Italy: No support for troops in Afghanistan

Letter from CWI’s councillors to ‘rebel’ Senators

On Thursday in the Italian Senate the issue of refinancing the Italian troops in Afghanistan is being put to a vote. It has gone through the lower house with some votes against. In the Senate, the Prodi government has a majority of just two. Eight or possibly nine senators from different parties have declared they will not vote in favour. They are from the Rifondazione Comunista (Rc), the Greens, the Italian Communists (Pdci) and a ’centrist’ party of the lawyer, Di Pietro.

These senators are coming under enormous pressure to back down. It looks as if Prodi is going to put the issue to a vote of confidence in the government in order to bludgeon them into submission.

The two Rc Senators – Luigi Malabarba and Franco Turigliatto – who are refusing to vote in favour belong to the ‘Critical Left’ current led by ’Erre’ (USFI). The Committee for a Workers’ International supports their struggle within the Rc and in parliament for this party to stick to its principles and avowed programme. Elected councillors from sections of the CWI around the world have written the solidarity letter carried below.

Clare Doyle, CWI

No support for troops in Afghanistan

To the members of the Italian Senate prepared to vote against the refinancing of Italy’s military involvement in Afghanistan and, in particular, to the members of Rifondazione Comunista. (Please circulate as widely as possible to the Rc members and party ‘leaders’.)

25 July, 2006

Dear comrades,

We, who are elected local councillors from around the world in parties affiliated to the Committee for a Workers’ International, salute the stand being taken by the eight, possibly nine, Senators of the Unione coalition. We support your refusal to be bullied by the Prodi government and your own party ‘leaders’ into voting against the wishes of the majority of Italy’s electorate.

As Piero Bernocchi has pointed out in a Cobas press statement, recent opinion polls have confirmed several times that two thirds of Italian voters want the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. We have seen the millions-strong demonstrations of the Berlusconi years on these issues and also on the social issues – attacks on the labour law, privatisation and de-regulation. These are the issues which the electorate felt strongly enough on to vote in a centre-left government.

We believe the threat of holding a vote of confidence on the issue of Afghanistan must be challenged. This tactic is nothing less than holding a gun to your heads. You must be allowed to vote out of loyalty to the electorate and not to a government that is already trampling on their wishes. This attempt to make you toe the line is not only heavy-handed and anti-democratic but even unnecessary. The fact that the right parties are prepared to vote for the policy shows how little ‘Left’ there is in the ‘Centre-Left’ government policies!

In particular, we pledge maximum support to the genuine communists within Rifondazione Comunista in conducting a struggle within the Rc as well as in parliament for the party to stick to its principles. This is of great importance in relation to this issue and is a fore-runner for the major battle to come over the national budget or Finanziaria. In an attempt to make workers, young people and pensioners pay for the crisis of the bosses’ system, this will include tens of billions of cuts in public spending.

We understand that the workers’ movement in Italy is already discussing general strike action in September. A mass mobilisation of the working class and young people of Italy certainly needs to be prepared to stop the government from carrying out the programme of Confindustria and of the European bosses’ representatives in the European Commission. If the government is brought down on this issue, it should be clear to the working-class voters, through your campaigning use of the parliamentary positions, and campaigns of other party and trade union activists, exactly who is to blame – not the ‘dissidents’ but those who implement pro-business and mini-imperialist policies.

We, as genuine socialist representatives of working people in our various countries, have fought and won our election campaigns on totally independent class policies. We fight to build our own Marxist parties but also actively support the building of broader anti-capitalist parties in most countries of the world. For that reason we looked to the Rc as an example of such a new party – neither reformist nor Stalinist and embodying the hopes and aspirations of workers and young people. We believe in the need not only to challenge capitalism but to struggle for the socialist/communist transformation of society.

We totally disagreed with the Rc participating in a government with capitalist parties. We agreed with giving support to the formation of an alternative government to the hated Berlusconi coalition, but, like many Rc members, we have been disappointed to see the Rc leaders go against genuine communist principles and also ignore the party’s decision-making body, the congress. We were already opposed to the actions of some Rc elected councillors before the general election, who, at local level participated in coalitions that have carried through neo-liberal policies – privatisation and cuts in public spending.

We believe that the Rc, building on the mass opposition movements of the Berlusconi years, could have fought the general election on an independent class policy and would now be in a far better position to resist the policies of neo-liberalism. We would be interested in all your views and comments on these issues.

We wish you success in your bold stand and hope it gets the recognition from workers and young people in Italy and world-wide that it deserves. You have a great opportunity to explain the issues involved.

We will publicise your principled struggle as widely as we can and the Committee for a Workers’ International will carry material on its web-site. Please send us reports of any developments and let us know how we can give further help and assistance.

Comradely yours in solidarity, struggle and socialism,

Elected councillors in the CWI sections:-

  • Australia, Socialist Party –
    Stephen Jolly, Yarra City (Melbourne).
  • England and Wales Socialist Party –
    Dave Nellist, Karen Mackay and Rob Windsor, Coventry. Ian Page and Chris Flood, Lewisham (London). Dave Sutton, Stoke-on-Trent. Dr Jackie Grunsell, Save Huddersfield’s NHS.
  • Germany, Socialist Alternative –
    Christine Lehnert, Socialist Alternative (SAV)/Alliance against Social Cuts, Rostock. Claus Ludwig, United against Social Robbery (GgS), Cologne. Marc Treude, Electoral Alternative for Work and Social Justice (WASG), Aachen. Nico Weinmann, Kassel´s Left for Work and Social Justice (KasselerLinke.ASG), Kassel.
  • Pakistan, Socialist Movement and Trade Union Rights Campaign –
    Amir Alam, Nafees Khan, Sadiq Hussain, Ibrar Khan, Allah Dino, Zuhra Bano and Kishan Lal, Karachi. Muhammad Ibrahim and Masuad Abro, Dadu. Sanjay Kumar, Shikarpur. Hashim Jan, North West Frontier Province.
  • Southern Ireland, Socialist Party –
    Ruth Coppinger and Clare Daly, Fingal County. Mick Murphy, Dublin South. Mick Barry, Cork.
  • Sri Lanka, United Socialist Party –
    M.A. Piaratna, Eheliagoda
  • Sweden, Socialist Justice Party –
    Ingrid Eriksson, Jan Hägglund, and Per-Olof Johansson, Umeå. Jonas Brännberg and Thom Nilsson, Luleå.

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