Friday, 30 November 2012

Bersani Weeps on Television

The appearance of his mother and father in a short video on the telly last night reduced the current leader of the Italian Democratic Party to tears.  And well it might.  Over a  picture of the boy Bersani at his first holy communion his mother stated:

Yes he's communist but in those days it was perfectly respectable, like being a Christian Democrat.

No it's not respectable, Signora Bersani, nor was it ever; you should know (and I think you do know) that in most  Italian families  communism is not thought respectable - not just wrongheaded and incompetent at delivering its ostensible aims but irreligious and deliberately destructive of family and society.  More people, millions and millions of people have died at the hands of communists and socialists than you can count.  More misery and dishonesty has been brought into the world by people like your son (who regard themselves as 'good' people, occupying the moral high ground, entitled to live at the expense of others, ruin the lives of others because they can deliver 'fairness' and 'equality'  denied by 'the rich') than has been brought happiness or a good and fulfilling life for most.  Ask the people of the former Soviet Union, of the former German Democratic Republic, of Poland, Hungary, ask the Czechs; ask the peoples of the Balkans whose modern factories and modern workers are now undermining the entire life chances of the working people in Italy upon whose lives your oh-so-respectable son has leached for his entire adult life with the false consciousness and broken economic analyses of workers' power.

Now we are told Bersani is not a communist but a 'proper' social democrat,  a European social democrat, a progressive social democrat (what used to be called a eurocommunist till the 1980s) and that he seeks and enables - yes, you've guessed it - fairness, equality, the protection of the weak, the stripping of the rich..... except the rich in the eurocommunist playbook are the people who are making their own way in life, and don't expect the entire state to be slaved to the needs and demands of the entitled and their clients on the 'moral high ground'. 

So, cry your eyes out, remembering the millions, and their families, destroyed and still being destroyed  by communism.  Cry for them Compagno Bersani.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Leaving Gracefully: Bersani Should Step Back in the Democratic Party Elections in Italy

Matteo Renzi, challenger for the leadership of the Italian Democratic Party, and Pierluigi Bersani, current Leader, had a set-to on the television last night.  For well over an hour in front of an invited studio audience and an enormous public at home they presented their reasons for leading the political party most likely to be elected in March next year.  At Angels' Towers shouting at the telly made an unexpected return.

It is hard to think these men are from the same party, indeed from the same century.  Renzi was elegantly dressed, elegantly spoken and outstandingly straightforward and extensive in his statements and his answers to questions; it is his good fortune to have the beautiful, formal yet intimate Italian of the Florentines at their best - carrying allusions, inclusions, examples, jokes, cruel teases, and great amounts of complex information in  economical and telling phrases, a mode of speaking that is best exemplified today by Benigni [yes, I know, but he's an honorary citizen of Florence, ed.] expounding Dante on present-day politics - but it wasn't just his rhetorical gifts that made Bersani look and sound so old and slow.  Bersani is old and slow.

The patent contrast between the two was vivid: one positively bouncing with vitality, ideas, analyses, commitment, willingness to salute but then set aside ancient shibboleths and commanding hights of the Left; the other fending off past failure with all the empty words and blocky hand gestures we know so well.  When the cameras panned to Bersani while Renzi was speaking, Bersani would be copiously drinking water (at least I hope it was water, otherwise his slowness might have other explanation) peering through his halfmoons at  acres of notes, wiping his face with his hankie, putting his hand under his voluminously cut soviet gents' suiting  to massage his aching back; his every remark was preceded by 'In my opinion.... let me say here..... I remember meeting a little child who's hope was for a dolly for Christmas and her mother's job returned.....'  Meanwhile Renzi was saying:

'Cut taxes,  end the state funding of political parties, stop demonising debt reduction measures, recognise the claims of our children not to pay for our self indulgence, realise we cannot retire early and have the longest life expectancy in the world,  modernise representation in the workplace, reform the institutions of the European Union so that we can be democratically in control of decisions there - proud to be  Europeans and proud to be Italians, aid the needy but not by feeding corruption and corrupted elites, .......And  then, addressing Bersani directly as 'Compagno Bersani' [compagno -  the correct form of address for an Italian communist, ed.] Renzi stated the requirement for the older party members, those who Rosy Bindi has, unforgivably, called 'indispensible', to retire from the Parliament and from Party office.  Despite years and years in power they have never brought tax evasion, criminality and corruption  to book and now they seek alliances with politicians and parties marked by involvement in the prolungation of these evils.

The other highlight  came in the section on foreign affairs in which Renzi stated flatly that the treatment of women in Mediterranean countries, particularly the north African Mediterranean countries and their particular cultures, was no longer tolerable.  It is bad enough in Italy where more than 100 women have been killed by those in their domestic circle since the beginning of this year; but the ending of cultural violence inflicted on women must  be a central part of Italian and, thus European, foreign policy.

At the end Bersani did not move from his podium but Renzi bounded across to him, offered his hand and gave him a big hug.  Bersani should take a step back this week, ask his aging supporters to vote Renzi on Sunday, and receive the credit and respect that will only be his with a last act in favour of ensuring the election next year of a respectable, reformed democratic Party.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Excluding the Younger Voters

The rules drawn up for participation in the Italian Democratic Party primaries were devised by the  the supporters of the current party Leader, Bersani, to make voting difficult for the general population of voters.  It has now emerged that there was a particular targetting of young potential voters, the 16-18 year olds, even if they were enrolled in the Party.  From 16 onwards people can join the Party, work for the Party, pay dues to the Party, vote in primaries for the regional elections but they have been excluded from voting in this primary.  Of course many of them will be 18 by the time the country goes to the general elections next March so it is particularly egregious that they should be so feared by the apparatchiks that they cannot vote now under Party rules to choose the new Leader.

So far there has been success in excluding centrist, non-Party voters, eg civic list voters; voters with a principled opposition to signing vaguely worded, tax and spend pseudo manifestos; those who have no wish to hand their personal details to the apparatchiks; those abroad who found themselves excluded days before the vote by the early cut-off dates for registration;  those who couldn't queue for hours and hours; young people who display a marked aversion to voting for bald-headed old communists with a nasty-line in tub-thumping, patronising rhetoric; and perhaps those who can't take time from work to go to the capital cities of their provinces to have their justifications backed-by-documentation ruled on by apparatchik election commissioners.

We need registration to vote for the run-off next Sunday available  document free, and  on line or available in person at the polling stations up to and including next Sunday.

Party But Not Democratic

The primaries for the leadership of the Democratic Party in Italy have decapitated the regional and provincial elites in the North. Swathes of cities and towns in the North have voted against the Bersani-supporting party organisers by enormous margins.  (In Arezzo it reached over 60% for Renzi: Florence, Siena, Prato Pistoia, Lucca, Sansepolcro - from the Casentino to the sea Renzi has taken the Party's vote.  And this has happened all over the North.)  In a desperate attempt to claim democratic authority Pierluigi Bersani's  apparatchiks, and Bersani himself, are accusing us of  lack of solidarity and failure to recognise the real enemy.

'We are the Democratic Party', they shout from the television screens, from La Repubblica (Italy's Guardian) from council chambers, regional authorities, from their offices and jobs for the boys and girls. 'They' are the Right, the evil people who have voted for Berlusconi, not 'Us' the occupants of the moral high ground and keepers of the flame of 'fairness'.'

"No' the voters have roared back.  'You people are the reason for Berlusconi's years in power, elected as a result of the desperate dash from your grasping, authoritarian, taxing, transferring, regulating, clientalist, dead ideological hands.'

'And if, next Sunday, you rig the vote as you have up to now by excluding the electorate, limiting access to the poll,  turning away qualified voters on the whim of your  polling officials and all the other dishonest tricks of corrupted party elites the world over, we will vote for Berlusconi again.  Better a gangster, or to have our government commissariato under Monti than a 'former' communist chosen only by the South, the dispossessed, and the political dead.'

