An interview with Viola Carofalo and Giuliano Granato
Italy's general election is less than a fortnight away. The latest projections put the populist—and ideologically ecclectic—Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S) ahead of its nearest rivals, the incumbent center-left Partito Democratico (PD). However, it is the center-right alliance between ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the right-wing separatist Lega Nord who are poised to capture power. The anti-capitalist Left will likely remained sidelined after next Sunday's elections.
Last month, Italian journalist Geraldina Colotti sat down with Viola Carofalo, national spokesperson and political leader of a new coalition of left-wing parties, Potere al Popolo, and her comrade Giuliano Granato. The coalition is the brainchild of activists in Ex OPG "Je so' pazzo", a social center in Naples. Potere includes an assortment of communist and libertarian socialist formations working towards "the construction of real democracy through daily practice" beyond the electoral cycle, centering experiments with "self-government, the socialisation of knowledge and grassroots participation."
What do our comrades from Potere al Popolo, or Power to the People, have to say about the current political moment? The following interview was originally featured in the Argentinian journal Agencia Paco Urondo and is now appearing in English for the first time.
By Geraldina Colotti in Rome
In the 20th century, workers and communists had an exceptional influence over Italian affairs. The history of the PSI, the PCI, and the revolutionary Left of the 70s included an impressive repertoire of experiences whose merit was based on their ability to inextricably connect the political dimension of the activities of the subaltern classes to their social dimension. The struggle for the real improvement of daily life extended toward a horizon of global liberation that gave strength to union struggles and demands for reforms. It is no coincidence that when this horizon vanished, so did the push for unity, the practical intelligence, an analysis of reality and organizational innovation. It laid the groundwork for a state of inferiority and submission that is accustomed to fragmentation, skepticism and cultural confusion. In short, for many years the Italian proletariat has been lacking that independence and political authority that made it one of the major actors in European history and one of the undisputed reference points of the international revolutionary debate.
Until a few weeks ago, the political elections of March 2018 did not seem to suggest any substantial change. The apparently tormenting process of merging to the left of the PD a new political formation full of ex-ministers and undersecretaries, of high ranking magistrates, and of old and new professionals of the institutions, quickly appeared to be a pure transformational episode within a political class permanently disconnected from the popular classes.
On the other hand, the range of subjects who are active against capitalism in a variety of ways appeared politically fragmented and somehow accustomed to (sometimes with resignation, sometimes with pride) their own structural alienation from the electoral dispute. From this context emerged the initiative of the Neapolitan militants of ex OPG [Je so' pazzo] suggesting an autonomous and independent party list under the motto Potere al Popolo.
There have many additions; the task, difficult. Electoral law is intended to silence minorities and forbid access to any delegation that fights coherently against a complex and pervasive system of exploitation.
Moreover, we must admit that the shift in the decisive field of battle beyond the border of the national state casts doubt on the utility of a presence in a parliament now emptied of all political and social function. The experiences of Syriza in Greece and of Podemos in Spain have produced much disillusionment. But nothing precludes the obstinate possibility that starting again could produce enthusiasm and creativity in Italy in particular. It is, after all, a country permeated with proletarian and communist history, and so painfully empty of efficacious experiments since 2001, when imperialism crushed the progression of new generations with the repression of popular protests in Genoa during the mobilization against that year's G8 summit.
We ask our comrades of the ex-OPG in Naples, Viola Carofalo and Giuliano Granato, some questions that will be helpful in placing Potere al Popolo not just in the Italian context, but also in the current international scene. The reader must be warned, so to speak, of one contextual feature. At the moment, our Neapolitan comrades are taking on a delicate role of mediation, of coordination between instances and experiences that have different histories, yet in which they recognize their own political insufficiency. We will accept and understand a certain level of impermanence. But we wish to not be generic.
First of all, let's start with the slogan: Potere al Popolo. It immediately comes to mind that the word democracy means "power to the people". But just as immediate is the memory of the Marxist critique of bourgeois democracy and the capitalist function of its formal mythologies. What does Potere al Popolo mean today? Is it only a slogan, or is its goal also to merge into one perhaps necessarily synthetic phrase the needs and specific contradictions of our time?
