The real novelty at the beginning of the present century is the rise of new movements and their capability to connect to each other in a collective trajectory. This novelty addressed the whole world to a new possibility of transformation.
The PRC capability lies in understanding the nature of such movements and in preparing itself to collect the resources they have put into motion in order to contribute, also by changing its own politics, to the construction of a general idea of reforming politics and the relationship between social actors and politics. At the same time the failure of capitalist globalisation has emerged more and more disruptingly, and not only in a temporal dimension.
Both elements objectively highlight the transformation of capitalist society as an urgent issue. This issue is also subjectively highlighted by the growth in movements’ consciousness, which can be so formulated as the social forums have done: “another world is possible”. So the problem is posed, but it still needs to get solved.
Also another scenario has been opened: the exacerbation of the economic and social crisis and the precipitation of war into a clash of civilisations. Uncertainty dominates our age. The option “socialism or barbarism” is not out of our age.
In Italy the PRC obtained important results at the European and local elections. Its overall political project has been appreciated: that is the strategic choice of being a part of the movement, its policy of opening to both political and social oppositions in general, and the construction of an alternative left, innovation of politics and subjects of politics, innovation of culture and practical theory of the workers’ movement. This accumulation, which has to be considered a heritage acquired by the whole party, is now the basis for a further development of refoundation.
This success has been achieved in a situation where the attempt to give a steady answer from the right to the instability of the Italian political system has burst into a crisis. This attempt focussed on the complex neo-conservative phenomenon which has been called “Berlusconism”.
For this crisis there are both objective reasons – major international tendencies due to the failure of capitalist globalisation and the impulse given by the growth of movements. For these reasons the Berlusconi project failed.
In Italy, too, a completely new social and political phase has started and removing Berlusconi would not be enough to cope with it. We need, instead, to tackle the causes which led him to his success. The problem is building an alternative society. We have to rewrite the material constitution of the country after the neoliberal devastation.
In the meanwhile the ideological basis and overall model of neoliberal economic and social politics have fallen into a crisis, while neoliberalism tries new ways to break through and to impede the development of a new politics. The fresh version of neoliberalism lies behind the survival of the corporation, as a “realistic” solution. That is, after dismissing great promises, the state of necessity is proposed. According to this, crises should be considered objective facts and needs - as imposed by international competition – which are out of question. The aim is to lower standards of rights, working and bargaining conditions under the blackmail of competitiveness.
This is an insidious attack because it hides within a concrete as well as apparent reality, while the blackmail on working people is a real threat and aims at holding politics in check, by reversing the unions’ role in negotiating worse conditions for working people and employment. In this way, starting from the corporation up to the whole system of social relationships, labour and welfare laws, the principal goal is to abolish collective bargaining.
This offensive is the material basis on which the neo-centrist political project lies, that is a soft way out of the crisis of the right wing and Berlusconism without even questioning the fundamental inspiration of neoliberal policies.
This new neoliberal offensive claims to be an overall proposal ready to involve a wide range of moderate forces - both parties and unions, and an effective action against it cannot be based on defensive terms or organised individually and separately.
In order to defeat this project political and social opposition needs a quality leap. Main actors with this task have to be the several articulations of the lefts committed to the project for an alternative, unions which have planned and practised a new autonomy from government and Confindustria (the Italian employers’ confederation), movements and social struggles activists at workplace and elsewhere.
These subjects, together, have to bring about a joint action able to make the process of movements’ unification alive and visible. They need to work on an overall movement project to reform Italian society. To do this, we have to work on gathering critical experiences, labour struggles, local and municipal struggles. Only through a connection to the movement of the movements, to the anti-war movement, to social and labour struggles can an effective opposition rise, and together with it an alternative to the new challenge of neoliberalism, and moreover can a rebirth of politics – now and here – take place.
A phase of total instability has started. Politics is crisscrossed by two opposite tendencies: the one towards a possible rebirth and the other towards eclipse. Democracy is in a profound crisis, which is so serious that even the notion of people’s sovereignty may be invalidated. We may face a future without democracy. In the world, in Europe, in Italy the political phase keeps being marked by this crisis and both outlets are possible. The European elections, too, demonstrated a deep malaise and mistrust of political systems, beside a growing opposition to governments. This crisis does not only affect institutions but also masses, who are moved by both a desire to reclaim politics and a drive towards a way out of politics, the second option being a sort of exodus from politics which had separated itself from everyday life.
