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Viola Carofalo: “We are the voice of an Italy that nobody talks about”

By Michele Caltagirone / The Dawn News.

Viola Carofalo. Credit: potere al popolo

Interview with Viola Carofalo, national representative and presidential candidate of the new left-wing movement.

Born last December from the experience of the volunteers of the “Je So’ Pazzo” (“I am mad”) social center of Naples, the radical left-wing movement Potere al Popolo (Power to the People) has certainly grown in recent weeks, so much so that according to some surveys it could even touch the entrance to parliament. This is thanks to a simple policy, carried out among the people and directed towards those sectors of the population that once were a fertile garden of the progressive forces. Power to the People revives the original left, a political force that knows how to get across their message in a way that everyone can understand it. Amidst the chaos of a parliamentary center that is losing approval and has undergone its umpteenth split, it is likely for the proposal of the new movement to take hold.

We contacted Viola Carofalo, national representative and premier candidate, by phone, to speak about her views on the electoral campaign and about some key points of the program she runs for.


‘There still is a left wing in Italy”

In the context of a resurgence of the right-wing, which seems to have increasing power, we have asked Viola Carofalo whether in Italy, in the current electoral context, there is still a cultural and political area that says “left-wing things”. “I think it’s a matter of the amount of space that the press dedicates to certain political forces, in order to give us the impression that now people in Italy are looking to the right” says the national representative of Power to the People “but I think it’s just a feeling provoked by the media”.

“In the last few weeks we are meeting so many supportive people who look at politics as a source of social equality. People who want things different from what the newspapers say. For our part, we are making the biggest possible effort, we are a small movement but in four months we have been able to create assemblies in 160 cities that are not limited to the electoral campaign. There are Italians who want to talk about work, the environment, social equality and gender. Beyond what the press says, there is also another Italy “.


Work and environment, key points of the program

Power to the People puts issues related to labor at the center of its electoral program. “Labor, as we envision it, must be dignified, stable and secure. Data tells us that in Italy there are still people who die or get sick due to work, and the numbers are growing. Italians deserve a job regulated by certain laws and rights. You can not dismiss workers without just cause, and I’m referring to Article 18 [which establishes the rights of workers in case of dismissals, and is currently the center of a nationwide debate], you can not be doing precarious work for life because the nightmare of precariousness prevents you from being able to plan your life”.

“We support jobs without expiration dates”. And they have equally vigorous views on environmental issues. “This is another issue that we consider central, which is supported by the presence of so many environmental committees within our organization. The environment is everyone’s good, therefore we oppose those who regard it only as a means to make profit, to those who exploit and pollute it. The future of environment is also our future and that of our children. Power to the People also carries forward programs aimed at combating any form of inequality”, Carofalo adds “be it economic, ethnic-based or gender-based: any behavior that leads to an unequal treatment has to be stopped”.


The electoral constituency

Power to the People aims in particular to appeal to that part of the electoral that has been disappointed both by the Five-Star Movement (5SM), and by the center-left. “There are people on the left who vote for the 5SM out of desperation,” Viola Carofalo explains, “because they have no alternative. Others, meanwhile, continue to vote for the center-left because they formally recognize it as the heir to a long political tradition, even if it has nothing to do with the left. The Democratic Party in Italy has managed to do what the center had failed to do in terms of liberalism and destruction of rights, just look at reforms like the ‘Jobs Act’ and the ‘Good school’.”

The party pays particular attention to the youth. “We want to bring the young people who vote for the first time to the polls, which is why we are doing a lot of electoral campaign outside schools. So far, we have had very positive feedback among youth”.


