Italy: Prodi Government lurches to the right

Turmoil in Party of Communist Re-foundation

The mass demonstration in Vicenza, northern Italy on Saturday 17 February against the Prodi government’s sanctioning of an expanded US base in the city and the defeat for its foreign policy statement in the Italian Senate just five days later will have had a profound and lasting effect on Italian politics. (See previous articles on CWI web-site for details of these events.)

What seems to have been a deliberate manoeuvre by various representatives of the ruling class, to push the Prodi government sharply to the right, has provoked a major crisis inside the Party of Communist Refoundation (Rc). It marks a new phase in the Rc’s existence as a party meant to represent workers, anti-capitalist and anti-war youth.

The country’s president, Napolitano, did not accept Prodi’s resignation and told him to carry on in office. He will put his government to a confidence vote later this week in both houses of parliament. It is clear that Napolitano is reflecting the real interests of the Italian capitalist class at this stage and in particular, the views of the main bosses’ organisation, Confindustria. They are unlikely to favour new elections, at least until electoral reform is passed which minimises the influence of small left parties.

Currently the big capitalists do not want a return of the right wing ‘House of Liberties’ coalition still led by Berlusconi. If there is not another Prodi government, they would undoubtedly prefer a temporary government of technocrats to be put together, as has been done in the past. They fear the social convulsions that would follow, given the hostility of workers and young people to this billionaire business tycoon. Montezemolo, who heads Confindustria, has made it clear they would prefer Prodi and the centre-left to continue to do their dirty work – forcing the working class and young people to pay for the uncompetiveness of Italian industry.

Ex- Christian Democrat, Follini, has promised to vote with the centre-left in the Senate. "Behind Folini there is Confindustria and there is Montezemolo" declares Giorgio Cremaschi, secretary of the biggest Metalmechanics’ union (Fiom, part of the Cgil federation).

Last week, the arch right wing mafia-connected senator, Adreotti, had actually promised to support the Prodi government and then declined. The same goes for the usually absent senator Pininfarina, who was driven from the airport to the Senate for that vote in a car paid for by Fassino, the leader of the Democrats of the Left (DS – ex ‘communist’ party)! The crisis they engenderd has certainly succeeded in shifting the centre-left ‘Unione’ government quite decisively to the right.

Programme of attacks on welfare and democracy

The non-negotiable twelve point programme – known as ‘Prodi’s Twelve Commandments’ – which became a condition for putting a government back together, is the distilled essence of the 40 odd page election manifesto of the ‘Unione’ which disguised the real aims of ‘Prodi 1’. Included in it is full support for NATO operations in Afghanistan, the go-ahead for the TAV rapid transport rail link with France – subject of mass opposition in the Sousa Valley, "immediate and significant" reductions in public spending, "reorganisation" and "rationalisation" of pensions and a big measure of authoritarianism in the enhanced personal powers of the prime minister. Not included was the proposal, opposed by the Catholic Church, of accepting civil partnerships.

With this reassertion of loyalty to the capitalist class, the ‘dissident’ right-wing senators are now prepared to support ‘Prodi 2’. It will proceed to ignore the expressed wishes of the majority of the electorate on foreign policy. Opinion polls now show 80% against the war in Iraq and two-thirds opposed to the Italian involvement in Afghanistan, yet the government is prepared to go ahead with the re-financing of troops – a policy which comes up for voting in parliament again next month. The centre-left government, with the ex-communists of the DS to the fore, has already proved incapable of carrying out policies which benefit the working and young people who voted for it. In rushing to sign up to the 12 point programme, the leadership of the Party of Communist Refoundation (Rc) has shown it has moved even further to the right and is trampling on its radical communist founding principles.

Leader of Cobas – a ‘union of the base’ – Piero Bernocchi, is quoted in ‘La Repubblica’ on Monday, 26 February, as saying that, "There exists a government … of the centre-left that is carrying out the policies of the right". He reflects a mood of ‘a plague on all your houses’ as far as politics is concerned as well as a syndicalist mood.

Rinaldini, another leader of the Metalmechanics in the Cgil, warned a day or two before the Vicenza demonstration, when accusations were made about trade union youth turning to terrorism, as had happened thirty years earlier, that "Young workers, people who work in the factories, are living for the first time in the certainty that their life will not be better than that of the generation that preceded them….They have an emptiness in prospect ahead of them which cannot be filled only by the trade unions."There is an absence of big mass parties in which workers can discuss and be active, he said. This is the background to the present crisis on the left.