Potere al Popolo is something ancient and new at the same time. It is the modernity of the non modern. For us, it means the effective exercise of power from the people; the concretization of the possibility to decide which matters involve it. Potere al Popolo is not the simple possibility to decide one's present and future through a piece of paper in a ballot box. We leave democratic ritualism to others. For us, power to the people means real democracy, which in some parts of Latin America is being called radical democracy, meaning to start again from the roots, from the depths. It is "absolute" democracy, participation of the sovereign people not only in the resolution of practical and punctual problems, but also to imagine, define, build and check the implementation of policies at the national and international levels. It is the power of the organized people, who become aware of their strength and resources; who exert popular control on every aspect of their lives and do not allow, as a result of indifference, that "a few hands accountable to no one weave the web of collective living" (Antonio Gramsci, "I hate the Indifferent").
However, "Potere al Popolo" is also a message per se. A message that we want to deliver to the millions of people who will vote in March, since we are working so that they will find such a message in the ballot box. It defines, clearly and synthetically, our work program, our objective: at a time when there is increasing rigidity in the chain of command, as democratic spaces recede—in the social body, but also in all its ganglia, in our workplaces—requires us to once again center the right to decide our lives. Not only the possibility to say what one wants, but to make sure that our words have concrete outcomes, without serving as smokescreens for a society that likes to define itself as democratic and yet profoundly despises everything that comes from the masses.
Now I would like to focus on the concept (if it is a concept) of "the people". In the history of the workers' movement, this expression appears and disappears in relation to specific historical conjunctures and within specific geographical contexts. Undoubtedly, people means something during the antifascist struggle that leads to the republican constitution, the one you also appeal to, and something else when the industrial unrest in 1969 called into question capitalist authority at the very heart of relations of production. On the other hand, 'people' is a term denoting fairly precise alliances and social blocs in Latin America, Africa and Asia; it is much more nuanced in Europe due to the de-structuralization, if not complete disappearance, of the manual labor traditionally associated with the concept of a proletariat. I will not bore you with false and hypocritical questions about "populism." But I ask you: which "people" do you wish to represent and reunite? In what sense would the majority of the Italian people be interested in an alternative to contemporary capitalism?
Fidel Castro, in his self-defense before the tribunal of the Batista dictatorship—later distributed to the press with the title, "History Will Absolve Me" (a text that should be read today with great care, because each page distils a contemporary method and approach)—in but a few lines paints a picture of what the Cuban people were at the time, capturing them so vividly, but going beyond the merely sociological aspect and indicating a dimension of subjectivation, emerging from the struggle. It seems to us that this can be a useful starting point for understanding what "people" is for us.
We believe that ten years of crisis have produced changes of no small importance, widening the gap—not only that of wealth—between those who are at the top and those at the bottom, between those who oppress and those who are oppressed, and leading to rethinking among the latter. In fact, we are witnessing the marginalization of ever-larger sections of the population. We speak of the "last ones", the scapegoats, the immigrants. But we also speak of all the others who today are the "excluded". Of the "poor", indigenous or foreign, against whom previous governments have unleashed a real war, aimed not at making poverty disappear, but aimed at making the poor themselves disappear from the sight of decent society and the tourists. We talk about the workers that the governments and the legislative apparatus try to pit against each other: those employed thirty or twenty years ago and who—government after government, contract after contract—see a reduction of their own rights and a reduction of democratic spaces; those who have been working but a few years and have hardly known their rights and protections; those who cannot find a job and spend their days preparing and sending resumes. We talk about students, who are stuck in an educational system that does not offer tools for comprehension and emancipation, but only notions that are useful to be put in practice at work. And not just at the end of their studies, as thanks to the latest reforms, we find fifteen year old girls and boys forced to work for free in private companies for hundreds of hours a year, as a mandatory part of their education. In large sections of the population, these sectors define themselves as "the people". We are not the ones to impose this "concept". We have seen it in our workplaces and in the working-class neighborhoods, where people think of themselves and speak of themselves as "the people": those who do not have saints in paradise, those who struggle every day to reach the end of the journey; those who have dreams, for themselves and for their loved ones, but are aware that, if things remain this way, they will not be realized. A people that hates—and in part envies, let's not forget—those on the other side: the boss, the homeowner, the "politicians."
