In the second round of Italy’s administrative and regional elections last month the seven million who voted gave Berlusconi a reply neither he nor his media empire anticipated.
His own city base, Milan, lost heavily to the centre-left.
Napoli, a city in the hands of the centre left for years, corrupt and inefficient, was won overwhelmingly by the young radical ex-magistrate De Magistris of di Pietro, (Italy of the Values).
Trieste, historically the most right-wing place in Italy, is now in the hands of a former Communist of the centre-left.
Cagliari in Sardinia was seized from the right by the party of SEL (Left, Ecology, Liberty) led by Nicki Vendola, president of the region of Puglia and former leader of Rifondazione Comunista.
Across the whole country the same pattern was repeated.
The results of these elections underline dramatically the condition of ever-deepening crisis — economic, social, political — in evidence everyday across the country. And with it a growing sense of anger at and hatred for Berlusconi’s regime.
This is an economy which has failed to grow for at least 20 years, wages stagnating for the same period, investment at a minimum. Public debt second only to Greece in Europe. Tax evasion and corruption a way of life, and the presence of the Calabrian mafia everywhere.
Unemployment, officially at 8.3%, absolute poverty 13%, with 25%in the frame in the not too distant future. 30% youth unemployment, millions of others condemned to humiliatingly insecure work.
And the picture for women even worse, with the lowest percentage in work of the major industrial nations, and two million in the south no longer registering for work. And tellingly for a country led by a compulsive sexist 800,000 women last year were forced to leave their jobs on becoming pregnant, courtesy of the reintroduction of a decree making it necessary for woman to sign a letter on appointment agreeing to resign if pregnant.
Add to this the desperately grim situation of pensioners, nearly 60% living on 500 euro a month!
For the first time since he came back to power three years ago Berlusconi now finds himself in a corner. His party is in bits, held together by naked greed, blackmail and his own need to save himself from the courts.
The real dynamic and momentum of the voting, especially in the large cities came from the young, many of whom are aligned or in the ambit of the more radical wings of the centre-left.
The Democratic Party have cowardly, cravenly cautious bureaucratic leaders who instinctively align with the right-wing centre parties outside the official centre-left. But they were thrown on to the back foot by the radical momentum.
Therefore the presence and militant involvement of the young may be a positive harbinger of a potential development of political maturity in a country where for decades now an effective sub-political “revolutionary” current has prevailed among thousands of activists.
For the centre-left to be revived as an alternative administration, it will have to find how to square the increasingly radically sounding measures and hopes of those behind the victories in the elections with the European financiers dictat that to keep the Italian ship of state afloat another 46 billion euros will need to be extracted from the hide of the masses.
The inevitable clash between the expectations and hopes of many and the real politik of the cynical leaders of the centre left may offer real opportunities for those capable of offering a more radical alternative.
The urgent constitution of such a force is the necessary. The omens , alas, aren’t good. The fall-out from the split in RC has, as predicted, seen its two factions closer to to the parliamentary electoral arena of the centre left.
The legacy of Stalinism and those in the 60s who opposed it — Negri, Tronti, Cacciari, Asor Rosa Sofri and those like Bertinotti after them — whatever positive contribution they may have made — is effectively to have stripped the theoretical apparatus of revolutionary socialism of what, without, it is nothing. That is an analytical tool of concrete reality from which to draw the lines of march of a political strategy upon which alone a mass working-class led organisation can be built in the struggle for power.
“The decisive element in every situation is the permanently organised and long prepared force which can be put into the field when its judged that a situation is favourable (and it can be favourable only in so far as such a force exists, and is full of fighting spirit).” (Antonio Gramsci.)
That is the task at the forefront of any serious militant in Italy today.