Against The Mafia In The Name Of The Law

Leonardo Sciascia
Corriere della sera

"Different from Fascism, democracy has in its hands the one tool suited to combating crime: law - The risk of replacing the symbol of the balance of justice with the so-called "hand-cuff culture" - The vigilance or public health committees are similar to the madmen who in Western films ask for summary justice which the good sheriff opposes - Parades and round tables only give the illusion of doing something"

ABSTRACT: A long, polemical article in which the author defends himself against the attacks made on him in «La Repubblica» by Giampaolo Pansa and more generally the attacks of the Anti-Mafia Co-ordinating Group for his criticism of "a certain way of understanding and carrying-out the fight against the Mafia" and the way in which Judge Borsellino was nominated Public Prosecutor for Marsala. He begins by recalling the suicide of Rosario Nicoletti, which is almost the "psychological motivation" of his behaviour. He then reaffirms that the "way the Palermo Anti-Mafia Co-ordinating Group and Giampaolo Pansa understand and carry-out the fight against the Mafia" ends up by being an advantage for the Mafia. Fascism was able to use certain easy methods with its "culture of suspicion" and "hand-cuff culture". Democracy cannot do this. But unfortunately it still makes wide use of certain "downright repugnant" methods and also of the "culture of leaks" which break the law of the secret inquiry.
But his article unleashed the ire of the "anti-Mafia professionals", and in particular of the Co-ordinating Group, which asked for Sciascia to be exiled to the fringe of "civil society". But the author asks what authority and legitimacy that Group has, even if supported by the Communist Party and the "Catholics for renewal"? And who authorises Pansa to make certain judgements - negative on Sciascia and extremely positive on the mayor of Palermo? And yet, aside from round tables and students' parades, the only serious initiatives taken against the Mafia in Palermo on the administrative level were taken by others and not the mayor. Finally, he refers to the "dichotomy" that has been created because of the disparity of judgements between Judge Borsellino and a sentence of the Palermo Court of Assizes which criticised him: in trials against the Mafia events such as these are harmful to justice.
(CORRIERE DELLA SERA, January 26, 1987)