This—we are this "people", we are the "victims" of this system. And yet, though we are the "last ones," not only is the economic weight discharged upon us; so too is the moral weight of crisis management. Indeed, we are judged daily as being guilty of our own suffering. We are the ones who do not shine at school because we are stupid, those who do not find work because we do not work hard enough, those who "lose" work because we are unsuitable for the needs of a modern market economy. There is a dimension of guilt aimed at pushing us to think that "failure" is an individual fact. And, consequently, the solution must also be individual.
However, this dimension of victimhood tells us only part of the story. The other part is that of a people who do not accept this, that fights, that is proud of who it is and of what it does. A people aware that if the country goes on, it is thanks to the sweat of millions of humble workers. A people that is the protagonist of hundreds of conflicts, for the defense of the land, for working rights and wages, for an emancipatory education, for agency over their own bodies, etc. A people that does not surrender to the mechanisms intended to disintegrate solidarity from above, but manages to "remain human", to build bonds of solidarity, to share the little it has got. We believe there is a potential for overturning that which exists, and our task is to build space and organize for the needs that come from below, articulating them together with the people—and not in place of the people. The "people" are not a children who need the care of a father, be he benevolent or authoritarian. It is the subject and not the object of history.
Discussions on participating in parliament have always divided revolutionaries and have previously resulted in heated controversy. Parliaments have been challenged, they have been used effectively as tribunes, but they have also often become the perimeter that has absorbed the alleged search for new ways toward socialism in an exclusively institutional direction. Are we so far beyond, or behind, these experiences to make such problems historical nonsense, or can and must the past teach us something?
We believe that these problems are as present today as they were yesterday. But there are no good plants for every climate and every season. Solutions used in past revolutionary processes or in other latitudes may not be in line with the needs in Italy, here and now. The idea of launching the challenge of this popular list stems from the desire not to leave any space for the enemy without trying to contest it. Therefore, even those like us who, like us, have never participated in the electoral battlefield, those who, like us, have often deserted the polls, decided to wedge themselves in this space. We expect there to be months when the attention will be focused on the electoral scenario. Hence the need to tear apart the veil of hypocrisy and to bring forth the needs and the voice of the masses, by building an electoral campaign that allows space to express all the struggles existing in the country. We want to use the electoral campaign, even before the possibility of parliamentary fora, as a megaphone of what already exists, of what is in gestation and hardly manages to escape from a local and controversial dimension. But we do not want to stop here. We think that, in the event of an election, those elected for Power to the People will have to give life to a "parliamentarianism of the street": to be present in the territories, and to build mechanisms of direct and participatory democracy wherever possible. To discuss parliamentary measures at the territorial level, but not only between political insiders, or only with "corporatist" groups; but to suggest other measures resulting from the collective elaboration that comes "from below". To give account of what has been done, bringing the self closer to an "imperative" mandate, as well as the "free" one already provided for by the Italian Constitution. From this point of view, the experiences of these last twenty years in Latin America, and in Venezuela above all, offer many useful suggestions.
In the halls of parliament, then, those elected must be a thorn on the side of the government and other powerful groups, bringing "popular control" to Parliament. To do this, obviously, a small group of deputies is not enough, even if they were the "best". We need the organized people to support and articulate the work.
We are aware of the risks of possible cooptation. But we are sure that the best antidote to cooptation is not so much proclamations and words as it is the continuation of the political and social work that we carry on every day. As our Catalan comrades often say, "a foot in the institutions and a thousand in the streets." We do not decide on the dialectic between the "popular realm" and the "institutional realm"; it is a question of building a balance that has never been defined before, once and for all. On the contrary, we would deny the dialectic. But we aim to build a popular and not an electoral movement. For this reason, as long as we think that an electoral campaign or a seat can be useful to facilitate this process, the commitment on this front is welcome. When conditions change, tactics must also change. Tactical flexibility, accompanied by a strategic firmness and clarity of objectives, are the axes on which we try to define our work. Che's dedication when he gave a copy of his Guerrilla Warfare to [Chile's] President Allende comes to mind: "To Salvador Allende, who by other means pursues the same goals." We will do this without forgetting that, given how institutions are built, they have limited room for maneuver. It is no coincidence that even where the Leninist way has not been adopted, it is necessary, sooner or later, to transform these institutions profoundly.
In your manifestos, the relevance given to the dimension of mutualism is striking. Why do you grant it such great importance? How does the discussion on mutualism intersect with that of politics? Are you inspired by precise experiences, maybe in the international field, or are you looking for an all-Italian synthesis between the historical communist cycle, that of the New Left in the seventies, and the recent experience of the social centers?
