Italy: Why we are leaving Rifondazione Comunista

A statement of the comrades of the IMT in Italy explaining the reasons that have led them to break with Rifondazione Comunista.

Introductory note:

Rifondazione Comunista emerged in 1999 as a left split from the old Communist Party, whose leaders after the fall of the Berlin Wall decided to move in the direction of social democracy. It was born as a party of up to 120,000 members and significant support within the working class and the youth. The PRC leaders threw all that away and reduced the party to an insignificant force, thanks to their support and participation in several governments that carried out privatisations and austerity.

The Marxists of FalceMartello [Now the SCR] have been a tendency within the party for all these long years, advocating a change of policy and direction. Every time the party leaders turned in the wrong direction towards collaboration with the old right-wing leaders of the former Communist Party [who later dissolved themselves into  the bourgeois Democratic Party], either by supporting the Centre-Left governments or even going as far as entering such coalition governments, the Marxists warned of the consequences of such a policy.

The PRC leaders systematically ignored such warnings and are now in the process of winding up the party. This has led the Marxists to break their links with these leaders and to leave the party. Here we present a public statement explaining the reason for this turn.

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The absence of a political party of the working class is the key factor in the current Italian political situation. The Italian Left is in a vegetative state, while the CGIL [the main trade union confederation] is in deep crisis, unable to respond to the attacks of the Renzi government and the Confindustria [the bosses’ association].

We will not list here all the past and more recent factors that have led to this situation. It is enough to see how the term “Left”, which  includes the traditional “communist” parties, is understood by millions of people as small groups only  concerned with winning a handful of MPs or councillors, disconnected from any form of real struggle, totally incapable of offering a credible analysis of the current crisis of capitalism and even less of coming up with a programme that can offer a way out.

The fact that all those rank and file comrades (including those of Rifondazione Comunista, PRC) engaged in a thousands different forms of activity and struggles against capitalism may view our analysis as somewhat harsh further underlines the responsibility in all this of the leaders of the Social Democratic and Communist parties.

It started with the Rainbow Left, then the Federation of the Left, followed by Civil Revolution and then the Other Europe, interspersed  with other long-forgotten experiences such as the Dawn, We Can Change, etc.

[Note: In the general election of 2008 Rifondazione Comunista stood in the elections as part of the Rainbow Left alliance. It had participated in the previous Centre-Left government and its present leader, Ferrero, was Minister of Social Solidarity. The party supported the austerity policies of that government, and also voted for Italy’s military presence in Afghanistan and Lebanon. The alliance was smashed, but ever since they have tried to get back into Parliament and local governments by forming alliances with all kinds of dubious left and so-called “progressive” groups, all ending in total failure].

All such  attempts have always ended in tears for the leadership as they  failed to attract any significant electoral support. And every time the leadership of Rifondazione has reacted in the same way, proposing exactly the same failed recipes.

An independent party of the working class is a historical necessity. The labour movement will not be able to play a significant role and fulfil its tasks without a political force that identifies itself fully with the interests of the workers, which is able to defend them on all the fronts of the class struggle, and fundamentally distinguish itself from the ideologies and the programmes of other classes. A mass party of the working class will be born in Italy, as elsewhere, only on the back of great mobilisations of the working class and all oppressed layers. This is the lesson we learn from history and from the most recent experiences in Europe (see PODEMOS).

However, a mass movement cannot be sucked out of thin air or come into being simply because it is historically “necessary” in the abstract. The conditions that lead to the birth of such a party are mainly objective and are certainly beyond the reach of the left forces in Italy in their present state.

The position of the mass trade unions, such as the CGIL and its metalworkers’ union FIOM, is a different matter, however, as they have been capable of mobilising hundreds of thousands of workers on the streets against the “Jobs Act” [an attack on workers’ rights] and the so called “Buona Scuola” reform of the education system. The problem with the trade union organisations is that they did not follow up on these mobilisations. This was due to the opportunism and cowardice of the trade union leaders who totally reject any perspective of true class struggle to defeat the bosses. Instead they cling to the hope of reaching an agreement with the bosses and the government. These hopes are, however, dashed daily by the behaviour of the government and the ruling class.

