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On the Raft of the Medusa: Italy’s Left


Rome—There was one sunny week this spring when it looked like change might finally come to Italy. A week when an ossified and gerontocratic political class looked like it might give way to new faces and new ideas. When the combined forces of youth and progress looked strong enough to defy European austerity. When—after almost twenty years!—it seemed Parliament might finally pass reforms restricting Silvio Berlusconi’s perverse claims to power once and for all.


For when the votes had been counted after the late February elections, something new had emerged. The center-left side of the chamber was smaller than predicted, but also younger and less exclusively male. The Five Star Movement (M5S) led by Beppe Grillo had triumphed, gaining 25 percent of the vote. There had been “a participatory explosion,” wrote commentator Barbara Spinelli. It was an “uprising of the under-forty-somethings,” said another editorialist, Michele Serra. The new Parliament had an unusual number of women representatives and many fresh young faces, both in the Democratic Party-Sinistra Ecologia Libertà alliance (PD-SEL) and in the M5S. If the two sides (in a Parliament split three ways, the third part devoted to Berlusconi) could drop their mutual antagonism and find accord, Italy might make a fresh start, thought many on the left, including a group of respected intellectuals and constitutionalists who made a heartfelt appeal to the leaders in question.


It was a hope (or a hope against hope) that failed, thanks to a stubborn, suicidal division in the ranks of the center-left and an equally stubborn determination to dictate the rules of the game on the part of Grillo. After an awkward and fruitless two months of trying to forge an alliance with the M5S, center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani resigned and the PD fell back on the other alternative: that alliance with Berlusconi’s Party of Liberties (PDL) that Bersani had vowed it would never make.

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Tratto da www.thenation.com