We can say that what is still wrongly considered the largest party of the Italian left has reached the end of its parabola: From the largest communist party in the western world to a liberal formation of US derivation. In the last primary elections to decide on the new leadership, Elly Schlein was elected as secretary. Schlein managed to get more votes than Stefano Bonaccini, President of the Emilia-Romagna region.
Who is Elly Schlein?
“They write about me that I am a communist, anti-capitalist, radical chic from a rich family, Jewish but anti-Israel? A series of untruths… Let certain right-wing newspapers be careful about the topics they choose, because every now and then, they reek of sexism, anti-Semitism and homotransphobia. I am a native democrat, I was born in 1985. I could not join the PCI.”
These were the words uttered by Elly Schein on the TV programme Otto e Mezzo on La7, to reiterate that she has nothing to do with concepts such as socialism, communism or anti-capitalism.
On the other hand, reading her biography does not reveal any particular closeness to the working class and the demands of the popular classes.
The newly elected Secretary of the Partito Democratico was born and raised in 1985 in Sorengo, a small Swiss municipality in the Lugano district, but she also holds US citizenship. Her father, Melvin Schlein, is a professor of political science at Franklin University, also in Lugano, where the former MEP attended the local Liceo Cantonale, a prestigious institution founded by, among others, Carlo Cattaneo. Her paternal grandfather, Herschel, was of Jewish origin and was born in 1892 in Zolkiew, a Ukrainian town not far from Lviv, before immigrating to the United States. Her mother, on the other hand, is a law professor at the University of Insubria.
A clear indicator of Schlein’s liberal tendency is her first political experience: In 2008 she flew to the United States, to Chicago, where she took part as a volunteer in Barack Obama’s campaign. According to some observers, Elly’s rapid political rise was facilitated and planned by the agency Social Changes, close to Barack Obama, which promoted her image in the media to great effect. For other biographers, however, weighty sponsors in the ‘democratic’ world, such as Romano Prodi, and past relations between Prodi himself and Melvin Schlein, Elly’s father, should not be overlooked.
Schlein’s sponsors also include the ever-present George Soros, whose Open Foundation included her name in the list of Italian MEPs considered ‘suitable and reliable’.
The secretary for an increasingly liberal/US party
In short, Schlein seems the most suitable profile for a party that has now made a clean break with the Italian reformist tradition. Indeed, as we have seen, in Elly Schlein’s life there is a lot of liberal America, the progressive side. That most progressive and ‘woke’ America, which will take the PD into the arms of ‘identity politics’ and the battles dearest to US liberals.
The ‘degeneration’ of the Partito Democratico and the rise of Elly Schlein is emblematic of what Andrea Zhok, Professor of Philosophical Anthropology and Moral Philosophy at the University of Milan, says on her social media channels: “Commenting on the rise of the new star in the firmament of the ‘left’, E.S., is largely a waste of time, but since the type of critical comments that prevail on social media linger, inappropriately, on biographical and personal traits, two words are appropriate.
That the personal and political biography of the new PD secretary is emblematic is true, but the point to be made is historical and political, not personal. The victory in the open primaries – however ridiculously manipulative the system for electing the secretary is – gave a response that is perfectly in line with the history of the Partito Democratico”.
The PD is a progressive historical degeneration whose role in Italian politics today is to allow a significant part of the electorate to continue lying to itself. There is in fact a section of the population that has grown up within the oppositional right-left schematism, that remotely fancies itself the ‘heir of the great PCI and the Resistance’, that wants to continue at all costs to imagine itself as ‘of the left’, and yet has class interests and an ideological orientation that coincides to the millimeter with the liberal instances that were the primary polemical target of historical socialism and communism. The PD has been providing these people with a very precious alibi for years. Thanks to the PD, they can move arm in arm with the heirs of that historical movement that massacred Allende, raped Vietnam, promoted McCarthyism, mercilessly demolished social rights and public services, colonial and neo-colonial exploitation of half the world, sold off health services to multinationals, built a technocratic financial oligarchy with Davos capital, etc., and they can do so whilst feeling ‘de left’ because they keep a few yellowing posters of Gramsci or Che Guevara hanging in their tired headquarters.
