Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Hoping to Find the Left Over the Rainbow



The General Elections are scheduled in Italy for April 13th and 14th, 2008. The President of the Republic, Mr Giorgio Napolitano, decided to call them after Mr Romano Prodi's center-left Government fell on January 24th, the main political parties being unable to agree and support a short-term government to change the electoral law (bbc.co.uk).

Mr Silvio Berlusconi, heading the Center-Right coalition Popolo delle Libertà, is leading the run to become the new Prime Minister. Mr Walter Veltroni, heading the new Center-Left Partito Democratico, is running after. Moving far behind them, the catholic Center party Unione di Centro and the Left coalition la Sinistra l'Arcobaleno (the Left the Rainbow) are struggling to survive and enter again the Italian Senate, where you need to outcome a barrier of 8% reckoned on regional basis (repubblica.it).

Besides, according to the current electoral law promoted in 2005 by the then Minister for Reforms Roberto Calderoli, Italian citizens will not be able to choose their representatives themselves. Indeed, the "pig law" - as Mr Calderoli itself named it - states that the parties fix a list of candidates while citizens can only choose which party they want to vote for (Will Pinocchio listen to Mr Grillo?).

Aiming to shape the Italian political system as a two-party context and getting rid of all other parties, Mr Berlusconi and Mr Veltroni mixed up both their campaigns and programmes, so that if you read an extract from one of them it's very uneasy to recognize which one it belongs to (partito democratico.it and forzaitalia.it).

While Mr Berlusconi, which is 71 years old, explains that we're in for big economic troubles and pretends to be very sad for his upcoming Prime Minister work (repubblica.it), Mr Veltroni claims that - being 52 years old - he can really change the country, and tries to mingle himself with Mr José Louis Rodriguez Zapatero (aprileonline.info) and Mr Barack Obama (repubblica.it).

In his desperate run to overcome Silvio Berlusconi, Walter Veltroni - one of the former leaders of the Partito Comunista Italiano - decided that the Partito Democratico was not supposed to join forces with the left coalition la Sinistra l'Arcobaleno and in an interview to the Spanish newspaper El Pais clearly said that the Partito Democratico is not a Left party: "Somos reformistas, no de izquierda" (elpais.com).

Mr Veltroni's peculiar style, stigmatized by the italian comic artist Maurizio Crozza as "maanchismo", seems to put opposites in common (corriere.it). The Partito Democratico, for example, decided to candidate both the former president of Federmeccanica (the Italian federation of metalworking industries), Mr Massimo Calearo, and Mr Antonio Boccuzzi, the only survival of a terrific work accident which took place in the Turin Thyssenkrupp steal plant last December, killing seven workers (lastampa.it and repubblica.it).

The issue of death at work is indeed very significant (Working side by side with death): when Mr Romano Prodi's government tried to make a new law implying strong penalties over managers lacking in adopting safety measures in their plants, it was forced to change its decree by the strong opposition of Confindustria, the Italian employers federation (corriere.it and repubblica.it).

All the more reason, after having granted huge tax cuts to businesses (Who is going to pay the budget bill?), Mr Prodi fell just when he was about to give something back to workers and pensioners too (repubblica.it). Here again, when his government tried to set a law recognizing the rights of not-married couples, the opposition of the Church made him soon step back (lastampa.it).

Here is the matter: being supported by Confindustria and partly by a Catholic background, Mr Veltroni – acting as Prime Minister – could only sit and ask what Confindustria and the Church would like him to do.

As a liberal socialist, I am thus wondering who I should vote for. Actually, the Democratici di Sinistra - belonging to the European Socialist Party - merged with Mr Francesco Rutelli's Margherita into the new Partito Democratico, which is no more a Left party.

The former Partito Socialista Italiano lays down, as a sad prisoner of Mr Bettino Craxi's criminal heritage: nine times out of ten there you find still the same names and the same ambiguities.

I have no doubt that now an Italian Socialist can do nothing but try to explain its view and join his forces with what still is Left. I wouldn't probably agree with some of the economic solutions promoted by la Sinistra l'Arcobaleno. But considering the pillars of their programme, I can do nothing but feel at ease voting for them. Here they are:
Of course the political programme is not enough. Unfortunately, la Sinistra l'Arcobaleno is the result of the merger between four failing political entourages: Partito dei Comunisti Italiani, Rifondazione Comunista, Sinistra Democratica and Verdi. Their leader, Mr Fausto Bertinotti, is the past and not the future of the Left. la Sinistra l'Arcobaleno should soon erase its national and local leaders, attending public bottom-up elections to choose brand new players. They had better chosen someone like Mr Roberto Saviano - the young writer who reported on the power of Camorra in his masterpiece work Gomorra - as their candidate for the premiership. We can hope many other things along these lines, but our duty is now to protect democracy, pluralism and the existence of the Italian Left itself.