Pirandello said: "A blessed country is ours where certain words go pompously trotting around, gurgling and spreading their tails like so many turkeys". But leaving irony aside (whose language is not always decipherable by most people) one can say - and I can rightly say it after thirty years of polemics - that ours is a remarkable country, where it is enough to try using the door knocker on the door of truth for one to be proclaimed a plague-carrier even by those who know that unctions do not exist and that the person knocking has nothing to do with the plague. And the trouble is that this is done precisely by those who have some say in the matter. But I see that I am falling into irony again, whereas I ought to be on my guard against it as against a vice (but it is like smoking: we often decide to quit only to keep on doing it to our harm).
So I will try to skip the irony and stick to the facts. Which are these: On the 10th of this month the Corriere published my article in which, beginning with the interesting book by Christopher Duggan on «The Mafia Under Fascism», I briefly develop some ideas on a certain way of understanding and carrying-out the fight against the Mafia that to me seems counterproductive and wrong. At the source of these considerations there was (is) a painful and, I admit, traumatic event - and with this I offer a psychological motivation for those looking for one in my behaviour: the suicide of Rosario Nicoletti. (1) I met Nicoletti during the days when Moro was in the "people's prison" (2), and like me Nicoletti was sorrowfully convinced that the weaving together of inefficiency, stubbornness and special interests would mean that Moro would not come out alive. And I would say that he, as a Christian Democrat, struggled with the problem much more dramatically than I did. From that first encounter we formed a friendship. It seemed to me that, as Pasolini said of Moro, he was "the least implicated of all". And I am left with the fact - like a dark spot, like a question, like an inner torment - that the last appointment we made did not come off. When I arrived, a little late, I found that he had left a message that he could not make it.
But leaving yesterday's events behind and returning to those of today on which yesterday's continue to reverberate, it did and does seem to me that the way of understanding and carrying-out the fight against the Mafia of which Palermo's Anti-Mafia Co-ordinating Group has given ample and perfect demonstration in recent days by their reaction to my article, ends up by being in effect an advantage for the Mafia. To reject what with disdain is called "guaranteeism" (i.e., the guarantee of civil rights, ed.) - and which after all is only a recall to the rules, to the law, to the constitution - is in its debilitating effects on the fight against the Mafia, an error of uncalculated consequences. There is no doubt that Fascism in the immediate short run could (and one can also recognise that it did succeed) conduct a much more efficacious fight against the Mafia than a democracy can. But it was precisely Fascism rather than whose power several Italians - if their shoulders were put to the wall - would have preferred to see the Mafia continue to exist. I say several, since I know of the consensus of the majority and not only because of my having read De Felice but because of my indelible memory. This is the source in certain pages of Brancati's writing of the figure of the good, the reasonable Mafioso - which is to say the anti-Fascist Mafioso. And today what is being seen to happen is precisely this: that in believing democracy to be impotent in the fight against the Mafia, there are those who believe they can supplement it with rhetoric, howling, parades, and above all with what has been called "the culture of suspicion" - that suspicion which at a certain point Rosario Nicoletti felt himself to besieged by and which made him "unjust towards his own justness" (to the degree that - in Italy - a man can feel himself to be just who for years had a role of a certain importance in the majority party. Personally just, I mean to say, but recognising that he was moving in an unjust context). But democracy is not impotent against the Mafia. Or rather, there is nothing in the system itself, in its principles, that makes it necessarily unable to combat the Mafia, that it obliges it to live with the Mafia. On the contrary, in its hands there is a tool that a tyranny does not possess: law, law which is equal for all, the scales of justice. If one substitutes the symbol of hand-cuffs for that of the scales - as some anti-Mafia fanatics in their hearts would like to do - we will be irredeemably lost in a way that not even Fascism managed to make us be. And there is much talk of hand-cuffs today, one sees so many in the newspapers and on television screens: objects which may perhaps be necessary but which does not make them any more pleasant to see, and when waved around as symbols, makes them distinctly repugnant. And why do the newspapers not begin to write headlines saying, instead of handcuffs for Joe Doe, that the guy was simply - which is already everything - arrested? Are we faced, in view of the prevailing usage of calling culture the lack of culture, with a "hand-cuff culture"? And is it not to be feared that such a "culture" has already insinuated itself into the places that should be the first to decisively reject it? It is clear that the "hand-cuff culture" has been promoted by the pre-existing "news-leaks" culture that has been established between certain offices of the judiciary and reporters. The effect of this is to make us see the advent, sooner or later, but certain, of handcuffs being snapped onto the wrists of anyone - as long as he has a certain notoriety - who is called upon or volunteers to present himself at the offices of the judiciary even just to give a ridiculous testimony. A "culture" that perhaps is to be connected with that older and more harmful one that considered bearing testimony to be a shameful act. And the "news-leak culture", as everyone will remember, was particularly prevalent in the Tortora (3) case.
