Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was overflowing during the confesercenti assembly (the gathering of the national retailers association), promising the formerly leftist merchants the earth and the sky. On the side of the aisle, the actual Italian left is astonished, relegated to a precious yet marginal role as guarantor of the values of human solidarity.
These are the two sides of the new “Third Republic.” However, there is a thread that links the processes that are taking place. It starts in the US, the heart of capitalism, where Trump has expressed the end of the expansive phase of globalization, proposing the reaffirmation of boundaries for goods and people. The thread crosses through Europe, a complex and unfinished reality, halfway between a possible global power and national interests, which has become bogged in new contradictions.
Italy is at the other end of the line, the terminal country of this process, in the middle of the Mediterranean, incarnating a radical contradiction: the world of socio-economic well-being that finishes where the despair of migrants advances. Is Italy a border or a bridge, predestined victim of an epochal crisis or, on the contrary, laboratory of the only possible future that designates the Mediterranean as a cradle of a new civilization?
Unfortunately, today the answer is only the former. Here the experimentation of two different subjects is underway, with features common to all populisms, but with different territorial, social and demographic roots. If this meeting consolidates, under the overwhelming leadership of the Lega, it is destined to produce a dismantling of institutional structures and values. The constant pursuit of the worst instincts for “individual solutions,” the legitimization of the culture of evasion and a permanent electoral campaign. We are witnessing the presence of the worst repressed instincts, emblematic of a radical crisis of values, of culture, of the production of meanings.
But is this happening because of the right that exists or the left that does not? I believe this crisis is truly epochal and the left needs to qualitatively restructure its historical function. However, I do not have recipes for the future. I think we must seriously elaborate the mourning of the old left in order to understand and act in the time we are living in. For the moment, it would be enough to understand why, among the citizens, some political discourses have monopolized the public space and even some parts of the left.
Therefore, I would like to encourage the slow but serious creation of a timely reflection, an open and sincere method of political research. With the modesty and the risk of making mistakes that every research entails. Let us take Europe and sovereignty as an example. Sovereignty is certainly the main factor of aggregation of the two populisms, the horizontal one between the two leaders and the vertical one between the leader and the people.
Today’s idea of sovereignty is a return to the national identities, thus a right-wing choice. It is also a criticism of the move to the top of decision-making process, and therefore of the emptying of democracy in a Europe that absorbs sovereignty from below, but does not give powers and areas of participation back to the bottom. Why shouldn’t the appeal to popular sovereignty also come from the left?
Connected to this idea is the manner in which Europe is being constructed. There is a dreamed Europe, a great power in a global scenario reduced to a few superpowers. A Europe which, by virtue of having been the cultural cradle and generator of the welfare state, can aspire to an ambitious role as a new model of economic and human development. But the Europe we have created is a compromise between different states and with great imbalances. Should we be governing it through budgetary constraints, with the domination of the powers of new supranational bureaucratic bodies?
The left, in Italy and Europe, should seriously confront these fundamental issues. Rebuilding the left and rebuilding Europe are perhaps part of the same problem. And it will be neither a walk in the park nor a gala lunch.
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