Political Slime and Crisis in Italy

The Bosses Go On The Attack While Their Government Flounders

As well as all the repercussions that pile onto the working class, crises have a habit of making life difficult for governments. This crisis is no exception, though there are some distinguishing features. Berlusconi's government is in such great difficulty that even an election is possible or, as the opposition would like, the birth of a transitional government. Its majority is crumbling: giving rise to a series of squalid manoeuvres inside and outside the corridors of power. We'll have to draw a wide and very merciful veil over the low life - and not just in political terms - of the so-called government in order to go on to analyse the relations of economic and political power which are at the bottom of this crisis.

As ever, the driving force is economic. The financial crisis has hit Italy's real economy like a piece of tissue paper coming up against a river in full flood. From a capitalist standpoint the world of business and finance has been waiting for the Government to do its job. In Marxist terms the Italian bourgeoisie is waiting for its instrument of political domination - the State, the Government in power - to roll up its sleeves and start to manage the crisis. That would involve introducing measures to revive the suffocated national economy, enabling it to compete, or survive, on the difficult global market which is still licking its wounds from an economic crisis which refuses to calm down. The expectation was that the Government would step in and act in the banking sphere to recreate normal conditions in the credit system where, even if it is true the financial crisis hasn't hit as hard as elsewhere in Europe, profitability over the past two years has been practically zero. The banks have dramatically cut back on lending to industry and, in some cases, have preferred to go down the road of speculation, thus penalising the 'needs' of the real economy even further.

Apart from a few token measures which, however, have involved a struggle between Draghi, Governor of the Bank of Italy, and Tremonti, the Economy minister, nothing concrete has been done. The upshot is that the crisis in this sector has continued. The old equilibrium has been upset and the credit system has become a battleground for the usual culprits with the addition of 'new' political components who are fighting to partition the world of Italian credit into zones of influence. (Unicredit is a case in point.) Even though it is within a different setting, the same argument holds for the real economy which has been even more devastated by the crisis because it was already suffering before the financial bubble burst. The facts and figures which are repeated ad infinitum to the point of exasperation suggest as much. Collapse of industrial activity, exports dramatically reduced, GDP as flat as the ECG of a terminally ill patient, a national debt which has reached an impossible height for one of the world's highest ranked producing countries - these are the waters which the economy of the Bel Paese has to navigate. In addition, certain sectors - such as shipbuilding, steel and metal working (Fiat included) find themselves in particularly choppy waters, due to the crisis, due to the determined competition which has always been part of their economic sphere, with the not inconsiderable burden of progressively lower profit rates which has now lasted for decades.

Here too the industrial bourgeoisie was waiting - with all the intensity and anxiety imposed by the situation - for far-reaching government intervention to deal with three macro problems which must be resolved as quickly as possible.

