The right wing Italian government led by Silvio Berlusconi has suffered a number of defeats since it was elected in 2001. These include local and European elections. There has been a wave of protests against its policies.
These policies have plunged Italy into economic crisis. The government has attempted to censor dissenting voices.
A broad coalition of left parties was formed under the name Union to oppose the right at the general election due to take place on 9-10 April.
The Union includes the Democratic Left, similar to Britain’s Labour party, and the radical left Rifondazione Comunista. The Union is led by former European Union president Romano Prodi.
The leadership of Rifondazione Comunista argued in favour of joining the Union, saying this could lead to a government able to implement radical reforms.
In the last few weeks, the election campaign has seen a massive propaganda attack by the right against the Union.
The attack highlights the strong political divisions among the various parties in the Union and argues that the Union is too radical.
This is an attempt, by Berlusconi, who has struck deals with fascist parties, to regain the confidence of many unsatisfied “moderate” voters.
Recent polls shows that this attack has paid off with the right gaining ground on the Union.
The Union has put forward a wide ranging political and economic programme.
While the programme contains some positive proposals, it doesn’t really present a concrete set of solutions on fundamental problems such as education and job security.
Rather it mediates between radically different positions – it talks about the withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq as a priority, but also strongly supports the creation of a European army.
The current political strategy of the left coalition is based upon the message, “Let’s get rid of the Berlusconi government.” This means it is focusing on winning support from protest voters.
Because of this almost any coherent involvement in struggles has been abandoned. Any voice of dissent within the coalition is considered counter productive.
The recent successful industrial action by metal workers, which saw massive demonstrations and street blockades, obtained only a mild solidarity from the leadership of Rifondazione Comunista, although individual members and branches were directly involved.
When Marco Ferrando, a leading member of the internal opposition to the leadership of Rifondazione, expressed his strong views about the occupation of Iraq and the Israel-Palestine issue, he was removed from the list of election candidates, without the consultation of the party’s national committee.