Concerning the political objectives of the Schlein-led Partito Democratico, these are very clear to Zhok: “The PD has this historical function: That of allowing a varnish of false good-consciousness to subsist to cover a substance of complete adherence to the agenda of liberal-capitalist power”.
But what is this agenda? The core of this agenda is very simple: To dismantle every form of identity (individual, historical, political, natural) that resists the general trend of capital. And what is this general tendency? It is the tendency to favor the absolute liquidity of relations (flexibility, territorial mobility, precariousness, unlimited adaptation to the needs of production), so as to allow the sole purpose of capital’s self-production to impose itself without resistance’.
So ‘the new secretary of the PD is simply the coherent (and I would say terminal) outcome of the degenerative process born in November 1989 at the Bolognina. It is not her fault. She is simply unconsciously part of those Young Global Leaders (as Schwab calls them: from Trudeau to Sanna Marin) who, having been born and lived entirely in the cultural atmosphere of neoliberalism, and having been culturally nourished on progressive journalism, simply have no access to anything of what the world and humanity have been (and outside the West still are). Hence their adherence to the agendas of established, financial and technocratic power is sincere and without qualms’.
Schlein’s adherence to the agenda of the constituted power evoked by Zhok emerges glaringly from the positions expressed on the special military operation launched by Russia in Ukraine last year to demilitarize and de-nazify the Kiev regime.
What is Schlein’s position on the war in Ukraine and more specifically on sending weapons to the Kiev regime? On 24 February 2022, the day Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine began, Elly Schlein – at the time vice-president of the Emilia-Romagna region – wrote on Twitter: “Putin’s attack on Ukraine is a criminal act that will cost human lives and suffering, especially among civilians. The EU and Italy, which repudiates war, respond united and without ambiguity. Every effort and international mobilization is needed to stop this madness”.
A few days later, on 18 March 2022, Schlein commented in an interview in the newspaper La Repubblica on the debate on the first arms shipment to Ukraine. “For those who, like me, come from the culture of disarmament, it is a real ethical dilemma. I think peace is never made with weapons. But I also don’t feel like demonizing those who responded to a specific demand of the Ukrainian resistance”, Schlein said.
In the months that followed, Schlein nevertheless maintained a position that was in appearance dubious, but in reality as warmongering as Draghi and Meloni. Her words last August during the election campaign show that: “I had a very dubious position on sending weapons to Ukraine because I have comrades who voted for it in parliament,” said Schlein, a candidate for parliament on the Partito Democratico lists. “In my opinion it is not with weapons that we will solve the conflict with a nuclear power and as a convinced European federalist, so with no doubts about my European and Atlantic position, I would like to see a stronger role of the European Union in seeking a way to end the war”.
Elected as a Member of Parliament in the general election on 25 September, Schlein then voted in favor of sending arms to Ukraine. On 13 December in the House of Representatives, she voted in favor of resolutions allowing the government to extend the arms shipment until the end of 2023. On that occasion, Schlein voted against the two resolutions of the Movimento 5 Stelle and the Alleanza Verdi-Sinistra calling on the government to suspend the supply of arms to Ukraine.
On 24 January 2023, Schlein also voted in favor of the conversion into law of the decree-law that extended military aid to the Ukrainians until the end of 2023.
Schlein and Meloni: Two sides of the same coin
On the proxy war on Russia, support for the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev, NATO, Atlanticism, pro-Europeanism and neo-liberal austerity, the policies promoted by Schlein are basically overlapping with those of Meloni and the centre-right coalition in government in Italy. Controversy rages over issues such as gender policies and the reception of migrants to fuel a sham opposition. Schlein and Meloni are two sides of the same Atlanticist, pro-European and neo-liberal coin.
Meanwhile, popular disillusionment and disaffection with politics is growing in Italy, as demonstrated by the recent regional elections where abstentionism reached record highs in Italian Republican history.