After a 10-hour leadership meeting, there were not many certainties at the PD. Some of them are that the primaries will be in March, that Letta will remain as leader until a successor is chosen, and that, barring any surprises, there will be no further split-offs until that date.
The Dem left, which still doesn’t have a candidate to run against Stefano Bonaccini, will participate throughout the process. “Nothing red, or red-yellow, will be organized,” assured Goffredo Bettini, the leader closest to Conte.
Among the few certainties, there’s also that no one wants to disband the party (as suggested by Rosy Bindi) and that the PD will not change its name and logo, which Letta professed to love, not least because of the visual reference to the Italian flag, meaning “service to the country.” Everyone also agreed on the need for “uncompromising” opposition to begin immediately.
“Let’s take off the dinner jackets and get to work, being in opposition will do us good,” Letta assured.
For all other issues, namely which social classes to represent and which issues to take up, the debate remains lost as sea. There is a still-deep division between those who are anchored to the interclass PD from 2007, summed up by Veltroni’s speech at the Lingotto in Turin (such as outgoing deputy secretary Irene Tinagli, Alessadro Alfieri and other “Lib Dems”), and those who instead want to give the party a pro-labor profile, such as Andrea Orlando, who spoke of the PD’s “congenital ambiguity” on key issues such as “the assessment of the current phase of capitalist development.”
They’re now focusing on postponed choices about where the party stands on the relationship between labor and business, economy and finance. In his own speech, Orlando described an unresolved conflict between a “neoliberal” and a socialist party: “We must decide which side we are on in the social conflict, otherwise we risk ending up in a pincer between a party of the elites (Calenda) and a social-populist one (Conte),” he says. “The French socialists also decided to not disband, yet they ended up on the sidelines,” Orlando warned.
Surprisingly, Delrio agreed with him: “Are we or are we not a party that puts labor ahead of finance? We need a cultural shift.”
“I don’t want to give away the intellectual heritage of the left to Conte,” Peppe Provenzano added. “Today, there is no social group that entrusts its representation to us. Without a clear identity on labor issues, we are just an election committee.”
“The main problem,” Provenzano insisted, “is being in government for years without having won any elections.” This is something Letta had also been clear on: “If the government falls, we will call for elections: no more ‘national salvation’ governments ever again.”
Lots of bigwigs took their turn to speak who were there in 2007, when the PD was born, from Fassino to Zanda, Cuperlo and Delrio. “So many secretaries have changed over the years, but the leadership group is still the same,” warned Bologna mayor Matteo Lepore. “Now we need a real revolution, without recycling. Otherwise, we run the risk that we’ll be disbanded by others.”
MEP group leader Brando Benifei also spoke out on the same issue: “We lost because few believed that the program could be implemented by a discredited ruling class. Is it credible that those who advocated for the Jobs Act can be the ones to change it?”
Marco Sarracino, a young figure, newly elected in Naples, likewise stressed the credibility issue: “In the marketplaces, when I was showing people the PD leaflets, they told me we were still the Jobs Act people. We are there in the suburbs, the problem is that they don’t trust us. We have changed, a lot, but those on the outside haven’t seen that.”
On this point, Letta did his mea culpa: “Talking about ‘Draghi, yes or no’ overshadowed our program, which was very innovative on jobs and the climate.” And he admitted: ”We failed to be the party of the have-nots, and I make no excuse for myself. We failed even on the representation of women in Parliament.”
He followed this with a request to still have two women as the party’s group leaders in Parliament: likely Malpezzi and Serracchiani, to be confirmed before the congress. The outgoing secretary was also self-critical about the stance on the war: “I don’t disavow the positions taken, but we should have repeated the word ‘peace’ more often, pushed for Europe to work in this direction. And we did not prevent the social crisis that the war brought about, we came to focus on people’s fears too late.”
Valentina Cuppi, the PD president, who didn’t get elected to Parliament, touched on both points: “The PD is still a male-dominated party; if you want your voice to matter, you have to bend to the logic of the currents.” She continued: “Among our militants, there was and is disagreement over the war: it was wrong to label those who had critical positions as pro-Putin.”
Paola De Micheli relaunched her own candidacy: “Someone has to start, someone who is not offended either by male misogyny or female misogyny.”
Cuperlo also weighed in on the war: “Putin is a dictator and a disgrace, but in the face of Zelenskyy’s strategy, we have a duty to ask the question: do we follow that path? Forward towards victory on the battlefield, even with the risk of the atomic bomb.” He also touched on the social issues: “In the face of a social and non-liberal right, which promises protection to the impoverished classes, one cannot win with a ‘left of freedoms,’ but with a radical and rooted alternative.”
Franceschini and Guerini, the two heads of currents within the party, did not speak; neither did Bonaccini, favored for the leadership, who left before lunchtime. “I agree with the path proposed by Letta: a real congress in which to reaffirm and regenerate the identity of the PD,” he said. “We will do it within a definite and reasonable time frame. I consider it a step forward that we are no longer debating the name and logo.”
The Emilian governor, expected to win the leadership, feared any maneuvers to postpone the congress, and he got reassurances in that regard. Letta announced his neutrality between now and the primaries, but reiterated: “We must pass the baton to a new generation to challenge Meloni, who is a young woman.”
Many think he will support Elly Schlein. In the end, the secretary’s report was approved with two abstentions and one dissenting vote – that of Monica Cirinnà: “They only want to preserve the current apparatus. We are a party that puts people off.”
In the background, one could hear some traces of hope: “The majority is not so strong, they are showing disunity. Meloni’s honeymoon will not last forever,” Letta said with a sigh.