Interview. The Dems’ secretariat coordinator: ‘The PD is chiefly responsible for building a progressive alternative. … A self-referential debate is not good for the credibility of the PD. … Our opponent is the right led by Meloni.’

Marta Bonafoni: Supporting Ukraine and mediated peace are compatible

We spoke with Marta Bonafoni, coordinator of the Italian Democratic Party secretariat, about the party’s stance on Ukraine, its relation to the Five Star Movement and its plans to present a ‘militant summer’ to the Italian people.

Ms. Bonafoni, did Schlein’s leadership emerge strengthened from the leadership meeting? There was a lot of criticism.

It was a long meeting, an open and sincere discussion, just as it should be in a party that approaches internal issues by listening, reaching a synthesis of different points of view and then making decisions. We are the only Italian party that has a functioning internal democracy.

What synthesis did you reach?

There was unanimous approval of Schlein’s proposal for a seven-point mobilization for the summer. But it was also an opportunity to remind ourselves that closing ourselves off in a self-referential debate is not good for the credibility of the PD, that our opponent is the right led by Meloni, and that our common goal is to offer an answer to those who are waiting for an alternative from us, by talking about the needs and expectations of the people who are suffering the most, all through a social agenda that is our own.

You have been accused of not having a clear line, of lining up behind the demonstrations organized by others, from unions to civil rights organizations – including here Schlein’s presence at the M5S rally on Saturday, June 17.

Our line consists of the proposals that the secretary made among the leadership, from the NRRP to a tough fight against differentiated autonomy, for jobs and the ecological conversion, which got two minutes of applause. As for the M5S rally, Schlein went to deliver a greeting, in her role as leader of the main opposition force. Nothing to do with playing second fiddle to anybody. She also went there to send a message to those people, to the demonstrators, not to those on the stage. According to the latest data from the Parliamentary Budget Office, 42 percent of families who were receiving the citizenship income lost it because of this government’s decisions, and the resources spent to fight poverty have already been cut by 28%. The PD is chiefly responsible for building a progressive alternative, and the praise Schlein received inside and outside of the PD tells us that she did well to participate. The bottom line is clearly positive.

Did Grillo’s words bother you?

He hasn’t managed to make me laugh in a long time. But I’ll stress this point. Wherever there is protest and conflict against the reactionary policies of the government, we have a duty to be there. This will also be the case on Saturday with the public health demonstration organized by CGIL and other organizations, and it applies to Pride as well. Even more so after the monstrous decision of the judges in Padua to make more than thirty children of same-sex families de facto orphans. A decision that comes from the culture that this government is promoting.

But it is, after all, the decision of one court.

There is a connection between these decisions and the choices of the majority in Parliament, from the rejection of the European directive on the children of LGBTQ families to the Interior Ministry memo, all the way to the appalling bill on surrogates now before the Chamber. There is a reactionary view of society and family that we must oppose with every means, from the classrooms to the squares.

Schlein spoke of a “militant” summer. What does that mean in concrete terms?

It means spending the summer in the squares and local environments of the PD, with our local and national parliamentarians and leaders, explaining what the risk of losing NRRP funds means, which this government doesn’t want to admit is possible: it’s not an abstract formula, it’s about kindergartens, local health care, the ecological reconversion. And it means raising our voices against differentiated autonomy, having city councils from north to south speak out against this project that would increase inequality.

And yet it feels like you haven’t been able to measure up to a far-right government that has strong support, which is unprecedented for Italy.

It is a worse right-wing than the one Berlusconi gathered around him in the 1990s. And it has an unprecedented power over narrative, as we saw this week with the sanctification of the “Knight” on every TV network. The left today cannot be limited to being “against,” but must try to give itself a new identity, must be seen as useful by the 17 million Italians who no longer vote. Our task is to revive hope for the future in a society full of resignation. Schlein’s victory in the primaries came out of this demand, but there’s a long way to go. And it’s not enough just to be in opposition.

There is a part of the PD that wouldn’t want to change anything from the choices made in the past. A part that looks at you, the leadership, with suspicion.

A clear mandate was given to us by the primary voters, and the results are already visible: more members, growth in the polls, a work of restoration that has just begun.

Do you fear that the leader will get worn down?

We have already gone through the phase of secretaries leaving before their term is up. Our people now want a break with the past, including with those who were the protagonists of those events. If the PD fails, there is no alternative to the right-wingers.

Are there two parties in one?

On Monday, the reformists in the leadership said they wanted to stay and help out; they used constructive language. I see myself as a reformist as well, although a radical one. I really liked Cardinal Zuppi’s words at Flavia Franzoni’s funeral when he spoke of a “gentle radicalism.” That is the path we must follow.

You are a regional councilor in Lazio. How did you receive the news of Alessio d’Amato jumping ship from the PD, a former regional candidate, who invoked the presence of the secretary at the M5S rally as the reason?

I was not surprised. His candidacy came about with the effect of ruling out an alliance with M5S, causing us to de facto lose the election before the vote. His decision is just the outcome of a path he had already started on. Clearly, for him, rejecting the M5S is a very important matter; that rally was just a pretext.

The war is one of the most sensitive issues. As soon as you try to talk about peace, you are under attack from pro-Atlanticist hawks, although Biden himself is talking about the nuclear risk.

The PD is in favor of supporting Ukraine, including military support, and there is no bothsidesism.

Schlein has to repeat that almost every day.

And yet it’s clear as day. But in a world that only talks about weapons, we feel it is our duty to emphasize the side of peace, to affirm the idea that negotiations are needed. Thanks to the PD, the Italian Parliament has determined that NRRP funds will not be used for weapons. We are very happy about that. The task of a progressive force is to fight for a mediated solution, not to give up in resignation. There is no incompatibility between that and supporting Kyiv.

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