Interview. 'Either the PD serves to improve the living conditions of these people or it is useless. Social redemption means work and housing.'

Matteo Ricci: The reformist left should run the PD

We interviewed Matteo Ricci, mayor of the Pesaro, on the Adriatic Coast, about the possibility of his candidacy to lead the Democratic Party. He says he will decide soon.

Among the plausible contenders in the race for the leadership of the PD, you’re the only one who hasn’t declared their candidacy. What do you intend to do?

We’ve been in the field for two months, and on December 16 we’re going to hold an event in Rome where we’ll put it all together and decide. So far, I’ve been on a tour of the Italian provinces that have turned their backs on the PD. It’s called “Bread and Politics”: I go to dinner in family homes, I meet PD voters, but also disillusioned people and abstainers. We broadcast these meetings live on Facebook, with an average of 10,000 views.

What do you talk about at these dinners?

About the causes of the defeat of September 25, about ideas on how to start again. We’ve made about ten stops, from Collegno in the province of Turin to Salemi in Sicily. I had dinner with precariously employed women who do cleaning to round up their income, with precarious teachers, housewives, former workers. For the most part, a progressive electorate, but which is suffering and disillusioned.

What did you learn?

That in recent years we have talked endlessly about “participation,” but in reality, we have always been debating within a small circle of people. But when you talk to real people, you realize that we have not focused on the real issues. They explained to me that we lost because we didn’t have a banner to fly, a strong theme, a reason why people should vote for us. The good things that were in our program were not understood by anyone: “You only spoke ill of others,” they told me, “and in the end you gave Meloni more publicity.”

How should you start again?

From social redemption. Either the PD serves to improve the living conditions of these people or it is useless. Social redemption means work and housing. That’s why I launched the idea of a popular initiative bill on the minimum wage. We have to go into the streets and collect signatures, show that the PD is with the underpaid and exploited workers. Right now, without waiting for the primaries.

But there’s a law already in Parliament. Isn’t it a step backwards to collect signatures?

The majority rejected it. Now that we are in opposition, it can only be put back on the agenda in this legislature with a bottom-up effort. The other battle to be fought is on merit: not in compulsory schooling, the discussion doesn’t make sense there and it’s dangerous, there are already tools for evaluation. Instead, let’s talk about merit in the professions, in the university: today, if a young man wants to be an architect but doesn’t have a relative with an established studio, he’ll work underpaid for years. Let’s find a way to reverse this trend, and also give economic support to those who do not have the resources to pay for university.

In the committee to write the manifesto of values for the new PD, they have already been arguing about capitalism and liberalism.

I am for a reform of capitalism, for a new model of development that focuses on the quality of growth. In other words, growth should no longer be measured only in GDP, but in fair and sustainable well-being. This is not coming from me, but from ISTAT, which has introduced this criterion that also measures inequality, health, education levels and sustainability. There is no growth if we don’t reduce inequalities and fight climate change.

Schlein is also saying that.

I’d be surprised if there wasn’t common ground between people from the same party. I try to apply these ideas with the pragmatism of a left ready to govern, to translate them into my work as mayor.

Do you feel closer to Schlein or Bonaccini?

I am close to the people I’m meeting on my tour. For me, the party should be run by the reformist left, not extreme positions.

Are you a moderate as well?

Not at all. I think that at this stage, the bar needs to move further to the left, otherwise we won’t connect with the working class. But a left ready to govern. This is where my approach differs from that of Elly and Stefano.

Schlein is actually looking towards the left. Bonaccini has never mentioned fighting inequality once since he decided to run.

I’m envisioning a great progressive and pro-European force.

Would it be a possibility to run on the same ticket as Schlein?

One reads so many scenarios in the newspapers these days. But I’ll say one thing: I would not like a campaign for the party’s congress that consists of clashes. I care about unity, and I’m worried: if we don’t manage the congress well, there are risks of a split. Primaries with only two candidates are a novelty that risks introducing too much division, and then it’s difficult to put the pieces back together.

For now, the most concrete support for your candidature has come from Goffredo Bettini. Will others follow?

I am honored by Bettini’s words about me. I thank him very much, and his words encourage me to do my utmost to give the Italian left a political perspective. We will see what happens in the coming days.

Has the PD come to terms with Renzism?

Let’s drop the hypocrisy. Renzi had 70% support in the PD, our community hoped and believed that he could renew the Italian left. Things turned out differently, he used the PD to make his career and now he wants to destroy it. He’s a thing of the past, he no longer has anything to do with the center-left; let’s leave him out of the congress entirely. It is clear that in a phase in which we are redefining our identity, the errors of that period should also be critically re-examined, something that has been done only in part so far.

Would you keep Veltroni’s 2007 PD manifesto or would you rewrite it?

It’s surreal to even discuss it: every twist and turn has happened since 2007, and today the right has 30% and is governing the country. How can anyone even think of not questioning our foundations?

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