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The gathering of the 'Sardines', an anti-populist left-wing movement, which invaded the square with the fish symbol of protest, in Turin, Italy, 10 December 2019. Italy's Anti-Salvini 'Sardines' movement takes to the streets to express its opposition to populist forces. ANSA/ALESSANDRO DI MARCO

Italian journalists have defined it as the “craziest government crisis in the world” and in fact, what happened in Italy during summer vacation – in Europe, during the month of august, which is the hottest of the year, when schools and the main factories close to vacation – has surreal features, that can only be explained with references to particular features of the current European economic, social e political context.

By Fabiana Stefanoni (PdAC) for International Courier 22 – Special Edition on Europe

 

The facts can be summarized like that: in the middle of the summer vacation, when the Italian parliament was preparing to close doors to the usual august vacation, the Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini – the most racist Minister of Interior of the Italian republican history (the case of Captain Carola, known worldwide is emblematic) – decided to eliminate the thrust in his government, the Conteone. All that was decided and announced by Salvini between a cocktail and other in a place close to the beach of a famous Italian resort…

Before the crisis 

The Conte-one government was a recent government, instituted in June 2018: after some months of negotiations (the political elections had run since march), two of the parties which obtained wide consensus the Liga [League] from Salvini (17,4%) and Movement Five Stars (M5S, known as [Beppe] Grillo’s party, 32,7%) agreed in a common government, naming a certain Giuseppe Conte as prime minister, so far a lawyer and university professor unknown by the majority.

Both parties have a petit-bourgeois base, characterized by a populist and chauvinist rhetoric, which grew electorally due to the economic and social crisis that sweeps all Europe. Wide sectors of the impoverished and furious petit bourgeois, along with the unemployed masses (in Italy, the unemployment, especially in the southern region of the country, reaches very high percentages), in the absence of a party leading the working class, in condition to catalyze and guide towards a revolutionary direction the generalized discontent, deposited its thrust in these two parties, seen as “anti-system”.

The M5S (the current leader, Luigi di Maio, also new in politics, not far ago would sell peanuts in stadiums during soccer matches) gained broad support, especially in the south, promising a “citizen income”, which means, a permanent subsidy to unemployed masses (promise that was not fulfilled when they got the government). Meanwhile, the Salvini’s League gained votes promoting xenophobia, promising “work and house to Italians”, less taxes to small businesses and fostering the worse impulses of the petit bourgeois strata, in particular the hate for foreigners, identified as “those who steal the job from Italians”.

The electoral growth of these parties in inserted in an European political context that, in the last years, as evidenced by the European Elections (those who elect the members of European Parliament, the last ones were in may 2019), saw the electoral confirmation of extreme right-wing parties or, in general, a xenophobic and racist right: Marine Le Pen’s National front in France, Orban’s party in Hungary, Farage’s UKIP in Great Britain and, of course, Salvini’s League in Italy. Beyond those parties that represent a “classical” populist right, new parties came to life in Europe, always with a petit bourgeois base (but with strong roots among unemployed ones also) that preached the possibility of a “revolution” without changing the system, simply by expelling the politician cast: M5S is one of them[1].

The bourgeoisie and its party

The Italian bourgeoisie, who is proud to have in its lines some of the richest millionaires in the world (just think about the Agnelli Family, FIAT’s main shareholder, now FCA, or the hydrocarbons giant Eni), has not seen with good eyes the electoral affirmation of these two parties: t would have preferred to be able to count, at the political management of its government, its own parties, which are considered more controllable and more directly connected the its interest, in particular the Democratic Party (PD). The PD is a party derived from the former Italian Communist Party (Stalinist), that, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, quickly turned from a worker party (of class cooperation) into a very bourgeois party. The particular history of PD grants it, even today, the connections with the bureaucracy of big Italian union apparatus, in especial the CGIL (with around 6million affiliates among workers and retirees), a bureaucracy that shares with the PD a common origin in the former Communist Party. Recently, immediately after the government crisis, the ultra-liberal component of PD (lead by the former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi) left the party, giving birth to a new political formation, called “Italia Viva”.

Both the PD and the “Italia Viva” (defined as center-left parties) enjoy the favors of a big part of Italian capitalists. The other sectors (minority) of bourgeois refer to other parties, particularly in Forza Italia, Berlusconi’s party: those are the group directly or indirectly connected to Berlusconi’s companies, who is a rich a capitalist but that, in the past when in the government[2], “played for himself”, defending primarily the interests of his capitalist group rather than others’. Today Berlusconi’s party is in crisis (also due to the advance age of the big shot) and Renzi, with the “Italia Viva”, probably aspire to obtain the support between sector that, until recently, had as reference the “Cavaliere” (as the Italian press refers to Berlusconi).

