Forse quando Mr. Berlusconi al congresso del P2L parlava dell'Italia come il fiore all'occhiello dell'Europa si riferiva proprio a queste cose? Mah, in mezzo a tutti quei canti e balletti, nani e vallette, collusi e corruttori, prescritti e piduisti non c'ho capito molto.
Mr Berlusconi's success owes something to his own audacity and quite a lot to the deepening weakness of his opponents. The Italian left, in particular, has failed to mount an effective opposition. Yet Mr Berlusconi's latest action - the merger into his new People of Freedom bloc, completed yesterday, of his own Forza Italia party with the Allianza Nazionale which derives directly from Benito Mussolini's fascist tradition - may leave a more lasting mark on Italian public life than anything else the populist tycoon has done.
Unlike postwar Germany, postwar Italy never properly confronted its own fascist legacy. As a result, while neofascism has never seriously resurfaced in Germany, in Italy there were important continuities - inherited Mussolini-era laws and officials and the postwar rebirth of the renamed Fascist party among them - in spite of Italy's nominally anti-fascist public culture. Those continuities have just become stronger. It is a day of shame for Italy.
Nevertheless, the AN has come a long way in 60 years. Its leader, Gianfranco Fini, has discarded the old political garments and led his party towards the centre. He has worked for more than 15 years as Mr Berlusconi's ally. He talks about the need for dialogue with Islam, denounces antisemitism, and advocates a multi-ethnic Italy - positions which Mr Berlusconi, with his populist anti-gypsy and anti-immigrant campaigns and his fondness for soft-core racism, would struggle to match.
Despite its distant liberal origins, modern Italy is historically a rightwing country. Yet it is a very shocking thought that there will be one head of government among the 20 world leaders at the London economic summit this week who has now rebuilt his political base on foundations laid by fascists and who claims that the right is likely to remain in power for generations as a result.