Italian Referendum Defeat is No Victory for the Right Wing
Luciana Castellina says Italian trade unions, youth, and students led the vote against technocracy
SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.
The Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is expected to resign from his governing centre-left Democratic Party on Sunday. His announcement came just after the crushing defeat of a referendum for constitutional reforms that he had proposed, which miserably failed on Sunday. While campaigning for the Yes vote, he threatened to resign if the referendum was not passed. Now joining us to discuss the situation is Luciana Castellina. She has been a leading figure of the Italian Left since the 1960s. She was a member of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1999, and she is a founding member of several Communist parties in Italy, and she is now a journalist. Thank you so much for joining us, Luciana.
LUCIANA CASTELLINA: Yes, I am also the Honorary President of one of the largest organizations, which sponsored the No at this referendum, which is ARCI, which is the main … social and cultural association of the country.
SHARMINI PERIES: Luciana, let’s start with some basics here, because not everyone all over the world is following the details of this referendum that was proposed by the Prime Minister Renzi. Give us some context. What is this referendum about?
LUCIANA CASTELLINA: Well, you know, I think that abroad, the whole story has been told in such a way that it was a total misunderstanding. This is the reason why I keep receiving telephone calls and emails from abroad saying, “Oh, my God, why did you join the front of Trump?” Just ask if No was a represented by groups like Trump. I think I told you about my organization, ARCI, which is very large, the biggest organization in the country, but I should tell you that the trade union, the main trade union, CGL, which has four and a half million members supported and voted for Nein(?), and that ANPI, which is the Association of the Partisans, the ones who fought against the Nazi fascists, and who were at the beginning of this Constitution, they also voted for the Nein(?).
So Trump is the Matteo Renzi eventually(?), not us, you know? It’s exactly the opposite. But I don’t know what happened. The Prime Minister… the new President of Austria, we were all so happy that he was elected, Van der Bellen, the first thing he said is, “I hope that Renzi will win,” and he doesn’t understand that it is the opposite of him, you know? So what shall we do?
SHARMINI PERIES: Oh, the final result’s in, and do we know for sure that the referendum has failed?
LUCIANA CASTELLINA: Oh, there is 20% difference, you know, and it is something which is, of course, very interesting to see, that in only a few provinces the Yes was over the No, and these are richest parties of the country. So, all over, where you have — and young people. The majority of the young people voted for No. So, it’s the opposite of what Renzi said, because Renzi presented himself as the one who wanted finally to make Italy modern against the old people who were attached to the … And instead, the large majority of the young people voted against his proposition, exactly the opposite.
SHARMINI PERIES: And what was it that the young people were voting against? What had the Prime Minister proposed to do through the referendum?
LUCIANA CASTELLINA: Well, you know, I mean, it’s not just… I think that people should understand that this is not just an Italian affair. It is a long time that there is the tendency of saying that economic policy, politics have become too complicated with globalization and it is much better… that there is too much democracy, that this is too slow, that we have to give more power to the Executive and reduce the powers of the democratic institutions which are foreseen by our Constitution. This is the whole story about what’s happening, you know? And the proposal of Renzi was precisely this, and he said this clearly — with globalization, we have to go faster, and we cannot have so much democracy, which democracy is slow, as you know, and this is the guarantee in some way, but, no, this is a long story.
You remember the trilateral, Rockefeller and Kissinger, 1973, and their manifesto from Tokyo when they said, “Oh, my God, there is too much democracy in the world. We cannot stand it. The system cannot stand it. And economic policy can no longer be given to politics and parliament. It has to be given to experts.” You know? And this is, more and more, decisions are taken on a private level by agreements, commercial agreements, on the global field, and parliaments have less and less real power. So, what Renzi wanted to do is to institutionalize this change, but this change is not just in Italy. It’s going on all over. And I think we should take care of it.
SHARMINI PERIES: Luciana, some people argued that the No vote is really a victory for the anti-establishment parties, as well as the euroskeptic far-right parties. Do you agree with that assessment?
LUCIANA CASTELLINA: But, no. The right party. In this No there are all the right-wing forces, but these are not the leading forces, you know? The leading forces are built of social organizations, which have been taking a position against the referendum. I tell you again the trade unions… I mean, in Italy, the trade unions are a very strong organization, very important, and that holds a lot of networks of young… of the students, and so on. Well, the establishment in Italy, we have in government those who want to no longer give space to these forces, and produce what democracy should produce: the possibility to have a dialectic in the parliament and not to give all the power to the Prime Minister, you know? This is democracy.
But, you know, there is something which is really clarifying. J.P. Morgan sent a message on the eve of the vote saying that it was time to abolish this constitutions of South Europe which have given too much power to the people and to politics. That’s … (chuckles) It’s also not true that the forces which vote for the Nein(?) are against Europe. They are not at all. Of course, they are very critical to the European politics — austerity and no longer any kind of democracy — but not against Europe. Not at all.
SHARMINI PERIES: Luciana, the Five Star Movement and the Northern League was very much credited with campaigning against the referendum and against Renzi himself, and that had a lot to do with the referendum being defeated. Who are these people that are a part of the Five Star Movement and the Northern League?
LUCIANA CASTELLINA: This, too, is wrong the way it has been presented abroad. The Five Start Movement, I don’t love it because it’s very confused. It’s a lot of young people who have just approached politics with very little … legal experience. It is led by just an actor who is a comic. I mean, who’s really not a significant person, but in the movement there are a lot of young and honest people who are not at all like Trump, who are not right-wing, not populist in the sense that they talk against migrants or that they talk against democracy. This is wrong.
They speak so much about the Five Star because they want to present a threat that if the No, if we go to the elections, then there will be people who don’t know how to rule, you know? But one has to reduce the idea of the danger. This is the movement which has to make its experiences and it will change, certainly change very much, and it’s not a risk, it’s not a danger.
SHARMINI PERIES: And we have lost connection with Luciana, so thank you so much for joining us on The Real News Network.