by Guglielmo Greco Piccolo & Damian Killeen OBE – pictures ©ourtesy of Repubblica - Thanks to Alessandra Dacrema
Cosmopolitica: Italy Enters the Future, Turns to the Right, Possibly to the Left.
After years of silence and many failures, comes the new heart beat of the Italian Left, Cosmopolitica.
After years of silent reflection and several mea culpa, the left, or rather, the lefts in all their forms and ideologies, are preparing to make a new appearance under the tag differently cool, with all good intentions and programmes.
This is after hoarding as much treasure as possible as a result of the last twenty years spent in establishing itself, at all costs, as a party of opposition rather than changing its skin to become a specialized, technical reality, operating in different social environments and through formulas that are really alternative and more pragmatic. Despite repeated attempts to explore directions not particularly close to an endemic leftness, the original mindset still stagnates in a dreamlike, idealised, pure inconclusiveness that ended with the changes in the general environment with which we are all familiar. Apparently, however, various slips, sprains and a mixed and varied array of alliances have led to a total lack of preparedness for dealing with the new socio-economic issues of the moment, a not unique, sad ending to one of many typically Italian stories.
North East Europe reveals today a reaction to this that has evolved into claims of a right for every citizen to choose which political belief to follow especially when they vote and regularly contribute to the socio-economic development of whatever area they have decided to live in. All this despite the election and lineage of Jeremy Corbyn, the idealistic (probably too much) leader of the British Labour Party, which is repeating mistakes that have already been thoroughly punished by their own electorate and, as usual, always and only in the name of malfunctioning and absolutely inappropriate ideologies. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, because even in the UK and other North Eastern red zones, the Left or better, the old fashioned idea of the left, was literally punished. Punished for its proverbial inability to adopt quickly alternative policies that maybe (say maybe) today, could represent an effective and more satisfying alternative.
This same Left was punished for disappointing, not least, the new voters, the hordes of the younger generation that believe in the possibility of change beyond any anti-democratic propaganda of Austerity; another tag that actually hides the evident abandonment of responsibility on the part of many Governments. The same disappointing Left in the meantime, in Scotland, has left enough space for another concept, in some new ways, of a pro-left matrix: the SNP (Scottish National Party), which has found its most effective figurehead in Nicola Sturgeon, the current Premier of Scotland who, despite the unexpected (and perhaps not) failure of the Independence referendum ‘YES” campaign, continues to promote in almost all the news media a pro EU campaign, although not without appropriate adjustments following the avalanche of 'Big No!!!' to independence from Edinburgh. This Festival Capital still seems to strongly resist any possible attempt at renewal policies or social and cultural developments that could threaten to divert the current economy in a much fairer and democratic way or that might be too alternative and less controllable by Westminster, its current opinion leaders and city managers, official and hidden, who manage 'for many but not for everyone', the different resources, especially the public resources of the City of London.
Italy, though, just like Scotland and, we are certain, other nations with a similar political inclination, no longer needs thoughts and words but needs immediate, concrete hope. Scotland’s left wing alliance the RISE movement (Respect, Independence, Socialism, Environment) attempted to revive the radical energies of the pro-Independence campaign but failed to secure any parliamentary seats in the most recent Scottish General Election. RISE launched a manifesto in which, surprise, surprise, one can see some very similar policies to those presented in the Cosmopolitica project, promoted by one of its more media-friendly faces : the young, passionate, and (can we say this?) fascinating promoter of particularly cool and eco-liberal ideas: the Hon. Nicola Fratoianni, the golden boy of the new Italian Left. How strange it is, though, and slightly chilling, to think of two different Nicola & Nicola’s as representatives of two political hemispheres with different assignments, living in diametrically opposite regions of Europe but with amazingly similar visions... Coincidence? In the meantime, however, the young Italian Left observatory (Cosmopolitica, in fact) is fully engaged in reinventing the official identity of the new party. A fringe event attracted the attention of a huge number of visitors on the first official day of its start-up, leaving out of the theater at least 500 other sympathizers. Could Cosmopolitica help to revive, with the same energy, the new direction and objectives of a party that seems to have almost completely forgotten its old prestige and its ideological integrity?
Our Big Team’s mission is to create a magazine focused on best practices, of any kind, if they are really oriented towards representing new production methods and social models, provided they are innovative and democratic practices from which younger and farsighted generations, could draw out possibilities for success.
