Saving Italy for capitalism / FRFI 225 Feb/Mar 2012

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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 225 February/March 2012

The sudden collapse of the Berlusconi government and the formation of a ‘technocratic’ and supposedly apolitical leadership on 16 November 2011, led by ‘Super’ Mario Monti, is an ominous sign for the Italian working class. Monti is a former adviser to Goldman Sachs and currently European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission, a think tank created by David Rockefeller which includes such notorious members as Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Although Italy has never been known for its political stability, its sudden change of status to the ‘sick man’ of Europe is creating major problems for the eurozone.

Since the armistice and the surrender of Italy in 1943, 63 governments have ruled Italy. In a country which used to have the largest communist party in Western Europe, one opposed by an alliance of local reactionary proxies of US imperialism (the Church, the Christian Democrat faith-based party and the secret organisation P2, to which Berlusconi belonged), the ruling class has often used ‘technocratic’ governments to make a truce with the parliamentary representatives of the Italian working-class, in particular the Communist and Socialist parties. These in turn would make sure that their trade union organisations toed the line. Such governments are established when the ruling class faces a crisis, as it does now: they can be likened to lightning-rods for institutional parties when unpopular decisions are to be voted on and implemented, like the present round of economic reforms. These reforms, dubbed Saving Italy, include measures to:

• raise the retirement age progressively from 65 to 66 for men and from 60 to 66 for women by 2018, (regardless of the strenuousness of working conditions). The full pension can be obtained provided that contributions have been paid for 42 years;

• increase VAT from the current 21% to 23% on 1 July 2012. It had already been raised from 20% in September 2011;

• reintroduce a property tax called IMU from 1 January 2012. The house ownership rate in Italy is above 70%, and those on low incomes will be particularly hit thanks to a deductions system that is skewed to benefit wealthy people.

The new Minister for Economic Development is Corrado Passera. He privatised the Italian Postal Service in the late 1990s when he was Minister for Telecommunication. Liberalisation is the current mantra. Passera will be introducing the second phase of Saving Italy shortly. This will aim to liberalise closed-shop sectors including taxis and pharmacies, as if this would create thousands of jobs, and to privatise the national railways, local public transport systems and last but not least publicly-owned water companies – even though in a referendum on the subject in June 2011, 95% opposed privatisation.

Whereas social movements have sprung up across European countries, the Italian ruling class has faced little opposition to date apart from protests that immediately followed Monti’s installation. Trade unions have not organised any mass action: they are not willing to challenge the priorities of the Italian bourgeoisie or European imperialism. The left has been drastically weakened by failed attempts to form all kinds of alliances and coalitions against Berlusconi. There is a pressing need to create a movement which breaks from these old forces with their record of appeasement towards the ruling class.

Dario Chiaradonna