In only 11 per cent of the population owned a fridge. Otherwise production was oriented to the world market. In addition, it entailed the mass migration of labour from the south to the northern cities, and to northem Europe. From to the Christian Democrats maintained power through coalition governments in which they were always the dominant partner holding the key ministries.
In this politics, based on the exclusion of the Left parties, was put into crisis. The nature of these mobilizations gives some indication of the evolution of the working class's relationship to the state. However, the actions were largely defensive. Their point of reference was the Liberation and Reconstruction period, of which the celebration of 25 April and the battle to apply the spirit of the Constitution were important aspects.
By way of contrast, the factory mobilizations of were offensive actions. Their chief objective was wage increases, but the mass street demonstrations signalled a revolt against conditions inside and outside the factory.
The Socialist Party response to the working-class mobilization was to use it as a bargaining counter with the Christian Democrats. However, the only reforms which the Socialists succeeded in carrying out as promised were in education and in the nationalization of the electricity industry. The Forecasting and Planning Report revealed that achievement of objectives for was as low as 11 per cent for urban transport, 16 per cent for hospital building , and 22 per cent for school building.
The movement of two million Italians from south to north between and created a demand for housing, services, education and basic infrastructures that a laissez-faire government policy had not been able to cope with. The Centre-Left government created hopes of changes that would bring Italian living standards into line with northern European countries. However, its actions were heavily circumscribed.
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For the Christian Democrats there was no question of allowing the destruction of the state clientelism that provided one of its power bases sottogoverno , and for them the inclusion of the Socialists had more to do with isolating the Communists and securing an incomes policy than with a strategy of structural change based on a high wage economy. The Centre-Left experiment contained elements of a longer term strategy for bringing the working class into a collaborative relationship with the state, but there was the minimum of institutionalization.
Tripartite talks between unions, private industry and the government were rarely carried out, and then outside the planning framework. However, the idea of reform spread, and citizenship came to be considered not just in terms of formal, legal and political rights, but in terms of material well-being and rights to housing, education, health facilities and other services. The general strike over housing represented an important step in this direction.
If it did, how could sufficient pressure be brought to bear on it to do so, and, if it did not, what alternative strategies were open to the working class. The rigidity of the political structures and their acknowledged inability to reform themselves fed popular distrust and suspicion of politicians and the political system. Power remained firmly in the hands of the Christian Democrats, who successfully prevented an alternation of parties in govern- ment. Percy Allum writes:. For a short time, it seemed that the Socialists would be different, but the gap between their promises and their achievements widened the longer they stayed in the office.
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Instead of doing this, it lost itself in a maze of bureaucracy. The brevity and fragility of the experience of parliamentary democracy in Italy before had severe consequences for the nature and development of civil society. The parties, unions and other organizations of the working class had a longer struggle to establish their rights to exist and operate freely than in other capitalist countries.
It was not until after the Milan massacre of that the ruling bloc recognized the need for a strategy designed to limit class conflict through the legitimation of some of its forms. Giolitti had to teach sections of capitalists that it was in their interests that the state did not involve itself in labour disputes. He personally tried to strengthen relations with the reformist wing of the Socialist Party and the trade unions. However, the primary role of the Socialist Party in promoting unionism, the stress given to general class representation in the context of uneven, regionalized industrialization and of a working class in the early stages of its making, and the continued resurgence of insurrectionary syndicalism - all these factors politicized industrial relations in country and town.
In these circumstances, the formal distinctions between the political and economic roles of party and union, which characterized a reformist politics found a difficult terrain in which to grow. Revolutionary ideas flourished,. Its defeat, however, opened the way to a wholesale destruction of parties and unions, rather than to a redefinition of their roles within the terms of a parliamentary democracy. The fascist regime replaced them by state-controlled surrogates. The objective of the ruling bloc had become the very abolition of civil society as a sphere of independent activity on the part of the subordinate classes.
Even leisure, sporting and extra work pursuits that had previously been carried on through the political parties were subjected to state organization and supervision. Within the workplace a new ideology of labour was constructed by the employers. The success of the fascist regime in actually creating its own culture, and in actively intervening in reshaping everyday customs and practices was in many ways limited.
However, its destruction not only of organizational structures of opposition, but of a popular memory on the part of the young and of traditions and skills of organization, had lasting effects.
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Through the anti-fascist struggle and the period of reconstruction, the working class had to recreate its own organizations, and to rebuild the fabric of civil society itself. The framework for this activity was established by the winning of political freedoms and civil rights, but the power of the working class lay in its extensive network of local organizations. In particular, the political parties played the leading role. The PCI implanted its cells in the factories, in Milan in if it had , and by these had tripled in number.
It has been estimated that by , 80 to 90 per cent of Milanese engineering workers were in the CGIL. As has been noted, working-class organizations developed a defensive rather than offensive strategy in the Reconstruction period. The concerted political offensive against the Left, that resulted in the election landslide, was followed by a longer term and more difficult war against working-class organization in civil society.
The political victory had immediate pay-offs for the landlords and property owners, who, with police protection stepped up the rate of evictions, cleared squats and affirmed the rights of property. In the factories the opposition was more tenacious. We need to bring order back into the factories by re-establishing those forms of discipline without which it is impossible to work; we must eliminate all those deviations and political interferences that the war, the postwar period and revolutionary illusions have introduced into company life.
The first and crucial step was the imposition of mass redundancies. This enabled employers to sack leading militants and to threaten workers as a whole with the prospect of losing their jobs.
High unemployment throughout the fifties put pressure on the employed to conform to the orders of management. Those militants who survived found themselves continually under surveillance, moved from one section of the factory to another, and increasingly deprived of rights to represent or be represented in an effective as well as formal sense.
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Managements also brought in new machinery and corresponding hierarchical regimes of control to increase the rate of relative exploitation. The weakening of the nucleus of politicized skilled workers meant that resistance to Taylorization had been undermined. In turn, the changes in the productive process lessened the need for those workers through de-skilling, and opened the doors to the unskilled unemployed. The system of industrial relations created in the s was paternalistic.
Independent and active unionism was not recognized.
The PCI was excluded from participation in parliamentary government and the CGIL from participation in negotiations within the factory. Union officials did not have permission to enter most Milanese factories between and The rights to freedoms of speech and organization sanctioned by the Constitution could not be exercised in the factory.
Instead, discrimination and sackings and the careful screening of new employees prevailed. But paternalism also had its philanthropic aspects. Companies needed not only to suppress class ideologies but to rearticulate class relations as relations of non-antagonistic reciprocity between employer and employee; the words 'operaio' and 'classe operaia' had to be substituted by 'lavoratore'; a collective identity had to be replaced by individualism.
To this purpose companies increased differentials between groups of workers and the variable proportion of the wage linked to piece-rates.
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The power of foremen to grant personal favours in the shape of job allocation and promotion was increased. This incentivization of self-interest had a gloss of neo-capitalist consumerism in the bigger, impersonal firms like Pirelli where the management aspired to American Taylorist models in which autonomies and controls in the workplace were exchanged for higher wages. The vogue for human relations spread, but with the emphasis on maximizing productivity through time and motion studies rather than through strategies of job enrichment.