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New Left Review I/217, May-June 1996


Tobias Abse

The Left’s Advance in Italy

The Left’s victory in the Italian general election on the 21 April is likely to have a large impact on popular consciousness. It has revived a sense of collective hope and once more made concrete that fading but never totally obliterated belief that change is possible. This is the Italian Left’s first electoral victory this century, and in this sense marks a watershed. It is quite possible, as was the case with the victory of Mitterand and the French Socialists in 1981, that the momentum of the Left’s advance will not be long maintained, that disillusion will follow, that the reforms achieved under the Prodi government may be fewer, less important, less effective or less lasting than its supporters imagine in the aftermath of Berlusconi’s defeat. But it would be quite wrong to write it off in advance as a mere alternation of office-holders. At the very least, the 1992–94 assault on the Mafia can be resumed and the utter degradation of civil society in southern Italy brought under some control. With the Right in disarray, the Left has won time and space to develop its own solutions to the Italian crisis.

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