The prospect of elections in February have dramatically opened up and sharpened the contradictions inherent in Monti’s technocratic regime.
Support for its draconian cuts and repressive reforms by the two major parties had seen their fortunes decline significantly. Berlusconi’s PDL nearly disintegrated.
There was a wave of abstentionist contempt for the political class in general. The Five Star Movement, a radical anti-Monti, anti-party, anti-austerity populist force achieved significant breakthroughs in some northern cities and in Sicily.
By December the Five Star Movement was polling around 17%, which, if replicated in February, could mean 100-or-so seats and pose profound difficulties for the new government. The threat to stability has also come from the resurgence of Berlusconi. His revival and decision to once more run for office sprang, ironically, from an astonishing resurgence of the Democratic Party.
Its primary elections in November for party leader attracted nearly three million voters in the first round, with Pierluigi Bersani victorious in the second round run-off against Matteo Renzi, the Blairite Mayor of Florence, who finished with 40% of the vote. Berlusconi saw his chance, identifying Bersani — one of the many relics of the former Stalinist nomenclatura that still defines Democratic Party’s internal life and action — as proof of the ever-present “communist” threat.
In the febrile, increasingly poisonous, atmosphere of desperation and illusions of a pre-election period, Berlusconi cannot be discounted.
It is mainly against this possibility that Monti decided to mount a challenge. Monti’s “programme” is a cautious, vague reiteration of his determination to continue with the “painful but necessary reforms to modernise and guaranteed long term prosperity for all”, a prospect he indicated was just around the corner. Apart from the standard pieties of ensuring the protection of the weak, everyone playing their part etc., he laughably declared that notions of “left” and “right” were obsolete.
A victory for the centre-left is about the best the ruling classes can hope for, side by side with a strong showing by Monti’s outfit, especially in the Senate where the play of regional weightings dominate the outcome. Despite its bovine loyalty to Monti from the very beginning, and its leaders’ proven willingness in the past to ditch all and every promise to its electorate once in office, the centre-left faces problems.
The anger of millions against the scale and depth of what has been inflicted on every working family — in income terms alone, a €2,000 loss! — has so far proved impotent against the calculated and studied cynicism of all the main trade union leaders, including those of FIOM, the radical metalworkers’ outfit of CGIL.
The bureaucrats have largely been able to ensure the social peace fundamental to the fortunes of the reformist electoral perspectives of the Democratic Party leaders.
This peace is the vital ingredient of the reformist leaders’ current appeal and relevance to bourgeois rule. Of the three million who voted in the first round of the Democratic primary, 35% were for Renzi, a right-wing “moderniser”. That 10% more voted for the man who has been instrumental in the present débâcle, now offering them vague pieties and empty platitudes framed within a rock-hard commitment to the fundamentals of the “fiscal compact”, describes a grim picture indeed.
It may be evidence that considerable sections of the masses have accepted defeat. February’s result and what follows will give the verdict.