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Communism is extinct in Italy April 15, 2008

Posted by dorigo in news, politics.

In a country where the word “communist” has been increasingly used as an insult since 1993 – we have to give unshared credit of this to Silvio Berlusconi, who ever since his descent in politics used it as a synonym of “illiberal” or even worse – it might not come as a surprise that the new parliament after yesterday’s elections does not contain one single person who even loosely defines himself as such.

Despite the derogatory nature that the epiteth had taken in the eyes of many in recent years, however, the disappearance of a radical left in Italy’s political arena has generally not been greeted with enthusiasm. Not even members of National Alliance, the party born on the ashes of the filo-fascist MSI, seemed to rejoice yesterday evening on television post-mortem analyses: a rather confusing stand, and a demonstration that italian politics is not easy to understand by outside observers.

A country with no representation of a radical left in the parliament is drifting towards a policy of consensus that cuts corners and steam-rolls over dissent. Italy is not ready for that. It is not by chance that a veteran like Francesco Cossiga -who was prime minister during the most violent period in the history of the italian republic- warns today in an interview to the newspaper Il Corriere della Sera that political terrorism in Italy has its roots in the total lack of a dialogue of the government with the fringes of society, and that the conditions for a rebirth of violence are ripe again.

But what are the reasons of the incredible defaillance of the left, which presented a coalition of forces which had gathered no less than 11% of votes only two years ago, and is now at 3.1%, well below the 4% threshold which allows a party to be represented in the Camera dei Deputati, Italy’s lower chamber ? Analysts will have their hands full in the forthcoming months to understand fluxes and tendencies, but it is clear that this surprising result comes from at least two effects.

The first is the abstaining of many of the supporters of the radical left, disillusioned by the left parties who did not have anything to show for two full years of participation in Prodi’s 2006 government. One can see a signal of this in the increase of abstention by almost 3% in 2008.

The second is the sheer effect of bipolarism: the choice of a premier was recognized from the start to be only between Berlusconi and Veltroni, and many supporters of the radical left, moved by the wish to avoid a victory of Berlusconi, voted for Veltroni’s Democratic Party.

Veltroni cannot be too happy of this: he did well in convincing voters of center-left area, but he lost his elections because he did not convince any of the traditional voters of the center-right coalition. But one cannot really blame him, since his mission was impossible to achieve: Italy wanted a change from Prodi’s government, who tried hard in the past two years to mend the most grievious problem of Italy’s economy -its trillion-dollar debt- but forgot to protect the lower middle-class from price increases and ridiculous salaries.

I have many worries now. One is that INFN, my employer, will be seen as a conquer ground by the new government, who will cut funding and probably restructure the institute, for a better political control. Another is that Italy may be tempted to show an arrogant face again in the international arena, with military intervention in hot spots of this planet. A third is the stop of the attempts at saving the frail economy in the interest of tax cuts. A fourth is the boost to private schooling system, in a country where public schools work very well despite the ridiculous salaries of teachers. I could go on, but I have better think about research today.



1. Matteo Martini - April 15, 2008

As a Berlusconi-hater, I can see the results of the last elections as very significant and, indeed, very good, for two reasons:

1) Communists are now extinct. This is a very good thing indeed, one can only wonder why it took about 20 years from the fall of the Berlin Wall to finally have the Communists sacked from the Parliament. I do not know of any nation in Western Europe where Communists were so significantly represented as in Italy only few years ago. Now they are gone, and this was long overdue. The center-right will have far less excuses in attacking the center-left as “a bunch of communists” now that Communists are gone. Now, if we had Di Pietro or some other real leader (not Veltroni, an ex-communist who only has an high-school degree in cinema history, and has done little more in his life other than being director of the Party`s newspaper) as head of the Pd the situation would be even better..

2) Berlusconi has a solid majority and he will probably be able to rule for 5 full years. So, after this election, there will be no excuse on his side if he will fail to revive the economy..

2. dorigo - April 15, 2008

Matteo, you don’t fool anybody anymore… You are no Berlusconi-hater, rather, you are a communist-hater. And from your few comments here, I think you voted for the right; maybe Lega Nord. Also, your analysis is not very deep: communists are not gone, they still sit in regions, provinces… This will allow Berlusconi will cry wolf as long as he has a breath (but even if all communists went to Mars, he would still do it).


3. Matteo Martini - April 15, 2008

Tommaso, Tommaso..
Why you do not believe what I say??
You do not see that the Communists were the no.1 ally of Berlusconi?
Why do you think about 50% of the Italians voted for the Berlusconi-led coalition?
Because they like to have a Prime Minister connected with Mafia, with a big conflict of interests, arrogant, a crook, and a liar?
Italians are stupid, maybe, but not THAT stupid.
They voted for Berlusca, just because they did not want an ex-Communist as Prime Minister.
If you do not believe so, please, tell me why 20 millions+ Italians voted for Al Capone?
Are we Italians all Mafia men?

