'Contaminated' by the movement

Guiseppe 'Bepe' de Cristofaro is secretary of the youth section of the Party of Communist Refoundation and secretary of the PRC's Naples federation. At the party's 5th Congress in Rimini earlier this month the Weekly Worker spoke to him

The Weekly Worker interviewed you about the situation in Italy and the state of the anti-capitalist movement at Genoa last year. What has changed since the Genoa demonstration? There has been a big shift in the movement since Genoa as a consequence of September 11. We have had to come to terms with the instigation of global permanent war. The building up of the anti-capitalist movement before, during and after Genoa helped to strengthen the peace movement here in Italy. We have a very strong peace movement - stronger than in other European countries. The anti-war movement has seen many mass demonstrations - and in difficult conditions, because the pro-war parties have an effective and large apparatus. The unity against war in our party has been greater than before - in the years since the war in Kosova many things have changed, not least the development of the mass movement. One of the most important things after Genoa is that the movement is not only against globalisation but also a movement against the war. Added to that is the resurgence of the trade union movement against the Berlusconi government. Naturally there are differences between the movement arising out of Genoa and the 3 million-strong demonstration a few weeks ago in Rome. However, we believe that the building up of the movement over the past 18 months was a factor in the great response of three million people on the streets, despite its different composition. When we first looked at the birth of the anti-globalisation movement in Europe, the forces involved did not seem particularly new, but all that seems to have changed now. Previously there had been a large anarchist involvement but that seems to have reduced considerably, particularly since Nice and Genoa. There seems to be a larger working class involvement now. What do you see as the impetus to this shift - for new forces and for the involvement of the workers' movement? The movement did not come from the traditional working class, even though in Seattle there was a significance presence of the US trade unions. At the next demonstration in Prague, the working class was virtually absent. I think that a qualitative leap occurred, first in Naples against Nato and then in Genoa, because of the Italian experience. There were real 'social subjects' getting involved in Italy - the unemployed, students and big chunks of the working class movement. Our party has decided to stay in the movement unconditionally. So I think Rifondazione has done a very valuable job, whereas in other European countries the CPs showed a little bit of embarrassment and did not realise the potential of this movement. If in Italy its anti-capitalist character is more pronounced, it is because Rifondazione is involved in it. Because the working class movement in the shape of the Italian trade unions decided to be involved from the very outset, this has marked a significant difference. What sort of direction should the movement take and how should communists seek to give it direction? We are still discussing this, so this is a very personal opinion. First we must ask, what is the meaning of hegemony? I believe that the hegemony of the movement within society is more important that the hegemony of Rifondazione within the movement. This understanding has also allowed us to work with other smaller organisations within the movement. We have never attempted to impose ourselves as the leading force. It has allowed us to do things which a few years ago we would have thought impossible. Because we never sought to become the hegemonic group within the movement, we are perhaps the only CP in the world that can put our flags at the front of the demonstration without any complaints. This was absolutely impossible previously. Normally political parties go to the back of a demonstration organised by a separate movement. We looked for ideas within the movement, rather than trying to import our own. Personally, I have learnt many things which I did not know before. Maybe even things from outside the communist tradition. I have learnt to be against the privatisation of water. I have learnt to understand what is genetically modified food. And probably the person who taught me about GM food has learnt about why I am against Nato. On September 27 there was meant to be a Nato conference and a counter-demonstration. We held a demonstration, but there was no meeting. Many of those involved were new forces which had never fought against Nato before. This is because of a certain 'contamination' between the party and the movement that has been present in these past months. And just as our party has learnt from the movement, the movement has begun to discuss and deal with issues pushed by our party. In a nutshell, though, the major achievement has not been to build up a relationship between the party and the movement, but to build up the movement itself because of our involvement. We have not dissolved our party into the movement, but because of the movement, today we are even stronger. Does this perspective overturn the idea of a vanguard party of the working class, or does it enrich the Leninist concept of the party? We have always said that we want to build a mass Communist Party. Obviously we need to understand what this means. I think that the notion we had before is perhaps inadequate at the present time. This does not mean we are getting rid of Leninism. It means we are facing a completely different reality from what the Bolsheviks had to confront. The organisation of labour has completely changed. The world itself has changed. We think it would be absurd to believe that we can have a party based on the same scheme we had previously. This does not mean we are not communists any more: rather it concretises what it means to be a communist today. Either we do this or we are destined to disappear. * Lessons for left * Vittorio Agnoletto * April 16: class against class * Build the ESF movement