Italy: right surges as unions retreat

Submitted by Matthew on 7 January, 2015 - 10:14 Author: Hugh Edwards

Befitting his image as the man of action the Italian ruling class have been fantasising about for decades, Matteo Renzi didn’t hang about after he delivered on the reactionary Jobs Act (which among other things weakens employment protection and is aimed at making the workforce more “flexible”).

Renzi, contemptuously indifferent to legal and constitutional niceties, has now announced that rather than new powers to dismiss workers being applied to individual workers in dispute with their employers, the draconian terms would now be extended to groups of workers and to the public sector.

The weak response of union leaders underlines the difference between the ruthless and predatory instincts of Renzi, as he nakedly champions the interests of Italy’s rich and powerful, and those who say they represent the country’s working and suffering masses.

CGIL leader Camusso announced the “second round” of the fight had begun, and her readiness for more strike action. But this would be only after the various parliamentary Commissions have evaluated the latest developments. When it was pointed out to her that these would be “merely consultative, toothless and prolonged”, she replied “one needs to have respect for the institutional procedures”.

This is someone who six weeks ago, before tens of thousands in Rome, declared she “didn’t give a toss about parliament or its procedures”.

The hopes and prospect from last September of a “hot autumn”, however hesitant and uncertain the call to action by the leaders of CGIL and FIOM might be, have been crushed. A working-class led front against the government might have been the catalyst to overcome the critical divisions that have paralysed and atomised all and every attempt to forge a revolutionary movement capable of challenging the rule of capital in Italy. Alas, another setback.

The sinister and poisonous consequences of stalemate and defeat become more evident everyday.

In November 70,000 racists marched in Milan behind the banner of the Northern League — now morphing itself into the  National League. Then a conference of Europe’s fascist and neo-fascist groups — including Golden Dawn — gathered in Milan just before Christmas. They were invited there by local leaders of the League.

The League’s resurgence under its National Secretary Matteo Salvini has seen it grow across the country, largely relying for its success on an ever more active prosecution of racist hate. 

In Rome, Milan, Padova, its militant thugs have been behind waves of attacks on immigrants and reception centres for newly arrived refugees.

The latest scandal in Rome has revealed the criminal collaboration between some of the city’s most violently murderous racists, in positions of local power thanks to their links with former Mayor and a private co-operative paid millions by the now left-centre council to  organise and create  immigrant reception centres.

Individual local councillors from the League are also involved. Nationally Salvini is now second only to Renzi in the opinion polls and there can be little doubt that the League’s fortunes will continue to prosper as the country slips further into recession. All the more so as, despite seeking off the unions, Renzi and his government are far from being secure.

The little man’s meteoric rise to leadership has made him many enemies as he has trampled on one group after another, contemptuously dismissive of the relics of the former Stalinist nomenklatura, as of the babel of Catholic/liberal Christian Democratic centrists who defined the party’s  composition after 1989.

With the imminent retirement of Italy’s President Napolitano, the figure who more than anyone else has successfully and cynically stopped bourgeois Italy from institutionally falling apart, the “secret” pact between Renzi and Berlusconi, secured by Napolitano at Renzi’s accession to power, may unravel; that is, if a Renzi/Berlusconi presidential candidate fails to get elected, as at the moment seems probable.

Such agreements on electoral, constitutional and institutional reform signalled  a move to further erode  what remains of representative electoral and parliamentary democracy in Italy.

They remain the goal that Renzi and Berlusconi need to guarantee not just their own political survival, but even the stability and survival of any kind of formal bourgeois order.

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