And, no, I did not vote for Lega Nord.
I wanted to vote for Di Pietro, the only respectable candidate in the elections, but from Tokyo you can not vote for Italia Dei Valori, so, I ended up not voting at all.

4. goffredo - April 15, 2008

Matteo Martini,
amore mio!

5. Luboš Motl - April 15, 2008

When I read some people’s comments about Berlusconi – there even exist nuts who are negative about him – I am not really afraid of politics of “consensus” in Italy. 😉

The extinction of communists and SIF (single issue fanatical) environmentalists is a great thing. I am confident that Czechia will surpass Italy’s GDP and other things within a few years but in the elimination of communism, you might now be ahead.

The old comments we were taught at school that both France and Italy had very powerful communist parties seem to be merely chapters from history textbooks.

6. DB - April 15, 2008

Lubos wrote:”I am confident that Czechia will surpass Italy’s GDP and other things within a few years”

As, like many string theorists, Lubos is given to hyperbole, I decided to Czech his claim.

Let’s see now, according to the CIA Factbook for 2008 (showing estimates for 2007), Italy’s GDP is 1,800 billion US$ (#10) vs Czech Republic’s of 249 billion US$ (#41). Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if he disagreed with those damn lefties in the CIA.

Looks to me as if he’ll be relying on “other things”, perhaps the number of string theory papers submitted to Spires or, more likely, the number of times a senior politician denies the reality of global warming.

For as long as I can remember, Italy has been written off and laughed at by some nations further north; but then jealousy and hubris make for strange bedfellows. Italians may be suffering under a defective democratic system but their natural talent always ensures that they overcome that handicap.

7. dorigo - April 15, 2008

Hi Lubos,

I can hear you rejoice from the 800-odd km that divide us… I unfortunately believe that the extinction of representatives of the radical left in the italian Parliament is a great loss for the italian democratic process.

As for the races you suggest, I never really considered Czech republic a competitor in anything other than call girls… You seem to have work ahead if you want to compete with Italy 😉


(PS to any other czech citizen, don’t be outraged by my comment… With Lubos, one can and should take some liberty now and then!)

8. Andrea Giammanco - April 15, 2008

Not only communism is extinct in Italy (and, sorry, although I’m much more on the left than the PD, I also think that it’s more a good than a bad thing: left-wing people have to contribute to the PD and try to shift its barycenter towards the left, not to vote for something different which will always claim that it’s allied BUT…, which is an incredibly powerful alibi for never dirt their hands).
Also the catholic coalition was severely resized, and this is an incredibly good news, that I didn’t dare to expect.
There was a fake bipolar system, before, which implied that people like Mastella (MASTELLA, for God’s sake…) were the most powerful. And now Mastella is politically dead. Aren’t you happy of that? I am.
The season were ridiculous parties with 0.6% of the votes were able to blackmail a majority voted by 50+% of the citizens is over.
I’m very sad that Berlusconi won these elections, but this was not the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario would have included Casini in a key role.

I tend to agree with more than 50% of what is written here, for example:

9. chris - April 16, 2008


“I do not know of any nation in Western Europe where Communists were so significantly represented as in Italy only few years ago.”

in germany they have close to 10% in the current parliament.

10. manubee - April 16, 2008

Hi all 🙂

I think that was pretty obvious the defeat of the radical left. That’s because in the past years they had the power to take down a govern, and the Italian people can’t accept that anymore. The radical left leaders, like Bertinotti, Boselli and Diliberto, are very smart people, but they are still too attached to old ideologies cannot stand anymore. Now we’ll see what is going to do the Northern League, I’ve no good feelings

11. goffredo - April 16, 2008

Bertinotti is probably a nice guy. I even voted for him once (should you believe me?). But Diliberto, Giordano, Ferrando, Cento,… ?? This is Tommaso’s forum and I will refrain from describing what and why I think of them in a language that has, over these years, turned more and more colorful. I even make truck drives blush.

Diliberto very smart?

12. manubee - April 16, 2008

Yes, very smart, well-learned person, on the contrary of some high brass of the PDL

13. goffredo - April 16, 2008

My dear Manubee. I do not see the smartness of DIliberto. Do you think he is smart because he is a “professor”? Is he smart because he wears think eyeglasses?

When Diliberto speaks I get the hives. I do agree that some people of PDL are not smart and indeed other social and sometime pathological categories should be used to describe them. Interestingly I know many people that have over these years said they are disgusted by Berlusconi and his friends. It was trendy to say such things. So I would always got a good laugh watching the reactions of those very same people when I said that I was disgusted by the likes of Diliberto. These trendy people would get all uptight and politically correct saying how bad it was to personalize and hate the political opponent. I am always amazed at this asymmetry.

