Dario Fo, "Mussolini's Ghost"

"Mussolini's Ghost"

Dario Fo

We are witnessing in Italy a never-ending series of
aberrations and hypocrisies by various political groups that
are invoking -- almost to the point of reclaiming the same
words and gestures -- a fascist climate. They use the same
repertoire and shout the same slogans: freedom, effort,
fatherland, Italy, defense of the race, culture of our
civilization, original civilization.

Add to that what we call a "conflict of interest." Mussolini
himself did not have the system of political privilege that
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's prime minister, has. On the other
side, there's an eerie absence of opposition. It's true.
It's a reality that can be felt: Our role has become one of
mere dissidents trying to fill the void of political
opposition. I attended the convention of the Democratici di
Sinistra [Democratic Left Party]: They seemed paralyzed. "We
must change, or we will die," they exclaimed. And having
said that, they remained on the podium like statues of salt.

When someone like Pier Ferdinando Casini, president of the
Parliament and member of the Union of Catholic Democrats,
says things that sound like they should come from the left,
such as, "Before changing anything at the RAI [Italian State
TV], we need to resolve issues involving conflict of
interest," then we are in the midst of madness. This is
someone on the right parroting the critical voice of a left
that no longer exists, at a time when the right's efforts
should be protested with important debates, meetings,
demonstrations -- in other words, any kind of presence. It's
absurd that Casini tells his party members: "Wait, let's not
overdo it." Even if this situation ends as a travesty or in
nothing at all, the right will still have succeeded in
speaking in the place of the opposition.

But one also sees new movements on the rise, especially
among students, young workers and the elderly, who, through
great and generous participation, seem to restore the waters
of the resurrection. And I say, even, in the Catholic sense
of the term, the waters of purification. These movements
testify to an awe-inspiring resurgence.

However, instead of going along with these new movements,
supporting them and applauding them, the left runs from
them, as if disgusted. These are the same leftists, we
should note, who are responsible for selling off our public
schools, a plan young people, teachers and
democratic-oriented families have made clear with the
slogan: "Don't turn our schools into businesses." Before
creating a private school system, we should concern
ourselves with putting the one that already exists -- the
public school system -- back together.

The same goes for their position on the war. Representatives
of the center-left, in order to mitigate their position,
plead: "Let's be careful not to upset the people. Let's not
turn innocent people into victims." Let's be careful? Is
that a joke? By now we know that 90 percent of victims are
innocent, as Gino Strada, the author and founder of
Emergency, an Italian organization that provides medical aid
to war-torn regions, has explained to us. But, of course, we
already knew that.

It has been calculated that the past three months of
bombings [in Afghanistan] have claimed more than 3,000
civilian victims, equivalent to the victims of the Twin
Towers. This does not count the victims of the devastated
cities, who live with atrocious hardships, or the invisible
victims -- "the invisible dead," as Strada once called
them -- whose numbers are frightening: thousands of orphans,
whose parents were blown to bits by bombs and land mines. In
this immense war-torn territory, it will take an estimated
200 years to clear the millions of land mines.

And all this for what? For a Pashtun victory that takes
opium production back from the Taliban, opium that will
still be sent to Pakistan to be refined and transformed into
heroin. In the end, this means everything is put back into
circulation with great force -- the profits of the drug traffic
recycled through American and European banks in a vicious
circle of terrorist financing. As a journalist asked an
official of the American government, "Given the financial
trail of money-laundering that Swiss banks are involved in,
when do you plan to bomb Switzerland?" The reply: dead

But to return to Italy and to the decline of democracy that
manifests itself there daily, I would not want this moment
to become similar to what occurred when that other
absolutist government was born, the one my father used to
tell me about -- he who, when very young, was a political
refugee in France. I'm struck when I listen to those who
witnessed that era firsthand say that they feel like they
are reliving the '20s, the years of the birth of fascism.

Furthermore, we read the newspaper and see that Berlusconi's
attorney, when presenting himself to the court for the first
time after being charged with corruption, leaves the
courtroom shouting: "There's no more justice!" His lawyers
are there alongside Berlusconi's lawyers to demand the
intervention of the minister of justice, a member of the
Northern League, and chosen, conveniently, by Berlusconi's

We have before us the most irrational paradoxes, like
something out of Alfred Jarry's King Ubu, the farce of the
impossible: Laws are made expressly for the king, ministers
are elected from his court to defend only his own interests,
and the public applauds. At most, someone delivers a minor
burp of indignation. With a clear conscience, the Cavalier
and his men take every power in hand and enjoy total
impunity. It is the logic of, "We will never go to prison."

I heard someone from Berlusconi's government say that they
will meet with the center-left. "In one hand," he said,
"weíll hold an olive branch and, in the other, a gun." Those
were his exact words. It's true. The new fascism is there in
their language and in their expressions. Beginning with
"Business Italy" and moving to the "Business Party," we are
all made into employees of the government, with the Big Boss
at the center.

"Losers Beware!" was another fascist slogan. Today, it is
enough to see the gestures, words, attitudes and the
arrogance of these politicians, who beat their fists on the
table, shouting "You're busting my balls" or "Get the hell
out of my business" (like the Minister of Communications).
We also hear "Arabs get out," "They can build their fleabag
mosques somewhere else," and "They should stay in their
ghetto." There's a new idea: a ghetto for those who are
different, for those who are not willing to conform.

At times I feel anguished by this whole situation, a mute
kind of melancholy. I continue to work in the theater, of
course, and in parts of our performances we deal with these
topics. And the public responds, but of course we're
preaching to the converted.

The best thing today is this fantastic breeze and sun -- these
young people who are organizing themselves across the world.
They need our help, information and the truth. But today we
have no Jean-Paul Sartre who goes to speak at universities.
In 1968 he held a conference on the theater of
circumstance -- political, popular theater. He opened the
conference with a quote from Alberto Savinio: "Oh men,
narrate our story."

Today, it is no longer a question of giving a history of the
present, a sense of l'esprit du temps. Today theater
directors and directors of theaters are on the right (some
more recent converts than others) and have acquired a flair
for flag-waving. Most intellectuals, in the meantime, are
sleeping or simply pretending the warning signs don't
exist -- pretending that they have better things to think


* Dario Fo, winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in literature, is
an Italian anarchist playwright and actor. The following
text is taken from a speech about the decline of democracy
in Italy given on January 12 in Paris. Translated by William
Finley Green.