Commentary. Electoral dispersion is the greatest gift one could give to the Democratic Party: thanks to these ‘lost’ votes at the polls, the PD remains almost the only representative of a much larger arena.

Duty to our ideas calls for unity and governance, not just putting up a logo

Our political soul is part of the history of the left. Of the traditional one—because il manifesto was born after the expulsions and removal from the PCI—and of the alternative one born after ’68.

And for more than 50 years, thanks to this newspaper, we have tried to keep alive these two experiences in our journalistic and political narrative, always trying to capture the best of the political, social and cultural struggles, and to criticize the closed attitudes, rigidities and ideologies.

We don’t always manage to keep that “torch lit.” Quite the contrary. And readers have the right to disagree with the positions we take, with the things we write with sincerity, frankness, transparency, defending autonomy, independence and freedom with persistence and pride.

Because we do not have—nor do we want—bosses and masters. Both economic and political ones. I say this to clear the field of debate of one of the criticisms made by those who wrote to us in response to the editorial on the “Left of the small old world” (published in English here), prompted by the poor electoral results of the lists of a part of the left.

We do not want, we are not interested, and it is not in the DNA of il manifesto to carry water for the Democratic Party, which we consider a governmental force of the center, but towards which we clearly behave as towards an interlocutor in the progressive area. We are not pursuing an alliance with the Democratic Party “no matter what,” as Maurizio Acerbo wrote. Nor do we believe that “the only political horizon worthy of note is the one next to and in the shadow of the PD,” as Giuliano Granato argued.

Simply put, we think that in politics, if one has the ambition to govern—or, even before that, if one has the intention of gaining institutional representation—then numbers are fundamental. And without the votes of the Democratic Party, local and national governments cannot be built. Just as the votes of the M5S are fundamental for a progressive government: this was demonstrated by the progressive candidates elected in Bologna and Naples, who would not have won in the first round without the support of a large democratic voter base.

This without losing sight of the fact that, as we also wrote on the analysis of the vote, on October 3 and 4 “those who won also lost,” because of the loss in absolute numbers of votes and the record abstentionism.

Our criticism, which we have always been making, concerns the lack of unity among the many forces that live (or survive, or scrape by) to the left of the PD, and which are putting their own colors, their own reasons, their own identity first. An argument that Acerbo himself agrees with at the beginning of his column, when he writes that “for months I have been expressing bewilderment in the face of the plethora of lists with or without the hammer and sickle that have decided not to converge on a single candidate for mayor.”

It should also be quite clear that this reflection does not concern the struggles, the battles, the collective stories of so many organizations that exist on the left, holding firm to certain principles, objectives, values that risk disappearing or being set aside by the disease of “governmentalism.” And we feel deep sympathy for those who put themselves on the line, those who defend rights, those who are on the side of the oppressed, the workers, the weakest. We at il manifesto have always worked for that.

But precisely in the name of this respect, we are convinced that commitments and political objectives would carry more weight if they were brought by the left into the institutions. However, to achieve this goal, the situation of such a plethora of lists must be avoided.

Our readers—whom I’d like to thank in the first place—have sent us emails to express their disagreement or agreement with us. This is normal. But there is an aspect that has become part of the democratic culture and that is being overlooked today: the dispersal of votes.

So I ask myself: is there a political responsibility towards the world we share, or does the affirmation of who we are count above all? If in the Rome elections, the lists Partito Comunista, PCI, Potere al Popolo, Sinistra Rivoluzionaria and Roma Ti Riguarda took an average of 0.5% of the votes, is it right or not to ask oneself what was the sense of taking part in the electoral process? If in Milan, five lists of the radical left have less support put together than the populist Senator Paragone, is it wrong to argue that it would have been better to present themselves united?

If these questions appear to some as a “betrayal of the cause,” we can only take note of that view. But it is not like that at all. It has never been like that, because we know that not a few comrades who read il manifesto voted for the different left-wing lists. However, I have to stress that the ultra-fragmented electoral representation is now a settled “tradition,” which, in our opinion, should finally be abandoned. And this time, things have gone to the very limits of mere self-representation.

Of course, we are highlighting the left-wing and environmentalist groups and alliances that have achieved good results. And not because we like Fratoianni or Elly Schlein more, but because of their attempt at unity. And there is nothing scandalous if the unity of intent also involves a common path with the PD. Unless you consider that party an “enemy to be put down,” as I seem to glimpse between the lines of some letters we’ve received. For us, however, it is, and remains, a component of the progressive camp with which we must discuss and, if necessary and possible and just, ally ourselves in order to defeat the adversaries, indeed, the enemies, who are and remain the fascist-Lega supporters (a clash that is likely to happen in the runoffs).

Does that mean being subaltern? Neoliberal? Draghi supporters?

Perhaps if some read il manifesto more often and with greater attention, we could avoid certain characterizations that are shallow at best. And speaking of our readers—of course, we are in the minority. But—in reply to Luca Fini—we always have been. And that percentage of copies sold at newsstands, which is actually higher, is historically always at the same level.

We are suffering, like all the other newspapers, from the deep and irreversible crisis of the printed word. But we have no unrealistic ambitions, we are not running for mayor of Rome or Milan. We do have this conviction: despite the number of copies sold, we are convinced that we have readers of the left in many of its various versions. And that is why we think we are not really in the minority.

Precisely because I think it is actually possible to “build a left with sufficient critical mass, autonomous and alternative to the PD,” I think it is a very serious mistake to go to the elections just for the sake of putting up a logo. I would add that electoral dispersion is the greatest gift one could give to the Democratic Party: thanks to these “lost” votes at the polls, the PD remains almost the only representative of a much larger arena—and from an electoral perspective as well.

To Luigi Caputo, who wrote to us (we are unable to publish all the letters we received) pointing out the failed list led by Valpreda put up by il manifesto of 1972, we will recall that the choice to stand in the elections—as we were not a party—was preceded by a bitter internal debate, with a rift between Luigi Pintor on the one hand and Rossana Rossanda and Aldo Natoli on the other. The outcome was a stinging defeat, and it was accompanied by a deep self-criticism. Which then led to different choices: in the following elections of 1976, there was the alliance of the PDUP (ex-il manifesto) with Avanguardia Operaia and Lotta Continua, which resulted in the Democrazia proletaria list, which won a small parliamentary presence.

I will ask: are the forces, the militants, the leaders of the lists that we’ve called out able to start such a self-critical process, or do they prefer to complain about the editorial in il manifesto?

Ugo Menesatti, Roberto Pietrobon, Stefano Proietti have grasped the meaning of our post-election commentary, and I thank them for their polite critical observations (which are never unwelcome), for their calls and suggestions. One of which is already something we intend, having two objectives at heart: a wide-ranging, open, profound reflection among the left and democratic forces on the construction of a political organization that would succeed in bringing together the many souls of the left. Is it an ambitious project? Yes, it is. Is it feasible? Yes, although we know that becoming united is difficult. But we should never forget that union is strength.

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