During the great and terrible twentieth century masses went into politics through class struggle and great emancipation experiences, the greatest ever occurred so far, were produced. But, at the same time, during the twentieth century hideous tragedies took place – World Wars, fascisms and nazism up to the Auschwitz horror).The workers’ movement has been the twentieth century main actor, but it was defeated first of all because of the failure of those post-revolutionary societies where it constituted a state in which the aspirations for liberation originating it, also turned into forms of dramatic oppression.
Therefore, criticism towards Stalinism is not simply criticism towards a degeneration of those systems but towards a hard nucleus leading to that outcome and this is the reason why this criticism is the requisite element for the construction of a new idea of communism and the way to build it.
Now recent movements experiences, new social practices and the reflection developed through them, allow the construction of a criticism towards power, which – also through a non violence option as a guideline for collective action here and now – contributes to the search of a new idea and practice of politics as a current process of transformation and liberation.
So the political agenda now includes the possibility of a leftist way out of the twentieth century defeat and the workers’ movement crisis. Then, we can work on building a new workers’ movement.
A communist refoundation, horizon of our research and experimentation, finds a founding ground in this challenge.
The contest has become dramatic. The state of permanent war is nurtured by the very nature of capitalist globalisation. Unlike what they had promised – that is dissolution of conflicts – it produces instability through the aggravation of inequality in the world, the concentration of riches and the exacerbation of conflicts. Instead of the promised growth, it produces a crisis. Even competition becomes destructive. The pre-emptive war is a system by which an imperial solution to this instability is sought for. But the result is fresh and deeper instability to which it is responded with further exacerbation of war according to the permanent war doctrine.
War nourishes terrorism which is war’s child and brother. This terrorism manifests itself as a project elaborated in autonomy from politics and it is – in the same way as war is – our irreducible and repulsive adversary for the means it uses and the ends it propagandizes.
The Bush administration imperial war is an indefinite and infinite war and Iraq is an acid test for it. Its further development would be a war of civilisations.
Peace is the terrain for a rebirth of politics because it expresses the primary need of the present age. Peace has to be pursued not as a mere absence of war, but so as to build a new world by breaking the imperial domination and by defining, instead, new international scenarios based upon autonomy, dialogue, different social and cultural relationships. Not only is it wrong, but also illusory to think of building a new order, as it occurred in the past, through the creation of a balance based on military power.
The fundamental lever for this challenge is the new peace movement as a disarmed and disarmament force, as another world power which moved into politics to protest against war and its logic, to build – instead – an alternative civilisation.
This great novelty points out the need for building a new organised political subject capable to meet these new demands and let them influence economic, social and state relationships. This is the founding ground for another Europe in which the discovery of this mission could take Europe back to its roots to implement an economic, social and cultural model alternative to neoliberalism and war. Europe’s autonomy and independence from the US could lie on this.
The European Left Party, of which we are both co-promoters and co-founders, wants to be a tool to pursue this aim.
The building of the new political subject for transformation is the crucial issue for a leftist way out of the crisis of politics and the workers’ movement crisis.
To accomplish this task we need to shift the political focus from institutions and parties to society and movements, that is from representation to direct organisation of life and social relationships.
The fundamental element of the nature of capitalist globalisation is precarity and casualisation. Precarity is becoming a general condition deciding on working time and leisure, production and social relationships, deeply penetrating in society in the attempt to even modify living organisms.
On the one hand the imposed changes – a restoring revolution of new capitalism on labour and, on the other hand, the nature of new movements suggest a fresh alliance between experiences demanding a liberation of waged labour – labour conflict – and experiences demanding a liberation from waged labour – reclaiming of collective goods free from commodification, reclaiming and establishing of market-free relationships and activities, appreciation of the environment and connection to local areas).
This new alliance would allow the participation of critical experiences and cultures as decisive elements to build an alternative.
Ecologism expresses a criticism towards “pro-development” models even in their moderate version referring to “sustainable development”. Feminism is a fundamental contribution to an idea of society and social relationships based on the appreciation of difference and the individual, and on opposition to sexism and scientist domination on bodies and living organisms.
Pacifism and the several non-violent practices build a network of relationships opposing the domination of profit and power.
