Italy on a knife edge…

Henry Farrell has a few useful first thoughts on the outcome of yesterday’s election result, which leaves Prodi on a one seat majority in the Italian Senate, and a potentially unwieldy coalition comprising two communist parties and a smattering of economic liberals.

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  • The Devil

    Lissen anear ewe fargin icehole someafunnyfuccer ewe are

    no won givvs a tuppanyfucc abooty italiano erections excepty oldchickens needinglaid

    no secterianism no intrest

  • Crataegus

    Stalemate in Italy, paralysis in France, looks like the centre of gravity in Europe is moving North and East.

  • mickhall

    Looks like the centre-left wins in Italy and the French government see common sense. Three cheers for the French youngsters and Unions, what is the point in living in a society in which you have no rights whilst at work. You would think, to read the Irish and UK media that for workers under 26 to have some kind of job security is ridiculous and to fight to maintain it is shere foolishness, instead of something to be admired.

    We are always being told the young will not engage in politics, well the French youth put paid to that nonsense.

    We are not cart horse but human beings. There is another way, no masters no gods.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news

  • Brian Boru

    Mickhall of course they have to have rights. But if they have too many rights then companies will be scared of hiring them. A balance has to be struck – especially when we are competing with India and China.

  • Crataegus

    Mickhall

    If you have a job France is a great place to live, high efficiency and good standard of living. However unemployment is high particularly among the young of the poorer sections of society where unemployment levels can be as high as 50%.

    Middle class, well educated youths most of whom will inevitable fit in to the system and achieve steady employment went out and brought down measures aimed at trying to make France more attractive to investment. It won’t make a dammed bit of difference to most of them, but it may have to the sons and daughters of the poorer sections of the community.

    In France you hire with caution because once you employ you can only dismiss for a specific reason as recognised by French Statute or by French Case Law.

    Dismissal on disciplinary grounds must be conducted formally, in writing, by registered mail, and with care as failure to follow the procedural steps, formal meetings etc etc may result in the Courts overturning the dismissal and ordering the reinstatement of the employee even if the dismissal is justified.

    Does the employer have no rights? Would you open a business in France? I agree with Brian Boru a balance does need to be struck.

    I am delighted that Berlusconi lost, but Prodi will have a hell of a time forming a government and maintaining a coherent programme. Inevitably the economic strength of Italy and France will decline as momentum moves to the more competitive economies of the recent members of the Union.

  • mickhall

    Employers have rights but they certainly do not have extra rights simply because they employ people. If they cannot do so in a civilized manner then they should not be in business. With respect few western nations are in direct competition with India and China, to suggest they are is scare mongering. Now maybe you will quote call centers as an example of similar businesses, yet out-sourcing call centers to India etc has been a disaster for multi nationals from the West, many of whom will end up relocating them back to the west.

    What has happened during the last 20 years is that it has become acceptable here for large companies to make excessive profits, often at the expense of the people of their host country, which has been the justification and motor to drive wages and working conditions down in those western nations who have been foolish to swallow neo-liberal economics whole and in the third world who had little choice. In other words the unacceptable face of capitalism has for some multi nationals become the norm. Profit has been the motor not efficiency.

    Well if businesses wish to operate like sweat shops let them relocate entirely to the east. Let us see them risk all in China where they could be nationalized without compensation on a turn of the page of Mao’s little red book by a future communist Chinese leader.

    Let them try and sell the goods they manufacture there at the same profit in the east as they do in the west, they would soon go bust. As they would no longer be based in the EU let us tax them until the pips squeak.

    Business is a two way thing and it does not hold all the cards as the neo-liberal fanatics falsely, like bunny rabbits caught in the headlights of a car claim. They need the working and middle class masses of the west as much as we need business people. Why because we make up, at least for the present two thirds of the worlds main consumers; and this gives us real power.

    The trouble is, within the ROI and UK both government and people have forgotten who governs. Neo-Liberal economics has failed in the west, to understand this one only has to see the gap between rich and economically poor and the discontent people have with their working lives. For the third world it has been an absolute disaster as abject poverty increases daily.

    You see the funny thing is even those who are France’s main critics seem to have holiday homes there, or admit the standard of life is better. Funny how it was people who were under 26 demonstrating against the proposed changes in France, those whom the government claimed would benefit from being able to work in a sweat shop environment. What do you think they are all stupid or brain washed.

    I tell you what, all those of you who believe it is just fine to do away with employment protection legislation and workers right, why not go and work in a sweat shop for the rest of your lives, after all you seem only to willing for others or the children of others to do so.

    Lutta continua

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Crageatus: “Stalemate in Italy, paralysis in France, looks like the centre of gravity in Europe is moving North and East. ”

    Its only take, what, a nearly a millenia to recover from that foolishness in 1066…

  • Dread Cthulhu

    mickhall: “Looks like the centre-left wins in Italy and the French government see common sense.”

    One is in doubt and the other is a longshot. The French just torpedoed the way out from under their crushing unemployment.

    mickhall: “Three cheers for the French youngsters and Unions, what is the point in living in a society in which you have no rights whilst at work.”

