Umberto Santino

The Mafia and the antimafia fight: an analisys beyond the stereotypes

Premise. The term “Mafia” first used only to define a Sicilian phenomenon, is now used to describe any organized criminal group and it is certainly the word of the Italian language best known and most used internationally. This is due to two reasons: the influence of the media, who tend to simplify reality with labels often incongrous and misleading; the characteristics of the Sicilian Mafia which have made it a frame of reference for similar organizations developed elsewhere in more recent times.
Among the ideas of the Mafia we can distinguish the descriptions without scientific criterion (stereotypes) and the descriptions having a scientific foundation (paradigms). The stereotypes most widespread are the following: Mafia as an emergency (Mafia exists only when it shoots someone, is worryng only when it affects important people and is a national issue when it affects the highest levels); Mafia as an antistate (this interprets the crimes of the Mafiosi as a war against the State, when these crimes have political representatives as victims).
The Mafia is not a temporary emergency, but a permanent, structural phenomenon. It is not anti-state, because the relationship between Mafia and State is very complex. Mafia as criminal organization is against the public institutions, doesen’t recognise the State’s monopoly of power and force (the Mafiosi “dispense justice themselves”) but Mafia operates inside political institutions as far as its economic and political aspects are concerned (contracts for public works, control of voters etc.)
The paradigms best known are the following: Mafia as criminal association with specific aspects (Mafia -type association) and Mafia as economic enterprise. These ideas get only a part of the Mafia phenomenon: the criminal organization and the economic aspects.
My analysis trys to go beyond the stereotypes and to integrate the paradigms, considering the Mafia like complex phenomenon, produced by the interaction of various aspects.

1. The Sicilian Mafia and the other Mafia-type groups

1.1. Mafia-type association: the official definition. The Italian antimafia law of September 1982 defines for the first time Mafia-type association in the following way: the intimidatory power of the bond of association, the condition of subjection and of “omertà” derived from intimidation.
The Mafia organization par excellence is that called Cosa Nostra, the structure of which has been disclosed since 1984 via the testimonies of various mafioso State’s witnesses, the so-called “pentiti”. Cosa Nostra has been described by judges as a unified organization, pyramid-like and with a powerful summit (the “commissione” or “cupola”). Cosa Nostra is a type of elite of the Mafia organizations which includes external and contrasting groups.
Official reports identified 181 Mafia groups operating in Sicily, with about 6.000 members.

1.2. The Mafia-enterprise: a sociological definition. This definition has a double meaning: the first meaning is that the criminal activity is conducted in the same way as an enterprise, with a rational combination of the means and the results (illicit enterprise). The second meaning implies that there are legal economic activities which nevertheless have certain characteristics, identified by the antimafia law: they are run by Mafiosi, they employ illegally-earned capital and use intimidatory tactics against the competition.

1.3. The paradigm of complexity. To get a comprehensive idea of the complexity of Mafia phenomenon, I have proposed the following definition: Mafia is a system of violence and illegality that aims to accumulate wealth and positions of power; which also uses a cultural code and which enjoys a certain popular support. In this way the Mafia phenomenon is seen to be a complete unit with multifarious aspects; criminal, economic, political, cultural and social.
In this view the actual criminal association is part of a network of relationships which is much vaster: a social block with an interclass composition that ranges from the lowest social levels to the highest (probably some hundreds of thousands of people in Sicily). Inside this system of relationships, the dominant function is carried out by the legal-illegal subjects most rich and powerful (Mafia bosses, politicians, entrepreneurs, lawyers, financial advisers etc.) defined as the mafia bourgeoisie (probably tens of thousands of people).
The Sicilian society is a society producing Mafia (“società mafiogena”) for many reasons: many people consider violence and illegality like survival means and ways of acquiring a social role; violence and illegality are usually unpunished, the legal economy is too weak to offer substantial opportunities, the State and the institutions are seen as distant and foreign, approachable through the mediation of the Mafiosi and their friends, the struggles against the Mafia have been lost and the consequences for many people are the mistrust and the belief that it is impossible to change the situation, social life is lacking because of a crisis of political parties, an insufficient role for trade unions and civil society is too weak and precarious etc.
Mafia is a form of totalitarian State and its peculiarity is the territorial control (“signoria territoriale”), from the economy to politics, to private life. For the Mafia rights don’t exist, there are only favours.