Monday, 26 November 2012

Turning the Other Cheek

Italy has divided itself in two in the Partito Democratico primaries.  For the former communists' and socialists' Tendency led by Pierluigi Bersani - the South.  A south ravaged by underdevelopment resulting from corruption and criminality deeply rooted in the last century since the Second World War, and even earlier.  A South the recipient of enormous transfers of wealth and resources from the economically and culturo-politically successful North.   For the young, centrist, 21st century politician Matteo Renzi - the North.  A North that has dug in its heels and refuses to accept any further transfer of its wealth and resources when dealing with a recession on the current scale, and regards its taxation levels as wholly unacceptable, never mind economically inefficient as well as morally deficient.

'You must support your fellow workers and disadvantaged southern citizens ' cry the Usual Suspects.

'Not for more than 60 years we won't, and not when we're feeling the pinch ourselves,' comes the northern reply.

Bersani has done so badly in the North that there is now an official, point blank refusal to publish the complete results of the voting in the North.  At a guess (and with the refusal to publish the results of more than half the polling stations in the North  that 's all we can do)  Bersani can claim only Emilia Romagna, his own back yard.  All the rest of Italy's Red Belt has voted Renzi  (in areas of Tuscany Renzi has touched 75-80%) as has further north - Piedmont, the Veneto, the Italian advanced manufacturing heartlands.   Which leaves a nastier problem than democratic centralist behaviour in the interests of perverting democratic expression.  How can the Bersani Tendency maintain any access to power in the general elections in March 2013?

The Monti government of the last year could be regarded as a grand coalition, with Monti maintaining his democratic legitimacy by consistently receiving majority votes in the Parliament for his policies.  To do this he has had to conform to much of the resistance to labour reforms expressed through the Bersani-led PD in the Parliament.  In 2013 a PD with Bersani as its leader cannot win any kind of majority, not least because the moderate centre, with whom he would have to ally, is receiving a disgraceful lesson in precisely what he and his henchmen are.  Bersani's faction would be leading a PD in opposition. The best he can hope for is another Monti administration which relied in part on accommodating his demands.

Renzi could unite the non-communist, non-socialist and non-trade union left  with the centre, and large sections of the soft centre right and the Northern leagues.  Everyone, that is, but Bersani's paymasters, diehard ex-Berlusconi rightwingers, and the Fascists (whatever they are calling themselves these days).   And Bersani's goose would be cooked.  A rump Left to match the Berlusconi Right, with a true Partito Democratico in power under prime minister Renzi. 

Renzi has turned the page on the cheek of vote suppression and misrepresentation in last Sunday's poll and is concentrating on the run-off next Sunday.  He is calling on Bersani voters to reconsider their position, on the runners-up voters to switch to a PD with a chance of actually winning the general election next March, and has told the leader of the CGIL union (the biggest, and fiercely demanding that Bersani be confirmed in the PD leadership by any means) that if she wants to play politics she should stand for election by everyone, not just the employed and entitled of her union.


Apparatchiks Offensive

Extraordinarily, the former communist and socialist Left and their supporters in the trade unions are attempting to deny a right to vote in  next Sunday's Partito Democratico primary run-off to anyone who did not vote last Sunday.  Renzi's supporters have asked what is going to happen next week when voters present themselves armed with the extensive and intrusive documentation already imposed by the Partito Democratico elites.  Will we be turned away, as were properly documented voters at the last round who were identified by PD officials as 'of the Right'? (these last were mostly supporters of civic lists, ie not Party-aligned, in comunes up and down the country.  And very nasty too are some of the videos of Party stalwarts, hands on hips and wall to wall aggression, denying voters a vote).

The results of last Sunday's voting are still not being posted on the results site village by village, town by town, city by city but only aggregated at regional, or at best provincial level.  The former Soviet Union would be proud of its descendents.  We need a Transition in the West just as much as it was needed in the East of Europe.