Differences with the 5SM

Power to the People is a movement and, as such, it is easy to make comparisons with the Five-Star Movement. “We are a people’s movement”, Carofalo clarifies, “not a populist one”. “They want to appear as transversal, while we are a leftist movement and we do not necessarily want to please everyone. Our ideas are clear, while they make ambiguous speeches about issues like work and immigration. Moreover, the grassroots of the 5SM are only an illusion. Their movement is vertical and hierarchical and even their online voting system is purely formal. When they chose their presidential candidate, they put [Luigi] Di Maio and three complete strangers, so the result was obvious before the vote. We are also for active political participation, while they tell Italians to click with their mouses from the comfort of their own homes. We hold open assemblies, we have committees where anyone can participate in the decision-making on their territories. We stand for active politic involvement, while the 5SM’s reasoning was based on anti-politics”.

“LeU? No difference with the PD”

Many people think that Power to the People can somehow “steal” a part of the electorate of Liberi e Uguali (Free and Equal, abbr. LeU) party alliance. Others foresee a potential common front if both forces should succeed in entering Parliament. “If the LeU’s proposals were convincing, we would make the alliance first. Today, this makes no sense, neithber before nor after the elections. LeU is the party of Pietro Grasso and Massimo D’Alema, who are politicians who voted for all of the reforms that we reject, such as the “Good School” act or the “Fornero” pension reform. We could define them as a spin-off of the Democratic Party.     Beyond what Grasso and the others say in this electoral campaign, it seems to me that facts speak louder for them. When they were in government, they did none of the things they say they want to do today”.

The abolition of 41bis

Among the points of the electoral campaign of Power to the People, is a proposal to abolish the 41bis, which establishes a harsh prison regime, has raised controversy. “We are proud of this point because we have no interest in fomenting hate and revenge. We will support this proposal because the definition of “torture” was not written by us but by the European Court and the UN. We won’t combat prison mafias by preventing prisoners to cook their own meals or having books in their cell, but creating job opportunities for youth in disadvantaged areas and thus taking manpower away from organized crime, avoiding the creation of gray areas that can become business opportunities for the mafias, such as the extraordinary policies for refugees. Regarding the prison system as a whole, it must be a rehabilitation system of just punishment and not torture”.


Immigration policies

Another one of the focal topics that are being debated in the electoral campaign is linked to migrants. Some political forces have made it their battle horse, pointing at migratory flows as the origin of all evil. “In Italy we have fundamental rights that have been denied for years by certain policymakers, and certainly not because of foreigners” Viola Carofalo emphasizes “but the truth is that immigration policies have never been seriously planned. The reception is poorly managed, and this is deliberate, because behind this there are many cooperatives seeking to profit from migrants. Then there is the overall plan to lower labor costs by using foreigners who arrive in Italy, who are already clandestine due to the Bossi-Fini law, and they are fragile and blackmailed, and therefore ready to work for just a few euros. This system eventually coerces Italians into precarious work as well”. Having identified the problem, for Power to the People the remedy could be to strengthen the local structures that deal with immigration. “The reception should not be managed by the prefectures, but by the local authorities, municipalities and regions that better understand the need of each individual territory. When you put all of these people who are already in difficult situations in large and crowded centers with another two or three hundred people, in the end you have created a ghetto that, indeed, can have difficulties to become integrated with the local population. If, on the contrary, reception is widespread and planned, then it can become a resource. This is also what Confindustria [the General Confederation of Italian Industry] says and, although it is certainly not my ideological reference, it is still an authoritative opinion “.


‘Italy is not racist, but it can become so’

The issue of immigration is certainly connected to that of a growing intolerance, according to Viola Carofalo, but Italy is not yet a racist country. “Racism exists” she clarifies “but it is also fomented. If part of the press and politicians continue to say that all the problems of the country are linked to foreigners, there will be more and more people who will take up this rhetoric. What happened Macerata [where a man shot six African immigrants] is an example: when the highest offices of the state, apart from president Mattarella, attribute that cowardly fascist attack to the presence of immigrants, I think it is inevitable to foment racism. I therefore believe that Italy is not yet a xenophobic country, but if foreigners are used to explain every problem, it seriously risks becoming one”.

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