Analysis. The Italian Democratic Party is trying to win back the left with a new slogan: ‘A united front from Macron to Tsipras.’ But the European socialists have a crucial caveat for the center-left: ‘It must abandon the neoliberal policies.’

Syriza calls for a ‘grand alliance’ of the left – neoliberals excluded

“We need a grand alliance of all progressive forces, those on the left, ecologist forces, and the forces of social democracy liberated from neoliberalism, because we cannot leave the fate of Europe to barbarism. The center-right forces are committing a crime against democracy in Europe when they ally with, or tolerate, the extreme right,” said Syriza Secretary and former minister Panos Skourletis, summing up the position of the Greek party led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

“A united front from Macron to Tsipras” has become the go-to electoral slogan by the Italian Democratic Party, aiming to win back left-wing voters. The PD has been saying that Tsipras was ready for an alliance with the Party of European Socialists (PES) in the European Parliament, as well as with the PD itself. Skourletis, however, felt the need to make some important clarifications in that regard.

“Europe is before a crucial crossroads. It must abandon the neoliberal policies that the center-right, center-left and technocratic governments have been applying, which fuel the war among the poor, fascism, nationalism and racism, destroying the tissue of European society,” Skourletis argued. “We are following with great interest the developments in Southern Europe, and the fact that the socialists in Portugal and Spain have abandoned neoliberal policies and are collaborating with the left. We have welcomed the birth of the ‘La Sinistra’ list in Italy, which represents the forces that are found together with Syriza in the Party of the European Left and in our group in the European Parliament, the GUE.”

He added that “we have always had a special relationship with the Italian left, which led in 2014 to the creation of the ‘L’Altra Europa con Tsipras’ (“The Other Europe with Tsipras”) list. Today, candidate Luciana Castellina is on the Syriza list.” Castellina is one of the founders of il manifesto, an icon of the Italian left and now the leader of the SI.

Syriza does not exclude an alliance with the PES, but only as long as the PES makes a clear turn. It should be noted that the Italian candidates of La Sinistra are skeptical about this possibility. For instance, Eleonora Forenza, outgoing MEP and a leading figure of the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), who is running again this year and who on Monday earned the prestigious endorsement of Mimmo Lucano, the former mayor of Riace, had this to say: “This ‘united front from Macron to Tsipras’ is an invention of the PD for the election campaign.”

“The facts tell us that during the last term, in most cases, the Democratic Party and the Socialist group voted with the Liberals and the PPE,” she said. “[Franz] Timmermans [the PSE spitzenkandidat] himself is Juncker’s second-in-command. The left, both in Italy and Europe, has the task to build a third space, an alternative both to the ‘Grand Coalition’ of neoliberalism that has been in power in the EU and to the black wave that is now on the rise and which has a notable presence in the Italian government.”

“I agree entirely with the secretary of Syriza,” said the Secretary of Sinistra Italiana, Nicola Fratoianni, who is also running. “We need to reconstruct a field of progressive forces that would counter the sovereignist wave and the neoliberal policies that have caused it to swell. I am also looking with hope at what is happening in Spain and Portugal.”

The problem, however, is that in Italy things are not going in that direction. “Maybe the conditions for that would be present here as well,” Fratoianni said. “But the Democratic Party is not in line with its own narrative. And you only have to look at its program to realize that the alliance between pro-European progressives that it is proposing has no basis at this point, on the merits. Indeed, the program goes in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, I would add.”

“From Tspiras to Macron? Better from Tsipras to Lucano, Castellina and Krajewski,” wrote Argiris Panagopoulos on Facebook, a Syriza leader and a candidate on the La Sinistra list in Italy. (Konrad Krajewski is a Cardinal and top aide of Pope Francis, who on Monday defied the authorities and personally reconnected an occupied building in Rome to the electricity grid.) “Many are the hypocrites who are now calling on the name of Tsipras: for instance, those who applied austerity in Italy, who eliminated the rights of the workers, who tried to subvert one of the most democratic Constitutions in the world, who attacked the unions and tried to denigrate their leaders.”

The “true friends of Tsipras,” he went on, are those who fought at his side “against the Juncker plan” and “against the chorus of Renzi, Grillo, Salvini and Berlusconi, as well as the center-right and center-left media who carried water for Germany, claiming that the [Greek] referendum was for a return to the drachma.”

Despite these negative signals, the left wing of the PD’s lists sees Skourletis’s words as a confirmation of their project. In the end, according to Massimiliano Smeriglio, this is “good news,” “both on the level of political direction and on the level of a sense of responsibility. No one can fail to note the extreme danger of this electoral transition, as the nationalist wave threatens to overwhelm our civil society. And in Italy, at this time, we are unfortunately getting constant warning signs about this danger.”

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