2THE FOUR CRIMINAL NETWORKS IN ITALY: THE MAFIA (SICILY); THE CAMORRA (CAMPANIA-NAPLES); THE NDRANGHETA (CALABRIA), THE SACRA CORONA UNITA (PUGLIA).
3“MAFIA” HAS BECOME A GENERIC TERM FOR ANY HIGHLY-ORGANIZED CRIMINAL ORGANIZATION. GIOVANNI FALCONE, THE ANTI-MAFIA JUDGE MURDERED BY THE MAFIA IN 1992, OBJECTED TO THIS GENERIC USE OF THE TERM MAFIA, WHICH, IN HIS VIEW, IS A UNIQUE ORGANIZATION.
4VARIOUS INTERPRETATIONS OF THE MAFIA: A MIRROR OF TRADITIONAL, PRIMITIVE, SICILIAN SOCIETY;A CONSEQUENCE OF THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF SICILIANS AND SOUTHERN ITALIANS;A UNIQUE TYPE OF CRIMINAL INDUSTRY THAT HAS REGIONAL ROOTS;A SECRET SOCIETY COMPRISING CRIMINALS BUT ALSO ‘MEN OF HONOUR’;AN INDEPENDENT JURIDICAL ORDER THAT IS PARALLEL TO THAT OF THE STATE.
5THE FIRST TWO ARE THE WEAKEST INTERPRETATIONS, AND YET THEY HAVE BECOME VERY POPULAR. THE FIRST MYTH: THE MAFIA IS A FEUDAL RESIDUE OF THE PAST, AND A MANIFESTATION OF THE SICILIAN ‘CHARACTER’. SALVATORE LUPO IN HIS HISTORY OF THE MAFIA, ONE OF THE BEST STUDIES ON THIS TOPIC, MAKES A VERY INTERESTING ARGUMENT:
6“AN OUTMODED APPROACH TO HISTORIOGRAPHY… DESCRIBES NINETEENTH- AND TWENTIETH-CENTURY SOUTHERN ITALY… AS A SEMIFEUDAL SOCIETY.THE REGION IS DEPICTED AS ENTIRELY AGRARIAN AND ORGANIZED ACCORDING TO THE LARGELANDED ESTATE, ECONOMICALLY AND SOCIALLY INERT AND IMMOBILE, SWEPT BY ONLY A SINGLE IMPULSE OF REFORM: THE PEASANT MOVEMENT.
7IN THIS CONTEXT, IT SEEMS LOGICAL TO ASSUME THAT THE MAFIA SERVED ESSENTIALLY TO ENSURE THE SUBORDINATION AND OBEDIENCE OF THE PEASANTS TO THE RULING CLASSES, EVEN THOUGH THIS FUNCTION DOES NOT APPEAR CLEARLY UNTIL THE YEARS FOLLOWING THE 1ST W.W AND THE 2ND W.W….
8(THE FIRST MAFIOSI) WERE HARDLY THE BLIND AND SUBSERVIENT TOOLS OF THE AGRARIAN POWER. RATHER, THEY WERE ORGANIZERS OF COOPERATIVES AND WON MUCH OF THEIR POWER BASE BY SERVING AS INTERMEDIARIES IN THE TRANSFER OF LAND FROM LARGE LANDOWNERS TO THE PEASANTS…
9THEREFORE THEY WERE NOT THE GUARDIANI (RURAL WATCHMEN), BUT RATHER THE UNDERTAKERS OF THE FEUDO, OR LARGE LANDHOLDING CLASS, AND THEY PLAYED A ROLE THAT COULD NOT BE IMAGINED OUTSIDE OF THE GREAT POLITICAL AND SOCIAL MODERNIZATION PROCESS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.
10THE THEORY OF SOCIOECONOMIC ARCHAISM HAS A SOCIOCULTURAL COUNTERPART: MAFIA BEHAVIOUR IS SUPPOSED TO BE A DIRECT CONSEQUENCE OF THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF THE SICILIANS OR, IN GENERAL, OF SOUTHERN ITALIANS.