These are the Men, the Very Fat Men (and Women) Who Water the Workers' Beer

   Anna Finocchiaro, Enrico Letta, Pierluigi Bersani, Rosy Bindi

and this is the man who's scrapping them, Matteo Renzi, mayor of Florence.
Yesterday more than 4 million queued for hours to vote in the Partito Democratico primaries.  Today the PD official in charge of the vote has announced that continuing the count is of little importance as there is to be a vote-off next Sunday and the figures are not going to change much; and that Bersani is 9% ahead of Renzi.

Renzi's people say their returns are:over 4 million votes cast, with Renzi within 5% of Bersani, despite a gross under-provision of polling centres in likely Renzi areas (such as Florence citta', where we waited up to two and a half hours to register and vote).

Bersani supporters sneer that Renzi is the candidate of the centre right.   Renzi took Tuscany with over 55% of the vote - in the province of Arezzo he took over 60% - sweeping up Siena, Grosseto as well.  Umbria is one of the regions they're trying not to count.  And in Milan counting has slowed to a stop.

For a measure of the scale of Renzi's achievement here are the detailed results, comune by comune, for the province and city of Siena (chosen both because it is usually deepest red and because it is well-known to readers in England).


Renzi has won in red Umbria taking: Perugia, Foligno, Città di Castello, Assisi , Spoleto,  Spello, Sellano, Sigillo, Montefalco, Panicale, Castel Ritaldi.  

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Voting Against the Official Line in Italy

Amazing scenes throughout Italy as people flock to vote in the Partito Democratico primaries.  Matteo Renzi, mayor of Florence, is challenging 'former' Communist Pierluigi Bersani for the leadership of the party that Romano Prodi put together all those years ago to take Italy into the euro.  Since then the trade union and 'former' communist and socialist Left have steadily eroded the Party's public support, spectacularly causing the fall of the Prodi government and the return of Berlusconi's gangsteristic corruption, when Rifondazione Communista voted against trade union reforms.  (though they did get punched in the mouth in the train home by furious citizens).

Matteo Renzi, a sensible man of impeccable centrist credentials, has been busy scrapping the 'former' Tendency's leading lights with great success: Massimo D'Alema, Walter Veltroni are the two biggest scalps who will not be standing again (thank Goodness) but his assault upon the dregs of Italy's degraded Left have done much to bring younger, centrist voters to the PD.    It should be remembered that Prodi was, probably still is, a Christian Democrat and by no means of the Left.

The 'Former' Tendency has done all it can to disrupt the primaries, demanding: pre-registration (an electoral voting certificate is not enough); the signing of a public declaration of intent on equality, solidarity, fairness (blah di blah di blah); a 'voluntary' contribution to the PD; submission of name, address, email - a quite extraordinary intrusion into voter privacy that had to be sanctioned by a state tribunal which ruled that this data be destroyed after the vote; and the need to have voted in the first round should any second round voting be necessary.

The on-line registration, particularly for Italians abroad, was near impossible to follow and the cut off for pre-registration was 20 November.  Registration at the polling booths has led to queues of up to 2 hours as voters doggedly formed third-world length lines to vote down the 'Formers'.  Renzi was made to wait an hour and a half at the the piazza Ciompi polling station in central Florence as PD stalwarts dawdled over the registrations of thousands of voters.

There is one consolation as we face down this democratic centralist performance.  If Bersani 's henchmen do hand him a 'win' then none of those who have turned out today in such numbers for Renzi will be voting Partito Democratico next March.   And the President of Italy will once again be forced to use those powers so presciently written into the Italian Constitution to prevent the perversion of democracy from communist and socialist, or from criminal, corruption.

We go to vote again next Sunday.  After one third of the votes are counted we have Bersani 44.6: Renzi 36.9: Vendola 14.4.


Toscana has voted for Renzi; Emilia has voted for Bersani.  Red Italy has split.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Galileo Galilei, Pisa, 15 February 1564 – Arcetri, 8 January 1642

The Guardian and its readership are scary.  In a discussion of the Church of England's refusal to make women bishops we read:

"Galileo was around 2000 years ago."

This is not a figure of speech to reinforce an idea of being out of date.  The reader appears to carry this notion as knowledge and  part of argument.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


Last night

This morning

at least it's stopped raining

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Monies for Mantova and the North to be Released After All

 David Cameron met Mario Monti in Rome today (the cycle of visits by various heads of government has started up again - Merkel to London, Merkel to Lisbon, Cameron to Rome...).  Afterwards Senator Monti said he would like to "take the opportunity to express satisfaction with the final go-ahead for EU funds to be used for work in Emilia-Romagna that we have been examining intensively over the last days".

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin), made up of EU finance ministers,  announced today  that 670 million euros in assistance for northern  Italy,  severely damaged by  earthquakes last spring, is to  be released.  The two prime ministers were on the Eight O'Clock News  enthusiastically shaking hands and patting each other on the back despite the Italian prime minister regretting the poor fit of the two countries' plans for the EU budget.

'Italy and France issued a joint call last week to abolish the rebate system which grants Britain - and to a lesser extent other countries - a reduction in contributions to the European Union budget.' reports Ansa, the Italian news agency; perhaps a sensible compromise was reached.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Feeding Stories to the BBC

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.  That's a name that George Orwell would have been pleased to invent.  As for its claims that investigative journalism is not playing a sufficiently prominent role in the media and the need for  Bureau  to fill this perceived lack, this fulfils all the promise of its orwellian title.

Some of its funding and resources can be found here.  Quite a lot of Third Sectorishness about it.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Very Well, Alone

Great Britain has led four other European Union countries in refusing to make available some £600 million from the European Solidarity Fund  that had been allocated to making good the earthquake damage to Modena, Ferrara, Mantova, and the iconic landscapes of the north of Italy and its smaller settlements by the  earthquakes earlier this year.

It seems that the demographic shift so eagerly rewarded in the United States has also taken place in the United Kingdom  and we no longer even recognise, let alone treasure, our European cultural heritage.  Finland, Sweden have always been icy northern wastes; the Netherlands below sea level on any measure; Germany capable of anything.  But England?  To be so eaten with loathing of Brussels it refuses help to Mantova? Out of spite?

Every flake of paint, every gilded ceiling, every column, every glorious instrument, library, place of Christian worship, court of princes, and cultural cradle  will be restored; but England slips ever further away from being part of that European heritage.  Burning down Croydon and Tottenham is the level of cultural achievement now.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Losing to Obama

Mr Obama's apologists have claimed throughout this election campaign that much of the reason for Obama's failure to achieve his vaunted 'change'  has been resistance and obstruction in Congress to many of his economic and social measures.

If this is so, and the emptiness of the last four years is indeed due to a reassertion of the Congress over the presidency, then those who  argued that 'much of Congress's power to manage the budget has been lost when the welfare state expanded since "entitlements were institutionally detached from Congress's ordinary legislative routine and rhythm. [and]"Another factor leading to less control over the budget was a keynesian belief that balanced budgets were unnecessary.', are now out-dated.

Either Obama has presided over a massive diminishing of the influence and power  of the office he has been holding (which on Angels' take on the United States constitution would be a welcome development) or the wasting of all that 2008 hope and good will  is a measure of the policy void of the last four years. 

Insofar as Obama's re-election for the second half of the usual term of office for a United States president would lead to a further growth in the power of a resurgent Congress, it is to be welcomed;  as is an economic policy that permits considerable free-riding, particularly by the Europeans while they repair their own economies.  But it does seem a bit hard on all those voters who sought economic growth and social and cultural reconciliation.   Those are not ever going to be delivered by a man like Obama, who acted in the first 4 years as if winning meant riding roughshod over principled opposition and well-founded misgiving in everything that he has manged to do.