Goodbye, Salvini

Matteo Salvini, on August 3rd, on vacation in the town of Milano Marittima, on the shores of the Adriatic sea, in the province of Ravenna - FACEBOOK PAPEETE BEACH
Juan de Dios Ramírez-Heredia Montoya

How time flies when life is good, and how slowly it passes when our problems torment us! I’ve been on holiday for twenty days and they’ve gone by lightning fast. I’ve tried to keep far away from the day to day problems I’m usually faced with and I’ve almost managed it. I say ‘almost’ because, although I’ve disconnected the phone, haven’t watched a moment of television nor bought a single newspaper, I still haven’t been able to dispense with Wi-Fi. This has allowed me to see first-hand the upheaval that’s going on at the heart of the Italian government, thanks to the information sent to me by my Italian gypsy friends, who are largely aware of the serious political situation occurring in their country.

Now, having just arrived in Barcelona, I find out that things have backfired on Matteo Salvini, the Italian Minister of the Interior. The news that the most popular racist politician with effective power in a European government is going to be removed from office has made the harsh return to the daily routine a little sweeter. As the president of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, has appointed the outgoing minister, Giuseppe Conte, to form a new government.

Let’s not kid ourselves: Salvini is bad because there is no such thing as a good racist. This popular Italian politician is the best example of one. Populist to the bone, he’s spent the summer in his swim shorts on Italy’s lovely beaches, surrounded, of course, by his adoring court of Lega Nord members, who are a nest of the worst possible group of demagogues. They consider themselves superior to their Southern Italian compatriots, from whom they want to be separate because they’re richer than the Southerners and don’t want to share with the poorest people what they believe belongs to them by divine plan.

When Marine Le Pen gained her great victory in the first round of the 2017 French elections – coming second to Emmanuel Macron who gained 66.1% of the votes to her 33.9% – Matteo Salvini was jumping for joy and stated with resounding clarity: ‘I’m a populist and proud of it’. Regarding Ms. Le Pen, he claimed: ‘She’s a brave woman, and I support her because she had the courage to give a voice to a people, who up until a few weeks ago, didn’t have one’. Pure demagogy, thinly veiled, as is usually the case, in the foulest of populism.

Italy pains me as much as Spain does

Once again, I ask forgiveness for sprinkling my writing with memories and personal experiences that are perhaps irrelevant but, for me, justify a good part of my behaviour. I never miss the opportunity to go to Italy each time someone invites me or needs me to appear at a certain event. I fell in love with its people, its scenery, with its two seas, its history, with its achievements and with Roman Law. I don’t think it was a coincidence that during the twelve years I served as a Member of the European Parliament, my main collaborator was an Italian man, a diplomat with a doctorate in Economics, called Enzo Mariotti, may he rest in peace.

And that fondness for Italy and Italians was not the result of chance. I remember that when I finished my journalism studies at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, I was already working at the Radio Nacional de España in Cataluña. Thanks to Juan Manuel Soriano, the station’s Programme Director who placed his trust in me, I directed and presented the most diverse of programmes, and just like all young people in love with their job, I dreamt that one day my merits would be recognised and I would have the opportunity to promote my informative work. And do you know what professional goal I aspired to reach at that time? To be named as the correspondent for Radio Nacional de España in Rome.

But in the interim Franco died, the first democratic elections were called, these would bring forty long years of dictatorship to an end, and I managed to get elected as a constituent deputy. From that moment on, my life changed radically and that dream of the radio was postponed, although stored in the deepest part of my childhood dreams.

Matteo Salvini will be a victim of his own excessive political ambition

There is a kind of politician whose arrogance pushes them to never give up anything in order to achieve their goals. They´re like birds of prey that sniff out carrion and dive in search of the putrid mouthful that will help them keep their desire to gain power alive. They are the populists. They know better than anyone how to exploit the weaknesses of people who get carried away by emotions so basic that they leave no room for discussion. Salvini says that the alliance between the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the Democratic Party (PD) will not be successful, the former being a political conglomerate led by Luigi Di Maio that doesn’t want to be a party but rather an environmental movement, anti-euro and to a large extent anti-European, the latter a centre-left party whose general secretary is Nicola Zingaretti (and curiously enough, gypsy in Italian is zingaro, zingari with the diminutive almost identical to the Italian leader’s surname, Zingaretti). Let’s hope Salvini’s omen doesn’t become reality despite the serious accusations both sides have made against each other.

The Democratic Party inspires confidence in me. It was born of social democracy and Christian social culture. Many socialist leaders along with old militants and sympathisers of the now extinct Italian Communist Party (PCI), founded by Antonio Gramsci, form part of this important political creation. Racism, obviously, cannot have a place in its government programmes.

And the same can be expected of M5S. They don’t deny that they’re an anti-establishment movement, and despite everything they won the last general election in Italy. They actively reject political corruption, accept European integration and are more inclusive and supportive in matters regarding immigration.

Together they’ll unseat the Lega Nord with Matteo Salvini at the helm. Fate played a trick on him when, taking advantage of Parliament and politicians on holiday this summer, he bet everything on calling for a vote of no-confidence in his own government and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at its head. The polls showed him as a winner in early elections, but President Mattarella, smarter and more responsible, didn’t fall into the trap and proposed that to the censured prime minister to form a new Government disposing of the Lega Nord and, therefore, of Matteo Salvini.

Goodbye, Salvini. Goodbye forever

Let’s hope we never hear of him again, because Salvini isn’t an occasional racist who had guessed that opposing the entry of immigrants into Italy would reach the highest levels of publicity.

Salvini is a profound racist, just as the Nazis were, because to him racism isn’t simply the affirmation of the existence of races or subspecies within the human species nor the exclusion or rejection of otherness. Few people have expressed it more accurately than Professor Francisco Fernández Buey, the old Palencian teacher who, from his chair of Political Philosophy at Pompeu Fabra University of Barcelona, inspired so many of us activists during Spain’s transition to democracy with his wise words.

‘There is racism,’ he once wrote, ‘when a direct link is established between the attributes, features, or physical, biological or genetic assets of an individual or group and their intellectual and moral character, and when from that point the superiority or inferiority of these attributes compared to others is asserted’.

That is Salvini. He asked that a gypsy mother of ten children, who had been sentenced to 25 years in prison for her repeated thefts, be sterilised, have her children taken away, and have her sentence increased to 30 years. My God! Thirty years for petty theft. Meanwhile, Umberto Bossi, the founder of Salvini’s own party of Lega Nord, and its treasurer Francesco Belsito were sentenced to only two and four years respectively despite having both embezzled 50 million euros in a plot of political corruption.

This English translation has been possible thanks to the PerMondo project: Free translation of website and documents for non-profit organisations. A project managed by Mondo Agit. Translator: Beth Simmons. Proofreader: Pasquale Di Matteo.