CULTURAL REVOLUTIONSrnT H E ITALIAN ELECTION has dealtrnthe international left a severe setback. Althoughrnthe gap between the vote percentagesrnof the center-right coalitionrn{Casa della Liberia) and the center-leftrn{Ulivo) was fairly small —especially if thernhard-core communists (the RifondazionernCommunista, who campaigned as thern”left wing of the center-left”) are factoredrnin —because of proportional representation,rnSilvio Berlusconi’s “Liberty House”rnwill hold 177 seats in the Senate (as opposedrnto 128 for the “Olive”) and 368rnseats in the Camera dei Deputati (as opposedrnto the center-left’s 242).rnThe election is highly significant forrnseveral reasons: first, because the internationalrnleft made a concerted effort to demonizernBerlusconi in the closing days ofrnthe campaign; second, because Italianrnleftists did everything they could to Clintonizernthe campaign and, even after thernelection, to put a kind of Florida spin onrntheir defeat; third, and most importantly,rnbecause Berlusconi did not run on a softcorernReagan-Thatcherite platform butrntook strong ideological stands on severalrnexplosive issues that would make EnglishrnTories and American Republicans sick torntheir stomachs. Imagine Pat Buchananrnrunning in a coalition with supporters ofrnthe League of the South, the LibertarianrnParty, and the Wanderer.rnThe attacks on Berlusconi were almostrnastonishing. From all over Europe, leftistrnpoliticians teamed up with Eurotrashrnjournalists to paint a portrait of a completernmonster—part Rupert Murdoch (arncynical media mogul buying an election),rnpart Jorg Haider (a far-right racistrnbigot). In the closing days of the campaign,rnItaly’s “ugly beautiful people”rn(as Leopold Tyrmand used to call America’srnlefl:’ glams) were out in force. RobertornBenigni—whose comic tributernto the holocaust. La Vita e Bella, wasrncondemned for insensitivity and antisemitismrn—did his best to recover respectabilityrnbv attacking Berlusconi. Going onrntax-supported government television, thernuntalented comic clowned, mugged, andrnhissed his contempt for this threat to Italianrncivilization.rnThe lies begin with the description ofrnthe hs’o coalitions. Berlusconi’s Casa dellarnLiberia is genuinely “center-right,”rncomprising moderate ex-Christian Democrats,rnproponents of privatization, decentralistsrnfrom the Lega Nord, and thernmostly Catholic nationalists of CianfrancornFini’s Alleanza Nazionale (formerlyrnthe Movimento Sociale Italiano, formerlyrnthe Partito Fascista); the Ulivo, by contrast,rnconsists of hard-core communistsrnwho changed their name, flanked by revisionistrnMarxists and ultra-hard-corernStalinists of the Rifondazione Communistarnparty. In today’s world, a Trotsky-rnStalin coalition is moderate and respectable,rnwhile a Bush-Buchanan tandemrnwould be extremist.rnIn Italy on the day of the election, Irnknew that something was up when thernTV stations announced that they wouldrndelay their coverage for an hour becausernof various complications, and would notrneven talk about the exit polling. AlthoughrnBerlusconi had held a commandingrnlead in early April, the media attackrnhad resulted in a dead heat with Rutelli,rna good-looking nobody on whom therncommunists were staking everything.rnSergio Romano had been saying that thernresults would be so close as to make formingrna government diflFieult, but the looksrnon the faces of the experts on Rai Unorntold a different story. As they began tornrecord the early returns, the pundits betiayedrnan air of desperation.rnThe spin began. The real significancernwas the poor turnout for the Lega, whichrncould spell trouble for the coalition; thernlong lines and complaints of voters inrnRome and Milan, which hinted at fundamentalrninequities in the system (neverrnmind that the communists control thernsystem); the impact of the Rifondazionerncommunists’ decision to run a separaterncampaign (the communist Bertinotti wasrnassigned the Ralph Nader part in the drama),rnwhich split the vote and handedrnBerlusconi his victory.rnMost of these distractions were obviousrnred herrings. Of course, the Lega’srnfailure should have been predicted. Thernlast time around, Berlusconi’s coalitionrndefeated the left with the stiong supportrnof the Lega Nord (about ten percent ofrnthe vote). After Umberto Bossi was givenrnmore than he could really have dreamedrnof having, the North Italian leader boltedrnthe coalition and turned his country overrnto the tender mercies of the left. “Padanian”rnvoters cannot be blamed for backingrnBerlusconi’s Forza Italia party this timernaround: A few more years of communismrncould finish Italy off.rnThe real significance, of course, is thatrnthe left lost the election, and the rightrnwon—not the warmed-over Thatcheritesrnand soft-core Reagan followers, but arnrightist coalition that announced its intentionsrnof controlling immigration, undoingrnthe leftist “reform” programs thatrnare destroying Italian education, decentralizingrnthe political system, and rehabilitatingrnthe economy.rnBerlusconi’s speeches in the closingrndays of the campaign were music to earsrnthat had been deafened by the capitalistsocialistrnplatitudes of American campaigns.rnIn one televised speech, he defendedrnthe free market, while declaringrnthat he was not a disciple of Anglo-Saxonrnliberalism. Individuals mattered, he said,rnbut only in the context of the family, therncommunity, the nation. It is, of course,rnessential to defend individual economicrnfreedom from the predations of governmentrnbureaucracy, but it is just as importantrnto defend the family and to protectrnthe autonomy of local and regional communities-rnjust as the nation has to bernprotected from globalization.rnHow seriously are we to take thesernphilosophical professions? Berlusconirnwas, after all, a friend and backer of therncrooked socialist Bettino Craxi; he madernmuch of his vast forixuie through suspectrndealings with the political system; andrnthe soft pornography purveyed by hisrntelevision empire gives little evidence ofrnthe Christian social thought espoused inrnhis speeches. Still, it is significant to haverna prime minister of a major country publiclyrnendorse the best elements of bothrnfree-enterprise liberalism and Catholicrnsubsidiarity.rnNow it is up to Berlusconi. If he reallyrnis a mere Thatcherite, he will behave likernan American Republican by giving goodrnspeeches while selling his country out tornthe international forces that wish to devourrnit. If he is the Italian patriot hernclaims to be —if he makes even a littiernprogress toward carrying out his programrn—the Italians will be the luckiestrnnation in the Western world.rn—Thomas FlemingrnBELGRADE, YUGOSLAVIA, was myrndestination on April 12. I was accompaniedrnby two other members of Congress—rn6/CHRONICLESrnrnrn