Viva Berlusconi!

An international hate campaign against Italian rightist leader Silvio Berlusconi is now going into high gear. The goal: saving the Euro-communist (“center-left”) government now in power, and derailing Berlusconi’s hopes of becoming Prime Minister in the upcoming [May 13] parliamentary elections. It’s the same sort of drumbeat that greeted the rise of Joerg Haider, the leader of the Austrian Freedom Party, initiated for the same reason: Berlusconi, like the Austrians, threatens the socialist unity of the emerging European Union. Jacques Delors, EU commissar-in-chief, has called for sanctions against Italy if Berlusconi is elected, on the grounds that his rather modest tax cut proposals would prove an obstacle to plans for the smooth homogenization of Europe. Germany’s Socialist Chancellor Schroeder of Germany flat-out declared that the victory of the Italian Right would present Europe with the same problem as it had had in Austria. But the man Italians call Il Cavaliere (the Knight) is meeting them head-on – and winning. THE LEFT’S AMERICAN ADVISOR

While the Euro-commie Left is all in a lather, screeching that Berlusconi leads an alliance of “racists,” separatists, and neo-fascists, the establishment media has joined in: The Economist has denounced him as “unfit to govern Italy,” the New York Times has echoed the leftist charges, and the Wall Street Journal has questioned his personal integrity while hinting at the profound incorrectness of his politics. The ugliness of the campaign, as it enters the home stretch with Berlusconi still ahead, is taking on Clintonian proportions – and that’s no accident. His chief political advisor is Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, who has run similar campaigns for the likes of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Tony Blair, and Nelson Mandela, and is well-practiced in the art of the Clintonian smear.

BACKLASH

But Greenberg had better reexamine his tactics, because one curious aspect of this international hate campaign is that it seems almost designed to backfire, and provoke a backlash among Italian voters. What could enrage the average Italian voter more than the opening salvo of The Economist‘s editorial barrage:

“In any self-respecting democracy it would be unthinkable that the man assumed to be on the verge of being elected prime minister would recently have come under investigation for, among other things, money-laundering, complicity in murder, connections with the Mafia, tax evasion and the bribing of politicians, judges and the tax police. But the country is Italy and the man is Silvio Berlusconi, almost certainly its richest citizen.”

The sneering curl of the British lip that uttered these words, the contemptuous upper-crusty tone, can well be imagined: oh, those Italians! Why, everybody knows they’re just a bunch of ignorant cafones [peasants], dishonest, licentious, and criminally anarchic. How dare they imagine that they will ever be on a par with us?!

BERLUSCONI ACQUITTED

What the editors of The Economist fail to mention, however, is that Berlusconi has been largely acquitted of the charges, which were spurious to begin with. What everybody in Italy knows is that the persecution of Berlusconi by left-wing (i.e. Communist) officials has been relentless – and entirely unsuccessful. IL Cavaliere has beaten them all – and that is one good reason why they hate him.

ANTI-CAPITALIST ARISTOCRATS

The chief accusation against him seems to be that an entrepreneur – the upstart Berlusconi empire is now calculated to be one of the largest in Europe – cannot be a politician because of an inevitable “conflict of interest.” The anti-capitalist prejudice of this position is part of European elite culture, which aristocratically disdains all commerce as irredeemably corrupt and all businessmen as crooks. Naturally, by these lights, a lifelong politician, who has never had to meet a payroll and has lived off the plunder of taxes all his life, has no comparable “conflict of interest,” no inherent interest in constantly expanding the already-bloated body of the state.

ROLL OUT THE BIG GUNS

Berlusconi has vowed to ax 60,000 laws and regulations currently choking off the productive energy of Italian society, but it isn’t only his populist and anti-statist rhetoric that makes the establishment nervous: while Berlusconi pays lip service to “the European idea,” some of his coalition partners are openly contemptuous of the EU. The Northern League of Umberto Bossi has long jeered at the vision of a borderless Europa, and the Allianza Nationale, the “post-fascist” successor to the old MSI [Italian Social Movement], similarly sees Brussels as a threat to Italian sovereignty. The “hate Berlusconi” campaign has made much of the deal struck between Sicily’s Fiamma Tricolore party, and Berlusconi’s “House of Freedom” ticket to not field candidates against each other. What they invariably fail to point out is that the Communists signed on to an identical pact with these purported “extreme rightists” in the 1996 elections, in which Berlusconi’s government was toppled by the Communist-led “Olive Tree” Popular Front. Not only that, but the left circulated petitions to get extreme rightist candidates on the ballot (the idea being to split the right-wing vote on the first ballot): naturally, this is almost never mentioned in press accounts reporting the controversy. The Left is engaged in a massive smear campaign, and, with the cooperation of the mainstream media, is rolling out the big guns, denouncing alleged “racism” and “xenophobia” in the Berlusconi camp as the election campaign goes into its final days.

BADGES OF HONOR

In the eyes of the Left, the great sin of the Italian nationalists, and especially of Bossi’s Lega Nord, is not any authentically fascist vision, but the political impact of their anti-immigration initiatives on the local level. The right-wing parties recently sponsored a series of popular referendums on the immigration issue, in response to the rapid influx of the Albanian Mafia, and subsequent skyrocketing crime rates, and this stance contradicts the Euro-commie project of constructing a “multi-cultural” society. Bossi is constantly inveighing against the retrograde influence of Islam on Italian culture and traditions. Not only that, but these parties openly defended Joerg Haider, demonized by the Left for similar “sins” of political incorrectness, and actively opposed the Kosovo war – “united” Europe’s first military campaign. For this latter sin they are deemed “anti-American” as well as “anti-European” – two designations that are badges of honor, given the methods and motives of their accusers.

