Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Could Italy Fall Even Before the Tower of Pisa?

ROME - Earlier this month, a team of construction experts made another effort to save the Leaning Tower of Pisa. In the space of five days, they managed to insert 12 tons of lead into the monument to stop it falling over. By the end of this year, they hope to have anchored about 100 tons of lead inside the tower. Last year they put steel cables on it.


The tower was built 800 years ago, and is about six times as old as the united Italian state. But it would be interesting to know what odds Italian bookmakers would offer on the tower lasting longer than the state. In the opinion of some Italians, both look as if they will eventually keel over.


The crisis of the state is entertainingly depicted in a recently published novel, "La Rivolta" (The Revolt), a political fantasy based on Italy's current corruption scandals. The novel, which is already a best-seller, imagines former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti trying to flee Rome disguised as a woman in a blonde wig before he is captured and beheaded in the Colosseum.


In real life, Andreotti is under investigation for alleged corruption and links to the Mafia. Police are likewise probing the affairs of no fewer than one in six members of Italy's parliament, as well as hundreds of other figures at the very center of public life. At first sight, the entire post-1945 Italian system appears to be bursting apart in a peaceful revolution.


The impression is only partly right. In the first place, the revolution is not so peaceful. Many Italians believe that the bombers who wrecked part of the Uffizi gallery in Florence earlier this year were intent on sabotaging the process of reform. Magistrates investigating the Mafia in Sicily have been killed. and then there are the suicides. Since the corruption scandals came to light 18 months ago, 10 prominent Italians have taken their lives.


Only last week the former head of ENI, the giant state energy company, killed himself while in prison under investigation, and the former chairman of Ferruzzi, another big industrial group, shot himself. It is arguable that the Italian judiciary, in its determination to root out the evil that has plagued the country for so long, has abused its powers and fostered an atmosphere similar to a witch-hunt.


As for the rotten political system, it is not quite dead yet. The scandals generated such outrage that, in a referendum last April, there was a large vote in favor of changing Italy's electoral system. The message was that it was time for the old parties, and the old politicians who lead them, to pack their bags and go. New parties such as the separatist Northern League and the anti-Mafia La Rete (Network) movement seemed set to replace them.


Yet the old leaders are still there. Indeed, the Christian Democrats, who have dominated politics since 1945, seem to think, like the Communists of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet state, that it will suffice to change their party's name, make a public declaration of repentance, and then occupy political office just as before.


But the nation's moral, political and economic health requires real changes, not cosmetic insincerities. Fortunately, some Christian Democrats, especially members who are too young or too radical to be part of Italy's discredited establishment, realize this.