Enrico Letta’s bid. The head of the Democratic Party announced he would join a non-partisan peace demonstration. To be held on Thursday, in Rome, in front of the Russian Embassy. It’s an attempt to mark his distance from Giuseppe Conte’s version of pacifism – in his words, “avoid gifting the word ‘peace’ to the Five Star Movement.
- His message: the DP’s understanding of the peace process is that Ukraine must maintain its right to exist as an independent country. Thus, any peace-minded demonstrator should aim at the root of the problem: the offices of the Russian aggressor.
- “Any demonstration for peace is welcome,” replied the 5SM leader on Tuesday, who noted that Thursday’s demonstration is the DP’s own and asserted the ones he would attend would be the actual nonpartisan events.
An anti-NATO drift? Mr Letta’s Atlanticism was never in question. But his step back from leadership after losing the September elections risks eroding the party’s Atlanticist tilt in favour of a Putin-inspired version of pacifism.
- A consistent slice of the DP comes from the old Italian Communist Party, and has never accepted the leadership’s position on the Russian war in Ukraine.
- Moreover, parts of the Italian left resent Italy’s support to the Ukrainian resistance (especially the military aid). As the biggest political force in that field, the DP is not immune from pressure.
Gathering anti-American feelings. Meanwhile, Mr Conte – leader of the 5SM and former ally of the DP – is keen on exploiting that sentiment to gain consensus and occupy the anti-NATO political vacuum.
- Mr Conte participated in Sunday’s demonstration, organised by the Network for Peace and Disarmament, and will probably attend the next ones programmed for October 21st, 22nd and 23rd.
- Still, his version of pacifism is imbued with Russian-leaning positions, such as the need for the West to avoid escalating the conflict by shipping weapons to Kyiv and calling off sanctions, perceived as self-harming measures for the Italian economy.
Now what? This could leave Mr Conte, a potential DP ally, in an awkward position that highlights the contradiction in his “pacifist” line. On the one hand he does not share the Dems’ position; on the other, he certainly cannot upstage Mr Letta by staging a protest in front of the Ukrainian Embassy.
Bottom line. Mr Letta’s objective is to rally his constituency, establish why pacifism cannot help but recognise who’s the aggressor and who’s the victim, and reunite the party against the 5SM’s brand of “pacifism.” Hoping his successor will walk along the same line.
- Conte’s position, on the other hand, seems to demonstrate two things. First, the ambiguities of his “pacifism,” which is riddled with calls to stop arming the Ukrainian resistance but falters in demanding for Russia to stop the invasion. Second, the 5SM’s soft takeover of the DP will not happen in the streets under the rainbow-coloured peace flags.