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Historic. Irrelevant? Sunday’s Italian Election

The elections are the first to occur after a referendum slashed the number of seats in parliament and happen when war rages in Europe, poverty increases, the climate crisis deepens. The descendent of Mussolini’s Fascist Party is the frontrunner.

On September 25 Italians go to the polls to elect a new parliament, following the collapse of Mario Draghi’s “government of national unity.” Polls point to two alarming results: 

– The victory of a rightwing coalition led by the Brothers of Italy (literally the direct descendant of Mussolini’s “National Fascist Party”); and

– Levels of abstention never before seen in Italian democracy. In fact, many journalists speak of abstention as the true “victor” in the upcoming elections.

How did we get here?

Clean Hands

The context for understanding what’s happening today has to be “Tangentopoli” (Bribesville) and the consequent collapse of the mass parties that dominated Italian politics since the enactment of the modern Italian constitution. For all of their faults, the Christian Democratic Party, the Italian Communist Party and the Socialist Party inspired millions of ordinary Italians, involving them in the construction of a new society. These parties did not chase public opinion, but rather represented a political home for ordinary Italians (and of course in the case of the Christian Democrats and—later—the Socialists also for elites) that engaged millions in the construction of public opinion and an agenda that was translated—for better or worse—into the work of successive governments.

Inherently unstable, this is the system that nonetheless created one of the world’s highest union densities, an economic miracle, the strongest cooperative movement in the world, a workers’ bill of rights second-to-none, a national health system that, in certain regions to this day, produces some of the best outcomes in the world. 

Organized into mass parties, ordinary Italians were not just voters, they were participants in the construction of their new society. That all ended in 1992 when activist prosecutors uncovered an elaborate system of bribery involving politicians, members of parliament, ex-prime ministers and members of the judiciary. Between 1992 and 1996 in the famous “mani pulite” (clean hands) trials, judges investigated and prosecuted thousands. Some committed suicide in prison awaiting trial. Others, like Socialist Party leader Bettino Craxi, fled to Tunisia where he died in 2000. 

In the wake of this earthquake, new parties emerged on the national stage, like the separatist “Northern League” which went from receiving less than 1% of the vote to over 8% following the initial arrests. Most famously, billionaire entrepreneur Silvio Berlusconi created his “Forza Italia” (“Go Italy”) party which would come to dominate Italian politics in the 90s and 2000s, ushering in a new era of personality and media-driven politics. One of the results of this tumult was to fuel distrust in politics and political institutions, a deep cynicism among average Italians in government and the institutions of the state, which paved the way for the appeal of anti-establishment parties, like the “Northern League”, the “Five Star Movement” and, today, the post-fascist “Brothers of Italy”.

Vaffa!

Beppe Grillo is a George Carlin-esque, highly popular Italian comedian. His comedy revolves around denouncing the absurdities of Italian bureaucracy and economic and political elites. He was most famous for his punchline “vaffa” (literally “f you”) with which he would liquidate members of the elite through his comedic routine. In the mid 2000s, Grillo began encouraging like-minded Italians to run for office. In 2009, in a move derided by party leaders as a mere provocation, Grillo attempted to join the “Democratic Party” (PD) and run in their primaries. The PD’s then leader, Piero Fassino, infamously said “if Grillo wants to get into politics, he should start his own party, run for office and then let’s see how many votes he gets.” 

Following the PD’s refusal to let him join, Grillo officially founded the “Five Star Movement” (M5S), based on the five cardinal points of connectivity, environment, water, development, and transportation. The party, often described as populist, was essentially progressive and anti-establishment, committed to direct participation of its members via a blog and online voting platform. In reality, the party is rigidly controlled by Grillo whose punchline “vaffa” became the semi-official slogan of the party. The M5S attracted thousands of young and disaffected voters, including many older voters from the left, who saw the PD move further and further away from an unabashed pro-worker, left agenda.

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In 2013, the M5S participated in parliamentary elections—independent of any coalition on the right or left—and garnered just over 25% of the vote, edging out the PD by just over 1/10th of a percent. (Talk about instant karma.) That year they elected 109 members of parliament and 54 senators. Luigi Di Maio, “political leader” of the M5S, then 26, became the youngest ever vice president of parliament. Following Matteo Renzi’s hostile takeover of the PD in 2014 and his party’s hard right turn, the M5S chose to remain in the opposition.

