Berlusconi is dead but the nightmare of his legacy remains!

Silvio Berlusconi

by Yorgos Mitralias

(Introduction by Oaklandsocialist: Readers of this article will note Berlusconi’s similarities with Donald Trump. In fact, just one day after his death, the NY Times published an obituary for Berlusconi by an Italian correspondent entitled “Farewell to the man who gave us Trump” Below this article by Yorgos Mitralias we republish sections of that obituary. It’s why Americans should pay attention to who Berlusconi was.)

Berlusconi liked to compare himself to Mussolini.

Unfortunately, the end of Berlusconi does not mean the end of the model of (bourgeois) politics that he invented and implemented. Why not? Because Berlusconi has succeeded in setting an example by shaping a whole ‘generation’ of extremely neo-liberal and hyper-reactionary far-right politicians who already govern or are threatening to govern almost half of humanity, while flirting with fascism when they don’t declare themselves fascists. And, of course, Berlusconi’s “achievement” is enough to justify the claim by many of his current panegyrists that he has “left his mark on the history of his country and his times”. However, they forget to add that Berlusconi “has left his mark on his country and his times” in the same way as his compatriot… Benito Mussolini, with whom Silvio liked to be compared when he took the reins of the Italian government after his electoral triumphs in 1994, 2001 and 2008…

Berlusconi with Matteo Salvini, Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Italian far-right party “Fratelli d’Italia” (Brothers of Italy) Giorgia Meloni, and Italian centre-right lawmaker Maurizio Lupi stand on stage on September 22, 2022 during a joint rally of Italy’s coalition of far-right and right-wing parties Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia, FdI), the League (Lega) and Forza Italia at Piazza del Popolo in Rome, ahead of the September 25 general election.

Is this simply the boasting of an inveterate blowhard with a penchant for big words that have no practical impact? Certainly not, if we remember not only that Italy’s current ‘post-fascist’ Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, is his personal creation, but also that Berlusconi ensured, from day one of his political career, that Mussolini’s epigones would emerge from their post-war forties, first by making their leader Gianfranco Fini the vice-president of his governments, then by merging his party with that of Fini’s fascists!

But Berlusconi has not limited himself to this systematic “collaboration” with Mussolini’s spiritual children. He has done something far more important and terribly dangerous: he has changed Italy so radically that he has rendered an entire country and its society, Italy, unrecognisable. As we wrote last September, commenting on the Italian elections that saw Meloni’s triumph, “Berlusconism, that mixture of neo-liberal cynicism, nouveau riche vulgarity, racism and extreme sexism, and an uninhibited amoralism, has taken and continues to take its toll on Italian society and now flows through its veins.”

But Berlusconi’s historic importance and extreme danger lie above all in the fact that he has not limited the impact of his actions to his own country, but has consciously given them an international dimension. Just as, in the 1980s, Thatcher initiated and “legitimised” by her example the neoliberal policies that were subsequently implemented by countless imitators throughout the world, so Berlusconi, at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first, “invented”, initiated and ‘legitimised’, with his (victorious) example, policies – but also behaviours – that were violently anti-worker and at the same time ultra-reactionary and obscurantist, which would have been unthinkable before him, but which are now being implemented by dozens of his imitators, big and small, all over the world! In fact, the spread of the Berlusconi political model is now so widespread, and its roots even in the metropolises of international capitalism so obvious, that it is arguably the greatest and most immediate political threat to humanity. Here is what we wrote on this subject nine months ago in an article with an eloquent title “Towards the Brown International of the European and global far right?”: “Modi’s India, Putin’s Russia, Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Orban’s Hungary, and soon Giorgia Meloni’s Italy and maybe Trump II’s United States, the picture is far from being exhaustive but it still gives an idea of the seriousness of the threat that now hangs over humanity. Far from being all avowed nostalgics or “heirs” of the fascism and nazism of the inter-war period, these leaders are united by their racism, xenophobia, authoritarianism, islamophobia and anti-semitism, their open rejection of parliamentary (bourgeois) democracy, their misogyny, their adoration of fossil fuels and climate skepticism, their militarism, their contempt for democratic rights and freedoms, their police conception of history and their belief in conspiracy theories, their hatred of the LGBTQ community, their obscurantism and their visceral attachment to the triptych “Family-Patriarchy-Religion”.

Of course, it’s no coincidence that all of them have always been close friends, allies and admirers of Berlusconi, and that today they vie with each other in wild praise of their late idol and political model. In addition to the hatred – often murderous – that they, like many others, harbour towards the workers’ movement, immigrants, all ethnic, sexual and other minorities, those who are ‘different’ and, of course and above all, women, there is something else that unites them and which is a wholly personal contribution of the late Silvio Berlusconi: a very particular ‘aesthetic’ approach to life that combines extreme vulgarity with thuggish behaviour, macho exhibitionismo with the most primitive misogyny! And all this while cultivating violence and the cult of violence, monopolised by the “elites”, i.e. by themselves, in order to subdue and crush all those who, in Europe, America and the rest of the world, persist in defending and demanding the most elementary democratic rights and freedoms…

In conclusion, Berlusconi has left us, but his legacy, which remains more feared than ever, does not allow us to rejoice as much as we would like at the joyful news of his passing!

Berlusconi and Trump: There were differences but they had a lot in common.

From The NY Times:
Farewell to the man who gave us Trump

ROME — The tycoon-turned-politician spent his career mixing entertainment and power, escaping sex scandals and remodeling his party in his own plasticized image. He claimed elections he lost were actually stolen from him. Law enforcement scrutinized his businesses, and he incessantly praised his longtime friend Vladimir Putin. Struggling to beat him politically, opponents relied on prosecutors to oust him through the courts. But he managed to turn even that to his favor, raising the specter of political persecution to re-energize his electorate and remain firmly at the center of his country’s politics for years.

That sounds a lot like Donald Trump. But it’s actually Silvio Berlusconi, who died on Monday at the age of 86.

Four times Italy’s prime minister, Mr. Berlusconi dominated this country’s politics for three decades and fundamentally reshaped its landscape and imagination….

The parallels between them are obvious…. Perhaps most important, they both possessed an instinctive ability to tap into the passions of the populace….

Whether he intended to or not, Mr. Berlusconi was decisive in creating the type of celebrity politics that Mr. Trump used to take power and transform American politics. The two political celebrities, who shared so much, had one more thing in common. They thought they were the only ones who could save their countries — and in return, they were accused of being the sole cause of their countries’ ills….”

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