11THIS CULTURE IS SAID TO BE CHARACTERIZED BY A MISTRUST OF THE STATE AND THEREFORE BY A HABIT OF TAKING JUSTICE INTO ONE’S OWN HANDS, BY A SENSE OF HONOUR, BY CLIENTELISM, BY A FAMILISM THAT EXEMPTS THE INDIVIDUAL FROM A PERCEPTION OF HIS OWN REPONSIBILITIES…” (SALVATORE LUPO, HISTORY OF THE MAFIA)
12THE DISTINGUISHING FEATURES OF THE MAFIA OR, MORE APPROPRIATELY, COSA NOSTRA: OMERTÀ (CODE OF SILENCE), CODE OF CONDUCT (MAFIOSI ARE ‘MEN OF HONOUR’), LOYALTY.
13OMERTÀ, THE MOST FAMOUS FEATURE, AMOUNTS TO A STRICT PROHIBITION OF ANY KIND OF CO-OPERATION WITH STATE AUTHORITIES, IN PARTICULAR WITH MAGISTRATES AND POLICE OFFICERS. (THE CRIME OF ‘INFORMING’ THE POLICE IS PUNISHABLE BY DEATH)
14ANOTHER MAFIA CHARACTERISTIC IS ITS MILITARY STRUCTURE: THE BASIC UNIT IS A FAMILY OR COSCA (CLAN), WHICH IS TIGHTLY-KNIT AND HIGHLY HIERARCHICAL: CAPOFAMIGLIA OR BOSS, UNDERBOSS, CAPODECINA (A SORT OF OFFICER) COMMANDING A GROUP OF PICCIOTTI OR ‘SOLDIERS’.
15HUNDREDS OF FAMILIES OR COSCHE (CLANS) COMPETE WITH EACH OTHER AND CARVE OUT THEIR OWN TERRITORIES, WHERE THEY HAVE ABSOLUTE JURISDICTION. IN ORDER TO LIMIT THE DAMAGES INFLICTED BY MAFIA WARS, A MAFIA COMMISSION WAS ESTASBLISHED IN THE 1950S (LA CUPOLA), WHICH TRIED TO SETTLE DISPUTE BETWEEN THE FAMILIES.
16THE FIRST BREAK-THROUGH HAPPENS IN THE 1980S, WHEN TOMMASO BUSCETTA, A PROMINENT AND RESPECTED MAFIOSO, BECOMES A TURNCOAT OR INFORMANT FOR THE POLICE, AFTER A MAFIA WAR IN WHICH SOME OF HIS RELATIVES/ASSOCIATES WERE MURDERED. IT IS BUSCETTA WHO INTRODUCES THE TERM COSA NOSTRA TO A WIDE PUBLIC; REVEALS THE HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURE OF THE MAFIA; AND CONFIRMS THE MURKY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CERTAIN POLITICIANS AND THE MAFIA.
17THE SECOND MYTH. THE MAFIA OPERATES ON ITS OWN CODE OF ETHICS THE SECOND MYTH. THE MAFIA OPERATES ON ITS OWN CODE OF ETHICS. This myth goes hand in hand with a debatable commonplace: one should distinguish between the old Mafia and the new Mafia, the old being more traditional and more inclined to respect the ancient code of ethics (hence, the old Mafia is also more heroic, less brutal than the new Mafia). This argument has “a merely ideological or rhetorical substance” (Salvatore Lupo, History of The Mafia)
18BUSCETTA, A MAN OF HONOUR, JUSTIFIES HIS UNORTHODOX BEHAVIOUR (HE HAS BROKEN THE CODE OF SILENCE, HE HAS BETRAYED HIS ‘COMRADES’) BY CLAMING THAT THE LAST MAFIA WAR BROUGHT TO THE FORE RUTHLESS MAFIOSI, LIKE THE NEW BOSS TOTO’ RIINA, WHO HAVE NO RESPECT FOR TRADITIONAL CUSTOMS AND CODES OF CONDUCT. HENCE HE NO LONGER FEELS BOUND TO HIS OATH OF ALLEGIANCE/LOYALTY TO THE MAFIA.
