Sunday, 29 August 2010

Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road


(hexodus, Three Yugos)

[Edoardo Montenegro, Turin] - "You cannot set the basis of the future by thinking that there is still a struggle between capital and work, owners and workers", explained FIAT CEO Sergio Marchionne during a public speech in Rimini this week (1).

The statement came at the climax of a debate over the case of three FIAT workers who had been fired in July on grounds of sabotage and were then prevented from actively returning to work, in spite of having been reinstated by the court of Melfi (2).

FIAT - whose sales last month fell by 32% in Europe - is desperately trying to establish a full time production system in Italy, in order to increase competitiveness on its main and less proficient market. This approach, however, happens to be extremely vulnerable to strikes.

Some observers actually wonder whether FIAT is simply looking for a pretext to dismantle Italian plants and move production to other cheaper European countries, such as Serbia (3).

FIAT is actually stuck in the middle between two paradigms which are poles apart. From 2004 to 2009, the car industry based in Turin seemed to head for the German paradigm (4), where workers and trade unions take part in drawing strategic decisions while innovation and high profit vehicles allow higher wages and better working conditions.

After taking over Chrysler in 2009, however, Mr Marchionne showed to prefer the American paradigm, where workers are supposed to accept any top-down corporate strategy to keep some sort of internal welfare and hold company shares as a relevant integration of their salary (5).

Even though denying social conflict, FIAT is instead taking its naturally disruptive role in it.

The real problem is that the conflict lacks the arbiter: Italy has no Minister for Economic Development since May, when Claudio Scajola handed in his rather tragicomic resignation.

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(1) "Non è possibile gettare le basi del domani continuando a pensare che ci sia una lotta tra 'capitale' e 'lavoro', tra 'padroni' e 'operai'". Sergio Marchionne, "Stop alla lotta tra padroni e operai", lastampa.it, August 27th 2010.

(2)  As explained in a press release by FIAT Group, the company is actually waiting for the Court of Appeal to reverse the first sentence: "The company, confident that the Court of Melfi will successfully establish the truth, reaffirms its belief that the actions adopted in relation to the three workers are legitimate and that at the hearing set for the 6th of October it will be able to fully demonstrate that the actions of the three strikers constituted a willful and protracted obstruction of production that was illegal and did not constitute the legitimate exercise of the right to strike" ("Statement from SATA", fiatgroup.com, August 24th 2010). For a full description of the case, read "Melfi, reintegrati gli operai licenziati", repubblica.it, August 10th 2010.

(3) Luciano Gallino ("Cosa vuole il Lingotto", repubblica.it, August 11th 2010) and Gad Lerner ("Il diktat di Marchionne", repubblica.it, August 24th 2010). 

(4) An interesting analysis of the German and the American paradgim in relation to FIAT was made by Massimo Mucchetti, "Ecco dove c'è da imparare. La lezione di tedeschi e americani", Il Corriere della Sera, August 25th 2010.

(5) Giuseppe Berta recently outlined the main characters of the American paradigm, ofter referring to change management at FIAT-Chrysler, in three articles published by Il Sole 24 ORE:
  • "Marchionne a tappe forzate", sole24ore.it, August 12th 2010
  • "I nuovi modelli di management alla scuola di Detroit", ilsole24ore.it, August 20th 2010
  • "Il sindacalista con vista sul futuro", ilsole24ore.it, August 26th 2010

