Commentary. Berlusconi's funeral is not just a rehabilitation of the past, but a glimpse of the future. Giorgia Meloni, who has learned a lot from him, is certainly looking ahead.

After Berlusconi, the opposition forces must speak a clear alternative

At least half of the voters gazed in perplexity upon the shameless beatification—the “national anointment,” as il manifesto called it in a headline—of a character convicted of financial crimes, who evaded justice several times, arrogantly listing his trials as evidence of persecution, and who delivered a death blow to the role of Parliament, and the institutions of the Republic, by having the chambers approve the document claiming that Ruby, the underage escort from his parties for whom Berlusconi tried to get a theft charge dropped, was actually Mubarak’s niece.

It was all a lie, later handwaved as an innocent fib when the truth came out. The consequence of this behavior was that parliamentarians became reduced to voting how the group leaders tell them to, so that the prime minister became the de facto head of both government and parliament. Even more, these days Berlusconi’s 1994 speech was rebroadcast in which he claimed that his then-majority had to stop the “communists” (whose party had been dissolved for years), and that’s why he welcomed the fascists in his coalition. Not the “post-fascists,” mind you, the actual fascists.

Gianfranco Fini later understood that he had to lead a constitutional evolution of the MSI, because Berlusconi, who had brought it into government, was constantly blackmailing it on the issue of legitimacy and demanded total submission. In turn, its successor nowadays, the Meloni government, pushed the regulations around state funerals to the breaking point, turning Berlusconi into a secular saint, in defiance of the part of the country that considers him a historical disaster because he corrupted the public spirit, reduced to serving private interests, in the realm of justice, of televised media and of private mores, legitimizing reactionary and sexist individual behavior by his example.

The laws in force allowed Berlusconi to be elected once again and return to Parliament, bolstering the notion that the vote washes away the past and overrides all the rules.

The ceremonials and mourning decided with arrogance by the Meloni government confirm the prevailing notion that everything is permissible to those in power. The TV networks, in concert, put on a show aimed at lowering people’s critical abilities – something many people showed, who saw Berlusconi as a person with both a light and dark side.

The dark side, pitch-black even, is well known, and the duty to do justice to the man’s memory obliged us to highlight it. The light side is tied to the great support he garnered from voters – which led to too many becoming convinced that they were the ones who needed to change instead of him.

Perplexity and bitterness are not enough though, because the substance of the problem is political. It is about a right-wing that has come to power and experiences it as an opportunity for payback and the nullification of all limits, including constitutional ones. There is no time to waste.

The opposition, divided so far, has merely reacted to the electoral defeat, showing itself incapable of an alternative response. Berlusconi’s funeral is not just a rehabilitation of the past, but a glimpse of the future. Giorgia Meloni, who has learned a lot from him, is certainly looking ahead.

The opposition forces, some of which have been trying hard to be taken seriously by the majority, are faced with the need to speak clearly, in a coordinated manner, and to build an alternative to the right here and now. It makes no sense to wait for the European elections.

Inflation (of profits) is proceeding unopposed; in fact, the government seems to be benefiting from it, despite it eating away at wages, pensions, incomes and savings to a shocking degree. By the end of the next year, it might reach 20 percent. This is an issue that ties into power and power relations. It’s a grave matter – first and foremost for the opposition – that some of those who are affected are abstaining or voting for the right.

The necessary self-criticism should actually start by setting goals and pursuing them, with the aim of reversing the power relations, thus facilitating the return of millions of votes that have been swallowed up by abstention. And it is imperative that we go beyond just talking about arms support for Ukraine, and make clear and visible the choice for supporting peace negotiations. “Ukraine must decide” is a propaganda formula being used to distract from the need for a ceasefire and peace. Enough of that. A ceasefire and peace are the points that need to be focused on, and as a non-believer I’m ready to shout “Long live Pope Francis!” with the best of them.

It’s an enormous social issue that threatens to create a fracture, an inequality of epochal dimensions in the country, forming a harsh economic and social hierarchy. The closing off towards migrants and the poorest is part of it.

Peace talks should contribute to securing and reducing nuclear weapons, with international guarantees for all those who are affected by wars, consecrating the UN once again as the seat of regulation and the guarantee of peaceful solutions to conflicts – starting with Sudan, which we’ve already forgotten about.

What is also needed is respect for and defense of the Constitution, rejecting “differentiated autonomy” as what it is: the start of the secession of the rich; same with presidentialism or prime-ministerism, whatever one calls it. A new electoral law is urgently needed to give voters direct power to elect their representatives, which is the real alternative to presidentialism (however disguised).

It’s not true that this isn’t possible without a new parliament. The popular referendum route is available, through which one can make it clear to voters that giving them the power to choose their representatives is a viable alternative to delegating everything to a chieftain for five years.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!