Wednesday, August 21, 2019

JOUR107.1001--Italy: A Government in Transition--FROM THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY

J. L'Angelle
Univ of Nevada, Reno
Fall 2019

The Treno Alta Velocita (TAV),
the Lyon-Turin High Speed Railway

     "According to Professor Ancona, an Italian expert, the Italian government-owned railroads before the war, brought in from forty to fifty million lire, equivalent to eight or ten million dollars at the old rate of exchange. There are less than 10,000 miles of railroads in Italy. The deficit on these Italian railroads in 1921 was over a billion lire, although the price of tickets rose to three times the former price, and a greater deficit was promised for the present year.
     According to Professor Ancona, the result of government management was disorder on all lines, deficiency of material, a deplorable condition of rolling stock. deteriorated service and wrecked discipline. The number of employees and their wages were enormously increased, the average wages being five times what they were before the war. Meanwhile strikes were more frequent and thefts from the roads were increased ten fold." (Arizona Republic, 1922)
     When Benito Mussolini took power, the railroads were made to work for the people, not the workers, according to the article and eventually, the lira gained ground against other currencies due to efficiency established, although primarily directed to the success of the railroad makeover. The former strategy of putting everybody to work was reversed by the Facisti downsizing. How does this relic found in the dustbin of history relate to the current implosion being experienced by the Parliament in Rome? According to the article in The Local on the timeline of the government collapse last week, although anti-immigration was on a high-speed collision course, just as crucial was the vote on the Lyon-Turin high-speed rail project;

     "On August 7th at a parliamentary vote, M5S votes against the financing of a multi-billion-euro high-speed train line between Lyon and Turin. The next day Salvini steps up the pressure, pulling his support for the coalition and calling for snap elections as soon as possible." (The Local)
TheM5S is in opposition of "The League," the far-right movement under the command of Matteo Salvini from up north, up by Turin. His argument is one of practical application for the new rail system that would cross the Alps through long, very long, tunnels, and is echoed by rail rep St├ęphane Guggino;
     " 'The Five Star Movement is the only party in Italy to be against the Turin-Lyon. All the other political parties of the country – from the left to the right-wing ones – are in favour,' he explains.
He says that support for the project is also coming from labour unions, employers’ organisations and about 70% of the Italian population, according to polls." (Railway Technology)
The rationale sounds eerily familiar to what Mussolini faced when he stormed parliament with his black shirts and seized power. There doesn't appear to be a working plan for where the money would go if the rail project were abandoned.

     In addition to the questionable merits of the TAV (high-speed) project, environmentalists, as reported in CEECEC, have opposed the blasting of the tunnels through the Alps from the beginning;
     "The No TAV movement against high speed grew to become one of the strongest in the country, successfully blocking the implementation of the project for nearly two decades by presenting obstacles for Pro TAV advocates. The struggle against the Treno Alta Velocita (TAV) Turin-Lyon has become one of the most important social movements  in Italy in the last 20 years." (CEECEC)
While some argued there was just as much fuss raised over the tunnel under the Channel, others are yet to be convinced the rail transport of goods will successfully offset road freight transport, in spite of the effect on those dependent on truck hauls for a living.

     The fate of the new government itself might just hang on the difference of Euro view for the two opposing forces in parliament, the neo-facisti League and the leftist coalition M5S;
     "The timing couldn’t be worse for Italy, where the legislature is scheduled to be formulating the 2020 budget rather than putting out political fires. Snap elections would force the Italian legislature to hammer out next year’s budget on an accelerated timeline – within a few weeks rather than over a couple of months." (CS Monitor)
     A popular misconception, like so many that have emerged from the dustbin of history, is that the dictator Benito Mussolini got the trains in Italy to run on time;
     "Well, not quite. The Italian railway system had fallen into a rather sad state during World War I, and it did improve a good deal during the 1920s, but Mussolini was disingenuous in taking credit for the changes: much of the repair work had been performed before Mussolini and the fascists came to power in 1922." (David Mikkelson, Snopes)
Laurie L. Dove is also doubtful the dictator was the one who reformed the Italian railway system, in spite of what "Professor Ancona" had to say;
     "But, in Mussolini's case, even this good point wasn't exactly true. He used pro-Fascist propaganda to boost his power and selected the rail industry as an example of a key way in which he'd improve daily life for Italians. While there were some improvements -- in terms of reduced unemployment and investment in infrastructure -- this didn't always translate into the perfection the propaganda purported [source: Biography]." (Dove, How Stuff Works)
Italy's new "Duce," Matteo Salvini, hopes to push the high-speed rail issue to a victory for his party, and as many have already noted, for his own self-aggrandizement, through the Alps, via the Italian Parliament.

Verified Sources
Prof. Ancona, Arizona Republic-- 29 December 1922 P4
Berti, Adele, Merit of TAV,
 Greyl, L.,  Vegni, S., Natalicchio, M.,  Ferretti,J.  No TAV,
LEGA Emblem, Wikipedia
M5S Emblem, Flags of the World,
Mikkelson, D.,
Dove, LL,

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