Back in the Eternal City after three years, and there is another political scandal on the horizon. Or at least the local media machine (every bit as bad as its U.S. equivalent) would have us believe there was. The target: Matteo Salvini, Italy’s famously Euroskeptic interior minister. The accusation: corrupt dealings between his Lega party and some Russian businessmen. My verdict: a crude Intel attempt by the global Deep State Inc. to effect regime change.
What we have is a local rendering of the old story of “suspicious Moscow contacts,” “Russian money buying influence,” and of course the interlocutors’ suspected “Kremlin connections.” It all started when unlikely “journalists” (actually, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/ ) reported on an allegedly secret meeting at a Moscow hotel last October between three Italians–one of them close to Salvini–and three unidentified Russians. The story claims that they discussed an oil deal through which the League would receive indirect payments worth millions of dollars.
There is an inconclusive audio recording, an unrepentant Salvini, a hysterical media pack, and an overwhelmingly indifferent Italian public. This would-be affair is reminiscent of a strange episode earlier this year, when the head of Austria’s “far-right” Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, resigned as vice-chancellor after being caught on camera discussing a deal with a person he assumed was a Russian investor–but was in reality a Western intel operative. But this time it will not work, I am told by those in the know, because there is no smoking gun and no real story.
The real story is as follows. To the kleptocrats and gangsters who are used to running Italy, and who are dismayed that they have been out of power since June last year, Matteo Salvini is the enemy No. 1. He is guilty on five key counts: (1) he is an avid Euroskeptic sovereignist who abhors the Brussels machine; (2) he is a determined and effective opponent of the migratory deluge; (3) he is pro-family and declares, “God created man and woman, every child should have a father and a mother, and only they can conceive a child”; (4) he wants to get Italy out of the Eurozone, which he calls “a crime against humanity”; and (5) he favors improved relations with Russia, “the key player in any European arrangement.”
“They” hope to bring Salvini down, to use his downfall to resuscitate the moribund centrist-leftist opposition, and in the interim to install another “cabinet of experts” which would bring Italy back into the Brussels fold… and bring Italy’s peasants to heel.
In the short term nothing significant will happen. As for the medium term, even if the 5-Star Movement disintegrates and the coalition government collapses, the League is likely to be the main beneficiary. On current form it will gain over 40 percent of the vote in a general election, and may form a government all by itself.
The latest media-induced storm has not made the slightest difference to the mood of the public. Most Italians pay even less attention than Americans to the bien pensants’ predictable pontifications. “There will be no March on Rome Redux,” my hosts assure me. “Or there may be, but only in order to prevent the old guard’s return.”
THE CONTEXT–The Italian deep state is arguably deeper, older, and in some ways even more sinister than its American equivalent. Its birth is inseparable from the role of ferociously anticlerical Freemasons in the founding of the modern Italian state (1861-1871). Giuseppe Mazzini, the moving spirit of the Risorgimento, was a life-long master of the Brotherhood. During his brief rule in Rome in 1849–with Pope Pius IX in exile in Gaeta–Mazzini produced a turncoat churchman to bless the crowd on Easter Sunday from the balcony of St. Peter’s, and stood waving by his side during the grotesque proceedings. True to his core beliefs, Mazzini was also an early advocate of the United States of Europe, which he regarded as a necessary next step after the unification of Italy. Accordingly, in 1834 he co-founded the Young Europe movement.
Mazzini’s fellow 33rd-degree Mason Giuseppe Garibaldi fought to conquer southern Italy and Sicily for “Italy”; but he, too, regarded the new state not as an end in itself but as a stepping stone to a grander design. In 1867, Garibaldi, John Stuart Mill and Victor Hugo joined the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin at a congress of Euro-federalists in Geneva. With Garibaldi nodding in agreement, Bakunin declared “that in order to achieve the triumph of liberty, justice and peace in Europe... only a single course lies open: to constitute the United States of Europe.”
The conquest of Rome on September 20, 1870, ended over eleven centuries of papal reign. This moment of unrestrained triumph of Italian masonry was soon followed by the establishment of the ferociously anticlerical Third Republic in France. Far from being a victory of patriotic masses, “Italy” was a project of revolutionary elites with foreign connections linked to transnational financial cartels. They proceeded to turn the new kingdom into a chronically corrupt fiefdom of special interests and backroom politics. It suffered only a temporary setback during the two decades of fascism, when Mussolini signed the Concordat with the Holy See (1929), clamped down on southern banditry and outlawed Freemasonry. Not even he was able to forge “the Italian nation,” however. The fascist experiment collapsed primarily because of Mussolini’s ill-advised attempt to imbue his subjects with the spirit of neo-imperial glory to which they were singularly ill-suited.
THE MASONS’ RETURN–Even while the Duce was at the peak of his powers, however, the Freemasons did not give up. As my friend Slobodan Jankovic, a research fellow at Belgrade’s Institute of International Politics and Economy and an alumnus of Rome’s La Sapienza pointed out to our readers six years ago, in the 1930s they regrouped in exile. One of their leaders, Randolfo Pacciardi–a 30th degree initiate–even went to Spain in 1937 to lead the Italian battalion Garibaldi, a key unit within the Communist-controlled International Brigades.