1.4. Brief history of the Mafia: continuity and transformation. Usually one speaks of “old Mafia” and “new Mafia”, but the history of the Mafia is a weaving of old and new aspects. It is possible to identify 4 phases:
1) A long incubation period which goes from the 16th century to the early 19th century, during which period there was no Mafia as we know it now but a pre-Mafia phenomenon existing within the transition from feudalism to capitalism.
2) An agrarian phase, which started even before the formation of the unified State in Italy, and which continued up until the 1950s.
3) An urban-entrepreneurial phase existed from the mid 1950s until the 60s.
4) The present day Mafia, from the 70s to today, could be defined as a financial Mafia. The financial Mafia has an international range, resulting from its illegal gains (one speaks, for Mafia and other Italian criminal groups, on 69,000 billion Italian Lira per annum: 45 billion dollars, but according most recent estimates the wealth of Mafia would be 350-400,000 billion Lira) as well as its infiltration into the financial system, taking advantage of the international rule that ensures banking secrecy, the proliferation of tax havens and the possibility of avoiding controls on capital, making use of the new forms of the circulation and raising of money (the so-called “financial innovations”).

1.5. Mafia as political subject: double Mafia in a double State. Mafia is a political subject for two reasons: 1) because it is a political group (Weber) having the territorial control; 2) because Mafia takes part in the decision making, interacting with the institutions.
The problem of the “third level”: there isn’t a summit of politician, financiers etc. superimposed above Mafia (the “supercupola”); the relationship between Mafia and politics is more complex than this description.
In its relationship with the State and other institutions, Mafia is two faced: it is simultaneously outside and against the State, because it doesn’t recognize the State’s monopoly on violence and naturally resorts to murder (having the death penalty in its code). It is inside and with the State because a series of activities are connected with the use of public finances (for example, contracts for public works) and imply their active participation in public life (elections, control of the functioning of institutions).
Even the State when dealing with Mafia has been characterized by the use of double standards. The impunity may be considered a form of legitimation, therefore, it may be said that in Italy there have been two ways of dealing with violence. This may be explained by the fact that Mafia violence, that has had as victims mainly political and social opponents that symbolize renewal, has been useful for the maintaining of power by the dominant classes. Since the end of the second world war Italy’s democracy has been blocked, formally open but virtually “off limits” to the opposition (gap between the formal Constitution and the material Constitution). It was an effect of international “bipolarism”: there was an interaction of internal and international policies. In this context Mafia has been aninstitutionalised criminality and inside the State have operated the criminal institutions (secret services connected with the neofascists, masonic lodge P2 etc.). Proof of this criminalization of power: the unpunished massacres; from 1969 to 1984, 8 massacres with 150 dead and 688 injured. But this process began before: massacre of Portella della Ginestra in 1947: 12 peasants dead and 33 injured.

1.6. Mafia today. The crimes and the massacres of 1992 ad 1993, especially the murders of the magistrates Falcone and Borsellino, have had many boomerang effects: the arrest of bosses hiding from justice, new laws, the army in Sicily (essentially a symbolic presence), the increasing number of “pentiti”.
Probably today the bosses still fugitives and the new bosses are thinking that it is more convenient to abandone the blood-line and to ritourne to the classical Mafia model: mediation instead of war, to submerge and not to show off, less violence and more business. The problem is to find new links with the political world in the phase of transition from the “first republic” to the “second republic”.
The new government (Berlusconi) is a form of privatisation of the State and of legalisation of illegality: a context very hospitable for Mafia and other criminal groups.

1.7. The ‘Ndrangheta from Calabria. The ‘Ndrangheta has rural roots and, like the Sicilian Mafia, has full control of its territory, in particular of isolated areas like Aspromonte, the scene of many of the kidnappings that have taken place in Italy. During the 70s, the ‘Ndrangheta began to take a greater part in legal entrepreneurial activities and also assumed a significant role in drug trafficking. There are 160 criminal organizations operating in Calabria, with 5,700 members.

1.8. The Camorra of Campania. The Camorra has urban origins and a notably discontinous history. At the moment, the camorristi of Campania have an important role in drug trafficking. There are 145 Camorra organizations, with 7,000 members.

1.9. Other Mafia-type groups. In Apulia there is the “Sacra corona unita” and there are Mafia-type organizations in other regions of Italy.

