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From The Socialist newspaper, 4 May 2006

Italy: End of Berlusconi era - clean break needed with neo-liberal policies

SILVIO BERLUSCONI, the tycoon prime minister of Italy for five years, has finally resigned. The general election of 9-10 April gave the centre-left Unione alliance a paper thin majority in both houses of parliament (See article on 11 April).

Clare Doyle

Romano Prodi is due to replace him but, after the extraordinary events of the election itself and the three weeks following it, nothing can be taken for granted!

Ironically, under the very electoral system that Berlusconi himself pushed though parliament, his coalition - the House of Liberties - actually got more votes in total than that of the Unione but ended up with less seats!

Last week he also tried an elaborate manoeuvre to scupper Prodi's chances of having control of both houses of parliament. This would have enabled the right parties to sabotage legislation and force new elections. As it was, after three failures to get the required votes, the centre-left's candidate, a former 'moderate' trade union leader, Marini, got the post in the Senate.

In the lower house or Chamber of Deputies also, the candidate of the Unione, Fausto Bertinotti of the Refoundation Communists (Rc), did not get a clear majority until a later round of voting.

His party stands for many genuine reforms in the interests of the working class and the anti-capitalist and anti-war movements. But, vowing allegiance for the full five years to a Prodi government, as he has, he will find his party being blamed, for the neo-liberal policies that Prodi and co. are bound to try to implement.

The International Monetary Fund is baying for them and Italy's bosses in the Confindustria have backed him as the safest to carry them out! The leaders of the main trade union federations have already promised to sit at the table with the government and the bosses to restrain the demands of the workers.

The right-wing capitalist press makes much of Prodi being a prisoner of 'communists' but it looks as if the Rc will turn out to be more a prisoner of the Unione than the other way round.

Increased Rc vote

A majority of young people under 23 voted for the centre-left. The vote of the Rc, seen as the main genuinely left force in the Unione, reached 2.5 million in the Senate and 2,229,604 in the Chamber of Deputies - an increase over the votes in 2001 of more than 800,000 in the Senate and over 330,000 in the Chamber.

The percentages of 7.4% and 5.7% respectively fell short of those of ten years ago but show a substantial desire on the part of workers and young people for policies to the left of the ex-communist Democrats of the Left.

They have supported the Rc because they want a programme of anti-capitalist policies on work, welfare and foreign policy. They must now demand a fully representative special conference of the party to renew the struggle for an independent class programme.

The members of the Rc and the worker activists in the trade unions should push for an independent programme of genuine reforms including the restoration of a sliding scale of wages linked to inflation (the 'scala mobile' abolished by the last Prodi government!).

Those who have suffered years of neo-liberal attacks on their living and working conditions - including under the last centre-left governments - should justifiably demand a government which will reverse all these measures.

Workers, young and old, students and immigrants are glad to see the back of the Berlusconi government. But socialists and communists cannot support a government which obeys the dictates of big business and fails to address even the most basic problems of the people who voted it in.

A real boost to the Italian economy and the creation of millions of permanent and decent jobs can now only be effected through nationalisation and workers' control and management.

A big majority could have been won for these ideas in the period of mass struggle during the Berlusconi government. Now workers may give the Prodi government some time to deliver. But there is no point in supporting a government that attacks workers and their rights just because it goes under the name 'left' rather than right!

Unlike the reluctant acquiescence under the last centre-left governments, a revolt from below could develop fairly rapidly, given the dire straits of the Italian economy and the revival of workers' and youth struggles in other parts of Europe.

Full version of above article see

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End of Berlusconi era - clean break needed with neo-liberal policies


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