The Second Risorgimento


The national Italian elections so feared by Brussels, European liberals, and other would-be unifiers across the Continent have come and gone after having given the officials of the European Union “une mauvaise soirée,” as Marine Le Pen expressed it.  The results are a dramatic victory for the right, for “populism,” and for antiestablishmentarianism generally.  The elections took place barely 24 hours after the weakened Socialist Democratic Party in Germany agreed to go into a second coalition with Angela Merkel’s equally weakened Christian Democrats, an arrangement that makes the rightist Alternative for Germany the official opposition party in Berlin.  The news from Italy especially will be offered by the establishment media and the governments they support as confirmation of their view that “fascism” again threatens Europe.  The truth is that nothing of the sort is happening in the land of Dante and Petrarch.

Nicholas Farrell is a writer for The Spectator who contributes occasionally to the magazine from his home in Ravenna.  “The Italian left and a largely supportive global media,” he wrote in a recent issue, “are doing their best to brainwash Italians into thinking that a vote for the right is a vote for fascism.  But neither Italy’s right, nor the Italians, are fascists.  What they are is fed up with the floods of illegal migrants coming into Italy, where they represent what Berlusconi has described as a ‘social bomb about to explode.’”

Just two months ago, the Italian police arrested three Nigerian immigrants on charges of having killed, cut the heart from, and disemboweled an 18-year-old Italian girl and deposited her corpse along a road outside the town of Macerata in Le Marche.  There are now some 630,000 illegal migrants, most of them African, in Italy.  Most, or a great many of them, owe their presence there to the aid of ships belonging to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, to the navies of other members of the E.U., and to various charitable organizations that have rescued them from people-smugglers off the coast of Africa and deposited them on Italian soil.  The Italian government has made subsequent requests to countries that are party to the Schengen Agreement to accept their share of these “refugees,” the large majority of them economic migrants, to no avail.  The whole of the E.U. sides with the immigrants, and would-be immigrants, against Italy, a country that suffers from economic malaise and exceedingly high rates of unemployment.  She is also a country that takes immense and justifiable pride in her history and culture, which ranks among the greatest achievements of civilization.  Quite naturally, the Italian people have decided to defend their culture—and themselves—against the savage barbarians arriving from a continent that, as Sir Kenneth Clarke remarked in his televised series Civilization in the 1960’s, has no history of its own, only the history of Europeans in Africa.  For this offense, Italians are being charged by bien-pensants with “xenophobia,” or what for nonliberals is simply old-fashioned patriotism: a translation that makes eminent good sense if one goes on to call “immigration” as it currently exists in the West by its real name, which is invasion.  Invasion of any country is, of course, a national crisis, and in every such crisis it is the plain duty of all the national political parties to come together on basic questions of survival, which seems essentially what the Five Star Movement, the League, Berlusconi’s center-right coalition, and the Brothers of Italy are trying to do.  In the course of the campaign, little—or very little—about Italy’s future as a member of the European Union was said directly, but rather implied.  Nevertheless, Italians, who have often suffered under  incompetent or tyrannical governments (or both) before and after Unification, recognize one when they see it.  And they surely sense that, in the case of the E.U., the time is approaching when they and other member countries will abandon the foundering ship Brussels, leaving only the bureaucratic rats on board the doomed vessel to go down with her.

Shortly after the polls closed on March 4 and the early results were released, speculation arose about a “hung government,” if indeed such could be formed at all within a reasonable period of time, and further political turmoil in the country.  That, of course, is a possibility, given Italy’s history.  On the other hand, the implications such confusion and disarray would have for the country are also uncertain, since Italian politics—by comparison, say, with those of the Anglosphere—have historically been tumultuous.  In this regard, Italy is really the “exceptional nation,” not the United States.  In both historic and modern Italy, parties and governments have come and gone, many of them with the lifespan of a gnat, yet Italian civilization has carried on throughout it all.  It might even be said of Italy that her history proves the relative unimportance—certainly the subsidiarity—of political structures and systems by comparison with a country’s cultural institutions.  No matter who the rulers of the Italian city-states and kingdoms, and (much later) the Republic of Italy, were, it is on this great peninsula that many of the world’s most glorious buildings have been erected, its most exquisite statuary executed, its most compellingly lyrical scores composed, its most masterly canvases painted, its most beguiling poetry written—and all the while what may well be the best cuisine on earth has been prepared, and the finest wines produced.  Even in times of economic distress, life in Italy is always civilized, if not always easy.  A.M. Fantini, in the March number of this magazine, suggested that the disunification of Italy is a distinct possibility.  It is not nearly so likely, however, as the dissolution of the European Union.  However that may be, a newly formed association of Italian states would amount, as before, to a recognizable and unique cultural whole known as Italy, differently organized.  After the collapse of the Brussels project of the past six decades, the bureaucratic phantom known as the E.U. will have ceased to exist entirely, leaving not even bones behind.


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