As in France and Britain, the forecasts are that in Italy too, right-wing populist parties opposed to the European Union will record win a sizable vote in the May 25 European elections. Forza Italia, the party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, currently stands at 20 percent in the opinion polls, and the Five Star Movement of Beppe Grillo at 26 percent.
Although as head of government Berlusconi never placed a question mark over the EU, in the election campaign, he is massively attacking the EU and Germany. He calls for a fight “against the left [meaning social democrats] and communists”, whom he accuses of having Europe and Italy in their grip.
Grillo rails against the EU stability pact, which sets the framework for the budget cuts in Italy. For example, on April 28 he wrote in his blog that if his movement wins, he would “go to Europe and say, those there signed the fiscal pact, but we are tearing it up.... The riff-raff must disappear.”
The demagogy of the right wing finds a hearing because the centre-left government of Matteo Renzi, in close collaboration with the EU, is viciously attacking the social rights of broad layers of the population. Before taking office on February 22, Renzi, whose Democratic Party belongs to the social democratic “Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament”, had promised to stimulate the economy, even at the cost of a raising budget deficit. But nothing remains of this promise. During a visit to Berlin in mid March, he promised to strictly follow the EU's "stability and growth pact”
His government has begun to weaken the country's labour laws, and is preparing a programme of far-reaching privatizations and social cuts. Economics Minister Pier Paolo Padoan, a former OECD chief economist, has tasked the IMF economist Carlo Cottarelli with developing a comprehensive cost-cutting programme.
Italy is to save €7 billion euros this year. Next year, the sum is expected to rise to €18 billion, and to over €34 billion by 2016. And this is after six years of recession, in which official unemployment has doubled to 13 percent; with over 40 percent of all young people out of work, and a whole layer of senior citizens impoverished as a result of pension cuts.
The Renzi government is also pursuing an extremely reactionary and unpopular foreign policy. It unconditionally supports the aggressive actions of Germany and the US against Russia, and even wants to dispatch Italian troops to Ukraine.”We can't just stand idly by and observe”, defence minister Robert Pinotti said in an interview published May 4 in Repubblica. Italy was ready to send a “contingent of peace-keepers”.
In the same interview, Pinotti attacked the pacifist sentiments among the population.
“Unfortunately, there is still little 'defence culture' in Italy”, she complained. “In order to defend ourselves, we need highly developed weapons that can destroy at a long distance”, she said.
On March 27, Renzi personally discussed action in the Ukraine with Obama when he made a state visit to Rome. Just before, almost his entire cabinet had travelled to Berlin, where Renzi promised to defend Germany's policy in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.
“Another Europe with Tsipras”
Given the widespread rejection of the EU and the Renzi government, the slate “Another Europe with Tsipras” (Lista L’ALTRA EUROPA con Tsipras) is taking on a decisive role in suppressing a left opposition movement in the working class.
The “Tsipras List” was formed following a statement issued by some intellectuals published in the newspaper Il Manifesto on 17 January. They called for the formation of an electoral list of people who supported the candidacy of Alexis Tsipras. Tsipras is chairman of the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and is the lead candidate of the “Confederal Group of the European United Left–Nordic Green Left” (GUE/NGL), to which Germany's Left Party also belongs.
The statement was supported by several Italian parties, which are now jointly contesting the elections, including the SEL (Sinistra Ecologia Liberta) of Nichi Vendola, Rifodazione Comunista (PRC), the South Tirolian Greens, the Pirate Party and the anti-corruption party Azione Civile. The leading figures of the list are prominent judges, writers, theatre people and journalists.
The statement presents the “Tsipras List” as a “third way”, standing “between those who want to destroy the EU, and those who want to maintain it as it is”. In reality, they not only defend the EU, but want to strengthen it both internally and externally. To this end, they are attempting to lend the EU a pseudo-democratic fig leaf, without placing its capitalist basis in question.
The statement defends the euro, and declares: “The euro will not hold out if it does not become the currency of a democratic, supra-national government, and a policy that is not issued from on high but is discussed and agreed by European men and women. The EU must become a "political union” and adopt a new constitution.
What is to be made of this grass-roots European democracy is made clear in the next sentence, which demands the "same powers" for the European Central Bank as enjoyed by the “Bank of England and the Fed”—in other words, for the dictatorship of finance capital. Furthermore, the authors call for the defence of the Italian constitution, “the constitution born out of the resistance”.
The whole text has an anti-American orientation. For the authors, it is a matter of strengthening an EU imperialist bulwark against the United States. With unconcealed chauvinism, it calls for a foreign policy that “does not follow in the wake of another country—the United States—that is losing power but not ruthlessness”.
“The Pax Americana brings war, chaos, surveillance. It is time to found a Pax Europa”, reads the statement.
The considerably longer manifesto of the “Tsipras List” is even clearer in this regard. It accuses European foreign policy of “cowardice”, because it was “an unfinished political project”. Europe does not speak “with one voice. It suffices to recall cases like Libya and Syria. And in recent times, the conflict in Ukraine, where Europe bears a heavy, direct and indirect responsibility.”
In order to “finish” the project of European foreign policy, the “Tsipras List” proposes the "integration of the national armies" into a European Army, which can intervene in hazardous areas of the globe.
Should anyone still have any doubts that the “Tsipras List” intends to strengthen Renzi's hated Democrats and other discredited social democratic parties in Europe, its representatives stress again and again their willingness to cooperate with their top candidate, German Social Democrat and European Parliament president Martin Schulz.
The most prominent supporter of the list in Italy, Nichi Vendola, said at the SEL party conference at the end of January that a victory for Tsipras would strengthen Schulz's camp. He proposed the slogan, “With Tsipras, but not against Schulz; with Tsipras in order to get closer to Schulz.” Then he thanked “the leader of the European social democrats, Martin Schulz, from the bottom of his heart for the lovely letter he sent us.”
Vendola also makes clear that he fundamentally rejects political principles. He agrees with Tsipras that “parties who suffer from ideological orthodoxy and nostalgia, cannot be our fellow-travellers”.
Alexis Tspiras' official representative in Italy, Argyrios Panagopoulos, who is a candidate in Northwest Italy, expressed the hope "that the list 'Another Europe with Tsipras' could also be of use to the Democratic Party, and would push them to step away from dependency on the banks. Then in the next breath, adding that the “Tsipras List” would also accept the diktats of the banks: “We are not lying to the people: We have told everyone that they cannot recover what they have lost in the crisis.”
The “Tsipras List” is a purely bourgeois party, which is attempting to fill the enormous political vacuum on the left. The bourgeoisie fears that this vacuum will be filled by revolutionary politics. In Greece, Tspiras has proven himself as their loyal servant, now they are deploying him in another country, whose economy stands on the brink of collapse.