Confindustria

   The Italian employers’federation, Confindustria is one of the largest and best-organized lobby groups for private industry in the world. Confindustria was born in May 1910 and initially had its headquarters in Turin. It moved to Rome in 1919, but in its early years it was dominated by industrialists from the “industrial triangle” encompassing Milan, Turin, and Genoa. Confindustria was somewhat equivocal about the rise of Fascism. On the one hand, the association welcomed the fact that the strikes and violence of the “red biennio” of 1920–1922 had been stopped. On the other hand, Confindustria publicly criticized the violence of the Fascist squads and only recognized the official Fascist trade union in 1925. The Fascist state bailed out numerous substantial enterprises during the economic crisis of the 1930s, and its autarchic economic policies allowed some of Confindustria’s members to enjoy monopoly pickings. However, private enterprise could not but chafe at the totalitarian ideology and semitotalitarian reality of the Fascist state.
   In the postwar period the association was dominated by its president, Angelo Costa (in 1945–1955 and again in 1966–1970), a Genoese industrialist who supported a policy of negotiation with the trade unions and of liberalization of the market despite the opposition of some of the association’s members in heavily protected industries. Confindustria backed Italy’s entrance into the European Economic Community (EEC) with the treaties of Rome 1957. During the 1960s and 1970s the association was obliged to reform itself to take into account the growing numbers of new members from small and medium-sized industries in the northeast and south. Even today, the association is to some extent divided by the split between its large industrial firms, with their cross-holdings and links to the closed world of Italian private banking, and the more entrepreneurial and assertive small companies that have provided Italy with so much of its recent economic success.
   In the late 1960s and 1970s, Confindustria had to deal with the tense industrial relations of the time. For the most part, it appeased the militant unions by signing an accord indexing salaries to inflation in 1975 and accepting the introduction of some of the most restrictive labor laws in the world. Only the steady (at times, not so steady) devaluation of the lira enabled industry to maintain its competitiveness, but until FIAT broke a car workers’strike in 1980, there was little or no sign of the employers’willingness to stand up to the unions. Since the 1980s, however, the employers have become more assertive in their calls for reform. Confindustria has been demanding since the early 1990s that the government get the public finances in order, lower employment taxes, and liberalize the economy. Confindustria recognizes that the inefficiency of the Italian state is acting as a brake on business competitiveness. Since Italy converted to the euro in 1999, thus ending its reliance on devaluation, its competitiveness has declined sharply in comparison with Germany and France, its nearest continental rivals.
   A number of important individuals have headed Confindustria in its century-long history. Giovanni Agnelli served as president between 1974 and 1976; he was replaced by Guido Carli. The current president is Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, a former assistant to Enzo Ferrariwho became president of Ferrari and then of FIAT.
   See also Economy; European Integration.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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