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International Socialism, Spring 1967


Antonio de Giulio

Cosa Nostra


From International Socialism (1st series), No.28, Spring 1967, p.31.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Mafia and Politics
Michele Panteleone
Chatto & Windus, 35s

This translation of a work published originally in 1962 is the first to appear in English attempting a systematic documentation of the Mafia in Sicily. Written by a socialist peasant organiser and journalist attempts on whose life have been made more than once by the Mafia, it is in the characteristic crusading Sicilian Socialist style – which comes through despite the turgid translation in parts.

The opening chapters, on the rise of the Mafia, seem very weak; for example, it is never made clear whether the Mafia was born as an opposition to the landed nobility, or as their accomplice in keeping down and exploiting the peasants. This may be accounted for by their lack of written existence, and it seems that we shall never know exactly how the Mafia appeared.

This deficiency is rapidly made up in the succeeding chapters on the vicissitudes of the Mafia under Fascism, when it was almost eradicated; to be saved by the Anglo-American army in 1943. For those comrades titillated by conspiratorial intrigues, the documentation by Pantaleone of the collaboration between Siculo-American gangsters, US Naval Intelligence and the native Mafia in enabling the Anglo-American armies to reach central Sicily without firing a shot makes amusing – if bizarre – reading.

After World War Two the Mafia, having strengthened its traditional base of exploiting the peasants, began to enter the political life of the island by infiltrating the Christian Democrat Party and assassinating trade unionists, especially in the province of Agrigento. The fortuitous interrelationship between these new urban, non-cattle stealing middle-class Mafia notables and the power struggles within the Sicilian DC up to 1962, are all carefully documented by the author. This last section is, of course, unfinished since the corruption and murders of Agrigento have not as yet been unearthed. Indeed they probably never will be since it would mean that heads would fall in ‘high places’ in Rome.

The dead, feudal hand on Sicily held by the Mafia must be eradicated if the workers and peasants are to organise themselves effectively. This book goes some way to provide the background necessary to combat it. What happens when the peasants and workers are organised, and the Mafia eradicated is, however, another matter.

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