Interview. 'If a Congress is "constituent," one must accept the idea of being reborn from the ashes, agree to question everything, with the courage of the socialists of the late 19th century.'

Carlo Galli: The Democratic Party was born in crisis

“The PD has been in trouble since it was born, a few months before the subprime mortgage crisis disrupted the liberal world order. The European Union responded to that crisis with austerity, which the Dems supported, and since that ‘cure’ the Italian economy has not recovered. I remember that during the Monti government, the M5S was growing by one point a month. Then Renzi, an unbridled neoliberal, came along, and the PD crowned him and hung on to him, except for a few stragglers who left.”

Carlo Galli, a professor of the History of Political Thought at the University of Bologna for decades (his latest book, Ideologia, came out on Friday from Il Mulino), uses the historian’s method to reconstruct the biography of a party that “was never able to propose an alternative to what history served up; passive, born espousing the idea of a society without any conflict, with the idea that it was enough to go along with the movement of the economy to generate decent living conditions for everyone, with at most small corrections being made. A party immersed in a neoliberal fog, with a blind faith in globalization. And when this fell apart, the party remained dumb, unable to find a place within the re-politicization of society.”

Yet it is one of the few remaining major Italian parties.

It knows how to deal with symbolic issues, as now with the controversy over using the feminine or masculine article for the title of the Prime Minister. It also knows how to always put itself on the side of the good guys, making moralistic judgments about current events.

From the opposition, will things change?

I see that they’re now announcing a pugnacious attitude. So far there hasn’t been any, as if politics were a waltz salon and not a boxing ring. There continues to be an absence of a radical reading of society, of the contradictions that brought votes to the “populists” and then to the “sovereignists” who were able to connect with the social unease. It is not enough to accuse Meloni of being a fascist; we need to understand the origins of the problems and be able to give answers that match their level of radicalness.

Now there will be a Constituent Congress.

I read that someone among the candidates for leaders [Bonaccini] says that one should not philosophize but act. But act on which ideas? Speaking to which social cohorts? So far, in a semi-devastated society like the Italian one, protest has found answers in abstention, the individualist anger of voting for M5S, until the right gave it a container: the nation. Certainly, Meloni in the Chamber gave an identitarian speech. But the answer is not to attack her for it, but, if anything, to build an equally strong identity on the left.

Do you think the driving force of the PD is exhausted?

It does not seem to me that there is the ability to analyze and the will to fully change gear. It seems to me that the Dem leadership is rather hoping for some mistake by Meloni in order to get back into government. But she is more competent than Salvini. To date, the PD remains the fourth largest party among workers. If it wanted to change course, that’s where it would have room to do it: if the needs of workers are to be pitted against the needs of capital, if the unemployed, the precarious and the underpaid are to be given a voice, there are fertile fields ahead. But this will need a weighty party, one that physically goes back to the workplaces, as the PCI used to do.

Is that model still viable?

The social conflict is not over – just remember the case of the rider fired after his death on the job. The question is whether workers can still trust the party of the Jobs Act and the “Buona Scuola” education reforms.

It is likely that no matter who wins the primary, the line will be a bit more social-oriented.

Look, what’s needed is not charitable work, but a leftist party. The vultures, Calenda and the Five Stars, are already circling over the PD: if what comes out of the Congress is a direction of petty bargaining, without giving radical answers, I think the two vultures will consume the remains. And I honestly don’t think that the primary mechanism, typical of a light and leader-centric party, is the one best suited to rethink the PD from the ground up.

Do you see any figures that would be capable of leading a true re-foundation?

There are some among the leadership, like Cuperlo, who can feel the lack of vision, who have realized that the defeat was not tactical or episodic but structural. But I have yet to hear anyone say, like Bartali, that it’s “back to the drawing board.”

Do you think the dissolution of the party would be helpful? Or is there a risk that it would leave scorched earth behind?

The idea of a complete reshuffling should not be ruled out. If a Congress is “constituent,” one must accept the idea of being reborn from the ashes, agree to question everything, with the courage of the socialists of the late 19th century. One must indeed philosophize, be relentless in discussing politics, give space to young people’s anger and desire for the future. If not a dissolution, at least the change of a name that no longer inspires confidence would be needed.

Will the M5S inherit the left?

At this stage, it is the most left-wing force. Not social-democratic; I would call it democratic left. There is no radical interpretation of society, but they understand that the economic system produces problems. There is great organizational and cultural weakness in the M5S, and yet Conte has shown that he has know-how and resilience, that he can survive his mistakes.

Which right wing will Meloni represent in government?

Her speech was a neoliberal, “leave business to its own devices,” Thatcher-esque speech. But Thatcher took more unemployment as a given, while Meloni cannot afford more poverty. She has to deliver results on jobs and wages, and I don’t see how she can do that, since she doesn’t want the minimum wage and doesn’t want to increase debt either. I think she will move more on the symbolic, Catholic-right front. But not as far as touching Law 194 [on abortion].

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