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General Elections – Boom in Stock Exchanges -Credit for Emigrants – Rent Restrictions -State Control of Trade Unions

Tipologia: Paragrafo/Articolo – Data pubblicazione: 15/03/1924

General Elections – Boom in Stock Exchanges -Credit for Emigrants – Rent Restrictions -State Control of Trade Unions

«The Economist», 15 marzo 1924, pp. 586-587




Turin, March 2



On February 26th the General Election campaign was officially inaugurated. There are 20 parties or candidates’ lists in the field – 13 national and seven purely local parties. No one, except the Fascist list, aspires to gain the majority (355 places out of total of 535). The 355 candidates placed on the Fascist list, and agreed by Signor Mussolini, are practically sure to be elected at April 6th, as no other list can contest the first place or hope to muster the 25 per cent, of the votes polled, which are necessary for victory. The change from 1919 and 1921, when the electors sent to the House over 150 Socialists and Communists, all over 100 Populars (Catholics) is indeed extraordinary. All the other 19 lists of candidates struggle only for the conquest of the 180 minority places. Fascists will have a share also of minority, as, in four electoral districts out of 15, they offer themselves in an additional minority list. Other parties are: Dissentient Fascists (two districts), Democratic Liberals, friendly or neutral towards Fascism (nine districts), Democratic Liberals in the opposition (eight), Catholic Populars (15, or the whole of the districts), small agricultural proprietors and farmers (four), Republicans (12), Democratic Socialists (15), official Muscovite Socialists (13), Communists (14), Independents (five), Social Democrats (five). Among the seven local lists, the only worth mentioning are the Sardinian Party and the Slav-German Party.



The public interest in the electoral contest is, however, not very lively, perhaps in consequence of the absolute certainty of the victory of the Party in power. In economic circles, interest is centering around Stock Exchange quotations. There is developing, on the Italian bourses, a boom comparable in extent, if not as yet in violence, to the famous boom of 1905-6, when the motor-car securities went up from day to day in a frantic manner.



Almost all classes of securities shared in the rise; but textiles, navigation, land and housing and electrical companies were easily first. The rise is explained, by professionals with a theoretical turn of mind, as a belated attempt of security quotations to adjust themselves to the depreciation of the lira. A great many securities were quoted, until recently, at prices not much higher than prewar level. Political uncertainty, confiscatory taxation, and fear of Bolshevism co-operated to keep quotations down. As the economic and political horizon seems to-day clearer, values are bound to rise until equilibrium with the general price level is reached. There is much to say in favour of this theory; but there is the risk that the rise is too indiscriminately affecting both old securities representing gold-lira investments and new securities, with depreciated lira investments and water at the back of them.



New economic and social legislation has been forthcoming during the month. A decree of December 15, 1923, published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale of February 2, 1924, creates a National Credit Institute for Italian work in foreign countries. Emigration is on the increase again: 400,000 in 1923, with an increase of 93,000 over 1921 and 104 over 1922. Of this number, 178,000 emigrated to transatlantic countries, 94,000 to Argentina, 58,000 to United States, 15,000 to Brazil, 6,000 to Canada, 2,800 to Uruguay, 1,150 to Australia, 1,100 to Central America. While in 1922 and previous years the greatest number were going to U.S., restrictive legislation diverted emigration currents to South America. The new Institute aims at financing Italian emigrants abroad, their industrial enterprises, colonisation plans, cooperative societies, &c. The Institute will be a semi-public bank, financed by savings banks and public insurance offices, and will cater for emigrants’ savings. The State will nominate a part of the directors and guarantee a minimum interest of 3.50 per cent, on debentures issued by the institute, and a minimum dividend of 4.50 per cent, on share capital.



More interesting to the general public is a decree of February 21st on the housing problem. While the decree of January 7, 1923, declared that rents would be freely discussed between proprietors and tenants; and, in case of disagreement, allowed rents to be fixed up to June 30, 1926, by Arbitration Commissions, the new decree adds that Prefets – i.e., representatives of the Central Government in Provinces, have the authority to seize all vacant houses which the proprietor has not seen fit to let within a month after notice has been given. The Prefet will let the apartment to houseless people, according to needs and circumstances. Rents will be fixed by Arbitration Commissions. The requisition right applies to old vacant houses, and also to new houses which have been declared fit for habitation before October 27, 1922. Old regulated rents were much lower than free rents for vacant or new houses – frequently only one-fifth. The new decree aims at equalising the two types of rent; but it is uncertain if it will succeed in lowering permanently rents of new houses to the regulated level of old ones; for who will bund new houses now the fear is abroad of being obliged to let them under cost?


Workmen’s organisations (trade unions) are much concerned about a legislative decree, dated January 24, 1924, which subjects them to the local representative (Prefet) of the Central Government. Workmen’s organisations are defined as those which are maintained by the working-men’s contributions. If the “Prefet” supposes that the funds of trade unions are not spent in the interest and for the economic or moral benefit of workers, he can make inquiries, dissolve managing councils, dismiss presidents and secretaries, and entrust assets and management to an official commissioner. The commissioner, within the maximum term of a year, is bound to make a report. On the basis of this report the Prefet can restore the old officers, prolong up to another year the receivership, or dissolve the trade union and distribute assets among associates or hand them over to another institution with purposes akin to those which the dissolved organisation purported to possess. A few days ago the decree was put into force for the first time by the Prefet of Rome, who instituted inquiries into the management of the Agricultural Workers’ Federation – i.e., the national organisation of Agricultural Workers’ Trade Unions. It appears that the federation had made savings out of past years’ contributions. As 1923 and 1924 are bad years for organisations of its political colour (Socialist), managers were using past savings for keeping alive the federation, whose membership was dwindling and whose remaining members were unwilling to pay. It seems that an inquiry will be started by the Prefet about the legality of using reserve funds towards defraying present expenses.

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