Italy

A bad year for the extreme centre

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With further elections coming this year in Europe, socialists must organise against racism and for alternatives to neoliberal politics.

If the year just ended had a single guiding theme, it was the accelerating crisis of what Tariq Ali dubs the “extreme centre”: mainstream political parties and institutions that have become addicted to the neoliberal status quo.

December was a fitting end to a year that had already seen Britain reject the EU and the US reject Hillary Clinton. In Austria, where the annulled presidential election run-off was restaged, an independent candidate from the Green Party defeated the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) candidate.

China playing ketchup

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To better understand the dynamics underlying the current economic crisis you wouldn't always think to start with tomatoes.

Yet in a landmark case last month the EU it was ruled that tomato puree grown and packaged in China could be labelled as "produced in Italy" on the proviso that Italian water or salt was added somewhere in Europe. The case became hugely controversial, partly as a debating point in the Italian elections, but mainly because of the meteoric rise of China's tomato industry.

Shockwaves in Italy

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"The winner is: Ungovernability." So ran the headline of the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero the day after a general election whose result has shaken not just the ruling class in Italy, but across Europe

The decisive issue of the election was the austerity being imposed by Italy's political elite with the strong encouragement of Europe's major powers.

Hopes among Europe's rulers that a reliable and stable government led by Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, would emerge from the election to continue, in all essentials, the pro-austerity measures and neoliberal "reforms" of the previous government under Mario Monti have been dashed.

Letter from Italy

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With Silvio Berlusconi's government embroiled in fresh controversy, new struggles are taking off, writes Phil Rushton.


Photo: Elizabeth Austen

In the months after the election of the Berlusconi government in 2008 an overwhelming sense of gloom took over the Italian left. But in recent months those clouds of despondency have been progressively blown away. That's not to say that there's been a wholesale recovery of the kind of optimism that pervaded the left during the growth of the anti-capitalist and especially anti-war movements between 2001 and 2003, but in the space of a year things have changed markedly.

Resistance across Europe

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Italy - Germany - Portugal - Spain

Italy: Italian finance minister Giulio Tremonti's attempts to drive through £22 billion in cuts are facing an updraft of resistance. On 16 October up to a million students and workers took to the streets in Rome against the austerity measures in a protest called by the metal workers' Fiom union. Fiom leader Maurizio Landini told workers that the next step was to plan a general strike.

The resistible rise of the videocracy

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As both politician and media magnate, Silvio Berlusconi arguably holds more power than any Italian leader since Mussolini. Erik Gandini spoke to Louis Bayman about his documentary film, Videocracy.

The Economist is run by a group of communist conspirators. That, at least, was the response of the current Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, when, before the 2001 elections, the British magazine stated that the man was unfit to be the leader of a democratic country.

Looking for a fightback in Italy

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The impact of the economic crisis is heightening tensions in Italy and sharpening the need to reconstruct a political opposition to Silvio Berlusconi.

Last month in Turin the metal workers' union FIOM held a Fiat National Workers' Demonstration. The march, taking place in Fiat's home city, articulated the anger of thousands of workers who had been laid off for a month. They were also protesting against any job losses that may occur as a result of Fiat's acquisition of 20 percent of Chrysler and the proposed merger with Opel.

Letter from Italy

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April saw the right deal a devastating blow in the Italian elections. Phil Rushton looks at the reasons for the defeat and how the left can rebuild

The disastrous election results in Italy have sent shockwaves across Europe. It seems incredible that Silvio Berlusconi is back in with a bigger majority than before and that Italy's defence minister is now a fascist, Ignazio La Russa from the National Alliance.

Rifondazione in Naples

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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.

Italy: How Long Can the Party Last?

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Romano Prodi's victory in last month's Italian elections saw the end of one of Europe's most hated right wing governments. But, asks Chris Bambery, can the coalition that beat Berlusconi stand up to the pressure for neo-liberal 'reform'?

The narrow victory of the centre left in last month's Italian elections has served to revive ruling class fears about the future direction of Europe's core economies. While the narrowness of the victory has mainstream political commentators rolling out the usual stereotypes and chuckling, "How typically Italian," the apparent inability of Italy's political classes to force through a package of neo-liberal reforms to the electorate has made right wing "Anglo-Saxon" economists apoplectic with rage and led them to forecast a collapse of the economy.

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