Related articles in Italian
  • Fausto Bertinotti, "La rivoluzione reazionaria di Marchionne", ilmanifesto.it, August 6th 2010
  • Romano Prodi, "Auto, l'innovazione vera sfida da vincere", Il Messaggero, August 6th 2010
  • Giorgio Cremaschi, "Il regime di Marchionne e Confindustria", Liberazione, August 14th 2010
  • Luciano Gallino, "Lotta di classe", repubblica.it, August 22nd 2010
  • Paolo Griseri, "'Così Marchionne danneggia l'azienda. Pronti a ricucire ma sui diritti non cediamo'", interview with Guglielmo Epifani, repubblica.it, August 23rd 2010
  • Franco Debenedetti, "Senza tregua non c'è crescita", ilsole24ore.com, August 24th 2010
  • Paolo Griseri, "I tre nodi di Marchionne", repubblica.it, August 25th 2010
  • Paolo Griseri, "La metamorfosi di Marchionne. Dall'elogio dell'etica all'Ok Corral", repubblica.it, August 26th 2010
  • Gad Lerner, "Sergio, il marziano tra Hegel e Pavese", repubblica.it, August 27th 2010

Sunday, 22 August 2010

You Shall Have No Other Prime Minister Before Me


(Lord Jerome, Televisión escolar)

[Edoardo Montenegro - Turin] While the coalition which brought Silvio Berlusconi back to power in 2008 is falling to pieces, the Italian Prime Minister insists on saying that early elections are the only legal alternative to his government.

"A fundamental root of liberal democracy - he declared on Friday - resides indeed in the respect of popular sovereignty, and there is no legal or political theory which might justify a government made by those who were defeated at the elections" (1).

The Italian Prime Minister seems to ignore that Italy is a parliamentary republic. According to the Italian Constitution, indeed: "Members of Parliament represent the Nation; they are free from imperative mandate." (Art. 67).

Moreover, "The President appoints the Prime Minister and, on his advice, the ministers." (Art. 92.2), while "Government has to enjoy the confidence of both Chambers." (Art. 94.1). As a consequence, the President calls for new elections only if the Parliament is not able to sustain any other government.

In an interview released to l'Unità last week, the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano firmly declared that in case of a government crisis he will "make every step the Constitution and the procedure inspired by it clearly dictate" (2).

"Now the attack dogs have been unleashed" noticed The Economist (3), explaining how the vice-president of the People of Freedom at the Lower House, Maurizio Bianconi, accused the President of betraying the Constitution in a subsequent interview to Il Giornale, a newspaper owned by the Prime Minister's brother (4).

In order to hold his position, Silvio Berlusconi is now claiming that the 2005 electoral law allows citizens to choose the Prime Minister. He is thus affirming that a matter-of-fact constitution has replaced the Italian Constitution...

Conscious of his defeat, the Italian Prime Minister appeals his beloved viewing public: media dictatorship will be his ultimate political delirium.

__________

(1) "Una radice fondamentale della democrazia liberale, infatti, risiede nel rispetto della sovranità del popolo. E non c'è nessuna teoria giuridico-politica che possa giungere fino a giustificare un governo di quanti sono usciti sconfitti dalla competizione elettorale". tv.repubblica.it (video by SkyTg24).

(2) "Le mie responsabilità istituzionali entreranno in giuoco solo quando risultasse in Parlamento che la maggioranza si è dissolta e quindi si aprisse una crisi di governo. Compirò in tal caso tutti i passi che la Costituzione e la prassi ad essa ispiratasi chiaramente dettano". Marcella Ciarnelli, "Si fermi la campagna dei veleni", interview with Giorgio Napolitano, unita.it, August 13th 2010.

(3) "Slinging dirt", economist.com, August 21st 2010.

(4) Paola Setti, "Finge di rispettare la Carta, ma la tradisce", interview with Maurizio Bianconi, ilgiornale.it, August 15th 2010. 


Related articles in Italian
  • Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, "La politica curi la politica", corriere.it August 14th 2010
  • Massimo Giannini, "Macelleria istituzionale", repubblica.it, August 17th 2010
  • Curzio Maltese, "I difensori della democrazia", repubblica.it, August 18th 2010
  • Angela Manzella, "La saggezza della Carta",  repubblica.it, August 20th 2010


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Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Italian Two-Party System Is Dead



While waiting for the fall of Silvio Berlusconi's government, the Democratic Party is incredibly motionless.

