Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
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.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
How can the heavily-armed Israeli state claim to be victimised by one teenage activist? By Richard Seymour.
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism