10 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

That’s just in the left’s DNA from the very start.

james elliott
james elliott
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

You could add the cabal that operates the hollowed out avatar of Joe Biden to your too-short list of Berlusconi & Putin.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

And that’s where you illustrate the downside of being fundamentally against a person, rathe than being being based on policy.

Did Trump own the media? Yet he won.

Did Berlusconi and Putin control the media? Possibly, but if it was just that, they wouldn’t get re-elected. People aren’t stupid. And just controlling the media doesn’t work on its own, as the UK remainers or Hillary found.

Arkadian X
AA
Arkadian X
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Again, absolutely. But the issue here is that the left was/is so much in thrall of Berlusconi that even when in power could do nothing, except squabble.

james elliott
JE
james elliott
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

You could add the cabal that operates the hollowed out avatar of Joe Biden to your too-short list of Berlusconi & Putin.

Samir Iker
SI
Samir Iker
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

And that’s where you illustrate the downside of being fundamentally against a person, rathe than being being based on policy.

Did Trump own the media? Yet he won.

Did Berlusconi and Putin control the media? Possibly, but if it was just that, they wouldn’t get re-elected. People aren’t stupid. And just controlling the media doesn’t work on its own, as the UK remainers or Hillary found.

Stephen Quilley
SG
Stephen Quilley
10 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

And sturgeon only being anti Westminster Tory

Peter B
PB
Peter B
10 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

All true. But it certainly helps getting elected (and re-elected) if you own the media (like Berlusconi or Putin).

Stephen Quilley
SG
Stephen Quilley
10 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

And sturgeon only being anti Westminster Tory

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

In some Ancient Greek states the punishment for financial mismanagement was death.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Along with many other high profile criminals Berlusconi was an enthusiastic supporter of the disgraceful Iraq War.

As a result Italy suffered its highest casualties* since its somewhat lacklustre performance in WWII.
I wonder if B had the lives of those young men on his conscience when he expired?

(* The Nasiriyah Bombing.)

Peter B
PB
Peter B
10 months ago

Going a bit off topic, I think that both the Italians and French get a very bad rap for WWII which isn’t justified by the performance of some of their soldiers in battles. The real failures were in leadership and equipment.
The Italians also did us a big favour by knowing when to throw in the towel. Not sure their heart was really in fighting the UK from the start – pre-war we were close to being on the same side.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Interestingly the Italians WWI casualties were proportionally greater than ours!
All those battles on the Isonzo.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Interestingly the Italians WWI casualties were proportionally greater than ours!
All those battles on the Isonzo.

Peter B
PB
Peter B
10 months ago

Going a bit off topic, I think that both the Italians and French get a very bad rap for WWII which isn’t justified by the performance of some of their soldiers in battles. The real failures were in leadership and equipment.
The Italians also did us a big favour by knowing when to throw in the towel. Not sure their heart was really in fighting the UK from the start – pre-war we were close to being on the same side.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Absolutely, but the author’s point (zero calcare’s Doppelganger) is that
1) Berlusconi was elected (because of the flaws you mention, rather than despite them), and that
2) the opposition became simply an anti-Berlusconi without offering a real alternative (not dissimilar to the opposition in Scotland *not being* Sturgeon and the SNP).

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

In some Ancient Greek states the punishment for financial mismanagement was death.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Along with many other high profile criminals Berlusconi was an enthusiastic supporter of the disgraceful Iraq War.

As a result Italy suffered its highest casualties* since its somewhat lacklustre performance in WWII.
I wonder if B had the lives of those young men on his conscience when he expired?

(* The Nasiriyah Bombing.)

Peter B
PB
Peter B
10 months ago

Why are we forgetting that Berlusconi was a convicted criminal (tax fraud) who leveraged his position to avoid actual imprisonment ?
Still, perhaps Mr. Fazi is right to call him “Italy’s last statesman” and not some dodgy oligarch … I don’t think so !
The idea that Italy suddenly became “post-democratic” *after* a billionaire who owned half the media became Prime Minister is frankly absurd.
Isn’t it curious how much financial fraud there is amongst these leaders – Sarkozy, Berlusconi, Lagarde, Chirac, Kohl, … . And how all these countries seem to specialise in things like presidential immunity from prosecution. Not one resigned. Not one served any jail time.

Russell Sharpe
RS
Russell Sharpe
10 months ago

For the editor: The hyperlink at the end of the penultimate paragraph (“a point that Meloni understands all too well”) actually links to the previous hyperlink (a La Stampa article about Spanish PM Zapatero). It would be interesting to have the correct link: thanks.

Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
10 months ago

For the editor: The hyperlink at the end of the penultimate paragraph (“a point that Meloni understands all too well”) actually links to the previous hyperlink (a La Stampa article about Spanish PM Zapatero). It would be interesting to have the correct link: thanks.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago

“For everyone on the Left, and especially for those who had witnessed first-hand the violence in Genoa — including myself — the blame for those tragic events fell on one person:”
For refusing to bow to mob violence

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
ER
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago

“For everyone on the Left, and especially for those who had witnessed first-hand the violence in Genoa — including myself — the blame for those tragic events fell on one person:”
For refusing to bow to mob violence

Tony Lee
Tony Lee
10 months ago

The left are always anti something and never quite sure what they’re for.

Tony Lee
TL
Tony Lee
10 months ago

The left are always anti something and never quite sure what they’re for.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
10 months ago

The simple irony of being automatically anti- any idea from some political hate figure is that you are effectively letting them decide your opinions for you.

Brendan O'Leary
BO
Brendan O'Leary
10 months ago

The simple irony of being automatically anti- any idea from some political hate figure is that you are effectively letting them decide your opinions for you.

Philip Clayton
Philip Clayton
10 months ago

I am a Remainer and I am on the left. I did not, and do not, consider what happened to Greece and Italy as in any way acceptable. Nor was I “taken in” by Berlusconi who, whatever else, paved the way for people like Johnson and Trump. I am a Remainer because the benefits of EU membership, as not just a trade body but something that offered tangible benefits to ALL it’s member populations (travel, education, employment, business etc). On top of that it has succeeded beyond imagination in ending the eternal wars and conflicts in Western states. What I detest about the EU is the way that the Parliament and Commission function at the behest of big business and finance. But, strangely, outside the EU so does Parliament. Witness Labour breaking promises every week and declaring every five minurtes their commitment to “financial responsibility” and the breaking of yet another promise. There has not been a single discernible benefit from Brexit nor will there be. Italy outside the EU would fare no better than the UK and probable even worse.As for the left as a whole their mistake has not been to be wrong about what is wrong, but to not own 98% of the media, to have no real clout on social media (despite what the right keep saying about ‘cultural Marxism” or “Woke” people running everything). I wish. Our economy is now run by financiers, unaccountable to anybody, who have gorged on the dismemberment of the state for 40 years. We are back in a rentier capitalism run and owned by people who have zero interest in anything except profit. Both Trump & Berlusconi were property developers. There is not a country in existence where property developers become rich without corruption. Or one where they have ever cared about any social consequences of their actions, such as evicting the poorest and vulnerable from their homes.
The biggest economic player in the EU Germany enforced needless austerity on the EU as though the 1930’s had never happened. (As did that scumbag Osborne in the UK). When Mario Monti was installed to lead a “technical government” the word technical was used to imply a ‘neutral’ government, one with no ‘ideology’. One of the worst ideas is that somehow ‘technical’ people are not real people, they act ‘objectively’. They are ‘scientific’. The biggest lie of all is that economics is ‘scientific’. All economic arguments are underpinned by ethical considerations or aims that have ethical impacts. Despite what the EU did I find it impossible to feel the slightest sympathy for Berlusconi. He is no loss to the world. An epitath for many of out current leaders and politicians across the globe.

Grodley H
GH
Grodley H
10 months ago
Reply to  Philip Clayton

Germany didn’t force austerity on the EU, they just insisted that member states should all comply with EU rules, such as Article 126 of TFEU. What’s the point in treaty rules if no-one sticks to them?
https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX%3A12008E126
Article 126 makes low government spending a requirement of EU membership (why do you think George Osborne is such a big fan?).
Here’s the European Commission (not Germany or George Osborne) back in 2006, demanding that Gordon Brown apply some needless austerity or else they would begin an ‘excessive deficit procedure’ against the UK…
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2006/jan/11/economy.uk
Followed by a ‘threat’ (the Guardian’s term) in 2008…
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2008/apr/29/economics.eu

Last edited 10 months ago by Grodley H
Grodley H
Grodley H
10 months ago
Reply to  Philip Clayton

Germany didn’t force austerity on the EU, they just insisted that member states should all comply with EU rules, such as Article 126 of TFEU. What’s the point in treaty rules if no-one sticks to them?
https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX%3A12008E126
Article 126 makes low government spending a requirement of EU membership (why do you think George Osborne is such a big fan?).
Here’s the European Commission (not Germany or George Osborne) back in 2006, demanding that Gordon Brown apply some needless austerity or else they would begin an ‘excessive deficit procedure’ against the UK…
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2006/jan/11/economy.uk
Followed by a ‘threat’ (the Guardian’s term) in 2008…
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2008/apr/29/economics.eu

Last edited 10 months ago by Grodley H
Philip Clayton
PC
Philip Clayton
10 months ago