19BUSCETTA’S JUSTIFICATION, in fact, IS AN IDEOLOGICAL REPRESENTATION BUSCETTA’S JUSTIFICATION, in fact, IS AN IDEOLOGICAL REPRESENTATION. IT DOES NOT CORRISPOND TO REALITY. BUSCETTA RELIES ON AN OLD-FASHIONED, ‘ROMANTIC’ PORTRAYAL OF THE MAFIOSO AS A HERO OF HIS OWN SORT. ANTI-MAFIA JUDGE FALCONE CONVINCINGLY ARGUES -- ON THE BASIS OF THE EVIDENCE -- THAT THE MAFIA DOES NOT OPERATE ON A STRICT CODE OF ETHICS (IF BY ETHICS WE MEAN A SET OF MORAL VALUES THAT HAVE A BINDING CHARACTER FOR THE MAFIA AFFILIATES). IN HIS FAMOUS BOOK Cose di cosa nostra, FALCONE PROVIDES US WITH ONE OF THE BEST, AND MOST LUCID ANALYSIS OF THE MAFIA:
201. ONE CANNOT UNDERSTAND THE MAFIA WITHOUT HAVING RECOURSE TO THE SOCIAL, POLITICAL CONTEXT IN WHICH IT THRIVES AND OPERATES. 2. THE MAFIA IS A PARALLEL STATE, NOT JUST AN ANTI-STATE. IT OCCUPIES THE SAME SPACE AS THE OFFICIAL STATE AND WANTS TO REPLACE IT BY PROVIDING “BETTER SERVICES”.
213. THE MAFIA’S SUCCESS IS THE RESULT OF A UNFULFILLED DESIRE FOR ORDER AND JUSTICE ON THE PART OF ORDINARY CITIZENS. THE MAFIA, MOREOVER, NEEDS TO CREATE A CONSENSUS. 4. THE MAFIOSO HAS A PRAGMATIC OR PRACTICAL MINDSET. HIS PRIMARY CODE OF CONDUCT IS GEARED TOWARDS SURVIVAL. ALL THE SO-CALLED RULES OF COSA NOSTRA WERE DESIGNED TO PROTECT THE MAFIOSI AND HIDE THE CRIMINAL OPERATIONS THEY CARRY OUT.
225. THE MAFIOSO MAKES RATIONAL DECISIONS, NO MATTER HOW IRRATIONAL THEY MAY APPEAR TO US. IF THEY COMMIT BRUTAL MURDERS, IT IS BECAUSE BRUTALITY IS THOUGHT TO SERVE THEIR INTERESTS. MAFIOSI PREFER TO KEEP A LOW-PROFILE. THEY DO NOT WANT TO SHOW OFF THEIR CRIMINAL ACTIONS. IF THEY INDIRECTLY CLAIM RESPONSIBILITY FOR A MURDER, IT’S BECAUSE THEY THINK THAT THIS WILL PAY OFF. THEY JUST INTEND TO INTIMIDATE THEIR ENEMIES.
236. IT FOLLOWS THAT BUSCETTA WAS WRONG: ALTHOUGH THE CORLEONESI WERE PARTICULARLY RUTHLESS, THEY DID NOT BREAK ANY SACRED RULE. BUSCETTA CLAIMED THAT REAL MEN OF HONOUR WOULD NEVER KILL ‘CIVILIANS’, THAT IS, RELATIVES OF MAFIOSI WHO ARE NOT ENGAGED IN CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES. NOR WOULD THEY KILL WOMEN AND CHILDREN, AS DID THE CORLEONESI UNDER TOTO’ RIINA’S RULE.