  1. Financial support from the state, to be given off the record in order not to openly contravene the European directive. Tax relief for firms which are suffering the most. Incentives and tax breaks for enterprises which agree to invest in depressed areas and which include the 'aim' of increasing employment in their overall plan. To tell the truth the government has brought in an ad hoc kind of measure but the way it has been implemented has far from met the 'legitimate' expectations of business and in effect has left things as they were.
  2. Establishing a new social contract with the world of labour - one which will allow the real economy to recover its breath, to make a profit and put 'Italy Incorp.' back on competitive terms with international capital. In other words, the expectation was that the Ministers in question would bring in some sort of regulation so that the relationship between capital and labour would be cleared of all the residual obligations which still get in the way of absolute managerial control. In other words, an agreement in favour of capital, without the encumbrance of the unions, where the proletariat will be obliged to enter the productive relationship at the level of a variable so dependent that is no longer a variable, but a fixed cost, the lowest possible, and always available: whether in terms of increased working hours, flexibility of when those hours are worked, vulnerability to blackmail as a result of short-term contracts, possibility of getting the sack without good reason, futility of striking, etc. In this case too the government has announced some measures through Minister Sacconi (1) but, substantially, things remain up in the air.
  3. Handling all this in a way that doesn't lead to social unrest by involving the unions in the process of building a new social contract, without which it would be impractical, or at least very difficult, to implement. The ever-present fear in both the business and the political world is that the object of such a programme - the proletariat which alone is expected to bear the entire weight of such manoeuvres - is it is not kept sufficiently tamed, blackmailed enough; if it is not brought to the sacrificial altar in the name of the god of profit by a suitably hallowed figure (the unions), it could raise its head, take to the streets and put paid to the longed for recovery programme and the prospect of higher returns on existing and future investments. Nothing new here except the intensity of the sacrifices demanded and the already uncertain social outlook which is hardly mentioned at all. The future that the bourgeoisie is dreaming up in the shape of this new social contract will have a devastating impact on a society already marked by unemployment, insecure jobs, increased retirement age, young people's increasing difficulty to find any sort of job, and will only exasperate the already precarious economic situation and quality of life for the proletariat. At the heart of the storm there comes exploitation which - if it is to serve the interests of capital - will have to be intense and absolute, with no 'ifs and buts', as the paladins of the new society in the offing would say.

The Squalid Italian Political Scene


None, or very little, of all this that is on the agenda of the Italian bourgeoisie has become law or turned into concrete action. The Berlusconi Government has been preoccupied with other matters. While the ex-neo-liberals were calling for state intervention to save the sinking ship, the Parliament and a good part of the Government had their minds on other problems. It is true that Sacconi, the Minister of Labour, and Tremonti at the Treasury have launched measures to neutralise strikes and introduced a new tax regime which hits workers hard. But such palliatives are not enough for a business world calling for drastic measures (structural reforms) to address the needs of Italian capital as quickly and efficiently as possible and the end of time-wasting haggling over whether there is a majority or over the legal preoccupations of the head of Government. With industrial production at a historic low, the national debt reaching an unsustainable high, exports reduced to the point where they are overtaken by imports, unemployment at almost 2.5 million and a further 700,000 workers in 'cassa integrati' [laid off but still on the company pay roll with a holding pay] - in this disastrous wider economic context the Centre-Right Government risked provoking a parliamentary crisis over questions such as the laws on telephone tapping, on trial briefs and on Lodo Alfano (2). Many people, above all in the world of industry, realised that Berlusconi had 'entered the fray' in order to save himself from prosecution as well as to breathe life into the 'democratic renewal' of P2 (3). That this involved the illegal use of public office for private ends was not particularly a problem for them. The real issue is the failure of capital's political instrument to respond to a situation where the biggest clash of class interests that Italian history has seen for 150 years is unfurling. Instead, at the very height of a crisis which has affected the whole capitalist world, the consequences of which show no sign of abating, Berlusconi has relentlessly continued to pursue his immunity, to quarrel with almost every one of his allies, to put his own government into serious crisis, to stage a sordid pantomime against Fini (4), his one-time ally, and has carried on performing a series of tactical somersaults over the anticipated general election; the whole thing presenting a picture of inefficiency and untrustworthiness.

Not by accident, the president of Confindustria [Italian equivalent of the CBI] Marcegaglia, issued an angry reminder of official procedure, declaring that the Government must carry on to the end of its term and that there must be no election since this would be a disaster for the Italian economy. Instead the Government should stop wasting time with the perennial problems of the President of the Council. An indication of a sort of trust (or lack of it) that time will salvage whatever can be salvaged.

Essentially this Centre-Right Government has demonstrated it is not the best political instrument to get Italian capitalism out of the crisis, that any trust that has been placed in it was misplaced and that it is now necessary to run for cover since - as the captains of industry say - international competition doesn't let up and any more wasted time would mean losing any real possibility of recovery.