However, objective situation is only one side of the coin; the other is that of the subjective factor, i.e. the conscious intervention of an organized and coherent political force.

A mass movement cannot be conjured up artificially. However we can, and we must, work to facilitate its development and work to guarantee the conditions for a victory of the working class. Today this means building and strengthening a network of advanced cadres that will be able to carry out this essential role. The movement requires tested cadres that that cannot be recruited and organised on the basis of a few simple “anti-liberalist” slogans. They must be able to unite theory and practice in the best Marxist tradition. Marxists today must be capable of applying theory during this historical crisis of capitalism, like never before in the past. Marxism is the only theory that is capable of understanding the roots of the present crisis and, most importantly, providing a perspective for its overthrow.

What we need are activists that have not been discredited by past defeats, who are not disillusioned and cynical, which is so typical of so many left activists in Italy. But even more importantly, we need activists that have a strong, rational and unshakable faith in the ability of the working class to change the world when organized and conscious.

We have defended and worked according to this perspective for many years also by participating in the internal life of Rifondazione, in its campaigns and internal debates. In particular after the defeat of the Rainbow Left (2008) and the subsequent split of the old more right-wing leaders who went on to form the Sel, the Left, Ecology and Freedom party. We did everything to improve the position of the PRC insisting we should learn the lessons from these defeats and from the political mistakes that were the root cause. In spite of all this, our battle within the party was not enough and the PRC has clearly demonstrated that it no longer has the force to swim against the stream of reformist and opportunism, but rather has been engulfed by this swamp.

The party has basically collapsed with a massive fall in its membership and in its active base. The roots the party had in society, especially in the factories and among the youth, have been irreversibly undermined. The experience of all these years, and in particular of the last seven, has shown beyond any reasonable doubt that the national leadership, as well as a most of the local leaderships and the rank and file, now see no other option than to liquidate the party.

The last stage of this long and inglorious march was the adventure of “Sinistra Italiana” (Italian Left). We will summarise what has happened. The PRC decided to respond to an appeal of various left and “civil society” groups (“Noi ci Siamo” – We are Present) with a majority of the Central Committee voting in favour on 7-8 November. This appeal implies the party adhering to yet another so-called “political subject” of the Left. The Party decided to consult the ranks and file on this question.

At the same time as this vote was taking place, this “new subject” of the Left was already being announced with the name of Sinistra Italiana. It brings together the Sel party and some MPs who left  the Democratic Party. A few days later this coalition, strengthened by the fact that it has a parliamentary group, announced the formation of a new Party, stating cleraly that the newe party now exists and anyone wishes to adhere must dissolve their own party and join them.

This was followed by letters, circulars, appeals, polemics, complaints and exchanges of insults. Meanwhile the PRC continued to “consult” the rank and file on something which had been superseded by events. In spite of this, there was no reaction within the party, and  70% of the 5000 Party members who took part in the consultation voted in favour of the proposal of the Central Committee.

The PRC Secretary Ferrero swore adamantly that the PRC would never be dissolved, etc. etc.. But what is important is not intentions or statements but the inexorable logic of the decisions that have been taken. One can refuse to participate in an assembly, one can refuse to sign up an appeal or promote polemics on social media. But when the party will be faced with national or even regional elections it will have to choose between either scraping a 1% result in some or other alliance or begging on its knees to be given some candidates on the lists of Sinistra Italiana. And if Ferrero refuses to go down this road, some other party leaders will do it.

This means that in reality today the only force to represent the “Left” in Italy is the Italian Left (Sinistra Italiana) and the PRC will be forced into a subordinate position. However, Sinistra Italiana, for both objective and subjective reasons, is neither the party of the working class nor its potential embryo. At best it is a caricature of the kind of Left that is required.

