In This Review

Threats to Democracy: The Radical Right in Italy After the War
Threats to Democracy: The Radical Right in Italy After the War
By Franco Ferraresi
Princeton University Press, 1997, 311 pp

A political sociologist who has worked for a long time on the Italian radical right both as a scholar and as a consultant for a parliamentary investigation, Ferraresi, after giving up the academic attempt to find a clear and simple way of conceptualizing the far right, provides us with an invaluable survey of its many manifestations in post-1945 Italy -- of its ideologies and myths, of its tactics, attempted coups, and acts of terrorism. What he has unearthed is often terrifying. His study of what he calls the "strategy of tension" -- a strategy that entailed criminal acts about which evidence is often weak and "none of which have been adjudicated" -- is particularly revealing. But he does not deal in any detail with the "conversion" of the Italian Social Movement, led by Gianfranco Fini, to democracy, and with the chances of the far right in the post- scandal (and post-Christian Democratic hegemony) phase of Italian politics. What is particularly disturbing is his conviction that "hidden actors," such as domestic and foreign intelligence, were more deeply involved in these activities than he had previously thought, and his conclusion that "a powerful irrationalistic wind" is blowing in much of Europe.