At this point, with the number of press leaks multiplying, one comes to wonder if, in order to avoid damage to individuals, it would not be better to have an open, public inquiry. But the objection - preclusive and very sensible - is that only the flagrant evidence would survive such a process - and particularly where Mafia trials are concerned. So nothing is left but to hope for a totally secret inquiry, the cutting off of every tie - except for eventual public press conferences - between judges and journalists, and that is something for the High Council of Magistrates to take care of.
These too are facts, but they have led me to digress from the facts that concern me more particularly. Therefore: immediately the ire of the "anti-Mafia professionals" - the headline on the article was not of my invention, but from the reaction it aroused one can deduce that it correctly exposed a category - unleashed itself on my head regarding the considerations I brought up in that article on the perils of a badly conducted anti-Mafia fight, especially from the Palermo Anti-Mafia Co-ordination Group which immediately released a communique that decreed my exile to the fringes of "civil society" and I was gratified to receive an insult which, for the Mafiosi, is the most radical and definitive condemnation their society can pronounce. A singular and symptomatic "voice of the impaired mind": no better insult had they found than the typical Mafia one. Needless to say, the Anti-Mafia Co-ordination Group could not have given me a more perfect and prompt reply to demonstrate the rightness of my concern. The intentions of that group are to be a kind of public health committee of vigilantes who make sure that the fight against the Mafia does not slacken. And I do not know what or how much legitimacy such a committee can have in a constitutional state. It has the air in fact of those instinctive or maneuvered assemblies - and the more instinctive they are, the more easily maneuvered - that in certain Western films demand quick and summary justice against the slow procedures of a sheriff or a judge. In Western films there is generally a good sheriff or good judge who opposes the demand for summary justice. But the sheriffs and judges in this case seem to be enrolled in the Palermo committee together with jurists and representatives of politics and the institutions, which could allow one to hope that it is an association, so to speak, that is not choleric, not inclined to the instance and the practise of summary justice. Furthermore the Communist Party and the Catholics for "renewal" participate in it and one would not believe the Communist Party would give its support to an uncontrollable organisation capable of follies and self-injuring initiatives. And it is curious how among the three hundred and some members the group numbers, not even the most qualified and qualifying have become alarmed at the letters which the association splattered all over the papers every time a judge showed his face who wanted to guarantee civil rights. Letters signed by the group without the names of the few who in reality decided to write and send them. A providential event if it served to make the majority of the members - and the Communist Party - take their distance from the group.
Now I must confess that as far as I am concerned I do not like the way they are taking their distance, denying and covering their positions. I do nor like it on rational grounds, not visceral reactions, because their is something not credible about it. But the trouble is that however much it may not appear to be credible, it is a fact. However unlikely it may seem, it is the truth. And one must thus assume that such a numerous association, hosted by the ARCI (Associazione Ricreativa Culturale Italiana, ed.) and supported by the Communist Party, with so many members noted for their cleverness, public offices and political roles, is being abandoned to a very slim minority of fanatics and decidedly self-injuring types. A very worrisome fact if these latter should turn out to be half the membership plus one.
It is clear that besides those who wrote it there must be some members who like and support that communique. And there are also some who share it "ad honorem" like Giampaolo Pansa. By a very great effort of imagination the creator of a political zoology based on white elephants and pink panthers, Pansa has ended by taking on a degree of zoomorphism himself: he has developed a "tail of judgement". «Judge and consign according to whom you have seized»: (4) and he has destined me to the cellar and the mayor of Palermo to the penthouse. Because he not only has a tail of judgement but also an elevator. But I hope that the mayor of Palermo - whom, as I have already mentioned, I like - will come down very soon and start walking about the city. He will see the same things that I see and, if he listens to people talk, he will hear the same things I hear. In an elevator of this kind one loses one's sense of reality, as happened to Pansa who stays in it for too long and often he falls into a kind of obsession: Milan, Via Solferino, no.28, which is this newspaper. Instead of going up with Pansa, let the mayor come down and hear what the representatives of the CISL, the UIL and the CGIL (5) have to say. I have met with them in recent days and I feel extraordinarily comforted, and I would say more sure of myself, in learning that they said these things before I did. My regret - and it ought even more to be that of the Sicilian and national press - is that I did not meet them sooner.
The parades, the round tables, the debates on the Mafia in a country in which rhetoric and falsification lurk around every corner, serve to create the illusion and the tranquillity of having done something - especially when nothing concrete is accomplished.
