Italy: End Berlusconi’s rule

Text of CWI leaflet

The following is the text from a CWI leaflet distributed at the large demonstration last weekend, in Rome, against the war and occupation in Iraq and also against the right wing Berlusconi government.

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End Berlusconi’s rule

Immediate withdrawal of the troops from Iraq !

For a programme of class struggle against big business!

Three years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, and a devastating war for control over oil, what is teh result? Expenditure by the US on the occupation totals more than $1 trillion. Over 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed. The deaths of military personnel, including Italians, is reaching the figure of 2,500, and still no stable democratic government is established. On the contrary, violence has escalated and the country is on the brink of outright sectarian civil war.

Reports of torture and killings of prisoners are abundant and the involvement of the Italian government in the US-promoted procedure of ‘rendition’ cannot be denied. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been a loyal supporter of Bush and Blair throughout the Iraq war, and one of Berlusconi’s ex-ministers, Calderoli, continues provocative racist behaviour against Muslims.

The pressure of the millions-strong protest demonstrations in Italy, and the horrors of kidnappings and executions in Iraq, has forced Berlusconi to talk about withdrawing Italy’s troops, but only when the US agrees.

The centre-left, opposition ‘Unione’ is not united on Iraq and parties within it talk of withdrawal subject to the agreement of the United Nations! Communists and socialists must condemn the continued occupation of Iraq and demand the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops. We must also condemn any talk of invading Iran.

The Italian press has totally distorted the position that Marxists and Trotskyists take in relation to imperialist wars and the resistance against them. The CWI does not give uncritical support to the ‘insurgency’, including, as it does, the kidnappings and suicide attacks which kill numerous working and poor people.

While we call for an end to the occupation, we also call for a joint working class struggle against the puppet regimes and the building of a united non-sectarian defence force to protect the communities against attack. Socialists and communists would endeavour to appeal to rank and file soldiers in the occupation forces, supporting their right to refuse actions they deem wrong, and to join the movement to end the occupation.

The CWI stands for united struggle of the working class and oppressed of Iraq to cut across sectarian violence. A political struggle is needed for the establishment of a government of working and poor people that will fight for ownership and democratic control over the resources of their country, including and especially oil.

In the wider Middle East, the situation is more explosive than ever.

The publishing of the now infamous cartoon in a Danish right-wing paper and elsewhere (and Calderoli’s provocative action in reproducing it on a T-shirt) have aroused further hatred against imperialism amongst Muslims and caused many deaths, including in Libya. But it has also played into the hands of reactionary elements in Muslim society, who can use it to reassert the most reactionary interpretations of Islam.

The CWI supports freedom of expression and religious tolerance but believes the sensitivities must be understood of people who feel ‘the whole western world is against them’ heightened by Bush’s ‘war on terror’.

The hypocrisy of the US administration over Iran is breath-taking. The regime of Iranian president, Ahmadinajad, is condemned for trying to develop its nuclear capability while, following imperialist and geopolitical aims in Asia, the US breaks its own rules to assist the Indian government to develop its nuclear and military defence capabilities.

The Tehran government is opposed to US imperialism but, in turn, is holding its own people in subjugation, including women and workers, like the Tehran bus-drivers. Socialists oppose any imperialist intervention in Iran but support the struggle of the Iranian people for democratic rights and an end to the dictatorship of the Mullahs.

In Palestine, the victory of Hamas expresses a revolt against the rottenness of the Palestinian Authority elite bequeathed by Al Fatah’s leader Arafat, as well as the general hatred for the Israeli regime. Again the Italian press, run by Berlusconi and other business magnates, depicts as ‘Trotskyist’ a position expressed by some in the movement of total opposition to the existence of any state for the Israeli people.

The CWI supports wholeheartedly the struggle of the poverty-stricken Palestinian people against the terror-state of Sharon (and now Olmert). We have also supported the workers’ struggles in Israel, such as the dockers and municipal workers, who have been involved in important strike struggles. We inscribe on our banner the call for democratic and socialist Palestinian and Israeli states, in a voluntary confederation of socialist states in the region.

