giovedì 24 aprile 2008

A defeated Left tries to recompose

No communists, no socialists, no pacifists, no greens, no 'no global' activists. An entire array of old and new political identities, which marked different stages in the development of the Italian Left, have lost political representation, in the space of one election. The last time something comparable happened was at the beginning of Fascism, in 1924, when socialist and communist MPs withdrew in protests against elections marked by vote-rigging and violence.

Today, there is little doubt about the validity of the elections. Berlusconi is back thanks to a land-slide victory which stretches from the Mafia-stricken regions of the South to the hyper-industrialised North. The gap between his coalition and Veltroni’s Democratic party is nine per cent It is one of the clearest popular majorities Italy has ever witnessed during its republican history. This means Berlusconi will enjoy a greater legitimacy than he had on previous occasions. Thus he will have few obstacles in adopting a strategy of rupture with that shrinking half of the Italian public which continues to resist his seduction.

The only opposition parliamentary spokespersons to Berlusconi will be from Veltroni’s democratic party, an unsavoury alliance of post-communists and social catholics, whose political blueprint is based on the centrism of New Labour. Sinistra – L’arcobaleno, the coalition comprising Rifondazione Comunista, the Italian Communists and the Greens, has not convinced the electorate. Set up in a hurry, a few months before the elections, it has been seen as a “new party born old,” as asserted by Ginsborg in an interview recently with Red Pepper. The 3 per cent it obtained in the polls is less than a third of the votes gained by all the parties in this coalition in previous elections.

Berlusconi´s reactionary political menu

On the menu that awaits the Italian people, with the return of Mr. Silvio, are a revival of the illegal actions which marked his previous mandate, an assortment of attacks on the autonomy of the judicial branch, new laws to defend the interests of his enterprises and acolytes, and an easy going attitude with tax evaders and illegal construction. These policies will be accompanied by an even stronger attack on trade unions and the cooperative sector, which in Italy are still strong.

Next in line will be the repression of various territorial struggles which have emerged in recent years against engineering projects: from the No-Tav protesting against an high-speed train line in Piedmont, to the Vicenza’s No-base protests against the construction of a US military airport, and the Sicilian and Calabrese activists’ blocking of the construction of the Messina bridge, which Berlusconi hopes to erect as a perennial monument to his era.

Divided Left

One could easily predict that strong social conflict will ensue. However , the risk this time is that Berlusconi’s attack on constitution, social rights and the environment will only be opposed by a confused and fragmented opposition. Yes, leftist politicians having been kicked out of parliament will have no way to go but the streets. But this time they won’t find the immediate welcome of social movements.

The state of the Italian Left in the aftermath of the election is best described as a landscape marked by ruptures and distrust. Something which was hard to predict only a few years ago when a sense of common purpose united a broad and diverse coalition of forces. The series of struggles on global issues did indeed prove fertile terrain for the construction of networks and for the development of a strong dialogue between movements, civil society organisations and parties. This was clearly seen in the case of Rifondazione Comunista, which played a key role in translating struggles into a political strategy, heralding itself as the “party of movements”.

What remains of that period is perfectly exemplified by one moment in the electoral campaign: when an ice-cream was thrown at Caruso - a former member of the anti-globalisers Disobbedienti – while he was campaigning for Sinistra-Arcobaleno in Venice, by activists associated with Luca Casarini, the leader of North-Eastern Social Centers.

In 2001, on the streets of Genoa, the two charismatic leaders had been together in the padded-block of Disobbedienti, born out of an alliance between the Tute Bianche (White Overalls ‘Direct Action’ group) and the Giovani Comunisti (Youth section of Rifondazione). The split happened in 2006, when Caruso decided to run for elections with Rifondazione. His decision was met by waves of criticism among anti-globalisation activists, accusing him of abandoning the terrain of conflict to head for a comfortable seat in the lower chamber.

Fraught relationship between parties and movements

The fraught relation between institutional politics and movements, and the often predatory attitude of the former towards the latter underlies the division. From 2001 until 2005 the social centres in the North-East worked closely with allies in the institutions, with social centre activists taking over sections of the Green Party in the Triveneto region. Elsewhere local alliances of social centres linked up with Rifondazione, for example in Rome’s “Action – diritti” network led by Nunzio D’Erme.

It was thanks to these movement-party alliances that local elections in 2005 delivered a major victory to the center-left coalition and in particular to the radical left. In this context, Nichi Vendola, gay, catholic and communist and deeply involved in social struggles became elected against all odds in Apulia, traditionally a conservative region. This marked the peak of support for the institutional left amongst grassroots activists.