For this reason, we talked with the young and dynamic Member of Parliament who is from Tuscany but who has thrown himself into the Puglia Region, accepting five significant roles, putting into his suitcase all his projects, experience and passion, including a good dose of courage to admit that fears, mistakes, old ideologies, especially in politics, are made to learn from and to reflect on before getting on ones feet again. Nicola Fratoianni will tell Tablet directly what is the New Italian Left today and what else could it become.
1) Mr. Fratoianni, thank you for being Tablet’s guest. Let’s start straight away with you. What pushed you to leave Tuscany and to prefer Puglia Region as an ideal ground in which to experiment with new strategies? Why all these assignments and which is the one you most care about?
N.F. I left Tuscany to move to Rome for studying reasons. Then in 2004, when I was more or less 30, the Communist Reform Party, in which I was as an activist, asked me to take care of Puglia and to move to Bari to lead the Party.
I accepted that challenge because it seemed to be a chance for an important growth. From there started the political vicissitude that saw Nichi Vendola become the President of Puglia Region. I am very attached to all the political experience which I have had in Puglia.
2) You are very oriented, it seems, toward the new youth culture and ecology. You say there are, at least, three substantial differences between young Tuscans and the new Apulian generations. Even today, Italian Southern Regions are considered B class and maybe C class in Italy, demonstrating many strategies of speculation and abuse from several central government departments.
N.F. Any differences between young Tuscans and Apulians (and more generally, the young people of the South of Italy) simply reflect their different possibilities. Today, a young Tuscan has more opportunity and choice than a young person who is born and lives in Southern Italy. Unfortunately, it is true: the Southern Italian regions are mistreated by all the Governments which are elected to run this Country. There exists a gigantic Southern Italian question of which nobody is taking account. Economic resources have been stolen from the South of Italy over many years with the silent collusion of big part of our Politics.
3) In one of your many public appearances, about the situation in Lampedusa, Frontex, and other EU members, you were talking about ‘Collective Hypocricy’. Could you better explain what you meant exactly?
N.F. The behavior of Europe and European States about the management of migrants is hypocritical: they are creating continuous emergencies with their wrong and disastrous foreign policies, contributing to the increase of the migratory phenomenon, which is now becoming a structural phenomenon. The only answer put on the ground till now is a scoundrel economic agreement with the state of Turkey, to which has been assigned the task of being a Police State, without any respect for the human rights of refugees and shelter seekers. But then, Europe is crying crocodiles tears any time that a boat sinks with hundreds of people in Mediterranean seas. Here it comes, the Hypocricy of Europe. The only possible solution is the creation of humanitarian corridors, in a phase like this, and then a profound revision of foreign policies.
4) ‘Cosmopolitica’ and the new SI (Italian Leftwing) seems to have strategies and directions somewhat similar to RISE (Respect Independence Socialism Enviroment). In spite of the mutual political visions, if we compare some of aims and manifestos, we observe surprising similarities. In one of the tv programmes in which you are often invited, you were talking about a new Leftwing which looks outside its operative territory. Do you think there is a possibility of some alliances in which there is a sharing of the best practices, also with other culture and countries?
N.F. SI recognises itself as part of the European Leftwing family (the GUE). We have established already good and solid relationships with Podemos, Syriza, and Linke. With the SNP we certainly share some of specific battles, such as the redistribution of welfare, just as we share some of the fundamental matters raised by Jeremy Corbyn, who represents for us a new and interesting element in the English Labour panorama. It is not only necessary but also urgent to unite, across all Europe, the Leftwing forces which truly want to change this situation, collapsing a paradigm that assumes the primacy of financial capitalism. In the first place should be the battle against poverty, against inequalities and against temporary work. Unfortunately, in all these years, many socialist inspired parties in Italy and Europe have realised new-liberal programmes which have levelled the ground towards the position of the Rightwingers. The answer to the demand for a change must come from the Leftwing.
5) In the history, stories and historical period of each political party, there have always been representatives who were disappointed, despite every good premise of ideological and programmatic coherence, directed towards every possible hope for a change. Nichi Vendola, despite his ability to propose a refreshed communication with respect to his own position of leader, of a party and of a Region, very much disappointed the young constituent electorate in the city of Taranto, where, between the ILVA case and the problems related with the public health sector and the development of the Ionian area, he has been also accused of several connivances with opposed alliances, instead of taking strong enough positions. Particular rage has been provoked regarding his living allowance, with his decision to have a baby with his male partner, paying with ‘money from all the Italians’ and saying bye bye to the ideological and political coherence that he flaunted during his all pre-electoral time. What would you defend and what would you condemn, honestly, about Nichi Vendola, considering that, in the end, he’s just a man?
