Italian working class mobilises against racism and war

Photo of a boat crowded with refugees (from Italian Coast Guard)

Racist immigration policies

At the end of October, three NGO boats carrying approximately 900 migrants were stuck at sea for more than a week, demanding a safe harbour to dock on the Italian coast. The newly- installed right-wing government of Giorgia Meloni faced a dilemma: forbidding the disembarkation of the migrants had already been attempted in 2018, but backfired against the then - and current - Secretary of State Matteo Salvini; on the other hand, Meloni could not risk appearing moderate on what had been a key issue of her campaign – a harsher implementation of Italy’s existing hostility to migrants. As a result, she took the unprecedented decision to have a ‘selective disembarkation’ with only children, women and ‘vulnerable’ people allowed to get off two of the boats in the Sicilian port of Catania. The rest were initially prevented from leaving the ship, and the third vessel, the Ocean Viking, was turned away. This brutal decision accompanied the now canonical denunciation of NGO boats as ‘migrant taxis’, with the prime minister instructing them to stay away from the Italian coast and instead to transport their human cargo to the country whose flag they were flying – in this case, Norway and Germany.


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Italian ‘fascism’: politics as usual

L-R: Giorgia Meloni (Brothers of Italy), Matteo Salvini (Northern League), Silvio Berlusconi (Forward Italy)

The election results

On 25 September 2022, the centre-right coalition won the Italian general election, marked by a historic low turnout of only 64%. The right-wing Brothers of Italy was the most successful party with 26% of the votes, making its leader Giorgia Meloni the first woman PM in Italian history. Brothers of Italy’s coalition parties, which were necessary to win a stable majority in the current electoral system, include the formerly secessionist, now nationalist and racist Northern League and the more moderate Forward Italy – still the personal domain of Silvio Berlusconi. With a modest 20%, the Democratic Party was the undeniable loser of this election, although it managed to avoid the annihilation faced by other social-democratic parties in Europe. The populist 5-Star Movement, the most voted-for party in 2018, halved its preferences, but held on mainly in the high-unemployment cities of the South. Although the three winning parties did not increase the number of total votes they received in 2018, this time simply agreeing to form a coalition guaranteed them victory. Within the coalition, the consensus for Brothers of Italy grew enormously (22 percentage points) entirely to the detriment of its partners. They were guilty of having supported the last national unity government, a coalition with the Democratic Party and the 5-Star Movement led by European Central Bank (ECB) banker Mario Draghi, and formed to manage the substantial £166bn allocated to Italy from the EU Covid-19 recovery fund. This was not the first such occasion.


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Italy’s defiance threatens new EU crisis

Italy's cabinet ministers celebrate after announcing budget plans, 27 September 2018

Italy’s ‘populist’ coalition government made up of the Five Star Movement (M5S) and Lega has defied the European Commission’s warnings that increasing its budget deficit to 2.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) would be an economic disaster. It now faces the threat of unprecedented disciplinary sanctions, with the Commission warning on 21 November that Italy risked ‘sleepwalking into instability’. Nonetheless the government insists it will go ahead with its proposed rule-breaking budget for 2019. RUBY MOST reports.


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Genoa bridge collapse: a concrete symbol of decaying capitalism

The Morandi Bridge in Genoa collapsed on 14 August 2018

On 14 August, a 200-metre section of the Morandi bridge in Genoa, north-west Italy, collapsed, killing 43 people. About 30 vehicles plummeted 100 metres as the carriageway beneath them gave way, mostly onto rail tracks. Eye witnesses said that the central pillar of the bridge crumbled before the rest came down with it. Afterwards, photos taken only a few weeks before showed the bridge’s dilapidated state, with broken cables hanging disconcertingly from the sides. The disaster has triggered a fresh debate about why Italy’s ageing infrastructure has been allowed to fall into disrepair. While fingers have rightly been pointed at the EU and years of austerity, these factors have to be put in the context of an ever-deepening capitalist crisis. Brian Henry reports.


