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First They Took Rome: How The Far Right Conquered Italy

David Broder, in his new book First They Took Rome: How The Populist Right Conquered Italy, shows how the populist right drew on a deep well of social despair, ignored by the liberal centre. This conversation with author Chris Bambery will open up a discussion on the key issues facing the left in Italy, and the lessons they hold for countering the far-right across Europe.


There is little that hasn’t gone wrong for Italy in the last three decades. Economic growth has flat-lined, infrastructure has crumbled, and out-of-work youth find their futures stuck on hold. These woes have been reflected in the country’s politics, from Silvio Berlusconi’s scandals to the rise of the far right.

Many commentators blame Italy’s malaise on cultural ills—pointing to the corruption of public life or a supposedly endemic backwardness. In this reading, Italy has failed to converge with the neoliberal reforms mounted by other European countries, leaving it to trail behind the rest of the world.

First They Took Rome offers a different perspective: Italy isn’t failing to keep up with its international peers but farther along the same path of decline they are following. In the 1980s, Italy boasted the West’s strongest Communist Party; today, social solidarity is collapsing, working people feel ever more atomized, and democratic institutions grow increasingly hollow.Italy’s recent history is a warning from the future—the story of a collapse of public life that risks spreading across the West.The book is available to buy here:

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