Italy: General Election

New Berlusconi victory will provoke mass opposition

The election in Italy, which came after just 20 months of a weak centre-left government under Romano Prodi, has seen a ‘comfortable’ victory for Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party. With a 3% reduction in turn-out, there was actually a doubling of seats for the right wing Northern League and the failure of the new Rainbow ‘left’ alliance to win any representation in either house. Its de facto leader and president of the outgoing lower chamber, Fausto Bertinotti is leaving public life! It is the first time since the first world war that there has been not one ‘communist’ or ‘socialist’ in a freely elected Italian parliament.

This is the penalty for Rifondazione Comunista – the party of workers formed in 1991 in opposition to the dissolution of the old Communist Party – moving to the right. After insisting on the Rc sharing government office with capitalist parties, without democratic discussion in their own party, the Rc leaders then formed an amorphous coalition with Greens and others. In this election they lost three quarters of their combined 2006 vote ending up with just over 3% of the total!

For many on the left internationally the Rc was a model, although the CWI was never uncritical. Now the Rc’s participation in capitalist government has ended in disaster for the party and the millions who looked towards it. This is a grave lesson for the leaders of new anti-capitalist parties developing in other countries like the P-SOL in Brazil, SYRIZA in Greece, DIE LINKE in Germany and the Left Bloc in Portugal.

Now it will be the workers of Italy who have to pay the price of the third victory of the billionaire media magnate. Italy is already in dire financial straits with the biggest national debt in Europe, and this is before it is hit with the full effects of the unfolding world economic crisis. One of Berlusconi’s henchmen has ‘promised’ shock therapy to put the economy right – for the bosses.

The rout of what was supposed to be a pole of resistance to the left of the new Democratic Party leaves the workers of Italy with no political representation. A new voice must make itself heard – a party of workers and youth is vitally needed that will resist the economic and political onslaught that the new government is under pressure to implement. Berlusconi’s appears to have risen once more but like Nicolas Sarkozy in France, he could find his popularity fading fast.

This victory is not likely to be a repetition of the victory of 2001. The changed world economic situation will compel attacks on the working class. Major political as well as industrial battles impend.

cwi in Italy

Lotta website

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April 2008