The Bourgeois and the populist parties

When the Liga and the M5S won the election, in 2018, and got to stablish theirs government, the Italian bourgeois, as we said, was not excited: its reference parties, in which it really trusted, were out of the government and should adapt to two parties it could not control. It is good to highlight that those two populist parties (Liga and M5S) had never had the intention to break with the Italian bourgeois (for them capitalism is sacred), a lot less with the European: in the electoral campaign, they capitalized the hostilities of the impoverished masses against Troika’s (FMI, European commission and European Central Bank) austerity saying they would break with the EU. But following, already as government, they abandoned these consignees and disciplined themselves (differing only in the rhetoric) to the demands of the European financial capital.

Immediately, as soon as the LigaM5S government was made, the big Italian bourgeois, thanks to the enormous control over the main newspapers and television channels, started a campaign against the government, especially pointing ate Salvini’s xenophobia and his bonds with fascist groups (Casapound). The xenophobia and the Salvini’s bonds with fascist groups are actual and grave facts, against which thousands of young people and workers, during the government Conte-one, went to squares, organizing and taking part in combative protests. We were ate their side, in full agreement with the indignation that those squares expressed. But the assumption that the big Italian bourgeois suddenly became heroes of antiracism and antifascism has something of sadly ridicule: when it was in power, the PD supported xenophobic laws (as the case of the PD’s ex-minister Minniti, that firmed agreements with Libya to avoid disembarkation of immigrants in the Italian coast), and in the regions and cities it runs, gave space to fascist groups, allowing them to enroot in poorer neighborhoods.

The truth is the Italian bourgeois, at this moment in economic crisis and with the perspective of new recession, could not content with the undisciplined and bad-mastered “horses” like Salvini and Di Maio. It needs some trustworthy “horse” for the government, to whom it betake in case of need. The governments run by PD (especially the ones lead by Renzi) were the ones that, in Italy, have given the most precious gifts to the big capital in its clash with the working class to regain the profit rate (gifts given in full agreement with the union bureaucracy): the abrogating of the laws that stopped layoffs without a justifiable reason (cancel of the article 18 of the Worker’s Bill), expulsion of combative union delegates from factories and limitation of the right to strike in public e private sectors (Law 146 and the “Shamefull Deal”), sore of the minimum age to retirement with reduction of the pensions values (Fornero’s Law), an so on.

The big Italian bourgeois knows that, if they get the phone and call up PD’s leaders (and now the ones from Renzi’s “Italia Viva”), they will answer immediately. But with Salvini is a bit different: he and his party, to grow electorally and govern- and so take part in the “bourgeois crib” – had and needed the support of the petit bourgeois and of the unemployed. And to get that support, needed to foster the xenophobic hate, call for “protests in the squares” and give its base some candy, launching some sporadic small strikes against the big bourgeois representatives. Having no economical support from the big local bourgeois, Salvini did not hesitate to make secrete deals with foreigner capitalists, as he did with Russian big-fishes, to whom he promised privileged deals on oil in exchange for rubles worth 65 million Euros (in a kind of Italian Russiagate). Salvini needed to lean on the squares (also to face many of the disputes) and that is why he tries to conquer police sectors with a propaganda with “anit-institutional” features, praising police force operations, even when they act against the State laws (as in the case of murdering carabineers by Stefano Cucchi). He always needs to grant support in the streets and squares, Salvini keep close deals with fascist gangs, what compromises the Italian bourgeois “good face”, that prefers to gambles with other cards: whenever possible, tries to impose privation and misery to the working class, pretending to keep a “human face” (PD, as we reminded above, does not restrain from deals with fascists, but makes them in a more polite and silent way: grant them space in the cities or regions they run… as long as nobody speak about them).

In abstract: Salvini was not doing well with the big bourgeois, not because he had policies against its economic interest or against the European Troika, even less because he was xenophobe and racist: Salvini did not question neither the capitalism nor the EU, and “simply” exacerbated the xenophobia already implemented on anterior governments led by the PD. Salvini does not do well with Italian bourgeois because he is not trustworthy in the moment the big bourgeois feels itself in crisis. It is more or less as happens in life, with sicknesses that affect us in a certain age: if a headache is bearable at 20, when you re strong and full of energy, at the old days it can became almost disabling. Salvini was a headache to Italian capital could not bear in a moment of economic, social and institutional crisis for the bourgeois in the whole continent (thinking only on the tensions for the Brexit).

