Patrick Paris is the President of Coltura Politica (colturapolitica.it), a newborn movement in the Italian center-left area with the ambition of generating a disruptive thinking in the country’s progressive world.
‘Coltura’ is an Italian word that refers to the cultivation of land and farming. This word has been chosen because of its link with agriculture and its values of humility and hard work. Farming teaches to be patient and to wait medium- and long-run results, focusing on a real, indispensable product. Hence, we decided to use the word Coltura in connection with politics, as we are deeply convinced that progressive politics – in an attempt of rethinking itself – should rebuild from its roots. This means to engage with young people that are no longer interested in politics and with those who, bound together by common values, are already involved in their neighbourhoods associations.
An analysis of the left, from the left
The Italian general elections of last March showed both a serious (but not unexpected) blow and a big, unresolved, issue for the Italian left: the Italian left-wing parties are no longer representative of their potential voters.
It is truly believed that the center-left parties have been underrating the needs and claims of the people from the suburbs areas. Instead, populists have been able to reach hearts and minds by calling on fears and dissatisfactions, yet without giving a real answer to these problems.
A large part of progressive voters were willing to vote for a change, but this choice led instead to an undesirable outcome for most of them: the rise of a nationalist, eurosceptic, at times homophobic and xenophobic party, the new League led by Matteo Salvini.
How can the Italian progressive area avoid its apparently inevitable irrelevance? How could we react to the need for change within the progressive public opinion, without following who says that both the left and the right no longer exist?
First of all, I think that we need to gather all the progressive organizations and associations into a common framework, to help them share their best practices, opinions and human capital, in order to create a useful network all around the country. And this is precisely why I founded a new movement.
Indeed, so far, these organizations (such as neighbourhood committees, local or thematic associations) are the only (and lonely) strongholds of local issues. The main progressive party, the Democratic Party, opened a channel of communication with them only during the electoral campaign with the purpose of taking advantage in mere terms of votes. The outcome of this kind of narrow (and disloyal) relation was the starting point for the collapse of progressive parties in terms of credibility and electoral trust.
The way to go… Left
People are often convinced that politics will not listen to them and that they are too isolate to make an impact. In this scenario, a new movement should aim at building a brand new strategy to revitalize the progressive political area with one main goal: implementing political participation.
To do so, I am firmly convinced that we should move towards four different directions:
First, creating a network of local organizations and associations. And by doing that, we must avoid to manipulate, but on the contrary we should give people the tools needed to cooperate in a more homogeneous and useful way. A new digital platform could be the first answer to this issue;
Second, developing local initiatives in order to come back for real in the suburbs areas and leave there a positive mark with the purpose of further expanding good practices in other places;
Third, implementing different kind of inclusion strategies based on the different needs and possibilities of everyone, with the purpose of guaranteeing the full expression of their beliefs in every possible way, from debates and meetings, to pools and online fora;
Lastly, building strategies to increase youth participation in politics through the creation of a real policy laboratory, in order to train skills and boost the next political generation.
No more traditional schemes
This is a dramatic effort that – to be reliable – should rise out of the traditional and narrow electoral schemes and stay loyal to its original path and progressive values: from environmental awareness (denouncing the negative effects of soil sealing and waste of water) to condemnation of labour market inequality (in particular, struggling side by side with young workers against unpaid internships, unemployment and low career perspectives). Clearly, all this should lie within a European horizon (and it could not be otherwise, as all the progressive values are deeply rooted into the European framework), while looking at the main requests for a more social Europe.
I think that, to move the needle, we have to get the hands dirty in the field. It will not be an overnight success strategy, but it is the only way to see the growth of these political seeds.