Now is the time: we need a broad, civic and participatory left
We believe that it really is not possible to wait any longer. In all humility and with utmost respect for all political paths we say “now is the time”. For in the words of Oliver Goldsmith: (The Deserted Village) “Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay”.
Faced with yet another sham electoral reform bill, a media and political debate focused on leadership instead of on solving people’s problems and on building a new vision of society for our country, a substantial number of citizens are questioning whether or not to vote in the next political elections because they expect yet another parliament whose members have been nominated and not chosen by the voters.
There is no innovative political proposal capable of representing people who have no voice, of opposing the insecurity which almost everyone in the younger generations has to live with, or to propose, as well as protest, a new fairer, more inclusive social model with greater solidarity – a political plan capable of “overturning the scandalous reality of this world” (Pope Francesco).
The political careerism which now predominates cannot achieve a real change – something new is required, an innovative political programme with a vision that goes beyond the next elections and opposes the neo-liberal policies which over the past years have decapitated the rights, sovereignty of the people and democratic institutions.
After the long period of governments working in the interests of the few against the needs of the many, the time has come to think of policies that are in the interest of the majority of the people . Government as a means and not as an end.
We believe therefore that the centre-left predominance is at an end– the time has come to stop making pacts with them and “overthrow the table” of inequalities.To achieve this, we need to build the Left that we have not had so far.
This is why in June we launched the “Brancaccio path”, to form a popular alliance between citizens and political forces in favour of democracy and equality. We did this to place the pressing demand for democracy and participation which emerged from the victory of 4th December at the centre of political debate again. It’s no longer sufficient to defend the Constitution and the Rule of law (within the democratic state); we want to put them into effect and build a political front as an alternative to the neo-liberal thinking , against the reforms imposed by financial capitalism on weak or conniving parliaments and governments.
Now, four months and many meetings on, it is clear to everyone that this was the right path.
For this reason we are restating this same objective, and it is imperative, without further hesitation, to set about the formation of an umbrella group of civic organisations and a Left, which will jointly draw up a single national list of candidates for the next general election , with the aim to become the Left that does not yet exist in this country; a stable and credible political platform, bigger and more ambitious than the individual parties and movements, that will join it allowing the expression of energy in our country, as has happened in Spain with Podemos and in Great Britain with Jeremy Corbyn’s new Labour Party.
The latter is a case in point, for the party that started off the “Third Way” in Europe has reversed its direction and has regained consensus and credibility after a long period of crisis. What happens in Europe shows that the Left only wins when it is united around radical and innovative programmes without any connivance or support from conservative forces in the neo-liberal mould. We have to look further, and not stop at the next elections, but build together the common premises of a new global humanism, a fair world in which there is space not only for old rights that have been taken away from us, but also new ones, like the right to real democratic participation, the right to qualitative time, the right to happiness for all . This is our ambition, and we know that to make it a reality we cannot work only at a national level. We need to strengthen our relations with other movements that have already taken this path in Europe and in the world, and have inaugurated a new political and democratic era, with the citizens and their real priorities placed back at the centre of debate.
Like Tony Judt we are convinced that “Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose. We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth. We no longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: Is it good Is it fair Is it just Is it right Will it help bring about a better society or a better world Those used to be the political questions even if they invited no easy answers. We must learn once again to pose them. The materialistic and selfish quality of contemporary life is not inherent in the human condition. Much of what appears “natural” today dates from the 1980s: the obsession with wealth creation the cult of privatization and the private sector the growing disparities of rich and poor. And above all the rhetoric that accompanies these: uncritical admiration for unfettered markets disdain for the public sector the delusion of endless growth. We cannot go on living like this.”
All through 2016 we saw people united in the great referendum campaign that led to the victory on 4th December. All those banners of the left bowed before the single banner of the Constitution – and we won!
This unity has grown further, despite a political and media debate that concentrated entirely on the mood swings of a ‘leader’ who was self-elected and divisive, and took shape from the first Brancaccio meetings which were held across Italy from 18th June and will be taking place all over Italy in October. Even during our meetings to discuss the programme, we have seen one people: citizens who do not have party cards, others active in parties and movements within the Left, many people who are disillusioned with the Partito Democratico (PD) and with politics in general, and citizens who no longer vote or who take refuge in protest votes. They are all asking for the same thing: a unified and popular force that can and really wants to change Italy through a bold and radical programme to claim back rights that have been denied, starting with those that are recognised and protected by the Constitution, and proceeding to new rights arising from the challenges of the present and the future.
Today we recognise that at last the wish to work for a single list of candidates of the Left has arisen in others also. The events of the past few days have shown clearly the fault line that divides those who adhere doggedly to old formulas and who are bound by the hegemony of the Partito Democratico, and those forces who mean to change things for real. Jobs, redistribution of wealth, safeguarding the environment and the climate, the right to health and education, peace, and the reception of migrants – people are united in wanting to change direction on all of this.
To this end, we would like to make available the methods and experience of the “Brancaccio”, which from its very beginnings has been a political space open to all who share these aims. We will continue with the local meetings of the “100Squares for the Programme”, which will conclude with a big national gathering in November.
At the same time, from today we will work with leaders of all political forces who declare themselves as alternatives to the Partito Democratico and to the Right to formulate a calendar and a process, to be shared by all civic and political forces – and not imposed by anyone – that will lead before the end of the year to a single electoral list for the next elections.
We emphasize the key importance for this purpose of a mass participation from the bottom up. Based on one person one vote, and with the greatest possible transparency and inclusivity, they will elect a grand assembly, which will decide democratically on the final programme and on candidates who will truly represent the citizens. Adequate space will be given for women and young people. The rules of this process will be fundamental. We believe for example that the media-led and ambiguous process of primary elections is unacceptable; We should value the commitment of candidates who dedicate themselves to political, social and voluntary activities, etc. Furthermore , we believe that a committee of non-candidate facilitators should serve as a guarantee for this process.
“Sinistra Italiana”, “Possibile”, “Mdp”, “Rifondazione Comunista”, “l’Altra Europa” and the other political entities that will participate are only a small part of the Left that will be formed, and we believe that this new Left will either be civic, broad, democratic and participatory in its methods and aims, or it will amount to nothing at all.
In order for our commitment to be credible and to mark the beginning of a new stage in politics, we need a radical renewal of political language and leadership and also a generational renewal with new faces from new walks of life, part of a Left that is not only united at last, but is representative in a truly new way of citizens and regions, in a word, different from the experiences of the past, and with its gaze on the future; a Left that is finally credible.
Our status as citizens, and not as professional politicians, imposes on us a role of guarantor, of stimulus, of supervision, and we will not fail to step up to this. From today we will begin to put this programme into action, together with all those who want to be with us.
Politics, as Jeremy Corbyn said, isn’t going back into the box where it was before.
And that will not happen.
Anna Falcone Tomaso Montanari