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April 01, 2013

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john malpas

So what would you permit people to believe in and support?

Phil

The wider fascist world of ideas was never eradicated in Italy, but it was pretty subterranean until about twenty years ago; saying Mussolini had the right idea was about as respectable as saying nice things about Stalin or Mao, and not much more common. The rehabilitation of the far right is a real phenomenon - a lot can happen in twenty years - but it is very much down to Berlusconi. He has followers and allies (and views) far to the Right of Fini, the last leader of the MSI (who ran for election in 2013 as an ally of Mario Monti & didn't get re-elected).

nick s

So what would you permit people to believe in and support?

Well, if Paulo wants to prance about at Stonehenge this solstice, he'll have to sign up with the accountancy away day that makes up the modern English druids.

john b

These are *not* the druids you are looking for.

ajay

Words cannot describe my delight on finding that the Sunderland home strip does actually include black shorts.

("Footer bags, you mean? How frightful.")

ajay

The wider fascist world of ideas was never eradicated in Italy, but it was pretty subterranean until about twenty years ago; saying Mussolini had the right idea was about as respectable as saying nice things about Stalin or Mao, and not much more common.

Plenty of Russian people were saying nice things about Stalin twenty years ago. Some of them were pissed and saying them to me ("Stalin... ochen dobry chelovek"). He gave them good jobs with pensions and he butchered swarthy foreigners. That's election-winning stuff in Russia (not that he had elections, of course).

And there's always been a post-fascist party kicking around Italian politics, hasn't there? Or did it get a lot more fascist when Berlusconi came along?

Igor Belanov


The ultimate sign of Di Canio's inappropriateness for the job is that even David Miliband made a stand over it.
Plus, the fact that Sunderland haven't even descended into the relegation zone yet but felt it necessary to sack an established top-level manager, in order to appoint an incredibly unstable character who resigned his last post at League 1 Swindon when the board threatened to rein in spending that was bankrupting the club.


Alex

You do wonder what Malaparte would have made of Nice Cuts Dave being just cool with covering up the torture but unwilling to sit next to someone who may be a fascist but hasn't done anything worse than barging into a ref. not that I support assaults on referees or indeed Paolo di Canio or West Ham, but..

Dan Hardie

As someone who learned what little he knows about postwar Italy from Paul Ginsborg's two books ('Modern Italy 1943-1980' and 'Italy and its discontents, 1980-2001'), I don't know much about the modern Italian far right. Ginsborg seems excellent on a lot of things, but the fascists or post-fascists were pretty much off his radar. Any suggestions for reading, Phil or anyone else?

Also, any suggestions from anyone at all on works dealing with post-European, or global, post-1945 history? Please no recommendations to read Mark Mazower's 'Dark Continet'- I have read it, and on most topics didn't think much of it at all.

I thought easily the best general history was Tony Judt's 'Postwar', and will read some more of his stuff. William Hitchcock's 'The Struggle for Europe' is pretty much conventional wisdom, but still good on the immediate postwar crisis. Apparently there are some good things in French.

I've heard fairly bad things about Vinen's 'A history in fragments' and David Thompson's 'One World Divisible'. And Hobsbawm's 'Age of Extremes' is really pretty dreadful- a shame given how good 'The Age of Revolutions' was.

Phil

And there's always been a post-fascist party kicking around Italian politics, hasn't there? Or did it get a lot more fascist when Berlusconi came along?

Basically, yes. Through the late 80s & into the 90s there was a lot of chin-stroking about Will The Post-Fascists Ever Be Really Truly Respectable?, which Fini - the then leader of the MSI - responded to as required by allying with right-wing conservatives, denouncing anti-semitism, denouncing Fascism & so on, shedding not-quite-post-Fascist headbangers as he went. Then along comes Berlusconi, who quite genuinely sees everyone to his left as a Communist and doesn't see what was so bad about Mussolini, and all the work Fini put in to sanitise the post-Fascist space is undone. Berlusconi's party has happily hoovered up most of the people who ditched Fini, and Fini's ended up as an unemployed centre-rightist.

There would always have been subterranean Fascist sympathies on parts of the Italian Right, but at least if Fini had succeeded they would have been subterranean, I know you're not supposed to say this but... Berlusconi doesn't know you're not supposed to say it - and the same goes for lots of people who have grown up in his shadow.

Phil

Alex - yeah but no but... The comparative brutality of democratic and fascist regimes (with particular reference to brutality for export) is a very old line of argument, and it doesn't always go where you'd like. On balance I'm happy to cheer for Miliband I with regard to this one.

