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Italy’s centre-left is dead, long live the Italian Left!

The ‘grand coalition’ between the Democratic Party and Berlusconi’s right-wing People of Liberty party means it’s time to say goodbye to the ‘centre-left’ and hello to a new Italian Left, says Marco Sferini.

For the first time after the death of the Christian Democrats and the Italian Communist Party , the bourgeois forces find themselves politically united in an executive that brings together supporters of the centre-right, the entrepreneurial class, the middle class and even the common people who voted, to no avail, for the Democratic Party having been mislead that their’s was a “useful vote” that would help the Democratic Party beat Silvio Berlusconi and his People of Liberty party.

This vote was instead used to get Berlusconi back into power, although he was the loser in February’s elections; the new government headed by Enrico Letta, deputy leader of the Democratic Party, but also nephew of one of Berlusconi’s closest aides, sees the People of Liberty party gain two posts, Vice President of the Council of Ministers, and the Ministry of the Interior.

If the Democratic Party, a fusion of ex-communists and ex-Christian Democrats in 2007, sprung from a desire to build autonomy from Berlusconi’s new Right, well today this autonomy has been completely lost. It has also cast aside the [more radical] Left that was allied to the Democratic Party, Nichi Vendola’s Left Ecology Freedom party, to act as natural opposition to a dirty stitch up between the two party’s that have dominated Italy’s politics these past twenty years.

The worst fears of a neo-liberal restoration have been confirmed, now only awaiting the ok of Parliament. A confidence vote may see the dissent of some Democratic Party parliamentarians, or it may receive the full backing of the party if Letta is able to convince even the most reluctant to give him a vote of assent in the name of trying to govern the country and re-establish the consonant economic dignity in the eyes of European and world bankers.

ECB governor Mario Draghi and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano have followed the formation of the new government closely, and with some concern, since the first attempt, following an inconclusive parliamentary election result in February, by Democratic Party leader Pierluigi Bersani, and then the undignified parliamentary re-election of the President of the Republic a week ago.

With the formation of the government of Enrico Letta markets can rest easier, as can Italian business, keen for a quick fix.

Why reconstitute the Italian Left

The fact that a class system, and indeed capitalism, still exists in Italy is not something that is often acknowledged, but the struggle between the classes is what makes the reconstitution of the Italian Left historically necessary and is something that cannot be avoided. I write Italian Left in capital letters as a pledge; I still maintain that we can form a political entity form communists, and left-wing socialists, environmentalists and libertarians.

There is now no political formation that takes responsibility for a social critique of society, and its needs, with a vision of the world of work as central to life for all of us, as a key element of the social upheaval of change.

It is not enough to abolish parliamentary privileges [a central demand of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star movement]; this will not to advance social rights one inch, but will merely produce a cut in the state budget.

Altering the economic structure

We must act at a profound level, on that “economic structure” that Marx had identified as responsible for every other evolution – political, social, intellectual and moral – of society.

Today, there is no Left in Italy worthy of the role, and the individual political actors like Vendola’s Left Ecology Freedom party, the two communist parties (RifondazionePDCI), the Greens, and other even smaller formations, are currently unable to tackle this task. The diaspora has lasted too long and now, faced with the unification of the forces defending the privileges of the bourgeoisie and big business directly from the prime minister’s residence of Palazzo Chigi, it’s up to all the people of the Left who are deluded with voting for the Democratic Party to be in a party standing to the left of the Democratic Party, it’s up to all of us communists to put ourselves at the service of rebuilding a progressive Italian alternative.

We must renew our commitment, because a chapter has been closed, but the story is not over and it is also, indeed mainly up to us to write the next one.

Looking through the names of the new Italian government, you can clearly see the welding of interests if the Democratic Party and the  People of Liberty party: it’s an agreement that has to be respected and that will certainly on its way encounter contradictions between the personalised politics of Il Cavaliere and the more statist-economic-bourgeois policies of the Democratic Party.

The views expressed by the parliamentary forces [Grillo’s Five Star movement] who claim to oppose the government, lack any serious political criticism or any class analysis of the underlying social and political relations that the new government represents.

A government for big business

There is virtually no opposition to the protection of the privileges of big business or to new attacks that will soon occur against the workers, against the minimal remaining protections of a fragmented world of work.

I do not seriously think that there is a serious chance of rebuilding the center-left. The decision of the Democratic Party to rule with Berlusconi has removed this question completely.

Finally, today we can consider the dramatic task of refounding the Italian Left, through a process of defining a programme that, if you really want to be an alternative to the financial and capitalist amalgam that sits in today’s government, must have an anti-capitalist and anti-neo-liberal thread, while respecting the different political, civil and social cultures that will comprise this new political formation.

We come from different approaches, very different from each other. But we are united today, even if we still not fully aware of it, by the need to provide a space in which to build the social struggle, redefining the almost instinctive consciousness of every single person, to create a modern proletarian from the rediscovery of class hatred.

Hate those who do not love us

We must, as Edoardo Sanguineti said, learn how to hate those who do not love us, who take advantage of us, who do us harm every day, who make workers die for the lack of safety, who rob the future from the young by plundering public education, who take advantage of the sick for speculation and for the profit of pharmaceutical companies, who devastate our environment for the interest of a few …

We must hate them politically, not personally. And the impersonality, the seeing in our class enemy their mere function in this system will put us at a greater level of consciousness.

If we limit ourselves to think of this government in terms of individual politicians then we will never give birth to a new Italian Left, but we will remain slaves to the illogical logic of the market, its government agents, and the unscrupulous politics that have brought about the death of the Italian centre-left. We may not be able to rebuild a great new Italian Communist Party, but it is possible to strengthen the various forces of the alternative left to build a plural Left movement.

This article in translation first appeared at Revolting Europe, translated by Tom Gill from the original Italian by Marco Sferini which appeared at the Communist Refoundation Party website


  1. It exposes the social democrats love of office and their desire to collaborate with anyone just to gain office or position in government. How anyone who claims to be a socialist or democrat and enter into office with anyone contaminated with or by Berlusconi beggars belief, let alone embark on an even more savage assault on the living standards of the Italian people that is demanded by the Troika.The left in Italy has to unite in parliament and outside to defeat the austerity package , even more severe than that imposed by the technocratic, unelected government of Monti, the failure to do so will be a situation as bad as that now facing the Greek people.
    Let no one be in any doubt that the manoeuvreing in Rome wii also be duplicated in the U.K. in 2015 if there is no clear winner in the general election. Imho, the comments by Blair and his New Labour acolytes over the last couple of weeks are to remind Milliband that they are there,and with their supporters in the Shadow Cabinet will push him into a coalition should a hung parliament arise,more than likely with Clegg, or even with Cameron or some other Tory, in the interests of shoring up British capitalism, all in the guise of rescuing the country from economic collapse because the financial crisis could/will have more than likely taken a turn for the worse by then.

  2. Ric Euteneuer says:

    One of the key problems of the Italian Left – the space to the left of the PD – has been the singular lack of co-operation between progressive forces that has resulted in the left vote being splintered across a range of parties, thereby denying it representation in the 2 houses. No doubt this has something to do with the unfairness of the existing system, but special situations need an inventive answers. Similarly, the left and the PD singularly failed to address the political naysayers and blockers of the 5 Star Movement – it was a car crash waiting to happen that a group with no discernable ideology would end up being the major obstacle to forming a workable administration.

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