Friday, September 15, 2006

A little exercise in comparative history

On the recommendation of one of my colleagues, I started reading Paul Ginsborg's seminal work on Italian history from 1945 to 1980. It is nothing short of brilliant, and paints a picture of a third world country that underwent an economic miracle (Il Miracolo) to become a successful developed power. In 1945, serfdom was still alive and well in the southern part of Italy, and in the north, conditions, while better, were still largely centered around sharecropping and limited industry.

One of the themes that Ginsborg examines, is that of the marginalization of the Communist party immediately after WWII. The Communists, afraid of repercussions from the Allies, and under the impression that open protest and revolution was a dangerous thing, chose to ally themselves with the recently formed Christian Democratcs, who were anything but progressive. The Communist party's unwillingness to make significant attempts at reforming the agricultural system and industrial sectors set the tone for future decades, where reform in Italy was slow to come. After weakening the Communists, the Christian Democrats allowed Italy's few industries to slash jobs, leading to even greater unemployment in a country already devastated by WWII (we're talking the last 1940s here).

Today I was struck by the following headline on MSNBC: "Ford to slash North American workforce." Yesterday while reading the book, I read about Fiat slashing its northern Italian workforce.

And it suddenly occurred to me - a fun little comparison can be drawn between the post-WWII Italian Communist party and the American Democrats post-9-11. Concession is the imperative word. No one wants to stand up and defy the other side. And in the process, every advantage, ever inch that the Democrats gained over the decades is being eroded by the Republic propaganda machine, which has even successful passed a large part of the "blame" (if there can be such a thing) for 9-11 on the Democrats. Funny how American politics is looking a lot like Italian politics used to. Word of warning for the Americans - Berlusconi would never have had the success he had had the Communist party been more open in pushing for reform. The tone of Italian politics in the next few decades was set in the years immediately following WWII.

Lesson of this exercise: If you want reform, you have to shout for it and agitate for it. You can't just smile, nod and hope that eventually, the other side will be nice enough to do you this favor.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Better proof read your third paragraph. Also, I am not sure what you are saying. Il Miracolo happened because the communist party did not push for reforms or it

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(sorry - to continue the sentence)... or it could have happened faster if the communist party did push harder?

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right now the congressional Republicans are positively defying Bush's imperial self-exemption from earthly law while Democrats pass resolution praising the Israeli death machine, reassuring their comrades of "bipartisanship" (why would that be a good thing in any multi-party system?!) and promising anti-war people that they could fight the war better than Bush but wouldn't stop it any sooner. Similarly it was Republicans that finally went after Nixon. I have been forced to accept a cynical conspiracy theory read in the lefty blogosphere: that the express purpose of the Democratic Party is to siphon off energy and resources, to prevent any kind of progressive politics from gaining unacceptable momentum. Consider Carter's inaugural quip that if we don't trust our government "we have no future." Can you imagine Jefferson saying that? And that's Jimmy Carter, who's a fucking hippie next to neoliberal fake pwog dereg king Clinton.

Incidentally, have you seen this? I cannot resist pointing out that I don't recall Hitler defending his war because if Europe wasn't perfectly conquered, half was at least razed. Of course he would never have to. But in Israel, where criticizing your government wouldn't land you in a death camp, Ehud Olmert is now saying that he did not fail. His unforgivable massacre of Lebanon, started by a change in the regional policy of accepting Israeli acts of war and cross-border provocations like buzzing Damascus or sending tanks into southern Lebanon, Olmert claims should not be thought of as a loss because of the sheer carnage accomplished.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, on being taken to task because his attack on Lebanon was a ‘complete failure’, responded to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee with a rather stunning admission:

“What did you think, that there would be a war and nothing would happen to our soldiers? The claim that we lost is unfounded. Half of Lebanon is destroyed; is that a loss?"

I'm not that good at math but I don't see how you get the destruction of "half" of a country from literally targeting every single city and town. Is there an explanation for Olmert's statement besides sociopathy and bloodthirst? For the sake of balance I am enjoined to remind that Hizbullah launched a worthless few hundred old Soviet unguided rockets into Israeli desert, rarely injuring anyone or hitting anything, and never outgunning Israel's excellent antirocket service which could've stopped every one if they didn't need victims. Hundreds! Isn't that more awful than targeting every single city and town for guided state of the art munitions? (For Jews I mean.)

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More years of Sharonist terrorism means the destruction of Israel, but there is hope if this man, who is probably the most intelligent and honest Zionist I have ever come across since the founding generation, gets his way.

{{ "I never sanctified any piece of ground. If a territorial concession will bring about true peace and full recognition of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, I am not against that. However, even if we did not reach a land-for-peace agreement, the very fact of the renewal of the dialogue channel with Syria would have distanced it from Iran and would have weakened the northern alignment, which I defined as a strategic threat."

Nevertheless, the rockets kept piling up and you did not take action against them.

"You have to understand the limitations of power. Those who do not understand them must not be in command of power. At this moment Syrian missiles are aimed at Israel. Why don't we attack them? Why don't we attack the Iranian Shihab [missiles] already today? One could argue that we should also attack the Egyptian missiles. Egypt has a large army and many missiles, so why shouldn't we attack them now, because who knows what will happen 10 years down the line? }}

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Over 90% of the house clearings are being handled by the Iraqis," Rumsfeld responded, whereupon women in the audience began shouting 'No!' and 'That's not true'. Flummoxed, Rumsfeld shot back, "No? What do you mean? Don't say 'no', that's what I've been told."

Newsweek 9/18/06, p 38
ignoreland | 09.16.06 - 4:26 pm |(@ eschaton)

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HUNGARY IN UPHEAVEL
Riots said worst since 1956
Via the invaluable Cursor. Also: Child Molestor, Neocon Puppet and by deceit PM of Canada Stephen Harper defrocks a bourgeois counter-revolutionary prof for failing to imbue his lessons with revolutionary conciousness.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Citations said...

I'd like to get in touch with you but don't have your email. Would you be willing to drop me a line? usquebene at gmail etc.

Thank you!

9:48 AM  

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