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New Left Review 16, July-August 2002


John Foot on Paul Ginsborg, Italy and Its Discontents. Micro and macro history of sea changes in Italy over the last twenty years.

JOHN FOOT

HEIRS OF TENGENTOPOLI

Far from being on the margins of Europe, Italy has more often than not been at her centre. Fascism was born in Milan in 1919, and first took power in Rome in 1922. The wartime anti-fascist resistance (1943–45) was a movement of extraordinary depth and power. Later, the Italian Republic produced a mass-party system unrivalled in world history, with political sub-cultures that spread their tentacles deep into civil society, the economy and cultural spheres. Italy’s ‘long May’ was quite easily the most radical, interesting and, in the end, violent of Europe’s 68s. The Italian economy—with the ‘flexible specialization’ of the ‘third Italy’ and its industrial districts—provided a post-Fordist model widely studied by economists and social scientists. Politically, in the 1980s, Bettino Craxi prefigured Blair by crafting a new, strongman social-democratic politics which broke with both the symbols (hammer and sickle) and the material interests (indexed wage-rises) of the industrial working class. Craxi, right down to his corrupt boots, invented Blairism, including the crushing of internal party democracy in the once proud and disputatious Socialist Party.

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