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The collapse of the Left in Italy "No We Can't"


Something totally unexpected happened in Italy last night. It officially became American. In a country that boasted hundreds of parties (too many, for sure) and political factions, our parliament has eliminated all elements of the left from the Parliament, including parties that existed from the founding moments of our Republic, and parties that, elsewhere in Europe, govern nations as large as Spain and Great Britain. There are no more Communists in the Parliament. Socialists are gone too. The Greens have faded to black. What we have is the stew of a party that copies in slogan and in fact the US Democratic Party. “Si può fare” was the slogan… “Yes we can”. Never catering to any kind of difficult analysis but being all smiles and handshakes, installing the idea of ‘change’ (but if they had governed for the past two years, what change were they asking us to believe in?) rather than in recognising that Italy is a country on the verge of collapse and if we don’t fix things quick, we are going to feel it painfully.
And, I’m not surprised the self-styled ‘radical’ left was excluded by the vote. They had no imagination to go beyond inserting their politicians here and there, making sure that they maintained their positions, without ever raising a self-critical voice to the positions they had adopted during the two-year reign in power, including allowing US colonisation in this country, from the enormous extension of the Dal Molin US military base to the ‘mission’ in Lebanon and the refinancing of the Afghan war effort. They succeeded in raising hospital costs and sticking the Union demands in a public offer to salvage Alitalia from certain bankruptcy and loss of jobs, all in the name of ‘protecting the National company’, as if we really need a national airline! They addressed a class that does not even exist, catering to the enormous category of State employees, taking advantage of social conflict between aspects of the disenfranchised, promising everything to everybody, from a minimum wage to a moveable salary scale that they can’t finance, to increase in pension funds. They certainly did not extend a cent towards the financing of my area of work, which is art conservation, because they believe they can get a lot of the work in ‘free training’ of college students. Unfair competition is what it is called, while they see it as the band-aid that is the only way Italy resolves its problems. They did not face the ecological and social disaster of waste disposal, and true to form, if there is anything that needs doing, from putting out the forest fires that are now the leitmotif of our summers and the feeding of the poor or aid to immigrants, it is all passed off to the enormous league of the millions of unpaid volunteers, which has always been something Italy excels in, having this solidarity resource that covers up all the holes that otherwise would send our beautiful country to the bottom of a pit, never to crawl back up.

There was more than enough to criticise them for, and they did not bother to look into this, therefore, losing millions of votes and consensus from their base. They never bothered to ask themselves what their base thought. From Parlato, the editor of the major leftwing newspaper, who supports the Israeli place of honour at the Turin book festival to Turco, the Health Minister, who let certain categories such as dentists run a totally free market service with no limit or no alternative provided by the State, to Bersani, the Economic Development Minister, with his new laws on selling property, which will do nothing but line the pockets of the ‘approved’ companies that inspect to update ‘standards’ and will freeze a real estate market that is already on its knees. The resolution of the conflict of interest in the mass media was not even on the agenda, and rather, we got the national outlets that stopped any kind of criticism of anyone. Everyone was democratic, every party got its 2 minute blurb on the news which was to state that the other parties were not right. A half hour of The Family Feud every evening would turn anyone’s stomachs, as there was no space remaining to honestly state that “we are mad as hell and we aren’t going to take it any more!” No, all of it became political salons and bla bla bla. And what is worse, the people most committed to social change abandoned the scene faster than anyone else.
I have always loved the fact that Italy had an enormous amount of major left parties and newspapers. Yet, in the two years the left was in power, it lost all sense of self-critique, and developed an idolisation of itself based on the assumption that people would trust that the politicians knew best. We stopped trusting a while back, as they betrayed us one day after the other. I am of course unhappy about the complete absence in my country of a formal institutional representation of the left. I am of course unhappy of the prospect of another Berlusconi term, and I am terrified of the implications on the foreign policy. I am unhappy that there was no internal mechanism of the left leaning parties that adjusted them to the sentiments of the people who are completely fed up with the governing left and miserable with the right. The minimum common denominator brought us the misery, and to be honest, it is not causing me pain as it did seven years ago. The failure of the system as a whole is the earthquake that perhaps we need to rebuild.

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Original article published on 15th April, 2008

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IMPERIUM : 15/04/2008