Italy: ‘Black Friday’ shows Italian capitalism in crisis

Controcorrente holds important day of discussion in Genoa

The day after Italy’s ’Black Friday’, when shares, especially of Italy’s banks, tumbled on the Milan Stock exchange, up to 80 people came to a meeting in Genoa organised by Controcorrente (CWI in Italy). The deepening crisis of capitalism was, appropriately, the main topic of discussion along with how to build and coordinate the struggle for an alternative – in Italy and internationally.

“The tenth anniversary of the Genoa anti-G8 protests,” the organisers explained, “Is not a time for celebration, but for serious discussion”. This meeting was intended to draw from the concrete experiences of members of Controcorrente involved in important struggles in Italy and discuss the overall situation and what to do.

Patrizia Granchelli from Milan, for example, described the ever harsher conditions in a ’liberalised’ Poste Italiane. Nicoletta Dosio, a well-known leader of the Val di Susa campaign, spoke about the clashes with the police of the recent weeks. (See article on this site of 27/6). She also reported that a torchlight procession of 20,000 people in support of the ‘No TAV’ fight had gone through the streets of Turin the night before (8 July). Bruno Manganaro, a spokesperson for the shipyard workers of Fincantieri, stressed the need for international workers’ links and solidarity. Giuliano Brunetti described the youth protests that had taken place in Italy in solidarity with those in Spain and Portugal and the general strikes in Greece.

US anti-war campaigner, Cindy Sheehan, and Irish socialist member of parliament, Joe Higgins, were among the international guests. Two days earlier, they had been warmly received when they visited the Val di Susa protest. In turn, they expressed their deep admiration for the bravery and determination of the ’NoTAV’ campaigners. At the Saturday meeting they spoke about the development of the class struggle in their respective countries, also to much appreciation.

Before the meeting started, there was live local TV coverage for half an hour – interviews with Joe and Cindy as well as with Bruno Manganaro and the Controcorrente organiser, Marco Veruggio. Some of the footage was shown again later in the day. Journalists from a number of papers, including Secolo XlX, came to see what was happening.

In the audience were the parents of Carlo Giuliano, the young anti-capitalist demonstrator killed in Genoa in 2001. Also there was Giorgio Cremaschi, former leader of the metalmechanics’ union, Fiom who spoke before the showing of a film about the Fincantieri struggle. He went into detail about the way the major unions had done deals which were more and more anti-worker. A fight-back has to be mounted and Fiom will continue to be at the forefront.

This was well received, especially by the active trade unionists in the meeting like those from the local transport service. Like the Fincantieri workers, through taking industrial action, they recently won a ’stay of execution’ over proposed redundancies. There was a keen interest not only in hearing about the experiences of fellow workers and activists but also about the work and ideas of Controcorrente and the CWI.


Lucy Redler from Socialist Alternative (CWI) in Germany, drew parallels between the mass protests of ’Stuttgart 21’ and what was happening in Val di Susa as well as indicating developments in the left party – Die Linke. The CWI speaker underlined the importance of analysing events and trying to see ahead in order to be ready for what happens next. The incapacity of capitalism to resolve the present crisis, without extracting huge sacrifices from workers and young people, is behind the stormy nature of the present period and the ’infection’ of mass revolt.

Marco Veruggio concluded the day’s discussion, emphasising what kind of new political force would represent faithfully the needs of workers and poor people. He cited the experience in other countries where so-called workers’ parties had not fought independently against the bosses’ political representatives. The earliest disappointment was Lula’s party in Brazil which was now operating as a loyal representative of the capitalist class.

Closer to home, Marco related the astonishing comments made recently by Paulo Ferrero, the secretary of failing Party of Communist Refoundation (PRC) in Italy. Even before an election is taking place, he says the PRC must support a centre-left coalition government and not vote against it, however critical of they might be of its policies! (By contrast, the secretary of the Genoa PRC had spoken proudly in Saturday’s meeting of the decision of the local party to pull all PRC councillors out of the local budget-cutting coalition.)

Like other speakers, Marco referred to the slogan of the G8 protests of 10 years ago. He explained why the anti-globalisation movement had proved incapable of changing the world. ‘Another world’ is not only possible but absolutely necessary; but a world without poverty, war, hunger and disease can only be achieved by the struggle for a socialist world.

A number of speakers in the meeting had explained how taxing the rich was not enough (and actually would not work under capitalism). This means arguing not only for the nationalisation of banks, under democratic workers’ control, but also of the main private companies. In this way economies could be planned and managed through democratically elected representatives of workers and consumers to meet the needs of all.

The meeting last Saturday was a significant step forward in developing the profile of Controcorrente – in Genoa and further afield. One 17-year old anti-fascist activist and socialist had travelled overnight by train from near Abruzzo and overnight back again! He was extremely pleased with the event that had given him new insights into events going on around him. But the period opening up will present big challenges to sincere Marxists and worker activists like those who attended the Controcorrente event.

Italy’s new crisis

Italy is moving once again into stormy waters. The Berlusconi government is on the ropes. It was massively defeated in recent referendums and has been trying to put off the implementation of its cuts budget until after a general election, now expected to take place much earlier than 2013.

Now a collapse in confidence in the ability of Italy to finance its debts – the prospect of a default by the third biggest economy with one of the biggest national debts in the world – is panicking the bankers and capitalists of Europe. They are pushing the Italian government to implement immediately bigger and harsher cuts. This is now opening up the split between Berlusconi and his finance minister, Tremonti, whom he accuses of “not playing in the team”. It also poses the perspective of an explosion of workers’ struggle in the Autumn, regardless of how much the trade union leaders try to apply the fire-hose.

Ten years ago, just after the mass protests at the time of the G8, an editorial in the English Guardian finished with the comments: “Mr Berlusconi’s first administration, in 1994 lasted nine months. Italians must be beginning to wonder how long their accident-prone compere will survive this time round” (13 August 2001)! The then relatively new workers’ party – Communist Refoundation (Prc) – failed to rise to the challenge of how to build upon its then rising support to create a mass force capable of challenging capitalism.

After the election of 2006, which saw only a very narrow victory over Berlusconi, the Prc entered the Prodi centre-left government which carried out policies on behalf of Italy’s bankers and bosses. This policy led to a catastrophic collapse in the PRC’s support. In the last election (of 2008) it lost all its members of parliament. Locally, as in Genoa, it has participated in unprincipled alliances with parties that implement cuts. Even under a hated Berlusconi government, it has failed to rally the opposition of workers and young people against the ‘Cavalier’ prime minister and his gang of thieves. A new initiative on the part of trade union activists and other lefts needs to ensure independent principled working class representation capable of giving a lead in the major economic and political struggles that undoubtedly lie ahead ahead. (See other articles on this site under Italy)

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July 2011