COUNTERATTACK!

This smear campaign, in which the Wall Street Journal joins hands with the former Communist Party of Italy, is vulnerable to an effective counterattack by Berlusconi, who points to the Stalinist heritage of his opponents at every opportunity. While small parties such as the Fiamma Tricolore are on the margins of the “House of Freedom” coalition, the “former” Communists of the “Party of the Democratic Left,” are the activist core of the leftist coalition. While left-wing candidate Francesco Rutelli, the mayor of Rome, is a former Radical Party national secretary, he is just a front for the “ex-“Commies who will have the largest parliamentary bloc and will get the lion’s share of the ministries if the Left wins. Another key element of the left-wing Popular Front is the “Refounded” Communist Party, which disdains the namby-pamby olive tree symbol of their newly social-democratized brethren and is sticking with the good old hammer-and-sickle. But the Euro-socialist elite is more than willing to forgive and forget the “excesses” of Leninism, whose practitioners can always be “reformed.” However, a far sterner standard is applied to the Right.

A NATIONAL AWAKENING

The same Eurocrats who gave us the Kosovo war, and are now trying to establish Brussels as the capital of a new international socialist project, have set their sights on Italy, where a national self-awakening seems to be taking place. The backlash against their brazen attempt to seize and centralize power in a United Socialist States of Europe is rising throughout the continent, not only in Italy but also in Serbia (with the rise of President Vojislav Kostunica), in Switzerland and Denmark (with the defeat of the EU in popular referenda), and in England (with the rise of Eurosceptism as an organized tendency within the Conservative Party). The chief aim of the Eurocrats is to delegitimize – and even criminalize – all opposition to their continental hegemony. The anti-Haider campaign, and now the anti-Berlusconi offensive, confirms the importance of an ominous trend. For the chief development on the Left in the post-cold war world has been the de facto re-merging of the Second and Third Internationals. Like their Leninist predecessors, the Euro-socialists are not opposed, in principle, to banning and jailing their opponents. Social Democratic Germany already bans a wide variety of rightist groups under the guise of fighting “neo-Nazis,” the French convicted Jean-Marie Le Pen of a “hate crime” for slapping a woman who spit in his face, and England is fast moving in the same direction of banning all “hate thoughts.” The ultimate goal of the Eurocrats is a totalitarian “democracy” that spans the continent, headquartered in Brussels: but now Italy stands in their way.

“DEMOCRACY” – ITALIAN STYLE

When the soft-on-Leninism but hard-on-“neo-fascism” double-standard is raised by Berlusconi’s defenders, the Left comes back with the argument that, unlike Fiamma Tricolore, the “refounded” Italian Communist Party is “committed to the democratic process.” But what, exactly, does the democratic process consist of in Italy? In a word: fraud. Berlusconi has made Italian election fraud a big issue, and thus challenged the very legitimacy of the Italian state. “In 1996,” he declares, “1,170,000 ballots were destroyed. In Italy, the left has a long tradition of electoral fraud. Today, all [polling] institutes agree that in reality we won, with a lead of between 10-15%.” Italy is not a democratic country,” he says, pointing to his own legal persecution at the hands of Communist prosecutors, and most Italians knowingly nod their heads. “None of the governments which have succeeded that of Romano Prodi have been legitimized by the people.” The clear implication is that the “reformed” Commies will try their best to steal it from him again – and of course any protest will be yet more proof that the Italian Right is not committed to the “democratic process.”

HITTING THE TARGET

Although Italian law forbids polling in the period just before an election, the last results showed IL Cavaliere headed for victory. But that will be just the first round of this Italian Knight’s battle. The Eurocrats are already poised for a vicious counterattack, up to and including political and perhaps even economic sanctions. While the Belgian foreign minister has been particularly outspoken in this regard, others have held back, waiting for the election results, and, of course, the right signals from the powers-that-be. The commercial and political interests that have invested heavily in the creation of a European super-state have clearly targeted Berlusconi for destruction. If they succeed, it will in large part be due to the passive cooperation of Washington.

ITALIAN REVIVAL

When the Eurocrats targeted Austria, and imposed sanctions in response to the entry of the Freedom Party into the Austrian government, the United States not only went along with it, but Mad Madeleine Albright egged them on, denouncing Haider as “unacceptable” and taking diplomatic measures against Vienna. If the threat to impose sanctions on Italy is carried out, would Washington go along with it? It’s an open question, and that, in itself, is cause for alarm. For what Berlusconi represents is nothing less than the revival not only of the Italian economy, and the loosening of the state’s regulatory grip on the throat of local industry, but a revival of the Italian spirit, which is historically so tied up with the entrepreneurial spirit. Berlusconi is denounced for his wealth, his success, his defiance of the state’s best efforts to take him down – all primary reasons for his soaring popularity among ordinary Italians, and – one can only hope – the key to his coming victory.

BUILDING THE ‘HOUSE OF FREEDOM’

In Italy, the “House of Freedom” is expanding to include the middle classes, the youth, the north, the south, a nation divided by regionalisms but united in defense of its diversity, its sovereignty, and its common history. No smear campaign has the power to bring it down: indeed, in the long run, the smear methods of the globalists and the Left harden its defenses and make it all the more impregnable.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is editor-at-large at Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].