The National Alliance and the Evolution of the Italian Right
Tripodi, Paolo, Contemporary Review
In the fifty years that followed the end of the Second World War, Italian political life was blocked by the hegemony of the Christian Democrats. They ran the country by themselves and from the 1960s in coalition with some smaller parties from the centre left and centre right. In this period, Italy, more than any other state in Europe, was in a political situation which reproduced the international tension and strain created by the Cold War. The Christian Democrats on one side were close to the US, and on the other, the Communist Party (PCI), the strongest Communist formation in Western Europe, was highly dependent on the Soviet Union. As a result of this situation, the political competition in Italy developed mainly around the conflict between communism and anti-communism. Indeed all through the post-war period the PCI was the only political formation able to obtain enough support to threaten the hegemony of Christian Democrats, and the only party to represent a possible alternative to the centre-centre-left coalition that dominated the years until the early 1990s. There is no doubt that this situation represented an anomaly for which Italy is still paying the consequences.
After fifty years of democracy 'il Belpaese', as Italians call Italy, is still looking for a reliable way to play the game of politics. She is trying, for the third time in its republican history, to adopt a new constitution which would enable the party in power to run the country effectively for the entire legislature, and so avoid the anomalies of the last fifty years when Italy nearly had more prime ministers than Christmas celebrations. In 1993 the abolition of the proportional system, and the adoption of a majority electoral system akin to the English first-past-the-post, was significant in introducing a political competition based upon a bipolar system. Although this was an important change, many more still will have to be made to shape effectively the nature of future political competition in a bipolar fashion.
The other major anomaly of the post-war era has been the role played by the right of the political spectrum. In this period Italian politics has been characterised by a dichotomy of which the main track was the conflict between communism and anti-communism and the parallel track which was the residual conflict between fascism and anti-fascism. In fact, the largest party of the right, the MSI, Italian Social Movement, originated from fascism and the ideas of the RSI, the Italian Social Republic, established by Mussolini in northern Italy in the last years of the Second World War. As a consequence, the MSI in particular, and the right in general, have been isolated. Yet in 1993 the MSI obtained a significant electoral result when Gianfranco Fini, the movement secretary, and Alessandra Mussolini - II Duce's grand-daughter - obtained unprecedently large support when they stood for the position of mayor respectively in Rome and Naples.
In 1994, the MSI, as the main party of the new political formation, the National Alliance (NA), established a few months before, joined the government coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi. In the few months of Berlusconi's government it became clear that the fact that the MSI was a member of the coalition in power did not cause any major shock to the Italian public. The international press showed a senseless over-concern surrounding the appointment of a few ministers from the National Alliance, not considering that one of them, Professor Domenico Fisichella, a central figure in the NA, is one of the main scholars of political science and a well regarded figure in the international academic world. Very little attention on the other hand was paid to the appointment of an Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, from the Northern League. Although in 1994 the League did not have a clear separatist project, its anti-Italian stance was already clear.
The fear, mainly emphasised by the political left, of a resurgence of fascism had very little foundation. …