We live in a time in which mechanisms for the fragmentation and destruction of the bonds of solidarity that are still alive in the popular classes are constantly being promoted from above. The goal is to build isolated individuals, possibly hostile to each other. Leveraging increasingly urgent needs to unleash competition and war among the poor.
We try instead to give a different answer. To make real–and not just to say–that the way out, the satisfaction of needs is either collective or nonexistent. To prove it with facts, with the gray daily work, with the construction of physical structures and policies of mutual aid. Because we are tired of words when they are disconnected from everyday action. And so it is here that mutual aid becomes immediately political in the sense that, if the aim that can be achieved immediately is the concrete improvement of living conditions, the satisfaction of a need, it is equally true that in the medium term we can build empathy with the other–mutual recognition, bonds of solidarity: in short, a community is built, whose nexus is not only the positioning of society, but also a working method and a horizon to build together.
Moreover, being able to set up structures of mutual aid, from popular clinics to popular work rooms, passing through Italian schools for immigrants, allows people to build trust in their collective capacities. Where the individual cannot arrive alone, the community can. Mutualism becomes a gym for the popular masses, through which we learn to exercise control over those institutions that are by definition responsible for guaranteeing our rights, for building pieces of self-government, for organizing pieces of society. And it is–not least–an instrument of "activation" of popular energies: in years marked by apathy, resignation and disinterestedness, together we begin a process in which those involved develop a desire for participation, understanding and transformation of that which exists. It is, in short, a form of democratization, of absolute democracy.
In these years we have had important reference models, we have tried to learn from experiences of progress in other places, from the Greece of the popular clinics to the solidarity networks of the Spanish state, and on through the community experiences in progress in various Latin American countries. We do this without forgetting, however, that the history of our country is also rich, and it is a source of inspiration and reflection. In Naples, for instance, the memory of the "Canteen of the Proletarian Children" active throughout the 1970s is still alive. And then there is a world, traditionally also distant from ours, that we have met and learned to know. We speak of grassroots Christians, lay associations, committed daily to not leaving the "last ones" behind, whether they are homeless or immigrants. With them we went beyond a service-based intervention, we have built a "network of popular solidarity" and have given life to moments of struggle against state security interventions.
In your movement, the presence of women is evident. In Italy, feminism was a determining component of the cycle of struggles in the 1970s. Then it turned into a kind of university culture that did not counteract the revenge of patriarchy consumed in the consciences and in daily life during the eighties and nineties. What is your vision of feminism? How does gender theory intersect with class theory in the struggle?
Gender theory, while not an end in itself, is already class theory! The current mechanisms of labor and exploitation have not "invented" the subordination of women to men, but it has been able to exploit the legacy of the society that preceded it, demanding from the female component cheap labor or even extorting free work. We refer to the fact that women play a leading role in the so-called reserve army. They are absorbed and expelled from the labor market continuously and, moreover, are burdened by domestic work, which is still widely considered a burden that must fall practically only on the shoulders of the "woman of the house"–mother, wife, daughter or sister. For these reasons we think that no emancipation is possible without first of all removing the material impediments that determine it; that is, without guaranteeing a worthy wage for women, social services that actually take on care work (hospitals, kindergartens, etc.), alternative and free housing solutions—necessary to avoid any violence and abuse that often perpetuate within the home—counselors and medical/legal offices able to support their choices in the field of reproduction, interruption and prevention of pregnancies, etc.
Obviously, exploitation and subordination do not end in the material plane (women are still denied full freedom on their body and their sexuality; they are the object of inferiorizing representations and psychological violence) and for this reason the battle on this front—on the rights, on wages, on access to social services—must be associated with a battle on the cultural level, which nurtures awareness of one's condition and makes it possible to collectively plan the effective paths to overcome it. In the context of this battle one of the possible tools to be employed is that of equal representation, in the spirit and following the example of the Kurdish comrades, necessary to make our reality visible to the public as it really is: made up of men and women fighting together, without hierarchies or leaders, without needing to be "relegated" to sectors of belonging. If it is true that too often in recent decades, "gender issues" have been relegated to the realm of pure speculation, to the analysis of the phenomenon in narrow contexts, faced with a language that is often unnecessarily complex and that spoke only to a few , it is also true that in recent years there is a growing awareness (not only between intellectual elites but among "ordinary people") that gender inequality is not and cannot be the object of an abstract analysis and that, above all, it is not a closed chapter, a past history, but a matter that concerns us and that will concern us again if we do not roll up our sleeves to effect change.
