Economy / History of Italy / Politics

Government-trade unions row takes Italy back to XX century

In 1898 the people of Milan, led by factory workers and trade unions, rebelled against the famine in the country. The Royal Army quelled the protest leaving an unknown number of victims behind. The commander of the troops, general Fiorenzo Bava Beccaris, earned the nickname “The Butcher”, but also a personal telegram by the King and the Prime Minister, the Military Order of Savoy and a seat in the Senate.

That’s how Italy welcomed the new century which was going to be a long and bloody class struggle. Socialist squads against fascist squads, neo-fascist organizations against Red Brigades, harsh rhetoric by the Communist Party and the trade unions against the Government and the factory owners.

These times are gone, and it’s honestly difficult to miss them. However prime minister Matteo Renzi, in his anxiety to distance himself from the traditional left, is recreating a very similar atmosphere. Yesterday, while the Government and the trade unions were exchanging heavy accusations, in Rome the police attacked a crowd of workers protesting against the shutdown of their factory, injuring some of them.

Mr Renzi’s conservative Minister of the Interior, Mr Angelino Alfano, came immediately under attack. The more leftist commentators and some trade union leaders will now attempt to portrait Mr Renzi as an enemy of the people. This was already attempted against Mr Berlusconi, and didn’t work. However, the recycling of old political script succeeded in keeping Italy from enacting any real reform.



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