Neither are things going any better on the other wing of the bourgeois political scene: that of the Centre-Left. Bersani, Franceschini, D'Alema and company do not have a credible programme. Above all they haven't a programme to submit to the business world. They have played on anti-Berlusconism with little to show for it. Inside the PD [Democratic Party] the vicious leadership struggle continues between D'Alema and Veltroni, between the ex-PCI [Communist Party] and the ex-DC [Christian Democrats], between Bersani and Vendola. In this state the Democratic Party is as useful to capital as a shipwreck tossed about by the waves, without any strength or a clear compass to guide it to the distant coast which it cannot even make out in the distance. The PD would love to be the anchor that save Italy Incorp. It would love to be the saviour of the capitalist homeland by leading the proletariat to the slaughter house and bringing in the structural reforms capital so much requires. But it is in such a mess that no-one from the real economy is ready to jump from the Berlusconi frying pan into the fire of an opposition which is absolutely inadequate and not fit for the task of running a government.

Yet, inside this political swamp which distinguishes so-called Italian bi-polarism there are some who have the notion of breaking out from both sides and injecting life into a third pole - predictably enough, the Centre - in the hope, or the illusion, that they can take on the role which the other two poles, for different reasons, either don't know how to, or do not want to, take up. The 'new' amalgam which goes under various centrist titles, extends from Casini to Rutelli via the Finiano archipelago. It believes it can grow by gathering up the discontented members of the Popolo della Liberta [People of Liberty] and the Catholic component of the Pd. The first little 'significant manoeuvres' are already underway. An example is political 'trasformismo' (5) in Sicily, which has become the laboratory for political alchemy for centrists with ambitions of gaining the majority. The MpA (6) of Lombardy, until yesterday a fifth column for Berlusconi in Sicily, has given birth to a regional 'technical' government without the Popolo della Liberta, but with elements from Casini's UDC, the Rutellians, followers of the PD and of Fini. Conversely, Micicche and the various Manninos and Cuffaros, who are already known for their part in the legal chronicles, now under the spiritual guide of Dell'Utri (7), have given birth to a Southern League whose founding members aim is to support the Government and the PDL in the same way as Bossi's Northern League does in the north. It goes without saying that in Sicily - the country of 61 to 0 in the last election - the realignments and political lab experiments must take into account (if they haven't already done so) the boundaries set by Cosa Nostra, with all the consequences and implications that involves, U-turns included.

Capital Takes to the Field


As already said, right in the middle of the crisis, with youth unemployment amongst the highest in Europe and with productive industry in the red across the board, the Government can't find anything better to do than concentrate its political energy on the problems of its leader. No plan for industry to satisfy the business world; no serious measure to support capital which, given the situation, is a matter of life or death; zero as far as the much-agonised structural reform of pensions and the social contract between capital and labour are concerned. Instead, the government's agenda is obsessed with decrees on phone tapping, reform of the judiciary, trial briefs and with the Lodo Alfano.

It is paradoxical that the bourgeoisie's political instrument is so little in evidence when it comes to interests of the ruling class as a whole. Given such a low profile, it's therefore not surprising that the 'courageous' captains of the Italian economy have felt obliged to take the initiative. With a Centre-Right in power but engaged in other games, with a Centre-Left that is so unreliable as to not even be taken into consideration, and with a third pole still under construction and yet to succeed, the only course capital has left is to take to the field itself and stop waiting for the 'beautiful decrees' that are going to change things.

They’ve made it abundantly clear in a series of announcements that they have absolutely no faith in the politicians. Marchionne (8) made it more precise when he said "all sense of responsibility has been lost" and that, thanks to the Government, "Fiat hasn't made a single euro" - meaning that the Government departments are failing to carry out their duties. Montezemolo, no longer President of Fiat but holding the same position with Ferrari and yet another on the administrative council of Agnelli's factory, declared point blank that we have "a discredited political class" which doesn’t deserve to be tolerated or supported. The statements of the President of Confindustria, Marcegaglia, have been in the same vein. After waiting in vain for something to be done she exclaimed, "there is a limit to our patience": i.e. it's time to put a stop to the interminable squabbles inside the majority and the sterile polemics between the majority and the opposition which the Government has been concentrating on.

