Reply to an Observer article by the Italian Refounded CP

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Aug 11 11:30:19 MDT 2003

I am commenting on selected passages from an article that can be read in
its entirety at:,3604,1016107,00.html

> Reformist social democracy is no longer on the agenda
> The anti-globalisation movement is the basis of a left alternative
> Fausto Bertinotti
> The anti-globalisation movement is the first movement that represents a
> break with the 20th century and its truths and myths. At present it is
> the main source of politics for an alternative to the global right.
> When, on February 15, 100 million people took to the streets, the New
> York Times referred to it as a second "world power", a power that in the
> name of peace opposed those who wanted war.

But the February 15th demonstrations were mounted despite the grumbling
of Michael Hardt that it was diverting attention from the "real
movement", namely anti-globalization.

> It has countered the crisis of democracy with embryonic new democratic
> institutions. It has challenged the division of political labour among
> trade unions, parties and cooperatives and shifted the focus of
> political debate from institutions to social relations, bringing
> feelings and everyday life back into the realm of politics.
> It has also tackled the theme of power, in terms not of achieving and
> keeping it, but of transforming, dissolving and reconstructing power
> through self-government. And it has challenged the model of a party
> leading the movement, proposing instead the notion of networks and links
> among groups, associations, parties and newspapers.

"transforming, dissolving and reconstructing power through
self-government"? Does anybody know what he is saying? I certainly don't.

> An alternative European left can find its strategy only within the
> anti-globalisation movement. The key issue both for the movement and for
> us is the clash between peace and war. The movement has identified the
> global dimension of war and the fact that it is inbuilt in a system
> which cannot do without it. It was this conviction that turned the
> anti-globalisation movement into the backbone of the peace movement.

Really? As far as I can tell, the backbone of the peace movement in the
USA is the much-pilloried ANSWER coalition. Meanwhile, the UPJ, which
has much more of a quotient of antiglobalization outfits like Global
Exchange in its ranks, is working overtime to figure out how to involve
the movement in "stopping Bush". For veterans of the American left,
especially those familiar with the CPUSA, this can mean only one thing
and it ain't good. And you also have the hard-core anti-globalization
black block types, like Chuck Zero, who despise UPJ and ANSWER equally.
The animosity seems driven by the same considerations that perturb
Michael Hardt. With imperialism going at full blast, they wish that the
mass movement would return to breaking Starbucks windows--as if that
will get US troops out of Iraq or prevent nuclear war with North Korea.

> In Italy, the Refounded Communists, together with others, tried to do
> this through the referendum on extending employment protection to all
> workers. We were defeated, but the referendum took its inspiration from
> the movement, the idea of the struggle for equal rights against job
> insecurity. This battle, however, has not taken on a European dimension.
> The European trade unions decided not to call a general strike against
> the war, which would have also been a boost to the fight against
> neo-liberalism.
> Now there is the chance of re-opening a Europe-wide battle over the
> welfare state. In the face of converging government policies, only an
> organisation fighting at European level can make its case.

I have no idea why this should be a precondition. When the
multinationals in combination with the comprador bourgeoisie in Bolivia
tried to privatize water, the indigenous people fought like hell to beat
  back this attack and they were successful. The way to move forward in
politics is militancy, not necessarily creating continent-wide
formations. It seems to me that the main problem in Europe is not
related to geography but to opportunism, a long-time problem for the
left that predates Naomi Klein. When the French left backed Chirac, it
ceded ground to the class enemy. Moves such as this have to be
challenged in order for us to go on the offensive.

> Unless they move in this direction, the European anti-capitalist
> leftwing parties risk disappearing in terms of political representation;
> and within the anti-globalisation movement there could develop a
> temptation to flee from politics. The forces of the European left cannot
> depend on social democracy. They must break away with a radical, united
> initiative. Not only the prospects of the left and the
> anti-globalisation movement, but even the existence of Europe as an
> autonomous entity, is at stake.

Hate to sound old-fashioned, but what about socialism?

> * Fausto Bertinotti is national secretary of Italy's Refounded Communist
> party (Rifondazione Comunista) and a member of the Italian and European
> parliaments.
> fausto.bertinotti at


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