This theoretical research and this extensive political work in society producing original experiences are the fundamental basis for building an alternative left in which all the forces interested in that research – no matter where they are located – might engage themselves.
Time has come for the alternative left to play a new major role in Italy and in Europe.
Building democracy of participation and conflict is the framework for this research. And, actually, the very progressive nature of the Italian constitution is under attack. This attack is occurring in several forms: article 11 – according to which Italy rejects war as a resolution for international conflicts - has been removed in practice; the issue of migrants, decisive for future society, has been reduced to an issue of public security; the anti-fascist nature of the Italian constitution also risks being removed; the fundamental universalist nature of social security services and recognition of rights at a national level are undermined; the parliament is voided. So, an idea of halved democracy should be imposed, a democracy functional to the neoliberal model, subject to the domination of the market, therefore inert and, in the end, useless.
Building participatory democracy where the movements’ critical demands are to be turned into a political and programmatic left alternative, is the fundamental challenge we are facing.
Democracy – as a propulsive force of participation and peace, as the building of new social and state relationships, plays a major role in the rebirth – here and now – of a process to transform capitalist society.
The problem of participation in government for an alternative force in a European country has to be considered within this framework.
The criticism towards the taking of power and power itself, too, does have consequences in the way of conceiving government and government participation. In our strategy government is not a value in itself, instead, it is a variable depending on the phase. That is, government is not the goal or the outlet for alternative politics, but it can be a necessary step.
In Italy this necessity rises from a precise political phase: the urgent need to defeat Berlusconi’s government and to build an alternative to it.
For this reason we today take on the goal of a coalition of forces to give rise to a programmatic government alternative in which the PRC and the left alternative forces as a whole play a major role. We call this ‘democratic coalition’ so as to define its primary goal: to build democracy and participation.
Building participatory democracy is not only a question of method. It is also a first basis for a reforming programme. The autonomy of critical or socially active subjects is no longer a movements’ and social organisations’ prerogative of protection from their alienation; instead, it has now become a possible engine of the whole reforming process and for this reason it has to become a fundamental issue in the government’s alternative programme.
This is the first necessary reform: reform of politics and of the very idea of government. An important part of this reform is also the achievement of a strategic autonomy of the alternative left and, with it, of the PRC from the government, in which the PRC may possibly be a part according to the level of agreement on programmes reached by all forces opposing the Berlusconi government.
To do this the PRC and the alternative left also have to be capable of going through a government experience to meet the movements’ qualitative growth and the possibility of unfolding a wider, complex and long-lasting political action in society in order to implement the most ambitious programme at this stage.
Our goal is the denial of a sort of a ‘pendulum law’, according to which when the lefts are in the opposition, they raise hopes and expectations, which are disappointed when they form a government. In this way they spread mistrust of politics in large masses and create conditions for a comeback of the conservative forces.
At this stage the fundamental features of a government programme has to be: breaking with the Berlusconi government policies, building a real alternative and opening a way through which movements’ autonomy and class conflict can achieve new spaces for society transformation.
Right from the beginning an alternative programme has to convey the country an unambiguous message and urge all reforming energies to mobilisation. It has to focus on three guidelines. First, to engage Italy at an international level for peace against war and terror, starting from withdrawing the Italian troops from Iraq to stop the Iraq war and to build a peaceful Europe in the world, favourable to co-operation between north and south and dialogue between religions and civilisations. In Italy the Berlusconi government policies and the crisis in the social cohesion they have produced, are a hurdle impeding change and the start of a new course. Therefore, a reclaiming action in the civil, economic and social terrain is an indispensable pledge. The need for the abrogation of laws such as the one on labour market flexibility (Law 30), on immigration (Bossi-Fini Law), the one restructuring the education system (Moratti Law) and on artificial fertilisation, demonstrates the necessity and the strength of this political operation. But a programme aiming at meeting society expectations of change has to qualify from the point of view of the new order to establish in Italy to make it able to plan its future.
The reforms opening the way to an innovation of the overall model of society organisation, are reforms breaking with the neoliberal cycle. These can be focused on four major axes: appreciation of labour and redistribution of income in favour of wages, salaries and pensions, introduction of a social wage and policies attacking revenues; achievement, qualification and extension of individual and collective rights so as to define a new universal social citizenship, respect for the individual and systems of guarantees and protection for all people; creation of collective goods to reclaim from the market logic through a public appreciation of the environment, local areas and culture; new public intervention in the economy from programming to organisation of factors innovating the economic and social model.
