Almost invisibly, at least in the beginning, a debate has been developing in recent weeks on the theme of the construction of a new political subject for the Italian left. Some of the articles in il manifesto, also taking into account the letters received by the editorial staff, have made explicit reference to it; others have limited themselves to hinting at it; others have given it just the barest mention. But it is certainly something more than just an obscure object of desire.
It’s no wonder that in the face of the enormous problem we have before us, defeating the pandemic and the reconstruction of the country as an alternative to the model of development responsible for the economic-financial crises as well as the pandemic-related ones, the complicated problem of the construction of the left is coming forward. On the contrary, it is precisely in the face of great trials that political parties and formations come to life.
This has been the case in the history of the international labor movement, particularly in our country. But now the reason goes even deeper. First the economic and financial crisis, and then the pandemic crisis, have revealed the intrinsic fragility of the capitalist system, which goes from one crisis to another, as Marc Bloch wrote. However, that fragility does not in itself lead to downfall.
In reality, capitalism is a mutant systemic body. It is able to learn, even if reluctantly, from the crises it provokes and from the defeats or setbacks that the class struggle imposes on it every now and then. It is painful to admit it, but the debate and discussions that have opened up worldwide among the ruling classes on how to respond to the current crisis seem more stimulating and dynamic than what is brewing on the alternative left, which is largely tied to old clichés.
The crisis of politics, reduced to a technique for managing what already exists, which celebrates changes of majority and government, as with the advent of Draghi, the “autopilot” builder, is above all a crisis of the left. The reconquering of the primacy of politics would be its proper task.
But the infinite variants of “governism” touted above all have been able to nip in the bud any attempt to build a left-wing subject.
Another factor has been placing the topic of alliances above that of the existence of the left as such. As illogical as the former is, it is justified by the constrictive nature of electoral laws, dominated by the majoritarian approach and the coalition-building technique. The struggle for proportional representation is as necessary as it is an arduous one.
However, it should not be a scandal to consider, at least as a hypothesis, skipping a round, and, instead of jumping on others’ bandwagons, dedicating ourselves to beginning a constituent process for a new political subject, instead of yet another electoral campaign. This requires time and attention.
The party forms of the past cannot be reproduced. There is no longer a vanguard that brings the doctrine to the multitudes. The organization of the people of the left as “a country within a country” cannot be recreated. But this does not undermine the need for a political subject. The enormous amount of information available in digital society does not in itself constitute consciousness, which is always an interpretation of what exists, or rather a “sense” that binds feelings, ideals, passions and needs to an inexhaustible critical inquiry, enlivening the latter.
In the heart of the realm of the algorithm, an unprecedented form of struggle is developing today, that of riders and drivers, which is not only forcing the biggest profiteers of the crisis to negotiate and concede, but is also achieving an immediate symbiosis with the consumers—moreover, one on a global scale. Disintegrated communities, or ones that never existed, which are building their own dimension of civil protagonism and struggle. It is a signal, not yet a substantial reality, but it must be heard.
In our society, in addition to committees, movements, and territorial bodies dealing with struggle, where the old forms feed on the new and vice versa, there are also centers of thought that have survived the abandonment of culture by the former or newly minted left. The meeting of an alternative thought with the social movements is the goal. Beginning a constituent process means not only calling on the organized micro-forces of the alternative, but leading this discontinuous reality towards a path of elaboration of a new political and organizational ideal profile, with an outcome that cannot be predetermined.
The important thing is that the departure and the path should be inclusive, starting from an intellectual and political structure that, beginning from the critique of today’s capitalism, would indicate, at the very least, the direction of overcoming it. As Bhashar Sunkara also wrote in his political manifesto, networks, or networks of networks, as well as federations between political forces—not to mention electoral alliances—are not enough: in the best case, they can keep the conflict alive, which is not an insignificant feat, but they cannot carry the social transformation on their shoulders.