I am a Remainer and I am on the left. I did not, and do not, consider what happened to Greece and Italy as in any way acceptable. Nor was I “taken in” by Berlusconi who, whatever else, paved the way for people like Johnson and Trump. I am a Remainer because the benefits of EU membership, as not just a trade body but something that offered tangible benefits to ALL it’s member populations (travel, education, employment, business etc). On top of that it has succeeded beyond imagination in ending the eternal wars and conflicts in Western states. What I detest about the EU is the way that the Parliament and Commission function at the behest of big business and finance. But, strangely, outside the EU so does Parliament. Witness Labour breaking promises every week and declaring every five minurtes their commitment to “financial responsibility” and the breaking of yet another promise. There has not been a single discernible benefit from Brexit nor will there be. Italy outside the EU would fare no better than the UK and probable even worse.As for the left as a whole their mistake has not been to be wrong about what is wrong, but to not own 98% of the media, to have no real clout on social media (despite what the right keep saying about ‘cultural Marxism” or “Woke” people running everything). I wish. Our economy is now run by financiers, unaccountable to anybody, who have gorged on the dismemberment of the state for 40 years. We are back in a rentier capitalism run and owned by people who have zero interest in anything except profit. Both Trump & Berlusconi were property developers. There is not a country in existence where property developers become rich without corruption. Or one where they have ever cared about any social consequences of their actions, such as evicting the poorest and vulnerable from their homes.
The biggest economic player in the EU Germany enforced needless austerity on the EU as though the 1930’s had never happened. (As did that scumbag Osborne in the UK). When Mario Monti was installed to lead a “technical government” the word technical was used to imply a ‘neutral’ government, one with no ‘ideology’. One of the worst ideas is that somehow ‘technical’ people are not real people, they act ‘objectively’. They are ‘scientific’. The biggest lie of all is that economics is ‘scientific’. All economic arguments are underpinned by ethical considerations or aims that have ethical impacts. Despite what the EU did I find it impossible to feel the slightest sympathy for Berlusconi. He is no loss to the world. An epitath for many of out current leaders and politicians across the globe.

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago

What a load of utter bilge! Many on the extreme Left and Right seem to have become united in the belief that elected governments can and should be able to do anything they want and everything is a matter of political will. No they can’t; they have to live in the, you know, real world.

If you borrow vast sums of money, for example, regardless of whether you call this “investment” you need to pay back the debts. Recall the UK going to the IMF in 1976?

Ok, do don’t do that, just print money, that obviously can’t have any adverse consequences.

South Africa has been following utterly disastrous redistributionist policies for years, threatening to lead to a complete collapse. All our radical critics of “neoliberalism” yadda yadda can offer is to do much the same. Europe has further to fall, that’s all.

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago

What a load of utter bilge! Many on the extreme Left and Right seem to have become united in the belief that elected governments can and should be able to do anything they want and everything is a matter of political will. No they can’t; they have to live in the, you know, real world.

If you borrow vast sums of money, for example, regardless of whether you call this “investment” you need to pay back the debts. Recall the UK going to the IMF in 1976?

Ok, do don’t do that, just print money, that obviously can’t have any adverse consequences.

South Africa has been following utterly disastrous redistributionist policies for years, threatening to lead to a complete collapse. All our radical critics of “neoliberalism” yadda yadda can offer is to do much the same. Europe has further to fall, that’s all.

Julian Moruzzi
Julian Moruzzi
10 months ago

RIP to the John the Baptist of vulgar sex-mad billionaires who go into politics.

Emre S
Emre S
10 months ago

I find the problem with the lefties is that they’re fools, not that they don’t mean well. A fool when given power tends to be deceived by more devious centres of power and therein lies the problem with left-wing movements.
Given the above, I find this is the more insightful article about Berlusconi seeing another one from Harrington also came out. Singling out Berlusconi or vices of other powerful men by the left as the main problem we have is short-sighted, and it takes effort to understand why.

Emre S
ES
Emre S
10 months ago

I find the problem with the lefties is that they’re fools, not that they don’t mean well. A fool when given power tends to be deceived by more devious centres of power and therein lies the problem with left-wing movements.
Given the above, I find this is the more insightful article about Berlusconi seeing another one from Harrington also came out. Singling out Berlusconi or vices of other powerful men by the left as the main problem we have is short-sighted, and it takes effort to understand why.

David Giles
DG
David Giles
10 months ago

But this is my problem with Thomas Fazi and his like:
He stands against technocracies subverting democratic government. He is appalled by a supposedly independent and apolitical central bank blackmailing an elected prime minister outbox office. Yet when Brexit is put before him, he reaches for the hanky and is utterly disgusted.

David Giles
DG
David Giles
10 months ago

But this is my problem with Thomas Fazi and his like:
He stands against technocracies subverting democratic government. He is appalled by a supposedly independent and apolitical central bank blackmailing an elected prime minister outbox office. Yet when Brexit is put before him, he reaches for the hanky and is utterly disgusted.