Post-feudal Sicily

View previous topic View next topic Go down

Post-feudal Sicily

Post  kosovohp on Fri Oct 22, 2010 10:22 pm

The genesis of Cosa Nostra is hard to trace because mafiosi are very secretive and do not keep historical records of their own. It is widely believed that its seeds were planted in the upheaval of Sicily's transition out of feudalism in 1812 and its later annexation by mainland Italy in 1860. Under feudalism, the nobility owned most of the land and enforced law and order through their private armies. After 1812, the feudal barons steadily sold off or rented their lands to private citizens. They released their private armies to let the state take over the task of law enforcement. However, the authorities were incapable of properly enforcing property rights and contracts, largely due to their inexperience with free market capitalism.[65] This opened up a great market for private enforcers and arbitrators, who now offered their muscle and protection to the booming numbers of quarreling merchants and landowners. Farmers in the countryside had to hire guards to protect their assets from bandits. In towns plagued by bandits, local elites recruited gangs of young men to hunt down thieves and negotiate the return of stolen property, in exchange for a pardon for the thieves and a fee from the victims.[66]

There was little Mafia activity in the eastern half of Sicily. In the east, the ruling elites were more cohesive and active during the transition from feudalism to capitalism. They maintained their large stables of enforcers, and were able to absorb or suppress any emerging violent groups.[67] Furthermore, the land in the east was generally divided into a smaller number of large estates, so there were fewer landowners and their large estates often required full-time protection. This meant that guardians of such estates tended to be bound to a single employer, giving them little autonomy or leverage to demand high payments.[68] This did not mean there was little violence - the most violent conflicts over land took place in the east, but they did not involve mafiosi.[66]

Mafia activity was most prevalent in the most prosperous areas of western Sicily, especially Palermo, where the dense concentrations of landowners and merchants offered ample opportunities for protection racketeering and extortion. There, a protector could serve multiple clients and restrict the supply of protection to a select few within his territory, thus raising the price of his protection and giving him greater autonomy. The lucrative citrus orchards around Palermo were a favorite target of extortionists and protection racketeers, as they had a fragile production system that made them quite vulnerable to sabotage.

In 1864, Niccolò Turrisi Colonna, leader of the Palermo National Guard, wrote of a "sect of thieves" that operated across Sicily. This "sect" was mostly rural, composed of cattle thieves, smugglers, wealthy farmers and their guards.[69][70] The sect made "affiliates every day of the brightest young people coming from the rural class, of the guardians of the fields in the Palermitan countryside, and of the large number of smugglers; a sect which gives and receives protection to and from certain men who make a living on traffic and internal commerce. It is a sect with little or no fear of public bodies, because its members believe that they can easily elude this." [71] It had special signals to recognize each other, offered protection services, scorned the law and had a code of loyalty and non-interaction with the police known as umirtà ("humility").[69][72] The sect made "affiliates every day of the brightest young people coming from the rural class, of the guardians of the fields in the Palermitan countryside, and of the large number of smugglers; a sect which gives and receives protection to and from certain men who make a living on traffic and internal commerce. It is a sect with little or no fear of public bodies, because its members believe that they can easily elude this." Colonna warned in his report that the Italian government's brutal and clumsy attempts to crush unlawfulness only made the problem worse by alienating the populace. An 1865 dispatch from the prefect of Palermo to Rome first officially described the phenomenon as a "Mafia".[6][73] An 1876 police report makes the earliest known description of the familiar initiation ritual.[74]
A mass trial of suspected mafiosi, May 1901. Only 32 out of 89 defendants were convicted, of whom most were sentenced to time already served.

Mafiosi meddled in politics early on, bullying voters into voting for candidates they favoured. At this period in history, only a small fraction of the Sicilian population could vote, so a single mafia boss could control a sizeable chunk of the electorate and thus wield considerable political leverage.[75] Mafiosi used their allies in government to avoid prosecution as well as persecute less well-connected rivals. The highly fragmented and shaky Italian political system allow cliques of Mafia-friendly politicians to exert a lot of influence.[11]

In an 1898 report to prosecutors, the police chief of Palermo identified eight Mafia clans operating in the suburbs and villages near the city. The report mentioned initiation rituals and codes of conduct, as well as criminal activities that included counterfeiting, ransom kidnappings, robbery, murder and witness intimidation. The Mafia also maintained funds to support the families of imprisoned members and pay defense lawyers
bwin
photoshop video tutorials


kosovohp

Posts : 307
Join date : 2010-08-25

View user profile

Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum