Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pitchfork Movement: "Euro-spring" or the return of Fascism?

Currently, there are large-scale protests happening in Sicily and other parts of Italy. Reactions to the policies being implemented by the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti, the protests include students, truck drivers, fishermen, farmers, and others. The protests revolve largely around the added costs to fuel, due to additional taxes levied by the government in order to combat Italy's debt problems. According to Bloomberg, gasoline prices in Italy are now over $9 a gallon, and those costs are reverberating throughout the Italian economy, particularly in Sicily:
Prices of some vegetables have risen about 15 percent since the start of the strikes as supplies in cities and towns dwindled, according to farmers’ association Confagricoltura. Transport workers, from bus drivers to rail and airport personnel will be striking tomorrow, making it even harder for commerce to function. 
The situation is particularly serious in the southern region of Calabria where some farmers are forced to milk cows and then dump the milk because they can’t get past the road blocks, Confagricoltura said.
The protests started last week in Sicily where shortages have been even worse, and spread to the mainland and to the island of Sardinia this week. Protesting farmers, livestock owners and fishermen, calling themselves the “Pitchfork Movement,” are angered by the lack of investments in their industry.
The name--the Pitchfork Movement (or Movimento dei Forconi)--alludes to the farmers and others noted above who are hardest hit by the problems in Italy.

The World Socialist Web Site gives some more background--if somewhat tinged by ideology--on the issues behind the protests and strikes:
Increases up to 50 percent have been reported on food and fuel prices, as truckers refuse to carry freight and set up highway roadblocks that prevent the re-supply of retail stores. The truck blockades have particularly affected the food industry, as supermarkets are not receiving supplies... 
Fishermen denounced fuel price increases (due to increased taxes and oil prices), a proposed “point-based license” system, and demands that the origin of seafood sold in markets be “traceable”—thus imposing a heavy burden on hard-hit small fishermen. Without any subsidies or government support, many fishermen will be forced out of business.
There is little doubt that the measures being enacted by the Monti government are severe. But there is also little doubt that the Italian economy is in dire straits, that it has overspent itself in the past, created a dependent populace, and simply not kept up with the times. Jordan Wisemann explained some of these problems in this Atlantic article last year. Italy was--and still is--on the verge of collapse before these new measures were introduced. These new protests are reactionary in the truest sense of the word. The protesters don't realize that Italy had been living on borrowed time and are now shocked and outraged when the bill comes due.

Many people are praising the Pitchfork Movement; they see it as a true popular uprising against injustices being perpetrated by the government, along the lines of how they see the Occupy Wall Street movement. And as the WSWS piece makes clear, the Pitchfork Movement participants--like the OWS partcipants--feel they are owed something by the government, owed a standard of living, owed a share of wealth. Period.

And whether or not Monti's policies are a good idea or will help solve Italy's problems is largely beside the point in this regard. When these kinds of uprisings succeed, invariably the people that end up in charge head down a very different road than is often expected. Often, it's the road to Fascism. Some call the Pitchfork Movement the beginning of a European Spring. Take a good look at were the Arab Spring is today.

Cheers, all.


  1. Accurate diagnosis. Now what's the prescription?

  2. Every politician takes two enemas and calls you in the morning? ;)

    I don't know, Don. But I do know that populist movements demanding that governments do more and more and more aren't the answer, even when there are valid points being made by supporters of such movements.

    But Italy's problems run deep. Any solution from within will be very, very painful. The only other solution is to have the rest of the EU (read: Germany) foot the bill, and that ain't happening.

  3. Agreed, rob. I think the only solution is populist movements demanding that governments do less and less, but I'm sure that's no surprise.

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