Ever since the dissolution some two decades ago of the Italian Communist Party, once western Europe's largest, Italy's radical left has been splintered and weak.
Today you have two communist parties - Communist Refoundation and the Party of Italian Communists - plus the green-radical Left Ecology Freedom, headed by Puglia Governor Nichi Vendola.
Although not from the same Gramscian tradition, there is also the Italy of Values party led by former corruption magistrate Antonio Di Pietro, a maverick populist whose parliamentary presence has ensured there remains some kind of left conscience in Rome.
Together these parties represent 14-18 per cent of the vote, but they've struggled to get it together.
Alliances with centre-right parties such as the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats, led by Christian democrat Pier Ferdinando Casini, and Pier Luigi Bersani's forever rightward lurching centre-left Democrats have added to frictions and disagreements.
Although tactically tempting at various times, such alliances have all ultimately ended in failure, and Vendola's current flirt with a pact encompassing the Democrats and Casini's party will conclude no differently.
But the unprecedented onslaught against the 99 per cent by the unelected government of Mario Monti - a man who since replacing Silvio Berlusconi last November has proved to be singularly successful in implementing the neoliberal agenda dear to his colleagues in the elite Bilderberg Club - appears to have convinced them to bury their differences.
And the issue is over labour rights. Last Wednesday the Supreme Court received notification of the plans for referendums to cancel two labour market reforms, one introduced earlier this year by Monti and the other last year by Berlusconi.
These reforms make it easier and cheaper to fire workers, although, as is the rule, they have been introduced in the name of job creation.
The experience of earlier reforms in Italy and elsewhere shows that making it easier to sack people will mean at best that employment is less secure, and at worse that employers will sack more people.
Further deregulation, particularly when jobs are scarce, will also produce a squeeze on wages and other employment conditions as newly empowered employers flex their muscle in the workplace, none of which will encourage workers to spend money.
Such a situation is very likely to sink Italy's sick economy further into recession.
Italians appear to have understood this, with one recent survey by pollster Demos showing 56 per cent opposed to the reforms, with only 24 per cent in favour.
The referendum campaign doesn't have the support of the Democrat leadership, which is tied into Monti's deregulatory drive, having introduced labour reforms when it was in government and having backed the latest wave of job market casualisation led by Monti.
However, the campaign has attracted support within the Democrats where many are extremely uncomfortable with the leadership's backing for the premier, a former European commissioner.
These include senior figures like MEP Sergio Cofferati, once a contender for leader and who as general secretary of the CGIL - Italy's largest trade union confederation - succeeded in getting three million onto the streets to kill off earlier attempts at rolling back labour rights.
Left intellectuals and lawyers - and most importantly trade unions like the Metalworkers Federation that has been leading the industrial fight against the reforms over the past year - are expected to join the campaign.
For the radical left promoting the referendums and disgruntled Democrats on the progressive end of the party this represents a rehearsal for a possible new political opposition movement against Monti and his policies of "social butchery."
A fightback in Italy is badly needed, and the right of millions of workers to decent, secure work is a good place to start.
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