Across the whole region, we stand for the overthrow, through mass struggle by workers and poor people, of the corrupt and reactionary regimes of the region. We advocate socialist policies to get rid of landlordism and capitalism and to oust US imperialism once and for all.

Anti-Bush campaigners world-wide are heartened to see George Bush’s popularity hitting the lowest point of his presidency and to see opposition to the occupation of Iraq strengthen in the US. Even more encouraging is to see the powerful working class of America moving into action, with the New York transit strike and the ongoing struggles of car-workers against the turning of the capitalist screw in their workplaces.

Italy

The working class of Italy has continued to demonstrate in no uncertain terms its preparedness to fight against the bosses and their mouthpieces in parliament and in the press. Together with young people, in strikes and demonstrations, they have expressed their hatred of war and of the anti-working class policies of cuts, redundancies and privatisation. The only brake on their militancy has been the leaders of the main trade union federations who, in spite of being forced to call at least five general strikes, have preferred to negotiate and compromise.

As the end of five years of Berlusconi government approaches, most workers and other opponents of Berlusconi’s policies are looking to get rid of the billionaire bandit-businessman, who has used his political and media domination to stay out of prison on bribery, corruption and other charges. They are looking for policies that will change their prospects in life dramatically for the better.

Berlusconi rants about ‘communists’ running everything, which is patently untrue. But the real communists have to answer his lies and put forward a realistic policy to win the support of the millions who have been in struggle.

With Italy’s economy in trouble – nil growth, poor competitiveness, big national debt and budget deficit – it is known once more as the ‘sick man of Europe’. If Berlusconi won the election, and this is still possible, he would go harder on the ‘reforms’ demanded by the European and Italian capitalists and provoke big clashes with the working class.

[The center-left opposition] Unione is already being groomed as a safer bet for the bosses. Head of Confindustria [the bosses’ organisation], Montezemolo, is pressing for a Social Contract with Prodi and the trade union leaders. This would mean tying the hands of workers to stop them resisting a new round of harsh neo-liberal reforms. But it was the Olive Tree governments last time round which began privatisations and attacks on social benefits, paving the way for Berlusconi’s second government in 2001.

Rifondazione Communista still retains the support of many workers and young people. But if it had taken a much more independent class position, proposing nationalisation and other socialist policies, it could have grown still further. Unfortunately, its leaders are now set on participating in a coalition government with parties, including the DS, who advocate maintaining Italian capitalism and all that that means in the life of working and young people. In the name of “anti-Berlusconi unity”, the Rc leaders are sweeping under the carpet the lessons of the Olive Tree government. The policies were so anti-working class that they they felt compelled to withdraw their support. Now the RC leaders are failing to warn that Prodi’s policies will again open the door for a victory of the right and far-right parties.

We say, vote Rc, but support those who are against a workers’ party participating in a capitalists’ government. No support for policies that make workers and young people pay for the crisis of Italian capitalism. Launch a struggle for an alternative political policy. No to privatisation and cuts. For a shorter working week and a living minimum wage for all, including students.

The party of Communist Refoundation should be aiming during the election campaign to do exactly what its name suggests: argue the case through work-place and college meetings and publicity for real socialist/communist policies. To carry through the programme it has on paper, it should put an independent class position. It should explain that the only way to begin to plan the economy according to the needs of the millions and not the millionaires would be to take industry, commerce and finance into public ownership.

No one would be too enthusiastic about conducting a struggle to replace capitalist anarchy with Stalinist-style bureaucratic state planning. The Rc should be propagandising the idea of the economy and society being run by elected committees of workers’ and young people’s representatives, at all levels. Fighting the election on socialist policies is the only starting point for those who claim to represent the workers and young people of Italy.

For genuine socialists/communists, internationalism is vital. The call for troops out of Iraq, and no invasion of Iran, must be linked with the idea of workers’ internationalism in the Middle East, Europe and world-wide. The CWI, with members/groups/sections, in all five continents, bases itself on Marxist ideas and practice. We actively participate in anti-war struggles, in industrial and community battles, in youth and anti-racist campaigns, as well as participating in local and national elections in a number of countries on the basis of socialist policies.

End Berlusconi’s rule (pdf, 1MB, opens in new window).

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