"Mi sono sempre considerato un uomo di sinistra e quindi ho sempre dato al termine 'sinistra' una connotazione positiva, anche ora che è sempre più avversata, e al termine 'destra' una connotazione negativa, pur essendo oggi ampiamente rivalutata. La ragione fondamentale per cui in alcune epoche della mia vita ho avuto qualche interesse per la politica, o, con altre parole, ho sentito, se non il dovere, parola troppo ambiziosa, l'esigenza di occuparmi di politica e qualche volta, se pure più raramente, di svolgere attività politica, è sempre stato il disagio di fronte allo spettacolo delle enormi diseguaglianze, tanto sproporzionate quanto ingiustificate, tra ricchi e poveri, tra chi sta in alto e chi sta in basso nella scala sociale, tra chi possiede potere, vale a dire capacità di determinare il comportamento altrui, sia nella sfera economica sia in quella politica e ideologica, e chi non lo ha. Diseguaglianze particolarmente visibili e, a poco a poco trasformandosi la coscienza morale, sempre più consapevolmente vissute, da chi, come me, era nato ed era stato educato in una famiglia borghese, dove le differenze di classe erano ancora molto marcate. Queste differenze erano particolarmente evidenti durante le lunghe vacanze in campagna dove noi venuti dalla città giocavamo coi figli di contadini. Tra noi, a dire il vero, affettivamente c'era perfetto affiatamento, e le differenze di classe erano assolutamente irrilevanti, ma non poteva sfuggirci il contrasto tra le nostre case e le loro, i nostri cibi e i loro, i nostri vestiti e i loro (d'estate andavano scalzi). Ogni anno, tornando in vacanza, apprendevamo che uno dei nostri compagni di giochi era morto durante l'inverno di tubercolosi. Non ricordo, invece, una sola morte per malattia tra i miei compagni di scuola di città.
Erano anche gli anni del fascismo, la cui rivista politica ufficiale, fondata dallo stesso Mussolini, era intitolata 'Gerarchia'. Populista, non popolare, il fascismo aveva irregimentato il paese, soffocando ogni forma di libera lotta politica; un popolo di cittadini, che già avevano conquistato il diritto di partecipare a libere elezioni, era stato ridotto a folla acclamante, un insieme di sudditi tutti eguali, sì, nell'identica uniforme, ma eguali (e contenti?) nella comune servitù. Con l'approvazione improvvisa e improvvisata delle leggi razziali, la nostra generazione si trovò negli anni della maturità di fronte allo scandalo di una discriminazione infame che in me, come in altri, lasciò un segno indelebile. Fu allora che il miraggio di una società egualitaria favorì la conversione al comunismo di molti giovani moralmente e intellettualmente seri. So bene che oggi, a tanti anni di distanza, il giudizio sul fascismo deve essere dato col distacco dello storico. Qui, però, parlo non da storico, ma unicamente per recare una testimonianza personale della mia educazione politica cui ebbero tanta parte, per reazione al regime, gli ideali, oltre che della libertà, anche dell'eguaglianza e della fraternità, le 'ridondanti blagues', come allora erano sprezzantemente chiamate, della Rivoluzione francese. Se avessi avuto ancora qualche dubbio, sarebbe giunto, nel momento più opportuno, proprio mentre stavo scrivendo queste pagine, un articolo sul nuovo settimanale 'l'Italia', dichiaratamente di destra, intitolato Abbasso l'eguaglianza.
Proprio così: 'Abbasso l'eguaglianza'. Il che non vuol dire, come qualcuno potrebbe interpretare: 'Viva la differenza'. No, vuol dire: 'Viva la disuguaglianza'."


[I have always considered myself a man of the left, and therefore, for me, the term 'left' has always had a positive connotation, even now when it is under such attack, and the term 'right', which is now being widely reassessed, a negative connotation. During my life I have on occasion shown some interest in politics; in other words, I have felt the need (I will not say that I felt it my duty, because that is too grand a word) to get involved in politics, and more rarely, to engage in some political activity. The fundamental reason for this has always been an uneasiness over the spectacle of enormous, disproportionate, unjustified inequalities between rich and poor, between those at the top and those at the bottom of the social ladder, and between those with power – that is to say, the ability to determine the behaviour of others in the economic, political and ideological spheres – and those without power. These highly visible inequalities are experienced with increasing awareness as the moral conscience is gradually strenghtened with the passing years and the develpoment of tragic events, especially by someone like me, who was born and brought up in a bourgeois family, where class differences are very pronounced. These differences were particularly evident during summer holidays in the countryside, where we city lads played with the sons of peasants. To tell the truth, our friendship was based on a perfect understanding, and the class differences were completely irrelevant; but we could not help noticing the contrast between our houses nad theirs, our food and theirs, and our clothes and theirs (in the summer they went barefoot). Every year when we started our holidays, we learnt that one of our playmates had died the previous winter form tubercolosis. I do not remember a single death among my school-friends in the city.
Those were the years of Fascism, whose official political journal, founded by Mussolini himself, was entitled Gerarchia (Hierarchy). Populist but not popular, Fascism regimented the country, and suffocated all forms of free political struggle; a people of citizens, which had already achieved the right to participate in free elections, was reduced to a cheering crowd, a collection of subjects all equal in their identical uniforms, but also equal (and content?) in their common servitude. With the sudden and unexpected passing of the race laws, our generation had to face, as it came of age, the scandal of that shameful discrimination which had a lasting effect on me and many others. It was then that the illusion of an egalitarian society favoured the conversion to communism among many moral and serious-minded young people. I know very well that today, after so many years, our judgement of Fascism must be made with a historian's detachment. Here, however, I do not speak as a historian, but solely as an individual, giving a personal account of his political education, which, in reaction to the regime, was greatly affected by the French Revolution's ideals of liberty, as well as equality and fraternity – the 'empty rhetoric', as they were contemptuously referred to at the time. If I had still had any doubt, in the right moment, just when I was writing these pages, an article would have come. This article, published by the new magazine 'l'Italia', come out belonging to the right, was intitled: 'Down with Equality'.
Which does not mean, as someone could interpret: 'Long Life Difference'. No, it does mean: 'Long Life Inequality'.]

[Norberto Bobbio, Destra e Sinistra. Ragioni di una distinzione politica, Roma, Donzelli Editore, 1994; translation (last period excepted) by Allan Cameron, Polity Press, 1996].

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