According to different points of view, one could say there is no left-wing party in Italy today, or rather that there are too many of them. What is certain, at least, is that there is no left-wing Democratic Party, since the PD as it is—given how it has conducted itself and the policies it has promoted—has clearly veered further and further from the high road, and in the process has cut its social base down to a remnant and chosen to cut its ties with the history of the labor movement, as well as with the very word “left.”
According to Mario Tronti, a philosopher and former leading figure in the Italian Communist Party, the post-communist political class is guilty of “not having taken up and internalized the historical legacy of the labor and popular movement,” and thus failing to understand that “the past is stronger than the future when it comes to fighting the present.”
However, if we are to return to something like the Left Democratic Party (PDS) of the ‘90s, this would mean revisiting the pivotal moments between 1989 and 1991, with the “Bolognina split” and the Rimini Congress, which led to the transformation of the Italian Communist Party into the PDS. This would be the necessary starting point today, revisiting the beginning of the process at the end of which the word “left” was fatefully cut out of the name, giving rise to the Democratic Party.
It’s useful to recall this history now that the polls will open for the party’s leadership election on Sunday [editor’s note: Lazio President Nicola Zingaretti was elected party leader with 67% of the vote]. It was from that historical moment that the “exodus” of voters started to progressively weaken, wither and divide the party, which had its electoral support cut in half, while another popular force, the Five Star Movement, fought it on its own turf and managed to win over some of its former supporters.
As the title suggests, this primary-style leadership election might actually be the last one. Turnout is lower and lower, and the competition between the candidates is reflecting and appealing to the small share of the electorate that is still voting for the PD. To stop the bleeding and to win over a newer, younger contingent, the most important thing to do would be to jettison every hint of the illusion of self-sufficiency.
If Zingaretti will be the new secretary after Renzi, the only roadmap for the party to chart a new course and recover its identity and its support would be to put “environmentalism and a new development model” front and center, as Zingaretti himself promised. Of course, there is a big difference between saying it and actually doing it: to get from one to the other, one needs to contend with the facts as they are, the choices to be made, the alliances to be pursued.
The newly elected secretary will have to fight on all these fronts and show a willingness to displease some in the party—something he did not do during the campaign for these leadership elections. People are saying that this was merely his tactic in order to not give any ammunition to the majority in the party that still supports Renzi. We’ll see whether this was just a tactical choice, and whether the president of the Lazio region (who will keep his public office) will be able to make the right choice between giving the Democratic Party a left-wing vision or letting it fall further to nothing more than a name and a logo.