The programme for an alternative society cannot be reduced to a government programme, not even the most advanced. It has to be thought as a programme for a phase projected in a future perspective and lying on a discourse on Italian capitalism within a European framework: that is, the discourse on the decline of a ruling class who gave up planning the future, and who turns to the variety of neo-liberal lessons so as to be able to float in crises and adapt to them strictly. Such a phase programme focuses on the visions of another Europe, and of another Italy, that is, how we see it in ten-fifteen years within the other possible world pursued by the movement of change. In this overall sense of building an alternative society, the programme does not only lie – and yet we know how even this can be difficult – in fixing programmatic options for a government alternative to the right wings. It also requires the elaboration of a political project and the construction of a process for transformation in which the relationship with the movements’ development is the main lever, even though not enough, yet.
This is the research we have begun. What we propose, from now, is the horizon of this path.
Its starting point can be the horizon of a phase programme for those forces of change all over Europe and in any European country, which has to include – at this stage of capitalist development – the high ambition of equality. This has to be fulfilled by immediately breaking and reversing a tendency to increase inequalities - which is the feature of the new capitalist cycle – in order to define binding steps towards equality between individuals and a radical change in class relationships. Two strategic goals have to fulfil this perspective: the achievement of full employment and universal citizenship for men and women, both natives and migrants. The latter has to lie on the implementation of a framework of social, civil and cultural rights and guaranteed access to collective goods which anyone is entitled to. In short, a new supranational welfare state.
Waged labour – in any existing form, both traditional and new – should be able to achieve a new statute of democracy, power and freedom through the supranational welfare state and within a tendency towards a globalisation of class conflicts. Working people should be able to gain – against the tendency in the past two decades – a new stage in the process of liberation through an appreciation of cognitive and creative elements, both direct and indirect, now contained in labour, and a generalisation – even if in different degrees – of the direct ones. We need to pursue the achievement of some self-government in working performance and in the relationship between working time and leisure. We have to gain some ‘rigidity’ through which new forms of social control and direct, participatory democracy could be established in order to satisfy individual and collective needs. This research on the struggles’ field and as well as the research on the subject of change, i.e. the new workers’ movement, can serve as midwives of the alternative left in Italy and in Europe.
The alternative left has to be built by doing and on doing, out of any temptation of finding a solution in some sort of an assemblage of political party classes on the left of the listone* (Electoral alliance between Democrats of the Left, the Daisy grouping (Margherita) and SDI, Democratic Socialists). We have to refer to a different subjects’ framework as well as to a different political ambition. We propose the establishment of places where common experiences of political work can develop on a regular basis: committees, clubs, associations, self-governed organisations at any level throughout Italy, and in places of conflict and social experimentation.
We propose to self-call a national assembly to let those experiences exchange their views. This assembly should gather those who feel such a need and have experience in movements, which has become a common experience: parties, components of parties, trade unions, movements, representatives of participatory local governments, associations, committees, single individuals who should connect to each other in a mutual and equal recognition in order to define a shared trajectory for a unitary action and a common political project. We propose an open and shared call of a constituent assembly of the alternative left. Time is ripe but not endless. We have to organise availability, commit our will to that choice and address anyone interested in it. We are ready to accomplish this.
Communist Refoundation is a fundamental partner in this project and is among its main actors. This can be possible not only because of its militant and electoral strength and its articulated, widespread presence in society. First of all, this is possible because we play an active role in conflicts, are capable of grasping the great novelty within the movements of the present century, and have developed a close relationship with them – by knowing how to innovate our own culture and political proposal.
In difficult years, during which any idea of transformation seemed to have vanished from the spectrum of possibilities, Communist Refoundation has left research, political and cultural action open. Building an alternative left enables us to go beyond and reopen politics to an overall process of social transformation, in which it can play a major role again.
What is at stake is not Communist Refoundation’s life and its political and cultural autonomy, which is out of question. It is, instead, the possibility to make a real qualitative leap, as we have begun doing in Europe with the foundation of the European Left Party.
For this reason a real and deep party reform in the sense of opening and experimenting new forms of aggregation and relationship, is a fundamental issue in the way towards a refoundation. Many of us can share this challenge.