Witch-hunt

After the abstention of two senators on the left in last week’s foreign policy vote – Franco Turigliatto of the Prc and Fernando Rossi, ex-member of the Party of Italian Communists (Pdci) – the bosses’ press has been playing up the irresponsibility of the ‘left’, the ‘communists’ and the ‘Trotskyists’. Franco Turigliatto is a member of the Sinistra Critica – the wing of the Rc linked to the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. He obviously regarded his abstention last week in the Senate as an expression of loyalty to the principles of his party – the Rc. He immediately faced moves for his expulsion from the party. If it goes ahead it will be the first political expulsion ever from the Rc. At the week-end, the leadership of the party actually sent its members onto the streets of Italy’s cities distributing leaflets apologising for Turigliatto’s behaviour!

Support for Turigliatto

The expulsion of Franco must be totally opposed. It has aroused huge anger in the ranks of the party. There will be an occupation of the Rc office in his home city of Turin when the party’s Control Commission meets to vote on the issue. It is regrettable that there were some on the leadership body of the Rc who stand on the left who abstained on this issue.

Claudio Bellotti is the representative there of the small minority Falce & Martello grouping (connected with the Committee for a Marxist International of Alan Woods and Co.). He has justified taking this position on the basis of the need to uphold party discipline without taking into account any political considerations! An editorial of his grouping’s newspaper said last Friday: "We oppose intransigently the attempt by the Prc secretary to take disciplinary measures against Turigliatto". Yet on Saturday (23 February) Bellotti writes: "The votes of representatives must conform to what is decided collectively by the party in its leading bodies and is not the ‘private property’ of a single deputy, councillor etc."! But the Falce & Martello grouping has complained, like many, about the failure of the leadership to act in compliance with the party’s avowed policies.

The appeal from the ‘Sinistra Critica’ in solidarity with Turigliatto is gathering signatures from around the world. Last Summer, the CWI supported the senators who opposed the re-financing of the Italian involvement in Afghanistan and, while not sharing all the views of this faction in the RC, gives support to this appeal, including the request to Turigliatto to withdraw his resignation as a senator. We are totally against imperialist wars and for building the anti-war movement.

The expulsion move of the Prc leadership has stretched the loyalty of many in the rank and file of the party to breaking point, following as it does the craven support of Bertinotti and Co. for Prodi’s sharpened neo-liberal and pro-imperialist programme. A real crisis has developed. There is disappointment, there is anger. There has already been a mass exodus of Rc members in the Vicenza area over the US base decision and now also in Val di Susa over the TAV high-velocity train and tunnel issue. Many younger members of the Sinistra Critica wing and some layers of the Ernesto (former Stalinist) faction of the Prc feel like leaving the party now.

The CWI in Italy – Lotta per il socialismo – is arguing that it is not too late to campaign in the party, against the continued participation of the Prc in the capitalist government and for a genuine, anti-capitalist programme of socialist measures around which to re-build the party.

We have consistently argued that the Prc should have appealed to the workers and young people, hit hardest by the neo-liberal attacks of the Berlusconi government, deepened by the Prodi government, by elaborating policies and developing a campaign that aimed at convincing them to give a clear majority for such policies when it came to elections. This would have been the way to prepare the ground for defeating neo-liberalism and neo-imperialism in whatever guise it was being implemented and for posing a genuine socialist or communist alternative – massive nationalisation under democratic workers’ control and management.

The mood against the Rc leadership over its latest actions needs to be channelled into a campaign to demand it rejects the twelve points, pulls out of the government and votes against the anti-working class, anti-democratic and pro-imperialist policies of the government accompanied by calls for general strike action. The trade union leaders are already feeling the pressure from below on the issue of the pensions reform and the raising of the retirement age.

No one wants to take the blame for ushering back in a Berlusconi 2 government. If a clear alternative is not campaigned for in the way that we suggest, this is what could happen in the event of the Rc withholding its support for the Prodi government. The ground must be prepared for votes against the damaging and reactionary policies of the next government.

However the vote goes and whatever is the outcome, there is turmoil in most parties. Lessons must be drawn, as the comrades of ‘Lotta per il socialismo’ do in Italy, about the need to rally all those inside and outside the ‘communist’ and green parties, and those active in the workplaces, colleges and trade unions, to build a political force that fights for an end to capitalism and for genuine communism.

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