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Racism rampant in Italy as EU reaps the whirlwind

Anti-fascist and anti-racist protestors in Italy

Italy’s new ruling coalition was sworn in on 1 June. It followed weeks of political turmoil as European imperialism attempted to thwart attempts by the virulently anti-immigrant Lega and the ‘anti-establishment’ Five Star Movement (M5S) to form a government based on opposition to and threatened rejection of the euro. The apparent willingness of both parties to jettison the fiscal restrictions imposed by the Eurozone, fuelling fears of a ‘Greek style’ banking and debt crisis in the Eurozone’s third largest economy,  exposes the tensions at the heart of ‘the European project’. It is also the most overtly racist and right-wing Italian government since Mussolini.  Cat Allison reports.


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Italy: Renzi resigns after rise of ‘anti-establishment’ Five Star Movement

Beppo Grillo and Matteo Renzi

After years of compromise, neoliberalism and austerity, Italy’s ‘centre left’ Democratic Party has been punished at the polls. Having won only 18% of the vote in the 4 March election, party leader Matteo Renzi resigned. In a hung parliament, the ‘anti-establishment’ Five Star Movement won the largest share of the vote with 32% and Lega, an explicitly hard right anti-immigration party, quadrupled its share to 18%. Lega has an electoral pact with Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia – which with 14% of the vote is weaker than ever – and two smaller parties, but they did not win enough seats between them to take power. It is likely that Five Star will head up a coalition government. The continued malaise on the Italian left meant limited political options mixed with resentment towards austerity and immigration left the emerging parties with an open goal. Brian Henry reports.


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Italian referendum: managing the fallout for capital

On Sunday 4 December, Italians voted ‘No’ in a referendum on constitutional reform, a consistent issue in Italian politics. A ‘Yes’ vote would have meant changes to the composition and powers of the Italian Parliament, ending Italy’s ‘perfect bicameralism’ by reducing the powers and size of the Senate. Currently, all laws must be passed in exactly the same wording by both houses, leading to almost unending navetta parlementare (parliamentary shuffle). The proposed reforms would have eliminated this requirement in the vast majority of cases, as well as modifying the division of powers.


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Italy: Migrants – victims of racism

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 236 December 2013/January 2014

The tragedy that took place off the coast of Lampedusa on 3 October 2013, killing at least 359 people, shook the conscience of many in Italy and elsewhere. When Prime Minister Enrico Letta and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso arrived on the island to pay hypocritical tribute to the victims, boos and heckling greeted them. Lampedusans understand all too well that token gestures from politicians will not prevent migrants who are fleeing desperate poverty or civil wars from trying to cross the Mediterranean.


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Italy: Unstable coalition formed

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

After weeks of haggling following the inconclusive general election in February, the Italian political class finally succeeded in putting together a ‘grand coalition’ to keep its grip on the country – at least for the moment. Although the Democratic Party (PD) won the most votes by a whisker, it was the success of Beppe Grillo and his MoVimento 5 Stelle in coming second which had created a three-month political stalemate. Rather than face new elections and a possible defeat at the hands of Grillo, the nominally-left PD chose to form a coalition with Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing PDL and accept many of his lackeys inside the government.


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Italy: the day of reckoning

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013

As we got to press, the political stalemate that followed the Italian general election of 24-25 February shows no sign of being resolved. Beppe Grillo and his MoVimento 5 Stelle have so far refused to come to any agreement with the other political parties and form a government. This both reflects and compounds the divisions within the Italian ruling class and adds to the general sense of crisis within the Eurozone.

At the election, the centre-left coalition was able to garner 340 seats in the lower house with 29.5% of the votes, the Democratic Party taking 25.4%. Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party still managed to lure an impressive 21.6% of the voters despite years of sex scandals, cronyism and hide-and-seek with the judicial system. Overall, the ‘Teflon’ media tycoon’s centre-right coalition got 29.2% of the votes or 124 seats. The discrepancy in seats between the two coalitions is the product of a 2005 electoral law which gives extra seats to the winners. Former Prime Minister Mario Monti’s coalition could only muster 10.5% of the vote. Together, the Democratic Party, the People of Freedom Party and the neo-fascist Northern League lost 10.5 million votes compared to the 2008 general election.


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Italy: Fightback begins

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

On 14 November 2012, the European Confederation of Trade Unions called the first ever European day of action. Spurred by recent political and social events in Spain and in Greece, the European trade union movement, however reluctantly, coordinated actions throughout Europe with general strikes in Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal. According to the CGIL, Italy’s largest trade union federation, 50% of its members came out on strike; in some sectors including mining and metallurgy, two-thirds of the workers came out.

