The swearing-in ceremony on Sunday 28 April of the Enrico Letta government was momentarily interrupted by the attempt of an armed individual to “make the politicians pay”. But nothing can overshadow the depth of defeat the coming to power of this government signals for Italy’s working people.
Key ministries are taken by figures from Silvio Berlusconi’s PDL, or technocrats from the banking/financial world. The Democratic Party shares minor roles with people from Mario Monti’s tiny outfit, while humiliatingly accepting only token “progressives” thrown in as proof of the “modernism” of the government.
This outcome was never in doubt from the moment the results of the elections returned no outright winner.
For twenty years or so, as the relentless decline of the Italian economy has continued, the centre right and centre left have enjoyed a cynical Punch and Judy exercise with each other.
Each plays up the ideological difference of the “enemy”. The right attacks the “communists” of the Democratic Party (in reality stuffed with former Christian Democrats like Letta, whose uncle has been the grey eminence behind Berlusconi). The left slams the bogeyman Berlusconi and how he trampled on the norms, principles, and honoured democratic traditions of political and civil life.
Yet across the board corruption, depravity, cruelty, and cynical indifference among the ruling classes has been for centuries as common as pasta.
It needed the restoration of the just-retired President of the country, Napolitano, to save the day. At the same time, we saw the imminent implosion of the party of Letta, as the stalemate over the attempts to form a government developed. The party’s fragmentation turned into an explosion when it emerged that a secret deal had been done to elect a new president agreeable to Berlusconi.
Napolitano read the riot act to assembled parliamentarians at his inauguration, spelling out the consequences for them and the country if they didn’t agree to the stitch-up between the PDL and the centre left, a stitch-up which had already been itemised in detail by a cabal of “wise men” he had personally selected
The bubble of rebellion from inside the Democratic Party proved nothing but wind and piss. And why should anyone be surprised? This outfit and these people had, with hardly a squeak of protest, sustained for more than a year the most systematic and concerted assault on the lives and living standards of ordinary Italian workers, while simultaneously condemning any who organised resistance.
This latest “historic compromise” serves to finally pull the mask from the party whose origins lie in the Stalinist CPI. The latter’s ignominious role as first midwife to the resurrection of bourgeois Italy in the 1940s was followed by its loyal adherence to the democratic and ideological shibboleths of that order, and reached its apogee with collaboration with the ruling Christian Democrats in the 1970s, while crisis after crisis threatened the stability of the social order.
For the workers it was a catastrophe; mass defeats in the struggles in the factories led to the casino capitalism of the Craxi-led coalition years, culminating in the economic and financial collapse of 1992-3 and the “Bribesville” scandals of 1994 — the legacy of which is incarnated in the presence of Berlusconi.
But there is one spark of hope, of possible resistance. The millions of workers and ordinary people who voted for the centre left had their last illusions shattered. They must be at the centre of the urgent battle to build a common front of resistance across every point of conflict and struggle, an economic and political war whose rallying cry must be a government of the working masses of Italy.
By that yardstick those on the left now clamouring for the need for a new united force of the left should be judged.