The wrath of the righteous losers

The indirect verbal brush between Donald Trump and judge Gonzalo Curiel has given me a slight pretext to quote from Perry Anderson’s 2002 article once again. Very slight indeed, because the US justice system is not nearly as politicized as Italy’s, even if it eventually turns out (perhaps years later) that judge Curiel was, after all, motivated by his inner Nevertrump.

Anderson wrote of the 1994 election in Italy:

Robbed of victory at the last minute, the Left took its defeat hard… Dismay […] was shared by wide sectors of the Italian establishment: the industrialists Agnelli at the head of Fiat and De Benedetti of Olivetti, each with influential mouthpieces in the press, La Stampa and La Repubblica; Scalfaro, the President of the Republic; technocrats in the Central Bank; many magistrates and most intellectuals; enlightened Catholic opinion. Abroad the Financial Times and Economist made their disapproval of Berlusconi known early on…

That definitely sounds familiar. No doubt Berlusconi’s media holdings in Italy softened the impact of attacks from the hostile press. However, he could not shield himself from the “progressive” magistrates and, as it later turned out, from President Scalfaro:

In the months leading up to the election, the Milan magistrates had started public investigations against a whole series of leading Italian industrialists… but had not yet reached Berlusconi. When he became Prime Minister, they went into top gear.

Predictably: the activist prosecutors had just brought down the whole political edifice of the First Republic. Surely they they did not expect that caddish vulgarian to grab what rightfully belonged to the Left and/or the righteous.

The Milan pool of magistrates, the posse of Mani Pulite… was not a neutral or apolitical force. Italian prosecutors and judges – it is a peculiarity of the system that there is no career division between them – are a highly politicised body… The dismay felt by the Left at the way Berlusconi had usurped the promise of a cleaner democracy was a lesser affair than the anger of the prosecutors in Milan.

Well put. That anger was anything but impotent. Regrettably, Perry Anderson – like far less incisive analysts – is taking the garbled signals emitted by Italy’s judiciary too literally.

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