Mafia Republic, John Dickie

Since the 19th century there have been three criminal organizations in the south of Italy. On Sicily there was the mafia or the Cosa Nostra, in Naples there was the Camorra and in Calabria there was the ‘Ndrangheta. The word mafia is used here as a name for all three the organizations.

The government could never really do something against these criminal organizations. Mussolini had big plans, but he also failed. His solution was to forbid the newspapers to write about the mafia, so the people had the idea it did not exist anymore.

When Italy became a republic in 1946, the mafia managed to use their invisibility and to tie itself to the politicians and the government.

In the years that followed the mafia became more visible again, and during the fifties people could no longer ignore that the mafia never really went away.

The mafia was involved in smuggling cigarettes (blondes), building fraud during the sixties, kidnappings and eventually the heroin trade in the seventies. Every time there was a new opportunity, the mafia adapted itself.
The Mafiosi also learned from each other, they traded secrets and it was not uncommon for a Mafioso to belong to two or even all three organizations.

The problem for the state and the police was that they did not really know how the different organizations worked. Only when there were some Mafiosi who made a deal with the police and told them how things worked, it became clearer.
Despite the evidence many politicians maintained that there was no such thing as the Mafia and they tried to delay or stop investigations. The ties the mafia had with the politicians came in handy.

Inside the mafia things were not always as they should be. On Sicily there was a war during the sixties, in Naples different Camorras fought with each other and in the seventies Totò Riina killed all his adversaries to become the leader of the Cosa Nostra.

He also tried to murder all his opponents outside the mafia, the brave men who tried to fight against the mafia, like Boris Guilliano, Cesare Terranova, Pio la Torra, Dalla Chiesa, Ninni Casserà, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

In the years after 1992 it became clear many politicians are tired of the mafia and they try to ignore it, while the mafia is reaching out to other countries. The mafia is no longer an Italian problem, it has become a European problem.

John Dickie is a professor at the University College in London and he wrote several books about Italy and the mafia. Mafia Republic is full of facts, but most of all full of anecdotes, people and events. John Dickie clearly know his subject and he knows how to write, because it is interesting from the first page to the last. He covers the history of the Cosa Nostra, the Camorra and the ‘Ndrangheta and with every chapter you wonder how all of this is possible. He gives a lot of attention to the years 1979-1992, and rightly so.

Extremely interesting for everybody who wants to know more about the history of Italy in general, or the history of the mafia specifically.

Full title: Mafia Republic, Italy’s criminal curse; Cosa Nostra, Camorra and ‘Ndrangheta from 1946 to the present.
Published in 2013