On the Eve of national elections in Italy , I decided to support the newly formed Free and Equal (Liberi e Uguali) political party. It is unlike me to endorse a party so openly. The reason I do so is because I am convinced that Italy (and the world) needs a left. Many friends and colleagues asked me of my views recently, and here they are, open to all.
The Free and Equal Party seems to currently be the only party in Italy proposing a revision of the basic and fundamental principles of what a really progressive agenda means, and with an electoral program which seriously addresses such issues as labor, unemployment, education, research, etc., and with a short redistribution of power and resources towards the many from the hands of a few.
It is also the only party demonstrating political and moral integrity regarding the most debated political issue in contemporary politics which I find exemplary: the migration issue.
Do you have any idea how courageous it is for a newly formed party to so openly tell a jaded electorate — fearmongered for over a decade about ‘migrant invasions’ and of being in full ‘refugee crisis’ – that it supports migration and refugee rights (such as their full integration as a matter of fundamental rights) within our society? There is a sea of nonsensical racism and xenophobia that we as a society plumbed into, as Europe and the extended Global North, and on which right-wing parties are exponentially accruing political interests.
This proves one thing to me: moral integrity. This is the highest quality that a person, a party, a politician, etc. can have. The reason we are so badly off, that the world’s resources are in the hands of few, and politics are more and more representing their own interests, instead of the interest of its electorates, is precisely because fundamental qualities and virtues such as integrity are lost on the way. And it seems so difficult to even aspire to getting them back, as if it weren’t an option.
My experience even better describes why I support #LiberieUguali.
I followed the campaigns of small forming progressive parties, such as Movimento Articolo UNO – Movimento Democratico e Progressista (Article 1 – Democratic and Progressive Movement). They were mostly concerned with issues of social justice and labor (as their party name stands for), which is the largest and most serious problem Italy is facing, as it maintains one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe.
I wrote to the leader of the movement (also simply referred to as “Uno”), to congratulate him on their proposals, their agenda, and especially on how they were turning public perceptions on migration towards a healthier – and morally sound – societal dynamic: the acceptance of diversity instead of disseminating racist and senseless fearmongering politics, and the acknowledgement of second generation migrants as de facto Italians instead of the typically divisive politics fueled by other parties, which I appreciated as a migration scholar.
Deputy-elect Francesco Laforgia invited me to talk to him in the Chamber of Deputies in Rome. I went, as I had an appointment just across the street in a research center that same day. He wanted to know my views as a migration scholar and a citizen abroad regarding this insidious migration issue. I was astonished; he did not want to talk about immigration, but about emigration. This is why I believe that his party, under his leadership, merits to be elected: Francesco wanted to discuss with me why so many young Italians emigrate abroad, as Italy currently exports the third largest migrant community into Europe (and farther into other continents as well)?
Do you see what he did? Unlike all other politicians, he wanted to discuss the ‘real’ migration issue with me — the fact that Italy is broke, and it’s losing its unemployed youth, and is suffering a brain drain, on a daily basis. This is the main migration issue of Italy, which no party seems to want to seriously tackle. On this occasion, I could see the seriousness with which his campaign (made up of all young people) lead activities, and the seriousness of a deputy speaking to a citizen, to me.
As the international community of scholars may know, I come across, more often than not, as a critically oriented commentator. I spoke with him in the same manner, criticizing everything that I perceived as weak in his agenda, and I have continued doing so ever since. Francesco would acknowledge,my comments and questions, reflect on them, and reply in a fair manner Always. He is trained as an academic (internationally), unlike most other politicians, whose views are limited to, and by, national borders. His views appeared so much wider: I bet that unlike Renzi, he also speaks English well. I also asked Francesco, “Why are you pro-migration — don’t you think this will make it harder for you to win electoral support?”. I am in favor of international human iintegration myself, so it was a rhetorical question, really, from my perspective. He said: “Because it is right”.
No other party candidate inspires me, not even close, to #LiberieUguali, regarding my idea that a change is needed, and a left is needed. And that they propose a change; they were consistent with this position all along. Alternative candidates in my view are either a political disaster or too problematic. The emerging fascist political parties constitute an offense to humanity. #LiberieUguali firmly spoke against the very existence of such parties (which names I am purposely avoiding putting into print), in that their existence as a party is unconstitutional, and in my view, also socially dangerous and morally repugnant. It is a difficult question that of whether free speech and free political participation will also allow such fascistic ideas to emerge in the public and political sphere. I believe, in short, that one criterion on which parties shall not pass the entry threshold by (aside from the 3% threshold) is that of moral decency. Secondly, whether a party meets public decency, that is, specifically whether a party is socially dangerous or beneficial. I believe that a party whose members are so openly racist, xenophobic, and inciteful of dangerous acts, following suit from their ideas, should not be a political option.
Among the oldies: Silvio Berlusconi has made his return to politics. I feared that he would find a (legal) way to do so. And he did. I refuse to consider a man of his stature and moral compass a viable candidate. Politicians, like all civil servants, and unlike civilians, must show both personal and professional integrity. He showed neither. The world laughs at Italy because of his personal conduct, as he is known for engaging in offensive activities to common and public morality – such as prostitution, and with underage girls. Professionally, he is known for his very many cases in which he is accused of corruption – some of which found him guilty, and for which, he was placed under house arrest. And let us not forget his conflict of interest between media and politics, which hinders democracy. Simply put, the man owns too many media outlets, and too many other types of businesses which conflict with a genuine political candidacy. Choosing the party that is supporting him as a candidate, or any party that will form an alliance with him, is choosing, in my book, guaranteed compromised public decency (again!), and a much weaker democratic Italy. This, then, excludes many of the right and center parties.
Now, what about the Five Star Movement? Being extremely populist, it organizes its political agenda around what is politically convenient like never before seen, as it shows tendencies to use the migration issue to get the electorate that has racist views, and its anti-EU skepticism, following suit on the British BREXIT trend (mobilized by irresponsible politicians such as Farage and Johnson),– which was not a good political move for the British and European people. The most amusing thing about the Five Star Movement party is that it is so compromising and greedy; at the European Parliament level it recently dared to approach both the Greens and the right-wing (such as Farage) for alliance.
I smiled in delight when the Greens told them that they couldn’t work with them and with Farage at the same time, thereby pointing out precisely at their selling-out-to-whomever-buys attitude. This is an illustration of their dangerously populist agenda. And it is an illustration that the Five Star Movement is not lead on political integrity, which has been compromised many times from its inception.
And insofar as that, I would like to ask Mr. Beppe Grillo to return to being a comedian. As a comedian he is great, and also as a public speaker. But Mr. Beppe, I address you personally (should you see my opinion piece), you need to be responsible here and understand that the job of a comedian is very different than the one of a politician. I agree with you that politicians do a terrible job (I do, believe me!), but this is a reason to ask them to do a better job. It is not a reason to replace politicians by clowns, dancers, ballerinas, or comedians, such as yourself.
What about the Democratic Party, the ‘Renzian PD’? Well, this is not and has not been a left-wing party for a long time. It is a center party, with very mismatched ideas, some regarding progressive social rights with some neo-liberal economics. It worked for Macron, but Italy is not France. Italy is not yet so socially advanced, and not so well-off either that it can afford such a weak combination of political ideals.
Italy simply does not need a weak center, not even a strong center, given that like all of Europe, it has very strong right-wing parties.
Italy needs a strong, firm and courageous left.
This is why #LiberieUguali seems to be that promise.