Walter Veltroni: projecting Italy as the ‘hub’ of neoliberal Europe

Walter Veltroni is the main centre-left challenger to Berlusconi in Italy's general election. As leader of the Democratic Party, he rejects local and social movement campaigns in territorial autonomy and favours making Italy a military and industrial 'hub', writes Enzo Mangini

April 13, 2008
4 min read

Ten pillars, twelve actions to be implemented immediately, and a green bus to spread the word travelling across Italy’s 110 provinces – these are the numbers behind the electoral campaign of Walter Veltroni, former mayor of Rome and leader of the recently formed Democratic Party (Partito Democratico, PD). Veltroni is challenging Silvio Berlusconi in the general election of 13 and 14 April. After the fall of Romano Prodi’s centre-left coalition, Veltroni has led an aggressive campaign to erode the allegedly enormous lead that Berlusconi started with in opinion polls. To do so, Veltroni chose to shrink the ponderous 280-page programme which Prodi’s coalition presented to voters two years ago to a mere 20-page folder, available in slides on PD’s appealing website.

It is a chilling read. Veltroni not only stresses ‘security first’ but, when he outlines his programme for economic growth, he also shows no sign of listening to the social movements that have emerged in the recent years as the only effective force in Italy against the neoliberal wave. Italy’s territory is awash with projects: new highways, high speed rail lines, power plants, oil drilling, liquefied natural gas plants, logistic hubs and so on. The list could suit a post-war reconstruction effort. Yet, for any entry in this shopping list there’s a citizens’ committee, a network, a grassroots movement fighting against it. From the stubborn dwellers of the Susa Valley, near Turin, who have effectively stopped the high-speed rail project, to the bottom of Sicily, where oil drilling projects were equally halted, territorial ‘self-defence’ appears as a new political ground for social movements. Most of these movements are local in the geographical sense only. All of them connect their local issue with a broader picture in which ‘post-development’ often merges with a radical critique of ‘representative democracy’ Italian style.

Veltroni’s bus, albeit green, is set on a collision course with all this. In the twenty months of the Prodi government, it became clear that the scions of the grand Italian leftist tradition have diminished the materialist aspect of society to a pragmatic economic and political agenda. The key word here is ‘hub’: Italy’s position in the Mediterranean, they say, should be the launching pad to transform the country into a hub: from here, goods from Asia, oil and gas from Middle East and Africa can be distributed throughout Europe. The new US bases in Vicenza (Northern Italy) and the enlargement of the US Navy base in Sigonella (Sicily) show the other side of the hub: a military platform from which to project into the same geographical space of ‘incoming entries’ the muscular strength of Nato and future EU warfare tools. In Veltroni’s jargon, this policy has become: ‘Strengthening friendship with the USA’ and an ‘Increased international role for Italy inside the European framework’. Pacifist movements in Italy are already on the alert. On other issues – including sexual discrimination, migrants’ rights, and same sex couples’ rights – Veltroni’s course is ambiguous. He knows he cannot entirely drop this baggage from his bus, but he knows he cannot stress it too much: it would frighten Catholic voters and an increasingly insecure leftist middle class.

The electoral campaign started a bit too early for Veltroni. He wanted to complete his second mandate as mayor of Rome. But the last two years as the capital’s first citizen showed how seriously his programme should be taken. He was spineless toward the undue intrusions of the Vatican and very vocal – and active too – against the ‘perceived security threats’: Romas (gypsies), writers (graffiti), street sellers, migrants… A lot of social movements and NGOs criticised his approach as ‘wrong’. It is becoming increasingly clear that it was not an error but a careful plan.

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.

An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe

How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency

Empire en vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy

Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network

Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker

In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing

After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry

Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again

Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood

7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.

After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani

If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945

On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.

Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow

The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite

Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.