In the second political earthquake in a year, the left ended up buried under the rubble. The results at the polls have been severely punishing for the list to the left of the PD, which we supported with full conviction, although with little hope. You didn’t have to be a doomsayer to fear they wouldn’t clear the 4% threshold—but they didn’t even come close.
A comparison with the results of the Greens and the left across Europe is unforgiving. While in other countries, such as in Germany, the “green wave” is taking on the characteristics of a mass party, and the left-wing forces, although having suffered heavy setbacks, are still in the region of 5, 6 or 10 percent, Italy’s results, with 2.2% for the Greens and 1.7% for La Sinistra, relegate us to last place in Europe.
There exists in our country a sector of society that is wide and highly engaged, with social and environmental organizations that have a larger base of support than the measly one million votes that the Greens and La Sinistra reached, both failing to clear the threshold. The spectacle of the public airing of conflicts certainly did not help. The Greens did a little better, but it would do them good to learn some lessons from the French and Germans.
A partial justification for the left falling flat might be found in the fact that the country is now going from one earthquake to the next. With a relentless media system at his disposal, based on mass appeal and fueled by massive investments in communication, Salvini rules. As the left is cut off, even if it sometimes manages to reach the headlines, like with the events surrounding the Mare Ionio ship on immigration, this doesn’t compensate for what is now the rule: its cultural and political disconnection.
Barely a year has passed since the tidal wave in March 2018 which brought Di Maio’s Five Star Movement to 32%, and which today, in May 2019, has abandoned it, dropping its total to 17%, and moved impetuously towards the Lega, gifting it 34%.
While Italy voted less, ending up at the bottom of the ranking also in terms of turnout, where did Salvini’s three million extra votes come from? They came from all across the country, unfortunately including Riace and Lampedusa—which had been governed by a Lega mayor in the past—from Piedmont and Umbria, from the north and the south. In the latter, the M5S lost two million votes, hit hard by abstention and bleeding support profusely in favor of the Lega.
The post-election voter analysis clarifies the fault lines in our country and the dynamics of the movements, and, crucially, clears up much of the confusion caused by a simple vote count. The Democratic Party has lost around 100,000 more votes along the way. The PD bears a great responsibility, and the hemorrhage it has suffered in central Italy (Piedmont, Umbria, Emilia Romagna, Marche and even Tuscany, despite Florence) is much more significant than the votes that returned to the party after the split before the previous general election.
Touting the success of Calenda and Pisapia, the PD candidates which did best, along with Bartolo, a symbol of caring for and welcoming migrants, Zingaretti is claiming he has restored the base of the center-left. Adding up all the smaller allies whom he once called “shrubs,” he is envisioning a return to form as a large political force. But it’s hard to imagine how that would work, as the PD was less affected by voter abstention, and, to top it off, it seems to have lost even more votes to the Lega.
To counter the tidal wave of the right, we must certainly not renounce our ideas: dignity has no price and what has a price has no dignity, as a philosopher once said. But it is also not the time to cultivate a minority status in which we do nothing more than innocuously bear witness to them.
Calling the Lega “fascist” doesn’t help explain their combination of racism, anti-feminism, pro-capitalism and pro-flat tax. It rather shows our difficulty in deciphering the current state of society. If we do not do better, the parallels with history will become even more troubling, and—worst of all—the country will be condemned to another era of right-wing government.
If the European elections are “the big poll” in view of the general elections, and Tsipras has already called the Greeks to vote, we can only hope that in Italy, that bell will not toll any time soon.