In a sea of red flags emblazoned with the hammer and sickle emblems of Italy’s main Communist Parties, thousands gathered in Rome’s Piazza Navona on 18 April to proclaim their unity and launch a campaign for elections to the European Parliament to be held 6-7 June 2009.

Speaking at the rally, Paolo Ferrero, National Secretary of the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), proclaimed, ‘We are defending the workers, unemployed, the vulnerable, and pensioners in order to come out of this [economic] crisis with more social justice.’ Oliviero Diliberto, National Secretary of the Party of Italian Communists (PdCI), told the enthusiastic crowd that after years of division, the Communist and Anti-Capitalist forces in Italy were united in their struggle for a new Europe, one that fundamentally transforms the political, economic, cultural, and social bases of the European Union. In response, the jubilant gathering broke into chants of ‘Unity! Unity! Unity!’ followed by a spontaneous and raucous singing of the Italian Communist anthem, ‘Avanti il Popolo!’ during which shouts of ‘Bandiera Rosa! (Red Flag!)’ wafted through the Piazza.

This was one of the more significant assemblies in recent Italian history, coming in the midst of a profound systemic crisis of global capitalism and in the wake of over tens years of ‘centrifugal’ forces that have split Italy’s once-powerful and now revitalized Communist movement. In preparation for Saturday’s rally, leaders of the PRC, PdCI, Socialismo 2000, and the United Consumers party proclaimed that this united rally was not a ‘one-time expediency’ for the elections. Rather, all pledged to use this as the beginning of a process of ‘political revival’ based on ‘coordinated and united action among all the groups.’

The goal is to ‘reassemble the dispersed Communist and anti-capitalist forces … on a strong programmatic basis.’ For months leading up to the gathering in Rome the leaders of the PRC and PdCI, which split in 1998, have been negotiating for the reunification of Italy’s Communist movement. The Communist and Anti-Capitalist List launched on 18 April is the first concrete step in that direction. Ferrero and Diliberto shared the stage, along with Cesare Salvi, National Secretary of Socialismo 2000, and joined the crowd in signing ‘Avanti Il Popoplo!,’ after which they they warmly embraced and raised a clenched fist in solidarity with the joyous crowd. The assembled masses in the Piazza responded with roaring shouts in scenes reminiscent of the Popular Front era of the 1930s.

In joint statements issued on 15 and 16 April by the PRC and PdCI, the Communist Parties noted that, ‘We are confronting a crisis of a systemic character. … The crises of globalized capitalism.’ The statements continued, ‘[This crisis] is a structural product of actual financial-speculative capitalism … based on the dominant interests of finance capital and the multinational corporations.’ In concluding their analysis of the crisis, the Communist Parties asserted that the economic collapse resulted from ‘[p]olicies that promote the accumulation of colossal profits by the big economic and financial groups, the formation of big monopolies and the deterioration of the living standards of workers and peoples.’ They see the current responses to the crisis by governments and central banks around the world as an effort aimed at the ‘refounding of capitalism’ through ‘socializ[ing] the losses and that benefit the interests of the big economic and financial groups.’ However, the statement concludes, ‘[T]he very essence of capitalism cannot be reformed, regulated, humanized.’

The PRC and PdCI joint statements assert that ‘It is through the workers’ and peoples’ struggle that one can respond to the situation and open the paths of the necessary change, rejecting that those who most suffer be the ones to pay for the effects of the crisis, and by demanding better living conditions, more democracy, cooperation and peace among peoples.’ Among their specific demands, the Communist and Anti-Capitalist List calls for ‘public control of credit and the nationalization of the banks,’ increasing wages and reducing the workweek, reversing the privatization of basic industry, an immediate end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, reduction of global emissions of harmful gasses, promotion of renewable energy, and combating racism and xenophobia.

Ultimately, the Italian Communist Parties called for making the 21st century the ‘century of socialism’ as the only answer to the systemic crisis of capitalism. The call ends as follows, ‘A vote for this [Communist and Anti-Capitalist] List is a vote for an alternative Europe: [a Europe] of equality and work, of peace, of social justice and welcoming [toward immigrants], of laws and of liberty.’ In addition to the two Italian Communist Parties, the French Communist Party, German Communist Party, Communist Party of Spain (and United Left), Portuguese Communist Party, Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (Czech Republic), Communist Party of Finland, Greek left coalition, Communist Party of Bulgaria, Workers Party of Cyprus, and Communist Party of Austria have signed on to the declaration for the upcoming European Parliament elections.