Round table discussion: a strong movement from below is needed
Chris Bambery and Phil Rushton talked to four activists from Naples just hours after it was confirmed that the centre left had won a majority in both houses of the Italian parliament. Chiara Siani is a member of the national committee of Rifondazione's youth wing. Francesco Locantore is active in Attac Italia. Antonello Zecca is a member of the Naples 18 March Committee for Peace. Fabio Ruggiero is a Rifondazione activist and a supporter of the Sinistra Critica current within the party.
We began by talking about the outlook for the Prodi government. Chiari explained, "It's a victory but a formal one. The right have half the votes. The inadequate response of the centre left was shown by the increased share of the vote won by Rifondazione. The question now is how long this government lasts."
"But the result is important," argued Francesco. "We succeeded in defeating Berlusconi, and that is a success for all the movements against neo-liberalism and war. It's not a big victory, but it is a victory. Now we have to change the balance of social forces. One possibility lies with the rise of social struggles and movements like those we saw in the period after the Genoa protests. The Prodi government will not share the same interests as people who fought neo-liberalism and war."
Antonello was concerned about the left wing forces in parliament: "The pressure on them will grow stronger. One of the first measures will be a vote approving the Italian military presence in Afghanistan. The other centre left coalition partners, the DS, Margherita and Prodi will pressure Bertinotti to vote for it. Only one thing can stop this - pressure from below."
Fabio is also worried about the composition of the government, he pointed out that "the right in the Unione coalition is very strong. You've got an enormous centre bloc, so that even if Rifondazione can involve the left of the DS it will not dictate the policy of the coalition."
Discussion moved on to what the left should do. For Antonello, Rifondazione is in a "very difficult position", he explained that "it interprets popular demands against war and precarious employment, but it is in a neo-liberal coalition and it has pledged allegiance to Prodi".
Chiara said that the radical left should "go back to what it did in 2001-3. Party activists were part of pushing the movement forward. The radical left should make itself independent from the centre left."
Antonello took up the point: "We need to rebuild the political framework to continue fighting neo-liberal measures and war. The movement should not stop fighting in the streets. Rifondazione's move to a more conservative position by entering the coalition means that it is caught in a pincer move in parliament, continually under pressure not to break with Prodi in case they allow Berlusconi to return. Only a strong movement from below can counter this and put pressure on the whole of the centre left to act on its promises."
Chiara pointed out, "In Naples we have social difficulties of poverty and social degradation. We have had a long term unemployed movement and, until recently, a strong workers' movement. The difficulty is linking these movements together and generalising them. In Acerra, near Naples, there has been a big movement against an incinerator. There was a mass demonstration last August which was very radical. Unfortunately, after the moment of energy passed, it did not sustain itself and did not link up with the huge movement which stopped a high speed train link destroying the Alpine Susa valley just before Christmas."
For Fabio, the way Rifondazione evolves will be crucial: "The role of the party in the Genoa protests meant that lots of young people joined. We need to argue inside the party to orientate on the movement, as it did at that time."