In recent years the left has chosen to rely on magistrates, thus sanctioning the subordination of the political to the legal and the adoption of the security logic that took place in the repression of the seventies. Are you aware of this? And how do you engage this question? In the South [of Italy], basic rights are lacking, but there are plenty of uniforms, courts and "firemen" of social conflict who praise bourgeois legality. Is it possible to get rid of this ballast preventing any real contact with the mass of the excluded?
Above all in the South, day after day, we hear about a "security emergency": The Camorra, the mafia, and the 'Ndràngheta are a pervasive reality, and the extent of their writ is certainly a big obstacle to those of us who are engaged in transforming our existing reality. The solution proposed by one government after another is the militarization of society. For some years now we have had the military patrolling our cities. The most recent legislative measures have included increasingly oppressive security measures in public places—for example, turnstiles and controls at railway stations, or even in stadia.
The "anti-terrorism" measures have been the latest consequence of this type of mechanism. There are reports of the expulsion of homeless people or immigrants from historic city centers. A specific repressive measure has been drawn up, the urban DASPO (which comes from the experiment of the repression at stadium curves), which has already been directed several times against street vendors.
However, popular reaction increasingly develops in the opposite direction: where there is criminalization by the state, we respond with solidarity toward those who are considered on the same side of the barricade. Not that logic of security doesn't try to impose itself, of course. But at the moment, fortunately, it hasn't yet broken through. Also from this point of view, criminalization cannot unravel the bonds of solidarity which are fortunately more rooted than some might think.
When we say that "power to the people" means being able to determine their own present and future, we do not intend to exclude security. This is not a matter to be delegated to the central or local government. Even on these issues, as complicated as it is, we must exercise popular control. It is no coincidence that historically, where social and political movements were stronger, organized crime was less prominent. These are processes and not events: the end result will not be immediate or swift, but practices—such as those of popular control exercised during the last municipal elections in Naples to counteract the presence of Camorristi—to try and break the wall of fear that blocks so many, and to give them confidence that there is exists something beyond the state and organized crime; these steps are a good way to get started down that path.
You say that Power to the People is the beginning of a path that will not be de-motivated by a lack of sufficient votes to enter parliament. This outlines a "confederative" horizon and attitude which, in the Italian anti-capitalist Left, has never found particular, practical favor. Why is the Italian Left (the real one) so incapable of uniting its forces? Do we need a generational break? Do we need a linguistic break? Why have all the subjectivities that, in previous years, have ridden the tiger of discontinuity ended up in political insignificance?
The causes of the inability of the Left to unify are multiple and deserving of much more space. Certainly, the absence of broad political and social mobilization also produces monsters from this vantage point, giving space to quarrels between smaller and smaller groups, less and less tied to those subjects who—ostensibly—everyone says they want to represent. The projects that the Left has put forward in recent years have always been perceived as electoral projects and nothing more. Not the attempt to construct a new Project, but the sum of pre-existing organizations aiming to enter Parliament. Obviously, those who have promoted these "confederations" have a responsibility in this.
We have tried to start from seemingly banal things, but which have paradoxically disappeared from the horizon of a certain Left. We returned to the masses, to rebuild that sentimental connection that had been broken for quite a while. We try to listen to each other day by day. To understand. We are not Jehovah's Witnesses, with a verb to lead the mass of infidels. "Asking, we walk", as the Zapatistas say. And in doing so we learned so much; we engaged in self-criticism and tried to make what we seemed to learn from the masses available to everyone.
We did this by putting our aside our identity, which served no purpose except to reassure ourselves. We do not forget it, let alone deny it. But we do not deploy it like a weapon capable of convincing purely through the sound of evocative words (which is less and less the case, especially among the younger generations).
To the unemployed, to the student who has no clear plan for the future, to the worker who has just been fired, to the resident of the neighborhood who fights against environmental devastation, it does not matter that one claims to be of the "Left". Especially as the memory lives on collectively in all of us, of what those who proclaimed themselves on the Left have produced in the country: Impoverishment, precarity, emigration. For those of us who are in difficult circumstances, it is important to find solutions to urgent problems. It is our aim to improve the material conditions of existence, to rediscover hope and a future horizon.
If today we limit ourselves to reuniting those who recognize themselves in a certain tradition and who recognize themselves in a specific label, we would limit ourselves to constructing an absolutely residual, marginal space destined to disappear, more or less rapidly. Instead, we are trying to build a new project, based on a shared horizon and set practices rather than symbols, and which involves a series of ruptures with our own past.
If, indeed, we want to reconstruct a sentimental connection with the popular masses, then we must be able to speak a language that is comprehensible. Whether we like it or not, language changes, as do the tools, and if we want to have real impact and not limit ourselves to being witnesses, we cannot fail to take this into account. "We are not born to resist; we are born to win" we repeat together with our Basque companions.
In one of your last assemblies, the speech of a Palestinian militant was heard and applauded with particular enthusiasm and respect. Your program includes a call for peace and disarmament, and the demand to rupture our ties of submission to NATO. We know that pacifism means many things, and we also know that, in the name of a certain bourgeois Western pacifism, the struggle of the Palestinian people has always been left to its own. I ask you: what is internationalism for you? And, thinking of Palestine, but also of Venezuela or Catalonia, I ask you: how do you get rid of an approach to the contemporary world that often sees European militants who are suspicious of real class struggle and of the points of actual contradiction in which the clash with imperialism occurs?
For us, a popular movement that wants to transform the existing world, which is what we are trying to build with Power to the People, must be internationalist or it cannot exist. Those who think that we can solve our problems by paying attention only to what happens around us do not understand that what happens thousands of miles away can materially affect the lives of millions of people here. It is not an ideological fact. When they wanted to close two factories of the multinational Indesit so as to relocate them to Turkey, this was only halted in the face of the struggles in Turkey around the time of the Gezi Park protests (which were also struggles for the rights of workers and not the mere defense of a sapling, as some have wanted to portray it). And so the protection of workers' jobs in Italy has depended directly on the degree of struggle that the workers in Turkey have managed muster on the battlefield. When Japanese investors arrive in the Czech Republic, what they want to know from government officials is not so much the salary indices—they can find those easily without having to travel thousands of kilometers to Prague—but the level of social conflict, the means of struggle implemented by local unions, the level of "decomposition" of solidarity between workers.
We try to understand and learn from ongoing processes around the world. We learn from geographical experiences near and far, without having the attitude of the judge who has to decide whether or not to give the thumbs up. And without the spasmodic research of some models to translate directly here. We believe with Mariàtegui that our road will not be "neither tracing nor copying", but a "heroic creation".
We must rid ourselves of a dual attitude. On the one hand, there are those who become excited as soon as it seems that on some corner of the planet, there is an alternative to the existing order, only to find themselves deeply disappointed, or susceptible to the most profound depression, as soon as there are delays or, worse, regression. On the other, there are those who look at what happens elsewhere in the world with a permanent aura of superiority: the processes in progress are never sufficient, they are never "communist" enough. It is this dual attitude typical of fanatics that we must end.
Among us, we try to do it by studying, understanding and experiencing what we see at work elsewhere. By building our perspective from our history and from the history of emancipation movements around the world. No one has changed the course of history by tracing what was found in the sacred texts. According to Gramsci, the Bolsheviks made a "revolution against the Capital" of Marx; Fidel put an end to the Batista dictatorship, beating paths other than the Leninist one; Unidad Popular has tried to build socialism in Chile on very different bases than those of the Guevarist "foquismo"; Palestinian resistance, despite the de profundis of so many of our local experts, demonstrates time and again that it can rise from its own ashes; finally, Bolivarian socialism in Venezuela does not at all coincide with a series of "precepts" declaimed by a certain segment of the Left.
If we manage to make people understand the material and concrete consequences of what happens in a more or less distant "elsewhere", then perhaps we will no longer hear that "we have so many problems here that we have no time to think about the problems of other people in other parts of the world." We think of an internationalism that is not just shouting slogans, but a daily and meticulous job of building bonds, of mutual learning. Without forgetting the Guevaran lesson: to feel in one's own skin the suffering of any human being anywhere in the world. This remains, for us, the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary.
