Hooray. Victories, which have been quite rare for some time, are good for our health. And this victory over the constitutional reform was just not any success, as we know, despite the contradictory motivations that helped the No to win.
In my opinion, the best thing was the very long referendum campaign.
Contrary to how it has been described — “an indecent show,” “a melee,” etc. — what happened, against all expectations, has been a renewed engagement of millions of people who had not discussed politics together for decades. It was as if, along with the Constitution, the beauty of participation had been rediscovered.
In this sense, it can be said that, despite the attempt to reduce the political class to an “executive elite” that at most accounts for its actions only every five years, the campaign has reaffirmed the importance of Article 3, in which the leadership has acknowledged the collective right of citizens to contribute to the choices of their country. Even though the Boschi reform did not explicitly affect this article, it is clear that all the proposed changes implied the cancellation of its substance. Hurray again.
I would not want to disturb you from the rest you’ve earned after this grueling ride; however, I believe we must be aware that for us leftists, the real effort begins now.
The battle we have fought was not only a battle to defend our beautiful democracy from a deplorable invention by Matteo Renzi: We had to prevent from falling deeper into a process of loss of popular sovereignty, which has been going on for decades, not only in Italy. And unfortunately, our No will not be enough in itself to stop it.
You could say it started back in 1973, with the real beginning of the long crisis that we still live in. At the request of Kissinger and Rockefeller at a meeting in Tokyo, the United States, Japan and Europe decreed in a famous manifesto that during the rebel years, too much democracy had been formed and the system could not afford it. The affairs of the world had become too complicated to leave the parliaments, i.e. the policy, in the hands of the citizens.
And ever since, the debate on governance has been going on, and gradually more and more of the decisions that matter were delegated to entities (like bank boards) foreign to our democratic systems, which have been left only minor responsibilities to apply those decisions.
We protested against many privatizations, but not enough against the main one: that of the legislature.
A few weeks ago Bayer bought Monsanto. It was a commercial agreement under private law. But it will have a much greater impact on our lives than many parliamentary decisions.
We deluded ourselves that globalization would produce only a catastrophic economic policy — liberalism, austerity, etc. — and instead it has upset our democratic system itself. It was put into play using extralegal tactics, what the Banking Blog has called the headless unmanned airplane of financial capital, impervious to politics.
In order to take the power away from parliaments, a bit everywhere but with a major impact in Italy, those instruments without which those parliaments could not answer to citizens have been delegitimized, indeed dismantled: The political parties were ridiculed and became weak — that is, inconsistent and unable to constitute the indispensable channel of communication between citizens and institutions.
The main forms of participation were slowly eliminated, or when that wasn’t possible, the ties that traditionally linked citizens with a parliamentary representation were cut off.
If now we want the victory of the No to be more than a Pyrrhic win, we have to start to build the substance of democracy, namely participation. We must not limit ourselves to pure protest or prayer to accomplish actions only governments can provide. That means we must leave behind the government obsession that seems to have taken over the left, and begin rebuilding an opposition alternative.
Democracy is conflict (directed by a clear program), because only this will prevent the petrification of castes and the established powers. If it does not find spaces and channels, it only becomes a confused protest that anyone can manipulate.
It’s up to us to open those channels, build the pillboxes necessary to create a more favorable balance of power and then, yes, look for the mediation (which are not necessarily back-room deals) to reach the possible compromises (rejecting the bad ones and working for positive ones).
Moreover, it was precisely because of the struggles and the robust channels and parliamentary attendance, which existed until the 1970s, that we managed to obtain what today we are defending. And the opposition didn’t have even a minor ministry in any government.
I do not mean that being part of a government is not important. I just think we need to leave behind the obsession that is embodied in the electoral slogan: “If we get to be the government, we will do…” We have to do it right away, wherever we are.
In my penultimate referendum rally, held in Gioiosa Jonica, a wonderful local singer closed the event with the song that we know well: “Libertà è partecipazione” — “Freedom is participation.” I propose we make that the anthem of our resistance. (And let’s hope that this opposition will keep the unity achieved in these months.)
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