Special interview with Alessandro Mustillo, General Secretary of the Communist Youth Front (FGC) of Italy, and candidate of the communists at the municipal election of Rome in May 2016.
ICP, 13th March 2016
ICP: As we start, can you please tell us, briefly, about the story this election in Rome?
Alessandro Mustillo: The resignation of the former mayor of Rome led to this election process. Corruption scandals and Democratic Party’s (PD) withdrawal of support from the local administration of Rome caused this resignation. The loss of support from the PD to the former administration of the city of Rome was the result of that administration's some positions which were in contradiction with the political line of the PD. In Rome, there was an internal contradiction between the dominant sector of the bourgeois class, particularly about the relationship with the Vatican and also about the question of the Olympic games…
ICP: Let’s start with a simple question. This is your first time participating in the municipal elections in Rome. How did you came up with such a decision?
AM: Our party has decided this year to participate in the elections which will take place in the major cities of Italy: Naples, Rome, Milan, Turin. In Rome, there is a peculiar situation; the governmental party, Democratic Party (PD), and all the parties of the left-wing are suffering a great crisis. This is also a crisis of the integration which used to connect these left-wing parties to the history of the Italian Communist Party (PCI). Although we have a critical position towards the PCI, especially in the latest years of its history, from the 70’s to the end, we believe that there was a strong bond with the popular strata and the Italian working class. We also think that the political events which led to the foundation of the PD and to the dissolution of PCI broke this bond with the popular strata and the working class.
Particularly in Rome, the total failure of the policies of the left-wing parties became evident. The policies which always helped the banks, monopolies and the construction firms, which are extremely powerful in Rome… This led to the current situation. The majority of the people and the workers are not represented by the political forces. Although, we don’t think that the elections are the mean to change the system, however we also think that our participation to the election can help us to enforce our bonds with the working class and the popular strata in the city. And more importantly, this allows us to spread our key issues, our program and our political proposal among people.
We believe that in these months we will be actually able to build the party in Rome, where we are really strong as the youth organisation. For example, in the last student elections we gained 18% of votes. But as a Party we are still very weak. Through the election we are going to be able to construct our cells and sections of our organisation inside the work places and the popular neighbourhoods. This is the most important thing about this election, despite the votes we will get. Other important thing that the elections made us able to do is to reveal the real nature of opportunism and of the opportunist political forces. This is also very important for us because of what happened in the past, in the initial political framework in Rome. This led to the fact that today we are truly perceived as the unique communist force in the country.
ICP: And how is the reaction of the people of Rome regarding the elections? Do they have any expectations from the polls? What are their demands?
AM: The main demand is, of course, a change in the city management but yet this demand of change is not a reflection of a real political consciousness about how this should be realised. This demand is very often limited to the demand of change of the political elite who administer the city. Yet it’s totally forgotten that behind the actions of this political elite there are the capitalistic interests of a social class which is actually ruling the city. On the other hand, the people are also demanding to preserve the social services. These demands conflict with the policies of the current management of the city and with the policies of the EU.
In Rome, we have the issue of the public debt, which amounts to 13 billions Euros. Just for the city of Rome… And a plan has been prepared in order to pay the debt, 500 millions per year. Of course, this implies the total destruction of the rights of the Roman workers and the Roman popular strata.
Another important issue is the housing. The rents in Rome are very high. This is caused by the fact that the rents are determined by the speculative policies carried on by the banks, construction firms and the international societies. There are thousands and thousands of people without house in Rome and there are more than 200.000 of houses which are not used, stay idle. And majority of them are in the property of the Vatican State or the construction firms and banks. Despite this fact in Rome, they are still constructing new buildings and new neighbourhoods. The issue is, the population of Rome is not increasing, but it is decreasing. Of course, this mechanism is totally functional for the capitalist interests of the construction firms and of the banks. For this reason our proposal is to take the houses which are not occupied, to expropriate and to give them to those who need.
Other issues are about public transportation, especially in the peripheries of the city. In the peripheries many public transportation lines are being canceled and this keeps the workers away from the possibilities of using the public transportation. All this is aggravating the situation in Rome which is a candidate for the Olympic Games of 2024. This event would of course give billions of Euros to speculators and to all the powers that we were talking of earlier…
The reactions of the people towards our propaganda comes in various types. Especially among workers, when we express our solidarity and our support with their struggle the respond is always positive. The old militants of the PCI are supporting and respecting us to be able to reconstruct, to rebuilt the communist movement in Italy. Of course there is also much diffidence towards the communists. And this is certainly have something to do with the history, both in Italy and in the world; the historical defeats of the communist movement after the dissolution of USSR. The left movement have participated to the bourgeois governments in Italy and we are still paying the price of this opportunist political positions and policies. Therefore often the communist are not seen as alternative to this system, precisely because of this historical events and the mistakes.