I despise Diliberto. He says things that, when not banal (certainly not smart), are senseless, just to say the least. But more often than senseless he says things that are intellectually dishonest. When I think of an example of dishonesty of a so-called intellectual I think of the likes of Diliberto.

14. manubee - April 16, 2008

ok maybe you’re right, and I agree with you about the tons of things sensless and strongly ideoligized that he say, but I think that he’s just a little better in comparison of the other people from the radical left, except for Bertinotti, who is not another example of coherence. But all Italian Politics are not an example of coherence

15. dorigo - April 16, 2008

Hi Andrea,

thank you for your comment. It is clear that there are reasons to be happy about the outcome of these elections, but they are far outweighed by the damage that another five years of Berlusconi will do.

Manubee, I share your view about the intellectual capabilities of Diliberto, but he indeed is a bit too professoral. I understand Jeff’s reaction to hearing him speak: not only is Diliberto’s ideology a million miles away from Jeff’s ideas; he also talks as if he is explaining things to you.

I still prefer who speak their mind to clowns like Berlusconi who say one thing one day and the opposite the day after, plus making a fool of himself by having to always sound entertaining. Of course, I do not dislike him from a human standpoint – I would rather spend an evening with him than with Diliberto – but he cannot lead a country because he is only enriching himself and his family. His possessions have grown by hundreds of millions in the last years thanks to the laws he passed.

Cheers to all,

16. Luboš Motl - April 17, 2008

Dear Tommaso, could you please explain to your anonymous crank commenters here that I obviously meant GDP per capita? Thanks, Lubos

17. Matteo Martini - April 17, 2008

I only like women 😉

Anyway, I do not think that Schroeder was an ex-communist.
Veltroni was a member of the ex-P.C.I.

Andrea Gianmarco
“Not only communism is extinct in Italy (and, sorry, although I’m much more on the left than the PD, I also think that it’s more a good than a bad thing..”


“Hi all
I think that was pretty obvious the defeat of the radical left. That’s because in the past years they had the power to take down a govern, and the Italian people can’t accept that anymore..”


Czech GDP per capita in nominal value is $16,372, Italy`s GDP per capita in nominal value is $35,386.
Still way to go..

18. Luboš Motl - April 17, 2008

Dear Matteo,

the nominal value is changing depending on the currency exchange rate so the speed of aligning these two things is faster by those 5-10% that the Czech currency gains on euro every year (and 20-30% on the dollar). Add the 4-5% growth differential and you will get that it will be aligned in the same 5 years or so as if you compute the same time with the PPP GDP per capita.


The Czech PPP GDP per capita is now about USD 24,000 while Italy’s is 30,000. We have overtaken Portugal, will grab Greece this or next year, and Italy follows again in 5 years or so. Just do the math, silly.


19. Matteo Martini - April 18, 2008

the problem can be seen in different ways.
You are using GDP/capita adjusted at Purchasing Power Parity, which is an artificial and questionable way to elaborate data.
Look at what happened recently with GDP adjusted at PPP calculations:

China’s economy, said the bank, is smaller than it thought.
About 40% smaller.

Still, if the average Italian goes to do shopping in Prague he will be able to buy roughly twice the goods the average local can buy, and if the average Czech goes to do shopping in Rome he will be able to buy roughly half the goods the average local can buy

the silly

20. Luboš Motl - April 18, 2008

Dear Matteo, I agree with you that the Czech crown is, despite its 40% strengthening over euro in the last decade, still undervalued by another 40%. 😉 That’s why its strengthening is likely to continue for some time.

Nevertheless, your comment about Prague is misleading. Rome is 18th most expensive city while Prague is 49th most expensive city and the difference is surely no longer a factor of two as you say.


It is about 1.5 multiplicatively and by the exchange rate dynamics, it will go away in 5 years, at most 10. And incidentally, the motion won’t stop there. 😉

21. Matteo Martini - April 19, 2008

Dear Lubos,
I do not want to look like as too picky, but I do not get where you take the the factor of 1.5 from.
Not from the link you have in your comment, as far as I can see, where there is written that Rome is quite more expensive than Prague (by a factor of 1.5 or 2, we do not know).

I would also like to acknowledge that my example of a person doing shopping in Rome or Prague was partially flawed.
Capital cities life style is often hardly representative of the economic well being of a nation.
Moscow is the most expensive city in the world, but the GDP/capita in nominal value of Russia is quite lower than the the GDP/capita in nominal value of America or Japan.
My fault.

As for the situation or the economies in Czechia and Italy, I can hardly see Czechia catch Italy in GDP/capita in nominal value in the next 10 years, not even with Testa d` Asfalto as Prime Minister.

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