The return of right winger Silvio Berlusconi to office in Italy is bad enough. The total elimination of the radical left from parliament verges on the disastrous.
At the start of this decade Italy was the bright star of the European left. The G8 protests in Genoa in 2001, the European Social Forum in Florence and a demonstration of over three million in Rome against the Iraq war in February 2003 acted as a spur for the left and the movement for global justice and peace.
At the heart of all this was Rifondazione Comunista, which threw itself into the movement wholeheartedly at the time of Genoa.
Yet the protests failed to unseat Berlusconi’s previous administration and Rifondazione moved to join a coalition with the centre left. In 2006 this coalition squeezed into office.
The government which followed, headed by Romano Prodi, failed to deliver. Wages are falling and the state of the Italian economy is highlighted by the bankruptcy of the Alitalia state airline.
The administration had to deliver on its promise to withdraw troops from Iraq – but then sent them into Afghanistan and Lebanon.
Now Rifondazione and its allies face losing all their parliamentary seats.
In all of this there is a warning for those who echo the mantra that we have to ally ourselves with pro-war, neoliberal parties and figures of the centre left in order to keep out the right.
By shackling itself to Prodi or to Gordon Brown, the radical left loses its rationale for existence and its supporters stay at home or look elsewhere. The only winners are the right.