For Mimmo Lucano, these are hectic days. Finally out of the spotlight, after speaking recently before massive crowds, the suspended mayor of Riace is facing the tough reality of everyday life in exile. Two important dates loom on the horizon: May 26, with the municipal elections in Riace, where he is not allowed to run for mayor because of term limits, and June 11, when the first hearing of his trial will take place in Locri. At a meeting in Stignano, during a break, Lucano gave us an interview, sitting at a table with a view to the Ionian Sea.
Everyone on the left, from Zingaretti to Acerbo, has offered you a place on their lists for the European elections. You have politely declined all their offers and decided to run for the Riace city council instead. Why?
I could have used the money, and the legal immunity—however, I am and still remain at the forefront of the struggle. I don’t feel particular excitement at the idea of leaving Calabria and going to the European Parliament. I see politics as a relationship with the base and with those on the periphery, a relationship that arises from social tensions. When the first landings took place, the refugees were the new proletarians, and I thought that they could be our redemption. I come from a background of commitment to fighting for social utopias. The idea of living the struggle at the side of the Kurdish people gave me great motivation. The language of the left must start again from there, from a human uprising, like that of the black people in Rosarno. And then, what would I even be doing in Brussels? I don’t speak English. Everybody knows that they would have given me a place at the top of the list for the European elections, but I’ve always had a conflictual relationship with power. I dream of a left that, for once, would stay consistent with the values of brotherhood and stay close to those who have the least.
The judges on the appeals court are claiming that Maria Spano, the candidate for mayor from the “Il cielo sopra Riace” (“The sky above Riace”) list, is actually being controlled by you. Is that true?
That struck me as not so much a legal argument as an electoral slogan for the opposing party. In this way, they’re trying to delegitimize both me and Maria Spano. They’re trying to make me look like someone who likes to “control” things, but that is just not true: in all these years, I have tried to be a mayor who diligently applied the lessons of the “art of not governing,” as understood in the traditional way. Maria was a city councilor, and she “controlled” more than I did. Everyone was always free to act according to their conscience and free choice. So it’s clear that they’re trying to destroy the political message that is coming from Riace: the “red wave,” as I call it—a wave of humanity, a human revolt.
Since you were suspended, Riace is no longer the same. It has been depopulated, it no longer has the usual atmosphere, it has become sadder. But do you believe that it can be reborn? And how?
That doesn’t depend on me. It is possible to re-establish Riace’s identity. There are still many refugees here. After being deprived of my liberty and of my official attributions, now I am hoping to return and send a message, within the institutions as well. It would be a humble contribution. That’s why we have chosen to call ourselves “The sky above Riace.”
You were prevented by the courts from even visiting Riace for just 10 hours, to introduce the newly established “E’ stato il vento” Foundation. The candidate Maria Spano received a notice that she was under investigation just days before the vote. In contrast, the powers-that-be are lenient with the fascists, who are constantly threatening you.
I was in Cinisi these days. Don’t forget that Peppino Impastato was a candidate for city councilor as well. He was murdered, and got many votes even in death. It was there that I realized that the idea of the left must draw on the experience and intelligence of figures like him, and also look to the lessons of Father Alex Zanotelli. There is no difference between a social utopia and a Christian utopia, between proletarian justice and Gospel justice. This message is scary to the ones in power, as it is not compatible with a society dominated by capitalism. That’s what Pasolini was saying as well.
The Lega and its leader, after they buried the “Riace model” under a million decrees, are trying to take over the town with these elections. Salvini has sent in someone from the north to lead the campaign. Do you fear that you’re being surrounded?
I need to be able to look my daughter in the eye. With her as my witness, I can say loud and clear that I didn’t become mayor for my own advantage. We’re planning to win.
The La Sapienza University in Rome gave you a warm welcome, and you got a very warm reception at the University of Calabria as well. Does that make up, at least in part, for the bitter experiences of the recent months?
The embrace from the students at La Sapienza, full of humanity, gave me enormous pleasure. As I arrived, I saw that those from Forza Nuova were a tiny minority, and then I found myself lost in a sea of young people who were hungry for humanity. The Lega’s demonstration in Milan last weekend tried to convince us that authoritarianism, fascism and the rejection of human rights can be a solution. We, however, are for a humane solution to social problems.
After May 26, after you have hopefully taken Riace back, you would be the only figure able to rally together the scattered left, dispensing with party banners, to win in the regional elections in November. Are you thinking to run for president of Calabria, as part of the process of putting together a new left?
I have been close to President Oliverio, especially on a human level. I got close to him, and he got close to Riace, and to the San Ferdinando tent city. This led him to change his position. It was perhaps for this reason that he has had legal problems. However, when we’re talking about the political dimension, I am part of a different “political” sphere altogether. My role models in Calabria are Francesco Cirillo, Giuseppe Tiano, Enzo Infantino, and the friends from USB San Ferdinando, like Peppe Marra. We have always been the voice of the voiceless. We are discussing these issues—otherwise what is the point of taking part in electoral contests? We’re starting again from Zanotelli, from Monsignor Bregantini, from liberation theology. And we are reflecting on the fact that, if we don’t take part in politics, we’re leaving the field open to the reactionary forces. For the regional elections, first there has to be a collective thought, a process with wide participation—and afterwards, who knows?
il manifesto has launched a campaign to tear down the wall that the yellow-brownshirt government is waging against free and independent information. You are a man who builds bridges, not walls—do you also support our “Io Rompo” initiative?
Of course! I have always believed in the importance and value of information that questions the official narrative.