The Euro-election result in Italy was different from anywhere else in Europe. The governing party, the Democratic Party (product of a merger of most of what was left of the old Communist Party with sections of the old Christian Democrats), increased its support and got 41% of the vote.
Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement got much less than it expected: 21%. The old right-wing ruling party, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, was down to 17%. The hard-right Lega Nord was down to 6%, and the left-wing “Other Europe” slate got 4%.
The victory of Matteo Renzi, leader of the Democratic Party and prime minister since February 2014, has been hailed by the media as a model of how bourgeois governability can defend itself against the barbarian hordes of populism. In fact it is the very opposite. Renzi-ism represents a cold, deliberately calculated, and cynical exercise of typical populism.
Despite the predictions of disaster from other party leaders, industry, and bankers, he announced a” permanent” bonus of 80 euros a month for millions of workers - repeating the gesture and extending it to millions more lower-paid and precarious workers when a Grillo victory seemed possible in the elections.
The audacious gamble has paid off. It was not a victory for the government, nor for the Democratic Party. It was Renzi’s victory! The Italian bourgeoisie are delighted, believing they can at last see political stability.
In parliament, within the majority Alfano’s group (a splinter from Berlusconi) is vastly weakened, and that around Monti [“technocrat” prime minister 2011-13] wiped out. Within the Democrats Renzi’s opponents have been systematically routed.
Millions of workers swallowed the con trick of the 80 euro bonus. That was the result of two decades of impotence and complicity by the unions in the face of successive goverments.
The unions have signed a “patriotic pact” with the employers (Confindustria), signalling to the the Democratic Party that they will do little or nothing to rock the boat.
Now the confident Renzi has branded the union leaders as conservative reactionaries, out of touch with their members and with the demands of a new economy and a new epoch.
The unions remain terrified of initiating any resistance to Renzi’s policies. Their silence renders them accomplices to Renzi’s cynical seductive lies and promises to an ever more desperate and divided working class movement.
After six or seven years of the most grave political instability for decades, Italy’s ruling class has been able to transform its crisis of consent. That opens the door for their long-term plans for arresting the historical and structural decline of capitalist Italy to take a significant step forward.
The only genuinely left force in the elections was the “Other Europe” slate, billed as supporters of the Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras’s candidacy for president of the European Commission. It comprised Nicky Vendola’s SEL, the Federation of the left headed by Communist Refoundation, and a medley of radical intellecuals. In Emilia and Tuscany it polled 8 or 9 %, a very positive performance.
Tsipras’s appearance in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore saw a large turnout, as did his speeces in Turin and Milan. Regrettably instead of arguing to build a working-class-led struggle everywhere across Europe, he resorted to pandering to residual Stalinism.
When he invoked the names of former Communist Party leaders Berlinguer and Togliatti as models of proletarian probity, the square erupted in applause, and the leaders of the so called Marxist groups regrettably joined in.
Now the pro Tsipras forces are already splitting. SEL is mostl likely, under weasel phrases, to opt for a “constructive” opposition to the government. On the other side Rifondazione is angling to ally with Grillo, and supporting his candidate in the second round of the local administrative vote in Livorno.
Grillo has made overtures to Farage and Ukip. That has opened a chasm of dissent in his movement, with such people as the famous writer Dario Fo condemning it as a capitulation to racism.