CORRESPONDENCErnLetter From Italyrnby Thomas FlemingrnThe Italian RevolutionrnThe more I learn of Italy, the less I know.rnSeveral years ago I thought I understoodrnthe essentials of the Italian politicalrnseene, that I was a Tocqueville in reverse.rnBut ignoranee was Tocqueville’s greatrnadvantage, too, and it is always easier tornmake out the forest when you are willingrnto ignore the trees.rnIf the March elections seem confusingrnfrom the distance of 5,000 miles, theyrnare even more confusing viewed fromrnclose up, even when the viewers are Italians.rnFor one thing, most of the majorrnplayers and even the parties are newcomers.rnTell me where and in whatrncountry is the photogenic ClaudiornMartelli, where are Giulio Andreotti andrnBettino Craxi, Cossiga and De Michelis?rnMais oil sont les neiges d’antan?rnThe one real veteran is Achille Ocehetto,rnthe communist who changed thernname of his party. Not so long ago, politicalrnanalysts were already arguing overrnthe composition of Occhetto’s cabinet.rnHis success, after recent victories in localrnelections, was a foregone conclusion. Forrnyears, the communists had representedrnthemselves as the honest party, aloofrnfrom the corrupt partitocrazia thatrnworked hand-in-glove with big businessrnand the Mafia. Now that the Cold Warrnis ended and the United States does notrnworry about a communist takeover; nowrnthat the CIA no longer seemed to berntunneling money to the ruling parties,rnthe long-deferred communist victory wasrnjust around the corner.rnFor many Italian intellectuals, thernmain problem with the communists wasrnthat they were not hard-core enough,rnbut in the past several years, evidencernhad been accumulating of communistrncomplicity with the system: bribery, althoughrnnot on the luxurious scale enjoyedrnby the Socialists and the ChristianrnDemocrats; timidity and reluctancernto consider the sweeping reforms advocatedrnby the Lega Nord and the neofascistrnMovimento Sociale Italianorn(MSI); and, worst of all, the no-longerseeretrnsupport the communists had receivedrnfrom the Soviets.rnOver dinner, one of Italy’s leading humanistsrnconfesses that, although he hadrnvoted for the left—usually the communistsrn—all his life, this time around hernsupported the Forza Italia, voting in factrnfor Gianfranco Fini, the leader of thernMSI. “I thought the communists werernhonest, because they did not take bribesrnfrom Italian business. Now I realize theyrnwere bribed by the enemies of our country.rnBetter to take money from Italians.”rnIn a television debate, Gad Lerner asks ifrnOcchetto, the man of the opposition,rnhasn’t changed roles with Silvio Berlusconi,rnan establishment businessmanrnclosely connected with the four-party alliancernthat formed the government. Unfortunatelyrnfor Occhetto, there is norngood answer to the question.rnBerlusconi is the leader of ForzarnItalia—a name that suggests that Italy isrnmore a soccer team than a sovereign nation.rnA one-time friend and supporter ofrnBettino Craxi, Berlusconi has seen thernlight, and his lighter speeches read likernthe editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.rnThe credit for his conversion tornneoclassical liberalism goes to AntoniornMartino, a rare free-marketeer in a countryrnwhose economics range from communitarianrnto collectivist.rnMartino favors privatization of therngreat state-owned enterprises, whilernthe Lega has emphasized devolution, arnprocess of returning economic power tornlocal government. Many leghisti arernskeptical of privatization schemes, whichrnin the past have changed very little, sincernthe ex-bureaucrats are guaranteed seatsrnon the boards of directors. Catholicrnrightists, on the other hand, without necessarilyrnfavoring a collectivist economy,rnare suspicious of plans that strengthen anrnirresponsible capitalist class and, worse,rnput the nation’s resources in the hands ofrnstockjobbers and foreigners: one greatrnelectricity cooperative is now owned byrnthe Japanese.rnThe Italian political crisis is, in fact,rnrooted in economic problems—stagnantrnwages, faltering productivity, and arnplummeting lira that is attracting hordesrnof tourists looking for a vacation on therncheap. Hotel prices have risen but notrnenough to offset the fact that 100,000rnlire, which used to be worth almost $90rntwo years ago, is more like $60 thisrnspring. The tangenti scandal might havernbeen blown off in a boom time. Italiansrnwould have shrugged their shoulders andrnsaid, “Everybody cheats.” But as taxesrnrose higher and higher, the responsernto each new prosecution became: “Nornwonder they need to raise taxes—morernmoney to steal.” In this climate of opinion,rnBerlusconi’s promise to deliverrn100,000 new jobs was greeted not withrnthe cynicism that it deserved but as arnlife-preserver dangled over the head of arndrowning man.rnA major theme of Forza Italia’s campaignrnwas their endorsement of a strongrnpresidency, an idea that has been advocatedrnby many political leaders, includingrnthe past president of the republic,rnFrancesco Cossiga. The plan offered byrnForza Italia calls for “the election by directrnnational suffrage of the Presidentrnof the Republic” to a five-year term, andrnthe hope is that a strong president wouldrnunify the warring factions, classes, andrnregions of divided Italy.rnLurking beneath the discussion ofrnpresidentialism is nostalgia for strongrnleaders who have always stirred the Italianrnimagination: gangsters like JuliusrnCaesar, thugs like Francesco Sforza,rnpopinjays like D’Annunzio. MedievalrnItaly was a land of small republics, but asrnthe Middle Ages waned into the Renaissance,rnthose republics fell under the swayrnof some miles gloriosus: Castruccio Castricanernin Lucca, Cesare Borgia in thernPapal States, the Medici in Florence—allrnof whom were admired by Maehiavelli.rnSome of them were genuinely greatrnmen: in the 15th century Duke Federigornda Montefeltro turned little Urbino intornone of the creative centers of the Renaissance,rnand the modern city, beautifullyrnpreserved by leftist local governments,rnretains his imprint. They wererngreat men, without being good in anyrnconventional sense, but their job, asrnMaehiavelli saw it, was to bring results;rnpeace, stability, wealth, and if Bill Clintonrncould achieve any of these, he wouldrnfind only Republicans to criticize hisrnreign. When Caesar falls on his face, thern38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn