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Interview. Francesco Silvestri, leader of the Five Star Movement in the Chamber of Deputies, speaks about the US election, the Italian Democratic Party, and Meloni's two faces: the one for the people and the one for the bankers.

Five Star deputy: We don’t support Trump, but that doesn’t mean we can’t criticize Biden

“If some feel the need to categorize and simplify things, let them,” says Francesco Silvestri, the M5S group leader in the Chamber, denying that the equidistance shown by Conte between Biden and Trump represents the return of the old “neither right nor left” M5S.

“Over the last year, we have been called pro-Putin because we wanted to stop the sending of arms to Ukraine and anti-Semites because we fought, and are still fighting, to stop the massacre in Gaza,” he adds.

Are you also unwilling to choose between those two contenders?

Trump is very far from us and any form of progressive thinking, but we claim the right to be able to criticize Biden for the U.S. government’s military strategies. The point is that our identity doesn’t rest on flying the colors of anyone else, but on our beliefs, which are strong and deep-rooted. What matters to us is the changes we are able to achieve for citizens.

You don’t think that these controversies will affect your rapprochement with the European Green Group?

No, I’m not preoccupied with such things. Our history shows that we don’t distort our convictions for reasons of opportunism. You can’t win battles you don’t believe in.

Elly Schlein says her opponent is the Meloni government, and that she wants to avoid divisions with the M5S. What do you say to this call for unity of action?

Regarding our positions and those of the Democratic Party, it’s undeniable that we have differences on issues such as war and the environment. At the same time, I would like to say that it would be wrong to interpret these differences of opinion as a clash.

So, are those differences destined to remain as such until the European elections in June?

For us, the dialogue with the PD is a political one that we hope can be constructive, but for it to be so, we must go beyond that stage at which differences are a problem and not a valuable asset. To be an alternative to the Meloni government, we must first of all be honest and loyal. Meanwhile, January 31 was the deadline for a number of banks to decide, based on the rule passed by Meloni government, whether they would pay taxes on their windfall profits or recapitalize them.

What’s wrong with that mechanism?

Everything. Nothing about it works at all. And it also makes a mockery of struggling families. After so many triumphalist announcements, when it seemed that Meloni was going to take up my bill and make it her own, it’s obvious that some white-collar must have called the prime minister and made her backtrack. At the end of all this painful charade, they set up a “voluntary” tax for the banks, which they obviously chose not to pay. At such a historical moment, in which millions of citizens are falling into dire straits, what was necessary was to tax the banks that have made billions in profits on the suffering of these people. However, Meloni ended up walking on eggshells. The prime minister’s tactics are always the same: she talks to the people, but then she goes and sits with the bankers.

Your proposed bill on windfall profits has been introduced. What does it consist of?

My proposal is extremely simple: it taxes the banks’ windfall profits arising from increased mortgages to set up a fund to help those who cannot make their payments and are in danger of losing their homes.

Will it have the support of the other opposition forces?

I hope that all the opposition forces will come together on this proposal, which I and the Five Star Movement believe is simply common sense. There’s no point in blabbering on about the suffering of ordinary citizens if you don’t then have the courage to stand up to those who are adding to the burden on their shoulders.

In short: instead of taxing the banks, the government is cashing in on privatizations, right?

Yes, which means putting the country’s main assets on the chopping block and losing thousands of jobs, introducing new taxes and cutting all kinds of social support for people in need. This government did not bat an eye before eliminating the citizenship income, gas discounts and all those measures that could give some relief to the many citizens in crisis. This is what the Meloni government is doing: trying to hide its resounding economic failures while it doesn’t have an inkling of an idea for the country’s development, but in the meantime it cashes in on the backs of the weakest and is not ashamed of it.

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