Saturday, April 21, 2007

End of an era: 2nd time


Yesterday in Florence the Italian Party of the Democrats of the Left voted itself out of existence. DS is going to merge with the centrist MArgherita into a larger Democratic Party. This is arguably a further step away of this party from the legacy of the The Italian Communist Party

In 1991 the PCI disbanded to form the Partito Democratico della Sinistra (PDS), with membership in the Socialist International. The communist tendency, led by Armando Cossutta, left the party to form the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista (PRC) or Communist Refoundation Party. A truly earthqacky moment was the PCI congressin Bologna when Ochetto, the leader of the PCI since 1988, stunned the party faithfully assembled in a working-class section of Bologna with a speech heralding the end of communism, a move now referred to in Italian politics as the Bolognina. Italian film direcor Nanni Moretti rendered these moments of transition immemorable in his "La Cosa" - The thing.

In 1998 the PDS, with several smaller parties, the Laburisti (liberal socialists), the Cristiano Sociali (Christian socialists), the Comunisti Unitari (right-wing split of the PRC), the Sinistra Repubblicana (left republicans) and the Riformatori per l'Europa (social democratic trade unionists), co-founded the "Democratici di Sinistra" (DS) or Democrats of the Left party. Later in the same year the Armando Cossutta tendency left the PRC to form the Partito dei Comunisti Italiani (PdCI) or Party of Italian Communists.

Yesterday in Florence not all members of the DS agreed to embark on the project of the formation of the new Democratic Party. Fabio Mussi, the leader of the left wing of the DS, refused to fowllow suit and wished his ex-party colleagues all the best, "good luck comrades" he said. Despite reconciliatory tones (they will continue to support Prodi's coallition government) his message was clear, "we are staying here" (on the left). He announced the formation of the autonomous left wing party faithful to the traditions of European Socialism and hinted at the possibility of assembling the left wing around this entity. To the majority of the party that decided to disband the DS and form the Democratic Party he said "This Party [Democratic Party] will be centrist and American and will not be able to take part among European Socialist parties".

This is in fact the essence of the disagreement between the two parties that indulged in the process of forming the Demoratic Party, whether or not to adhere to the Party of European Socialists, ex-DS wing of the Democratic Party is decisively for while the centrist ex-MArgherita is against. It was obvious from the speech of its leader Rutelli that the intention of ex-MArgherita members will be to make of the Democratic Party a modern European centrist party. Referring to French presidential campaign Rutelli said that it was a shame that Segolene Royal (the Socialist candidate for the presidency) refused to accept the call of some of her party colleagues to join forces with Francois Bayrou and his UDF.

Rutelli and his party certainly have a different conception of state church relations from the ex-DS despite formally defending the secularist positions. On matters related to civil liberties, Italian Democratic Party will certainly not resemble Zapatero's Socialist Government and it is rather probable that it will further lose votes to the left spectrum of italian politics. Should Mussi and DS members who refused to join the Democratic Party succeed in uniting the hoplessly divided Italian left wing parties (Communist Refoundation Party and Party of Italian Communists) the battle on the italian center-right arena will remain open . The dominant position of the Democratic Party is by no means assured.

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