In the 2018 parliamentary elections the M5S won in a landslide, beating all expectations, and obtaining over 32% of the vote to become the top-voted party in Italy. The M5S did so well that year that they won more seats in parliament than they had candidates for. (To resolve this dilemma Italy’s Supreme Court assigned party members to empty seats in parliament, one of whom became the much derided minister of education.) Many factors account for the unexpected M5S victory, including being the only party that could legitimately claim to be anti-establishment, their focus on an internal process of direct democracy through online discussion and voting which at least created the illusion of popular sovereignty. They also were advocates of broadly popular policies, including a swift transition to a 100% renewable energy economy and the “citizenship wage” — a type of universal basic income for the long-term jobless. This last policy was highly popular in the south of Italy and is often credited as the single reason for their unexpected performance in that year’s election. 

On the right, the coalition of right parties won 37% of the vote, this time with the “Northern League” the top coalition partner, with 17% of the vote. (By the 2018 elections the party had dropped “Northern” from its name to become the “League,” in an opportunistic and effective move to appeal to voters in the South, as the party shifted the focus of its racism from southern Italians to immigrants). The center-left coalition led by the PD won just 23% of the vote. These numbers meant that the Five Star Movement was in the driver’s seat for the formation of the new government. 

While the most obvious coalition partner in 2018 for the M5S would have been the “Democratic Party” (PD), mutual distrust prevented this from happening and the M5S entered into a “governing contract” (a term invented by the M5S to justify the move) with the right-wing League who’s anti-immigrant, pro (Italian) worker discourse obscures a fundamentally neo-liberal platform (flat tax, less regulation, etc.). At that time the “League”, led by racist, anti-immigrant Matteo Salvini, commanded over 17% of the vote, while the post-Fascist Brothers of Italy amounted to a paltry 4%.

The early days of the “yellow-green” government, headed by the improbable and completely unknown law professor Giuseppe Conte (who termed himself “the people’s lawyer”) included the introduction of the citizenship wage after which the M5S announced, while uncorking a bottle of champagne, “the abolishment of poverty;” while Matteo Salvini, the leader of the “League” and then Minister of the Interior, promulgated a set of “security decrees” and refused to allow boats carrying sick and starving refugees from docking at Italian ports (a move that has landed him in court on charges of kidnapping; that case is ongoing). 

Matteo Salvini, in a Mussolini-esque move, sought “full powers” as minister of the interior to combat Italy’s real and imagined threats. This precipitated the fall of the yellow-green coalition and convinced the center-left that it was in their, and Italy’s, interest to form a government with the problematic M5S. This gave rise to the second government headed by Giuseppe Conte, this time termed the red-yellow government. This government, which included the M5S, the “Democratic Party”, former prime minister Matteo Renzi’s breakaway “Italy Alive” party (essentially a neo-liberal party for young members of the PMC), along with minor left parties like Article One and the Italian Left.

In many ways the red-yellow government was remarkable, especially given the instability, inexperience, and immaturity of the M5S: they made legitimate efforts to combat abuses against farmworkers (conditions that often amount to modern day slavery) and led Italy’s initial reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic, intervening with redistributive policies aimed at supporting employment, wages and families, including a ban on layoffs during the pandemic. Most remarkable was Giuseppe Conte’s leadership within in the EU. Conte succeeded in convincing the EU’s fiscal hawks to create a Covid-19 rescue package for member states, backed by debt issued in common by all EU member states (a first in the supra-national body’s history), which included a mix of debt and grant financing to help EU member states recover from the impact of Covid 19 through investments like funding for healthcare and the green transition. Receiving these funds was not predicated on more austerity measures.

Also significant was the experimentation that the “Conte 2” government led to on the local and regional level in the form of the construction of broad alliances among the M5S, Democrats and minor left parties in municipal and regional elections: a model that members of “Article 1” and the Italian Left had fought for and saw as a type of 21st century popular front, capable of limiting the right and advancing pro-worker, pro-environment redistributive politics.

