Italy: Interview with Marco Verrugio of Marxist ‘Countercurrent’

"Berlusconi and Prodi – two sides of the same coin" is carrying an interview made by Sascha Stanicic of the ’Sozialistische Alternative’ (CWI Germany) with Marco Veruggio from Genoa, Italy, and published on 11 April in the left German daily paper, ’Junge Welt’. Marco recently attended the World Congress of the Committee for a Workers’ International. He is a leading member of the Marxist ’Controcorrente – Sinistra Prc’ (’Countercurrent – Prc Left’) and on the National Committee of the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista (Prc).

Interview with Marco Verrugio of Marxist ’Countercurrent’

What do you think about the policy of the Prodi government. Is it progress compared to Berlusconi?

Prodi’s Government is different from Berlusconi’s. But it is really hard to understand which is the worst. They are simply two sides of the same coin. Rather: they represent the ’well-mannered’ and the ’bad-mannered’ face of the Italian capitalist class. The Centre-left is able to control the trade unions and social movements more than the Centre-right. Therefore, from this point of view, the Centre-left is more dangerous. A public demostration of 3 million people against Prodi (as happened against Berlusconi in 2002) would be a miracle.

Was it correct for the Prc to join the Prodi government? What else could the party have done?

The choice to join the Unione (the alliance between the Olive Tree and the Left) was a catastrophe. Because it was clear that, on the basis of the new economic situation, the ’Prodi 2’ would have been worse than ’Prodi 1’ in 1996-1997. The Prc now, instead of focussing its attention on supposed “friendly governments”, should work for a really “friendly (to the workers) opposition”. In the last 10 years – in Italy and abroad – whenever the workers won, they won fighting in the streets, not sending somebody into a capitalist Government.

What do you think about the actions of Franco Turigliatto of the ’Sinistra Critica’ (Critical Left) current and how the Prc reacted?

I believe he tried to represent inside Parliament the voice of the ’NoWar’ movement and the citizens of Vicenza (where the US Base is to be doubled). Nevertheless it is not so clear what the comrades of Sinistra Critica want to do. Turigliatto voted for the Budget law in the Senate and Cannavò (also of Sinistra Critica) voted against in the lower chamber. Then Turigliatto voted against the foreign policy of the Government but he gave a vote of confidence to it as a whole and also on the question of the ’liberalisations’.

Their tactic seems to be quite confused. Anyway the expulsion from the Prc was offering a sacrifice to honour Prodi and the Italian capitalist class. Therefore we voted against in the Control Commission of the Prc. In the run-up to the recent National Conference of the Communist Refoundation we and the other critical layers launched resolutions everywhere demanding the readmission of Franco. In seven cities including Turin, Savona, Parma and Bologna, these resolutions gained a majority at Prc meetings. Everywhere dozens of comrades, even Bertinotti’s supporters, voted for our resolutions against the expulsion.

What do you demand inside the Prc?

In the Prc at the moment we are not demanding to immediately bring down Prodi. We are demanding to organise the social struggle against the neo-liberal policies of the government (cuts, war, etc) and to be consistent inside Parliament – even if this meant making the Government fall. If you fight in the streets of Vicenza against the US base and then support the US base when you are inside the parliament, your people do not understand you. But we focus our demands first on the social issues, then on the tactics inside Parliament.

In the national conference of the Prc we launched an appeal for a united front of all the critical layers inside the party in order to stop the “genetic mutation” of the Prc into a merely social-progressive party. Many of these critical layers show a very sectarian attitude at the moment, but I believe in the next period the rank and file activists could press their leadership to accept our proposal.

The Left Democrats (DS) want to form a Democratic Party together with ex-Christian Democrats. Bertinotti’s reaction is to plan a new left party of the DS-left, the Prc and the Pdci. What would this mean?

The Democratic Party and the new leftist formation that Bertinotti wants to build could mean the end of the left in Italy. The new party Bertinotti is working for will not be a social democratic party. It will be liberal progressive. That is why we are fighting against it and we are demanding that the Prc launches a broad anti-capitalist alliance working for social opposition and class struggle – a new alliance which could be a point of reference for the working class and the social movements.

Are there trade union or social protests?

Yes. Even if the Centre-left – as I said before – is able to control trade unions, they do not succeed in stopping social protests. At the end of 2006 there was a big demonstration in Rome against casual jobs and later the strike of school workers. After the wonderful demonstration in Vicenza, the next important struggle will involve the public sector. On 30 April there will be general strike action organised by one of the ’unions of the base’ – the Rdb. Maybe the metal-workers will do the same in the next few months.

But the most important issue of social policy at the moment is in regard to pensions. If Prodi cuts pensions, the class struggle could explode and go totally out of control. The privatisation of Alitalia (the national airline), Fincantieri (the ship yards), Trenitalia (the railways), the local public utilities and the sale of Telecom Italia could all pour fuel on the fire.

What is your perspective for Italy? How will the political situation and the situation of the working class develop?

If a new wave of class struggle explodes, it could produce big changes in the social and political situation. I believe Prodi is too weak to resist, and he will be the victim of the contradictions in his policies. After the crisis in February, the Italian capitalist class gave him one last chance. The so-called “12 points” are the main issues upon which he must quickly defeat the working class and social movements. I do not believe he will make it. That is why I think he could be replaced in a few months by a grand coalition as in Germany. Obviously such developments could have a great influence upon the social and political situation and also upon the future of the working class. We are working to stimulate this social explosion, to organise the class struggle and, last but not least, through this to strengthen our position in the working class and in the Prc.

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April 2007