Three months after the 4th March Italian elections, the new government of the Five Stars Movement and the League (formerly Northern league) has finally been sworn in by by the President of the Republic and a whole new situation opens up where these parties will be put to the test. This experience will prove to be a necessary experience in exposing in the eyes of the Italian working class the real nature, particularly of the Five Stars Movement and prepare the ground for a new wave of class struggle.
In these three months we have seen all sorts of upsets and changes on the political landscape, the result of the political earthquake of the elections, which failed to produce any winner and which massively punished those parties of the Establishment of the last twenty years, the Democratic Party and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.
The political crisis has revealed the real nature of bourgeois democracy, with the President of the Republic intervening in the process as laid out in his speech on 27 May [where he openly objected to the proposed candidate for the position of Finance Minister because he had expressed anti-Euro sentiments in the past]. The votes of millions of people were thus declared irrelevant when weighed against the dangers posed to the stability of the markets.
It was for this reason that President Mattarella intervened with his blackmail. The President, by openly behaving in this manner, made it clear who makes the real decisions: the capitalists. Whoever wants to work within this system has to submit to their interests. The Italian and international bourgeoisie feared that the first Conte government which was proposed, with Savona as Minister of the Economy, would put another nail in the coffin of a European Union in deep crisis, and would deepen the insolvency of the banking system and increase the Italian public debt.
They were also motivated by the need to immediately dampen and frustrate the (admittedly confused) hopes for change expressed by millions of people in their vote on 4 March for the Five Stars Movement and, to a lesser extent, the League.
So the second Conte government was allowed to take office with the approval of the markets and European Union protection.
The Minister of the Economy, Giovanni Tria, is an ultra-liberal who has worked at both the World Bank and at the OECD, and who was also one of the authors behind the economic programme of Forza Italia.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Enzo Moavero Milanesi, has been part of almost every technical government from that of Ciampi’ in 1993 to the more recent Monti and Letta governments, in which he served as Minister of European Policy.
Paolo Savona too, demoted to Minister of European Affairs after the President’s first rejection, is far from being “anti-system”. He served as a minister in the Ciampi government, then as Chair of Confindustria [the Italian bosses’ association], and on the boards of several big banks and companies.
The others are no better. As Minister of Internal Affairs we have the champion of racism, Matteo Salvini. The atmosphere that has been whipped was already bad for migrants, as illustrated by the murder of Soumalia Sacko, a trade union militant and a protagonist in the struggles of the agricultural labourers in the Gioia Tauro area (Southern Italy).
One’s disgust grows even further when we read the CV of Lorenzo Fontana, the new Minister for the Family, who is opposed to abortion, and against any kind of family other than what he perceives as the “natural” kind. Then we have Andreotti’s lawyer, Giulia Bongiorno, at Public Administration, [Andreotti was a leading figure of the Christian Democrats for decades after the Second World War and implicated in many cases of colluding with the Mafia] while Elisabetta Trenta, the manager in a contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now the new Defence Minister, and this doesn’t exhaust the rogue’s gallery.
What about the hope of millions of workers and young people, which were placed above all in the Five Stars Movement?
The cancellation of €250 billion of the Italian public debt very soon disappeared from the deal between the M5S and the League for the forthcoming government, and the same applies to the rest of their promises.
The Fornero Act [a cut in pensions passed by the previous government] will now be “overcome” but not “abolished”. There is no longer any mention of the abolition of this hated law, nor is there any mention of the dismantling of the absurd mechanisms by which the rise in the age of retirement is linked to predictions of average life expectancies. The “government deal” between the M5S and the League raised the figure of €5 billion as the calculated cost of undoing the Fornero Act, but serious commentators have indicated that the cost could be up to two or three times more. If ever approved, the €5bn would merely be a small cosmetic concession to allow a tiny layer of workers close to the age or retirement to draw their pensions a couple of years earlier, leaving the rest with the Fornero Act as it stands. This is an example of what we mean that this government's programme will be dictated by the needs of Italian capitalism.
And what about the infamous Jobs Act which was so dear to Renzi when he was in government? The new Minister for Labour, Di Maio [the leader of the M5S], is now talking about reviewing it, and not abolishing it. Furthermore, the new “government pact” says nothing about the Poletti decree, which has completely flexibilized short-term labour contracts. And what about the much-touted citizen’s income? The President of the INPS [social security], President Boeri has been very clear: there is no money. And if it wasn’t clear, the markets have made this very clear with the growing spread in Italian state bond prices.
The Minister of the Economy, Tria, is an enthusiastic supporter of the “Flat Tax”, another electoral promise of the League, which would be financed by raising VAT. In other words: workers, pensioners and their families will have have to finance the tax cuts for the rich! (Or at any rate, for that small minority of rich people who actually pay their taxes in the first place.)
And what about the cuts and counter-reforms of education)? The new Minister of Education, Bussetti (League), says that this was an “excellent law”. The M5S-League pact defines the work experience reform of education - i.e. school students being sent to work for companies without being paid - as an “effective training tool” and they have also announced their intention to put cameras inside the classrooms (to prevent bullying, of course).
