Eugenio Scalfari, the editor of La Repubblica, says that Italians have become obsessed with secession. But do they have a sense of identity in the first place?by Eugenio Scalfari / August 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
9th June 1996
By focusing so much on the Northern League and the danger of secession, we have overlooked more fundamental questions about Italy: What do Italian people think of their nation? Is there an Italian national identity?
The other day I met Irene Pivetti (a leading member of the Northern League) at her office in Montecitorio. She had just returned from a rally in Pontida. After listening to my appraisal of the role of some northerners in the Italian Risorgimento, she said: “The Italian Risorgimento was a violent process carried out by intellectuals such as Pisacane who represented the will of a powerful elite rather than that of the people.” If this is the way that a young and intelligent woman like Pivetti views the Risorgimento and national identity, then perhaps it is time to shift the focus of debate away from the proposed new state in the north of Italy-Padania-to the more fundamental issue of Italy’s legitimacy as a nation.
The memory of the last months of fascist rule in 1943 is still vivid in my mind. When the Americans came and reduced the area of San Lorenzo in Rome to rubble, my friends invited me to toast the final liberation. Then, after the 8th September, the country split into two. On the one hand, there were those who supported freedom (divided in turn between the supporters of the US and the communists supporting Stalin). On the other, there were those who vowed faithfulness to Il Duce and courted the Third Reich. What would happen to an Italian nation which, almost from the moment of its birth, had been undermined first by Victor Emmanuel’s dynastic egotism and then by the megalomaniac rule of Mussolini?
“One army, One language and One religion…,” insisted the Italian poet Alessandro Manzoni. But had it ever been true? A survey carried out by the Cattaneo Institute in Bologna among young people aged between 15 and 24 had the following results:
Only 10 per cent of young Italians would fight for their country, against 16 per cent in Ireland, 17 per cent in France and Germany, 21 per cent in England, 24 per cent in Greece and 41 per cent in Portugal.
To the question “Do you identify more with your town, your region, your country, Europe or the world?”, 35 per cent of Italians answered that they identify mostly with…