Important meeting of Italian Marxists: Preparing to fight

On the weekend of 4-5 December, the national meeting of the comrades of the Fifth Document took place. The meeting was held in the premises of the PRC branch of via Confalonieri, Milan, with 140 comrades present from all over the country.
Part of the meetin

On the weekend of 4-5 December, the national meeting of the comrades of the Fifth Document took place. The meeting was held in the premises of the PRC branch of via Confalonieri, Milan. There were 140 comrades from Milan, Rome, Bologna, Naples, Turin, Genoa, Florence, Udine, Trieste, Matera, Avellino, Cosenza, Modena, and other areas. Among them were shop stewards from various unions, students, branch secretaries and party activists, including national leaders.

The Fifth Document was published on Sunday, together with the other four documents that will be presented to the PRC national congress, in a special supplement to the PRC daily paper, Liberazione. The party is printing 100,000 copies of a special edition of Liberazione for the Party branches, so this material will be read by very many people, both inside and outside the PRC.

The meeting took place at a decisive turning point for the PRC and Italy. After three and a half years in power, the right wing Berlusconi government is in difficulties. Its plans to introduce a policy of deep cuts has foundered against the rock of the Italian workers movement, which has staged one general strike and mass demonstration after another.

The latest general strike was on 30 November. This stiff resistance from the workers has plunged the government into crisis and got its component parts fighting each other like cats in a sack. It is clear that the days of this government of ruling class Mafiosi are numbered. The Italian bourgeoisie is looking around for a replacement.

Its reserve candidate is Romano Prodi, a bourgeois liberal, who is planning to form a coalition with the ex-communist DS party (the Democratic left). Without the DS, Prodi is nothing. He lacks a mass base. But the leaders of the DS must protect their left flank: they need the PRC (the Communist Party) in the government with them.

In such a coalition, the minority bourgeois element (Prodi) would decide. The tail would wag the dog. Prodi will want to carry out a policy in the interests of the Italian bourgeoisie that would differ very little from the policy that Berlusconi attempted and failed to carry out, that is, a policy of deep cuts. Given the weakness of Italian capitalism, and the worldwide crisis of capitalism, no other policy is possible.

Bertinotti, the general secretary of the PRC, is eager to enter a new Olive coalition. He is making compromises with Prodi and the DS and has even abandoned the call for the unconditional withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq. Instead, he calls for a solution to the problem of Iraq through the “peace process” (whatever that might be).

This is a very shortsighted policy. Bertinotti imagines he is being realistic, taking the PRC into power. In reality, however, he would be the prisoner of Prodi and would be compelled to carry out his policies. This would be a disaster for the PRC.

On the first day the meeting was addressed by Claudio Bellotti, member of the national executive committee of the PRC, who is presenting the Fifth Document. He sharply criticised the policy of the leadership and called for a massive campaign to get the Party to change course. Claudio told the meeting:

Claudio Bellotti speaking

“The path chosen by Bertinotti will spell disaster for the Party, and the signs are already clear to everyone who wants to face the reality. Bertinotti has already abandoned a key demand, that is the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Italian troops from Iraq.

On that way there is no future for the Party. The only future for a Communist Party lies in a serious and constant work to link the party to the best workers and youth who are now entering in the arena of the mass struggles.”

There was an atmosphere of tremendous enthusiasm and morale was very high. Speaker after speaker stressed the need to defend a genuine Communist policy and oppose the participation of the PRC in a Prodi coalition government. Jose Miguel Suescun said: “It seems that some Party leaders are stressing that our document does not have much support on the National Political Committee of the PRC, and that many of our sympathizers are young people. We are not at all bothered by this. We know where we have come from and where we are going.

We are not afraid of being in a minority. As far as the youth is concerned, we are proud of the fact that the ideas of Marxism are finding an echo in the young people.

“We have fought in far more difficult circumstances when we began the publication of FalceMartello 21 years ago in Ferrara, as the paper of a local "Lombardi" branch of the  Young Communist Federation (FGCI). It was so successful that hundreds of copies were sold. But shortly after a witch hunt was begun against the Marxists in the Party (the PCI) that still called itself communist. The PCI bureaucracy had formidable strength while the Marxists at that time were numbered only in a few dozens. But we remained firm.

