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Why There Is Always A ‘P’ In Italy

Author bio: 
Richard Cottrell

Way back in 1981 a secret state cabal called Propaganda Due, packed with the great and the good from all walks of neo-rightist, neo-fascist life, was dragged kicking and screaming into daylight by the scruff of its conspiratorial neck.  P2’s grand master Licio Gelli, former close aid to dictator Benito Mussolini,  one time Italian ‘ambassador’ to the Nazi party, bolted very smartly to south America, leaving behind in his sumptuous villa located in Etruscan beauty spot Arezzo the blueprint for an imminent fascist putsch: the NATO-approved Plan For Democratic Renewal (in Italian piano di rinascita democratica). Ten years later this was the trigger for the outing of Italy’s band of secret, sleeping soldiers acting under NATO command, the so-called Gladio operation, which in due course was discovered all over Europe.

These Gladiators, together with their cohorts in the world of organized crime, right wing politicians and military officers and close allies in the Vatican were responsible for the reign of synthetic terror wracking the country for the best part of two decades, which Italians recall today as the anni di piombo (the years of lead). The aim of all the outrages which marked these years, the bombings, shootings, murders (including the JFK-like former premier Aldo Moro) was to scare Italians they were victims of a communist conspiracy and so drive them into the safe arms of the right. This miserable device was known as the ‘Strategy of Tension.’ We can see the same trademark operation all around us today, except we call it the War on Terror.

Italy is what it always has been: a collection of city states with fierce local and regional loyalties and practically none to the centre. Tourists who come here think they are hearing Italian spoken all around them. They are not, except in restaurants and beach bars. They are hearing far older languages: Venetian, Lombardian, Sicilian, Sardinian, Calabrian, and so on. It is fashionable in intellectual quarters to describe these tongues as dialects, which they are not. They are the living vox populii of a people who have never come to terms with the idea of national identity, which they subliminally reject by pursuing their loyalties to the old jigsaw Italy composed of city states. So it follows they have never fully developed a loyalty to the national centre, which in turn encouraged the elite classes composed of  corporate barons and institutionally corrupt politicians to criminalize politics from the earliest times of the Risorgimento (Italian unity) through the reign of the grotesque toad Mussolini, right up the  present day.

Political life in Italia consists of wretched, rolling scandals, far too numerous to deal with here. Now we are in the thick of the latest one. It is no surprise to find that the ‘P’ is back in Italia with renewed vengeance. Under Silvio Berlusconi, absolutely no surprise at all. Still in his political short pants, Berlusconi was a P2 initiate. He became Licio Gelli’s flattered and favored son. Between them they devised the idea of enslaving the Italian media and television network in order to control the national agenda. The result is a ghastly diet of trivial nonsense which nightly reduces the thinking capacities of Italians bewitched by the flickering screen to that favorite delicacy of Old Calabria, stewed calves’ brains.

Eighteen months ago, P2 was exposed in full working order and instantly re-christened by the few intrusive elements of the media as ‘P3.’ All the same actors were on the stage as before: bent politicos, Mafia fraternizers, shady dealers and dabblers in the world of big business, institutionally corrupt state corporations, Duce-worshipping neo-fascists, rightist elements of the military and of course all the usual daylight-shunning, wriggling creatures found scuttling through the netherworld corridors of the deep state from time immemorial, in Italian terms. The ‘shocked’ political caste immediately installed a parliamentary commission of inquiry, which so far has got nowhere at all, or shall we say not quite, because the latest scandal rocking the country, the unfrocking of ‘P4,’ is in part at least a side product.

Everyone knows that Silvio Berlusconi’s political tenure is on the line. All those tatty brass pole bunga-bunga  parties, the well known affair of fishing his teenage Moroccan floozy Ruby The Heart Breaker from police custody, the increasingly acidic rumors he is not quite right in the head (and elsewhere), his immunities from prosecution shot away in the recent referendum (along with his plans to restart the nuclear power industry) have seen to that.  And now, P4.    

