ROME—Italy has always been different. The Italian peninsula, hidden away behind the Alps from the rest of Europe and separated by the surrounding seas from Africa and the Middle East, stands in the middle of the Mediterranean alone, wary and mistrustful, conspiratorial at home and abroad alternately belligerent or isolationist; yet, since the collapse of the Roman Empire, it is forever in need of a powerful protector against invaders from all directions.
As a result of its geographical vulnerability to the foreign invader and the ever lurking usurper, the art of secrecy and conspiracy developed in that special Italian way, taking the name of Machiavellianism as a form of statecraft.
This past October 15 remains for some as a most eklatant mystery of contemporary times: Why were 1,300 violent and desperate black bloc anarchists—hooded, masked, darkly dressed—able to win such an easy victory on the streets and piazzas of Rome against police and security forces, abducting and disrupting the non-violent march of the Occupy Movement?
Though it is a truism that Italy is different, after a look at the reasons for the attack and the victory of the insurrection, the perceptive reader might shrug and think, yes, but many factors are the same in my country. Let’s list and take a look at the background and reasons for the insurrection in Italy on October 15 and compare them to, let’s say, to socio-political events in the good old USA.
1. A certain politics: In imitation of the the Stati Uniti d’America—the USA—Italy has been long mal-governed by an illegal Right backed by many powers no less masked and invisible than were the black bloc last Saturday. The proclaimed goal of those concealed powers has been to convert Italy’s traditional multi-party system to a bipolar, two-party system in which Right and Left become Center-Right and Center-Left and thus successfully eliminate from the political framework the Far Left. The bad government has continued while the major political division between Right and Left, instead of deepening, has narrowed. One sees the corollary with the U.S. political system in which the two parties overlap.
2. The role of police and military: Both Right and Left governments have supported Italy’s NATO role and America’s wars. Italy’s forces areactive in the Balkans, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The Italy of an anti-ar people is always a ready and willing volunteer for further American military adventures.
3. The power of organized crime: Neither Right or Left has eliminated the Mafia, the Camorra or the N’drangheta, all of which make their money in south Italy and use it in north Italy. The suspected but never proved origin of Silvio Berlusconi’s wealth is allegedly Mafia investments. The word mafia smacks of hoods and masks and concealment, implying a parallel society.
4. Invisible power centers: Since the 1970s and 80s, one has spoken of a parallel state which decides what is what in Italy. Terrorist organizations like the Red Brigades were “masked and hooded,” as were/are the still invisible forces originating among the 967 “masked and hooded” criminal members—including Silvio Berlusconi—of the infamous P2 Masonic Lodge and its Rebirth Plan for Italy to erect a police state on the Italian peninsula.
5. A weak and invisible political Opposition: A major result of the bipolar, two-party state was to shift the official political opposition toward the center and the elimination of the Far Left. As happens in the USA on every major issue, the absence of the parliamentary opposition is too often a thundering silence. It had little to say in defence of the non-violent manifestation of October 15 in which it even participated, though it remained almost invisible.
6. Nostalgia for the 1970s and 80s: The success of the well-organized and well-coordinated violence which derailed the non-violent Occupy Movement stirs romantic memories of the Red Brigades and its attack on the heart of the State during those years of fire and fury last century when contagious Brigadist fever spread up and down the peninsula and one claimed that up to three million Italians supported the intents of the Red Brigades. University students and youth of today, like those of the Social Centers from which the black bloc emerged, look back on those times fondly, its memories forming a link between the two generations.
7. Ideological crisis: The demise of the Italian Communist Party (PCI-pronounced peechee) and the shift to the center of the parliamentary Left made orphans of the Far Left, destitute, discredited and evicted from Parliament and official political life. The PCI with once one-third of the electorate was a symbol, a password, a way of life, a powerful alternative to the system, with another vision of the State. The PCI too was a symbol of a future that never arrived, it too defeated in the wake of the fall of the wall in Berlin, the collapse of the USSR and the rise to power of the masked and hooded forces.
8. Unemployment and underemployment: Real unemployment of 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 percent, depending on location, age and circumstances. Among youth in the south, university graduates or not, half of people under the age of 35 have no work security. Among the underemployed has emerged the so-called 1000 euros per month generation, a Precariat, deprived of a future, who constitute a major slice of society completely unable to undertake any kind of independent home-building.
9. Americanization: Contradictorily, in no other European country has the call of America been more powerful than on the Italic peninsula. One recalls the times when one-third of whole Region of Calabria emigrated to America in the late 1800s. One recalls the post-World War II period when many Sicilians seriously wanted the island State of Sicily to become part of the USA. The model America was once–no more—a powerful magnet in the mindset of the typical Italian. Therefore, the mimesis of America. The chimera of a paradise on Earth. Though the American dream is dead, Italians unfortunately have borrowed the wrong qualities from its Big Brother America, values measured by salary, money and economic success and the idea of competition as a supreme value, that however in a society—Italy—in which the concept of individual responsibility is absent. Invisible powers and invisible persuaders successfully created a consumer dream in a society in which no one could live the dream based on personal capacities. Instead economic success in Italy, sponsored by the alliance of the above invisible powers, can be achieved only by way of family or the corporations which furnish normal creature comforts of home and employment, a world in which freedom is a privilege while the excluded must choose between corruption, nihilism, crime, violence or flight abroad.
That violence is bound to be either criminal or, as on October 15, insurrectionary/ revolutionary. Yet, it remains also true that it is difficult to distinguish between protest against social injustice from indiscriminate violence. I think that both currents were present also among many of the black bloc in Rome.
Gaither Stewart, Senior Contributing Editor for Cyrano’s Journal/tantmieux, is a novelist and journalist based in Italy. A longtime student of Russian culture he maintains particular interest in developments affecting Russia after the overthrow of Communism. His essays and dispatches are read widely on many leading Internet venues. His collections of fiction, Icy Current Compulsive Course, To Be A Stranger and Once In Berlin are published by Wind River Press. His recent novel, Asheville, is published by Wastelandrunes,