Despite recent student and labour unrest, the opposition against austerity measures in Italy has been quite weak, especially in terms of the numbers of people involved, compared to the rest of Southern Europe. At the end of last year, two mass demonstrations were organised against Berlusconi’s government; both ended in violent clashes between some of the protesters and the police.
However, Monti’s troika-sponsored government, although never elected by the people, has managed to gain for itself a much more solid legitimacy than its predecessor, thanks to its image of a neutral ‘technical’ government and the parliamentary support of a grand coalition that includes the centre-left Democratic Party. Monti’s government carried out some common sense measures, for example tougher checks on tax evasion (the efficacy of which is still to be assessed) which probably added to his credibility, alongside outright neo-liberal policies that involved massive cuts in public spending and the liberalisation of the labour market.
The main promoter of the 2011 demos is often referred to as the ‘social centres movement’. In spite of this collective term, this movement has a complex and plural history. The first social centres were occupied in the ’70s as an attempt by part of the extra-parliamentary Left to survive defeat in its frontal struggle against the state. The organisational structures survived the ’80s and flourished in the early ’90s with the ‘Pantera’ university movement, which coincided with a great surge in the number of occupied spaces.
The peak of the social centre movement was reached in the context of the Global Justice Movement, but the activists faced major difficulties in coping with the severe state repression in Genoa 2001 as well as their own internal divisions. Indeed, the fragmentation is so deep that it is hardly possible to talk of a single movement. Four main political areas can be distinguished that network different occupying collectives nationwide: ‘ex-Disobedient’, ‘autonomist’, ‘marxist-leninist’, and ‘anarchist’. The former three can be said to descend from the ‘Autonomy proper’, from the ’70s. Although the difficulties in finding smooth and shared ways to mobilise in concert (or to part ways) are certainly a problem, the social centres are one of the most positively impressive features of the Italian anomaly. Their mobilising capacity and their rootedness in the territory is very high compared to similar experiences elsewhere, and we should expect to see more significant opposition coming from this milieu.
On the parliamentary side, having had the remains of the Italian Socialist Party completely collapse in the last elections, the Italian parliamentary Left is all about the post-Communist Party diaspora. The mainstream of the Communist Party is now in the Democratic Party together with part of the old centre party Christian Democracy. The main party on the left of it used to be Rifondazione Comunista. After the downfall of the centre-Left government of which Rifondazione was part in 2008, the party split and the Left Ecology and Freedom Party emerged (Sinistra Ecologia e Libertà, SEL). This was partly more successful than many expected and its candidates won several important local elections, most notably the Milan administration.
SEL’s secretary, Nichi Vendola, is now challenging the incumbent Democratic Party secretary Pier Luigi Bersani, and the Third Way candidate Matteo Renzi in the primary elections of the Left coalition (featuring the Democratic Party, SEL, and the Socialist Party) for the general elections of spring 2013.
Right now it is pretty certain that this coalition will gain the relative majority, but it is much less likely to be able to form a government. Much depends on the electoral law, which to this day has not been decided yet. Ironically, the Right is pushing for a more proportional law, because it would probably force the Democratic Party to dump its allies after the elections and form a new grand coalition troika-friendly government just like the present one. This outcome is made even more realistic by the relative success of two anti-establishment parties, Italia dei Valori e Movimento Cinque Stelle, which can hardly be defined as leftist, but that may gather a significant amount of votes from disillusioned supporters of the Left. Although a strong leftist government in power would be, in my view, desirable, it is much more likely that relevant opposition to the dictatorship of finance in the next years will come from the Italian streets and not from the Italian government.
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry