The left is in serious trouble across Western Europe, but Italy is the only country that has to do without one altogether. The term “the left,” now used generally without any specific content, has come to represent taking a certain stand. If there is a “right”—and there is, a dangerous one with fascist traits—then the forces opposed to it must be, according to the logic of symmetry, a “left” by default.
The situation in Italy is paradoxical: the forces which play the role of a bulwark against the aforementioned right are the same ones responsible for the climate from which the latter has drawn, and continues to draw, its sustenance. The new government certainly represents a bulwark, at least for now. However, there are no signs—or, rather, there is not even the possibility—of a reversal of the economic and social policies that have created the most suitable soil for the flourishing growth of our right.
The country continues to be caught in the trap of a cancerous growth that the left-by-default has helped along ever since the ‘90s of the last century, and has even had a leading role in building—a trap from which it’s not even seriously considering escaping.
Regarding the structural characteristics of this left-by-default—and precisely because these are structural ones, meaning they are long-term features which are difficult to change—there is now a wide range of economic, sociological and historical literature. There is research on the changes in the ruling classes, on their political and economic culture, on their social points of reference. Of course, one may disagree with the emerging picture, but one would need to put forward a new analysis, a new history, new evidence drawn from actual reality—not mere political rhetoric.
“We have always started from exhaustive research on the political subject. This time, let’s start from the object,” said a LeU deputy recently, one who had been working for some time towards the construction of a “not-by-default” left wing political subject (il manifesto, Nov. 12).
The problem is that the definition of this “object,” if it is to be a truly significant object, cannot be separated from the subjects who have to translate it into action. Now, objects of this kind are not particularly responsive to what is usually called, with great pathos, the “entirely new political era” we are living in. In Italy, we seem to be experiencing an “entirely new political era” every few months now. If the current government falls, what will that new political era be like, on the basis of which we will have to rethink all our analytical criteria? A left which is not-by-default must already be thinking today in terms of such a new era.
With decidedly more modest ambitions, the aforementioned LeU deputy wants to fight the existing “prejudiced attitude” against the PD.
I believe that the term “prejudiced attitude” has a very limited political applicability, and concerns only extreme cases, such as the impossibility of having any kind of relationship with the right of our times. Against this right, however, “alliances” are possible without any prejudice involved. These tactical alliances, however, do not impinge on strategic perspectives which, due to history and the facts, make finding common ground very difficult.
The current situation regarding the European Stability Mechanism is a very important indicator of the lack of compatibility between the members of the government alliance regarding the “foundations.” We must give Minister Gualtieri his due for his seriousness and rigor, as he is acting in perfect continuity with the function that his party has always exercised in determining the economic rules of the EU, from the Maastricht Treaty onwards. Just like the Fiscal Compact, to which the ESM is closely connected, the Mechanism introduces a certain economic theory into the national legislation (and, for the Fiscal Compact, even in the Constitution), a theory which is imposed on a political level.
Alliances made between political forces come downstream of this development, and if one gives up the task of working so that the not-by-default left would become a strong political force, one automatically assumes the role of carrying water for the strategies of others with very different goals. Then, one is pulled, powerless, into alignment with the “new and clear bipolarism,” which, as Bettini says, “is growing once again” (Huffington Post, Nov. 27). Meanwhile, to facilitate its growth, the PD is opposed to any form of true electoral proportionalism.
In this scenario, the electoral fight is located entirely within the neoliberal sphere, whose sheer naturalness neither of the two camps questions. To add insult to injury, Salvini’s demagoguery is able to make free use, albeit in a vulgar and distorted manner, of propaganda formulas that appear to hearken back to an actual criticism of those foundations. Obviously, this does not mean that the two sides are essentially the same—however, it remains true that “there is no way out without the left” (Robecchi, Jacobin, Dec. 4).