1.10. At international level today many old and new criminal groups are similiar to the Sicilian Mafia, because they have, besides specific aspects, homologous characters, connecting criminal activities with the accumulation of capitals and a political role. For instance: the American Cosa Nostra, the Japanese Yakusa, the Chinese Triads, the Latin-American Cartels, the Russian Mafia, the Nigerian Mafia etc.
It is not the Mafia that has invaded the world, it is the world, in the phase of “globalization”, that has produced more and more groups and organizations of the Mafia type (the crimes of globalisation). There isn’t an universal Octopus (Piovra) with a worldwide summit.

2. The law enforcement against Mafia and organized crime

2.1. The laws on Mafia and Mafia-type groups in Italy. After the antimafia law, in ten years, from 1982 to 1992, 114 laws regarding organized crime were introduced. All of these laws are connected with terrible crimes that shocked both local and international public opinion, and are considered the offspring of the emergency situation, that is, they are answers to the criminal challenge and not part of a coherent law enforcement program.

2.2. European Union: a continent of variable legality. The European Economic Community (EEC) has begun to deal with the problem of organized crime in the last few years but is still far from political unity. The member States have diversified situations, therefore it may be said that it is a “system of variable legality”. A few examples: organized crime of the Mafia type exists only in the Italian code; penal action is obligatory in Italy and Germany, optional in the other nations.
The European plan of action for the fight against drugs with three main points: the reduction of the demand, the fight against illegal trafficking and international measures. The Europol and the EMCDDA (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction).
In June 1991 the EEC Council approved a directive on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the laundering of profits obtained from illegal activities. Since September 1, 1993, became effective the European Council’s Convention on laundering and seizure and confiscation of profits from crime, signed by about twenty States, but ratified by few States.

2.3. International Conventions and activities on organized crime. After the signing of the Vienna Convention of December 1988, the United Nations in 1990 created the UNDCP (United Nations Drug Control Program) working in four sectors: the reduction of illegal production of drugs, the prevention and reduction of illegal demand, the control of illegal drug trafficking, the reinforcement of the judicial and legal system to strengthen the fight against drugs.
In 1992 was established in Vienna the Commission on prevention of crime, with the task to fight the money laundering and economic criminality.
The conference on money laundering (Courmayeur, June 1994) proposing the limitation of banking secrecy, and the ministerial conference of United Nations on transnational crime (Naples, November 1995) suggesting the adoption at international level of the crime of Mafia-type association.
In December 2000 in Palermo was signed the Convention against transnational organized crime. The most important points are the following: the definition of the transnational organized crime and the adoption of the crime of Mafia association, the rules against the laundering dirty money, the corruption, the trafficking of human beings and for the confiscation of illegal capitals.


3. The antimafia movement

3.1. The movement against the Mafia in Sicily. From the “Fasci siciliani” – Sicilian Bunches (1892-94) to today. Before the fight against the mafia was a peculiar aspect of the class struggle in Sicily; in the last years has been a form of civil engagement.
Three phases: 1) from the last decade of the XIX century to the 1950s (the peasant movement and the political parties of the Left); 2) period of transition in the 1960s and 1970s (small minorities: the role of Giuseppe Impastato, a son of Mafioso who broke with the father and became a militant of the antimafia movement, assassinated by the Mafia in 1978); 3) since the 1980s to today: demonstrations, associations, many activities after the murders and the massacres. Problems: continuity and project.

3.2. The antimafia movement in Italy. Since the 1980s there have been many activities in many regions of Italy, especially in the schools. In 1995 has been founded “Libera”, a national network of associations. In many Italian regions the antiracket associations have been constituted.
The most important points for a project: the activities in the schools, the antiracket associations, the social use of confiscated goods.

3.3. NGOs initiatives in Europe. Since five years some NGOs work together in the ENCODD (European NGO Council on Drugs and Development): an informal network which main aims are to increase European public awareness about the links between drugs and development. An example of international cooperation: the campaigne Coca ’95, organized by some European and Latin-American NGOs, to help the coca producers and against the narcotraffickers.


A proposal:
a network of NGOs, local communities, Universities, schools, churches and other subjects using nonviolent methods, against Mafia and other forms of organized crime, for democracy, social justice and human rights. The struggle against Mafia like a part of a general project of renewal.