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Italy

A young Communist mayor in Mafia land

IN THE RADICAL PRESS / controlacrisi.org

Interview with Valerio Marletta

He took office in Palagonia on May 23, the province of Catania, Sicily. Valerio Marletta is the town’s first communist mayor. A member of the Young Communists,  Marletta has a track record in the movement, campaigning on social issues and in the battle against the mafia with an focus on active citizenship and expanding democratic participation. He faces a difficult path, but the desire for change that reigns today in his town is strong and shared.

I met Valerio Marletta a few years ago, in Catania, at a number of anti-racism initiatives. A young Communist, one of the many generous friends in this world, always in the forefront, always ready to fight on the side of the most disadvantaged. Now the mayor of his native Palagonia, a town of 17,000 souls, he knows that change is possible and much more at hand than was possible to imagine. Backed by a civic electoral list supported by Communist Refoundation party and Italy of Values party, Valerio reached the second round in the mayoral elections and then swept to victory, with over 73% of the vote. How did he manage it?

‘What we did is the result of ten years work with comrades in the local party branch. A job that has now matured thanks to increased awareness of the people. For generations we have been governed by a family whose last scion, Fausto Fagone, is involved in the same trial for mafia links that sees among the defendants President Raffaele Lombardo, President of the Siciliy region. Communist Refoundation, and especially the young Communists, were able to make a qualitative leap.

A couple of days after the arrests we went out into the streets and denounced links between the Mafia and [public] contracts, and we ended up with more and more people filling the squares. Since I joined the provincial council in 2008, every 3 months we have been organising a gathering in the centre square of Palagonia.

In this election we offered people an alternative project to both main political coalitions and have been rewarded for our radicalism. We brought down a cross party power bloc here. The [centre left] Democrats  did not rule but were allied with [Silvio Berlusconi’s] People of Freedom party, well before the [Mario] Monti government. We found a willingness [among people] to participate and were able to expel an entire ruling class. Only two of  the councillors from the last administration remain. Even before the mayor resigned, together with our comrade [PierpaoloMontalto [provincial secretary of Communist Refoundation] we presented a request for the dissolution of the council on grounds of Mafia infiltration.’

You aim to represent a break with the past. How would you characterize this?

‘I lived for 12 years in Catania, where we developed a cultural and political history which started with Genoa [ protests] and arrived at Palagonia through the Communist Refoundation party of which today there is a clear need. So we have built an open list where there were only 5 members of Communist Refoundation out of 20. We were the main force behind the mayor but we kept an open and inclusive list”

And the programme?

‘We started from the fact that power was inaccessible for too long. We are committed to a participatory budget, for the freedom of access to information over the Internet, for [protection from privatisation of] common goods like water and waste management. We want to make spaces used by a few available to the [many]  who are active, they have said we want to fill the country of  centri social [‘occupied/squatted buildings typically used as a social/political space for left radicals] . Well I am convinced that if we mean by this inclusive places in which to produce culture and social life, I take that as a compliment.

We proposed simple and easy to communicate ideas, but most importantly, we found a lot of willingness to listen. People in my opinion are way ahead of where we think they are. We also met sympathizers of Grillo [the blogger/comedian leading the rising Five Star movement] who supported us by saying that with our presence another competing list was not needed. In short we filled a political vacuum in which the party played an important but not exclusive role.’

How will the council and executive be formed?

‘On the council we have a majority of 12 seats out of 20. Some from Communist Refoundation, some from Italy of Values and others who do not belong to any party. There are two farm labourers and some university students. We were able to elect four women, which had never happened here, the oldest is 36 years old and two are not yet 20. The council consists of four aldermen, two men and two women,  this element is valuable for us, they are colleagues upon whom we rely for their skills.’

What will you do as the first administrative acts and how will mark the first sitting  of the council?

‘Start from a bureaucratic reorganization of the body which today is disastrous. Then we want to become a municipality with ‘zero waste.’ We are the only town in the province not to do recycling because waste management is in the hands of the mafia. We want to get out of this situation. And then a new management of public services as the patrimony of all. We have been accustomed to being a nation of subjects and not citizens and we must also restore a quality of life from the cultural point of view. I’m not excited about the ceremony, I think of the many things we must do. We have a budget gap of 20 million euros and for a small town this is immense and we must do tackle it without hurting those who are struggling financially. The election result gives us a responsibility, but we do not want to disappoint those who supported us and we’ll succeed. But I also want to have  a symbolic act of [opening the new council] which  I consider an important event. “

What will you do?

‘Tomorrow there will be the state funeral of Placido Rizzotto, the union leader murdered by the Mafia in 1948, the remains of whom have recently been found. We will name the council room after him in the knowledge that this will be in the name of the many workers and trade unionists, including Palagonia, who were killed by the Mafia for the same reasons. Even the place names [in the town] must change and must make it clear that another world is possible. We have said this for many years and we are now trying to do it, starting from our home.’

 Original Article

By Stefano Galieni, 23 May 2012

Italy held local elections in May 2012 – full results here

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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