Bye-bye, Bunga-bunga: "Addio Berlusconi"

"I haven't been so inspired since 1994," an Italian friend of mine posted on her Facebook page.

Well, I too can remember the year 1994, when I was in Milan, giving a public speech among some so-called intellectuals, soon after Berlusconi was elected. I had come there directly from Serbia, struggling in the thick of the Milosevic reign of terror.

I remember warning my Italian friends, feeling frightened, extremely emotional. I described a 'soft dictatorship,' how a small caste of oppressors gets into power legally, because WE vote them in, and then they steal and fake everything that WE, the people, never delegated them to do. And how, finally after waging wars against all the OTHERS in our own name, they finally turn on their ultimate victims and wage their war against US.

How they destroy every aspect of reality that stands in the way of a total exploitation: meaning the destruction, the ruin, of the people, ideas, customs, habits, prosperity, morality, of a nation and its history, of a time and a space. Afterwards, after the dreadful crash, who feels empty and responsible? We, the citizens who voted, we whose states were surrendered to the exploiters and profiteers, we, the participants, we are the ones humiliated in front of our children and the whole world.

Tonight, while Italians danced in front of the parliament, impatiently waiting for Berlusconi to officially resign, I remembered, once again among many times, how Milosevic was finally toppled after his miserable endless reign. Milosevic stumbled in the elections. He took Serbian support for granted, since he controlled all the Serbian mass media, and all the local means of patronage and favors.

Milosevic admitted his electoral defeat, promising to regroup and return to power soon. He faked a compliance with democracy, but we believed in his defeat. We didn't allow him to return to the statehouse. Instead we paralyzed Belgrade by occupying the streets in a crowd of a million, surrounding the parliament until the police and army deserted the criminal and agreed with the population.

Italian change came more smoothly: but the exasperated crowds in Rome were harshly insulting their premiere. "Mafioso," "buffoon," "go to jail now," "up your ass, Silvio," between sentimental fits of patriotic singing, huge crowds of people in the nation's capital called their elected leader awful names that haven't been heard since the fall of Mussolini.

Italian state TV channels were very prudish about reporting the rude scenes in the streets and squares of Rome. Only one Italian TV channel, plus online video streaming from Italian newspapers, recorded the historic moments. Italian journalists had to rely on Al Jazeera, BBC, Sky and other foreigners to tell the Italian people about the public scenes and public events within their own capital city.

As usual, Twitter was raving and reporting live. These 140-character messages from widely-scattered cellphones are hard to repress. However, bandwidth on the net got very patchy as Italians poured online massively: their government was collapsing headlong while their leader's pet TV machine offered them nothing but game shows, vapid repeats and busty dancing girls. So much for their national media and their role as informed citizens.

Silenced and humiliated.

Anonious people are courageously shouting in the public streets: the buffoon is gone! We lived for this day! Prison for Berlusconi, out with all the cowards!

People around me are more than happy. They are extremely frightened. They don't need the somber warnings of Italy's President, Napolitano, an old man in a figurehead post whom many now credit with saving the country -- for the time being. It is as if, only now, the Italians can realize the obvious truth of their dramatic situation, the grave national crisis they have somehow survived.

The future carries a worrisome burden of long-denied truth. After so many blatant and revolting personal scandals, people somehow imagined that they knew the truth about their Big Boss. They knew how to maneuver and how to protect their own interests in the minefield of official illusions. But that is not what real life is like, after the Fall.

The aftermath is like a mudslide after a torrential rain: it carries away the innocent as readily as the guilty. Since every citizen is entirely implicated in a nation's official fantasies, you cannot tell the clean from the polluted. Berlusconi brought out the worst instincts in every Italian, Eugenio Scalfari said.

Tomorrow is a big day for Italy: the first day of reconstruction. A new government, a new prime minister. Emergency stability law has been passed, as required by EU in a terrible haste, as Prime Minister Berlusconi crept from the President's house through the side door after resigning.

He finally departed his TV stage-set in a cloud of angry Twitter #hashtags: #byebyebungabunga, #finecorsa (end of the road), #maipiu (never more) #rimontiamo (Italy rides again)!

[Video Link]


  1. I described a ‘soft dictatorship,’ how a small caste of oppressors gets into power legally, because WE vote them in, and then they steal and fake everything that WE, the people, never delegated them to do. And how, finally after waging wars against all the OTHERS in our own name, they finally turn on their ultimate victims and wage their war against US.

    How penetrating. But I can’t help thinking that Berlusconi’s departure is merely the latest and most natural evolution of “soft dictatorship”–donning a new visage to replace the hated old one.

    Resignation, ouster or election–with neoliberalism, the result is always the more of the same. The skull beneath the mask never changes.

