* Shareholders fail to agree rescue plan for left-wing daily
* Renzi's Democratic Party promises support
* Journalists say they have been abandoned
By James Mackenzie
ROME, July 30 L'Unita, the left-wing daily
founded by Antonio Gramsci, one of the fathers of Italian
communism, will suspend publication from Friday after its
shareholders failed to reach agreement on future strategy, the
"They have killed L'Unita," the paper headlined its front
page on Wednesday. Apart from three pages devoted to the closure
and a one-page advertisement for its e-bookstore, the remainder
of the 20-page edition was left blank.
L'Unita, founded by Gramsci in 1924 as the official organ of
the Italian Communist Party, survived the fascist era as an
underground newspaper but it has struggled since the collapse of
the party in the 1990s, closing briefly in 2000 before reopening
with new private shareholders.
Like the rest of the media sector, it has also been hit by
the wider transformation of the industry through the Internet as
well as by the economic crisis in Italy, building up millions of
euros in debt while sales dropped steadily to just over 20,000
copies a day.
With administrators demanding 1.6 million euros to guarantee
the paper could continue operating until September, a
shareholders' meeting on Tuesday saw three proposals rejected.
Underlining the scale of the crisis, they included one from
Daniela Santanche, a right-wing member of parliament and one of
former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's closest associates.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's centre-left Democratic Party
(PD), which retains a small stake in the newspaper, promised its
support, but said it was not responsible for the paper's
"The responsibility is down to those who have been managing
it until now," party treasurer Francesco Bonifazi said, but
added that it would work to keep the paper open. "The PD is 100
percent committed to finding a solution. We will save L'Unita."
Beyond the newspaper's financial problems, the crisis at
L'Unita reflects the sense of disorientation in parts of the
Italian left following the ascent of Renzi, a moderniser who
rose to power on a promise to demolish the old party structures.
"L'Unita is the newspaper, which more than any other, has
told the story and identified with workers and their work,"
Susanna Camusso, head of the CGIL, Italy's biggest union, said
in a statement, calling on the PD to intervene.
However the newspaper's own journalists, who have worked
unpaid for the past three months, accused Italy's main party of
the left of abandoning them despite hopes it would intervene.
"The workers have been left alone to defend an historic
publication," its editorial committee said.
(Editing by Janet Lawrence)