N.F. A question like this, would require a very long, long answer. However, I can’t defend or condemn him for anything. I can only answer about political matters and choices but not about the life and life choices of Nichi Vendola. About Taranto, for example, I think Vendola acted with a corpus of laws to discipline ILVA in a way in which nobody had done before. But the point is we all need to be informed about something definitive: in Italy competences regarding environmental discipline do not belong to the Regions but to the State. This issue is a concern of the State laws and controls, while a Region can only practice pressures and try to legislate (which he did) to redirect the State action. Puglia has made advanced environmental laws, but if then the State grants the Environmental Integrated Permission (which allows the company to produce) without taking count of what has been determined by the Region, what kind of power does a President of a Region have?
6) SI talks very often about making ‘true revolutions’ especially in Apulia. Which kind of revolutions and how would they be useful today, referring to the evident deft defects of the national politics which in all these years has only persisted in damaging and vexing the Southern areas?
N.F. We need political revolutionary actions in Puglia and all the South of Italy, which has slowly become the ‘Poor South’ of Europe. For me, we need to establish a revenue that allows us to overcome the enormous poverty problems; then we need public investments, outside the European Stability Agreement, to restart the economy, increasing the chances of getting a job. In the end, we need a serious re-distributive politics, which moves the huge wealth accumulated by the usual suspects into the pockets of the workers, youth and pensioners, who have payed more for this crisis than others.
7) You like Puglia and our Big Team also likes Puglia. But Puglia means also Taranto, its chief town in which, more than others, you can see its Magna-Greek history. It is seen, above all, in the MarTa, the Archaeological Museum, one of the finest in Europe, which also presents contemporary events of the highest quality. These include the Unomaggio event, The Island We Want, The Rituals of the Holy Saints and various tours of hypogeouses and underground sites. This is supported by active cultural organisations of young citizens who have founded artistic laboratories and citizens’ movements that could lift up again the destiny and the fortune of the city, and, why not, of the entire Region. But Bari and Lecce are accomplices in a bigger political plan of misevaluation and bad politics in which they want Taranto to be seen only in terms of sea invasions, coal dust and increasing environmental disasters which, together, could make the ILVA case look something like a simple flu attack. Why has all this been done to one of the first colonies of Hellenic civilisation? Must Taranto really die like this? But then, who really decides this?
N.F. I disagree with the vision according to which Taranto is destined to die. I rather think that the city, needs to restart and re-invest, based on the elements reported in your question. Taranto is a beautiful and rich city and deserve much more than it has been granted till today. It is necessary to bring Taranto out of the 1990’s, modifying productive activities, and modernising the existent realities.
8) Could you list 5 key-words, at least, in which it is possible to truly catch a glimpse of an absolutely ‘new’ and alternative model of SI (Italian Leftwing)? Something we could seriously bet on?
N.F. I don’t know if there are 5 key-words. I think it’s necessary, rather, to get back the ancient heart of the proposals of the Leftwing (social justice, work, rights, safety of the environment) and bring them into the present, taking account of the new organising possibilities that technologies provide us with. From this point of view, I would like to indicate Commo.org, an on line platform belonging to Sinistra Italiana and currently dedicated to its organisation. This is an open source platform, with a replicable code, usable for political debate and discussion, also for people who are not subscribed to SI. I am thinking, for example, of associations or civic groups which want to have a discussion or to write their own manifesto for the administrative elections. So subscribers to SI, through Commo. can participate in certified voting about matters affecting political community life.
9) In some of our various tours between Italy and Northern East Europe, many citizens from Southern Italy who are exporting products and cultures with visible success, are starting now to talk about a stronger Southern Italy from the productive point of view; an area which since a long time has seen the birth of several start-ups and productive activities and which are increasingly establishing their own businesses in many nations. A South which doesn’t want anymore, as their Capital, today’s ‘Mafia Capitale’ (Rome) as a central catalyst and final decision maker of destinies and anti-south strategies. In short we have begun to hear that it is the South, firstly, more than the Northern Italian Regions, that wish to begin a politics of separation, certainly one that is more properly structured and democratic. Is Italy in a possible restart project, seriously risking to split out into two different republics? Could this be really a turning point, in your opinion? If yes, who for, first of all?
