Berlusconi’s followers

I wish I saw this great recap of the Prodi-Berlusoni debate earlier by European Tribune diarist ‘de Gondi’. But I found something better. This comment he made to the post deserves a larger audience.

I rarely meet someone who openly admits he/she sympathizes for Forza Italia. (For AN, yes.) Conversation doesn’t go too far because it bangs into “devotion” with a big starry-eyed “D.” The figure of Berlusconi is fundamental to the party. I don’t see it surviving him. It’s more a personal political entity with religious overtones. Either you believe or you don’t. Basically his electorate is reactionary, similar to followers of poujadisme or qualunquismo. The party appeals to primitive fears while idealizing the leader. Marketing is a strategic component of the party. Candidates and themes are created according to the logic of launching a product.

Many of the party’s functionaries or key figures come from the radical communist left. My impression is that he appeals to the “orphans of Stalin” type of personality.

Another component of his movement reflects party struggles in the eighties. At the time, Italy’s chronic state of being a limited democracy in the context of the Cold War gave enormous power to political parties and currents within the parties without any effective popular base. Italy was a partitocrazia in which citizens were at best clients when not subjects. This brought about diffused irresponsibility and massive corruption. (And Berlusconi was a major player at the time.) The power system became feudal in which the distinction between left and right, between Socialist and Democrat-Christian was purely nominal. With the collapse of the partitocrazia after the Cold War, three new forces coalesced: the modern left with the ex-communists as the major force, the minor democratic fascist party, MSI, which became AN, and the Lega Nord which represented a racist impulse for major territorial autonomy. There was a void where the old power structure had been. Forza Italia filled this void aggregating the minor conservative parties with the so-called Socialists into a winning coalition in 1994, only to fall apart within little more than a year.

At face value it seems strange that a political entity can house contrasting forces that range from the extreme rightwing to the mock-left Craxi orphans. If you look at it as a representation of Italian political collusion in the eighties manifested in the King’s body (le corps du Roi) it makes more sense. Rather than reverentially attend the good Lord on his chaisse percée, a good kick in the ass is called for.