    Uh-huh… as opposed to a country where local industry doesn’t hire anyone because they can’t get rid of any layabouts or incompetants? Unemployment is at, what, 10% in France, 25% amongst young people and, what, 40% among immigrant young? Sounds like the makings of a disaster. What is good is lavish vacation and protections at work if you can’t get a job?

    Mickhall: “We are always being told the young will not engage in politics, well the French youth put paid to that nonsense. ”

    Look again — its the children of the elite schools who protesting, since they’re the one’s who have a hope of getting a job. The rest of the kids — the ones who *aren’t* going to get a job — they’re not protesting — their rioting. There is a difference.

    Mickhall: “Neo-Liberal economics has failed in the west, to understand this one only has to see the gap between rich and economically poor and the discontent people have with their working lives. For the third world it has been an absolute disaster as abject poverty increases daily.”

    Actually, I think you will find it is western protectionism — the blocking of resource commmodities from the markets of the west, as a sop to workers and farmers, that crushes the third world, especially agrarian protectionism. They very political regieme you laud crushes the third world.

    Mickhall: “Funny how it was people who were under 26 demonstrating against the proposed changes in France, those whom the government claimed would benefit from being able to work in a sweat shop environment. What do you think they are all stupid or brain washed. ”

    Being able to fire a worker who isn’t worthy of his hire is hardly “sweatshop conditions.” Also, the one’s protesting *aren’t* the ones who are primarily to benefit. The initial protesters were the students of the elite schools — the ones who would face increased competition for jobs, since, if a company was able to hire and fire, they might actually look at some of the “avis” students, rather than just the priviledged thouroughbreds of the Ecoles.

  • Crataegus

    Dread Cthulhu

    The French certainly regretted the 400 years following 1066 and the next 500 years weren’t a whole lot better. Can see why the French are a bit touchy about the English.

    Mickhall

    As it would happen I don’t particularly like the whole unfettered globalisation concept or large multi nationals. All markets need rules and control. That said we cannot ignore the reality of our trading position.

    Be in no doubt we are in direct competition with China, India etc. Where do you think so many manufacturing jobs have gone? Oh don’t think that we have some God given right to the high tech end of the market or a safe niche in insurance. China produces more graduates per year than the USA, Germany and Britain put together. India has a large educated middle class. Currently Corporations make profit building in a cheap market and selling in an expensive one, but if we decline further our ability to purchase will reduce. If this happens business will go on because there is so much development required in those countries where production is currently increasingly located. There is the potential for plenty of demand without us.

    When you have over restrictive labour laws it isn’t the multinationals who are hit most it is the small and medium sized locally owned business. Most sane employers don’t hire and fire on a whim because doing so takes time and costs money. Better to keep trained and dependable staff, but equally staff have to realise that they have their role and unfortunately no one can be sure of their job.

    Currently our standard of living is being paid for by the poor in other countries and our low levels of inflation are due to production in cheaper countries so let’s not get too high and mighty and moralistic.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Crataegus: “The French certainly regretted the 400 years following 1066 and the next 500 years weren’t a whole lot better. Can see why the French are a bit touchy about the English. ”

    In 1066, the world stood on a cusp — a watershed moment where a shift away from the stagnant and decaying influence of Southern Europe towards a dynamic and potentially united North Europe. England was the lynchpin — the fulcrum. However, the failure of the Saxons against the Norman conquest pulled England into Latin Europe’s orbit, delaying the decay for nearly a millenia. By the look of things, the time William bought may almost be up.

  • Crataegus

    Dread Cthulhu

    On the what ifs of history three of mine are; what if Henry II had sons who were not a complete bunch of wasters? What if the Black Prince had lived longer or not crossed into Spain and what if Henry V had lived to a ripe old age?

    With regards Saxon Europe I am a bit hazy on 10th and 11th century history but surely there was division right across northern Europe? Before the set to at Battle Abbey Harold had better luck against brother Tostig and Harald Hardrada at Stamford Bridge If Harold had won in 1066 although he was related through marriage to the king of Denmark I don’t see how that would have ensured unity? What would have happened was a Norman defeat and perhaps a stronger France at an earlier date?

    I have always viewed Europe slightly differently. To me there has been the Mediterranean peoples which includes the countries of North Africa, much of Turkey the Lebanon and southern Europe. Then there is the North European plain and above that the Baltic region. No real rationale to this view I might add.

    With the expansion of the Union into central Europe and the economic improvement in many of those countries and the relative decline in France and Italy there is little doubt that the economic centre of gravity is moving East across the North European plain to somewhere around Berlin!

  • Mardy Bum

    A fascinating programme last night on BBC4 as part of the ever-excellent “Storyville” documentary strand. In “Viva Zapatero” (named after the Spanish PM who reformed public television following his election, removing the links between exec appointments and political patronage) Italian satirist Sabine Guzzanti goes on a mission to find out the reasons why her show criticising the Berlusconi government was cancelled after one show.

    She uncovers a long list of political control, both explicit and implicit, of supposedly independent media.

