As the world’s financial markets closed in to kill off Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, his equally odious Minister of Defence, the ex-fascist Ignazio La Russa, underlined sarcastically the grim paradox of the dramatic events unfolding in Rome.
“It makes me laugh to see how all the leaders of the Italian left are so happy to celebrate the arrival in government of their class enemy Mario Monti and with him the world of finance, bankers, capital and the forces that they stand for.” For once, La Russa was spot-on!
Berlusconi’s ignominious exit owed little to the left. It owed everything to the forces La Russa described, whose interests and priorities the former European commissioner and Goldman Sachs director represents. Now he is plucked from relative obscurity to the highest political office in order to avert a crisis threatening the country and along with it the social, economic and political order of world capitalism.
And yet here was the so-called political opposition of centre-left and radical left offering up hosannas to the “liberation” of the country, fully conscious that the Financial Stability Bill was but the draconian foretaste of the “blood and tears” to come promised by state president, Napolitano, the man who is actually pulling the strings.
The malignant regime of Berlusconi was already deeply in crisis, with large sections of workers, students and the young increasingly angry at the seemingly unending “sacrifices” exacted on their lives while the rich and the privileged thrived.
But now, as in the early 1990s,”national salvation” has become the watchword of the moment. The whole political class and all the organs of mass communication of the bourgeoisie have united in an orgy of suffocating “patriotism”, calculated to obliterate the fact that Napolitano’s summoning of the technocrat Monti is a theft of the masses’ right to vote and the means to further unload on their backs the burden of saving Italian capitalism.
As in the 90s the opposition parties, especially the left and radical, and the trade union leadership have accepted Monti as prime minister, and therefore the suppression of any possibility of elections and the wide ventilation of the issues an election would bring.
Right now the mood of the working masses, in spite of illusions in Napolitano, remains uncertain; this is before Monti spells out his programme. That explains why the left in parliament didn’t participate in the critical votes in Parliament. They couldn’t be seen to have voted with Berlusconi, but nor could they oppose the Financial Stability Bill — the pillar on which the incoming Monti was to launch his austerity crusade. They seek to buy time and flexibility to best judge the mood on the ground. They will rely on the trade union confederations to once more dragoon their members around the bosses’ interests, and isolate the inevitable spontaneous actions by the most militant.
But one can expect action from both the FIOM metalworkers and the Base organisations, and, in the present context of angry distrust of the political caste as a species, large sections of workers may be drawn into struggle.
The struggle cannot rely on disparate acts of single protest. The central task of all revolutionaries must be to fight for a clear political perspective that meets the urgent needs of the moment: that demands and battles for new elections, the unity of the working masses in struggle, a general strike against the austerity decrees, and the goal of a workers’ government. A perspective of a do or die confrontation with the system as a whole.
The syndicalist myopia that for too long has characterised the militant wings of the Italian workers’ movement has to be superseded if the Italian workers are once again to take up that fight.