Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

The Italian anomaly goes technical

Lorenzo Fe writes that opposition to the financial dictatorship will come from the streets of Italy, not from the Italian government

November 2, 2012
4 min read

Photo: zoonabar:Flickr

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.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase

Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields

Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton

Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi

A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain

Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank

Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded

West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens

Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age

Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook


1