Conte’s government was perhaps too family and worker-friendly for Italy’s ruling class. In the winter of 2019 Matteo Renzi, whose miniscule “Italy Alive” party commands just enough votes in parliament to make a government fall, began to warn of Giuseppe Conte’s unsuitability to administer the EU rescue package (despite his deftness in negotiating the passage of the historic aid package). Conte’s detractors warned that keeping him in power meant risking access to the 222 billion euros Italy was entitled to under the EUs post-Covid recovery package. On January 26, 2021 Giuseppe Conte tendered his resignation, marking the end of the red-yellow government and what “Sinistra Italiana” leader Nicola Fratoinni deemed an “experiment” at “dialogue between north and south, between the productive forces and the world of work, a coming together between those in need of protection and those that can offer it during the difficult crisis, that is between public institutions and politics as service.” 

Super Mario 

Long before Conte tendered his resignation, the name Mario Draghi was being tossed around in the halls of power as an appropriate replacement. Super Mario, as he was called after his famous declaration that under his leadership the European Central Bank would do “whatever it takes” to save the Euro following the subprime crisis, was seen by his supporters as someone with an impeccable reputation in Europe and throughout the world, someone who commanded respect and enjoyed the kind of reputation needed to guide Italy in the spending its portion of the recovery package. Most of all it was Draghi’s credibility in the halls of power that appealed to his supporters. As if to prove his supporters right, the cost of Italian debt plummeted after Draghi formed his government. 

Draghi was chosen to serve as prime minister by Italian president (the head of state, elected by parliament) Mattarella, on the condition that he could form a government of national unity. Draghi was sworn in on February 17, 2021, supported by a broad coalition of nearly all the major parties, from the right to the left. It was unclear whether or not Beppe Grillo would be able to convince his M5S to support this new, clearly establishment government. In the end, the Genovese comedian was able to convince party militants to support Draghi by assuring them that Draghi would create a “super ministry” to guide the green transition (he would end up doing nothing of the sort), and through the use of manipulative wording in an online referendum to garner support among party members. 

In a politically deft move, Giorgia Meloni, leader of the post-Fascist “Brothers of Italy Party”, chose not to support the new government—a move that would earn her significant credibility among anti-establishment voters and rocket her party to number one in the polls. Members of the Italian Left decided as a party to urge its members of parliament to vote against the new Draghi government. Fratoiannia, SI’s leader, eloquently argued that the threat of an authoritarian turn had subsided after the fall of the M5S-League government and that the Draghi government, which objectively represented a shift to the right at least in terms of the ministers he chose, amounted to a “restoration” following the prior government’s attempts at introducing more boldly redistributive policies. The best role for the left was to oppose such a government. (In practice, individual SI MPs voted to support the new Draghi government, arguing they could best influence the shape of the government from the inside rather than from outside.) “Article 1”, the other notable left formation in parliament, chose to support the new Draghi government. Matteo Renzi gloated that Italians happy with Mario Draghi as Prime Minister should thank him. 

Initially, Mario Draghi enjoyed widespread support, with a majority of Italians viewing him favorably. Markets rewarded Italy by lowering the cost of its public debt, and Draghi began to carry out a series of reforms required in order to receive Italy’s portion of the EU recovery funds. Draghi was so popular initially that members of his governing coalition, especially the PD, seemed to be vying for the spot of “party most supportive of Draghi.” 

Both Draghi’s supporters and detractors seemed to be correct about him: Italy gained from his reputation within the EU, and he was successful in pushing through some difficult reforms. At the same time, his government did represent a shift to the right: key posts influencing the economy and labor relations (the ministries for public administration, economic development and tourism) were occupied by politicians from the Italian right, while the highest profile position given to a labour-left party (“Article 1”) meant the left’s most visible role was to require Italians to get vaccinated, wear masks, and quarantine if you came into contact with someone with Covid. 

The Draghi government was to have been a “technical” (as opposed to political) government. But even the “technicians” appointed to important positions, for example the Ministry for the Green Transition (what Beppe Grillo promised members of his party would be a “super ministry”) was highly political: Roberto Cingolani, a physicist-entrepreneur and former Ferrari board member, has been a staunch opponent of EU efforts to transition away from fossil fuels, advocating specifically for carve-outs for Italian luxury automakers like Ferrari. His detractors have named him CingolEni (Eni being the main Italian oil company). The PD received the post of Labor Ministry but has been unable, despite the minister’s best intentions, to achieve much for labor in concrete policy terms. Under the Draghi government unions found the door closed on consultations, and key reforms like a reform of Italy’s tax system provided more relief to the wealthy than to working people. The green transition, if stalled prior to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, is now moving in reverse, with efforts underway to increase the use of coal to produce energy domestically, expanded drilling off Italy’s coasts and increased imports of petrol products to prevent rationing in the winter. Meanwhile, the government has made no progress in easing up on regulations that make large-scale solar and wind projects costly and time consuming. 

