ITALY IN THE 1970's

The period or the late 1960 - 1970s came to be known as the Opposti Estremismi, (from left-wing and right-wing extremists riots), later renamed anni di piombo ("years of lead") because of a wave of bombings and shootings — the first victim of this period was Antonio Annarumma, a policeman, killed on November 12, 1969 in Milan during a left-wing demonstration. In December, four bombings struck in Rome the Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II (Altare della Patria), the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, and in Milan the Banca Commerciale and the Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura. The later bombing, known as the Piazza Fontana bombing of 12 December 1969, killed 16 and injured 90. On May 17, 1972, police officer Luigi Calabresi, who was subsequently awarded a gold medal of the Italian Republic for civil valour, was assassinated in Milan. Sixteen years later, Adriano Sofri, Giorgio Pietrostefani and Ovidio Bompressi and Leonardo Marino were arrested in Milan, accused by the confession of Leonardo Marino, one of the participants in the assassination. Highly controversial, the trial concluded, after an several convictions and acquittals, to their guilt. During a ceremony in honour of Luigi Calabresi on 17 May 1973, where the Interior Minister Mariano Rumor was present, an anarchist, Gianfranco Bertoli, threw a bomb killing four and injuring 45. Count Edgardo Sogno revealed in his memoirs that in July 1974, he visited the CIA station chief in Rome to inform him of the preparation of a neo-fascist coup. Asking him what the US government would do in case of such an operation, Sogno wrote that the CIA officer responsible for Italy answered him that: "the United States would have supported any initiative tending to keep the communists out of government." General Maletti declared, in 2001, that he had not known about Sogno's relations to the CIA and had not been informed of the right-wing coup, known as Golpe bianco (White Coup), and prepared with Randolfo Pacciardi.

Terrorists 'helped by CIA' to stop rise of left in Italy General Vito Miceli, chief of the SIOS military intelligence agency from 1969 on, and head of the SID from 1970 to 1974, was arrested in 1974 on charges of "conspiration against the state." Following his arrest, the Italian secret services were reorganized with a 24 October 1977 law in a democratic attempt to regain civilian and parliamentary control of them. The SID was divided into the current SISMI, the SISDE and the CESIS, which had a coordination role and was directly led by the President of the Council. Furthermore, an Parliamentary Committee on Secret services control (Copaco) was created at the same occasion. 1977 was the year with the most terrorist actions. ]] Christian democrat Aldo Moro was assassinated in May 1978 by the Red Brigades, a terrorist leftist group then led by Mario Moretti. Before his murder, Aldo Moro, a central figure in the Christian Democrat Party, several times Prime minister, was trying to include the Communist Party, headed by Enrico Berlinguer, in the parliamentary majority, an operation called the historic compromise. At this point, the PCI was the largest communist party in western Europe; this was largely due to its reformist orientation, to its growing independence from Moscow and to the new euro communism doctrine. The communist party was especially strong in Central Italy, in the three "red regions" (Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Umbria) which it had administered rather efficiently, as well as other local administrations, since the post-war years. In the period of terror attacks of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the parliamentary majority was composed by the parties of the "Arco costituzionale", i.e. all parties supporting the Constitution, including the Communists (who in fact took a very strong stance against the Red Brigades and other terrorist groups). However, the Communists never took part in the Government itself, which was composed by the "Pentapartito" (Christian Democrats, Socialists, Social Democrats, Liberals, Republicans).

Although the 1970s in Italy was marked by violence, it was also a time of great social and economic progress. Following the civil disturbances of the 1960s, Christian Democracy and its allies in government (including the PSI) introduced a wide range of political, social, and economic reforms. Regional governments were introduced in the spring of 1970, with elected councils provided with the authority to legislate in areas like public works, town planning, social welfare, and health. Spending on the relatively poor South was significantly increased, while new laws relating to index-linked pay, public housing, and pension provision were also passed. In 1975, a law was passed entitling redundant workers to receive at least 80% of their previous salary for up to a year from a state insurance fund. Living standards also continued to rise, with wages going up by an average of about 25% a year from the early 1970s onwards, and between 1969 and 1978, average real wages rose by 72%. Various fringe benefits were raised to the extent that they amounted to an additional 50% to 60% on wages, the highest in any country in the Western world. In addition, working hours were reduced so that by the end of the decade they were lower than any other country apart from Belgium. Some categories of workers who were laid off received generous unemployment compensation which represented only a little less than full wages, often years beyond eligibility. Initially, these benefits were primarily enjoyed by industrial workers in northern Italy where the “Hot Autumn” had its greatest impact, but these benefits soon spread to other categories of workers in other areas. In 1975, the escalator clause was strengthened in wage contracts, providing a high proportion of workers with nearly 100% indexation, with quarterly revisions, thereby increasing wages nearly as fast as prices.

A statute of worker’s rights that was drafted and pushed into enactment in 1970 by the Socialist labour minister Giacomo Brodolini, greatly strengthened the authority of the trade unions in the factories, outlawed dismissal without just cause, guaranteed freedom of assembly and speech on the shop floor, forbade employers to keep records of the union or political affiliations of their workers, and prohibited hiring except through the state employment office.Italy, a difficult democracy: a survey of Italian politics by Frederic Spotts and Theodor Wieser From 1957, Italian workers had partly been sheltered from the falling value of money by what was termed a “moving staircase,” which automatically raised wages as prices increased. In 1975, this provision was extended so that all workers received a flat fee that automatically compensated them for as much as 75% of the previous three months’ price increases. This meant in practice that money wages rose faster than the cost of living, because better-paid groups fought for extra sums to maintain their differentials, and also because various industries negotiated local and national wage deals in addition to the increments that all workers received. By 1985, the average Italian was twice as rich in real terms as he was in 1960.

By the mid-1970s, Italy had the most generous welfare provisions in Europe, while average Italian workers were among the best paid, most protected, and best treated on the continent. As noted by one historian in 1985, “Measured by almost every index of well-being, the Italians are better off than most of them imagined possible. They eat better; they have better education; fewer of their babies die and most adults live longer. In the crasser terms of consumer goods-televisions, cars, washing machines and television sets- Italian ownership approaches, matches and even exceeds the Western European average.” Because of reforms carried out in the Seventies, Italian families in the Eighties had access to a far wider range of state services than before, such as recreational and sports facilities, subsidies for medicines, proper medical care, and kindergarten schools. In addition, the growth in the income of most Italian families during the Seventies and Eighties was so significant that Giuseppe De Rita wrote of this period as a “watershed in the history of the Italian family.” Despite these achievements, socio-economic inequalities continued to pervade Italy by the early Eighties. In 1983, it was estimated that over 18% of the population of the South lived below the official poverty line, compared with 6.9% of the population of the North and Centre.

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