Two weekends ago there was a big mobilsation against the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
But the same weekend also saw a bad result for the Italian alternative left. L’Unione—the coalition formed by left and liberal parties to oppose Berlusconi—held primary elections to choose its leader for next April’s general election.
All the members of these parties could participate in the vote and 4.3 million did so.
The neo-liberal Romano Prodi, former Italian prime minister and former president of the European Commission, won the election with 74 percent of the votes.
Fausto Bertinotti, the leader of Rifondazione Comunista, came second with 15 percent. Four other candidates divided the rest of the votes between them.
Hundreds of thousands of people used the occasion to launch the campaign to build a united coalition to defeat Berlusconi.
But the only “real” candidate for the leadership of the coalition was Prodi. The DS, the main left party, supported him.
This meant that the primaries looked like they were set up just to confirm Prodi as the candidate. This restricted the political space for the alternative left.
Voters had to declare that they supported the first draft of L’Unione’s program, which sets the date for Italian troops to leave Iraq as 2010.
The day before the primaries 50,000 demonstrated against the Bolkestein European directive which makes the privatisation of health and education easier.
This directive was born in Prodi’s European Comission. He recently reaffirmed his support for the directive.
Rifondazione’s recent activity has been focussed on the primaries and not on mobilisations such as the one against Bolkestein. Students have now occupied universities against the government’s university reform.
Bertinotti launched the idea of primaries more than one year ago with the aim of moving the coalition to the left. But the result was disappointing.
The day after the primaries Prodi said there was to be no more discussion on who writes the programme of the coalition.
And Bertinotti has said that Rifondazione will not put any pressure on over the programme.
The debate inside Rifondazione about building a coaltion with people who agree with neo-liberal policies has now been reignited. Most of the 630,000 people who voted for Bertinotti want to move the coalition leftwards.
We have to include them in constructing a party of the movement, which struggles against war, privatisation, and for workers’ rights.
Alex Gaudilliere is a member of Rifondazione Comunista
Go to Rifondazione's site (in Italian): www.rifondazione.it