Again, what about the Five Stars Movement’s well known opposition to major works like the the High Speed railway, TAV? Toninelli, one of the most well-known Five Stars Movement spokespersons and Minister of Infrastructure has said that “we will analyse and study these major works; regarding the TAV, we will do what is right, we will not do what it is not right” (La Stampa, 1 June 2018). Regarding the Third Route [of the High Speed Trains], the Five Stars Movement is now no longer opposed to it, something which has provoked anger among the anti-TAV activists in the Ligurian-Piemontese Appennine valleys.
Within just a few days of coming into office, the “government of change” has clearly decided where it is going. It has very quickly abandoned any of its left-wing promises while keeping all of its right-wing pledges. Big business and the bankers can sleep soundly now. The Chair of Confindustria in the north-eastern region of the Veneto, Zoppas, has been crystal clear. At the height of the crisis he spelled things out. He denounced as madness the idea of exiting the EU and added, “We appeal to all of the political parties: companies and citizens need a fully functioning cabinet.” And Salvini is not deaf when it comes to obeying the calls from such an important figures who rules one of the regions in which League gets a lot of votes.
Racism and propaganda about safety
What is left is racist propaganda: a repressive policy which will complete an already decided path. As the new Minister of Internal Affairs explains: “Minniti (the former minister) did a good job; we will not destroy what he did.”
Fomenting hatred against “illegal immigrants” is a must for these people. It is needed as a diversion, in order to channel the anger of the Italian workers, not against the real enemy (the ruling class) but against those who, desperate because of hunger and war, try to reach Italy by any means possible. It is used in order to divide the workers and make them believe that it is right to pay €2 per hour to those who pick tomatoes because they supposedly belong to an “inferior race”.
The ruling class needs to divert attention away from the real problems of society, especially when overwork, exhaustion, and the total lack of rights and regulations in the workplace - on which the economic recovery in the North has been based - have caused 296 deaths in workplaces just in the first months of 2018 alone, along with tragedies like the one at the Venete steelworks in Padua, in which tons of melted steel killed one worker and seriously injured another.
In the next period we will see the most vulgar, racist and obscurantist propaganda, with slogans like “God, Homeland and Family” and slogans exalting the “superiority of the Italian race”. From ministerial buildings in Rome they will try to intoxicate workers and young people with this nauseating propaganda. Their problem, however, will be that racism and obscurantism don’t put food on the table and only for a brief period will they be able to hide the truth of temporary jobs, unemployment and the bleak future facing the workers and youth.
The hopes which spring today from the 4 March vote will later bring the bitter taste of illusions betrayed. The question of the Euro and the EU has merely been postponed and not buried, due to the interminable crisis of European capitalism. In the next conflict between Italy and the EU, the M5S and the League will no longer be able to hide behind their rhetorical calls for “sovereignty”, as they will have to carry out very unpopular policies.
In such a conflict there is no room for reticence or half measures. Against their so-called sovereignty versus Europeanism, two sides of the same coin of capitalism, we call for a break with the capitalist European Union and with the Euro as part of a revolutionary programme for a Socialist Federation of Europe.
Friends and enemies
In this future class struggle, the left and the labour movement must understand who their friends are and who are their enemies.
Salvini and the right-wing parties cannot be defeated by supporting the President, Mattarella, or by citing Constitutional Law, as the opposition in parliament, and the Democratic Party in particular, are doing. On the contrary, Mattarella was right when he said that he acted in accord with the Constitution during the setting up of this government. The Italian Constitution defends the status quo and Article 81 obliges governments to have a balanced budget. The President of the Republic has made it clear that no government which ignores on the “sacrosanct principles of the Constitution” will be allowed to exist under this system.
“Defence of the Constitution” that left parties and trade union leaders are so enamoured with today is no basis for mobilising the masses. Their slogans are “national unity”, “shared values” and the national anthem. But there can be no unity or sharing of values between a Del Vecchio (the CEO of Luxottica, who declared an income of €367 million euros in 2017) and a Luxottica worker.
We need to build another kind unity, that of the exploited workers, both Italian and immigrant, against the ruling class. Against the war between the poor, we have to respond with a war between the classes. On this basis is would be possible to build the left and a new leadership of the labour movement.
This is what is urgently required in order to be able to intervene in the next wave of worker and youth mobilisations. We are not pessimistic as some on the left are. The arrival of the Five Stars Movement in government is a step in the development of class consciousness in Italy. Their alliance with the League, the most reactionary force in this Parliament, will soon cause the mask of their petty-bourgeois populism to fall.
This “yellow-green” [Five Stars-league] government will proceed with bitter attacks on the workers and youth. Faced with these attacks, a perspective of struggle, after initial disappointment, will become the only possible road the workers can embark on.
With this perspective in mind, Sinistra Classe Rivoluzione will intervene on the streets, in the workplaces, in the schools, and in the universities. Join us!