Backlash and Renewal
The efforts of law enforcement to suppress the mafia and the antimafia social movement both fell upon rough times in the second half of the 1980s. To pursue Orlando's metaphor of the Sicilian cart, sticks were thrown into the spokes of both wheels. In part the difficulties arose from internal tensions—the jealousies and treachery within the Squadra Mobile and courthouse, and the factionalism that divided the grassroots activists from the people around Orlando and the Coordinamento Antimafia. In part they were the consequence of great uncertainty, exacerbated by the sure knowledge that, despite the slower pace of mafia killings, the most dangerous fugitives remained at large. The third ingredient was the dissipation of the “Palermo Spring, ” experienced by activists as a return to “normalcy, ” or waning of commitment (impegno)— in short, the demobilization of the social movement. Accelerating the demobilization, and greatly benefiting from it, was a counter-antimafia backlash aimed not only at the magistrates and the police but also at the movement intellectuals and the mayor, indeed, at the antimafia process as a whole.
In effect, the backlash constitutes an effort to recapture and control public discourse about the mafia, which, during the maxi-trial and the Primavera, was monopolized by the reformers. The mafia was surely aware of, and took comfort in, this turnaround, but it was not the instigator. For although mafiosi support new laws extending civil liberties and are not shy about letting those close to them know their voting pref-