contrary, the DC has smoothed the wayrntoward national secularization and madernit possible for subversive radicalism tornadvance at a steady pace, despite thernfact that Italy is still a Christian andrn”conservative” nation. At the very least,rnthe DC allowed this process to grow. Itrnlet the radicals and the communists gainrnpart of the cultural and political powerrnin the country, even if they never actuallyrnruled the country (they came veryrnclose, when a coalition government betweenrnDC and the Communist Partyrnwas to be established by Giulio Andreottirnand Enrico Berlinguer, in thernsecond half of the 1970’s). The DC alsorninvited the Italian Socialist Partyrn(PSI)—a sort of liberal and technocraticrngroup under Bettino Craxi—to sharernpower in the 1980’s and allowed liberalsrnand radicals to take over journals, newspapers,rnmagazines, publishing houses,rnTV channels, and the academy.rnWhen the Berlin Wall collapsed,rnmany of the falling bricks hit the headsrnof Italy’s rulers. The DC, no longerrnneeded to oppose the Italian CommunistrnParty (PCI)—which was fueled byrnMoscow—has been sent packing, onlyrnto be pursued by revelations of briberyrnand corruption through the so-calledrntangentopoli investigation. Two years ofrncovert investigations resulted in indictmentsrnand convictions that shook thernruling parties: this is why, all of a sudden,rnthe DC and PSI disappeared fromrnthe public scene. But not the communists,rnwho have been clever enough tornrevive their public image by riding therntiger of mani pulite, “clean hands”—rnthe new ideology of “public honesty.”rn(Mani pulite is also the name of the judicialrninvestigation that uncovered thern”great robbery and bribery swindle,” butrnthe phrase has come to mean muchrnmore.) The former PCI became thernParty of the Democratic Left (PDS) andrnsailed through the storm of tangentopoli.rnEveryone seems to have forgotten that,rnthanks to consociativism (collaborationrnbetween the ruling party and thernopposition), communists had actuallyrnjoined—albeit indirectly—the Italianrnruling class. So, untouched, renewed,rnand empowered by the November/Decemberrn1993 elections, PDS came tornlead an electoral coalition called thern”Progressives,” a huge alliance rangingrnfrom red hard-liners to ecologists, whornwere able to win the mayoral elections inrnmost towns.rnRome itself witnessed a direct confrontationrnbetween Francesco Rutelli (arn”green”) and Gianfranco Fini, leader ofrnMovimento Sociale Italiano (MSI),rnthanks to the new majoritarian electoralrnlaw. On the eve of the vote in Rome,rnSilvio Berlusconi entered the arena byrnpublicly saying that if he had been inrnRome, he would have voted for Fini.rnThe declaration was greeted by a greatrnroar in the press. Until that momentrnBerlusconi was a powerful private manager,rnowning firms, newspapers, andrnthree TV channels. Fini was the leaderrnof what is often dismissed as a neofascistrnparty, and for this he has been banishedrnfrom the “respectables.”rnThe history of the MSI is too long tornbe told here, but one point is crucial.rnSince the liberal press has constantlyrnwarned against the potentially totalitarianrnelement in Italian politics, manyrngood-willed foreigners, out of ignorance,rnhave been alarmed by MSI’s growingrnpopularity. As a party the MSI was toorncomplex for easy definition; even ifrnneofascist nostalgia was one of thernelements, the party, since the 1970’s,rnhas tried to build a broad “nationalrnright-wing” alliance (the completernname of the party in fact is MSI-DN,rnMovimento Sociale Italiano-DestrarnNazionale) of diverse elements—traditionalists,rnconservatives of variousrnstripes, monarchists and so on, not all ofrnthem at home with fascism. Moreover,rnthe “Final and Transitorial Dispositions”rnof the Italian Constitution made itrnil- legal to reorganize the fascist partyrnunder any form. The mere fact of MSI’srnlegal existence indicated a public, albeitrntacit, recognition that it was not anrnactual neofascist party.rnFini lost the 1993 election, and Romernstill has its “green” mayor (Giulio Andreotti,rnwho, famous for his sarcastic humor,rnused to say that environmentalistsrnare just like tomatoes: as they ripen theyrnturn from green to red). But somethingrnhappened. What seemed to be a surernleftist (i.e., neocommunist) victory inrnthe subsequent spring elections wasrnthwarted by an outsider, Berlusconi.rnIn less than three months he was ablernto put together a party (Forza Italia)rnwhose principal base of support comesrnfrom local civic groups opposed to thernleft. Working hard, Beriusconi succeededrnin forging a strange coalition with hisrntwo major quarreling allies. The Brst isrnthe Lega Nord (a kind of libertarian, federalistrnmovement based mainly inrnNorthern Italy, which Chronicles readersrnhave heard about from its editor), whilernthe second is the MSI. Better to say thernformer MSI, since the party has beenrntransformed into a broader right-wingrncoalition, the Alleanza Nazionale (AN).rnCutting all ties with any remnants of fascism,rnthe clever Fini is putting togetherrna sort of rightist (in the United States itrnwould be called “conservative”) partyrnopposed to so-called Progressivism andrndedicated to rebuilding the nation bothrnmorally and politically.rnIn March 1994, Beriusconi’s coalitionrnwon the elections, defying all predictionsrnand canceling the hopes of manyrnbig-business liberals, who were ready tornjump on the neocommunists’ bandwagon.rnSince then, the reconstructed DCrn(whose present name is Partito PopolarernItaliano, or PPI) and the Progressivesrnhave had their ups and downs, especiallyrnthe neocommunists—they held on tornmuch of the power they already enjoyed,rnso that they could challenge Prime MinisterrnBerlusconi and stall his programs.rnThe coalition in Parliament—as AngelornCodevilla has described it, a sort ofrn”Reagan Coalition, Italian Style,” includingrnlibertarian, traditionalist, nationalist.rnChristian, neoconservative,rnand anticommunist branches, plus arnsmall but influential number of liberallibertinesrn—with its nonprogressive basernof voters fed up with years of leftist misrule,rnnow calls for economic reform. Asrnduring the Reagan years in the UnitedrnStates, this is the result of a “quasihidden”rnsilent majority. The similarityrndoes not end here, since in Italy, as inrnAmerica, the dispossessed opposition inrnParliament (Congress) has stirred up arnferocious attack on the Prime Ministerrnwith the support of the liberal press.rnTwo observations on this comparison.rnThe first is that the parallel itself endsrnhere. In many respects, Italy has experiencedrnthe opposite trend to the one inrnthe United States. America has seen therngrowth of a conservative popular consensusrnand the emergence of a more seriousrnalliance of right-wing scholars andrnintellectuals. What made the Reaganrnand Buchanan coalitions possible was arnpublic grounded in American tradition.rnItaly, at least since World War II, seemsrnto have forgotten its roots, and its identityrnas a conservative Catholic country.rnThe history of the cultural conflictrnwith the Catholic Church is anotherrntopic that would lead us far afield,rnbut the results are still visible today. Hernwho misunderstands history mistakesrnAPRIL 1995/41rnrnrn