The Right Conquers Rome
Posted on: 2008-05-01 10:05:26
Berlusconi is Back
by John Laughland
Different languages have different words for a major defeat or rout. They are often borrowed from the most inglorious episodes in respective national histories. Thus the French word for a terrible defeat is “bérézina”, a reference to the disastrous Battle of Berezina in present-day Belarus in 1812 when Napoleon’s already retreating troops were decimated by Marshal Kutuzov. The Germans often use the term “Stunde Null” (“Zero Hour”) for the same purpose: this was the term used to denote Germany’s state of total devastation after the unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945. The British, rather eccentrically, use the word “Waterloo” to mean “defeat”, even though they were the victors in that Belgian village in 1815.
In Italian, the expression is “Caporetto”,in memory of the Battle of Caporetto fought at what is now Kobarid in Slovenia in 1917, the subject of Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms. The expression has been much used in the newspapers in recent days to denote what happened to the Italian Left at the recent parliamentary and local elections. The Left, and especially the extreme Left, has indeed suffered a historic defeat, losing control of the government, both houses of parliament, and the City of Rome, which it has held for most of the last quarter century.
Apart from the return to power for a third term in office of the vigorously anti-Left Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, the Right’s victories in Italy include spectacular successes for the (admittedly reformed) extreme right. Gianfranco Fini, who was Deputy Prime Minister in the last Berlusconi administration, and who rose to power by taking over the old fascist party and “democratising” it to create the Alleanza Nazionale, is now President of the Parliament. The Mayor of Rome is Gianni Alemanno, also formerly of the Movimento Sociale Italiano, Mussolini’s party; Alemanno is the son-in-law of Pino Rauti, a veteran politician from the extreme right.
This is in addition to the very high score achieved by the Northern League (9% of the national vote): in many ways the Northern League is more right-wing than Fini’s Alleanza Nazionale, campaigning much more vigorously against immigration and the European Union than Fini does. The Northern League leader, Umberto Bossi, indeed once called the EU a “Stalinist” organisation, the only minister in any European government ever to use such vigorously anti-EU rhetoric since the EEC was created in 1957.