italy: a very political crisis

David Broder looks at the crisis in Italy and its meaning for Europe

“I couldn’t give a fuck. In a few months I’m going to go away and mind my own fucking business. I’m leaving this shitty country, it makes me feel sick”
– Silvio Berlusconi, 1st September

On 29th September Italy’s Corriere della Sera published a letter previously sent to Silvio Berlusconi, demanding that he make sweeping cuts in government spending and ‘reforms’ in labour laws to push down employers’ costs.

A changing of the guard? Berlusconi is mired in economic malaise and personal scandal

The letter, originally sent to the Italian PM on 5th August by the heads of the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of Italy, reflected the ruling class pressure to slash workers’ rights and public service provision in Italy, in the name of ‘reducing the deficit’. ECB power over Italy is very real, as it buys vast quantities of Italian bonds just to keep it afloat. Continue reading “italy: a very political crisis”

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unhappy economies: greek debt, PIIGS and the eurozone crisis

Oisín Mac Giollamóir explains the meaning of the current European crisis, and the relationship between debt and class struggle

Happy economies are all alike; every unhappy economy is unhappy in its own way. The well-worn acronym PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) conceals more than it reveals. The PIIGS are not all alike.

Consider the difference between Ireland and Italy. Pre-crisis Ireland had a debt/GDP ratio of 25%, one of the lowest in Europe. Today it’s over 100% and is projected to rise to over 120%. Ireland’s crisis is not due to an over-expanded public sector, unsustainable spending, persistent budget deficits or anything like that. It is due to the bubble in the property market and the ongoing mismanagement, largely at the European level, of its collapse . Over the last four years Ireland’s economy has been wrecked by the crisis.  In contrast Italy has had major problems for sometime. Italy’s debt, which has already reached 120% of GDP, does not reflect the kind of rapid shift that has happened in Ireland. Rather Italy has had a long run budget problem. Italy’s debt has not been below 100% of GDP since the early 90s. Italy’s debt problem cannot be blamed exclusively on the crisis in the same  that Ireland’s can.

It is therefore important not to conflate the differing problems faced by the PIIGS. When we talk about the Greek crisis we need to be aware of the particular nature of Greece’s problems. Continue reading “unhappy economies: greek debt, PIIGS and the eurozone crisis”

italy class struggle reading group – the social factory: community struggles in the 1970s

The next meeting in our London reading group takes place from 7pm on Monday 1st August at Freedom Bookshop, Angel Alley, Aldgate East.

During the period 1969- 1977 in Italy there were massive and profound struggles outside the workplace. We are going to focus on housing and the women’s movement. The scale of migration from the south and subsequent housing crisis led to rent strikes by tenants and an organised squatting movement. This was interconnected with many other working class struggles. The women’s movement challenged the whole political movement and forced a radical redefinition of what was ‘political’ and how and about what people organised.

Recommended reading includes a Big Flame pamphlet ‘Fighting for Feminism‘ and Lotta Continua’s ‘Take over the city’. All welcome.

italy: saving the first class passengers on the titanic

David Broder writes on the economic and political crises in Italy, and the lack of a viable left alternative to Silvio Berlusconi

In recent days punning headline writers have turned their focus from the Greek tragedy to the Italian Job as news came from Rome of economic woes and a cuts budget which couldn’t be built in a day. The Milan stock exchange is in steep descent, amidst growing fears that potential default by Greece, Ireland and Portugal may have a ‘domino effect’ on Italy and Spain.

the European Union has pushed hard for austerity measures in Italy

Mounting economic crisis is twinned with simmering political and personal headaches for Silvio Berlusconi. However, the parliamentary opposition is remarkably tame, while the Prime Minister has also managed to distance himself somewhat from blame for austerity.

Last week Economy and Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti announced a  €48bn budget of public service cuts and tax rises. There will be less tax rebates for the poor, medicine will be more expensive and pensions will be worth less. Tremonti styles himself as a neo-liberal hawk, and assumed an unashamed class-warrior stance as he outlined his budget “We can’t be like the Titanic, where they didn’t even manage to save the first class passengers”. A bold statement from a man attacking millions of people already suffering after years of capitalist crisis: today over 8.2 million Italians live under the poverty line, calculated at two people having to live on €992 a month. Continue reading “italy: saving the first class passengers on the titanic”

italy reading group: class struggle during the second world war

The next of the London Commune’s reading group meetings on the class struggle in Italy takes place on Monday 30th May. This week we will be looking at the wave of class struggle unleashed by the events of World War II; the collapse of Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime; and the struggle over the post-Liberation social order.

The recommended reading is just two articles, even though each is fairly long. We have prepared a reading pack, including a timeline of events. Click here to download. Continue reading “italy reading group: class struggle during the second world war”

reading group on class struggle in italy: starts 2nd may

The London Commune is organising a reading group on class struggle and the left in Italy. The country has a rich tradition of radical thought and mass movements, from which we can learn a great amount for today.

The first of the meetings is on the upsurge of 1919-20, and will take place on 2nd May. All of the discussions are on Monday nights, from 7pm, at Freedom Bookshop, Angel Alley, near Aldgate East tube. All welcome – contact uncaptiveminds@gmail.com for more info. The recommended reading will be posted online in good time for each meeting. See below for the timetable.
Continue reading “reading group on class struggle in italy: starts 2nd may”

stalinism and fascism in 1930s italy

Pietro Tresso (pseudonym, Blasco) was one of the early leaders of the Italian Communist Party. He was forced into exile by the fascist régime in 1929, and then expelled from the party on 1930 on account of his critique of the Stalinist claim that social democrats should be treated as fascists. Tresso helped create the Nuova Opposizione Italiana but also joined the Trotskyists in France, where he was exiled.

In August 1938 Tresso wrote this article in Quatrième Internationale, explaining that the Stalinists were not anti-fascists, but rather manoeuvred to curry favour with the black-shirts to suit the USSR’s diplomatic interests. The dark warnings in Tresso’s article did indeed play out. In August 1939 Stalin signed a pact with Hitler, abandoning his previous anti-fascism. In 1944, liberated from the Puy-en-Velay prison camp in German-occupied France, Tresso was himself murdered by Stalinists. Continue reading “stalinism and fascism in 1930s italy”