All entries for Wednesday 18 April 2012

April 18, 2012

With the unions of Emilia Romagna

Emilia-Romagna is a specific "social model" in Italy (Or actually two, because Emiliani and Romagnoli are two separate breeds). It has been ruled by the Italian Communist Party and its heirs since the war, it has the highest unionisation levels, and its public services for childcare and for the elderly are considered to be amongst the best in the world. The management of immigration is also better than elsewhere.

monument to the rice picker

Like with all social models, there are visible cracks in it. The Right often wins in the most north-western part of it, Parma and Piacenza - the latter is where the new left journal "Quaderni Piacentini" was born in the 1960s, and despiute the small size it still has some lively political experiments (I used to escape there from Milan in my student years). It also shockingly won once in Bologna in 1999, showing that the Left monopoly cannot be taken for granted. Corruption scandals occur nearly as often as in the rest of the country - the Parmalat case being particularly noticeable. The Left here, despite its anarchist and communist roots, is as pragmatic as it gets though - the current leader of the Democratic Party, Bersani, is one example.

Last week, I spent two days, regrettably under the rain, in the hills off Bologna in the CGIL-Emilia Romagna convention centre, discussing with unionists about the state of industrial relations in Europe. All very interesting, and I had forgotten how long Italian unionists can talk for. Two observations. First, Italian speakers were nearly only men, despite the fact that the labour movement of Emilia Romagna has feminine roots, illustrated by the monumement to the rice pickers in the same location. Second, the food of Emilia (parmigiano, lasagne, agnolotti, mortadella, aceto balsamico...) is not the lightest but it is more and more a matter of cross-class pride. Maybe to compensate for the vanishing political one.


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