Outlook for Italy grim as far right advances in elections
5-Star Movement's Luigi Di Maio is seen on a monitor at the Democratic Party's headquarters during his press conference on the election results, in Rome, March 5. With 5-Star the highest vote-getter of any single party, the results confirmed the defeat of the two main political forces that have dominated Italian politics for decades—Forza Italia and the center-left Democrats—and the surging of populist and right-wing, euroskeptic forces that have burst onto the European scene. | Domenico Stinellis / AP

Italy’s election results this past weekend show the radical right is continuing to advance across the continent—and expose the ongoing decline of what liberals term the “center-left.”

Matteo Renzi’s Democrats, the party of incumbent Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, suffered “not a defeat, but a disaster,” as Daniela Preziosi writes in Il Manifesto, limping in with less than a fifth of the popular vote.

Victory is now being claimed both by the contradictory but chauvinist Five Star Movement, which emerged as the largest single party, and the so-called “center-right coalition” which brings together the party of sexual predator and tax fraudster Silvio Berlusconi, Forza Italia, with Matteo Salvini’s League (formerly the Northern League), and the Brothers of Italy, organizations that flirt more openly with fascism.

As a group, these parties claimed the most votes, as expected, though the League has now eclipsed Berlusconi’s outfit within the alliance—another marked shift rightwards.

We can expect lengthy wrangling as Five Star and the League seek coalition partners in a hung parliament.

The make-up of Italy’s next government is unclear, as is what its attitude is likely to be to the European Union. Both self-declared victors have called for Italy to leave the single currency, though Five Star’s leader Luigi di Maio has flip-flopped on the issue. Inevitable coalition talks will provide plenty of room to ditch awkward promises.

What seems incontrovertible is that Italy’s refugees, immigrant population, and ethnic minorities will need solidarity and support in the coming months: mass deportations have been promised by Salvini and di Maio alike, and both have helped feed the growing “culture of hatred and xenophobia” highlighted by Communist Refoundation national secretary Maurizio Acerba following the racist shootings in Macerata a month ago.

What is equally incontrovertible is that anti-racist work on its own will not be enough, but will need to be part of building a socialist alternative.

Renzi’s Democrats, after some initial hesitation, signed up to a number of anti-racist rallies recently, one of which saw tens of thousands take to the streets.

It was not enough to prevent meltdown for a party discredited by attacks on pensioners (the right-wing parties vowed to reverse rises to the pension age that it imposed) and on labor rights (Renzi’s Jobs Act undermined job security, leading to a rise in precarious and short-term work).

It may also have looked hypocritical, given the Democrats’ willingness to indulge anti-immigrant rhetoric and stigmatize asylum-seekers when electorally convenient. The cancer of racism can only be cut out if the causes are addressed—and that means ending the supremacy of the market.

The left must offer a new deal which places working people and their families’ needs first through a program of strengthening workplace rights, empowering trade unions, extending public ownership, and redistributing wealth.

Only through such policies do we tackle the poverty, insecurity and anxiety that provide a breeding ground for racism.

It is no coincidence that Britain’s Labour Party, the only mainstream left party in a major European country to offer such a program, is bucking the trend and leading in the polls.

If Labour and its leader Jeremy Corbyn want to secure and build on that lead, they have to remain “as radical as reality itself” and avoid being house-trained by the British, European, and transatlantic institutions which have created the current crisis.


Morning Star
Morning Star

The Morning Star is the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain.