Commentary. We will need to be concrete and timely, to decide on the projects that are being launched and that will condition our future and that of young people, to agree on method and content, and to whether we want to influence the priorities and basic objectives, as well as which ones.

Bipolarism and the danger of purity tests on the left

With the last round of elections, the Conte government has consolidated itself. Industrialists and publishing groups, putting their backstabbing plans aside, now aim to influence its choices by vying for a role in governance. A different climate can be felt in the political framework and in the relationship between the parties.

Here, one can glimpse tremors and underground movements whose effects will become more and more visible as we approach the election of the President of the Republic and the political elections that will follow. But some trends are already visible and in progress. The trend of the growth of populism has come to a halt: the ascent of Salvini’s national Lega has stopped, giving way to a more structured right, and it will have to reckon with a more localist component; the M5S has already lost a good part of its electorate coming from the right, and is beginning to lose those coming from the left.

Tri-polarity already seems to have waned, while the personalization of politics, favored by local electoral laws and the role that the regions have been called to play in the pandemic, is being strengthened. We are moving towards a plural bipolarism, with two macro-areas divided into particular elements. The political confrontation in the coming months will focus on the internal balances of each area. In the center-right area, everything will depend on whether a center component will emerge, while in the area that includes the M5S, the mini-centrists, the PD and everything else on its left, different scenarios will be possible which will involve all subjects. Let us limit ourselves, for the moment, to the left-wing area. In il manifesto, we are already talking about this beginning from the political forms: party, field, area or left-wing ecologist network.

This is a wrong place to start, in my opinion. First of all, because the accentuation of the tendencies towards bipolarism and personalization/leadership have forced us to reckon with an inescapable problem: either we accept forced alliances to avoid the greater evil, or we are destined to disappear/fall into irrelevance. This means that the defense of the identity of a leftist actor must be put to the hard test of their consistency: without this, their advocacy loses its political connotations and slips towards forms of pseudo-religious affiliation. But there are other factors—among which, at least three great novelties—that have manifested suddenly and all at once during the last year, and which have upset the old patterns, posing truly vital questions for the left. I will try to briefly analyze the three below.

  1. A) Changes. For years, the left has stood for great changes, for a new direction for the development model towards environmental and social sustainability. Well, today these are no longer relegated to the opposition, but are even assumed by the European institutions and proposed by them to the nation states.
  2. B) Resources. After years of struggles against austerity, hindering every attempt at development, today, for the first time since the post-war period, resources are made available (while it would be more honest to be more cautious and realistic on the size and timing of disbursements), which mean that the processes of reconversion and innovation are able to begin.
  3. C) The government. The possibility of change and necessary resources are entrusted not to a government considered the enemy, but to a government that includes, in Italy, both the left-wing parties and the M5S, the latter of which had run under the banner of innovation and the environment even before the others. Has socialism finally arrived? Certainly not. The resources are mostly loans, they will increase the public debt, their destination will be subject to controls; however, there is no doubt that the left is facing a great challenge: to try to achieve, in part, what it has always said it wants.

This requires something more and greater than an operation of re-assembly of classes, be they political or civil, or of an organizational shortcut under forms already tried and failed (federations, networks, nominalist alliances, etc.). If we want to live up to the new challenge of which we are part, we will need to courageously assume the paternity and maternity of the process that is emerging. Thus, we will need to be concrete and timely, to decide on the projects that are being launched and that will condition our future and that of young people, to agree on method and content, and to whether we want to influence the priorities and basic objectives, as well as which ones.

To be even more concrete: regarding the three directions indicated by Europe, and the six priorities indicated by the government (digitization, ecological transition, infrastructure, health, education, social equity)—do we give them equal weight or do we want to highlight some priorities? Even more: do we want to specify that all projects should have, as a common denominator, the growth of work and wages, and therefore demand that each project should indicate the number of jobs, types and impacts on the territories? Can the centrality of work be taken as something more than a slogan?

We should want to create the new left by exercising our hand in dealing with these problems, coming out of silence and involving young people, social entities and movements. It makes little sense to continue to be spectators in the tug-of-war between “using the ESM” and “not using the ESM,” which is so appealing to politicians who have nothing else to say.

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