N.F. Its difficult to see how a scenario of this kind could be put into practice and, frankly, I don’t know who would benefit from a breaking up of the Italian unity. One of the foundations, rather, for the development of Italy is to invest in the resources and capacities of South Italy. I said it already and I say it again: this is one of our benchmarks.
10) Let’s talk about Bruxelles and the several sanctions imposed on a country which, in the end, seems to be the second contributor to Europe, paying almost Euro18 ML to the EU. This is a country deliberately left alone, firstly in the South, as with Lampedusa, along with Lesbos Island, managing a situation of migratory flows (and we are talking about real refugees) too huge for two small islands in a so vast and, still, so rich a Continent, in the end. All this, naturally, turning away the face from agreements such as Schengen and Lisbon, which all the EU Members, including Austria, France, Germany and United Kingdom, at the end, signed up. What score would you give to those who are interpreting and managing these agreements? Which one of the European Union Members, more than the others, makes you really upset?
N.F. Negative votes for all the EU for migrant management. I’ve explained before the mechanism of the collective hypocrisy which is the only one thematic European political code. Its not only Italy and Greece that are left alone; also left alone are the migrants who are escaping from wars and bombardments which we made in their own homes and who are truly alone. But do you find normal that states want to stop wars but continue to accept the sale of armaments, selling orders for Billions of Euros to the Eastern Countries?
11) The majority of European citizens are not able to name the European Parliament member who most represents them or to explain the role of European Commission. How many practical changes do you think must be done with the operations of ‘European Democracy’ in order to create something which European citizens would be ready to defend?
N.F. If Europe stops being ‘Austerity Harsh’, with absurd wages stability and fiscal compacts, then it could become that dream indicated by Altiero Spinelli, that people would defend with their lives. Europe must become the continent of income, of lifelong training, of entire and equal rights for everyone, independently of where you were born and where you live. This is the dream which the Leftwing have for Europe. This could be a Europe to defend.
12) Diplomatic representatives, Giulio Regeni, and all the journalists are still jailed in Egypt. One of the many dark stories still sitting in the dark. We listened and watched some of your declarations in relation to some of these matters. If Nicola Fratoianni was the most influential of our diplomatic representatives, involved in one of the strange cases described before, what would you do, honestly?
N.F. I ask myself this question. If Nicola Fratoianni were in the Government what he would do to obtain truth and justice for Giulio Regeni? Its very simple, I would do what I proposed from the first moment to the Italian Government: the suspension of economic and commercial relationships with Egypt and the return of the Ambassador, so long as the Egyptian Government is not going to say the truth and is not going to bring to Justice the murderers of Giulio. We can’t keep a relationship of any kind of collaboration with a State which is keeping in the shade the death of one your citizen.
13) Last question and, maybe, the most uncomfortable, definitely. Let’s talk about the super benefits of Italian Members of Parliament who have been able to scandalise all the nations, in despite of a national referendum, in which it seems, as if for the first time, the Italian citizens are united, from the very North to the very South, all determined to put in to the end to the outrageous expenses and advantages from which every politician continues to benefit. Even if you cut in half the income of any of our MP’s, they would be, in any case, still the highest paid of our European colleagues. In the UK, for example, this battle has been started and won several years ago, in the end, by the daily newspaper ‘The Telegraph’ which created a big uproar, in a coordinated action with other media, citizens’ associations, national associations and an effective press information campaign directed to the all classes of British citizens who were tired and disgusted at maintaining expenses and houses for those who, on the contrary, should be acting in the interests of the citizens. What didn’t work in that clear and legitimate Italian referendum? Who would you accuse? Once again, the apathy of Italian citizens? And, most importantly, how can we be sure that the will of an entire nation can be definitely respected?
N.F. About this matter we need to make some clarification. The compensation of the Italians MP’s is one thing and public funding to political parties, to which the question refers, is another. Regarding the MP’s compensations, I think we should make a major effort to reduce them; about the life allowance, I think it must be abolished. It is well known that I am against the abolition of public funding of political parties. In fact, Renzi abolished public funding, allowing the parties to obtain funds from companies and private subjects. I think it is a mistake, because politics risks to be less free than it is already, prostrate in front of the interests of the big economic groups which correspond with abundant financing. I think, instead, a regulation of public funding could be the most correct approach and allows the observation of the democratic principles, stated in the Italian Constitution.
The point is very simple: in Italy (but I would say in all the Western World) there is more politics which responds to the interests of the lobbies. If we delete public funding and if we replace it with private funding, do we think we will make politics free? I think not. On the contrary we would render politics, definitively, a slave of the interests of the few.