by Nick Wright
The difficulties of the Italian left are sharply revealed in the run up to the Italian general election which is scheduled for 4 March 2018. In previous elections, for the European parliament and for the national assembly the alliances of left wing, communist, green and progressive forces lost parliamentary representation and were reduced to a rump in the Brussels talking shop. Italy’s original highly proportional electoral system, combined with a culture of corruption and place seeking, had encouraged schism and splitting — a factor which affected political parties across the spectrum.
Divisions on the left tended to be more rooted in political and ideological differences but were no less fissiparous for that.
At a simple level some attributed the removal of the communists from parliament as a loss of political visibility represented by the disappearance of the hammer and sickle from the ballot paper as the rainbow took its place. In truth the reasons are more to do with the failure of the left to create a convincing counter narrative to both the managerialism and neo-liberal policies of the so-called ‘centre left’ and the populism of the various right wing elements that made up the Berlusconi administrations.
A distinctive and more class conscious political temper has begun to emerge with a stronger critique of the EU and NATO, sharp criticism of the class collaborationist trend in politics and the trade union movement, a humanitarian anti-racism drawing on Italy’s strong anti fascist traditions and a renewed feminist critique of Italian society. Wideneing inequalities, the precarious life of Italy’s young people driven to exile or facing unemployment, pay freeze and intensified exploitation, startling regional imbalances and Italy’s entanglement in NATO wars have beun to synthesise into a broad consesus on the left.
This is against a background where the Partito Democratico is fraying (one section unhappy with the worst neo liberal excesses of its leadership has broken away) and in which the newly reconstituted Italian Communist Party, one of the several formations that lay claim to the heritage of the historic Italian party, has given its full support to the electoral programme of the Potere al Popolo (Power to the People) movement.
The PCI was formed last year from an assembly of the Party of Italian Communists (PdCI) and other communist forces including others that originated in Rifondazione Comunista. The remaining part of Rifondazione has also joined the new electoral front as has a number of other left wing, communist and socialist forces including Europstop and the influential Rete di Comunisti (Network of Communists) which traces its origins to the left wing opposition to the eurocommunist direction taken by the original PCI.
The maoist Italian Communist Workers Party and the Partito Comunista do not back Potera al Popolo. The former seems to be in alliance with trotskyite elements the latter, orientated to the political line of the Greek Communist Party, is standing alone.
Following a central committee meeting on 30 December the Partito Comunista Italiano national secretary, Mauro Alboresi, answered questions.
The following is a rough translation of his interview
Saturday, December 30th the Central Committee of our Party was held, on the agenda the issue of the upcoming national elections of March 4 and the line that the PCI will assume with respect to this deadline. Can you refer to our comrades and all those who follow us with the outcome of the Central Committee?
Mauro Alboresi. After a long, passionate and sometimes not easy discussion (as is normal, in relation to delicate passages such as these, in which important topics are dealt with such as the politics of alliances and electoral tactics of the Party), by a large majority the PCI adheres, for the elections of March 4, to the “Power to the People” List. Moreover, we want to emphasise, since the PCI has actively worked — for almost two years — with most of those forces that today constitute “Power to the People”.
What are the underlying reasons that led the PCI to this choice?
Mauro Alboresi. This choice, first of all, finds its own profound and original reasons in the letter and spirit of the Political Document through which, in June 2016, in Bologna, the Constituent Assembly of the PCI was held, a document that identifies a path of growth, political and social, of our Party, as well as in the autonomous initiative of the PCI, also through a central role to play: to be the pivot of a front of communist forces, anti-capitalist, anti-liberal and leftist alternative, a popular front having above all the task of rebuilding, in our country, what has dramatically been absent for decades: an opposition of our class and the masses.
From this it is clear that the unity of action of the communist and class forces, of the most advanced political, social and trade union forces responds, above all, to the need of workers men and women, young people, immigrants, all that vast social world in great suffering of being finally represented both on the political level and in the social struggle.
For too many years the capital-labor conflict has been guided by the bosses: it is now that anti-capitalist forces return to the head of the struggles and to pursue this goal it is first of all necessary that these forces be united. This is the deepest sense of the choice of the PCI, aimed at joining, in this round of elections, the List “Power to the People”, a front that can go beyond March 4. What we would like is that, even after March 4, in the streets, in front of the factories and workplaces, in front of the schools and inside the universities, many communist, anti-capitalist, class-left, youth and struggle movements — and not only the PCI – will be united, and ready to fight.
