"Sardines" making waves in Italian politics

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against right-wing populism in Rome on Saturday. The rally on the Piazza San Giovanni was the biggest event so far of the "Sardine" movement which was founded in protest against the Lega party just a month ago. Italy's press discuss why so many people are attracted to the protest movement and what the long-term political consequences could be.

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La Repubblica (IT) /

Measured, understandable, successful

The demands of the Sardines are exemplary in their clarity and simplicity, comments columnist Gad Lerner in La Repubblica:

“MEPs should carry out their mandates in the institutions provided for this purpose, ministers should communicate via their press offices. The sums spent on the propaganda machinery in the social networks should be made public, verbal violence should be equated with physical violence, and the security decrees of the previous government should be repealed. And we journalists are urged to adhere to facts in our reporting. These are demands that are precise and easy to implement. A lesson in clarity and moderation spiced up on the Piazza San Giovanni with imaginative slogans such as 'The constitution is our backbone,' and 'Better in oil than in hatred'.”

HuffPost Italia (IT) /

The Sardines need a harbour now

Crucial regional elections are scheduled for January and the Sardines need to get organised so they can play an active role, philosopher Paolo Flores D'Arcais urges in HuffPost Italia:

“The Sardines know very well that they can no longer avoid the crucial step of giving a political identity to this phenomenon, this extraordinary energy that has been released in just a month. They ask for patience because they want to achieve this 'together'. ... But politics rarely grants much freedom when it comes to setting the pace. The Sardines' press release repeatedly stresses the importance of the regional elections in Emilia Romagna and Calabria. ... Two crucial votes whose results could decide the victory or defeat of the forces of hatred and exclusion against which the Sardines have formed. A citizen list supported by the Sardines could make all the difference.”

La Stampa (IT) /

People finally occupying public spaces again

Politics is becoming a physical activity again, writes communications sociologist Massimiliano Panarari in La Stampa:

“After digital direct democracy (and above all its rhetoric), politics is experiencing a far from foreseeable return to a public space occupied by people of flesh and blood. ... Various movements (somewhat surprising given today's situation) reveal that the people are not exclusively attracted to populism. ... The presence of people in public space is a primary and elementary biopolitical gesture which attempts to close the gap resulting from dissatisfaction with the existing parties. ... It draws attention to a representation deficit, but in a different way than the populists do.”

Le Point (FR) /

The merits of the sardine

Choosing the sardine as its symbol was a clever move by the anti-Salvini movement, writer Tahar Ben Jelloun coments approvingly in Le Point:

“The sardine is a popular fish. It's inexpensive and contains lots of Omega 3. It's very good for you. What's more, it never appears alone. It's always close to other sardines. It's a model of solidarity. It was enough for someone in the crowd to call out: 'We are sardines that reject fascism' for all demonstrators to join in the rejection of racism and extremism. ... Sardines aren't corrupt, they don't (usually) eat smaller fish, they provide humans with valuable and healthy nutrients. So they're a symbol of high quality. The absence of a leader is a sign of the times.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

This new soft style is making Salvini nervous

Fortunately the demonstrators don't tick like the traditional left, columnist Francesco Merlo comments in La Repubblica:

“Salvini is frightened of the Sardines because finally these are left-wingers who don't try to intimidate. It's exciting to observe how this gentle new style of protest is spreading from Bologna to Palermo and having a disorienting effect - and not just on Salvini - precisely because it doesn't seek confrontation. ... The Sardines have organised themselves on Facebook, out of necessity and instinct, and in fact they don't have a leader yet. Just like the youth of Fridays for Future. They take to the streets without a people's tribune or demagogy.”

MicroMega (IT) /

PD's patronage would be counterproductive

The success of the "Sardines" shows that democratic mobilisation is only possible without the established left parties, editor-in-chief Paolo Flores d'Arcais comments in MicroMega magazine:

“Four friends and a progressive appeal on the Internet are enough to create an initiative. If they had included a party (the PD, who else?) that could offer added value as an organised political force, it would have been a flop. The PD is not a help but a hindrance when it comes to democratic mobilisation, a handicap that guarantees failure. For one simple reason: the PD has fallen into disrepute. ... The party is perceived (consciously or unconsciously, but correctly) as an integral part of the establishment, as an elite party that is not in touch with the people and has moved away from active citizens. In short, as part of the caste.”