Pierferdinando Casini's Union of the Center and Gianfranco Fini's Future and Freedom are making the first difficult steps to form a 'third pole' aimed at gaining support from the two main pillars of the current government: Confindustria and the Catholic Church (1).

On the contrary, the Democratic Party stands still. Having spent three years following a demagogic 'stuck in the middle' strategy, the party is imprisoned in the false myth of a non-existent two-party system which should oppose the Democratic Party itself to Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom.

As explained by Curzio Maltese, instead, "What we had in Italy since 1994 is not a two-party system [...] A false two-party system such as ours could produce nothing but waves of transformism, hundreds of cases of coat-change inconceivable for any other western democracy" (2).

The Democratic Party should thus open itself to society and tell straightforward its plans for the future to the Italian citizens. As Eugenio Scalfari warned, "If the party keeps itself within the limits of its members and its oligarchy, the game is lost" (3).

Having denied this priority for a while, the party has eventually the duty "to fight the 'Cavaliere' on grounds of public ethics, legality and the formation of public opinion through the media" (4). The Italian Parliament may indeed take down the government, but it will not be able to remove the conflict of interest still making Silvio Berlusconi a media-tycoon as well as a political leader.

Moreover, even though Italy needs a new government, early elections are still the strongest option on the field: as asked by Luigi De Magistris, Italian MEP for the Italy of Values (5), the Democratic Party has to accept the challenge of coalition primary elections.

__________

(1) Guy Dinmore and Giulia Segreti, "Italian 'third pole' to challenge Berlusconi", ft.com, August 12th 2010.

(2) "Quello che abbiamo avuto in Italia dal '94 a oggi non è bipolarismo. [...] Un falso bipolarismo come il nostro non poteva che produrre ondate di trasformismo, centinaia di cambi di casacca impensabili nelle altre democrazie occidentali". Curzio Maltese, "La catastrofe da evitare", repubblica.it, August 6th 2010.

(3) "Se il partito resta nei limiti dei soli iscritti e dell'oligarchia che ne è l'espressione, la partita è chiusa". Eugenio Scalfari, "Il bastone della Lega deciderà la partita", repubblica.it, August 8th 2010.

(4) "combattere il Cavaliere sul terreno dell'etica pubblica, della legalità, della formazione dell'opinione pubblica attraverso i media." Barbara Spinelli, "La sinistra non tiene il passo di Fini", stampa.it, August 8th 2010.

(5) Marco Lillo, "De Magistris: 'Mi candido se Tonino dice sì'", interview with Luigi De Magistris, ilfattoquotidiano.it, August 12th 2010.

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Sunday, 8 August 2010

It Is Time for a New Government



(Thomas Hawk, Game Over)

[Edoardo Montenegro, Turin] - On Wednesday the Italian Government won a motion aimed at dismissing Giacomo Caliendo, an Undersecretary for Justice accused of belonging to a secret organization. Nevertheless, it proved to have lost parliamentary majority, the motion being rejected with 299 votes to 229 and 75 abstentions since Future and Freedom - led by the former ally Gianfranco Fini - decided to abstain (1).

The Italian Government will thus find very hard to survive as far as September: "It is over. The ghost ship of Berlusconi's government is drifting" explained Massimo Giannini (2). The President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, might soon have to check whether the Parliament is able to support a new government or it is time for early elections.

Even though divided, opposition parties could agree to support a new prime minister. Given that "it is urgent to dismantle the method of government put into practice during these years" (3), the country has to face two hanging problems: to begin with,  € 100 bn of public debt expiring in October might put Italy under severe pressure on the financial markets (4); secondly, the current voting system prevents citizens from choosing their representatives, thus weakening any prospective winner.

Many observers see in Mario Draghi, the Governor of the Bank of Italy, the best candidate to replace Silvio Berlusconi as Prime Minister. Mr Draghi might indeed succeed in keeping public debt under control and in  restarting the fight against tax evasion, while the Parliament should  focus on reforming the voting system.