  2. I’d love to say something about this event, but I would end writing for hours. So I’ll be quick. Some Italians lost the sense of time because of him: always the same faces, always the same problems, always the same speeches. To me, the key to his “success”, if I really have to, is the fact that he softened us all too much. Ci ha rincoglionito tutti. Then he proposed himself, in a time when Italian media was already infected by his power. It’s not just the “decadence of Italian television”, it’s pure social engineering. People can’t be that stupid! Who voted him believed in things that sound and look good on TV, but are just impractical. Like two people kissing in the rain.
    When I get old, maybe, I won’t be able to talk a lot about this little piece of history, so I’ll have to find a phrase that doesn’t need to be explained further. I’m already working on it, how about: “This, kids, is how you get a virus from a television set”?

    Thank you Jasmina, I always love your articles. I don’t feel alone when you talk about my country.

  3. Two changes of democratically elected governments without elections. Clearly a cause for celebration. What could go wrong?

    1. That’s called a parliamentary democracy, as compared to a presidential democracy. Alec Douglas-Home, Jim Callaghan, John Major and Gordon Brown all became British Prime Ministers  without an election.

      1. If democracy was considered important, there’d be an election, or a referendum. As it is, we have an elected PM (however bad) replaced by someone who has never been elected by anyone, and a proposed referendum in Greece slapped down in no uncertain terms. In this case, you approve of the change, but what will you do when this precedent is used to make a change you don’t approve of?

  4. The situation has become so utterly unbearable over here, in every sense, that now I don’t know if I should feel more released or frightened. I guess this is a first, small step forward. There’s still plenty of hard times ahead. We are left with an unprecedented moral and cultural devastation, and it takes much more than simple economic or political measures to fix that.

    ‘Right now I can’t read too good, don’t send me no more letters, no / Not unless you mail them from Desolation Row.’

  5. Berlusconi is an ass, but he is much more a product of the governing system in place than a shaper of it. Power today is more about fighting one’s way into an already designed and created position of easy rewards, rather than trying to change the world such that it better rewards you.

    As a result, it really does not matter so much which handful of sociopaths sit in those few reserved places. It is good that Berlusconi is gone, but the future mostly holds more of the same, with slightly changed dressing.

  6. Get back to me when italians don’t manage to reelect this asshole, yet again. 

    I mean this is the time, to go for the kill. The man’s immunity just dissappeared in a puff of smoke the moment he stepped down (some remains just form being in parliament) but at least this is the time to try and put the fucker in jail..

    But again, call me back when Italy makes him head of government again.


  7. I wouldn’t write him off just yet.  He leaves office just as the Italian Government will have to start making some very painful changes, or be at serious risk of  economic collapse.  Public sector jobs will go, pensions cut, etc etc.  All this is a result of the spending of the Bunga Bunga years, but Berlusconi won’t get the blame for the pain that results – whoever takes over will.  So in a few years time I could see Berlusconi riding back on  a wave of populism, with people fondly remembering his good time government and having forgotten its outcome, having ducked the worst of the cuts.  For someone who owns so much of the Italian media, giving up office doesn’t mean giving up power…

    1. absolutely right!  in Serbia, after the murder of Djindjic and death in prison of Milosevic  we still had a come back of  many little Milosevic’ clones , never purged from the old regime,  who still controlled the  power centers! and as i write this, they are still there! and i am not there anymore!

  8. Sad thing is that result of Milosevic regime was total and utter death of Serbia.

    Serbia will never return to what it was before. Its an empty shell. Like a country hit with atomic fallout.

    So strong was the effect that it changed and corrupted the very core essence of the country forever.

    I simply dont see its ever returning to what it was.

    The spirit and culture is lost forever…

  9. “Tomorrow is a big day for Italy: the first day of reconstruction. A new government, a new prime minister. Emergency stability law has been passed,” — Don’t you guys see a problem with this sentences? Mario Monti, the candidate for new prime minister is a technocrat from the financial sector, a Rockefeller lackey, member of the kind of SOBs that put Europe and the world in this situation. It creeps me out that intelligent people like the one who wrote this article can’t see it. Out of the frying pan, Italy may go to the fire.

    1. Oh I am a hopeless political idiot! i do however tend not to like anybody in power, and i myself would never go in politics, yet i guess somebody has to do it!

    2. @twitter-9483722:disqus  the fact that otherwise intelligent (and even progressive) people can’t wait to get a technocrat in charge is testament to how bad Berlusconi’s regime was.

      Berlusconi really, really wanted to screw the working classes, but somehow never managed to do it well, because he was an incompetent leader surrounded by incompetent politicians — very good at winning elections and hopeless at ruling. They squandered money and worried about shagging women; they couldn’t go after tax evasion because they were first to evade whenever possible; they couldn’t reform the justice system because they were first to abuse it; they couldn’t tackle corruption because they were as corrupted as anyone; etc etc etc.