Pronouncements like this are raw meat for the typical Berlusconian guard dogs around il Giornale of Montanelli (9). Capital always has to pursue its own interests with speed and determination, particularly in a crisis. Either its political instrument - the State - acts according to capitalist logic in a bourgeois society or else capital is obliged to take the initiative. Marchionne was the first one to 'take the field' , initially by announcing the closure of Termini Imerese and then by imposing the diktat of Pomigliano (10). As far as the urgent needs of Fiat are concerned his decree is very appropriate, a sort of manual on how to behave for the 'good' capitalist. Very briefly, the proclamation of this courageous captain of Fiat means: either you (the politicians, Unions and workers) put me in a position where I can produce on competitive terms, in which case I am ready to invest €20 billion in Italy; or I shut down lock stock and barrel and go and invest somewhere else where I will be guaranteed profits and a salary in line with 'my' investments. I am closing Termini Imerese because the plant is no longer competitive enough and therefore does not pay. (According to his own calculations, on average a car built in Sicily costs €2,000 more than if it was produced in Argentina or Brazil.) I will leave Pomigliano and the other plants open but only under certain conditions. These are the targets and these are the conditions which have to be met to reach them: By 2014 the 'Italian factory development project' aims for a 100% increase in production, from the present 650,000 vehicles to 1,400,000. In the Pomigliano plant production of the Panda is set to reach 250,000 based on an investment of €700m. As for factories abroad, the programme envisages vehicle production to have reached 6m per year, again by 2014. 2.2.m at Chrysler, 3.8m in Fiat's plants, but only 1.5m in Italy.

Given the conditions attached and the severity of the blackmail the situation is, to say the least, worrying; an example of social butchery. First up on the butcher's slab for the Fiat proletariat is the imposition of 120 hours obligatory overtime a year. This means more than twelve hours extra work per month, almost 3½ hours a week once the annual monthly holiday is taken into account. The compulsory overtime clause does not exclude the possibility, in certain periods, of additional voluntary overtime which is 'voluntary' only on paper since any refusal would lead automatically to the non-renewal of the contract (as has already happened) - hitting the worker with the final clause: 'take it or leave it'. In terms of the capital-labour relationship these exceptional obligations amount to a lengthening of the working day, that is to an increase in absolute surplus value. For capital intensification of work is no longer enough; it's not enough that the worker is reduced to being an appendage of robots; it's no longer enough that the extreme limits of exploitation have been reached with the development of the productive forces by means of relative surplus value. Everyone is now required to submit to an increase in absolute surplus value as a necessary condition for the revival of the process of valorisation. It goes without saying that nothing and no-one must get in the way to disturb output based on the introduction of the obligatory 120 hours of overtime, otherwise competitiveness would be lost, with all the negative consequences that would bring. Not for nothing the first corollary attached to this extraordinary recipe is that "no strike will be recognised as legitimate" whatever the circumstances and whatever the point of protocol. Any strike will face sanctions up to and including the sack (11), which would apply automatically without interference of any kind, much less from the unions.

The same goes for meal breaks which are deliberately positioned at the end of the shift. Depending on the needs of production, they can be brought into use at exceptional times just as if they were part of the normal work time. Such demands are, however, compulsory when there has been a hold up in production, independently of preferences or efficiency at the plant. For example, if there is a delay in the delivery of raw materials, if there are unofficial strikes or strikes which don't follow the official 'canon'. In other words, whatever the incident, whether provoked by external factors or worse, by the behaviour of the workers, then the time must be clawed back in the break times without any margin for negotiation.

