Corruption in Italy

Italian for Beginners

by John Lowrey

English journalists are having a great old time commenting on Italy’s corruption scandals. This is all very safe and very easy. The Italians have made the investigations official and have done the spadework. All our lot has to do is read the Italian press.

The thing about the Italian system was that it worked – and it was designed to work. Italy, Japan and Germany lost the war and their conquerors reshaped them in their own interests and after their own images.

Italy and Japan were reshaped by the Americans. Their systems brought prosperity to both countries and were based on backhanders, palm-greasing and jobs for the boys. This was not unreasonable. Th Americans felt that they were faced with three strong forces in these countries. The fascists/militarists were unacceptable. The Communists were the enemy. Organised crime was about all that was left.

Germany, on the other hand, was reshaped by the British Labour Party. That was, of course, a time when the Party was led by people who believed in something – social democracy, and were not in politics for the jobs or for the money.

The Italians are now reshaping their country again. The Japanese are making moves in that direction. But since Japan is not yet “officially” corrupt, our intrepid investigators tend to shy away from prying too closely. (Also, the spadework hasn’t yet been done for the lazy buggers.)

Out at the head of the Italian bashing brigade is our old friend, Martin Jacques. First in his stream-of-consciousness in the Sunday Times and then on the telly.

Jacques, it may be remembered, was a leading member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and editor of Marxism Today. He made the astonishing claim that he didn’t know that his party got money from Moscow. (I notice his old comrade, Jimmy Reid, is saying the same thing as he makes money by crapping from a great height on his old comrades.) But let’s be charitable and accept that Jacques was one of Stalin’s “useful fools”.

If Jacques and his new establishment friends really were fearless investigative journalists they would surely ply their trade a bit nearer to home. They would wish to know how for instance Lord Young became Chairman of privatised Cable and Wireless; how Lord Tebbit got onto the board of British Telecom; what if any is the connection between their voting on the Coal White Paper and the fact that Michael Clarke MP is an advisor to British Gas or that Marcus Fox MP is Chairman of the Bristol Port Company which is building a new terminal for importing coal; or has the lack of concern by the government about the recent spate of early releases from custody got anything to do with the fact that the Chairman of the Conservative Party is on the board or Group 4?

Possibly innocent explanations all round! But let’s see Jacques & Co. tackle it (Longer lists available from L&TUR for the lazier journalists.)

After all, we don’t want to see Cde. Jacques a decade hence expressing sur-prise when it is discovered that the establishment he has worked so hard to join had not been as lily white as the poor innocent thought it was.


This article appeared in May 1993, in Issue 35 of Labour and Trade Union Review, now Labour Affairs.  You can find more from the era at and