247. THE BRUTALITY OF THE CORLEONESI HAS A SIMPLER EXPLANATION: IN THE LATE 1970S AND EARLY 1980S THE MAFIA WAS ADAPTING TO A CHANGING SOCIETY, WHERE MAGISTRATES AND THE POLICE WERE MORE ASSERTIVE IN TRACKING DOWN THE MAFIOSI AND BRINGING THEM TO ACCOUNT. THE MAFIA LEADERS THOUGHT THAT BY KILLING THE RELATIVES OF INFORMANTS, NOBODY WOULD EVER DARE TO BETRAY THEM. THE STRING OF ASSASSINATIONS WAS SIMPLY A PRAGMATIC STRATEGY IN KEEPING WITH COSA NOSTRA’S PROFILE.
25THE THIRD MYTH: THE MAFIA IS MORALLY EQUIVALENT TO CORRUPT POLITICS AND TO A WORLD OF CUT-THROAT BUSINESS. (THE GODFATHER BOOK AND FILMS: “IT’S NOT PERSONAL, IT’S STRICTLY BUSINESS”).
26The difference between Mario Puzo’s and Francis Ford Coppola’s perspectives: Puzo condemns the Mafia, whereas Coppola lends credit to the third myth described above, which is consonant with the popular, ‘Romantic’, vision according to which the Mafiosi are men of honour, men of strong character, who react (or adapt) in violent ways to the corrupt and dishonest world of politics and business.
27COPPOLA’S PERSPECTIVES COPPOLA’S PERSPECTIVES. “The first two Godfather films create an image of the Corleone family as an extra-legal authority, which abides by a personal code of conduct and administers an alternative system of ‘justice’. While Godfather I and II do not encourage unequivocal support for the Corleones, they do provoke a re-evaluation of conventional standards of legal and moral behavior (my emphasis) by placing the audience in an uncomfortable ethical position, where they can neither condemn, nor completely sympathise with, the Family.” (Phoebe Poon “Morality and legality in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Trilogy”),
28The Godfather I and II films “invite a polarized response The Godfather I and II films “invite a polarized response. From one perspective, the presentation of violence and criminal conspiracy provokes feelings of disgust towards the perpetrators, but from another perspective, the narrative discourse of the films compels our sympathy with characters that are essentially evil.” (Phoebe Poon: ibid)
29The opening scene of Mario Puzo’s novel and Coppola’s film adaption (Godfather I).
30This scene is a powerful and explicit “critique against state-sanctioned law” and state-sanctioned authority “In addressing the needs of the victim without being excessively harsh to the criminals, his (= Vito’s) judgment of the circumstances appears to provide a more approachable and equitable alternative system of justice than the state.” (Phoebe Poon)
31The Don reacts with contempt at the “ ‘low-brow’ view of him as a hired assassin”, thereby “asserting his right to create an alternative system of justice based on subjective familial loyalty and honour… Vito Corleone gratifies our lust for vengeance against injustices that fail to be redressed through legitimate means.” This is a crucial consideration: to this very day, Mafiosi still justify their deeds by claiming that the State has failed to administer justice in line with its contract to the people (provide security, jobs etc.), in vast swathes of Southern Italy.
