It is all so much worse than imagined. There has been a complete collapse of our political culture. It was like this in Italy during the days of the P2, the endless changes in administration from 'Socialist' to 'Christian Democrat', the penetration of government and the political classes by criminality and mafia to the highest levels, the mulcting of taxes and their diversion to private consumption and the maintenance of faction. It was blamed on the manipulation of Italian politics by a United States that wanted the bases and was determined to keep the Communists from power: the prevention of the compromesso storico where power would be shared. Moro was murdered and Berlinguer was struck down.
A more convincing or at least a full explanation requires recognition of the abandonment of any acquiescence to constitutional form, the collapse of the rule of law, the power elite deals between union bosses and corrupted political office holders, the greying, often blackening of the economy, the removal of contact between citizens and state as every individual and family hid their lives in all sociopolitical aspects from government. The dead littered the streets morning after morning in frightening drug and tax-farming wars so that it was an achievement simply to live in any enclave of social peace, protected by arrangements between local power brokers that complete civil breakdown would be confined mostly to the South and major urban centres.
In the end the terrible murder of the Prime Minister and his escort, the hunting down and murder of the Prefect of Palermo and his wife through the streets of a deserted city, the blowing up of Bologna's railway station, the uncovering of Gladio - and other, though less infamous, uncoverings of evil by courageous investigative magistrates who were gunned down in their dozens, literally dozens, backed by a media that died for its efforts too, brought the country to its senses. Sandro Pertini's Presidency with his determined championing of the institutions of the democratic state re-established political decency and state independence.
Italy is no democratic paradise but it is most certainly back on the democratic rails. The permanent and uncomfortable sensation of hidden agendas and secret decision taking in private and factional interest no longer blights its citizens. It is in England that such a world is being recreated.
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