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
www.socialistworld.net 11 April).
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
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
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