The project is called “The Different Europe with Alexis Tsipras” and its name is written on a red background. Predictions indicate it could surpass, maybe even easily, the 4% electoral threshold.
In 2009 this threshold prevented both leftist lists, the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista/Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) and the Sinistra Ecologia Libertà/Left Ecology Freedom (SEL), both of which received only a little more than 3%, from entering the European Parliament. This new project, however, is not a mere electoral coalition set up to clear this hurdle. In its foundation and structure it is, in fact, something very different.
First of all, this project was founded as an act of solidarity with the struggles of Alexis Tsipras and SYRIZA. In the course of the twelve months before the announcement of his candidacy, this young leader of the Greek Left gained support in many different parts of Italy and it was suggested that his candidacy for the presidency of the European Commission would represent an important and decisive step not only in this election, but in the overall struggle against austerity and the Troika, and in fighting for a different Europe. A number of politicians have said so, but also important intellectuals have expressed their appreciation for Tsipras. One of them being Barbara Spinelli, editorialist and daughter of Altiero Spinelli (a well-known Italian political theorist), who emphasised in her writings the importance of the choices he was making.
The PRC has formalised the proposal of Alexis’ candidacy which was decided upon and launched by the European Left in the course of its congress in Madrid. In the meantime, a group of intellectuals, including Barbara Spinelli, took the initiative to contact Alexis in order to ask him to support their idea of putting him forward as the candidate of a grassroots movement which was mainly an expression of citizens and various movements. They mentioned the difficulties within the Italian Left, its weaknesses and fragmentation problems, as well as the need for a new beginning, which was to start at the grassroots level.
Some points they included in their reasoning are of course worth debating, such as the difference between the concept of a movement and citizens’ participation, and what is entailed in setting up as a political party. Also, we cannot deny that emphases and opinions have always been, and continue to be, differing.
The glue which holds all this together is putting the topic of Europe at the centre as well as the emotional connection with Tsipras’ and the people’s struggle against austerity and the fight for a different Europe. A connection with a just struggle to which a contribution needs to be made. If something good and new emerges from this legitimate struggle for the Italian Left – even better.
This approach has initiated a process of unification which has not been witnessed in Italy in a long time. It ultimately led to the SEL deciding, at their national congress, to get involved and be part of the Tsipras list.
The list’s structure reflects, to a great extent, respect for the initial idea of putting the European struggle at the centre and to put forward mainly women and men, who are well-known for leading struggles and for their critical thinking. Also, some obligatory rules have been formulated such as the one (which has been discussed at large) of not putting forward anyone for candidacy who has had a role in the institutions at the level of legislative assemblies or has had government or political responsibilities at the top level in the past 10 years. This is a very strict rule which does not aim to penalise any of our comrades, but rather is an attempt to take our responsibility seriously (this also applies to the author of this article) and take action against the problems we are facing as the Left. Also, such a rule favours new candidacies, which we find in the list and which are excellent and manifold. We have an equal number of male and female candidates, many of whom are involved in the main Italian struggle movements. They include workers and those who are active in the cultural sector. There are also representatives of parties, but in a limited number and in all cases have a connection to the struggle movement and the experience of change.
So is everything running smoothly? Of course not. We have been, and still are, facing many problems: discussions about the relationship between the list and the different parties; discussions about many topics which have led to a divide between the very founders of the idea, 6 Italians, and Tsipras himself. There was some debate about the names selected for the list. Clearly, some mistakes have been made as well. But time was a big factor owing to the absurd Italian electoral legislature which requires new lists such as ours who want to present their candidacy to collect more than 150,000 signatures, with a quota of 3,000 in very small regions such as the Valle d’Aosta.
This has called for a gigantic effort which, nevertheless, has been met with great enthusiasm by many activists who are being mobilised by the Tsipras list and who find a great echo in the citizens who provide their signatures at numerous information stands all over Italy, equipped with red flags; the list’s symbol. They represent a signal which tells us that we can make it, that the Italian Left can not only return to the EP to back up Tsipras in fighting our struggles, but contribute to the struggle for a different Europe and to regenerate – we hope – our force and unity.
Along with with collecting signatures we will follow the ongoing and newly emerging struggles. I am referring to the ones against the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and the EU regarding trade and investments, which represents yet another terrible attack on democracy and our rights. And the struggle against the increasingly explicit attempt in Italy to put the Italian Left definitively into the position of having no chance of having any representation at all. The electoral law which is being introduced under an agreement between Renzi, Secretary of the PD (Democratic Party) and Prime Minister, and Berlusconi, represents exactly this; something that has nothing to do with democracy.
It is also for this, but mostly for changing Europe, that The Different Europe with Alexis Tsipras wants to obtain the greatest possible number of votes and the most strongly-felt ones.
March 13, 2014
Translation from Italian: Veronika Peterseil