32PUZO’S PERSPECTIVE. (From “A commonplace blog” by D. G PUZO’S PERSPECTIVE. (From “A commonplace blog” by D.G. Myers) Mario Puzo’s The Godfather treated the Mafia as an autonomous social institution with its pressures for conformity, where there is no place for a man with any real integrity. From this it does not follow, however, that Puzo’s theme is what Gay Talese described in the Washington Post in reviewing the novel:
33Whether men’s ambitions are fulfilled in the arena of politics or banking, business or crime, it makes little difference—the rules are often the same; it is a game of power and money; might makes right; and the most brutal acts are easily justified in the name of necessity and honor. Governments fight world wars for honor, drop atomic bombs for peace, stage bloody brawls for Christ; and the Mafia, on a mini-scale, acts out similar aggressions for similar goals—profit, prestige and justice as they see it. (Gay Talese)
34After the Don is shot on the streets outside Genco Olive Oil, after Michael Corleone guns down the police captain McCluskey and the drug smuggler Sollozzo, after Sonny Corleone has been murdered in retaliation, Vito Corleone calls a meeting of New York’s Five Families with “invitations to Families all over the United States” in order to sue for peace. The meeting is filmed by Coppola, and so too is the Don’s speech. But its central passage is not recorded (D.G. Myers):
35Let me say that we [in the Mafia] must always look to our interests Let me say that we [in the Mafia] must always look to our interests. We are all men who have refused to be fools, who have refused to be puppets dancing on a string pulled by the men on high. Who is to say we should obey the laws they make for their own interest and to our hurt? Sonna cosa nostra. These are our affairs. We will manage our world for ourselves because it is our world, cosa nostra. And so we have to stick together to guard against outside meddlers. Otherwise they will put the ring in our nose as they have put the ring in the nose of all the millions of Neapolitans and other Italians in this country.
36MICHAEL’S JUSTIFICATION OF THE FAMILY BUSINESS MICHAEL’S JUSTIFICATION OF THE FAMILY BUSINESS. Coppola does not include this speech, because it does not express his message. Coppola’s message is delivered by Michael Corleone. When Michael returns from hiding in Sicily after the murders of Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey, he finally goes to see his old flame Kay Adams. (D.G. Myers) Michael tells Kay that he is working for his father now.
37“But I thought you weren’t going to become a man like your father,” Kay says; “you told me.” “My father's no different from any other powerful man,” Michael replies—“any man who’s responsible for other people, like a senator or president.” “Do you know how naïve you sound?” Kay asks with a smile. Michal asks why. “Senators and presidents don’t have men killed”, replies Kay. “Oh,” Michael says; “who’s being naïve, Kay? Kay, my father’s way of doing things is over, it’s finished. Even he knows that. I mean, in five years, the Corleone Family is going to be completely legitimate. Trust me, that’s all I can tell you about my business.” (D.G. Myers)
38The message here is clear: “the Mafia differs from the U. S The message here is clear: “the Mafia differs from the U.S. government only in the extent and reach of its power” (D.G. Myers) This message is reinforced various times: consider Michael’s trip to CUBA: Michael is presented as a ‘shady’ businessman who is not different from other powerful (legitimate) businesspeople or representatives of American companies wishing to do business with a corrupt dictator. “This is a view that can be enjoyed by libertarian and political radical alike, but it is not the view of Puzo’s novel.” (D.G. Myers)
39In the novel, Michael’s speech to Kay is rather different: You’ve got the wrong idea of my father and the Corleone Family. I’ll make a final explanation and this one will be really final. My father is a businessman trying to provide for his wife and children and those friends he might need someday in a time of trouble. He doesn’t accept the rules of the society we live in because those rules would have condemned him to a life not suitable to a man like himself, a man of extraordinary force and character. (Puzo)
40What you have to understand is that he considers himself the equal of all those great men like Presidents and Prime Ministers and Supreme Court Justices and Governors of the States. He refuses to accept their will over his own. He refuses to live by rules set up by others, rules which condemn him to a defeated life. But his ultimate aim is to enter that society with a certain power since society doesn’t really protect its members who do not have their own individual power. In the meantime he operates on a code of ethics he considers far superior to the legal structures of society. (Puzo)
41The Mafiosi may consider themselves “far superior” to the rest of society, but by Puzo’s lights, they are lesser men. The Godfather is a full picture of the Mafia, but it does not glamorize it. Puzo represents the Mafia as the social institutionalization of violence. Puzo does not suggest a superficial and sloganeering moral equivalence between the Mafia and governments or businesses. His Mafia is a unique institution that uniquely degrades men, when it does not murder them. (D.G. Myers)