Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Sinister Nexus – Berlusconi and the culture of corruption. David Lane in interview.

In the wake of Tangentopoli, the scandalous revelations of corruption unearthed by pioneering magistrates, Berlusconi felt obliged to ‘scendere in campo‘ or ‘take to the field’. In his own words, he &ldquodidn't want to live in an illiberal country” His reasoning for entering politics, according to his myth making machine were selfless: &ldquoItaly more than ever needs a person with his head on his shoulders and with experience, creative and innovative and capable of lending a hand, to get the state working”.[Forza Italia] Lane's reading strips the altruism and places Berlusconi's decision to enter politics in context, as a defensive measure: With the reputation of Bettino Craxi, his political patron, blackened by Tangentopoli, Berlusconi was vulnerable. Italy's political system had been thrown into turmoil by the dirt exposed by investigators and magistrates in Milan, and positions that had appeared invulnerable had crumbled”[Pg 122]. In effect, Berlusconi entered politics to save his business interests, something which he's achieved with remarkable success. His entry into politics though, according to Lane, squandered the best chance Italy had of shaking off near endemic corruption: &ldquoHe pretended to be a new face, to have new ideas, and to want to reform things, but – Lane says – of course, he didn't”.

His accusations are pointed, and detailed within the book. He sees a stagnation in the fight against corruption under Berlusconi: &ldquoNothing has been done to strengthen or reinforce the fight against corruption, in fact it's been the complete reverse. The law on false accounting was a complete disgrace, along with the scudo fiscale which allowed people to bring back illicitly held assets abroad for a pretty small sum. Of course, once they were brought back they could be exported again legally. So the fight against corruption has been badly weakened – he says – It's the same thing in the fight against the Mafia. The Mafia seems forgotten now, but it's still there. The Mafia is as strong as ever”.

Lane's book, available in English at the moment, will also be published in Italian under the Laterza imprint. One of the obvious criticisms that will face Lane on its publication in Italy is that he is a straniero or foreigner, and thus can't possibly understand the intricacies of Italian politics. It's a criticism he has little time for: &ldquoI've spent more than half my life in Italy. My wife is Italian. I have a daughter who, at the age of 18, took out Italian citizenship for which I was very proud of her. I have plenty of Italian friends for whom I have great admiration. At the same time I would welcome any Italian writer bringing out a book on Blair and how things work in Britain. I think an outsider who has experience can be an important observer”.

Having been involved with the now infamous Economist articles that lambasted Berlusconi as &ldquounfit to lead”, he's also fairly sure of the response his book will receive from the Italy's prime minister: ”I imagine that Berlusconi's lawyers have bought several copies of the book and have been pouring over it to see if there are any elements in it that would justify them taking legal action against myself and Penguin. – he laughs, as he explains – I think I subconsciously took it into account, because of course The Economist has been sued twice by Berlusconi. I certainly took it into account, but I'm confident that everything in the book will stand up”.

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