One thing we concern the most is the support we get from youth. The youth today perceives the contradictions of capitalism and understands that the dominant rhetoric and the ideology cannot hide these contradictions anymore. It’s especially for the new generation of the youth we decide to take this important step of taking part in the elections. Because we want the youth to understand and perceive the communists not only as a force presented in the struggle but also as an alternative to this system politically and economically.
ICP: As the Communist Youth Front (FGC), you seem to be in the forefront of this election campaign. Of course you are entering to the elections as a party, but we see militant young people, like yourself, leading this process. Why did you decide to do so? An how does this choice effect the public opinion?
AM: It is true, the half of the candidates in Rome will be under 30. This is the choice of our party because of the actual forces which are present in Rome. So this is a decision which is both linked to a real condition but we also want to give the message in Rome that the communist reconstruction is also walking with the legs of the youth.
This also implies that we are taking a huge distance from the years of opportunism. Having said that we do want to stress the fact that we do not think that the element of the youth, the generational issue is an important question for the working place. We made political evaluation of a person based on the revolutionary characterization of its ideas not of its age. And for this reason, we will not be perceived as the candidate of the youth. We want to be the candidate of the working class and the popular strata of the country.
Being young in doing this, can of course give us a hand but also has negative aspects. Because sometimes we are perceived as not reliable. Ofcourse it is very important for us that the party decided to give us this important responsibility and we are proud of this.
ICP: You told us about the Italian youth. Let’s open this up a bit… How are they approaching to this elections? Do you think that your existence as an alternative will increase the youth participation to the elections?
AM: Yes we think so. In Italy, the participation rate to the polls is decreasing but recently research, and also our assessments show that the young generations are interested in the elections. Of course, there is no faith and expectation with respect to the political system and parties.
We are working in order to make the youth understand and gain consciousness about the fact that the sources of the problems in this society come from the capitalist relations. Presence in our candidate lists of many militants coming from the schools is very important to reach out to the youth. We are certain that we will further increase, enforce the bonds between our organisation and youth. And most important fact about this aspect is that we are already observing an organisational growth in these months, as a consequence of the decision of the Party about the elections in Rome.
ICP: What is the main issue at the center of this elections?
AM: For us the main issue of this election is to brake of the power of monopolies, the EU and the European Central Bank (ECB) and this effects all the themes in our political campaign. A central topic in the political debate in Italy is the immigration. We believe that this issue cannot be solved if we don’t put a stake to the participation of our country to imperialist interventions and pro-imperialist international policies as well as its involvement in NATO.
ICP: As you pointed out, one of the most important issues, Europe-wide, is the migration crisis. Can you tell us more about the influence of the migration crisis over the political atmosphere in Italy and in Rome?
AM: Immigration is one of the main topics of the political debate also in occasion of the administrative elections in the city of Rome. In fact, we are asked to express our position about the immigration as candidates for the administrative elections in our cities, namely we are asked to explain what we would do if elected to the administration of the city.
First of all, we must say that the solution of this issue cannot be performed on the ground of the municipal elections. On the contrary, the solution lies in the end of the imperialist policies and of the involvement also of our country in the imperialist interventions. Therefor every administrative solution would be limited and useless.
We know that the far right, reactionary organisations are carrying out a very strong campaign about this issue. This campaign has as its result, the division of the oppressed in a war among the poor. For example, one of the slogans, one of the dilemmas of this campaign is “let’s not give houses to immigrants, let’s give houses to Italians.”. The reality is that if the big house owners would get expropriated we would have houses for both Italians and both immigrants for many years.
We demand the closure of the camps where the immigrant are segregated and detained. Because our position is not a position for the segregation but for the integration of the immigrants in the struggles and the life conditions of the Italian working class. At the same time we also refuse the political proposal of the left wing forces. We believe that it is not enough to say “welcome refugees”. Because we know that the labor power of the immigrants is used and exploited by the capitalists. So big capitalists can say “welcome refugees”. On the contrary, our work, as the work of a revolutionary force, is to fight for gaining equal rights for the immigrant and Italian workers in workplaces. We work for building the class unity among all workers. Skin colour and the country of origin make no sense at all. For us there are two races: exploiter and the exploited.