It is not just a question of clarifying what position the party should have in relation to electoral alliances with the Democratic Party - which would be a big step in itself.  Class independance is not simply a question that comes up in elections. Comrade Ferrero in fact makes his biggest mistake when he equates class independence as one of presenting a party list in elections. Class independence lies first and foremost in the programme, in the aims of the party and in the methods that it adopts to pursue them.

We should understand the lessons of Greece. Syriza [prior to the January 2015 elections] did not form an alliance with any bourgeois party and this was one of the reasons for its electoral success. However, once in government - in a coalition - Tsipras reneged on all his previous promises and gave in to the diktats of the Troika in spite of the huge support he received in the 5 th of July referendum.

Today, while the second Tsipras government is busy cutting pensions and privatising all and sundry, what is left of its claims to being against “neo-liberalism”?  And what about all the talk of democracy? Shouldn’t this lesson be ringing alarm bells for all those political forces that have uncritically supported Tsipras? Should not the lessons of Greece also be of concern for Podemos in Spain, Corbyn in Britain and  the left coalition in Portugal?

And looking even further afield, does the electoral defeat of the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela not confirm once again the failure of reformism? Does it not show that in the long run it is destined to succumb to the forces of capitalism? And shouldn’t that teach us that in the long run it is not possible to carry out policies in favour of the working class while so long as real economic and political power  is left in the hands of the capitalist class?

All this should be the focus of serious debate for anyone setting out to build an alternative on the left.The cadres and activists of a future working class party can be educated only by learning these lessons. At the same - as such a political force does not build itself - a coordinated and systematic work needs to be carried out to sink roots in the labour movement and amongst the youth. Neither of these two tasks are being carried out by the PRC today. The party has also ceased to be a place where these tasks can even be posed.

A party that abandoned its role, that sees itself as being subordinate to other political forces, loses its reason to exist. It can last in the form of a bureaucratic apparatus, as an organised structure, but as a political force it is doomed.

In 2013 we launched a new political movement under the name of Sinistra Classe Rivoluzione [SCR, The Left, the Working Class and Revolution]. Today we take not of the fact that the latest decisions taken by the leadership of the PRC, and confirmed by the consultation of the membership, means that there is no longer any room for internal debate within the party, considering the fact that the party has formally renounced any independent political existence.

This means that our activity within the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista has come to an end and  we will not be renewing our membership of the party in 2016.

We are very conscious of the fact that our movement is not a mass force able to set up the party that is required. To declare ourselves as the party of the working class would be tantamount to creating a sect.

For this reason we will orientate to those forces on the left and in the labour movement that are still a point of reference for wide layers of the working class, and call on them to put an end to their subordination to the programme of other classes and assume the responsibility to form a party of the working class. To the degree that such forces lead even partial struggles that are recognised by the working class, we will support such battles.

A United Front policy remains a necessity today as it has been in the past. However, in order to pursue it, absolute clarity and complete political  independence in terms of programme and action is required.

We are therefore breaking with the PRC. We are convinced, based on our recent experience, that such a separation will not isolate us but on the contrary will help us to develop fully the potential that we see from our work in the movement.

In the labour movement and among the youth there is a huge potential for anti-capitalist struggle, but there is also a thirst for political analysis and education, a quest for revolutionary ideas around which the struggle against a more and more barbaric capitalism can be organised. We carry out this turn in full agreement and solidarity with our comrades in Europe and around the world. It is not based on any narrow national view of the crisis of the Italian left, although there are clearly also local considerations to take into account.  The crisis of the Left in Italy can only be understood and overcome by taking into account the experiences of international labour movement.

We are absolutely confident that also in Italy huge mass movements will emerge capable of shaking the system to its very foundations and posing the conditions for its overthrow. Our break with the PRC is therefore a prior requirement and clarification in order to fight to the very end the battles of tomorrow.

January 8th, 2016

Claudio Bellotti, Lucia Erpice, Jacopo Renda (members of the National Executive of the Prc)

Franco Bavila, Christian Febbraro, Irene Forno, Gemma Giusti, Lidia Luzzaro, Vittorio Saldutti, Ilic Vezzosi (members of the Central Committee of the PRC)

Source: Rivoluzione