In subsequent years Pacciardi repeatedly visited the United States. In 1945 he returned from exile and was a prominent member of successive Italian governments. As defense minister (1948-1953) he arranged Italy’s entry into NATO and enthusiastically supported its accession to the European Coal and Steel Community, the precursor to the European Union. In all these schemes he worked closely with two fellow Masons who spent the war years in the U.S., foreign minister Carlo Sforza and Italy’s first postwar ambassador in Washington Alberto Tarchiani.
By the time of the fraudulent referendum to abolish monarchy, the old Masonic guard was fully in charge. This was a strategy advocated by Allen Dulles, James Jesus Angleton, and the Office of Naval Intelligence. All of them also cultivated the Mafia connection. In 1943 the ONI released 850 Mafia members imprisoned by Mussolini in Palermo, and subsequently relied on the advice of Lucky Luciano and Calogero Vizzini in political and personnel matters.
These and other trusties became the uomini d’onore after 1945. The power was assumed by an unholy alliance of Christian Democrats, Freemasons, and gangsters. A major focus of the Italian deep state they jointly developed in the 1950s was the creation of a clandestine NATO “stay-behind” network known as Operation Gladio. The role of the CIA in sponsoring Gladio and its involvement in terrorist attacks during Italy’s Years of Lead remains contentious, but its significance as a state within the state is not.
Its true command center, however, was the Masonic lodge Propaganda Due (P2). It was involved in the collapse of the Vatican-affiliated Banco Ambrosiano, the murder of banker Roberto Calvi, and countless corruption cases. Its membership roll included leading media editors, National Assembly deputies, business leaders, top military brass and the heads of intelligence services. Its true power was commented upon in 1990 by Judge Libero Mancuso: “We [investigators] are isolated, and the objects of a campaign of aggression... In Italy there has functioned for years a sort of conditioning, a control of our national sovereignty by the P2 which was literally the master of the secret services, the army and our most delicate organs of state.”
THE NEW GUARD–In the early 1990s, following the Tangentopoli scandal and the Mani Pulite (“Clean Hands”) investigation, the deep state wisely decided that it was time for a change of the guard. The Christian Democracy machine was liquidated in 1994, the P2 ostensibly dismantled, and Italy’s affairs passed into the “capable” hands of centrist technocrats, starting with Giuliano Amato who twice served as prime minister (1992-1993 and 2000-2001).
Amato’s successor at Italy’s helm in 2011-2013 was Mario Monti, a former European commissioner who had never been elected to public office. Monti’s own successor was Enrico Letta, another unelected Eurocrat. For years Letta had been a regular in the meetings of the Trilateral Commission, a member of the Bilderberg Group, and vise-president of the Aspen Institute in Italy.
This period saw the rise and rise of Mario Draghi, an immensely influential economist also never elected to a public office. Draghi was director general of the Italian Treasury until 2001. He left that post to become vice chairman and managing director of Goldman Sachs International (2002–2005), then returned to Rome as Governor of the Bank of Italy (2005-2011). For the past eight years he has been president of the European Central Bank.
The careers of these men indicate the extent to which Italy is ruled by men who are devoid of popular support, whose sole ideology is power, and who are servile to supranational interest groups. A century and a half after Italy came into being it remains vulnerable to the vincolo esterno, the external constraint. Nevertheless, the slogan Ce lo chiede l’Europa (“Europe is asking us to do this”) has lost its potency as millions of Italians fall out of love with the Leviathan. The successors of Mazzini, Andreotti and Amato still form a shadowy elite, in cohorts with the international bankers and Brussels bureaucrats, but they are getting nervous. For the first time in recent history Italy has a government which they do not control.
SUMMARY–The Western elite elite consensus is clear: a regime change in Rome is urgently needed. The rap sheet is topped by “xenophobia and bigotry,” the malaise diagnosed by New York Times a year ago and repeated ever since. Even the current accusation of Russian money connection is not new: George Soros accused the Lega-Five Star coalition of being on Putin’s payroll literally as soon as it came into being. The Conte government’s recently declared willingness to open four Italian ports to China’s Belt and Road initiative will only add fuel to the fire.
As I depart Rome I am optimistic that Italy will be a tougher nut to crack than Greece had been under its deservedly defeated leftist government. Italy is the only major European country ruled by “populists.” Most people still prefer them–unruly and fractious as they often appear–to the kind of efficiency offered by Draghi and his grey-suited clones.
South of the Alps the terms of public debate have changed profoundly and irreversibly. Italy’s economy may be stagnant, her finances messy and her demography sluggish, but there is hope. It remains a civilized country–or, rather, a conglomerate of regions and dialects which is less than a nation-state a la France but more, much more than an ideological abstraction like today’s America. It cannot be cowed by foreign bullying. Just ask Metternich.