In Rome on Saturday 19 October, 50,000 workers and militants from a range of political organisations and movements marched through the city to its historic Piazza della Repubblica, celebrating the launch of a new campaign against Italy’s current coalition government.
The march was the first national manifestation of the “Defend the Constitution” initiative, bringing together Maurizio Landini, the leader of FIOM (the metalworkers’ union), a number of prestigious Italian jurists, the radical newspaper il Fatto Quotidiano, and sundry “personalities” from the academic and media world.
The record of the last decade or so is one of one campaign after another, opposed to the various regimes of Silvio Berlusconi, sinking into oblivion after a few public demonstrations. That record would, no doubt, have been in the minds of those in the square.
Landini angrily declared his opposition to the Letta/Alfano government, and its continuation of the austerity measures begun by the previous Monti government. But while lambasting the accommodating role of Berlusconi’s party to those measures, neither Landini, nor any of the other platform speakers, mentioned the even more compliant role of Letta’s Democratic Party, which since the Coalition was stitched together has lost a third of its membership!
Furthermore, not a word was uttered by anyone about the role of the president of the country, and former DP leader, Napoletano. Napoletano was a key architect of the foundations of the “emergency” constitutional conditions currently licensing the wage of attacks on living standards and democratic rights.
Grotesquely, when the first mention of his name by one of the illustrious jurors was greeted by a spontaneous volley of abuse from the crowd, the sage turned his anger against the crowd, asserting, as if it were in doubt, “we are not extremists here, but moderates seeking dialogue”.
The guiding principle of this new initiative, described by Landini as “revolutionary”, is that the Italian bourgeoisie and its state and government institutions will be confronted in a dialogue about the failure, so far, to implement the progressive principles of the 1948 Constitution — the right to work, the right to a home, the right to an education, and so on.
Revolutionaries do indeed believe that such progressive features should be defended, especially if under threat of extinction.
But revolutionaries have duty to point out that the 1948 Constitution was not just a cynical compromise between the Stalinist Togliatti and the Christian Democrat de Gasperi, but also the means to guarantee, protect and maintain the capitalist social order in a period of crisis.
To challenge that order needs a struggle for an alternative system, a different state, a different constitution, a different democracy — in which the workers and the overwhelming majority of the masses, not the markets, truly decide their collective and personal destiny. It requires a fight to realise the goal of a workers’ republic in Italy.
The surreal events in Rome last Saturday reflect the depth of defeat and demoralisation across the country. While the trade union confederations, including Landini’s once-militant FIOM, are lined up with the bosses’ federation to beg from the government measures needed by the federation to “protect” business (and, of course, the workers), the scorched earth policies — another €4 billion cuts in the health budget just announced by Letta — continue.
The Italian Constitution is all too safe in the hands of its begetters.