Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Crossing the boundaries between social movements and political institutions

The formation of a new radical left coalition, La Sinstra - L'Arcobaleno, is a political necessity for the forthcoming election. But attempting to win power is not enough, argues Anna Pizzo, social movement organising and participation remain crucial if politics is to be transformed

April 13, 2008
4 min read

As a councillor, social activist and the co-editor of Carta magazine, you have occupied many different roles that cross the boundaries of political institutions and social movements. What do you feel can be learnt from the participation of radical left-wing parties within Government?

More than a lesson, this experience has once again confirmed that politics is impossible to reform, and that whoever tries to change it without tackling the deeper mechanisms of power, will inevitably fail. This is what happened to Rifondazione Comunista, the first party to recognise the potential of social movements, but which failed to take any consequent action to nurture their energy. However, I would be wary of planting all the blame on Rifondazione’s political system. Recently, social movements themselves have shown little interest in providing the necessary cultural tools to transform politics and the methods of representation. Instead, they chose to relegate issues they considered less important and less unifying at the global level (such as shared wealth, peace and anti-neoliberalism). For these reasons, we are currently left with few instruments to help us analyse the state of affairs. It is difficult for a ‘borderline’ thinker like myself to confront such an inert political apparatus, which is so clogged-up that it is close to dying.

Carta has highlighted the presence of local unrest across Italy. How do you feel these and other conflicts, including the struggle of trade unions, could grow in the future? What are the organisational and political needs of these struggles?

I have come to believe that conflicts are no longer born within socially pre-established contexts. They also emerge as a result of other factors, including territory, environment, the desire for a certain lifestyle and so forth. Nowadays, the places we inhabit are no longer private locations, distant from public and political spaces. Instead, they merge together to become a whole. There are other forms of conflict too, which transcend local struggles. Identity conflicts are now common and they are often interlaced with traditional ones, including struggles for employment, social and civil rights. In other words, forms of unification and segregation emerge, only to disappear again and then resurface in a different form.

This is the new geography of unification from the bottom-up, happy to discuss a multiplicity of topics, but increasingly unwilling to communicate with institutions. By this, I mean governmental institutions as well as trade unions. The crisis of the Cgil, the biggest trade union in Italy, is evident not only by the insignificant number of members it currently comprises, but especially by the increasing distance it has developed between itself and the people it supposedly represents. This rapid political and institutional segregation has left much destruction behind, especially in regards to citizens, who have not yet built alternative instruments for self-representation. On the other hand, this void can be seen as an opportunity, a chance for new forms of democratisation to fill it up.

Innovative instruments of participation that encourage involvement from the bottom-up still need to be tested and will require much time, work and effort to develop effectively. The famous transition from the First to the Second Republic never took place in Italy, but once it does, it will be very different from what most people expected.

What opportunities can La Sinistra – L’Arcobaleno look forward to in the immediate future? How will it reach out to the entire body of the electorate and could it possibly represent a new political subject?

La Sinistra – L’Arcobaleno is an undeniable political necessity. Unfortunately it has come too late and is marked with the stigma of undelivered promises. It is also badly predisposed to any real change. My prediction is that, if Berlusconi wins, La Sinistra – L’Arcobaleno may well resist the historic temptation, so common within the left, to wither away. However, if Veltroni’s Democratic Party succeeds (PD), so many exponents of the radical left will migrate to the PD that there might be no left to speak of anymore.

Anna Pizzo is an independent councillor for the Lazio region, a prominent activist and co-editor of Carta magazine.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced

India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya