England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

The Italian elections and the threat of the far-right

Italy’s general election is now over. This process has delivered the coming to power of Giorgia Meloni, candidate of Italy’s far-right ‘Brothers of Italy’ party. This is the most right-wing government in Italy since Mussolini. Here, ISA responds to these developments and addresses what will be need to fight the right in Italy and elsewhere.

Published on internationalsocialist.net on 24 September (one day before the election).

The government of national unity led by the former president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, collapsed on July 21, despite the unwavering support it received from Italian employers and its large parliamentary majority. The early elections on September 25 will take place against a backdrop of deep social, economic and political crisis.

The Draghi government brought together a heterogeneous team, united by its desire to serve the interests of the ruling class: the 5 Star Movement (M5S, populist), the League (Lega, extreme right), the Democratic Party (PD, social democrat ), Forza Italia (FI, Berlusconi’s party) and Italia Viva (around former PD president Matteo Renzi). This government will be remembered in particular for the billions of euros it gave to large companies, the budget cuts in healthcare and the privatisation of education — a government that was an enemy of the working class.

A social crisis that never ends

25.2% of the Italian population is today at risk of social exclusion, 14.83 million people. The number of individuals in absolute poverty has almost tripled from 2005 to 2021, rising from 1.9 to 5.6 million (9.4%), while that of households has doubled, from 800,000 to 1.96 million (7.5%), according to the Italian Institute of Statistics. While millions of families are struggling to make ends meet, banks and large corporations are making record profits. Here are some headlines from the business pages of the newspaper, Corriere della Sera: “Fineco, profits up 30%”; “Pirelli, profits up 160%. Targets revised upwards”; “Mediobanca, profits at 716 million (+19%)”. The list goes on. Atthe same time, an increase of 131% was recorded for domestic electricity consumers. In Italy we register an increase in wholesale energy prices in 2021 of + 500% for gas and + 400% for electricity.

That’s why a recent poll revealed that 65.3% of Italians have little or no confidence in the ‘political class.’ Only 6.3% respond “a lot”. This distrust of institutions is well-deserved and is now entrenched in mass consciousness. In the midst of this minefield, the ruling class has lost its most trusted man with the fall of Mario Draghi.

From political instability to political instability

On closer inspection, the Draghi government was precisely a product of political instability. The parliament elected in 2018 in the name of the rejection of the establishment parties gave rise to the most unlikely political alliances (M5E and Ligue then M5E and PD) before reaching a political impasse. The bourgeoisie, by surprise, imposed its own man, Mario Draghi, presented as an unbiased policymaker and considering himself the savior of the fatherland.

But the government’s unpopular policy had its consequences on the coalition parties. Salvini’s League hemorrhaged to the benefit of Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), a longtime far-right activist and former Berlusconi minister. The League, Forza Italia and the M5E sought to distinguish themselves from the general government policy in every possible way, even bringing the government down p as the M5E eventually did.

The EU is waiting, the storm is approaching and the far right is there

Internationally, the ruling class is watching the election in Italy with concern and has every reason to do so. The outcome of these elections could add to the other crises that the EU is going through. In fact, Italy is heading towards a new recession. Inflation is at a record level of around 10% for the 4th quarter and wages are stagnating.

The ECB’s decision to raise interest rates for the first time in ten years and the fact that any support for Italian debt (at 152% of GDP) will be subject to budget constraints will necessitate a gradual return to austerity measures.

Two days before the elections, a poll gave an overwhelming lead to the right-wing coalition which brings together Fratelli d’Italia, Forza Italia and the League with 45%. Years of devastating living conditions and economic chaos means the best the majority of the population can hope for is to merely survive. This widespread alienation has been instrumentalized by the right to be turned into hatred of refugees, migrants, lbtq people and other minorities Fratelli d’Italia was also the only party in opposition to the Draghi government and it was able to take advantage of that.

Throughout the electoral campaign Meloni has tried to reassure the markets: “enough with the story of the end of Europe, we are officials who already administer local authorities, and we have also changed our line in foreign policy” .

With Meloni, it will be a pro-US and conservative turn that will push towards a Europe of Nations rather than a deepening of the integration of member countries into the European Union. This is a clear trend linked to the new era of the disorder of deepening conflicts between national bourgeoisies, including in Europe. Under a far-right government these tendencies will be accelerated. Von der Leyen and Lagarde have already said that in the event of a victory for the right, they have all the instruments to convince them on economic matters. So the real changes in economic policy will be less than those announced now by the Fratelli d’Italia. Meloni did everything to try to cleanse her image in the eyes of the international elites (but also before the sectors of the Italian ruling class most linked to foreign capital) by using the anti-Russian card in order to legitimize herself with the United States.

We will see something else in her domestic policy: on immigration, there will be an extremely racist rhetoric and policy in the reapplication of Salvini’s “security” decrees and a harsh policy of closing and externalizing borders. There will be a cultural and political shift in a clearly conservative and reactionary direction that will leave more room for neo-fascist groups to gain confidence.

All the reactionary paraphernalia of xenophobia, sexism, homophobia and repression will be added to the class attacks on union rights, strikes, citizenship income, school and health care.

For the feminist movement and all Italian women, the danger represented by the Fratelli d’Italia will be enormous. This is illustrated by the case of the Marche region, where the party has been in power since 2020, and where it refused to apply a directive from the Ministry of Health on the availability of abortion pills in all hospital institutions. Fratelli d’Italia also believe that anti-abortion activists should have the right to intimidate women seeking abortion access (even in hospitals!) in order to counter the country’s declining birth rate.

To all these attacks, workers and young people will have to respond and will do so through protest and mobilisations. The turning point that has taken place in recent years brings us into an explosive phase of the class struggle. For this, the best card to play for the Italian ruling class is a centre-left or national unity government in order to keep a firmly pro-Western imperialist line, control over the investments of the Next Generation EU plan and relative social peace, as a lesser evil to the extreme polarisation and volatility that will come with a right wing government. If Fratelli d’Italia manages to find a majority to put Meloni as prime minister, the most likely scenario is that the EU tests the right-wing government and if it proves unable to implement the necessary reforms it will be dismissed. and replaced by a national unity government.

The Unione Popolare and the Left

There will also be a left-wing slate put forward under the name of Popular Union, at the initiative of the Communist Refoundation Party (Rifondazione Comunista) and Potere al Popolo (Power to the People, left-wing formation established in the run up to the 2018 elections).

This is an electoral coalition trying to emulate the success of Mélenchon and NUPES in France, an effort to put left figures back in the Italian Parliament. The former mayor of Naples Luigi De Magistris agreed to be the guarantor of this alliance and he was named head of the coalition list.

The initiative defends important and positive demands (nationalization of the energy sector, minimum wage of 10 euros per hour, collective reduction of working time to 32 hours per week, public refinancing to in health care and the school system, etc.), but the risk is to remain trapped in the attempts at left unity of the last 15 years, solely focused on entering Parliament. This is done without seeking to play a role in the coordination of the various struggles and movements on the ground — the real basis from which can emerge a mass working-class response to inequality, poverty and right-wing attacks. We must reverse this trend.

In a few weeks in the middle of August during the long holidays, the stands of the Popular Union were able to collect more than 60,000 signatures. This allows them to stand as an electoral coalition to the left of the PD . This is a good starting point that demonstrates the space and potential that exists in the void left by the M5E in society. When we organize ourselves at the grassroots level and carry out a serious campaign, even in a difficult context, we can get results.

We must be clear that the Italian ruling class has no doubt that the right-wing coalition can defend its interests. But it fears that it will do so by directly provoking the labor movement and young people. Beneath the surface of society, an extreme social tension has indeed developed and can explode at the slightest incident.

In October last year, in opposition to a pact between the largest trade union organizations and the government,rank-and-file unions (USB, Cobas and others) staged a successful general strike that involved one million people with demonstrations that rallied 100,000 across the country. The mobilization had also adopted an anti-fascist character two days after the attack on the headquarters of the CGIL trade union federation by far-right activists.

Since the summer of 2021, the struggle of the workers of Driveline GKN — their occupation of an automotive component factory in the suburbs of Florence — has imposed itself on the national scene thanks in particular to the involvement of the entire local community and the efforts of workers to link their fight to other social struggles (feminists, LGBTQIA+, etc.).

This approach is crucial and should be the compass of the political work of the Unione Popolare after the elections. There is no shortage of struggles on the issue of the climate, against school-work alternation (a widely hated reform whereby high schoolers do free internships for grades and responsible for the death of several students at the beginning of this year), against feminicides or against the racism that continues to kill in Italy. It is in this direction that we must all look.

We await the election results this Sunday and we will come back with a more in-depth analysis from our comrades from ISA Italy.


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