Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


The Death of Il Divo: Andreotti and Modern Italy

The Death of Il Divo: Andreotti and Modern Italy

by Binoy Kampmark
May 8, 2013

Giulio Andreotti was a creature of the Italian post-war scene, with its astonishing volatility and kaleidoscopic deals. Unlike his opponents, he proved astonishingly versatile. He seemingly occupied every notable position in Italian cabinets he could before his death at the age of 94. He was elected to parliament in 1946, and proved to be a masterful if ruthless architect in shaping Alcide de Gasperi’s Christian Democracy Party. During the Second World War, he proved busy cultivating the contacts among the Catholic establishment that would prove crucial in subsequent decades.

The odd feature of this behaviour was that he always seemed to exert influence from the shadows, a dealmaker who would, so went the popular depiction, been welcomed by the devil. He was prime minister seven times. He was minister of the interior, defense and foreign minister at stages. He was always stepping into the limelight.

Andreotti professionalised politics, making its pursuit inseparable from him as a being. He gravitated to power in the manner of lustful desire, a creature of heat who seemingly operated in the manner of that Italian expression that it is far better to have power than shag. (These are hardly mutually exclusive, but governing can have its distractions.)

Andreotti took the discussion of power to even greater limits than his contemporary, the former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who often remarked about its aphrodisiacal qualities. “Power is a disease one has no desire to be cured of.” It was a disease he laboured under continuously. From his vantage point as life senator, which he became in 1991, he used his votes to scupper governments and support others in the chess piece nightmare of Italian politics.

Ill Divo, an appellation taken from Julius Caesar (Divo Giulio), had something of a deadly aura about him. He evaded the net of anti-corruption officials with an eel-like disposition. Magistrates were frustrated no less than 27 times in their efforts to investigate him. He was central to the Tangentopoli affair of the 1990s that saw the fall of the Christian Democratic Party along with four to others. But catching a divinity off his guard is a tall order.

There were also accusations – no less than from mafia strongmen themselves – that the political colossus was very much involved with the Cosa Nostra. A Palermo court accepted that claim. As always, nothing proved simple with the suggestion, given his efforts against the group during the 1990s.

He had been convicted for the killing in 1979 of Carmine Pecorelli, a journalist and editor who specialised in muck racking with a purportedly strong link to the security services. His claim was that the CIA and Andreotti were connected in a web of intrigue that had resulted in the death of former prime minister Aldo Moro at the hands of the Red Brigades. For twenty years, the case hovered over Andreotti like a dark hue. When it came, the sentence of 24 years was pure theatre – he was cleared by an appeals court in 2003. Such activity prompted the remark that he was “being blamed for everything, except the Punic Wars because I was too young then.”

He was also prominent at a time when his country proved viciously fractious. In an article published in the Political Science Quarterly (Summer, 1994), he noted the precarious nature of the Italian state, whose unification “was only achieved a hundred and thirty years ago, after the country had been split for more than four centuries into many separate States”. But never modest, he would claim that diplomacy in its modern form was an Italian staple, the Westphalian system a creature of Italian origin ushered in by the work of Cardinals Giulio Mazarino and Giulio Alberoni. It was such men, along with the future Pope Alexander VII, that “introduced Italy’s diplomatic customs regarding neutrality, precedence, privileges, immunities, the diplomatic pouch, and diplomatic couriers”.

His views on foreign policy certainly took form during the era of Bettino Craxi, during which he was foreign minister. While President Ronald Reagan was huffing and puffing against the huts of the Communist world promising star wars and arms races, Andreotti was attempting to engage the bloc and build bridges to the Arab World. The Reagan administration was none too impressed by the fact that he (or his officials) warned Libya about the U.S. attack of April 1986.

Such was the character of the man that he seemed a simulacrum while being a substantive political character. It was always hard to actually decipher what his inner world. Enigma was his fulcrum. But his dissimulation, his mystery, his secrecy and ultimately, his callousness, are the political qualities that have made the Italian political scene a jungle of colour and conspiracy.

*************

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Journalism, History And Forgetting

Compare that [the saturation coverage of WWI] not just with the thinly reported anniversaries last year of key battles in the New Zealand Wars, but with the coverage of the very consequential present-day efforts to remedy the damage those wars wrought, and the picture is pretty dismal. More>>

ALSO:

Werewolf: Climate Of Fear

New Zealand, promoting itself as an efficient producer, has been operating as a factory farm for overseas markets with increasing intensity ever since the introduction of refrigerated shipping in 1882. The costs to native forests and to bio-diversity have been outlandish. The discussion of impacts has been minimal... More>>

ALSO:

Greek Riddles: Gordon Campbell On The Recent Smackdown Over Greece

There had been a fortnight of fevered buildup. Yet here we are in the aftermath of the February 28 showdown between the new Syriza government in Greece and the European Union “troika” and… no-one seems entirely sure what happened. Did the asteroid miss Earth? More>>

ALSO:

Keith Rankin: Contribution Through Innovation

The economic contribution of businesses and people is often quite unrelated to their taxable incomes. EHome, as a relatively new company, may have never earned any taxable income. Its successors almost certainly will earn income and pay tax. Yet it was eHome itself who made the biggest contribution by starting the venture in the first place. More>>

ALSO:

A Public Conversation: Reinventing News As A Public Right

Alastair Thompson: Oh how the mighty have fallen. Once journalism was possibly a noble profession, though that is certainly now, to quote our Prime Minister, a 'contestable' notion. It certainly seemed at least a little noble when I joined the ranks of reporters in 1989 . But ... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news