“Today things are very different. This Congress will take place after the biggest mobilizations of the last 20 years. In recent years we have been able to play a role in important struggles, winning significant victories that have increased the confidence of the class. We have proven in practice that it is possible to organize the workers on temporary contracts, that it is possible to fight and win in the call centres, and that our ideas can win important points of support not only in the youth but also in the metal workers of the FIOM.

“Many activists who had never heard of us now look to us with sympathy. In this congress we have the possibility to appeal to them to support us in our fight to stop the PRC from entering a government of class collaboration that will frustrate the hopes of millions of working people. I think we ourselves will be surprised at how many workers respond to our appeal. We must be capable of entering into a dialogue with them and integrating them into this battle, which will continue after the Congress. If we combine firmness with patience and humility, we will succeed!”

The Party Congress will be held in Rome next spring, but there will be an intensive pre-congress discussion period, starting now. The comrades of the Fifth Document will be participating actively in every level of the Party, defending the ideas of Marxism. On Sunday morning the meeting was addressed by Alessandro Giardiello, the editor of the Italian Marxist paper FalceMartello, who dealt with the organizational plans for the campaign:

Alessandro Giardiello, editor of Falcemartello

“We are all very proud of having conquered the right to present our document to the next Congress, having collected the necessary signatures from the rank and file party members. We needed to collect 500 signatures and in the end collected almost 800 in 51 provincial federations in just two weeks. This is the first time in the history of the Party that a document has been presented in this way – the cleanest, most democratic and most political way.

“Now we are faced with the task of presenting our document to 120 provincial committees in the month of December. In January and February there will be 1870 branch congresses and we aim to present the document in the majority. All comrades will be expected to participate in this activity. We must place the tendency on a war footing. Already worker comrades are taking holidays in order to participate.”

At the end of the second day, comrade Alan Woods, editor of Marxist.com addressed the meeting. Speaking about the world situation, he pointed to the general turbulence, which he described as a symptom of the organic crisis of capitalism: “George Bush has won the elections but he will wish he had not won them. The USA is trapped in Iraq, in a war they cannot win. They have thrown in 150,000 troops but the uprising continues. All history shows that once an entire people stands up and says no, no power on earth can defeat them,” Alan said.

He went on to criticize the decision of Bertinotti to drop the demand for the withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq. He reminded the comrades of what happened in Spain, as an example of the sharp turns and sudden changes implicit in the situation: “What happened in Madrid yesterday can happen tomorrow in Milan and Rome,” he said.

Speaking about the world economy, Alan predicted a collapse of the consumer boom in the USA. He said that this was based on a mountain of debt and sooner or later mountains experience avalanches. He quoted a recent OECD report that predicted that if nothing was done, the current account deficit of the USA would reach the staggering figure of 825 billion dollars (or 6.4 percent of US GDP) in twelve months. This was unsustainable.

Alan Woods speaks on the world situation

The dollar had already fallen 35 percent against the euro and 24 percent against the yen. Since eleven trillion dollars are held by foreign investors, this position cannot be sustained much longer, Alan said. The Federal Reserve will have to raise interest rates, puncturing the bubble and putting and end to the US consumer boom. This will have serious consequences for Italy, Europe and the rest of the world.

“The Italian bourgeoisie has decided to send the working class back to the school of Prodi, and it will be a very hard school,” Alan warned. “If Bertinotti enters the coalition he will be the prisoner of Prodi. In all such coalitions the bourgeois minority decides. The tail wags the dog. The PRC must stay in opposition and in this way it will win over the base of the DS, who will move into opposition.”

Alan predicted a stormy period ahead for Italy. There would be periods of great upheavals, interrupted by periods of tiredness, defeats, disillusionment, and even reaction. The attitude of the ruling class to the DS was “use and discredit” – they would use them to do the dirty work and then throw them aside like a dirty dishrag, preparing the way for an even more right wing government.

But in the present period there could be no final solution on the basis of capitalism. Every defeat would merely be the prelude for a new upheaval. The working class will learn on the basis of the experience of struggle and the Marxist wing, represented in Italy by Falcemartello, will grow into a decisive force in the workers movement.

The meeting ended enthusiastically with the singing of the Internationale and Bandiera Rossa.