Analysis. In Italy, Liberi e Uguali and Potere al Popolo are both jockeying for the endorsement of international stars, like an old edition of the Sanremo Music Festival.

Figures of the European Left enter the Italian campaign

Grasso’s flash London trip was a low blow against the leadership of the Democratic Party, which has carefully avoided making any comment. The anti-Blair Labour leader and current candidate for Downing Street is a living reminder of Renzi’s errors in judgement on a continental scale. After Corbyn won out at the last Labour Congress, the leader of the Democratic Party didn’t even bother to send him the compliments that politeness required. Until that point, Renzi’s acolytes had been calling the Labour leader “a catastrophe” and someone who “likes to lose.”

Grasso, in turn, went home reaping the fruits of a photo-op that speaks to many people. Corbyn is an icon for the radical Left, and Prodi is one of those who consider him a model. The former prosecutor got his inspiration from him, starting with his slogan “Per molti, non per pochi,” which translates Corbyn’s “For the many not the few,” and down to individual proposals, such as the abolition of university tuition fees, a fight that has won over the British youth.

Grasso’s embrace with Corbyn also contains a message about the 2019 elections for the European Parliament, for which all the progressive families could put up a common front. The various branches of the European Left are watching with concern the division of the Italian “comrades” between Liberi e Uguali and Potere al Popolo.

In an interview with Il Fatto Quotidiano, Pablo Iglesias, the Spanish leader of Podemos, said “I am sad to see that the Left with which I could identify is in no position to fight to win the elections.” Iglesias had congratulated Nicola Fratoianni (Italian Left) for the birth of Liberi e Uguali, but cannot give it his explicit endorsement, at least while the MEPs of the MDP, part of Liberi e Uguali, remain part of the Socialist group in Brussels. This issue is sure to cause havoc among the Left on the occasion of the European Parliament elections, even assuming that they manage to make common cause up to that point.

There is so much alarm regarding the divisions on the Italian Left—which mirror the divisions among the Left everywhere—that the Party of the European Left, composed of the alternative left wing parties that are part of the GUE (European United Left) parliamentary group in Brussels, sent a private note to its members in January saying, in essence, “when it comes to Italy, don’t pick sides.” The reason for this is easily understandable: Rifondazione Comunista, which is part of the European Left, is running in the Italian elections together with Potere al Popolo, while the Italian Left, which is only an “observer member” of the European Left, is a founding member of Liberi e Uguali, and one of its MEPs sits with the group of the Social-Democrats.

And this is not the only problem: the radical left wing parties on the continent are facing an internal struggle regarding the future of the European Union. Europeans are facing off against Eurosceptics and sovereignists, the latter part of a field that is already very crowded with right-wing groups.

This latent conflict flared up in dramatic fashion in late January, when Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of France Insoumise, demanded the expulsion of Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece and leader of Syriza, from the European Left, on charges of slavishly adhering to the diktats of the European Commission. Tsipras had a barbed reply: “We are of the Left in more than just words.” That particular crisis has been overcome, but the issue will resurface as soon as the campaign for the European Parliamentary elections starts.

In the meantime, the net effect is that in Italy, Liberi e Uguali and Potere al Popolo are both jockeying for the endorsement of international stars, like an old edition of the Sanremo Music Festival.

The MDP, which is partnering with both the European Social Democrats and the European Socialists in Brussels, and thus with fans of the PD, has, however, managed to win for Liberi e Uguali the blessing of Pepe Mujica, the legendary former president of Uruguay with a past in the Tupamaros. All the while, the Chilean Camilla Vallejos and the British director Ken Loach have endorsed Potere al Popolo.

And Mélenchon himself, who arrived in Naples on Feb. 16 to study the cooperative model of “Ex OPG-Je so’ pazzo,” the social center from which Potere al Popolo was born, met with Mayor De Magistris, saying he came to Naples to learn from them, and that they are fighting the fight for revolution in Europe.

In turn, the Italian Left added to its column the presence of Katja Kipping, one of the leaders of the German die Linke, in a recent event against the “GroKo” (grand coalitions), together with Nicola Fratoianni, an initiative organized by the ARS of Vincenzo Vita and Aldo Tortorella.

Not to be outdone, the MEP Eleonora Forenza, member of the Communist Refoundation Party (but elected under the banner of The Other Europe) has collected a dozen endorsements for Potere al Popolo, “in all languages,” including from the leader of the GUE parliamentary group in Brussels, Gabriele Zimmer (from the German die Linke), from an Irish member of Sinn Féinn, a Portuguese from the PCP, a Spaniard from Izquierda Unida, a Greek from the LAE and a Basque Communist.

Finally, Greek Prime Minister Tsipras—who in August managed the momentous achievement of taking his country out from under the yoke of the Memorandum, the program of heavy cuts which brought the country out of the financial abyss, while keeping, as he says, Greece “standing on its feet”—refrained from taking sides in the Italian quarrel, and so did his party, Syriza.

“We wish victory to the whole Italian left,” said Argiris Panagopoulos, the Syriza representative in charge of southern Europe. “Greece and Italy share between them a bond of blood, formed by those who have died in the Mediterranean. We are committed together on this issue, and what we cannot afford is a government of the racist right. Together, we Greeks have defeated Schaeuble and the ultra-liberals. Together, the Socialists and the Communists are governing in Portugal. And, despite his criticism against us, we helped Mélenchon win in France. Because we cannot afford divisions. We must all work together against the resurgence of nationalisms and sovereignisms in Europe, both on the right and left.”


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