The other points completing this tragic protocol may appear to be less significant but when added to those outlined above they complete a picture of complete submission by the labour force to the arrogance of capital. Included in the fourteen articles is the stipulation that the 40 hour week will be divided into 18 shifts of 40 hours (compulsory overtime apart) spread over 6 days. Meal breaks will be at the end of the shift for the reasons we have already explained. Weekly rest days will vary from week to week according to the demands of the firm, without any regard to a minimum of 11 hours break as was the case under the previous contract. Breaks will be organised into three 10 minute periods, changing from a total of 40 to 30 minutes, i.e. a 25% reduction. Further, there will be no sick pay if the time off for an illness goes beyond the statistical average. That's to say the worker must not be ill, and if you are ill you'd better take no longer than the average time to recover for that illness otherwise you'll get nothing from the company. Trouble with absenteeism? No, the usual blackmail against the workers in the name of the need to keep up productivity holds. As you would expect the blackmail is: take it or leave it.

The Pomigliano diktat isn't just a blackmail weapon for producing the Panda at the Campagna factory. It is a much wider and much more devastating attempt to construct a new social contract between labour and capital on the basis of unrestricted exploitation, where capital's range of action must extend through 180º, from a longer working day to more intensive work patterns so that it can operate untrammelled wherever it likes without obstacles. It is no accident that one of the pillars of the diktat is about burying the old contract. It demolishes the few guarantees left for workers and replaces them with local, piecemeal agreements which work in favour of capital. Thus another principle that is being established is flexibility of labour. Apart from compulsory Saturday work and the obligation to do overtime in exceptional periods, weekly hours worked can be changed according to the fluctuations of the market. That is, you might end up working fewer or more hours - up to and beyond 50 - than last week, depending on what the firm requires.

Workers will no longer be able to call their lives their own. The time for rest, their social time (children, leisure, families, etc) will all be determined by the company charter which will squeeze out as much as it likes. Beyond surplus value, even the worker's 'soul' will be given up to production.


This is not the first infamous obstruction created to keep down wages. It has been going on for years. The bourgeoisie's own statistics show that the purchasing power of wage earners is stuck at the level of the 1990s. Even so, the project of linking wages to workplace productivity is a MUST that has to be pursued no matter what the cost. This would lead to basic pay being reduced by up to 30% with any additional pay calculated on the basis of productivity which would mean at the most, if things went well for the firm, that the worker's pay packet would be the same as before. The aim is to get to the point where the equivalent of 60% of today's wages would be fixed with 40% linked to productivity, compared to today's 5%.

A further strategic point concerns control of the factory floor. The plan anticipates a situation where disruption at one production line might hold up two others - as has happened at Pomigliano - where workers are so sick of the job that they just down tools or boycott production. In such a case, Marchionne says, three workers would be able to halt thousands. (The numerical reference is no accident.) Such a thing must never happen again. And it is up to the unions to ensure that it does not. No strikes. Anyone whose behaviour amounts to direct or indirect sabotage of production will be sacked immediately. 'Social peace' - on the streets, but above all in the factory, must become even more of a priority for the unions than it is for capital. Otherwise the usual blackmail will be triggered off: take it or leave it.

The widespread publicity for Marchionne's protocol amongst the ranks of business outside of Fiat and Pomigliano demonstrates their enthusiasm for the plan. From Confindustria to Federmeccanica (12), passing through the galaxy of hundreds of medium and small firms, the chorus is unanimous: "Finally, something is being done!" The line has been mapped out. Now we need to follow it to the end. Federmeccanica immediately picked the ball up and ran with it, declaring the old national contract defunct because it is old fashioned and out of date (there are no limits to the fantasies of capital) and lined itself up with the guidelines set by the diktat of Pomigliano. Confindustria, via the mouthpiece of its president Marcegaglia, has put the accent on the absolute necessity for a new social contract with the same sort of content as Pomigliano: flexibility, insecurity, wages linked to productivity, and again compulsory overtime, upping the ceiling to 200 hours annually, whilst at the same time praising the unions for their sense of responsibility by their immediate agreement.

