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Young people will save us

The French revolt, the Italian gap, the rampant right wing and politics without answers. Yet a road out of the tunnel can be traced. The line is pointed out to us by Giulio Santagata, a 74-year-old man who made Sixty-Eight and led Prodi to victory against Berlusconi. Twice


At 74, one can be very young, have a clear idea of the future, show the way to make it better. One can also be, like Giulio Santagata, very pissed off, suffer from the strong stomachache produced by the reality that surrounds us and find within oneself the strength to transform the stomachache into contrasting energy. After all, 150 pages are enough to provide a glimpse of light that obscures, if only for a few hours, the screens of hypocrisy behind which we hide. Surrounding ourselves with little hearts, big thumbs, smiley faces and insults at no cost. The 150 pages of L’ira del riformista, the essay published by Piemme with which the former parliamentarian suggests ways out of this state of affairs in which everything seems to be going upside down, are enough.

Giulio Santagata has been Romano Prodi's economic advisor for more than thirty years and is the author of the book's preface. “He was,' reads the back cover of L'ira del riformista, 'the creator and organiser of the two election campaigns that led to the victory of the Ulivo in 1996 and 2006”. Berlusconi's nightmare, in essence, if it is true, as it is, that he twice led Prodi, whose minister he was, to victory, knocking the Cavaliere off the saddle. 

Unlike the vast majority of politicians, he does not fix his gaze on the tip of his toes, but projects it forward. And he does not proceed by slogans, but by reasoning. His beacon is the new generations, the pivot on which an essay that saw the light last November revolves.

Santagata, let's start with France. Young people are bringing the country to its knees. What is happening?

What is happening is that the integration process, multiculturalism, is not working.


We have to take note that the children of emigrants do not culturally want to be inside society.

Why is this?

France has opened its doors to immigrants but evidently does not have the capacity to plan a future for their children. The fathers were satisfied with having made it to Europe, the children are no longer satisfied. And not only to them.

In what sense?

In the sense that those children are not all of Islamic religion and African origin. Along with them there are also French people from many generations whose families live in a difficult situation. Then there is a third element.

Which one?

That for which the revolution is beautiful, fun. Even those of us who did Sixty-Eight had fun doing it. The real problem is the violence.

The images coming from up there are scary.

It's clear that if you grow up playing play station you struggle not to become violent. You digest violence, trivialise it and practise it peacefully.

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Politics gives the impression of having no answers. Except repression.

The big trouble is that there are problems on a global scale that politics can no longer govern. There are multinationals that have a capitalisation greater than the GDP of an average country. What can politics do?.

You tell us.

Rather than disappearing, it adapts to act as a lightning rod. But a young person who sees that politics doesn't solve problems moves further away. And he doesn't go to vote.

Are we better off in Italy?

We are worse, trust me. The thermometer is work.

You mean we are not a country for young people?

I would say no. We have 2.5 million young people who are not studying, not working and in apprenticeship: the so-called NEETs. One in four is not in any training or employment path.

And those who work?

They all go through the path of precariousness. If it goes well, they are precarious for four or five years, but there are those who remain precarious for life.

Precarious workers with starvation salaries.

Unfortunately, this is the case: the average wage in Italy fell by 2.5 per cent between 1990 and 2020. In France it grew by 31 per cent, in Germany by 34 per cent.

How could this happen?

Our companies did big business.


By keeping labour costs low, they strengthened competitiveness, often without bothering to innovate. Exports marched on at the expense of workers.

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That they could have rebelled, right?

If they hadn't had the noose of relocation around their necks.


Delocalisation: you want a higher salary? Fine: I'll close down and reopen where labour costs less. That's how we have declined globalisation.

Is the minimum wage a solution?

It is something. A small step forward. It indicates a direction. You can't play this game indefinitely. If an Italian engineer earns 40 per cent less than a German engineer, if an Italian doctor earns half as much as an Irish one, it means you have to change direction. Otherwise you end up in the ravine.

Yet the government claims that things are going well now. We are growing more than the European average.

The right wing is doing its job. It says it was better when it was worse. Its response is not to give answers. It keeps moving the ball forward and looking for enemies. The immigrants, the bureaucrats, the communists.

But he took an avalanche of votes. And it continues to take them.

The left has made many mistakes. We have been liberalists more than the liberalists themselves. And this for too many years.  The right has continued to be the right. Placing all the blame on the communists even when the communists were no longer there.

So what?

The time has come to set in motion a process of participation. People must meet, discuss, seek solutions, propose them. Come back to believe.

But people stay at home in front of their mobile phones.

Look, in Italy there are five million volunteers. We have an avalanche of people who make solidarity a reason for living. People who meet each other, get involved. There are the sports associations. We must start from there. Gather the demands that come from below and take them to parliament.

And who should do this?

The left. Do young people have a strong environmentalist conscience? Let this conscience find a direction. Young people have time and energy. Let us harness them.

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On the left, however, be patient, there is a certain lack of leadership.

Enough of this leadership business. Let's look for leaders like you look for mushrooms. Let's turn the table. Let's start with the right to housing, the right to study, social rights. Leaders will come, rest assured: when the time comes, leaders will jump out.



Illustration by Gloria Dozio - Acrimònia Studios

Images Giuliano Riva