Friday, 17 April 2015

Football, Marxism and the black rooster.

Friday 17th April. Montevarchi 43.53115 11.56785.

We are parked up tonight outside the Gastone Brilli Peri Stadium, once home to Montevarchi Calcio Aquila 1902. Regretably this once proud football club, which never progressed beyond Serie D, was relegated in 2011 from group E and subsequently declared bankrupt. From the graffiti it seems like the supporters were a nice bunch of lads and it's a shame they can no longer battle with their main rivals Prato, Poggibonsi and Lucchese.

The stadium was obviously renamed at some point during the 1920's or 30's after the famous Italian racing driver Count Gastone Brilli-Peri whom it is claimed had a heart of gold and a face permanently scarred after an accident during the tour of Italy motorcycle race. Count Gastone is the only racing driver I can think of to have had a hat named after him. He wore a hat similar to a flabby basque (no helmets for these boys) and today these hats are known in Italy as a brilliperi. He died in a practice run for the Gran Premio di Tripoli in 1930. The race was won by Baconin Borzacchini (a name you don't hear every day) in a Maserati.

The streets near us here are named after the usual suspects; Verdi, Puccini,Michelangelo,Da Vinci, but we are parked in a special place between Piazzale Salvador Allende and Via Antonio Gramsci. Allende was the first communist to be elected president of a South American country, Chile. That was always going to end badly with tricky Dicky in the White House and, sure enough, in 1973 Allende was deposed in a coup d'├ętat sponsored by the USA and led by Augusto Pinochet and was assassinated by the CIA in the presidential palace. The Chilean people then endured seventeen years of a brutal military junta under Ronnie and Maggie's new best friend. We often look nowadays at Cuba as a beacon of communism with its education and healthcare reforms in spite of US sanctions. But the improvements Allende brought to the lives of poor Chileans was remarkable. Amongst other reforms Allende introduced legislation to establish the Chilean NHS, the first program in the Americas to guarantee universal health care. He was also responsible for a raft of progressive social reforms, safety laws in factories, maternity care, a minimum wage and free lunches for schoolchildren. Culture and the arts were not forgotten during this period. State sponsored music festivals and tours of folklorists were accompanied by cheap editions of great literary works produced on a weekly basis and culture came into the reach of the masses for the first time.

Talk of culture brings us nicely to our second hero - Antonio Gramsci, one of, if not the most important Marxist thinkers of the twentieth century.

His theory of Cultural Hegemony is relevant today and suggests that Capitalism maintains control not just through political and economic coercion but by establishing a hegemonic culture whereby bourgeois norms and values become "common sense" values of all. Working class folk then identify their own good with the good of the bourgeoisie and help to maintain the status quo. A tragic analysis when you think about it. There is much more to Gramsci's analysis than that outline. He also critiqued economic determinism, the pessimistic, fatalistic interpretation of Marx. Of course, our fat friend Benito and his fascists were having none of this and in 1926 Antonio was sentenced to five years in confinement on the island of Ustica and a year later sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. During this time he wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3000 pages of history and analysis. He died in 1937 aged 46. He's one of Alexie Sayle's heros I believe which puts me in good company. We feel safe tonight with the spirits of these two men looking over us.

Our journey today in Tuscany took us through Chianti country and of course we had to stop and buy a bottle from a vineyard. When we stop at vineyards in France we usually buy more than a bottle but we made the mistake of stopping at a vineyard producing Chianti Classico, identified by the black rooster seal on the neck of the bottle, and at the outrageous price felt we could only splash out on the one bottle and that was the cheapest in the vineyard! Recommended with pasta we were advised and as we had bought some ravioli yesterday that's what we had it with. We weren't too sure what the ravioli filling was so we translated the packaging with the aid of the word lens app. I'm sure something was lost in the translation because I'm pretty sure we weren't really eating "sweet anus". I can report, however, that both the ravioli and the wine were delicious.



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