Fiom-Cgil are not misleading anyone by rejecting it. Epifani and Landini (13) have demonstrated genuine appreciation of capital's worries. They've stated that the unease of Italian capitalism is understandable given the national and international crisis. They are open to the proposals of Marcegaglia and Co. on one condition - the right to strike remains (that same right which they have helped to neutralise and make almost useless) - within the framework of a national agreement. More explicitly, the position of Fiom-Cgil is this: if this latest belt-tightening policy, the harshest since the end of the war, is necessary, we will support it. However, we cannot allow the national contract to be scrapped simply because it allows them to accept anything and more - and they know this very well because they signed it - including the Pomigliano protocol itself which they criticise in words but not in deeds. In this fashion Fiat would be able to recover and the unions would not lose face. This is of no small significance to bodies like the unions who have always assumed the honour of preserving social peace at the same time as practically safeguarding the national economy, something which remains at the top of their agenda, above the welfare of the workers. When they do put on a show of strikes it's only to act as a safety valve and if this isn't necessary to prevent social unrest then they don't even whisper a call to come out onto the streets. This is the standard trade union practice which is thus completely within the terms of the system, no matter the image they present or the tactics they use in relation to the workers. The small rank and file unions are no exception to this. Even as they try to break out of the mould they act in the framework of radical reformism which does not take into account the political dimension that is needed to beat the system which dictates the boundaries of struggle, and so they remain torn between their ambitious demands and the impossibility of achieving them.

Elements For a Class Response


Never in recent history has the balance of power between labour and capital been so much in favour of the latter. Not only has the proletariat failed to struggle against capital, even in terms of demands, but - apart from a few episodes like Greece and France - it clearly has not put up any concrete resistance to capital's attacks. The allows the bourgeoisie to reinforce its domination and to easily extend its 'ruling ideas' in order to justify the unjustifiable. There are cuts to the health service, schools, research: of course, it's the crisis. Taxation doesn't get any lower but fiscal pressure mounts. The purchasing power of wages is static or declining and yet another round of cuts is required, and it's all the fault of the crisis. In Italy there are 8 million people living below the poverty line. Another 8 million are in danger of joining them. The number of new jobs is declining while those that remain are increasingly precarious, both in terms of job security and hours worked: it's because of the crisis. The refrain is repeated as if the crisis was an external factor, something which has rained down on society from outside. A sort of unpredictable and unavoidable natural disaster which overwhelms everything and wrecks it, leaving behind only death and destruction. An event which cannot be prevented but from which there has to be a new start with a new spirit of sacrifice and willingness to adapt - obviously on the part of those who produce surplus value, who are the object of exploitation. Nothing could be more false and misleading than this propaganda. The crisis and its ominous social consequences are none other than the poisonous fruit of capitalist productive relations.

The causes of economic and social breakdown are to be found within capitalist society, within its method of producing and distributing wealth based on the capital-labour relationship with its unique and essential aim of producing a profit in the so-called real economy. The ephemeral financial gains which capital resorts to in times of crisis in the rate of profit give rise to giant financial bubbles which, when they explode, fall on the productive economy, devastating the already fragile fundamentals and creating the conditions of impoverishment we are witnessing today. Thus, struggles for particular demands, or simply to resist capital's attacks, cannot avoid being posed - right from the outset - in anti-capitalist terms. Only thus can the system be challenged. Only thus can an alternative be found to the unsustainable social organisation which, in order to survive its self-generated crisis, can only bring more misery and unemployment. Only in this way can the continuous chain of devastation be broken. A concrete stand has got to be taken against the perversity of a system which manages to produce only greater penury for the many and ever more wealth for the few. Unless there is a struggle against capitalism itself wage slavery will continue to be the condition for the iniquitous distribution of social wealth. This presupposes that the struggles to come will escape more and more from the framework of the system, from the overwhelming role of the unions which aim to contain them and when they do organise them, drain them of every ounce of real protest and intolerance of a society which is now only capable of producing increased poverty and unemployment, economic crisis, wars and social and environmental devastation.

