Members of the radical party Rifondazione Comunista in Italy’s chambers of deputies voted in favour of the bill regarding Italy’s participation in international peace missions.
Prior to the vote Paolo Cacciari resigned from his position as a Rifondazione MP and four other MPs voted against the bill. The great majority of Rifondazione’s MPs voted in favour.
We are all committed pacifists and no one takes the issue of war lightly. This is especially true for a party like Rifondazione that voted eight times out of eight against sending Italian troops to Afghanistan.
We reject the idea that the Rifondazione MPs who opposed the bill are more pacifist than those who voted with the government.
The unfolding of the Afghan vote crisis has also highlighted a number of other issues - the relationship between parties and movements, the role and aims of minority radical left parties in a government coalition with centre-left parties, and the enforcing of a political line decided by democratic majority votes within a party.
The approval of this bill means that Italy will pull all its troops out of Iraq by the end of the year, without “topping up” in Afghanistan.
No other similar movement in Europe, not even the British Stop the War movement, has managed to achieve such a result.
So we disagree with the negative reaction by fine Italian political affairs analysts such as Tariq Ali and Tom Behan.
The Italian political system, based on multi-party alliances, prevents MPs behaving as freely as they could in a one-party system like in Britain.
British politicians can far more easily express their dissent and become “rebel MPs”, without the risk of the government falling.
The role of the radical left is to trust the mediating power of centre left prime minister Romano Prodi, while trying to reach a settlement as close to our commitment to peace and social justice as possible.
Obviously, every other party in the coalition aims for a more favourable settlement on its own terms.
Rifondazione introduced an additional motion rejecting requests from the UN and Nato to send new machinery and weapons to Afghanistan, and providing for a consistent reduction of military expense and a significant increase for civil missions, including humanitarian ones.
Rifondazione’s mediation forced the reformist part of the coalition to agree to the creation of a monitoring commission over the mission in Afghanistan.
That body includes not only parliamentary groups, but also civil society members and NGOs.
The troops are not going to be moved to the south where there is fighting, as requested by Nato.
Arguably, this is far from what we would define as an ideal foreign policy, but it can hardly be said that this reflects “a vote of confidence to the centre left that supports Nato and backs US wars”.
If Rifondazione stayed out of the talks and refused to reach a compromise on peace, the coalition motion would look very different.
If the Italian coalition government did collapse as a result of Rifondazione not approving the bill, new elections would very likely give rise to a right wing government that would send more troops to Afghanistan.
We strongly rebut the assertion that we have sold ourselves to imperialism. We have managed to reduce the damage.
No radical left party has ever been in a position of full government power, therefore we need to use our influence, as well as actively demonstrating our rejection of all wars.
Total withdrawal from Afghanistan is an objective of all Rifondazione MPs but the dynamics of Italian politics make us aware that compromise, mediation and dialogue are the only weapons we possess to fight war, imperialism and neo-liberalism.
If Italy had to opt for a new war, Rifondazione would obviously be in total opposition.
However, the Prodi government inherited a country already involved in wars.
The above-mentioned dynamics gave rise to two different resolutions for Iraq and for Afghanistan.
We do not feel that we are perpetuating “our pathetic imperial past” as Tariq Ali wrote.
Despite this, there are strong voices of dissent within the party, although the arguments set out here remain the party line and the opinion of the majority.
Finally, as Tariq wished in his letter to Rifondazione’s Fausto Bertinotti, let’s continue with the dialogue and surely this will not impede our ability to remain good friends.
Alessandro Valera is a member of Rifondazione’s Circolo “Karl Marx” London