      Now they’ll be replaced by people who want to screw the working classes *and* know how to do it properly, by the rules. Honest, impeccable economists with orthodox credentials. Such is the desire to get rid of the incompetent fools and survive yet another emergency, that people will support a few *very competent* slavedrivers who will be free to enact any regressive policy they feel like. It happened in the same way in the 90s, when another set of corrupt Italian politicians was sent packing, and it destroyed the political capital and historical perspective of all progressive parties, favouring the rise of Mr. B. I have to hope things will play out differently this time, but I honestly can’t see how that could happen.

  10. I fail to see how anyone could be worst than Berlusconi.
    The current crisis is his direct responsibility, starting in 2008 with the ill-advised removal of the property tax, the only tax directly levied by local governments and used for financing schools, roads and other basic social services, and the waste of 4 billions Euros in a failed attempt to “save” Alitalia, which in fact resolved in the transfer of a massive amount of money to friendly “entrpreneurs” without saving a single job. The Berlusconi government spent 3 years denying that the crisis even existed and our Parliament spent years discussing of the anti-wiretap law and the judicial shield for Berlusconi while the economy was collapsing.

  11. The italians have just replaced one with another. The advantage of Berlusconi, was that he could be removed democratically and had a mandate. Whether you approve of that mandate is down to the ballot box. 

    Now, the debts are still there. Add on top all the pension debts, and Italy is bust. So is the UK.

    Now they have an appointed EU prime minister, to do as the EU tells them. 

    Even worse in my opinion. 

    No democracy, just EU fascism. 

    1. Bullshit. The Italian Parliament and the Italian President, following all the procedures established by the Italian Constitution, replaced an incompetent asshole who was personally responsible for a lot of the problems of the country with a different person, who will be in power as long as he can count on the support of the majority of the 630 deputati and the 315 senators democratically elected by the Italian people, and at most until April 2013 when the current Parliament term will end.

  12. Very simple isn’t it. 

    If you want a democracy and to replace Burlesconi, at least have the bollocks to call an election and get the mandate for what’s going to happen.

    That won’t happen. 

    Hence its politicians with no mandate screwing the electorate. 

    ie. “We’re all in this together” really means “We’re going to take your money for our failures”

    1. The appointed PM will be confirmed if he can get support by the elected MPs, if he can’t there will be elections in a few weeks, if he can there will be elections at most in April 2013.

      This is how things work in Italy, according to the Constitution of the Italian Republic. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem, not ours.

      1. I’ve no doubt its how it works. Politicians have long since given up any pretence of getting a mandate from the electorate for their decisions. 

        1. In Italy, the Constitution explicitly says there is no mandate. Once elected, an MP simply represents the Nation for a number of years, and that’s it. 

  13. This quote really stood out to me:

    “I described a ‘soft dictatorship,’ how a small caste of oppressors gets into power legally, because WE vote them in, and then they steal and fake everything that WE, the people, never delegated them to do. And how, finally after waging wars against all the OTHERS in our own name, they finally turn on their ultimate victims and wage their war against US.”

    This sounds like what a lot of GOP leaders at the State level have been doing.  For example, trying to make unions illegal, or overturning Roe v. Wade.  These are NOT things they campaigned on, and their constituents clearly didn’t want those things to happen.  However, Americans have been pushing back with referenda and protests, which gives me hope for America.

  14. My friends here in Italy  are very angry with the opposition  and especially the Left, blaming them for this long Berlusconi reign and his possible comeback. That too was true in Serbia,, a divided opposition with lousy inefficient program, lack of visions and social sensibility made Milosevic thrive. Djindjc was the only guy who could put a stop to that, even though he was not perfect he was brave and capable. But then he got killed exactly because of that.
    Here in Itay we have  the markets up today and the technocrat government. Who can like that? Not the poor, but after Berlusconi episode, UNited Europe fortress seems like a safe haven. Besides EU  did act as a shield against staying alone with Berlusca. EU is a safe haven for Serbia too as a political goal but my guess is that by the time Serbia joins the EU , EU will be more like Serbia than anything else. This is a transition to nowhere for all of us .

  15. Berlusconi has resigned. This is good, but maybe the most difficult part has yet to come. We must stay sharp on that.
    In italy, before mussolini, many had about Giolitti and that political establishment sentiments similar to the ones we now have about berlusconi (mutatis mutandis).
    Too much powers always in the hands of the same people, social tensions and inequity, economic difficulties etc.
    And from that social feelings came the right “situation” in which Mussolini could rise. 
    They thought Giolitti & Co. were the problem, but then they realized the real problem had had yet to come. 
    This means that now we must pay even more attention to what will happen in italy and focus on avoiding the same mistakes our grandparents did in the 1920’s.

  16. A government run by Mario is not what I would have chosen, but I don’t see the alternative and either way it is better than Berlusconi by a mile.

    There would be no way to go left at this time. As long as Italy is part if the EU and therefore uses the the Euro and its central bank, there is no way to move left politically …….. short of an outright revolution ……  and I don’t see that happening any time soon anywhere in Europe.

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