What is also needed is that the struggles regain a sense of a social alternative: the possibility of a world where the production and distribution of wealth no longer depend on the capitalist logic of profit but on the needs of those who do the work and produce the wealth. What's needed too is the active presence of a class party calling for the demands posed by capitalism itself and capable of channelling the struggle towards these objectives

It is a long and difficult road with many obstacles in the way but it needs to be followed right through to the end. Otherwise there will be a cruel and interminable spiral of more crises, more sacrifices imposed on workers, and more economic and social barbarism than we have seen already.

Fabio Damen, October 2010

(1) Maurizio Sacconi, Minister for Labour and Social Affairs

(2) 2008 law named after Berlusconi's Minister of Justice, Angelino Alfano. Brought in to provide immunity from prosecution for the four highest political offices in Italy (the President of the Republic, the two Speakers of the Houses of Parliament and the Prime Minister). Followed a similar decree, the Lodo Schifani, which had been declared unconstitutional in 2004. The Lodo Alfano was declared unconstitutional by the Italian Constitutional Court in October 2009.

(3) Propaganda Due or P2, a Masonic lodge to which Berlusconi belonged. Now officially dissolved, it operated at a high level within the Italian state. Notoriously implicated in the collapse of the Vatican's Banco Ambrosiano and the death of Roberto Calvi, but with activities far beyond this.

(4) Gianfranco Fini, one-time neo-Fascist and ally of Berlusconi. Leader of the new Centre-Right which now goes under the name Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI) movement.

(5) Trasformismo dates from almost the beginning of a united Italy in 1860. It was a historical means of keeping a bourgeois government together in Italy by isolating the “extremes” of Right and Left (at a time when only 3% of Italians could vote). It was formalised by Agostino Depretis in 1883, and subsequently practiced by Giovanni Giolitti who became Prime Minister 5 times by playing this game. It increased the power of the prime minister who by means of deals could oversee cross-party filling of official positions. Not surprisingly it came to be associated with parliamentary corruption.

(6) Movement for Autonomy

(7) Marcello Dell'Utri, Sicialian born Senator, close ally of Berlusconi; his fingers are in various prestigious pies but also implicated in the Mafia and various tax and financial crimes: sentenced to more than ten years in prison since 1999 which, however, he has never served.

(8) Sergio Marchionne, Canadian-Italian, chief executive officer of Fiat since 2005, brought in to bring the company back to profitability which he has done by ruthlessly attacking the workforce and putting them over a barrel, for example, by threatening to move production to Poland. A close vote at Fiat's Turin works - notably swung by the votes of the office staff - has given Marchionne the confidence to go ahead with even more swingeing attacks as well as being generally understood as the benchmark for what is to come for the working class as a whole in Italy. For more on his activities see leftcom.org

(9) Right-wing Milan daily founded in 1974 and edited by Indro Montanelli; later taken over by Berlusconi and then sold on to Berlusconi's brother at which point Montanelli left to found a new daily, La Voce.

(10) Now infamous Fiat plant at Pomigliano d'Arco, Naples where workers battled for months in 2010 against the first of Marchionne's crusades against the workers. Our comrades of Battaglia Comunista (PCInt) were closely involved in this struggle. See our website: leftcom.org

(11) In Italy, as in most European countries, but not in the UK, workers at least in theory have the right to strike and cannot legally be sacked for going on strike.

(12) Federmeccanica, the Italian Federation of Metalworking Industries, founded in 1971, in its own words, "to safeguard the interests of the Metalworking Industry in regards to work-related problems and in particular, relations with Trade Unions".

(13) The main unions involved. FIOM, led by Maurizio Landini, is the Federation of Metal Workers and CGIL, led by Guglielmo Epifani, is the General Confederation of Labour to which FIOM is affiliated.