Critiques of Prodi´s government

The wind changed with the narrow victory of the Prodi-led center-left coalition L’Unione in the national elections in April 2006. The most left-leaning government Italy ever had - in terms of numbers of ministers from parties of the radical left - was seen as far too moderate, and soon became the target of deep criticisms from social movements. (for detail see interviews and articles in Hilary Wainwright’s A Left guide to the Italian elections)

These condemnations first focused on the government’s foreign policy, , where the withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq was not accompanied by an abandonment of the “war on terror” or a withdrawal of Italian soldiers from Afghanistan. The government almost fell on this issue in a parliamentary vote, after a huge demonstration against the base in Vicenza. Radical MPs were forced to appeal to the fear of letting Berlusconi get back in. Nevertheless, as a result, they got ostracized from demonstrations.

Secondly, there has been widespread indignation for the lack of action on civil rights. The government has been reluctant in shielding off the attacks of the Church on abortion and has failed to approve a law for a “a solidarity civil pact” for unmarried couples.

Thirdly, there has been grave disappointment at the lack of action on wages, the problem of living costs, or the lack of welfare programmes for vulnerable workers. There were divisions between the industrialist position held by the old-left, who continue to consider flexible work as an anomaly to be eliminated, and activists who ask for new forms of welfare to support workers in precarious labour conditions. As a result, the government took no action, thus leaving many young people without any social rights, which has no comparison in other Western European countries.

The Italian Left’s future

So what´s next? In the weeks following the elections, some activists feel like they have sleepwalked into this new era of Berlusconi.. ttempts at rebuilding grassroots movements are already starting. Social centres’ groups will soon hold a meeting in Marghera near Venice to discuss the bases for a new alliance. Social and various politicised civil society networks who see the new rise of Berlusconi as a disgrace will also provide an important element for reconstructing the left. Finally, the experiences of progressive local government, such as the Vendola in Apulia or Massimo in the Marche region, and the cities that form part of the “Nuovo Municipio” network, all inspired by principles of participatory democracy, will provide bases from which to begin re-building a new identity for the Italian Left.

Nevertheless, the key issue and potential problem facing the Left will be how the question of democracy is dealt with both in movements and parties. The personalisation, machoism and media-oriented strategy which characterises the leadership of many grassroots movements has proved detrimental for the credibility of progressive alternatives. The time for self-styled spokespersons of the whole movement is over. Will the movement be able to break away from leader-obsessed politics?

A similar reflection needs to take place in both the Greens and Rifondazione. Many argue that the Green Party has been transformed into an accountable centre of power which has little to do with the original idea of a federation and has lost its values of transparency. The charges of corruption which have hit its leader, Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, are just the most visible evidence of this situation. Also it will be important to see how the question of democracy will be dealt with inside Rifondazione which at the moment is torn by a fight over the future of the party and its relation to Arcobaleno between the once majority current led by Bertinotti and a new challenging current endorsed by Ferrero, Minister of Welfare. The party still has a network of branches across the country that no other left group enjoys. But will it be used for facilitating a recomposition of the Left or for tightening control of the grassroots?

The question of democracy which is central for imagining a different future for the Italian Left will also crucially entail a new discussion of the relationship between parties, social movements and civil society. The experience of collaboration with parties has proved highly disappointing for most activists. Nonetheless those experiences were the symptom of a felt need to translate self-managed alternatives into more stable collective goods for society. What might be learned from the defeat of this experience is thus the need for a greater autonomy and transparency in the relationship between movements and parties, rather than an outright end to all contact. In this context, the local arenas of struggle which have proved the most dynamic in recent years might provide a crucial space for developing clearer strategies and identities beyond the vague inclusiveness of the anti-globalisation era.

