Italy’s election (4 March) resulted in hung parliament, with no party getting enough votes to form a government. It will take weeks and maybe months for a government to emerge.
The election highlighted in the most dramatic way the politically disastrous state of the country’s trade-union movement.
The crisis of the reactionary centre-left government and the ruling Matteo Renzi-led Democratic Party (PD) has been consummated in an historic rejection by the mass of the Italian people; in a triumph for the two most virulent “anti-system” populist forces, rivals united in their anti-working class, anti-trade union and racist beliefs and actions.
Matteo Salvini (Northern) Lega (a coalition partner of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia) dominates almost all of the north, while Di Maio and Grillo’s 5 Star Movement hegemonises the south and the islands.
The Italian left occupies a position of political and institutional marginalisation on every front, exposing the working class and every progressive cause to the mercies of whatever governmental contraption the representatives of the bourgeoisie can cudgel out of the present impasse.
Two graphic examples sum up the depth of the danger. Following the attempted murder of eight young West Africans by a neo-fascist thug in Macerata, a magnificent march of 20,000 anti-racists defied a ban by the government. The town’s first citizen, elected in 2015 with nearly 60% of the vote, was a progressive reformer whose administration had welcomed migrants.
The tenor of the anti-fascist march had seemed to indicate something of that. But in the elections the tub-thumping ethnic cleanser Salvini got 22%, cynically exploiting the opportunity the arrest of two young Africans re the murder of a young women in the town a few days before.
The second example is the statement from the leader of the country’s largest trade union, CGIL, Susanna Camusso.
In a recent interview, she was asked if the tsunami of support from her members for Salvini and Di Maio was a vote against trade unionism. She replied, “No, I don’t see it that way — in fact, it confirms our ability to protect our members regardless of political alignment … and sustains our view that the ordinary citizen ought to become more independent from politics, to stand closer to our unions and members in disputes and struggles.”
Camusso openly supported the former PD dissidents huddled together in the pathetic “Free and Equal” outfit of Grasso, D’Alema and Bersani. Like her, they were complicit in sustaining the Renzi government and its austerity measures, which probably accounts for their outfit’s disastrous performance: it polled 3.3%.
The newly-formed Potere al Popolo (power to the people) constituted by an aggregate of a Neapolitan Social Centre, Communist Refoundation, PCI, Eurostop and others had generated growing radical enthusiasm in large assemblies across the country.
They said they were modelled on the lessons and experience of Momentum.
But the hoped-for electoral breakthrough didn’t materialise, with a dismal 1.12 % score, indicating that in Italy no real mass organised social-political terrain similar to the Labour Party/Momentum axis exists beyond the archipelago of far-left groups.
Furthermore, despite the cruel experience of decades of failure of similar projects (involving many of the same people and groups), the intent of the new force was, as before, to create a movement of protest, around the most immediate, minimum demands of the day, a method summed up by “we don’t have to say what we are, we have to do it; we have to stop evoking ideals, we have to produce them, the distinction between reform and revolution happens in practice.” As Bernstein put it, “the means are everything, the end nothing”.
The rulers of the country now find themselves in a new stage of a crisis that has its origins in the demise of the First Republic and the social, economic and political events that brought it crashing ignominiously to the ground.
The Second Republic of the centre-left and centre-right began to fall apart with the onset of the 2008 financial crash, and fell at last three years later with the recession in Italy.
The supersession of Renzi beckons a Third Republic, according to Salvini and Di Maio, but the political pillars on which it might stand are not yet in place, lacking the forces of the right around Salvini to form a government that could undertake the austerity measures that Italian and European capital demand.
What is obvious is that there will be no solution to this crisis without the re-emergence of working-class-led struggle with as its cardinal principle the goal of socialism as the means of putting an end to the nightmare of Italian capitalist decline and decay.