The kids must be left in school, which for better or worse still has some use. If one wants to do something serious, why not give them those thirty or so illuminating pages on the Mafia from Hobsbawm's book on revolutionaries? One could turn it into a pamphlet for wide distribution and committing the teachers to explain it in the context of Sicilian and Italian national history. It would cost less public money than certain "cultural" manifestations against the Mafia cost. And here we touch on another point of a subject which must nevertheless be discussed of the enormous waste of public funds on "cultural" manifestations.
But to return to the mayor of Palermo, I hope no one will accuse me of attacking him if I remind the forgetful (and he too is a little short of memory) that the city of Palermo was the civil party in a Mafia trial for the first time in October 1983, the mayor being Elda Pucci: and that the decision to grant by public auction the contract for maintenance of the city streets bears the signature, in September 1985, of the special city commissar Gianfranco Vitocolonna. The memory of his death in an automobile accident due to a barrier placed in the street during the uprising against the pardon for illegal building construction, leads to thinking about the entire lack of attention given by the "anti-Mafia professionals" to this uprising in which more than one trace of Mafia involvement was visible. But what concrete proposals have ever come from an anti-Mafia professed in this way? Just for the sake of the record (about which I may be mistaken, but it seems important to me) let me ask: has a census ever been requested with subsequent action regarding the usurpation of state and city property - water, buildings, urban and suburban areas?
Guilty, according to the "anti-Mafia professionals" of having attacked the mayor of Palermo, I have been accused of the worse crime of having attacked Dr. Borsellino, Marsala's Public Prosecutor, for career ambitions - something which is not at all true as is very evident in my article in question. Rather I attacked the method, and the principle that method gave rise to, by which the High Council of Magistrates (HCM) nominated him to his present post. And I cited two excerpts - agreeable but worrisome - from the «Notiziario straordinario of the CSM» (no.17, September 10) (Special Bulletin of the HCM, ed.) which should truly be called "special" for other things to be found in it. Readers should look it up. They will, I hope, find it as agreeable and worrisome as I did.
At the time I wrote the article I knew nothing about Dr. Borsellino. After the publication of the article in the Corriere (Corriere della Sera, the Milan daily, ed.) someone brought me the decision of the Palermo Court of Assizes, Second Section, which contains grave criticisms of one of his inquiries. This decision entirely convinces me, but I do not feel like using it for an attack on Dr. Borsellino. I am serenely convinced that if I were to read his decision in the inquiry I would agree with him from, let us say, a narrative standpoint. I mean to say, his intuitions, the way they take shape and connect up, their "story telling" qualities, would I am sure persuade me as much as does the sentence of the Court of Assizes on the juridical level. This is often the dichotomy that arises in going from the inquiry to the trial hearings - and generally it is a useful dialectical movement for the realisation of justice, but in Mafia trials it is destined to repeat itself as an unbridgeable contradiction, and in certain cases to the advantage of the guilty party and of harm to justice. But I - as long as a technical solution is not found which does not contravene the concept of legal rights - I much prefer that justice be damaged than denied. This is my heresy; let the inquisitors give me whatever sentence they like. But there are many heretics, fortunately, in our country, although there may not seem to be.
And in conclusion, whether the administration of justice in Italy - and not only with regard to the Mafia - succeeds, as I hope, in exiting from the impasse wherein it finds itself, or remains there with even greater evils - in short, if it gets better or worse - what I have written and still write will very soon appear as incontrovertible truth or even obvious and banal - in fact, it has already begun to appear as such. The Hon. Mr. Alinovi, President of the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission, has said the very same things that I have said and am saying. But I think that no one will dare to consign him to the fringes of "civil society" (which, in any case, considering how it has reacted in my case, is as uncivil as one can possibly imagine). I wonder why. And I offer myself this answer: because they believe me to be alone; and because I am Sicilian. A very disconsolate answer. But let the reader find another one.
1) Nicoletti, Rosario - A Sicilian Christian Democrat leader who died by his own hand. Some say his suicide was a result of accusations of collusion between him and the Mafia made by Nando Dalla Chiesa, son of Carabinieri General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, assassinated by the Mafia.

2) People's prison - The phrase used by Red Brigades kidnappers of Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro to describe his place of detention.

3) Tortora, Enzo - (Genoa 1928 - Milan 1988) Journalist and famous television MC, arrested for drug pushing. Elected to the European Parliament in 1984 on the Radical ticket, he underwent a famous trial in which he was convicted, only to be absolved on appeal. This occasion became the symbol of the Radicals' most important campaign for the reform of justice.

4) "Tail of judgement", etc. - Allusions to Dante's Divine Comedy and the demon who assigned sinners to the circles of Hell corresponding to their degree of guilt by wrapping his tail around them.

5) CISL, UIL, CGIL - The three big Italian labour unions corresponding to the Christian Democratic, Socialist and Communist parties.