Government of National (dis)Unity

On July 21, 2022 Mario Draghi tendered his resignation, unable to garner enough support to keep his government of national unity together. The Draghi government’s crisis was sparked by the M5S’s leader, former prime minister Giuseppe Conte. Conte was responding to internal pressures following the high profile split from the party by Luigi Di Maio, who took with him 51 members of parliament, to form a competing party, “Together for the Future”. Conte then met with Draghi, on July 6, to announce nine policies which constituted the conditions which the M5S required to continue to support Draghi, conditions which Draghi refused. The “Northern League” seized on Conte’s move to demand the formation of a new government with all the same parties, but excluding the M5S, a move that Draghi refused on the grounds it was inconsistent with his mandate from President Mattarella (the M5S is after all the largest single bloc in parliament).

It Pays to Yell from the Sidelines

A quick look at the latest polling might explain the behavior of both the M5S and the “Northern League” in precipitating the crisis: participation in government, despite Draghi’s high approval ratings, has not translated into better polling for parties in the governing coalition. The M5S has seen their support drop to just under 14% (recall in 2018 they won 32% of the vote), and the “Northern League’s” support has fallen to 11%. 

Meanwhile “Brothers of Italy”, who have remained in opposition since 2018 and became vocal opponents of the widely loved Mario Draghi, are now polling above all other political parties at 24.6%. While the rest of the world seems to be worrying about her roots in Italy’s post-fascist political movements, Italians seem far less worried: 36% of Italians report trusting her, while only 23% say they trust Enrico Letta, the leader of the PD. At a recent conference, the Meeting in Rimini sponsored by the mainstream Catholic movement Communion and Liberation (an event considered a bellwether of Catholic voter sentiment), the only politician to receive a standing ovation was Giorgia Meloni. 

The “Democratic Party”, which had tried to position itself as the party most faithful to the “Draghi agenda,” has not benefited from the Prime Minister’s coattails nearly as much as Meloni has through her opposition: the latest polls place the PD at 22.6% (compared to the 18.7% of the vote they received in the 2018 parliamentary elections). 

Finally, from the Right’s position there was not much downside to precipitating the government’s fall: while the center-left is fragmented (more on that later) the center-right will participate in the upcoming elections as a coalition, polling at over 40%.

So, Now What?

The State of Play

Initially, few expected the drama of the summer to lead to early elections. Italians, in their history, have rarely voted in the fall since the summer is a time when most tune out and turn off the television, making a summer electoral campaign highly problematic. There is also the fact that normal elections would have been held in the spring of 2023, in just a few months. In fact, when Draghi initially tendered his resignation, President Mattarella refused to accept it, asking him instead to try and patch together another government of national unity, on the hope that his government could last until the regular elections in 2023, to continue to push through the reforms necessary to receive the EU Recovery funding, and to begin to spend that funding. Neither the M5S nor the “League” seem to have shared Mattarella’s concerns. 

From the very beginning, Giorgia Meloni was the frontrunner as next prime minister, given her unusually high approval ratings for a post-Fascist, and the fact that years of opposition and deft maneuvering to make her seem more mainstream and moderate to those outside of her core of support had propelled her party to number one. The center-right, despite being split over supporting the Draghi government of national unity, remained highly coordinated throughout and will present itself in the elections as a coalition. This is important, since the current electoral law combines proportional voting with winner-take-all, and this ensures that in the winner-take-all elections, the right doesn’t dilute its vote. 

On the other hand, the center-left has never been more divided, with the “Democratic Party” essentially running alone, against the M5S, a united right, and an extreme left grouping. This despite years of careful work, in municipalities and in the regions, to create a broad, “popular front” grounded in the alliance between the “Democratic Party” and the M5S. This strategy produced, in the recent municipal elections in Bologna for example, a city council that included the Democrats, M5S and the leftwing formation “civic coalition,” which had prior to 2021 acted as a left-opposition to the majority within city government. Proponents of this strategy saw this as the best way to block the right and advance a progressive agenda throughout Italy. 

