One lasting memory of last July's massive protests at the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, was the sheer number of supporters of Rifondazione Comunista, the Refounded Communist Party. After the police killing of Carlo Guiliani the party's general secretary, Fausto Bertinotti, issued an appeal for every party member to get to the city to join the protest. Tens of thousands responded.
Last weekend Rifondazione held its congress. It has over 100,000 members and polls about 5 percent of the vote. It publishes a daily paper, Liberazione (Liberation), and has played a central role in building the strongest anti-war movement in Europe. Its flags were evident throughout the three million strong anti-government demonstration in Rome.
Bertinotti opened the congress, stressing the importance of what he termed 'the movement of movements the movement against neo-liberalism and war. We got it right-we understood before Genoa that this was the birth of a new movement.' He described the party's involvement in the Genoa Social Forum that organised the protests as 'speaking out but putting into practice what is agreed'.
He also stressed that a new workers' movement is emerging. The massive trade union demonstration on 23 March 'could not have happened without Genoa'. Bertinotti returned to that theme at the close of the congress, issuing a strong appeal for party members to mobilise for the nationwide general strike on 16 April:
'General strike is the name of the game. Let's make sure it really is a general strike. The general strike is going to end the workers' solitude to create a collective community. It will be a day of revenge, a day of occupying the future, a living criticism of capitalism, another step to the other world we are building.'
But for Rifondazione the general strike was not enough. The party had to fight for a 35-hour week, and for extending the employee protection now under threat from the government to all workers.
Bertinotti said engineering workers at a rally he had attended in Bologna had 'the same passion and the same look as in Genoa'. He then told the story of a factory in Padua where 500 workers had recently taken part in their second all-out strike.
The manager had come up to a young worker on the picket line and said, 'This time you have been effective, but if you go on like this I'll shut down the factory.' The young worker, who is on a temporary contract, replied, 'Such a shitty job as this I can get anywhere.' The point, Bertinotti said, was that he wouldn't have said it without the Genoa events.
This point was taken up by a delegate from Molise in the poorer south of Italy, who argued: 'The movement has proved who the enemy is. In the south it has helped create a unity of the poor, a unity between employed and unemployed. 'Rifondazione should influence the Social Forums and be influenced by them.'
Various guest speakers addressed the delegates. Among them was the head of the metal workers' union FIOM, Gianni Rinaldini, who said, 'Today war is the instrument which accompanies globalisation.' He called for 'a global movement against the war'.
Vittorio Agnoletto, the most prominent figure in the Genoa Social Forum, had came straight from the airport. He had been refused entry to Israel, and had been beaten up by police at Tel Aviv airport.
He asked for support for a human blockade around Israel's borders in June and, after attacking Bush's war drive, argued that the Third Way of Blair and others had died in Afghanistan.
Rifondazione met the representatives of different parties present from across Europe to stress the importance of the European Social Forum. It was convened at the global Porto Alegre conference, and will take place in Italy this autumn.