Critical voices have materialised in the internal debate of the PCI, worried that the symbol of the “Power to the People” is missing the symbol of the sickle and the hammer …
Mauro Alboresi. They are criticisms that we understand, that we listen to not only because they come from our militants, from our party organisers, but also because we would have preferred that these symbols of the work were visible in the emblem of the common list. But to these criticisms we answer that in a political alliance between different (not only between communist, but also leftist, union, social, movement forces, as is the alliance of “Power to the People”) the symbol that holds all in unity is always the subject of a mediation between the parties. This is part of the experience of the entire history of the world communist movement, including the Italian communist movement: when the communist parties have deemed it appropriate, in their long history, to face the elections together with other forces have always “synthesised” through another symbol, which could not be that of one or more of one of the forces present in the front, in the alliance.
However, the logo “Power to the People”, with the red star, everything is less than a moderate symbology: “Power to the People” is already in itself a strategic indication (popular sovereignty) even revolutionary and the red star is the same as the flags of the entire world communist and revolutionary movement. But, we said, there is something that goes far beyond the symbolic question: at the centre of things there is a strategic need for the unity of the communist, anti-capitalist, left-wing political and trade union forces to re-launch a vast social struggle, which aims to finally change the balance of power between capital and labour in our country. And, of course, the PCI cannot pursue alone such a high social goal …
In our internal debate, another preoccupation has sometimes arisen: can the autonomy of the PCI become blurred in this unified experience?
Mauro Alboresi. The autonomy of the PCI is not determined by its policy of alliances on the left. It comes from the strength of its political and theoretical thought and its practice. And from this point of view I think I can say that we are largely guaranteed, in the sense that from the process of the communist constituent to today, our general political thought, — aimed at an analysis of the international and national framework — has strengthened considerably (although our practice and our social and political struggle must be strengthened). Instead, it is necessary to underline a decisive aspect that resides in the construction of alliances: it is within the alliance with the most advanced political and social forces, it is in the struggles that are carried out together with these forces; it is in the action of the masses, which sees the communists (comunisti e le comuniste) play a leading role, that the PCI grows, which gives itself, in fact, a mass line that, the only way, can really make the Party rebuild its ties with the masses, tits roots and organisation. A PCI aimed at social and political isolation would be as in its infancy
Can there be programmatic problems in the alliance with “Power to the People”?
Mauro Alboresi. The programme of a broad front is never the programme of one of the subjects of the front. But in the program “Power to the People”, to which we have made a notable contribution, there are important and central shared points: the critique of imperialist and NATO policies, the fight against rearmament, the radical critique of the liberal European Union and its Treaties, the primacy of the anti-fascist struggle, the critique of the policies of the PD and of “renzismo”, (the policies of Renzo the PD leader) the radical critique of the new electoral cartels and the “centre-left” policies, the need to build a social and class and mass politics. Central points on which the PCI fully agrees and that speak to us of a unified experience that has nothing to do with other and previous experiences, such as the (previous electoral alliances) Rainbow and Civil Revolution. Here, in “Power to the People”, the clear social and political character is communist, anticapitalist, of the alternative and class left. And let me say: there is a “political language”, expressed first of all by that strong youth movement that is part of “Power to the People”, which succeeds in innovating and strengthening the whole political discourse of this alliance. It is a language, this of young people, that is clearly of a communist, class character (as it deals with precarious situation of young people, the absence of work, the absence of social guarantees and of their future) and is clearly coming from the concrete and living social contradictions experienced by the young people themselves. An innovative political language that can benefit our Party too.
Does this guarantee us on the electoral level? Of course not: the guarantee of an electoral success could only be given in a subordinate alliance with the PD or the centre left. A choice that would have been our political death. There is only one road, in this electoral campaign now underway, which can bring us to a positive result: the strenuous commitment — in every square, in every street, in every house — aimed at popularising our thinking, our ideas, our fight. And there is only one way to carry out this commitment: the investment of all the forces of the PCI and their total unity of action with the entire front of “Power to the People”. Apart, even from the electoral outcome (for which a positive outcome we must work with all our strength) we will reach other important objectives: the immersion of our Party in a larger mass action (primary basis for the same growth of the PCI) and, if we work well, the birth of a communist and anti-capitalist front for the future struggles in this country. We have completed our discussions, (care compagne e cari compagni) dear companions.
From this comment, starting with the collection of signatures for the presentation of the “Power to the People” List, let us go to the fight!