Date: Wed, 1 May 1996 05:33:52 -0500
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>>> Item number 7205, dated 96/04/29 23:24:31—ALL
Date: Mon, 29 Apr 1996 23:24:31 GMT
Reply-To: Jordi Martorell <100723.2363@CompuServe.COM>
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: Jordi Martorell <100723.2363@CompuServe.COM>
Organization: CompuServe, Inc. (1-800-689-0736)
Subject: Italian elections, left victory

From: Alastair Wilson, 100723,2363
To: “L-Soft list server at SJUVM (1.8b)”, INTERNET:PNEWS-L@SJUVM.STJOHNS.EDU
Date: Mon, Apr 29, 1996, 11:14 am
RE: Italian elections, victory for the left

Historic victory for the left

By Jordi Martorell, Socialist Appeal, no.41, May 1996

Fernando D’Allesandro, Rome, Editorial Board, Falce Martello. The Italian working class is celebrating the historic victory of the left. For the first time the Communists have now entered government. This has raised great expectations and euphoria. Workers demonstrated their feelings with spontaneous celebrations: 20,000 in Milan, 40,000 in Bologna and similar turnouts throughout Italy.

However, the character of this new government is in essence a ‘popular front’, a coalition of the former Communist Party, the PDS, with some small capitalist parties. The victory of this alliance has led to reassuring editorials in the bourgeois press and even a surge on the stock exchange.

Why? The answer is: the capitalists need a social contract with the trade unions in order to get their policies through. In 1994 the victory of the right provoked a huge movement of the working class that brought down the Berlusconi government. Dini, Berlusconi's Treasury Minister, then formed a “technocratic government” that discussed all its policies with the leadership of the trade unions. That is how last year's cuts in the pension scheme got through. That also explains why the serious strategists of capital were pushing for a victory of the Olive Tree (the coalition of the PDS together with ex-Christian Democrats, Greens and a new party formed hurriedly in the last few weeks by the outgoing Prime Minister, Dini).

The big capitalist groups don’t want a confrontation with the working class at this stage. Both the PDS (Democratic Party of the Left) and the PRC (Party of Refounded Communism) increased their votes, the PDS from 20.3% to 21.1%, and the PRC from 6% to 8.6%. In Turin Rifondazione has gone from 6.28% to 13.76%, in Genoa from 7.8% to 11.2%, in Tuscany from 8.8% to 12.5%, in Rome from 6.6% to 10.7%. A layer of workers shifted from the PDSto the PRC. In fact in some areas, in spite of the overall victory of the Olive Tree, the PDS actually went down. In Rome it lost 2,000 votes, in Turin it went down by 0.3%. Therefore within the overall left vote there has been a qualitative shift to the left. The PDS vote proves that moderate policies do not shift the electorate, a lesson the leadership of the PDS should take on board. Unfortunately they seem to be blind to such obvious conclusions.

The victory of the Olive Tree was not a foregone conclusion. In fact Olive Tree did not win an outright majority in percentage terms. If you exclude the votes of the PRC it would only have received 34.7%; only with the PRC did it manage to get 43.3%. The right-wing Freedom Alliance got 42.1%. In reality the country is deeply polarized Left-Right.

In the North there is the exception of the Northern League which got 10.1% nationally, but in some of the Northern regions it got between 20% and 30%. The League stood on its own and because its vote is concentrated in the North it managed to elect a sizeable parliamentary group. This poses a serious problem for the future. Bossi, leader of the League, is now talking of “independence” for the North. That is so much demagogy, but it is a danger signal for the Labour Movement: if the Left proves incapable of putting an end to capitalism then nationalism and racism will inevitably grow.

However it is clear that for now the right have suffered a serious defeat. The ex-fascists of Alleanza Nazionale have come out weak: although their vote went up they got much less than expected, and now the knives are coming out inside the party and Fini is taking the blame for having forced an early election. The leadership puts the blame on the fascist split-away grouping of the Tricolour Flame. In some areas of the South and Centre this group got 5-6% enough votes to reduce those of the Freedom Alliance as a whole letting in the Olive Tree candidates.

In spite of all these complicated results the main message for the workers is that for the first time in nearly 50 years “their” party is in the government. That explains why there were big celebrations on the left. The workers in the factories feel more confident. So the bourgeois won’t be happy for long. In the short term the workers will probably give “their” leaders time. They are expecting something “for us” from this government.

Unfortunately the economic policies of the Prodi government will be no different from those of Berlusconi. Already the IMF, the World Bank, the governor of the Bank of Italy, and other “friends of the working class” have come forward with “advice”: cut labour costs, more flexible working conditions, cutback on the Welfare state, etc. That is not what the workers are expecting. They will accept such measures for a temporary period of time just as they did back in 1976, especially considering that the leaders of the PDS and the Trade Unions are saying sacrifices are necessary to sort out the mess caused by the corrupt governments of the past. But when it becomes evident that these policies only increase the profits of the bosses then things will begin to really move. The 1994 strikes against Berlusconi were only a taste of what the Italian working class is capable of.

In all this of course the PRC could play a fundamental role. The PRC is the only party calling for a shorter working week with no loss in pay, a sliding scale of wages, a wealth tax and a programme of useful public works. These radical policies have attracted a layer of more militant workers.

The problem is that the Prodi government needs the votes of the PRC MPs, at least in Parliament. Bertinotti, secretary of of the PRC, has already said that he will vote for the government when it come before Parliament. The question is what happens after that? Prodi's programme is diametrically opposed to that of the PRC. The PRC will come under pressure in the next period. It has a choice between two roads: one is that of compromising with Prodi with the excuse that it is the only way of keeping the right out of the government, the other is that of a consistent class opposition to the bourgeois policies of Prodi.

If it follows the latter, in the long run the PRC could become a powerful force of attraction on the left once the mass of workers will have lost all hope that the right-wing policies of the PDS leadership have anything to offer. The leadership of the PRC must stand firm and call on the leadership of the PDS to break with the bourgeois parties in the Olive Tree and form a left front. That is the only way out. Otherwise the left will take the blame for Prodi's anti-working class programme and pay at the next elections, opening up the road for the right as has happened in France and Spain in the recent period.

Election results

Seats in Parliament
Olive Tree: 284
PRC: 35
Freedom Alliance: 246
Northern League: 59
Others: 6

To have a majority a minimum of 316 MPs is necessary. The Olive Tree with 284 MPs, therefore needs the support of the PRC.

Seats in the Senate
Olive Tree: 157
PRC: 10
Freedom Alliance: 116
Northern League: 27
Others: 5

To have a majority a minimum of 158 senators is necessary. However the Olive Tree can count on two South Tyrol senators from the German speaking minority and on several senators nominated for life to the Senate, such as all the ex-presidents of the Republic etc. Therefore in the Senate the Olive Tree can do without the PRC.

Percentage of votes for each party
PDS 21.1
PRC 8.6
Greens 2.5
Popular Party* 6.8
Dini 4.3
CCD-CDU** 5.8
Forza Italia 20.6
Alleanza Nazionale 15.7
Northern League 10.1
Fascists 0.9

* together with South Tyrol People's party, Republicans, Democratic Union and Prodi

** ex-Christian Democrats allied to Berlusconi and Fini