In Need of a New Left

Anti-elections flyer. Turin, February 22nd.

No TAV. Even if you live in faraway Berlin, for most Europeans, the slogan (and graffiti) is inescapable. The acronym for a high-speed train line between Lyon and Turin, the project has become a cause celebre for the Italian left, and, increasingly, European critics of a continent-wide high speed rail network.

In principle, the idea is not a bad one. Turin, for example, could be more accessible, via its existing transport connections. However, that’s not the point of the project, argue its critics.  The TAV project is ecologically damaging, and primarily directed at enriching the contractors building the new railway line.

Sound familiar? Every country is plagued by corrupt public works projects. In Italy, such protest movements tend to target much larger interests than just corruption, though. There is organized crime, for example, to contend with, as well as the direction of public moneys to such projects, at a time of economic decline, and EU-mandated austerity measures, aimed at dismantling social spending and Italy’s frail public sector. The criticism is, especially under the circumstances, certainly justified. Of even more blame are those progressive political parties who have lent their support to the TAV. How can they be leftwing, and yet accomplices to such a corrupt endeavor?

A  month before Italy’s February elections, the poster photographed above, went up all over Turin. Taking Italy’s progressive parties to task for selling out voters opposed to the high speed train link, it does a good job of summarizing disenchantment with the country’s main leftist parties. The same kind of disenchantment which lead to the triumph of populist Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, in the February 23rd-24th parliamentary elections.  To wit, Grillo is savaged here, as an opportunist willing to sell his soul to any devil – in this instance, the fascist political party CasaPound, and its racist political program.

For those unfamiliar with Italy’s political left, the flyer translation, below, is also a good overview of the country’s progressive parliamentary scene. One may not necessarily agree with the analysis. However, for a country as poorly reported on in English as Italy, it will give you a reasonable sense of its political context, and the passions it arouses.



“God save me from my friends, and I will save myself from my enemies!”

(It’s) useless to say which is the position of the most known among the almost 200 (!) lists that will take part to the electoral challenge in February: Partito Democratico, Lista per Monti, Moderati, Lega Nord, Udeur di Mastella, Fratelli d’Italia, Popolo della Libertà have always been in favor of the high speed train, a great public work, among the many foreseen, providing them with a source of votes, support and rich outcomes.

But, as the elections approach, the vultures, as usual, keep twirling around the No TAV movement, an appetizing tidbit, a source of votes. And we find therefore parties, small parties, lists and “movements” assuring (voters) that they are No TAV defenders, and in which there are also pro-Tav parties. But let’s then see in detail their career.

We’ve just seen the rise of a brand new group, Rivoluzione Civile – Ingroia, who claims to be supported by the No TAV movement – support never given and immediately denied – a great start! They probably think that the No TAV movement is a coalition of small parties…

Rivoluzione Civile is composed by following subjects:

Rifondazione Comunista, which in February 2007, at the (initiative) of its Minister of Social Solidarity Paolo Ferrero, signed the 12 rules list of (the) Prodi government, containing the “priority and non-negotiable” points for the restart of government activity, and declaring as point number. 3: “Rapid realization of infrastructural plan, and in particular of the European corridors (included the Turin-Lyon route).” But, after losing his seat, he goes back to opposing TAV, as he did before becoming part of that government coalition.

Then, there is the Partito dei Comunisti Italiani (which signed the 12 rules list), now opposing with a veto, together with Italia dei Valori, the Senate candidacy of Nicoletta Dosio, because the profile of this lady “does not correspond absolutely to the parameters needed to gain consent, since her figure is strongly connected to the most heavy facts (that) happened in the Valley.”

Then there are the Verdi (who have signed the 12 rules list) of Angelo Bonelli and Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, who, after becoming Minister of Environment and Territory protection, (rescinds) the support (he once gave) to No TAV; Bonelli was his commissioner for Transports.

Then there is Italia dei Valori, of the revolting former Minister of Infrastructures Antonio di Pietro, former cop, former district attorney, raper of Mugello, who has simply been pro-TAV, representing in his opinion the “priority of priorities.” Reaffirming the continuity of activity of the previous  Berlusconi government with regard to all the great public works, he declared: “At the end, in order to restart the great public works, a show of strength will be needed. Once the consent has been handled, once the choices have been made, the Government should be able to keep them and  realize what is in (the) public interest. Even by force.”

On the other hand, Sel – Sinistra e Libertà – of the elusive poet Nichi Vendola, enthusiastic supporter of the Napoli-Bari Tav, is part of the Italia Bene Comune coalition, that will endorse as premier Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of one of the great pro TAV parties, the PD, the party of the “blood red” cooperatives – among which there is CMC of Ravenna – that have caused the environmental catastrophe of Mugello and that are involved in the frauds of Firenze TAV.

The main political, institutional subject support for the No TAV struggle  has come from Movimento 5 Stelle. But in the last cold January, its indisputable prophet Beppe Grillo, in a long interview with the fascists of CasaPound, declares that anti-fascism and anti-racism are “issues not of his concern.” “You seem like a representative of M5S” and “there aren’t any differences,” (between CasaPound and M5S) he says to his interviewer. This hinders the No TAV movement: the essential premises of No Tav are anti-fascism and anti-racism. The incompatibility (between CasaPound and No TAV)  is clear. Grillo’s later retraction is a consequence of several protests, and is not so convincing.

So let’s come to the choice of No TAV in the polling booth: after the shameful events of 2006, when many were deceived into voting for for a left wing coalition, Arcobaleno (Prc, PdCI, Verdi) that, entering in the Prodi government, totally went back on its campaign promises, subscribing in fact to the 12 rules list of priorities, among which is the realization of TAV, we have to avoid the same mistake again. It would be self-destroying insanity.

If the No TAV movement has overcome difficult moments, it is thanks to the spontaneous, personal and shared involvement, distant from institutional rott, and not (because of) those politics charlatans.


No TAV Torino and Cintura Sarà Dura


Translated from the Italian by Giulia Pace. Introduction and photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit.

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