Amidst election setbacks, Italian left urges unity

The votes in the Italian regional elections reflected a strong sense of political frustration in Italy.  The ultra right Berlusconi Government had increased unemployment and social problems in Italy. It had undermined democracy and labor union rights. Plus, the government was characterized by continual political scandals and constant  internal squabbles.

However, the Italian public remains frustrated over the internal divisions that plagued the 2008 center-left government, The Union, and thus took its frustration out by abstaining from voting. This enabled the Berlusconi government to survive and increase its share of regional governments.

That frustration with the Union government and the unusual decision of the center left Democratic Party to not continue its alliance with the left, including its Communist Parties, has led to a disintegration of the previous voting block that had led the Union government to victory.

The left itself began splitting and then reuniting in new reconfigurations with the Federation of the Left (including Rifondazione and PdCI – the two Communist Parties) and The Left Ecology and Liberty alliance (former Rifondazione and Green Party elements).  Together these two formations received 6.2% of the regional vote.  Both the Democratic Party and the left reconfigurations have suffered loses among the working class population. Amidst this confusion is the emergence of the extreme chauvinist and racist Northern League in working class communities. The Northern League was the only party that increased its vote, making it more important than ever in the ultra-right Berlusconi government.

In the region of Puglia all the parties of the left, with the exclusion of the tiny Trotskyite Workers Communist Party that had opposed the Union Government from the beginning, came together to give regional election victory to the incumbent administration led by Nichi Vendola, former Rifondazione leader and now leader of the Left Ecology and Liberty party. The incumbent Vendola not only united the left but also received support from the Democratic Party.

Paolo Ferrero, secretary of Rifondazione and spokesperson for the Federation of the Left, has singled out unity as the way to reconstruct the social block that supported the Union government and could block the ultra right.  This unity, he argues, should start with an alliance between the Federation of the Left and Left Ecology and Liberty, but, he continues, should become more than an electoral alliance. It should build its organization at the grassroots on the problems facing the Italian public.

Despite strong differences on policies, the Federation of the Left urged votes for the DP in most regions to stop the ultra-right onslaught. The Left Ecology and Liberty actually formed electoral configurations with the DP in several regions.

Photo: Prime Minister Silvia Belusconi as The Joker. Vinco/CC