Commentary. The PD and M5S need to work out a shared analysis of the current phase, at least in broad strokes, to find common ground on the major issues we are facing.

Historic left and Five Star Movement: It’s time to cross-contaminate

At the very least, the vote in Abruzzo had the merit of shelving (until the next suggestive accident) the cult, whether consolatory or intoxicating, of “where the wind is blowing”: in September 2022 there was a “right wind” in Italy; then, the right wind was everywhere; but no, it turns out it stopped in Spain, and in Sardinia it finally made an about-turn. Going beyond this superficial level, we will run into the structural obstacles along the road to a credible, and thus competitive, progressive coalition, the only possible political option that could bring to government a program of labor dignity, social justice, environmental conversion and, first and foremost, peace.

The first obstacle is a longstanding one, widespread in all mature democracies and beyond: the remoteness of the parties of the historical left, in all its versions, from the popular masses. The second is a relatively recent one, showing up in patches around Europe and highly significant in Italy: in the administrative elections, we are seeing the shrinking support of the social peripheries for the M5S, the party which, since its inception, has managed to tap into their anger, fears, and entrenched distrust in national elections, in competition with the right and abstentionism. Certainly, we have seen the widely varying support for the M5S in elections for different levels of power regularly since its arrival in Parliament in 2013. It is a common feature of young anti-system movements. In France, the same is happening with Melenchon’s La France Insoumise. However, such features do nothing to alleviate the concern, but are two sides of the same coin. Nevertheless, the discussion has become focused on the “collapse” of M5S – as if the former problem did not exist and, by implication, as if it had been the M5S’s role to undertake the feat of bringing “the people” back into the progressive orbit. As if the PD stuck at 20%, focused on representing the middle and upper social sectors, was a satisfactory outcome.

Instead, the more demanding challenge is addressed to both these major players in the “field” – distinct subjects, irreducible to a common denominator. While necessary, the sum of their forces as they are is not sufficient, even in political elections. In the old lexicon, the preliminary work they need to do, separately and together, is working out a shared analysis of the current phase, at least in broad strokes, to find common ground on the major issues we are facing.

For some years now, we have been in another season of humanity. The “End of History” is over. The triumph of the liberal-democratic model as a result of market globalization has not come to pass. That model is being shelved even in Washington, its epicenter. We are in the season of social and identitarian protectionism. So, what will the EU be, beyond the fable of the United States of Europe and the self-inflicted wound of planned further enlargement? Beyond the disagreements over sending arms to Ukraine, what relationship will it have with the global South, and also with Russia and China, i.e., what will be the international order? What will be the conditions on the movements of capital, goods, services and people, including in the single European market, to halt the devaluation of labor, the unraveling of the middle classes, the depletion of the Earth’s life-sustaining resources, the shrinking democracies? How to realistically govern migration flows and intervene on their causes? What kind of public intervention in the economy? What kind of sense of national community? How to deal with the anthropological emergency? What culture of limits on the use of technologies and the sovereignty of the individual on the side of civil rights should we have?

The answers will vary, but the questions cannot be evaded. The breakthrough would come out of the mutual recognition of the political meaning of each other’s positions in order to arrive at an alliance that is an expression of two cultural matrices, not only compatible but “cross-contaminated,” able to equip everyone with what is needed to broaden the representation of those popular segments which are now self-exiled in active abstention or have given themselves over to the right-wingers, often out of desperation. Then, each of the protagonists will have specific tasks to perform, on the level of consolidating or redefining political culture, the party form itself, and the selection and training of the ruling classes we need.

It is a difficult path, but there’s no way around the obstacles. There are no shortcuts.

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