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Open Letter to Members of the PRC

Marco Ferrando and Franco Grisolia

In October the Olive Tree government headed by Romano Prodi, the dominant force in which is the PDS (originating in the PCI, the now-defunct Communist Party) was thrown into crisis. Rifondazione Comunista (PRC), another party that emerged from the break up of the PCI, and on whose support the Olive Tree relied for a parliamentary majority, threatened to vote against the government’s finance bill, which embodied an austerity programme in conformity with the Maastricht convergence criteria.

The PRC came under unprecedented attack, particularly from its former comrades in the PDS and the trade unions it influenced, who argued that to bring down the government would be to hand over power to the right wing parties. Within a matter of days, after minor concessions had been offered over pensions and the 35-hour week, the PRC leadership caved in and agreed to support the government’s legislation.

The decision was criticised by the left minority in the PRC, which is organised around the journals Proposta Comunista and Bandiera Rossa. This is the text of a leaflet distributed by Proposta supporters on a PRC demonstration in Rome on 25 October. It is a slightly amended version of an original translation by Luciano Dondero.

COMRADES, THE new pact between the PRC and the Prodi government compels us to raise a serious and severe alarm cry about the future of our Party, of its policies, of its democracy.

For over a year, the leading majority of the PRC proclaimed and celebrated as victories its support for the Prodi government and the policies of Maastricht (from the "just finance bill" [of last year] to the "left wing" taxes for Europe, up to the "100,000 jobs" of the [Labour minister] Treu plan). Then, a year later, Nerio Nesi "confessed", in an editorial of Liberazione [daily paper of PRC], how things really stood: "We have voted for cuts amounting to 100,000 billion lire [about $60,000 billion], for temporary work, for incentives for car and motorcycle renewal, for finance to private schools, for a tax amnesty: all this never with convictions, often with reluctance, always only in order to make it possible for the Prodi government to go ahead" (Liberazione, 25 September 1997). Can words be more sincere, more bitter, more pitiless?

And yet, as if nothing had happened, today there is a celebration of the latest "victory"’. Even more than before, the false note in these words is blatantly contradicted by the crude truth of the facts. The fact is that a finance bill which was denounced for months as "antipopular" and "unamendable" has now in the space of 48 hours become worthy of support. The fact is that a government which was denounced in Parliament as a "bankers’ government" all of a sudden has become "our government". The fact is that a crisis which began with the correct rejection of cosmetic concessions has now ended with praise for those very concessions.

Where are the famous assurances that should have been given to the workers, to the youth, to the unemployed? While the agreement makes the reduction of the working week and the pensions conditional upon an agreement between the Confindustria [the employers’ organisation] and the trade union leaders, the only real assurance was given to finance capital: it is the sure vote of our Party for the finance bill. This means a vote for an increase of indirect taxation, cuts for health care, schools, local government, railways and the postal service, in line with the policy of sacrifices and job cuts. Is it surprising if the stockmarket is jubilant after the agreement?

Furthermore the agreement includes: a year-long pact of government, together with political stability, the definite acceptance of the Euro, with the stated sacrifices that this will entail in years to come, and the conclusion of the institutional counter-reform, in a reactionary direction as indicated by the new "constitutional link" Fini-D’Alema.

Imperialist Europe and the Second Republic, that is the result of it all: is this really a "victory" for the Communists and the workers? And how can one believe the ritual invocation of the movement and of struggle, when there is continued support precisely for those policies and those finance bills, and for that government against whom the movement should be developed and struggle? Where is the credibility in invoking the (just) struggle against the attacks of the Olive Tree regime, precisely when we are establishing with that very regime a pact to implement its legislation?

Comrades, let’s look reality in the face. The bitter truth is that the only real "result" attained with the agreement has nothing to do with the interests of the working people, nor with the future of the movement, much less with Communism. What was achieved is the postponement for a year of the danger of Di Pietro, and the recognition of Rifondazione Comunista by the government majority as a party to negotiations. In exchange for this result we offer to Prodi and D’Alema the organic entry of our party into the political majority of the centre-left, with the final abandonment of the period of "desistenza" [no-contest electoral pact implemented in 1996] and the total acceptance of joint responsibility, in an even more open and direct manner, for the policies of the Olive Tree and the Italian bourgeoisie. We are on a slope at the end of which we can now see the prospect of entry into the government.

Comrades, this drift must be stopped in time. But that can happen only if there grows within the party, as an alternative to this leading group, support for a new political direction which will not only reinstate the oppositional perspective, but link the immediate choices and objectives to a clear anti-capitalist project. Without this we shall lose not only the future but also the coherence of our current politics, which for Communists cannot be separated from our ultimate goals.

Therefore we urgently demand the summoning of an Extraordinary Congress of the party in order to discuss and vote democratically on the new decisions which are been implemented, and in order to reopen a deep and frank debate in the PRC. What’s not needed are exaggeration, rhetoric and propaganda. What we need is a language of truth, a real exchange of views among Communists about the future of the party and of refoundation. In particular we need real party democracy, to give transparency to the debate within the leading group, to allow an equal and open exchange between different views and policies, to fight against the spreading vice of conformism. For this reason we also demand that the party press give all militants an opportunity to know the different positions and policies. This is a precondition for the growth of a critical spirit and for the building of a living and vital party.

Comrades, together we have founded and built this party with our daily work, with thousands of sacrifices, in the name of Communism. We will not abandon it without fighting against the pro-government and bureaucratic drift. Nobody should have any illusion: we will not go away, we will not leave the battlefield. On the contrary: we will fight with greater determination in the party and against the government, for our ideas and our policies – strengthened, we believe, by the experience of the facts and their truth, which is more powerful than any platform rhetoric. But above all we are confident in that desire for Communism which we still see among large sections of the membership of our party.