Correspondents' Correspondence Italy Muddles On


Italy Muddles On Rome—With the new year already almost a quarter gone, the only bright spot on the honzon in Italy is spring For barring the unexpected, it seems clear that 1981 will not mark...

...Italy Muddles On Rome—With the new year already almost a quarter gone, the only bright spot on the honzon in Italy is spring For barring the unexpected, it seems clear that 1981 will not mark changes in the country's unhappy political and economic conditions It is doubtful, to put it mildly, that a radical shift in the balance of power to the extreme Right or Left would help resolve the grave problems besetting the nation But it doesn't really matter The neo-Fascists (MSI) are few in number and isolated, having failed to attract any substantial conservative support despite the weakness and vacillation of the democratic parties at the helm The Communist (PCI) blueprint for a "historic compromise" with the Christian Democrats (DC), proposed by Enrico Berlmguer in 1973, is gathering dust Over the past two years, as Prime Ministers have come and gone, Italy's second largest party has made no progress toward achieving a role in the government So long as the Communists fail to muster added electoral strength, the DC will not agree to more than a limited parliamentary collaboration with the PCI All of which means that the Christian Democrats, although worn out by 35 years of predominance and unable to stem corruption in the sclerotic, arrogant bureaucracy, will manage to continue clinging to power An unstable political equilibrium has been built on another compromise between DC greed and Socialist (PSI) blackmail The PSI leader, Bettino Craxi, is eager to wrest as much power as he can from the majority party in exchange for his critical support, and therefore has made something of an art out of keeping it deliberately ambiguous Craxi also has to walk a tightrope to appease the Left-wingers of his own party, who do not share his hardly secret reluctance to link arms with the Communists and blithely ignore the matter of numerical strength while they keep pressing for a "Leftist alternative" led by the PCI that would oust the DC Stability on the economic front is nowhere in sight either Inflation is expected to continue at the current rate of 23 per cent, unemployment will probably remain at last year's high rate of 7 percent, and productivity standards are likely to go on declining Unfortunately, the government has little room for maneuver in confronting these problems It should be cutting public spending to combat inflation, for instance, but this and other deflationary measures are anathema to the labor unions and their Communist and Socialist backers Efforts to improve productivity—and hence employment —have been hindered by the unions' unwillingness or inability to control worker unrest, fight rampant absenteeism, and above all, face the need for a viable labor law Articles 39 and 40 of In Coming Issues Norman Gelb on Britain's New Social Democrats Donald Kirk on Japan s Reaction to the Pope the Constitution deal with the legal status of unions and the right to strike, but they have never been translated into enforceable legislation Further compounding Italy's malaise is the nightmare of terrorism No one knows how much headway the police and the judiciary have made in their concerted attempts to suppress it Incidents like the Red Brigades' December kidnapping of Judge Giovanni D'Urso, who was released in January after a few of his captors' demands were disingenuously met, show that at least some terrorists are still armed and operationally efficient On the positive side, a number of terrorist lairs have recently been discovered, dozens of ringleaders have been arrested, and there is increasing evidence that disgruntled terrorists are willing to cooperate with the police Many knowledgeable Italians, including Cabinet members, are convinced that the guerrilla groups receive arms, money and training from foreign countries Perhaps out of a lack of firm evidence, there is a hesitation to name the countries involved, but those most frequently mentioned are Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Libya One man who has felt confident enough to point a finger is President San-dro Pertini In an interview granted to a correspondent from France in January, on the eve of French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing's visit here, he deliberately broke official silence to accuse the Soviet Union of being in contact with subversive elements in Italy His blunt broadside caught everyone by surprise, including Prime Minister Arnaldo For-lam, whose predicament was complicated by Moscow's denunciation of Per-tini's remarks as "obviously absurd assertions " Forlam reacted with his usual caution, neither disavowing the President's charge nor producing documentary evidence to substantiate it But the Socialists and the Social Democrats rose to Pertini's defense In a pointed editorial, the Social Democratic daily, Umamtd, recalled that about a year ago the Kremlin had also dubbed as absurd Western reports of the massive Soviet invasion of Afghanistan —Silvio F Senigaixia...

Vol. 64 • March 1981 • No. 5

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