From Conte-one to Conte-two

Salvini’s League, during the las European elections of May 2019, thanks to the fact the had been a short period at the government a, so, had no time to disappoint the expectancies of its popular electorate, capitalized a very high percentage, 34,33%, becoming the largest Party in Italy by far. Strengthened by this result, Salvini decided to risk: checking the polls giving the leadership to a right-wing government under his leadership in case of elections, he decided to remove his trust from the Conte government. But, as they say in Italy: “ha fatto i conti senza l’oste” [got to a deal with the host]: in this case the host is the big Italian bourgeois.

Salvini counted with the fact that the current secretary of the PD (Zingaretti) was interested in running the elections to change the composition of his parliamentary group, that currently has a majority that supports Renzi (who has been preparing for some time to create a new party). What Salvini did not understand is that, in Italy, if the bourgeois call, PDs leaders answer: and that is why, under pressure from the main industrial and finance groups, a palatial agreement was achieved to avoid elections. PD and Renzi made an alliance with M5S, with support of the reformist left (Italian Left) that won a subsecretary. And it is not just this: even the reformist left which calls itself communist (Communist Refoundation) supported from outside the birth of this new executive.

Paradoxically, however the minister and the parties that supports the government have changes; the head of the government is the same: Giuseppe Conte. Trump and Merkel also went out to offer their endorsement to this operation and push the birth of the Conte-two government. Government that, after a few weeks of negotiations in mid-summer, was finally born ate beginning of September.

It does (not) change

Now the government Conte-two is preparing to launch a finance maneuver that, one more time, will make the cost of the crisis to fall at the shoulder of the working class and the poor. No meaningful change of course can be seen, not even in the field of xenophobia: after sponsoring campaigns against the massacre of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, the PD now is preparing to renew the sadly famous “death agreements”[3] with Libya. Not just that: it does not try to abolish the two decrees on security (“Salvini Decrees”) from the previous government, the ones that punish with years in imprisonment with extremely high fees both the ones who try to save those drowning at the sea, as well as the ones who block streets with a strike piquet or the ones that occupy an empty house. It is foreseen some touches in these laws, but the general layout will remain unchanged.

It is clear: the big bourgeois want the new government to implement what serves their profit, all the rest – including the xenophobic and “license to kill” laws from the previous government – is not priority and maybe, so, can still become useful (the possibility to suppress strikes easily using the rules from Salvini decrees).

But there is another “host” to which is required to set a deal: the class struggle. In the last weeks, in Italy, there has been oceanic protests of youth in defense of the environment: in September 27th, at least one million students went to the streets against the global warming and the pollution that destroys our planet. Also thanks to the call by the Non-austerity Struggle Front, in the same day some sectors started a strike: from important factories (Pirelli, FCA, Ilva) workers to transport (railway) workers and others such as teachers from primary and secondary schools. The government said it “agrees with the protests”, but when it came to legislate, it wrote a Decree about the climate” that not just endorses polluting companies, nut also furnishes, on the contrary, substantial breaks to automotive industry… which means, one of the most pollutants!

But the Young students are not the only to mobilize in Italy. On the wave of an European situation that is becoming explosive – multitudinous protest in Catalonia, mass protests against the war in Turkey against the Kurds, very strong tensions in Great Britain about Brexit, etc. – the temperature of the struggles is starting to get scorching also in Italy. The big capital is efficient to make workers to pay for the crisis and is preparing for new reallocations and dismisses. But the working class will not remain at the margin, ad will not bend to the “diktat”, of a union bureaucracy each day more corrupt and accomplice. What we have witnessed on September 27th – hundreds of thousands of the young people in the streets – soon will be able to repeat with the working class as protagonist. The Party of the Alternative Communist (PdAC), section from IWL – Fourth International in Italy, will do everything for that to happen.

 

[1] Podemos in Spanish State and Syriza in Greece are also expression. Of the same phenomenon. The M5s now seems to be set more to the “right” in relation to the other two: this probably has to do with the fact that in Italy, in the last decade, workers, youth, and women mobilizations were less massive than those in the Greek and Iberian Peninsulas were.

[2] Berlusconi was the head of the government for four times between 1994 and 2011, he kept the position for twelve years.

[3] In 2017 (Gentiloni’s government, PD leader), the so minister of interior, Marco Minniti, signed an agreement with Libya that states finance assistance to Libya to track the coast and imprisoned all unemployed people that try to scape to Europe. As many journalistic investigations have shown and NGO’s have denounced, the captured are locked in concentration camps where they are subject of mistreatment and torture.