While Angela Merkel and Paolo Gentiloni, two leaders of grand coalitions, both present and future, are meeting in Berlin to offer mutual support, the promoters of saying “no to the GroKo” (“Grosse Koalition,” ‘grand coalition’ in German, a relevant issue in Germany but also in Italy) met in Rome.
On Saturday, at the Capranichetta Conference Center, the encounter between Katia Kipping, the co-leader of die Linke, and Nicola Fratoianni, the secretary of the Italian Left, harmonized the language used by the two left-wing opposition forces, invited by the Associazione per il rinnovamento della sinistra (Association for the Renewal of the Left), working tirelessly to build bridges, and by its president, Vincenzo Vita. From the introductory remarks, the event set for itself the aim of “weaving again a common thread between the forces of the Left.”
Grand coalitions “have put the wind in the sails of the right wing, and despite this obvious situation, the Democratic Party has drawn up an electoral law that will lead to yet another grand coalition,” Fratoianni said.
“The ‘GroKos’ that I have known have not faced up to the true challenges of the future, from social problems to fearfulness and environmental challenges,” added Kipping, an elegant and energetic woman in her 40s, representative of a new generation of German militants of the radical Left, who heads die Linke together with Bernd Riexinger. She adds that “GroKo in Germany means running to stand still. And in terms of foreign policy, it means finding the money for weapons and military spending, but when it comes to education and social policies, money is never to be found.”
There are also some common traits between the “veterans” of the European Left die Linke and the newly formed Liberi e Uguali alliance (including the Italian Left (SI), which is, for now, an observer member of the European Left, and the Democratic and Progressive Movement (MDP), which has its MEPs in Brussels in the European Socialist Party).
Norma Rangeri, editor of il manifesto and the moderator of the event, explained: “While, in Germany, die Linke is a unified force of the Left that polls at close to 10 percent, in Italy the Liberi e Uguali alliance has the same goal and the same challenge: to overcome the ‘few but good’ syndrome and the phenomenon of constant splintering. But the road is an uphill one, and meanwhile the grand coalitions in this country only have the effect of giving a boost to Berlusconi and his two dark angels, Salvini and Meloni.”
This is what is happening in many European countries, and beyond. “There is an axis that runs from Trump to Orban, the new International of wall builders,” argues Kipping. The application of neoliberal recipes renders the disadvantaged and those who are afraid for their livelihood even more fragile and frightened, and feeds racism and right wing populism.
Regarding its significance for the future, March 4 is not only the date of the Italian elections, but also that of the internal referendum of the German SPD regarding the coalition agreement with Chancellor Merkel.” Kipping is looking forward to “the battle fought by the Jusos,” i.e. the young German Social Democrats whose slogan is “No GroKo.” It is no coincidence that yesterday, the left wing newspaper Neues-Deutschland ran a most combative interview with the young Social Democratic leader Kevin Kühnert on its front page.
Frantoianni went on to explain how much “the election campaign has shifted to the right” in Italy, recounting the events in Macerata and the difficulties encountered even by large organizations (ANPI, ARCI) in taking part in an anti-racism march in the city. “Even the 5 Star Movement is part of this rightward drift. After the terrible expression he used, ‘water taxis,’ Di Maio has recently employed the slogan ‘Italians first,’ and that is precisely the slogan of the right.”
This does not mean that Fratoianni is explicitly excluding any alliance with the 5 Star Movement, for now at least. “We will have a substantive discussion,” he says, “but we will certainly never ally ourselves with the right. If things remain as they are today, we can’t ally ourselves with anyone. But from March 5 the games begin anew.”
On the matter of the “rightward drift,” the issues of migrants and “sovereignism” are constant challenges posed, more or less explicitly, to the Left all over Europe. On the former, Kipping refuses to give up even an inch to the rhetoric of “let’s help them while they stay home.” This is not only a question of solidarity with immigrants and refugees. It is also a clear taking of sides in a discussion that is now running through the continental Left, and which revolves around the theme of the return to patriotism defined with a leftward tilt.
Rangeri, unafraid to strike a nerve, asked the two party leaders if they agreed with the attacks against Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras by the French Jean-Luc Mélenchon (who in the present Italian election campaign is in communication with Potere al Popolo, the alliance of the radical Left), and more generally with the positions of those who are basically accusing Tsipras of having “betrayed the Left.”
“The European Union has many faults,” Kipping said, “but the coup against the ‘Greek Spring’ was made by the German Minister Schäuble. Mélenchon’s positions are concealing a deeper conflict, the one between a return to nationalism and an internationalist position.” She added that “we must fight the current dominance of austerity policies. But we must not give up what Europe has achieved. The right question is not whether we should have more or less of Europe, but what kind of Europe.”
Fratoianni agreed: “From March 5, we must build a common platform. Just as with immigration, we must never give up the principle of solidarity. In all Europe, we should replace the fiscal compact with a social compact, able to guarantee greater social rights in every country.”
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