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False alarms

Posted by Richard Monday, January 30, 2012

There is a certain amount of hyperventilation on the blogosphere, accompanied by a significant number of e-mails in my inboxes, drawing my attention to strikes and unrest in Italy (and especially Sicily), with suggestions that we could be looking at the start of a revolution.

However, before drawing too many conclusions from current events, it is always a good idea to look at the recent past - as in the second of the "cuts" above: that is Italy in December 2007.

The point is that industrial unrest is a standard background feature of Italian politics – it is easier to record the periods when there were not major strikes in that benighted country. That does not in any way indicate that great political changes are afoot.

In fact, what is missing here is any sense of a political movement. We are not in the 1920s and 30s, when the epic battles between Socialism, Communism and Fascism were being played out. There are few "street" issues, currently, that have any profound political significance. Largely, we are seeing the projection of self interest and self-protection (such as protecting pension rights),

But, as we wrote in December, it is unlikely now that we are going to see the archetypal revolution, and especially not one preceded by waves of strikes and industrial unrest. The world has moved on and we do things differently now – in Europe, at any rate.

The future is probably going to be this, or something very similar. In many respects, this is already happening. By contrast, the wave of street demonstrations and strikes we are seeing at the moment is just political fluff – false alarms.