    What was perhaps most interesting was the definition of satire employed by many politicians in Italy. Editorials in the press and testimonies in court suggested that the purpose of satire was to humanise politicians and make the public better disposed to them.

    The most depressing aspect of the programme was that the situation in Italy is not solely the fault of the right. Prodi’s Olive Tree government was complicit in passing laws which allowed Berlusconi to keep such a tight control on “the message” in Italian public life.

    Anyway, it was a great documentary featuring interviews with fellow satirists Dario Fo and Rory Bremner. It explored issues such as who provides our news and whether a back door Fascism is creeping back into Italian life, using psychological force and control through the media rather than physical coercion.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/storyville/viva-zapatero.shtml

  • mickhall

    When you hold nations up like India and China as examples to the west and proclaim if we to do not go down the road of a low wage, non TU economy doom awaits us, you must be both blind and deaf to the actual situation in those countries. Especially when you quote French unemployment as a warning, by the way what is the unemployment rate in China or India? If the two aforementioned countries had only at tiny proportion of the problems the economies here face, they would be over the moon.

    With this rush to Neo-liberalism it is as if its advocates have not learnt a dam thing from the bloody history of the 20th century. If you stamp people into the ground to far they will turn violent and if given a chance reply in kind, do we really want a rerun of the likes of the Russian Revolution and the turmoil that followed it, including WW2. Or should we look for the answer in the period that followed that traumatic conflagration, when the West in the main decided that compromises between the classes and social forces was the future. The years 1945 to around the mid 1980s were probably the most successful and productive period for human kind.

    But no Neo-liberalism is all about the big stick and very little carrot is offered, it is also based on the unrestricted rights of Capital and those who possess or control it. I note neither of my critics challenged me when I said Neo-liberalism is all about profit and has very little to do with business efficiency. The rush to deregulate and abolish hard fought for rights is also all about power in the work place, you may talk about employers have a right to dismiss unproductive workers , fine no one is arguing against this as long as it is done in the proper manner. But the real idea behind such legislation is to put the fear of god into workers so the writ of the boss runs absolute and his workers do not get any daft ideas like joining a trade union.

    By the way, why can a worker if he is loyal and hardworking not expect a job for life as long as his company continues in business, what is so ridiculous about that?

  • Crataegus

    Mickhall

    “By the way, why can a worker if he is loyal and hardworking not expect a job for life as long as his company continues in business, what is so ridiculous about that?”

    Absolutely nothing, and no sane person in business would want to replace such a person! However if the person is unreliable and is a constant liability that offends your customers or clients can you see anything wrong with being able to get rid of them fast? Or if your business hits hard times you need to be able to reduce staff fast or the business will go under and no one will have a job.

    Like yourself I have real doubts about current economic thinking and unblinkered belief in free market ideology. Places like China most certainly do not operate a free market, the state invests in business and controls many sections of the economy. Apart from that over dependence on global rather than local trade leaves many sectors vulnerable in difficult times.

    It is simplistic to say that corporations will invest where returns are highest. The problem is worse than that many businesses that were once located in Europe are being forced to relocate simply to survive as they cannot compete with cheaper competition. We will never be able to compete with rural India of China on pay or working conditions and I don’t pretend that we would want to.

    What I am more concerned about is the ability of local people to set up businesses without overburdening them with responsibilities and rules. Many people who set up a business are putting their skirt on it, the staff aren’t. If a business goes under the staff have to find new jobs and it can be difficult, but for the owner often they loose their house and are bankrupt. In France you would think long and hard before employing anyone. It is a matter of getting the balance right without descending into the pit but let’s be under no illusion as the economies of India and China strengthen and ours by comparison weaken how long will it be before Europe is again a cheap place for production? We have choice whilst we have wealth and power. Loose it and we will be the bread baskets of the future.

  • elfinto

    I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Berlusconi yet. In a way I quite like him. He is like a toned down version of Hugo Chavez. A character. Politics are more interesting with him around. Apparently, it was Italians who live abroad – who were voting for the first time – and who were embarrassed by the ex-crooners outbursts that made the difference.

    By contrast, Romano Prodi has about as much charisma as John Major. I don’t think he’ll be around for long.

    The other big story in Italy this week was the capture of ‘il capo di tutti capi’, Bernardo Provenzano, after more than 40 years on the run. The word is that a certain ‘Scap’ provided police with the crucial information.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    elfinito: “I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Berlusconi yet. In a way I quite like him. He is like a toned down version of Hugo Chavez.”

    Bartender!! I’ll have two of whatever it is that person’s drinking!!

    Seriously, tho — how many random citizens has he armed? How may military coups has Berlusconi led?

    elfinito: “By contrast, Romano Prodi has about as much charisma as John Major. I don’t think he’ll be around for long.”

    Probably right — Berlusconi’s was the first Italian government since WW II to serve a full term. Itialy changes governments like some people change socks.

  • mickhall

    Crataegus wrote,

    It is a matter of getting the balance right without descending into the pit

    Crataegus,
    Absolutely, I could not agree more, in many ways [bar the warmongering stupidity of Bush and Blair] this is the most important task Western politicians face in the next two decades.

    All the best.