Interview. The former Renzi challenger is back in politics, campaigning on the red-green list. ‘Those who vote for us are stopping the right-wingers just as effectively as those who vote for the PD.’

Pippo Civati: A vote for red-green is also a vote against Fratelli d’Italia

After four years away from the spotlight, during which he started the People publishing house in Busto Arsizio, Pippo Civati is back in politics. He is traveling all over Emilia Romagna, where he is a candidate in the proportional vote for the Italian Left and Greens. He holds rallies, but also has coffee with people at their homes.

In what condition did you find the center-left? Even worse than in 2018?

Well, at least Renzism has been put to rest. And all those who were with him are now pretending they weren’t. And Letta is saying the things I was saying when I ran in the PD primaries in 2013.


On rights, the environment, labor, I’m hearing things that are much more leftist than a few years ago. We have to admit they lost a lot of time: I see that the PD has even abandoned the Jobs Act, and I can only be happy about that. It is no longer the party I left back in 2015. It got to this point late and out of breath, though.

Is it real change or an attempt to recover voter support? Minister Orlando claims that the turnaround began in 2019, with Zingaretti’s victory at the congress.

I’m still not clear on this issue. Let’s say that the leadership group has not changed, apart from Letta. There is a problem of regaining credibility. On the minimum wage, they came to that very late. In this legislature it doesn’t look like they have been moving mountains to get it passed. There is an ambiguity that has not been resolved. And that’s also why I’m very happy to run on a list that is much more clearly leftist and environmentalist.

Letta said he would not want to go into government with you.

Those words were a mistake. If I look at the two programs, I don’t understand why he should feel embarrassed to govern with an alliance like ours. The problem, as I said, is that this PD — which has “Choose” as its slogan — has not yet chosen what it wants to be: the party of government at any cost and of broad consensus, of the Draghi agenda, or a socialist force that looks to the left, as they did in Spain and Portugal?

In Italy, the problem may not even be relevant if the extreme right wins hands down.

Who knows, maybe they will tell us that we are not even good enough to be in opposition together? Look, I’m getting bled dry because in the Bologna constituency, those who vote for me also get Casini in the uninominal vote.

It must not be easy…

When you’re in a coalition, you deal with it, and I can bear all the criticism coming my way. But there is a limit: I demand that they treat us with respect and with loyalty. And fortunately, in the other Emilia constituency, I am running with Aboubakar Soumahoro.

Let’s go back to you having to live with Casini in Bologna.

When I called myself “an antidote to Casini,” he was amused and appreciative. He is a good sport.

Do you find it harder to live with a PD that is snubbing you?

I hope it’s not because of the “useful vote” thing, to cannibalize us. Those who vote for us are stopping the right-wingers just as effectively as those who vote for the PD. I’ll remind our Dem friends that by standing together in a coalition, we must aim to be credible overall and not ridiculous. But I insist: you can vote for us and also for PD candidates in constituencies throughout Italy, a bit like in runoffs for mayor. It’s always better to have a Dem than one from Fratelli d’Italia.

How did the PD leader seem to you after all these years?

We have not seen each other since 2014. I have always appreciated his fairness, even when I did not vote in favor of confidence in his government. We need more figures of substance like him, even if we often disagree: but mutual respect allows us to have a relationship based on dialogue. That is why I hope he takes back those words about us.

And how do you feel about Renzi?

He was the protagonist of a time in which, as PD leader, he raged against the left in all its forms. A period that is thankfully over. Now I am curious to see how long his relationship with Calenda lasts: together they are more entertaining than a TV series.

You participated in the LeU project. Now you’re on the red-green list. Is there more hope today for the emergence of a force to the left of the PD?

I hope this is the right opportunity for a more concrete and stable force to emerge. But my goal is for the battles on inequality and climate to take over the whole center-left camp. And to some extent that has already happened.

Letta talks most of the time about Orban and the disasters the right in government would cause. Do you share his view?

The danger is there and he is right to denounce it. I’d add that to counter the right you also need a platform that comes with more conviction and a less murky one.

What would you do?

I would dose the ingredients differently. I would talk much more about redistribution and against the flat tax: I’m not afraid to say the words “estate tax” on great wealth and inheritance.

Letta proposed an inheritance tax to give €10,000 to 18-year-olds.

You don’t make a new tax to give a bonus, but to change the power relations in society. This is how public schooling and health care came into being. And then the citizenship income: it should not be so timidly defended.

Meloni wants to abolish it, and gets votes even among the poorest.

She has an entirely neoliberal agenda, but she is the supposed novelty of the moment. However, I don’t believe in polls much: normal people haven’t really tuned into the elections.

Do you believe in a comeback?

I have done many campaigns, both won and lost. I remember well the climate in 1994 and 2008: the air was heavier than it is now.

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