When the M5S decided to no longer support the Draghi government, the PD announced it would not run in the elections in coalition with the M5S. Giuseppe Conte counter-attacked by announcing days, before regional primary elections to determine the center-left candidate for governor in Sicily, that the M5S would no longer support the winner of those elections and instead would run on their own against the PD. The PD reacted by taking the M5S to court for violation of contract. As a result, the two single biggest parties on the center left are running against each other in the September 25 elections. 

Following the PD-M5S split, PD party leader Enrico Letta began a series of public negotiations with Carlo Calenda, the leader of the party “Azione” (yes, that’s what it means: “action.”), to run in partnership in the upcoming elections. Calenda, a protege of businessman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo best known perhaps as the former president of Ferrari, had served in various roles in different governments, including as Minister for Economic Development where he won wide praise for his policies to encourage the adoption of “Industry 4.0” technologies in the Italian economy. At the time of negotiations with the PD, Calenda’s party was barely polling above the threshold to win a single seat in parliament. Days after negotiating an agreement wtih Azione, Letta also negotiated an agreement with the Greens and the Italian Left (who had not supported the Draghi government). Following this opening to the left, Calenda publicly announced he was backing out of the deal with the PD, on the grounds that the opening to the left would lead to an alliance with the M5S, and within days had formed an alliance with Matteo Renzi’s “Italy Alive” party. They called it the birth of the “third pole.” Not right, not left, but center. (Calenda has since publicly spoken of the idea of a new “government of national unity” including his party and the post-fascist Brothers of Italy, while his partner, Matteo Renzi, is promising voters that a vote for their coalition is a vote to return Mario Draghi as prime minister.)

“Article 1”, the group that broke away from the PD following Matteo Renzi’s rise, which is likely in the process of rejoining the Democrats will run on the democratic party ticket. 

To the extreme left there is “Unione Populare” (Popular Union), an attempt to combine forces among smaller left parties. But it is unlikely that UP will garner enough votes to be assigned any seats in parliament. 

So What’s the Big Deal? 

The divisions on the center-left would not matter so much if Italy had a purely proportional system. Everyone runs for office, and you get the number of seats that correspond to the percentage of the vote you received. Then after the election we can form a government. But Italy doesn’t have a purely proportional system. 

The current electoral law, just like the one before it, was written to benefit the parties in power, and assigns 60% of the seats in parliament on a proportional basis, and 40% of the seats based on winner-take-all. This means that different parties must run on the same “list” (as is the case with the breakaway Labor-party Article 1 and the PD) or at least have an agreement not to run against each other (as in the agreement with the Greens and the Italian left). 

Americans will immediately understand the bind that thoughtful, left voters are in: if I vote for a candidate or party whose values I prefer, but that is not in coalition with or have a formal agreement with the Democrats, I risk splitting the vote and turning the winner-take-all districts over to the right wing. At a minimum, this means running the risk of giving the right a significant enough majority that the next government could last the full five-year term. But if the right, through outperforming in the winner-take-all districts, is able to win a super-majority, that means that they can pass constitutional reforms on their own. Top on their list of reforms: the merging of the head of state and head of government through direct, irrevocable, popular election of the president. 

On the Left

Disaster is certainly an appropriate term for the state of the left. The two biggest progressive parties, the PD and the M5S, are at war with each other. And the PD is running a campaign focused on abstract ideas that appeal to a narrow portion of the electorate (“more discrimination or equal rights,” “fossil fuels or renewable energy”). Enrico Letta, the PD’s leader, is fond of talking about his party being the only thing that can stop Italy from becoming like Hungary; an odd campaign premise considering that his Orban-friendly opponent, Meloni, is far more trusted by Italians than he is. 

he right’s messaging, instead, is much clearer and more straightforward, speaking in concrete terms about how they will defend Italians and Italy from real and imagined threats. A good example of this are two billboards, placed near each other, in Bologna:

  • The PD billboard says “Housing is a Right: 500,000 More Affordable Housing Units in 10 Years through Agreed Fee.” (Agreed fee is a process by which the tenants union negotiates rent maximums with the landlords’ union; in exchange for lower rent and better terms to the tenant, the landlord gets a tax benefit. It’s a great system that few voters are likely to know anything about!)

