Tuesday, March 30, 2004

From the start the blog was intended to be a forum for the discussion and presentation of different views and this year we have had a contribution from Nora Galli de' Paratesi. For the next few weeks the blog will host contributions from AUR students completing the semester's Italian Politics course.

Their own worst enemies?

Alba Lupia

On March 11th terrorism again shook the western world, this time concentrating itself in Europe. Within 3 days of the massacre of innocent civilians in Spain the people chose to change their government. A historical amount of voters flooded the polls to oust Jose' Maria Aznar who had sent troops to Iraq, favorour of the Socialist leader Zapatero. Three days later the Spanish people had spoken. If the UN does not take control of the reconstruction in post-war Iraq by June 30th, Spanish troops will withdraw.

The repercussions of this change over will be felt in all of America's allies. The curiosity lies in how far the vibrations will actually reach. In Italy the biggest left-wing party the DS has since February 14th begun their steps towards at least an electoral alliance with the centre-left Margherita (Daisy) called the Olive Tree Alliance in the hope of an eventual defeat of the current Berlusconi run government. In the coalition Fassino and Prodi are striving for a victory in the June European elections as a prelude to Italian the elections of 2006. This coalition of the left prides itself on bringing peace to Italy once in power. An important question remains: how "united" is this pacifist coalition?

On the anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, demonstrators all over Europe marched through their cities' squares to reaffirm Zapatero's statement and what they had rallied for one year before. The demonstration in Rome was one of the largest with perhaps as many as a million people taking part. The historical centre was swarming with rainbow peace flags and good intentions. That afternoon however, the peace march became divisive. In a very crowded area near Santa Maria Maggiore the demonstrators were forced to stand still for several hours. One of the many supporting groups of the DS, also the most important due to party secretary Piero Fassino's presence, tried to enter the march at this point and found itself face to face with some of the most radical segments of the movement. Soon enough young radicals began casting insults and throwing objects in opposition to the supposed solidarity of Fassino. His offence in their eyes was that he had gone to the previous Thursday's demonstration "against terrorism" where centre right politicians had gone too; as bad, the DS had not voted against the continued financing of Italian missions abroad in Parliament the week before. Fassino had wanted to support the earlier Italian peace missions some of which the DS had initiated but vote against the Iraq mission; the Government made this impossible by combining the vote, hence the DS compromise. At the demonstration, despite the heckling, the tension was shortlived and peace again took to the streets.

In the following days some journalists especially on television and in pro-government papers have taken this event to prove that the centre-left is even more divided. It has been compared to the activities of '77 which climaxed with the death of Aldo Moro. The peace march is now being used as another weapon in Italian political controversy.

It seems that the left's enemies are not the right but instead found on their own side. The right calls this the typical "sickness" of the left. The ostensible unity is in fact in jeopardy. On one side of the spectrum there are the radicals who chant "tutti a casa, via di Baghdad". These absolute pacifists that make up a large part of the voting left are faced with opposition in their own alliance. The dominant idea is backed by the DS. Reform and reorganization for peace is the central plan. The incident on Saturday was a sign for the left to not only discuss their ideas on reform and peace but to revaluate their state of unity. They need to ask themselves What is reform for peace? Is it the unconditional withdrawal of Italian troops or continuing to stay present under UN command in hopes of helping the reconstruction of the Iraqi government? The other day demonstrators yelled for the removal of the troops but the politicians of the left insist that this will not bring peace. Instead Italy would be turning its back on the problem and alienating itself from the rest of Europe. They want a Spanish-style policy of keeping troops in Iraq but under UN command.
If the Olive Tree coalition hopes to win votes these questions must be answered. Their image of unity is dissipating as Fassino is accused of compromising with the pro-Bush government and the Prodi list must be made clearer.
The coalition was not even united for a single peace march let alone on ideas of reform and advancement.
The centre left are full of ideas for change and whether or not they can implement them once in power is arguable. These ideas are mostly anti-Berlusconi instead of ones with a definite programme for change.

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