In Italy and in Europe, capitalism restructured itself (as always) in response to crisis. But the crisis that exploded in 2008 impoverished very large popular strata. The social support aspects assumed by the European bourgeois state in the post-World War II period have disappeared. Capitalism abandons the masses to the fate of the markets, amplifying the oligarchic pressure of supranational institutions, and blackmailing the people with the specter of the collapse of civil society. Here is the point: What does it mean today to have another idea of civil development? Does "power to the people" mean this? And if it means this, how is it possible to re-evaluate the size of the break in a context in which the material elements of an associated existence are presented, and actually appear, as inextricably linked to the functioning of the economy based on private property?
There is no doubt that the material conditions of existence are definitely worsened. In Italy, the country with the largest reserve of private savings, perhaps it was initially manifested with less vehemence, considering that for some strata of the population, there were small piggy banks to draw on. But then, month after month, the hospital closes, the schools worsen, the bus that took you to work is canceled, the water and gas bills increase... in short, the bite of the crisis is felt. And the welfare state is no longer as it was before: the safety net has been slowly dismantled, yet it is somewhat resilient thanks to the determination of workers and users. The market moves forward, the private sector takes up space and earns high profits. The abyss is presented as a probable future if the dictates of supranational institutions and governments are not followed. Greece, the country in worst shape in Europe, is continually being pointed out as our future if we do not cut the debt—which means cutting services, wages and pensions—the adoption of rigid fiscal rules, privatization, and "modernization" of the labor market and of the world of education. To escape the abyss, many accept it, trust it. Electorally, you try your luck with the latest party formations, but sooner or later you understand that they are not part of the solution, but part of the problem.
We believe that even in Italy we could see a rupture, a "liquefaction of moral tolerances towards those that govern." A moment that in other countries took place only at the start of their own difficulties; it was only then that people began to worry about the rest or of the others. And, on a small scale, with the mutualistic work that we carry out daily, we observe this phenomenon. The challenge is to take it to a mass level; to organize it, give it direction and methods of struggle. We cannot foresee the moment of "rupture" with these tolerances, but we can work so as not to be unprepared.
In these turmoils the "common sense" of people changes. What was previously considered as normality is no longer accepted. What did not even come to mind before now becomes reality. The pillars of old societies collapse. Private property, as a product of history, unless it is considered a natural product, is no exception. However, assuming that there is a turning solution, we still do not have it. We must—as Meszaros said—patiently seek alternatives, construct and reinforce them. Experiments and avenues of work already exist today. The municipal state of which Chávez speaks is one of these. Among attacks and internal difficulties in Venezuela, it continues its development. It will win when it succeeds in demonstrating that the socialist logic of the functioning of society as a whole, a new dialectic between production and consumption, between planning and spontaneity, is superior to the logic of capital, which is itself destructive of the human race.
And we always look at Venezuela—even if there are other examples—to deny any "deterministic" vision of history and our future. In Caracas, the "end of history", proclaimed by many parties, actually meant the beginning of a revolutionary wave that fortunately has yet to stop. There had been a popular rebellion crushed in bloodshed—"el Caracazo"—a failed coup d'état, advancing privatization and impoverishment. The same pattern of domination and sharing of power had been going on for decades.
Nobody foresaw a revolutionary "rupture". Just as Lenin was not able to predict it a few months prior the February revolution and just as no one would predict it today in Italy. No observer, in fact, has been able to foresee the appearance on the scene of a different logic, such as that promoted by Comandante Chávez and carried on by masses of the dispossessed and the "invisible," those who have conquered a place as the protagonists in the history from which they had been previously excluded, in which they had been only objects.
What does that experience tell us about a "rupture"? We believe that, as Álvaro García Linera also suggests, we must first learn to think of revolution as a process and not an act. There is no day of final reckoning, but instead a construction of hegemony, which is not only a discursive practice, as some would expect, but the ability to build one's own strength, certain that the enemy will not be waiting and that, depending on the context in which it moves, it will carry the attack, without scruples of any kind, literally coming to burn their political adversaries or to bring whole people to hunger, to threaten with every means and in every language. Moments of struggle follow each other, they become bifurcating points, and victory is also due to what has managed to be built up to that moment. And then again, to go back and work for the construction of a new hegemony. And so if we think of "rupture" not as a precise moment, an act, but as the result of a transition process, whose duration we cannot predetermine, we believe that our work today can already be called a "politics of rupture".