Thousands of people marched through the streets of the major Italian cities such as Turin, Milan, and Rome. In Milan, students clashed with the police in the vicinity of the EU local offices and manure was thrown in the entrance of the Italian subsidiary of Deutsche Bank. In Rome, major clashes took place between students and the police (who also had to deal with fascist elements among the students, the ‘Blocco Studentesco’) and 50 people were arrested; in Bologna, the offices of the CISL (an important trade-union that is refusing to fight the austerity measures) were occupied by demonstrators. In Padua three police officers were injured during fighting with protesters.


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Italy: The more things change, the more they stay the same

After nearly six months in power, the aura around Prime Minister Monti is fading and his fate is hanging by a thread. In fact, Monti’s ‘technocratic’ government is being criticised increasingly by both the right and the left and the direction in which the latest political developments are taking Italy is quite uncertain. DARIO CHIARADONNA reports.

After getting thrashed in local elections on 6 May, the right is looking fragile. Parties such as the Lega Nord (Northern League, a secessionist party allied to former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Casa della Libertà), which prided itself on being tough on crime and corruption, was lambasted in its strongholds amid a financial scandal that forced its leader Umberto Bossi to step down.


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Saving Italy for capitalism

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.


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Italy: European capital claims another scalp

Silvio Berlusconi

The sudden collapse of the Berlusconi government on 12 November and the formation of a technocratic leadership are ominous signs of things to come, not only for the Italian working class but for the peoples of Europe.

Three times prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the former cruise ship crooner and right-wing populist, had been under the shadow of charges and allegations for fraud, corruption and statutory rape, but it was the demands of European capital that finally brought him down. The European Central Bank demanded that the Italian government pass a €54 billion package of austerity measures to deal with Italy’s €1.9 trillion debt – 120% of GDP. As Italy’s costs of borrowing soared to an all-time high, the parliamentary budget vote on 11 November accepted the package; Berlusconi resigned the next day, paving the way for an unelected cabinet, led by former EU competion minister and Goldman Sachs adviser Mario Monti, to rule Europe’s third largest economy strictly in the interests of European capital.


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Ethnic cleansing in Italy

The fascist policies of the Italian government are finding fertile ground, as blame for everything from crime and social instability to unemployment is heaped on Italy’s immigrant population, who are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis.

Immigrants battle racists

At the beginning of January, hundreds of African immigrants were driven out of the town of Rosarno in southern Italy by its white citizens who were spurred on by the local Ndrangheta mafia and supported by the police.


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Italy: Immigrants fight back against racist attacks

On 18 September, in the southern Italian town of Castelvolturno, northwest of Naples, thousands of mainly African militants took to the streets after gangsters shot six men from Ghana, Liberia and Togo. The protesters tore up street signs and overturned cars and rubbish bins, accusing the police of racism for alleging the six victims had been drug traffickers. 500 soldiers were sent in to disperse the protest.

The same week, in the north of the country, protests erupted in Milan after a young black man from Burkino Faso was beaten to death by a shopkeeper and his son for stealing biscuits from their kiosk at Milan station. Protesters smashed motorcycles and overturned bins, chanting ‘Ignorant white bastards’.


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Racism and fascism stalk Italy

FRFI 206 December 2008 / January 2009

As economic crisis descends upon the imperialist economies of the US and Europe, bourgeois economists have turned to the financial crash of 1929 and the depression of the 1930s to explain the current chaos. What they fail to mention is the means by which the capitalist class in certain countries attempted to solve the worst economic and social crisis of the last century: fascism. Across Western Europe recent events provide a grim reminder of the depths to which the ruling elites of Europe, and Italy in particular, can sink. With one of the weakest economies in Europe, the country is set to plunge into possibly the continent’s worst depression. Italian capital, perhaps more than any other European economy, desperately needs to increase the exploitation of immigrant workers and the working class as a whole; in doing so, it faces renewed levels of class struggle.

The anti-immigrant and anti-Roma legislation and violence implemented and encouraged by Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition of xenophobes, ‘post-fascists’ and big business is increasingly being turned against the growing working class movement which has shaken Italy since October 2008. The crescendo of racist violence and terror, police brutality, anti-working class legislation and hysterical cries for the crushing of increasingly militant social movements is reminiscent of the fascist terror which the barons of finance capital unleashed across Europe 70 years ago.


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