And how likely is that? It’s clear that tonight a huge proportion of the square is made up of SEL and Rifondazione members – two parties who have faced plenty of electoral hardship over the last couple of years. The Lista per Tsirpas can be a convenient cover, allowing them to claim popularity should a surprise vote turn out, but also allowing them to disclaim it should it fail to win seats. We have been here before, again in this very square, with Romano Prodi’s Catto-Comunista Ulivo alliance, which brought so much hope and so much delusion to so many on the Left. And here’s the crux – can any new movement realistically call itself Left-wing and manage to avoid being tarred and feathered with the almost universally recognised failure of past experiments. This is in part why Grillo is so cagey about left / right in the movement – not so much because he wants to attract fascists (though that can’t be entirely discounted – see here for an analysis of Grillo’s movement as Right wing), but because he knows that for many the greatest scorn is held for the past Left governments.
A case in point – Romano Prodi’s two governments. Twice Prodi beat the supposedly unbeatable Berlusconi in election, and twice his government fell apart in shambles thanks to infighting. Not only that, but in the process we saw the Left making repeated deals with the devil, at least in political terms; This isn’t the place to get into the dirty details, suffice to say that Grillo’s movement have been astute enough in their refusal to govern with the old Left (however revitalised/neutralised by Renzi’s hostile take-over bid), and so for many remain unblemished. When they say they’re neither Right or Left, what they really mean in many cases -certainly in a city like Bologna – is that they’re not that type of Left.
From the stage, though, it’s clear that there will be no wholescale break with the past. Tsipras reminds the square of speeches made here by the likes of Palmiro Togliatti and Enrico Berlinguer, the greats of the Partito Comunista Italiano. Berlinguer gets a huge cheer, as his name always does – Berlinguer, thanks no doubt to his decency and courage but also to his sudden death, remains a icon to the Left, young and old – but the challenge then is to find a new Berlinguer. In a European election Tsipras makes perfect sense for this piazza as a figurehead (and how much the crowd knows about Tsipras is debatable ), but in a national election where will they find their new leader?
And outside of austerity and the European Union, what will a new Left movement look like? The strong emphasis on the Unions and factory workers makes sense to the traditional Left parties, but looking around me in the square I see plenty of people in their 20s, who have never seen the inside of a factory, or had a job where Union membership is an option. There’s a great cheer when Tsipras declares that wherever there’s a FIAT and Marchione (who, for many, is the personification of captialism exploiting the worker) there will be a F.I.O.M (Italian Metal Workers Union – which has, pretty much alone out of the major unions, stood up to FIAT), but I wonder how much of the youth vote would choose a party prepared to pour more money into a company like FIAT?
It’s hard to tell, standing in the midst of a familiar and packed square, whether this is something innovative – taking the best traditions of internationalism and socialism into the 21st Century – or whether this is just another flag-waving exercise, doomed from the start; whether the policies advocated here, and shared by radically different parties, can ever actually come together, or whether we’ll just have to settle for our differences and pocket the neo-liberal €50 promised in that fracking good trade deal
1.) from official site “Il suo paese, la Grecia, è stato utilizzato come cavia durante la crisi ed è stato messo a terra: in quanto tale è nostro portabandiera. Tsipras ha detto che l’Europa, se vuol sopravvivere, deve cambiare fondamentalmente. Deve darsi i mezzi finanziari per un piano Marshall dell’Unione, che crei posti di lavoro con comuni piani di investimento e colmi il divario tra l’Europa che ce la fa e l’Europa che non ce la fa, offrendo sostegno a quest’ultima. Deve divenire unione politica, dunque darsi una nuova Costituzione: scritta non più dai governi ma dal suo Parlamento, dopo un’ampia consultazione di tutte le organizzazioni associative e di base presenti nei paesi europei.”