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EUROPE / Silvio Berlusconi's Italy is on the wrong side of history
Date of publication at Tlaxcala: 16/02/2011
Translations available: Italiano  Français 

There is a better Italy than the one being run into the ground – the left must provide an alternative to 'berlusconismo'
Silvio Berlusconi's Italy is on the wrong side of history

Nichi Vendola


On Sunday, Italians took to the streets to defend the dignity of women from the vulgar mix of sexism and machismo exemplified by the words and actions of not only their prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, but also by the pervasive philosophy that has become contagious under "berlusconismo". I was proud to count myself among the women and men who demonstrated the understanding that fighting against the archetype of male omnipotence embodied by Berlusconi is a political act.

There is a better Italy than the one foreign observers have conjured, marvelling at Berlusconi's popularity and resilience despite his multiple sex scandals. It is the Italy that was never seduced by him in the first place.

Milano, 13 February 2011 : "Women's dignity is a nation's dignity"

Today the prime minister stands accused of engaging in prostitution with minors, and abusing his power to cover up the crime. As the spectacle of his private depravity unfolds in the media, he is unrepentant and insults the magistrates who are investigating him and his entourage. His political allies steadfastly support him. The investigators, they say, are violating his privacy.
This is not just about sex. It is yet another indication of what Berlusconi and a good part of the Italian political class on the right think about women and the law. In the world view promoted by berlusconismo, both have been objectified as the private property of those who have money and power.
Berlusconismo is a plague on Italian society. Instead of solidarity, it proposes a false individualism. Instead of hard work and professionalism, it tells young people that they can get rich quickly by using cunning, fraud and their own body. The true scandal is that an entire generation, striving to imagine its future, has only moral debasement modelled by their leadership.
Berlusconi and his allies call themselves liberal, but this word needs translation for readers. In the language of berlusconismo, it means that political elites appropriate the Italian public wealth for private use. What they cannot use, they leave to rot. Naples, one of our most beautiful cities, with 3,000 years of history, is on the ropes. And the reconstruction of Haiti is probably proceeding at a faster pace than the one of L'Aquila, a medieval town badly hit by an earthquake two years ago.
Do we even wonder why Berlusconi and his economic ministers were taken unawares by suggestions that Fiat might move its headquarters to the US? They do not have a policy for Italy's stagnating industry, because they have not made protecting jobs of hardworking Italians a priority at all.
Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat CEO, has forced his workers to make important concessions, by threatening to invest elsewhere. I sided with the metalworkers' union, which rejected his proposals, not because I opposed negotiations, but because I saw that his goal was tactical, with no long-term plan for development in Italy. Today Marchionne is proving our assumptions right and the country may lose its largest private sector employer after all.
This government is not only bad for Italy, it is bad for the world. We are a key country in the Mediterranean and have never before been called so urgently to play a role in this region. As the demand for democracy and justice coming from Tunisia, Egypt and Albania has become unstoppable, Italy finds itself on the wrong side of history.
Berlusconi's alliance is not with those citizens standing for democracy, but to the only regional strongman who so far has remained unshaken by the revolt: Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. With Berlusconi, the European Union cannot count on Italy to lead an innovative foreign policy addressing the new reality in the Mediterranean. Our country is full of creative energy, but its institutions project a great poverty of ideas at a very historic moment. It is time to change paths.
How did we get here? The responsibility falls also upon the left. We were asleep at the wheel while Berlusconi and his television stations transformed Italy. Today, important principles of our very progressive constitution are under attack, from due process and freedom of expression to the private sector's social responsibility.
This is the reason why a rejuvenated left cannot be a mere mix of radicals and reformists, ready to compromise on issues with the right for fear of alarming the centre. Thinking that this kind of realpolitik will win us the election is delusional.
The Italian left needs to provide an alternative narrative to berlusconismo. This means both a credible political programme, addressing the questions of morality, jobs, immigration and a sustainable economy, but also leadership. Let's discuss what we want for Italy. Let's choose who will best interpret the wishes of the Italian people, which are much more elevated than what their current vulgar government representatives are offering. I am ready for this challenge.

Courtesy of Comment is free
Publication date of original article: 14/02/2011
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Tags: ItalyBerlusconiRubygateLeftEuropeEuropean Union

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