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Conferenza Partito radicale
Cicciomessere Roberto - 5 giugno 1990
Referendum

The main part of the observers currently analyzing the failure in Italy of the referendums on hunting and pesticides (1) explain the reasons for the victory of abstention by pointing to the indifference of the people as regards politics, their numbness, the decomposition of the Communist electorate, the responsibilities of the Green Party, the unwise application of the referendum as a constitutional institution, the excessive frequency of voting, the opportunist nature of part of the Italian electorate, the power of the lobbies of the weapon manufacturers and of the polluters.

But it seems to me that only Valentino Parlato of "Il Manifesto" refers to more important issues, those concerning the mechanisms of democracy: the lack of information, the lack of a true exchange of ideas on the basis of which the electorate could have decided.

But no one seems to be aware of the fact that the results of the referendum are simply a further demonstration of the lethal crisis affecting democracy in Italy, of the disruption of the very foundations of republican institutions.

How can we still talk about referendums or elections when, in the first case, only 3% of all electors were aware that there were two referendums on hunting, and that, in the second case, no more than 5 million electors over 40 million normally watch electoral debates on TV. Not one direct confrontation, anaesthetized journalists, the choice of hours with less audience on TV...

What is the use of speaking about a popular referendum when the party lobbies in the past produced laws, for example concerning the irresponsibility of the magistrates, mocking in such a way the will of the electorate. And then: the absence of the Italian government as regards the referendum on the European Union, which committed it, in a unanimous manner, to start the constituent stage of Political Europe.

No commentator, furthermore, has mentioned the real abuses of the Italian Constitutional Court, which not once but twice declared the previous requests of referendum on hunting illegitimate. The institution of the referendum, so the Radicals declared years ago ignored by everyone, is dead, it has been murdered. The Radicals, amid the indifference of most people, be they "left" or "right", repeated and continue to repeat that the elections are a real fraud, if the electors are prevented from being informed, and therefore deprived of the possibility of judging and deciding.

How can one pretend people to be interested in the referendums when they ignore the questions contained in them, when they have not been able to make themselves an opinion by means of a true and public confrontation between the different positions and, in any case, they know or suspect that the parties will ignore the voting, regardless of the results, by manipulating the law submitted to popular judgement?

"In any case it is useless to go and vote": unfortunately today this is no longer the expression of a drifting position but the reality of Italian democracy. Unfortunately it will be of no use to collect signatures for the referendums on the electoral system and perhaps vote in favour of the majority system, because the parties, even the ones that supported the collection of signatures, will cheat on this referendum as well, and they will simply modify the electoral law, possibly establishing a 5% limit to get rid of the Leagues, and in order to protect their own, so-called lay party-satellites, they will allow for electoral connections between smaller parties.

It is practically of no use to vote for the political and administrative elections, when the "winners" and the "losers" will in any case detain the power together, preventing the formation of a true majority and of a true opposition which, in the course of the legislature, could then be judged by the citizens. People therefore vote for the Leagues (2), which propose a demented alternative, but at least a comprehensible one.

Not to mention the Italian Parliament, the one in Strasbourg and the various European Parliaments, and especially the French one, reduced to simple chambers of representation with powers that are no greater than those of the Bulgarian Parliament.

Karl Popper, in an article contained in the Radical archive, wrote that the essence of democracy is the possibility of getting rid of a regime without shedding blood, by means of a voting.

Can any one in Italy state that it is possible to get rid of the partitocracy by means of a voting?

Can any one in Italy honestly say that it is possible to get rid of a faulty law by means of a referendum?

If the answer is NO, this means that today in Italy there is no democracy, that there is the form of democracy but not its true and vital contents.

In conclusion: what can be done?

To return to the difficult path of a rigorous and non-violent opposition to the regime, albeit aware that parliamentary institutions and the institution of the referendum are no longer feasible, at least for the moment. To reject electoral and parliamentary idiocy without falling into the illusion, like the Greens and the Communists seem to be doing, that the elections can be much more than an occasion for political testimony.

It is probably necessary to go further, and to turn abstention into a conscious abstention, transforming it and organizing it in the sense of a voting strike, as an explicit denouncement of the manipulated mechanisms of the regime. The Radical Party, on its part, has already decided in that sense when it resolved to no longer take part with its own lists in any electoral competition. This position may gain importance if the Party will be supported, if many more will adhere to this long and difficult political enterprise by becoming members.

P.S. I inserted this text in the Conference Radical Party and not in the "Event of the day" to respect the request made by its moderator, Gigi Melega, for brief and concise interventions to comment on the results of the referendum. I have not managed, due to lack of time, to fit my remarks into three paragraphs.

Notes:

1) In Italy the referendums for the limitation of the hunting activity and the use of pesticides are not valid because only 43% of all electors voted.

2) The last administrative elections witnessed the success of the "Leagues", political formations of Northern Italy which ask for a complete economic and political autonomy of the regions and practise forms of racism toward citizens of Southern Italy.

 
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