A giant sinkhole has opened up under the feet of the Italian Left, as the explosive results of this election have shown. And no one is going to fill it. Instead, to use an expression proverbial for Roman roads, they will just pave over it. We will make a few observations “from the Left,” even as the Left we have known does not exist anymore.
First of all, regarding non-voters: The turnout of 73 percent certainly beat expectations, but it was a little worse than in the 2013 elections, as 27 percent of eligible voters did not vote. These non-voters are the true second-largest Italian “party,” who will not get any seats in government.
Many from traditional left-wing areas did not turn out (for instance, how many readers of il manifesto ended up not voting?). What left-wing proposals were apparently rejected by voters, and what were those proposed by the Democratic Party of the so-called (if we must) “center-left”? They were, of course, nothing more than the big issues, from the presence in Europe and in the Eurozone to employment, rights being refused (the ius solis), immigration, public spending and military spending—issues and proposals which, at least in an ambiguous manner, also made their way into the M5S platform. And these are the crucial issues, because they determine Italy’s position on the international stage.
It Is necessary to give a thorough analysis of this, because a settling of scores seems to be taking place on television and on the internet, headed by the representatives of what is now left of the Democratic Party. According to them, the blame for this disaster lies with the Liberi e Uguali alliance.
This blame game hinges on the so-called “useful vote” theory, which now even threatens to lay the blame at the feet of Potere al Popolo as well.
Actually, In hindsight, it is clear that what set off the stampede to the M5S—a party for all seasons, fluid and amorphous, becoming everything and its opposite depending on the online mood of the moment—and, in particular, to Salvini’s racist Lega, was the Democratic Party government, first led by Renzi and then by Gentiloni. In particular, the policies of Interior Minister Minniti.
Think of a voter going to the polls and having before their eyes the policies of those who, like Minniti, in order to “save democracy,” assumed the language and the policies of the far right regarding migrants, giving political dignity to the irrational fear of an “invasion” by people who are different than them. Wouldn’t such a voter end up choosing those on the right who were the original advocates of such measures from the start?
There are so many examples of this: from “let’s help them while they’re at home,” to the criminalization of humanitarian aid, to the de facto block against receiving refugees who try to cross the Mediterranean, to handing over the desperate people fleeing war and misery (often caused by us in the first place) to the Libyan militias, happy to play the role of slave masters, torturers and concentration camp guards, to the latest military intervention in Nigeria, trying to push the red line representing “Europe’s borders” all the way back to that country. Don’t forget the violent events in Macerata, where the Lega now triumphed, and which for the PD government meant considering the possibility of banning the anti-fascist mobilization against the fascist and Lega-supporting gangs. And we should watch out, because there will be more “Maceratas” to come.
When it comes to Europe, one shudders to remember the worthless predictions of an Italian “grand coalition” (of the center), or the possible emergence of a Macron of our own. As Trump’s mentor, Steve Bannon, pointed out, now Italy has joined the crucible of world populism, which, we should not forget, offers immediate instability and violence, a kind of global civil war which will have its start in the trade wars, as each defends their own ethno-economic primacy and impenetrable borders at any cost.
But this is why it must be emphasized that the anti-EU populism of the M5S and the Lega have been fueled by the inability to govern that has been the rule in the European Union so far, a lack of a strategy for real and social-oriented democracy in the face of the overwhelming demands of the so-called “markets,” who are constantly asking to reverse social gains in order to extend the pervasiveness of market laws and to hide the thorny issue of jobs (of which there are few) with laws that render insecurity permanent, crushing the autonomy of the budgets of the member states under the infamous Fiscal Compact.
In effect, after the international role of the unions has been silenced, and after the long battle of the Left against the capitalist mode of production and its current hyper-financialized nature has failed, the void has been filled by the Right, with a new narrative that makes a claim to represent the disadvantaged, even promising (as in Hungary and Poland) an active role by the state.
This is how the just, dutiful and ignored protests by the lower classes—hit hard by the crisis, with workers forced to leave cities after their factories closed one after another—have been transformed, and are being transformed every day, into inter-class resentment and nationalist-xenophobic bile. The spectre of Weimar is haunting Europe, and Italy, once again.
Now, Matteo Renzi, the great downsizer, has announced that instead of resigning right away, he would do it “only after the formation of the government,” a cynical ploy taking advantage of the developments in the crisis on the Left, the role of President Mattarella and the difficulties in forming a new majority. Such an arrogant gesture deserves its own campaign, with the theme song of “will you go or no? will you go, yes or no?” sung to the tune of “The Streets of Cairo.”
Meanwhile, however, one should also question the limits of the political offerings to the left of the PD, without underestimating the importance of the fact that this time, the LeU will at least have a presence in Parliament. Yet, it cannot be overlooked that there was little on offer to the left of the Democratic Party. The parties were divided and ill-prepared, and this probably led many to not turn out to vote for them. Once again, we underline that 27 percent did not turn out, and a great part of them were on the left.
The LeU coalition included some proven and reliable organizations, such as Sinistra Italiana, others of a rather improvised nature, like Possibile, and others entirely spurious, like the exiles from the Democratic Party after the referendum. Among the latter, there is still the hope—legitimate, but which ignores the inescapable need for a new solution on the Left—for winning back a “Democratic Party without Renzi”— although we cannot forget the responsibility that characters like Bersani and D’Alema share for the many government decisions that were mistaken, to say the least.
Apparently, the generous efforts (although ill-planned and last-minute) of establishment figures like Grasso and Boldrini were also not enough. As regards Potere al Popolo and their effort, as heartfelt and sincere as it was unsuccessful, it is necessary to confront head-on the self-sufficient ideas of those who think it’s enough that “we exist, people know about us, we have connected those engaged in different struggles.” Can it really be enough to carve out an identity supported by 1.1 percent (if that) to fight against a right wing on the rise, especially if the goal is, after all, to have a movement that would try to change how things are in the country?
What still remains unaccomplished—for how much longer?—is the project of re-establishing a political force on the Left: alternative and classy, European because it is anti-nationalist, anti-war and committed to uniting those who are vulnerable. We do not have a Left engaged in struggles for the purpose of changing how the country is governed, with a much wider scope than the disastrous attempts so far. A Left less autocratic, more unified and welcoming.
The elections have come and gone, and, frankly, it was time. We must re-open as soon as possible the dialogue on the Left, which the initiative at the Brancaccio Theater in November last year, to a certain extent, actually stood for. Even though the venue will be different, that is where the debate must play out. And il manifesto (as the manifesto is, after all, one of the fundamental forms of politics) will have its own role to play.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.