lunedì 21 aprile 2008

San Precario contro Carlo Magno

Londra - San Precario contro Carlo Magno. I giovani e i migranti del vecchio
continente contro la diarchia Merkel-Sarkozy. Il prossimo primo
maggio, nella sontuosa Rathaus di Acquisgrana, sede di incoronazioni
in epoca carolingia, il premier francese conferirà al cancelliere
tedesco il tradizionale premio Carlo Magno, dedicato al politico
europeista dell'anno. Ma per le strade della città d'arte tedesca, non
ci saranno celebrazioni per festeggiare l'"incoronazione" della
Merkel. A rovinare la festa ci penserà la protesta della Euromayday,
la rete continentale dei lavoratori precari e dei migranti, che
promette di portare tumulto ad Acquisgrana e in decine di altre città
europee che partecipano alla giornata di azione.
«Costretti a vivere nell'inferno del precariato metteremo a soqquadro
il paradiso delle élite dell'Unione europea» , avvisano i promotori.
Gli attivisti dell'Euromayday vedono nel premio Carlo Magno - che si
consegna il giorno dell'ascensione, quest'anno il primo di maggio - il
simbolo dell'Europa peggiore. Quella militarista, neoliberista e
clericale, che non si piega alle domande sociali che vengono dagli
strati più svantaggiati. «Rifiutiamo Carlo Magno come simbolo
dell'Europa e denuciamo il neoliberismo della commisione Barroso, il
militarismo di Solana e il monetarismo della Banca centrale di
Trichet», si legge nella chiamata per la giornata di protesta.
Contro l'Europa della burocrazia, degli eserciti e dei governi,
l'Euromayday si appella all'Europa del precariato, ai lavoratori a
tempo parziale, ai cococo e cocopro, ai disoccupati che vengono
emarginati dalle politiche sul lavoro e sulla sicurezza sociale. Ma
non solo.
«Ci rivolgiamo agli operai e alle operaie, delle fabbriche e dei
servizi, agli studenti, alle associazioni, ai centri sociali, alle
mille forme di resistenza e di autorganizzazione che ri-generano i
territori e le metropoli martoriati dal vampirismo neoliberista»,
dichiarano gli organizzatori. Il programma della protesta principale
prevede una manifestazione in mattinata davanti alla Rathaus contro
Merkel e Sarkozy. Da qui partirà nel pomeriggio la classica parade,
con soundsystem, scenografie e "supereroi del precariato quotidiano".
La giornata sarà chiusa da una festa di precari e migranti in un parco
Oltre alla manifestazione centrale ad Acquisgrana, la protesta contro
il precariato interesserà diverse città europee che hanno già aderito
all'iniziativa. Le piazze principali in giro per l'Europa quest'anno
saranno Berlino, Copenhagen, Amburgo, Helsinki, Lisbona, Malaga,
Maribor in Slovenia e Terrasa vicino a Barcellona. In Italia oltre a
Milano, ci saranno anche Napoli e Palermo. E quest' anno per la prima
volta ci sarà una Mayday precaria pure a Tokyo dove gli attivisti
giapponesi già si scaldano in vista della protesta contro il vertice
G8 che si terrà a Osaka dal 7 al 9 luglio.
Il 1 maggio ricreato
La storia della Mayday comincia a Milano nel 2001, quando gruppi di
attivisti mediatici e agitatori del sindacalismo precario e di base
decidono di rivitalizzare il primo maggio che ormai appare poco più di
una ricorrenza istituzionale, svuotata di significati politici. Negli
anni successivi è una crescita continua. Nel 2003, 50.000 persone
sfilano a Milano e la manifestazione raggiunge una dimensione
regionale, ma coinvolge pure studenti e precari romani. Nel 2004
Barcellona si mette al fianco di Milano: la Mayday diventa Euromayday.
Oltre 100.000 persone scendono in piazza. A Milano a ritrovarsi nella
lotta contro il precariato è il «popolo di Genova». Il primo maggio
precario diventa sempre più il primo maggio vero e proprio, oscurando
il rituale concerto di piazza San Giovanni.
Le reti no-global europee si accorgono presto dell'iniziativa.
L'occasione per ampliare il processo la offre «Beyond ESF»,
l'iniziativa parallela al Forum sociale europeo di Londra dell'ottobre
2004. In un assemblea alla Middlesex University si decide di creare
una rete Euromayday, che organizzi assemblee transnazionali, da
tenersi ogni volta in una città diversa. Incontri per decidere
strategie di azione comune. Non solo per organizzare il primo maggio
ma anche come processo di attivazione comune di migranti e precari.
Così nel 2005 la Euromayday raggiunge venti città, da Stoccolma a
Parigi, da Amsterdam a Siviglia. Nel 2006 la partecipazione cresce
ancora. A scendere in piazza sono oltre 300.000 persone, anche se in
meno città rispetto all'anno precedente. Oltre alle manifestazioni
decentrate l'euromayday lancia per la prima volta un'azione congiunta
a Bruxelles il venerdì di pasqua.
Si risale la china
E' un momento caldo per la questione precaria: la Sorbona, è occupata
contro la legge sul Cpe ("contratto di primo impiego") e la piazza
dell'università viene ribattezzata «piazza della precarietà». In
questi anni il problema del precariato viene connesso sempre più con
quello dei migranti, con la partecipazione delle reti no-borders alla
Il 2007 vede una flessione della manifestazione: meno partecipanti e
un calo di entusiasmo, anche per la mancanza di risposte politiche.
Ma quest'anno la giornata promette di risalire la china. Le proteste
contro il G8 a Rostock hanno visto sfilare un euromayday pink bloc,
che ha messo assieme diversi gruppi europei che hanno lottato contro
il precariato durante questi anni. Le assemblee transnazionali sono
riprese. E il ritorno di vitalità della manifestazione traspare anche
dal nuovo sito con filmati ironici sul problema dei precari che
arrivano da diversi angoli d'Europa, tra cui l'imperdibile «chiki
chiki precario». Così, mentre il problema del precariato continua a
incontrare orecchie sorde sia tra i politici di casa nostra che tra i
tecnocrati di Bruxelles, i precari continuano a fare affidamento
sull'unica arma che posseggono:la creatività. E quella che è la
risorsa più preziosa nell'era del capitalismo cognitivo, diventa uno
strumento di lotta contro le nuove forme di oppressione del lavoro.