Interview. Sinistra Italiana brought just 2 percent of votes in the European elections. Secretary Nicola Fratoianni blames millions of ‘useful votes’ to parties seen as having a better chance of defeating the far right wave.

Fratoianni: Voters thought we were not good enough

“Our proposal was led to fail by the call to cast a ‘useful vote,’” says Nicola Fratoianni, the secretary of Sinistra Italiana. Analyzing the failure of the La Sinistra list, itself born after the defeat of another list, Liberi e Uguali, is a bitter pill to swallow for him. “If we look at it on a more profound level, this period in politics has been marked by polarization around one conflict. And in this conflict, the need for a defense against the black wave prevailed over everything else. All of us have contributed to this narrative, and it has led to the people giving their votes to those who appeared more likely to mount an effective resistance.”

But isn’t the black wave a real threat?

It is, of course. However, its very presence has overshadowed the policies that are necessary to sever the roots from which it has drawn its strength. But let me be clear: this doesn’t absolve us of responsibility.

Isn’t blaming the “useful vote” a form of absolving yourselves of the limitations of your political proposal?

Quite the opposite. The voters chose those whom they felt would be more effective in stopping the right. They thought we were not good enough, and that we had little credibility. Then, there are other elements as well, such as, for example, the fact that the list was put together very late—but I think that’s beside the point.

Have you perhaps given the impression that it’s all just the same political characters being shuffled around, from Sinistra Arcobaleno to L’Altra Europa to the LeU?

Perhaps. In 2014 we managed to get to 4 percent. Of course, the topic of the lack of true renewal and reform is an important one. But it is not a central issue. Paradoxically, this result has come just as the country is experiencing a democratic awakening.

You were a leading figure for the list, and some of your companions considered you the leader. Was your role perhaps too involved?

I put all my energy into this campaign, down to the last drop. Just like all of us did. It was not enough. When it was time to admit defeat, I stepped up and faced the facts.

On June 9, there will be a congress of the list’s membership. At other times, previous lists split up just after the elections. What will Sinistra Italiana propose for the future of the list?

The secretariat has already met, and the leadership will meet on Saturday. We will decide together. I will go to the congress: it is a necessity to think about the future. We are facing a difficult period and a long journey, we have to reconquer a social outpost in the country. Up to now, we have been scattering our forces in well-meaning but fleeting experiments. The fragmentation of the left—with the Greens, us, the PRC, Possibile, L’Altra Europa, Diem, Dema, èViva and the civic forces—must be overcome. It is being perceived as unacceptable—regardless of the fact that this list tried to build the broadest unity possible. I will try to make a contribution to the discussion. But it won’t be enough.

The vote raises another issue: where to locate the efforts of reconstruction and regeneration in order to build an alternative to the right. This difficult question can no longer be ignored. We cannot close ourselves off and tell ourselves that we were right all along, but we were misunderstood by everyone else. Without renouncing our values ​​and policies, we must declare ourselves fully committed to meeting the demand that is coming from across the country: that of building an alternative to a right that is now reaching 50 percent, including the radical right which is up to 40 percent.

From 2 percent to 50 percent, you have a long way to go. Who will you turn to?

We will turn to all those who are now interested in building an alternative to the current right. I respect the enthusiasm of the Democratic Party, I won’t deny it, because I have a sense of proportion—but if you imagine a real alternative, it cannot be limited to the rehashing of old models. Nor can it come out of the center-left. We need to turn to the Five Stars to help them shift their perspective. To pull them towards this part of the field.

Does that mean reopening a dialogue with the Democratic Party, after years of icy relations? How?

By building a space for discussion from a different perspective. For this alternative to last, what is needed is work on the social level, to win back those who have moved towards the right and those who have stopped voting. It is necessary to work on the issues on which the center-left was defeated. I am not saying that the resulting program would be identical with our own. But it must be centered on rights and freedoms—that’s my message to the M5S. And it must be centered on social rights, labor, the distribution of wealth, the protection of those who can’t manage by themselves—that’s my message to the Democratic Party. Otherwise, even the most broad forms of coalition are ineffective. Look at the elections in Piedmont: there was an extraordinarily broad alliance, but it still wasn’t competitive. We will work on a platform, on new words to use. Bartolo’s great achievement (the Lampedusa doctor who got elected to the European Parliament – n.ed.) has something important to tell us.

Calenda also had a great achievement, though.

That would be good news as well, if it were to lead to the birth of a centrist force. Everyone can do their part and organize a part of society. Kitchen-sink solutions that include everything and its opposite don’t work.

So you might talk to Calenda as well?

If the topic is the construction of an alternative, the discussion will involve many different parties. However, it’s not possible to imagine an alternative by continuing to pursue the enemy on the ground of their choosing.

For the PRC, an anti-PD attitude seems to be a given regardless.

If so, that would be a mistake. I’ll say it here, and I’ll say it at the congress on June 9. I have not changed my opinion about the Democratic Party and its governments. But we cannot avoid reckoning with reality. I am not proposing to address this issue by reducing it to a mere question of alliances. I’ll say it again: the center-left is no more, we need a new model.

Will you resign?

On that issue, I will answer before the party leadership. It is my duty to communicate my decisions first of all to the party’s governing bodies and to my political community.

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