Curiosity never gets old. It’s true. I think about that on my way back from the Podemos’s Citizens Assembly, which saw Iglesias triumph. I stopped in Paris to chat with Rossana Rossanda.
She welcomes me into her home and wants to know the results. She has thousands of questions about everything: about the supporters, about how the congress (as she insists on calling it) was carried out, about the feelings that were compared.
For Rossanda “it is important that there is a fierce Podemos movement, ready for political confrontation.”
In a few words, she sums up what she sees around Europe.
She begins with France, where the presidential campaign is ongoing. “I have doubts about Marine Le Pen because in France there have been 30 years of anti-fascist predominance, and I do not think this can be dissolved suddenly, vanished by a vote of the extreme right.” She adds bluntly: “Fillon is overwhelmed by scandals and therefore politically dead. Not even the socialists want Hamon. Too bad because his proposal on citizenship income is quite good, in my opinion. And Mélenchon, of the Front de Gauche party, is the one fighting it, rejecting the idea of a composite majority.”
Rossanda, who lives here and follows the debate closely, thinks this rejection is just a big mistake. “And then there is Macron, the outsider supported by the Socialist Party. Not as a socialist, but as the European Union man.”
She thinks Europe is “scared, in the water up to its throat. Now that more and more countries do not want or cannot stand to its dictates, it’s a Europe that is exploding.”
She is also worried about Germany. She does not trust Martin Schulz’s leap: “I do not think it is right. Die Linke perhaps represents the left better, but it sadly lacks enthusiasm.” With a provocative smile, she teases me by saying “I’d almost prefer a victory by Merkel. All I know about the Socialists is very negative. Perhaps I am wrong.”
I open my eyes wide. The picture she draws of the European Socialists is demoralizing, she says. “I often find myself totally grief-stricken. There is not a decent socialist party in all of Europe.”
“In Spain there is this hope of Podemos, with its mass roots and its willingness to remain open. Here, what I fear now is precisely its isolation. The great villains around Europe will try to block Podemos, too, which has the arduous task of keeping the conflict alive. It is a positive contradiction that I follow with interest, even if I remain a bit skeptical about Iglesias’ leadership, with his air of a young professor, a bit like a protagonist. Errejón also gives me the impression he is a too nice guy, I might add.”
We agree and joke about Pablo Iglesias’ look, his ponytail, his white shirt, never as shiny as those Renzi wore, as if he had used the wrong washing cycle, the red tie flaunted in the final speech of the conference, about that lifted fist.
“I’ve been thinking a lot. I think that today people have a spontaneous need to connect with people rather than ideas. I remember back then, at the beginning of the history of il manifesto, the three or four of us who were more visible, surely we had many faults, but we did not take pride in personability. Of course we were beautiful and many criticized us because we were too beautiful and bon vivant to be Communists.”
We had some tea and some chocolates. She stroked Mefis, her black cat, a couple of times and immediately she continued with her theoretical concerns.
She asked me about that group of anti-capitalists within Podemos. She wants to know if they are even Communists. “Do they call themselves that because the others are not? In Italy, almost no one self-identifies as anti-capitalist, or if they claim to be, often they are as anti-capitalist as I am a tiger. And what happened to Marx? I wish the theoretical systems of the left would reinsert at least a little of Marx and, why not, a bit of Lenin.”
But she adds with determination: “The only Lenin thing that I would not feel the need to revive is the need for violence and the dictatorship over the proletariat. Because it is not true that you can get rid of the question of freedom. That is never true. At il manifesto, at least we acknowledged the problem existed.”
She is not convinced by Podemos’s application of Laclau’s theory. In her opinion, it “confuses the class conflict. But the rediscovery of Marx may serve to redefine what the concept of class really is. The composition of class has changed. There remains the problem of those who work and those who depend on work. Today, also, work is different. It is urgent to try to reconsider which part of society is pushing for change. It is evident that the factory is no longer the production center and that there is a lot of what back then we called dead labor, consigned today to a much more complex system of machines and technologies. The problem remains, and the issue is how you put these new subjects together, how you make them confront one another.
“Today it is easier, because the communication systems are stronger than those we had then. I am of an advanced age, and I am struck by the fact that the 15-M movement actually generated a party, even though no one seems to want more parties. But you always have to have a focal point, the most democratic one possible.”
She asks me in detail how the congress was held and who selected the speakers. When I tell her that there was no presidential table, she smiles surprised. I also tell her that the order of speakers had been decided in an online debate and in local clubs, and each speech only lasted 10 minutes, just to illustrate the documents.
“But 10 minutes is too short to go in depth!” she complains. I tell her that when the speaker went over the allotted time, there was a pianist who began to play a little tune to speed up the conclusion.
“In order for Podemos to continue to grow, it has to work through conflict and through the work of parliament. It should do a little bit of what the Communist Party used to do.”
At this point, she feels she has to do a self-criticism on Togliatti: “At the time, we were all anti-Togliatti because of his prudence; however, had he not died in 1964 it would have been better. Surely Stalin recommended him to be prudent.
“Today there is no shortcut. If social conflict is not reignited around material interests and rights, we will go nowhere. In Italy, half of the center-left agreed with the European neoliberal policies. The result of the referendum on the constitutional reforms was a clear signal. This must generate a project to antagonize Renzi and his policies if you want to measure up against the rise of populism and this 5 Star Movement, which I consider dangerous.”
We speak about the feminists within Podemos and the feminist trend in politics.
“I really like their idea of equality. I prefer it to the idea of parity. I had doubts about the event on Nov. 26, but I changed my mind,” she said, referring to the international demonstrations against violence against women. ”There was significant participation. It is an important path.”
She asks me about March 8, and I tell her about the strike idea. “Have the unions joined?” she wonders.
The afternoon is over.
While I collect my notes, she asks me one last question: “How does Podemos communicate? Does it have a newspaper? Because, for what I’ve seen among the many newspapers I read, only il manifesto has understood the importance of this conference and devoted an insert to it.”
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