If anyone was expecting a change of gear at the PD, they must have been disappointed by the debate among its leadership. Even more disappointed were those who were calling for its dissolution, in newspapers, on TV and on social media, as a supposed cure for its ills (it must be pointed out that 19% is still a sizable share of the electorate).
But Letta and the leadership group nevertheless have a task ahead of them that goes beyond declarations of intent (“we will make a forceful opposition,” “not pliable,” “we will be intransigent”) and also beyond the (admittedly needed) self-criticism (“we appeared to be a party interested only in those who are able to make ends meet” and “we failed regarding women’s representation”).
In essence, the latter paints the picture of a bourgeois and masculinist party, not exactly negligible details.
It’s certainly the case that everything that is built from now on will be built on sand if the identity of the party, which intends to represent a large, substantial part of the country, is not clarified – and, above all, which part of society it wants to speak for.
Moreover, it’s a question that concerns not only the PD, but, on the sore points of credibility and support, applies to all the various forces to its left, most of all to its allies, SI and the Greens.
First of all, there is a question that we are all called to answer: why are the democratic, progressive and leftist forces, which are supported by a majority in Italy, unable to express this potential at the organizational-political level?
And what is the common goal of such a broad and diverse political area? Is there an answer that goes beyond the most prevalent (or perhaps the only) response offered to date: namely, to win more electoral seats?
Above all, given the structural and economic-social changes of the last two decades, what categories of citizens will it speak to, given that the old, traditional hard core of workers, those in factories, construction sites, working the land, has profoundly changed and disappeared in its previously known forms, while the world of civil servants and pensioners has remained the same? Will the focus be on the “bird in the hand,” that is, representing the privileged, secure, culturally emancipated citizens?
At this point, the discussion risks being reduced to only the problems of the PD, its internal struggles, its contradictory self-criticisms, the figure of the secretary to come.
It is surely the case that internal reflection must be part of an all-out public discussion. It is necessary to question missed opportunities: for example, why the PD has wavered on civil rights – ius soli, the Zan bill, euthanasia – oscillating between advances and sudden steps back, a legacy of its Catholic-clerical element.
Then again, from its start, the PD was defined by the union between former communists and former Catholics, which, although inspired by the best intentions and an initial forward-moving impulse, lost the positive aspects of “unity in diversity” along the way, bringing back the original political/cultural divisions, which degenerated into the worst version of Christian Democrat-style internal factionalism.
However, the real political failure point is called “governmentalism,” as many people are now able to see, from a number of different points of view.
Not because being in power is corrupting in itself (while there are also some who believe that the left should always place itself in opposition), but because administering the public good – going beyond all private, personal and party interests – should be the mission of a resolute leftist culture.
After the 1970s, marked by the conquest of the Regions and the “red” cities, a different vision slowly affirmed itself: from government to governism, in tandem with the curse of power-sharing.
It is no coincidence that on the left, in a manner that is distinct and distant from that of the Democratic Party, the theoretical (inspired by Stefano Rodotà) and political (practiced by the struggles of the movements) pursuit of the “common good,” a fertile vein which unfortunately had been forgotten in recent years, has taken on on new life and strength.
This is – should be – one of the goals for change: the revival of the “common good.” Progressive political forces should push for a renewed commitment on this front, seeking out the concrete words and forms to bring it back into political practices.
Even more: rediscovering and relaunching the “common good” should become the symbol of an overall strategy, careful not to take the definitive shape of the long opposition to come, but already able to prefigure a different social model, an alternative to both the right-wingers and to a reformism driven by necessity.
Let’s be clear, the “common good” is not just public matters: it means work that is decent, guaranteed, safe and above all fairly paid (as was rightly demanded in the streets on Sunday at the major demonstration organized by the CGIL union); it means the right to choose how to live and how to die without having to go out of the country; it means the environment, which must be defended and valued in all places and at every moment in our life; it means the ability to coexist among different people, welcoming those who come to our country with the substantial support of a job and full citizenship; it means the right to qualitative, effective and rapid health care that does not force people to turn to private care (the most inequitable option, because it is intended for those who don’t have economic problems; even worse, introduced by the left); it means the right to live in safe cities and communities, with resources dedicated to the marginalization of youth that fuels the fears that right-wingers are profiting from; it is peace, all to be built on new arrangements between the great powers, disruptive of the bellicose status quo.
It is often said that our camp has many more things that unite it than those that divide it. But then, one must ask which political forces are actually capable of participating in a radical and profound project of change that does not stop at mere intransigent opposition.
Some of them will be found to the left of the PD; then, the PD itself, the radicals. And the Five Stars, about which it’s important to clarify matters.
Perhaps Domenico De Masi’s summary is on point: the PD says it’s left-wing without being so, the Five Stars are left-wing without saying so. What is certain is that after the formidable downsizing at the polls, compared to 2018, what remains of the M5S, in no small part because of the self-narrative of its leader, Conte, is positioning itself among the world of the left.
It is a fragile identity for the M5S, which should not be looked at with suspicion, but should rather be encouraged and safeguarded from a possible drift toward a leftist Peronism. And the best way to do this is to create a stable and lasting alliance for the upcoming local elections (remedying the catastrophic mistake that gave Italy over to the – eminently stoppable – rise of the right).
Of course, we – and I speak here about il manifesto – don’t have a recipe, a solution, a program. And we are entirely uninterested in internal party feuds. Above all, we have a desire, not so much, or not only, for the older veterans, but for younger people: to live in a country that is less unequal, less retrogressive and illiberal than how it is right now, and how it will be with the right in government.
The premise for even trying to achieve this is to engage together in a broad, deep, no-holds-barred dialogue.
It will be necessary to go past the boundaries between political forces, to embrace the incredible mosaic of associations and structures that involve thousands and thousands of women, men, young, old, who believe in what they do, against the temptations of resentment and loneliness.
The new militancy belongs to them. It doesn’t ask to be heard, much less paternalistically co-opted, but it demands to be the protagonist of a general renewal.