In the meantime, as arguably outlined by the Times, and sadly enough: "As Europe emerges from recession, Italy finds itself in a lonely, weak position. It has avoided the debt crisis that Greece brought on itself, but it is barely more stable. It lacks any voice in the big debates" (5).

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(1) Christina Passariello and Margherita Stancati, "Berlusconi prevails in vote", wsj.com, August 5th 2010.

(2) Massimo Giannini, "Le anime morte", repubblica.it, August 5th 2010.

(3) Nadia Urbinati, "La politica dell'antistato", repubblica.it, August 3rd 2010.

(4) Eugenio Scalfari, "Dove porta il Paese l'avventura del Cavaliere", repubblica.it, August 1st 2010.

(5) "Berlusconi's Reckoning", timesplus.co.uk, August 3rd 2010.
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Sunday, 1 August 2010

Berlusconism 2.0



[Edoardo Montenegro - Turin] It is time for a showdown between Silvio Berlusconi and Gianfranco Fini.

Following his public attack on April, Gianfranco Fini moved away from the political scandals strangling the People of Freedom, regularly recalling the constitutional principles of morality and democratic freedom (1). The 'P3' scandal was the point of no return: politicians and businessmen close to Berlusconi are indeed accused of trying to influence judges to grant the premier immunity from prosecution (2).

As outlined by Adriano Prosperi, the cancer affecting the country is eventually appearing, breaking the shield built by televisions and newspapers: "the transformation of public position in private benefit, the use of political power as a mean to escape justice, to commit criminal actions of blackmail, to decide political success as well as political misfortune" (3).

Beset by internal accusations, Silvio Berlusconi thus decided to expel Gianfranco Fini from the party (4). The price to pay is high: 33 deputies have joined the group "Future and Freedom", founded by Fini (5). Besides, according to a research by Renato Mannheimer, one Italian out of five would be ready to vote for a new moderate party (6).

Forza Italia was born as Silvio Berlusconi's private property: as explained by Nadia Urbinati, turning into the People of Freedom the party never evolved into a liberal political entity. Ceasar does not tolerate any internal dissent (7).

The end of Silvio Berlusconi, which is yet to be proven given his huge mediatic and economic power (8), might not determine the end of Berlusconism: as the ship begins to sink, mice are ready to turn their coat in search for a new master.

As a matter of fact, the ground that allowed the weed to grow has not changed: familism, clientelism and transformism are still the three main pillars of Italian culture.

__________

(1) "P3, affondo di Fini al Pdl: 'Chi è indagato lasci l'incarico'", unita.it, July 26th 2010.

(2) Dinmore, Guy, "Crises forces Berlusconi to cancel summer holiday", guydinmore.wordpress.com, July 16th 2010.

(3) "La loro azione si è basata su di un principio che sempre più si rivela il vero cancro del sistema che avvolge la società italiana e ne sta dissolvendo le fondamenta: la trasformazione dell'ufficio pubblico in beneficio privato, l'uso del potere politico come strumento per sfuggire alla legge, per compiere criminali operazioni di ricatto, per determinare fortune e sfortune politiche". Prosperi, Adriano, "La ragnatela occulta", repubblica.it, July 28th 2010.

(4) Bracconi, Marco, "Berlusconi rompe: finiani fuori dal partito", repubblica.it, July 29th 2010.

(5) Telese, Luca, "Finiani in libertà", ilfattoquotidiano.it, July 31st 2010.

(6) Mannheimer, Renato, "Per il 'terzo polo' un potenziale del 22%", corriere.it, July 26th 2010.

(7) Urbinati, Nadia,  "Cesarismo democratico", repubblica.it, July 26th 2010.

(8) Stille, Alexander, "E' finito Berlusconi?", July 26th 2010, stille.blogautore.repubblica.it.