In the comments on my post yesterday Sam and Gerald make excellent suggestions for further reading about Italy’s sacrifices in the First World War.
Fought high up in the mountains of the north a million men perished in what Ernest Hemingway called “the most colossal, murderous, mismanaged butchery” of the conflict.
Luigi Cadorna the general running Italy’s campaign against the Austrians put machine guns behind the troops to dissuade stragglers and executed one in ten Italian troops during the war to “build moral fibre in the rest” . On many occasions the Austrians simply stopped firing and begged the Italians to retreat as they clambered over piles of their own dead to keep advancing. Hemingway in his book A Farewell to Arms has his main character jump in a river to avoid being taken to an execution spot where Italians were busy killing other Italians following their defeat at the battle of Caporetto.
In 1966 there was a BBC TV mini series starring Vanessa Redgrave in the role of the nurse and for some reason ( the housemaster taught English maybe) it was one of the few series that we were allowed to view during the evening. It was I remember superb but as Sam says in his comment it was a forgotten war that I certainly had never heard of before watching the mini series.
I think the BBC series was much better than that version from 1957.
Risorgimento has really plagued Italy for years. Politicians of all persuasions have since re-unification in 1860 tried to build a single nation from a peoples that seemingly have little or no interest in such a thing. Italy remains very much a regional entity with people rather than feeling together, being wary and suspicious of others from a different area.
Local dialects incomprehensible to others just a few kilometres away don’t help but since Garibaldi the rebirth of a single nation has been on top of the agenda of every leader. They have in the main felt that glorious sacrifice in war was the way to achieve it with disastrous consequences each time for the very population they seek to unite.
Yesterday Labour Day the politicians were at it again making speeches about the need to all pull together as a single nation to tackle high unemployment ( the president) and corruption and graft (Matteo Renzi).
Certainly in my local bar such speeches are treated with complete derision. Most of the graft they feel is by the politicians and high unemployment in the South ( double that of the North) is a result of policies either by Rome politicians or by the EU who closed all the textile factories that were receiving State aid. In the late 1980s there was virtually no unemployment down here.
Labour reform is the solution, of course, but no politician has, as yet, been brave enough to grasp that nettle. Renzi is talking the talk but so did Berlusconi, Monti and Letta but as Italians say if you want nothing to change then talk about change . The three before Renzi certainly proved that to be a truism .
Etihad have thrown down the gauntlet to Renzi by letter however. 2,000 redundancies, 20% pay cuts for everyone and a complete rework of the labour agreements.
I reckon when the Etihad employees see the kind of salaries that Alitalia enjoy even with the pay cuts there could be some fun and games anyway. I remember in the 1980s that the expat British Airways Manager who ran not just Italy but all of the Southern Mediterranean was not earning as much as the Italian that ran check in at Rome airport and the italian used to complain that he was getting what his Alitalia counterpart received. Where did the idea of paying people 15 months salary a year come from ?