With the elections now close, a new political formation can’t come from anywhere else than from an unabashed critique of the politics of the PD and the center-left in recent decades. In the Italian Second Republic, the reforms that hit hard against the lowest social strata came not only from the center-right, but also from the center-left, and the PD was created precisely with the aim of sidelining the left that was anchored to social movements and cultures critical of the global processes of neo-capitalism.
The current level of electoral support for the neo-nationalist right-wingers, in Europe and the U.S., is also a backlash against left-wing parties that surrendered to neoliberal policies, which have pushed the working classes – now without a system of production that would bring them together and without political direction – into abstentionism, or even into the arms of the right, leaving the center-left with the most prominent role only among the upper echelons of society.
Continuing the center-left’s neoliberal policies means favoring right-wing populism. This is also because the widening inequality and the abandonment of the less affluent classes until it’s hard for them to even survive doesn’t just block their full enjoyment of political and civil rights, but also encourages the growth of widespread sentiments of intolerance, xenophobia and selfishness, which spread whenever the possibility of cultivating post-material values fades away. Through the regressive emphasis on belonging, right-wingers are able to agitate for a passive, ersatz “revolution” of identitarianism and sovereignism. The erosion of social rights results in a de facto crisis of civil and political rights as well.
As a result, I believe that it is worth risking the loss of the pool of votes guaranteed by the PD, since the people who have both suffered from its anti-popular policies and have seen them cloaked in democratic rhetoric and symbolism are going to catch even an inkling of closeness between the left and this party (I believe this is the reason why Italian Left and Article One have never taken off at the polls, despite the value of their programs).
This is also the case with the recent involvement in the war that has called into question even the Hobbesian Leviathan’s only duty to its subjects, namely the protection of life, sowing economic distress among workers, the unemployed and retirees and despair among small and medium-sized enterprises.
If we separate ourselves from a false centrist “constitutionalism” (false because neoliberalism is not in accordance with the Constitution) and avoid the trope of defining ourselves against the “hardliners,” we can actually hope to speak again to those who no longer vote, and even to the disenfranchised who voted for the right-wingers believing that they were the ones on their side.
Conversely, if we continue to seek an imaginary and dispiriting unity in “anti-fascism,” expunging the latter’s original popular character, we will continue to speak only to a rarefied elite, detached from reality, which is convinced – unlike the social base – that Mario Draghi is a saint and a hero and that the present war is in defense of democracy.
That would mean perpetuating the mistake of the reflexive anti-Berlusconi middle class, which rejected boorishness and hedonism, but failed to reject inequality and exploitation.
Syriza, Podemos and especially France Insoumise would never have grown to the size of major players in their countries without a sharp critique of prior center-left policies. Similarly, in contexts with different political traditions, without such a critique Corbyn wouldn’t have won the leadership of his party, and Sanders wouldn’t have been able to carve out legitimacy for the values of socialism in the United States.
Dialogue with the PD can only be conceived from the position of an alternative leftist party which has gained real autonomy and accumulated political strength and deep social roots. What about the argument that such a high standard means the risk of facilitating the victory of the neo-nationalists? The truth is that supporting neoliberal-progressive coalitions, which are inevitably forced into anti-popular policies by the interests that dominate them, does nothing but lay the groundworks for a future ultimate consolidation of an increasingly authoritarian and conservative reactionary wing (Trump could not arise without Clinton and Obama). The true problem is a different one: is there a social praxis today which would be an alternative to the world of bankers, finance and post-Fordist enterprise, and can become both paradigmatic and attractive? Before anything else, that’s what we need to start again.
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