Phil

I've read some very good stuff about the post-fascist scene, but I think it's all been either in Italian or in academic journals. A book about Berlusconi (Ginsborg's or David Lane's) would give you a start. The trouble is, there just isn't that much about Italy in English - most commentators have left-wing sympathies and consequently want to write about how screwed the system is and big up the reformers, while the few who are on the right generally want to write about how the plain people of Italy are doing fine and slag off the reformers. The radical right gets a lousy press, quantitatively as well as qualitatively.

Dan Hardie

And is it worth reading Donald Sassoon's book on modern Italy, or does it not add much to Ginsborg's account?

Both of Ginsborg's books are worth reading, btw, or seem so to me with my limited knowledge of modern Italy. They're both generally spoken of as the best general works on any postwar European country. The first is really fascinating throughout.

I don't know anyone who has read the second. The first four chapters are on politics and very interesting. I found parts of the second four chapters, on social and economic history, equally good, but parts of them are pretty indigestible, as Ginsborg himself seems to have realised: during one particularly turgid piece of exposition, he wrote 'As anyone who is actually still reading this book will realise...', at which point at least one reader murmured 'Thanks, Prof'.

Dan Hardie

Thanks, I read Ginsborg's little book on Berlusconi a while ago. I must read his book on Daniele Manin some time: his stuff on post-'45 Italy does seem excellent. I'll look up David Lane.

Phil

Don't think I've read Don Sassoon's Italy book. I have read his (much earlier) book on the PCI, and it was extraordinary - not quite the most partisan work of history I've ever read, but certainly the most partisan work that was any good. It's essentially "how the PCI correctly decided its line, and why it was correct at every point". Fortunately, Sassoon's a good enough historian that you can still get a lot out of it if you think the PCI leadership was a bunch of authoritarian dolts who wouldn't know a crucial political conjuncture if it ran out and bit them.

David Lane works for the Economist, incidentally - like Bill Emmott, he's of the "giving capitalism a bad name" school when it comes to Berlusconi.

Alex

I really wouldn't bother with Lucio Magri's The Tailor of Ulm. It claims to be a "Possible History of Communism in the 20th C" in the subtitle, functions as a history of the postwar PCI, and ends up being a very, very long book about how Signor Magri was right about literally everything, world history is best understood in terms of Italian left-wing politics, and if the PCI had just stuck it out after 1989 utopia would be just about here. It's long, as well.

Alex

Regarding D Miliband, of course he's right, but he can still fuck off.

The Durham Miners' Association has told Sunderland to give them the Wearmouth colliery banner back.

Dan Hardie

'It's essentially "how the PCI correctly decided its line, and why it was correct at every point". '

Hmmm- there was something similar going on in parts of Ginsborg's first book. It was a bit more complicated, but the number of times he said 'And then everyone was wrong in every way except for
Berlinguer and the Euro-communists, who were magnificently right and completely ignored...' He seemed to have mixed feelings about even Berlinguer, but it was hard to see what his critique was: should Berlinguer have stood aloof from compromise with the likes of Aldo Moro? Or should he have ditched the Stalinists and gone for a straight-forwardly social democratic party? Or were both options pointless as the Italian polity was so corrupt that Berlinguer was never going to get a sniff of power? Ginsborg never really seemed clear on the point.

Another criticism of Ginsborg is that he really doesn't pay much attention to the split within the DC, or to the significance of Aldo Moro.

chris y

The Durham Miners' Association has told Sunderland to give them the Wearmouth colliery banner back.

They've organised a petition too, if anybody wants to sign it:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/safcdicanio/

Chris Williams

I like _Postwar_. Those bits of Vinen's _Fragments_ that I read I also quite liked, and I rate his work on France also. On the other hand, I've just named _Dark Continent_ as a set book for c. 6,000 students so you might need to discount my opinion somewhat. What I like about Mazower is that he's not written a 'one thing after another' textbook, but a contentious view.

Dan Hardie

Chris: I admired Mazower for trying to do that as well, but most of his contentious views just didn't seem to add up to much. I thought he was good on the importance of multi-cultural, multi-lingual populations in inter-war Europe, and on the refugee crises after both World Wars, but on most other subjects I found his views rather foggily expressed. (He was quite clear on 1968, but I'd disagree with him there.)

I thought his handling of economic topics was really dreadful: he seemed like a man trotting out impressive-sounding phrases which he didn't really understand. There was no clear picture of the post-45 Soviet Union, an almost complete refusal to discuss the importance of the US in post-war Europe, nothing really on either the growth of the EU's institutions or the Franc-German relationship...

Genuine, non-contrarian opinion: I actually think Norman Stone's 'Europe Transformed, 1878-1919' is a very good book, and one of the best of the general histories of the continent.

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