It seems the new Licio Gelli is a veteran figure of the nightshades, a certain Luigi Bisignani, who can trace his ancestry straight back to P2. He is now being described as effectively the prime minister of the alternative secret state, wielding such power and influence that no door in the highest quarters of the state, nor Italy’s sprawling corporate state, was closed to him. It is said he drifted along the corridors of political power with the effortless ease of cigar smoke. For years apparently he has been the controller of billions doled out in public service contracts, fixing the deals with Ferraris, gold watches, tarts and quite possibly threats, linked of course to the most important province of the Italian private sector: the Mob. What we have yet to learn more about is the sexy political stuff, against the background of the massive eavesdropping and curtain twitching in this country and the connections that may bear to the mob, P4 and of course certain elected members of the legislature.

The exposure of P2 prompted Licio Gellò’s famous runner to South America, followed by a string of neo-fascist Gladio refugees. These temporarily idle hands found useful work with the local death squads at the service of the sub-continent’s sadistic soldier-dictators. There is nothing new under the sun, so the P4 scandal has served up the necessary bolter, in the shape of a top Carabiniere cop who is believed to be in possession of the big one, namely the file that lists all P4 affiliates. If this is true, he is holding a stick of dynamite with the fuse primed. Its blackmail potential may well be rubbed out with a well aimed silenced pistol, the old Italian way of settling matters such as this. He is supposed to be somewhere in North Africa. I would take a reasonable bet he thinks dodging NATO bombs in Tripoli may be safer than facing the music at home.

For now grandmaster Bisignani is under house arrest (an interestingly soft armchair arrangement) and apparently singing like a canary. There are several mysteries to consider in the usual hall of Italian mirrors. Bisignani’s antennae did not, apparently, extend to an insurance policy of a smart tip off (like Licio Gelli) when the forces of law and order were closing in. So, a head served up on a plate, just as Sgr. Berlossini enters the last lap? Diversions and distractions like this are commonplace in Italian public life. One always has to read the background in order to see what may be the full picture. Chief of these is the succession at the top. Many people, and I am one of them, suspect that the former Prince of Fiat, Count Luca di Montezelomo, a grand figure of the corporate state, ex boss of the Confindustria employers’ club, minor figurine of the Savoy royal house, is being groomed as the new strongman Italia ‘needs’. His form looks good. His brother is a favored cardinal, Montezomolo pops in for a noggin with the Pope whenever he feels like it (despite being a serial divorcee). He boasts that eleganza suave Italian upper-crust charm and looks, despite being in his sixties. A little while back he created his own Christian Democrat-resurgent think tank. Every now and again he muses aloud he is ready for power, should he be is summoned.

While he is waiting for that call, let me speculate it is extremely unlikely that such a man, in so many places at the same time in the Italian state, never knew or heard of Luigi Bisignani, who inhabits, evidently, the same class and quarters as His Highness Montezemolo. We are being invited to believe that Bisignani has been up to his tricks for years, decades even, without a sniff of what was going on. This is not without precedent, if we look at Gelli’s career purely on the surface. Of course everyone who needed to know knew Gelli’s game all along. The Italian way is always snakes and ladders. Gelli was outed because he got above himself with the intended putsch, in other words the grandmaster stepped on sensitive toes. Something like that is happening now with the P4 affair.

Berlusconi is a tottering, wounded stag. An epoch is coming to an end. Italia is in severe economic distress, getting worse by the day. Unemployment is soaring. The left is flexing its long dormant muscles. Berlusconi just lost his traditional electoral stronghold, Milano, the country’s financial capital. No-one on the right wants elections, especially Umberto Bossi, Ruler of the Northlands, in these circumstances, So, another piano di rinascita democratic? Lets call it Putsch Lite this time around. Long live P-italia.

Richard Cottrell is a journalist, author and former elected member of the European Parliament (Conservative). His new book Gladio: NATO’s Dagger At The Heart Of Europe will be published by Progressive Press this autumn.