  • The billboard for the “League”, on the other hand, reads: no sales tax on fruits, vegetables, rice and pasta. We believe that no Italian should be left behind.

The extreme left, despite laudable efforts and a solid program, is unlikely to achieve any seats in parliament since they probably won’t meet the minimum threshold. That leaves Article 1 (essentially re-absorbed into the PD) the Greens and Italian Left to carry the banner in parliament. At best they may receive 4-5% of the vote. 

Labor appears to be divided as well. The most popular party among working class Italians, at least until recently, has been the League. This should not be too surprising, as the League was born in the industrial, highly unionized northern regions and is the only party that continues to have some semblance of the kind of rootedness in communities once characteristic of the PCI. Among labor activists, there appears to be a split, primarily among those supporting the PD, others supporting the Green-Italian Left coalition, and still others the M5S. Officially the position of labor’s leadership is to remain neutral, while encouraging Italians to vote in droves, and to vote against parties proposing a flat tax and presidential system (i.e., the right). 

All of this, of course, is symptomatic of the deeper crisis of representative democracy in Italy and the disconnect between Italy’s popular classes, their movements, and electoral politics. 

Conclusion

Working parents, raising kids in Italy have an extremely long summer. School gets out on June 3 or 4 and doesn’t start up again until September 15. Parents rely on a patchwork of grandparents and summer camps to survive until school starts again. In places like Bologna, despite the attempts of policy makers to make summer camp more affordable through public subsidies, camps can run up to 200 euros a week, for one child. For a family without grandparents nearby that can amount to 1,800 euros or more for the summer, nearly 300 euros more than the average salary. This year, miraculously, my two kids and I survived the summer through a combination of different camps, time off from work and patience and help from loved ones. I don’t know about my kids, but I was counting down the days until September 15. No sooner had my daughter started school than we learned that her school would serve as a polling location for the September 25 elections. To prepare the school for the Sunday polling, they would need to send kids home at 1 PM on Friday September 23. School would remain closed on Monday September 26 to allow workers to remove polling equipment and sanitize the building, with the kids not returning until Tuesday September 27. I’m lucky, because we have grandparents nearby who can help, and as freelancer my work is flexible. But not everyone has the same flexibility and support I do. 

One commentator recently wrote that the upcoming elections, which will end up causing actual disruption in my life through the closure of my daughter’s school, are both historic and irrelevant. The elections are certainly historic: they are the first to occur after a popular referendum slashed the number of seats in parliament and happen at a time when war rages in Europe, poverty and inequality increase, the climate crisis deepens, and we continue to face a global pandemic. 

The elections are also historic because, for the first time since Italy’s liberation from Nazi-Fascist occupation, the party that is the direct descendent of Mussolini’s Fascist Party is the frontrunner. Of course, the historic conditions that gave rise to Mussolini are today absent (his rise was preceded by two years of terroristic attacks on the life and sieges of cities by fascist squads while the liberal government and state stood by and did nothing) and the threat of actual Fascism is low. However, the relative wide popularity of Meloni is troubling. It is an indication of the distress of ordinary Italians, the level of comfort among a portion of elites for a post-Fascist party, and the increasing distance in time and spirit of the Italian people from the memory of the anti-Fascist resistance. 

There is one other factor that is important in explaining the recent, meteoric rise of Meloni and the “Brothers of Italy”, and it is a phenomenon rooted in the cynicism of the contemporary Italian voter. Many Italians think all politicians will let me down at some point, so I’ll vote for the politician that hasn’t yet let me down. And it is just a matter of time before Meloni, or whoever is the next prime minister, will let Italians down, for no mainstream party is proposing real solutions to the urgent problems of the day: Wages that have been stagnant since the ‘90s, poverty and inequality, participation, and the impending collapse of the earth’s ecosystem. 

And no one is proposing solutions that will help me figure out what to do with my daughter now that she has two days off from school, so that I can go vote in an election that one can only hope will also be irrelevant.

Matt Hancock is an organization development consultant and researcher based in Bologna, Italy where he lives with his two children. His interests are in collaborative forms of work organization and worker power. Matt was a co-founder and former Organizing Director of Campus Greens as well as a co-founder of the Central Jersey Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America.  Matt holds a BA in History from Skidmore College, a Masters in Cooperative Economics from the University of Bologna and is the author of "Compete to Cooperate" a short book on the cooperative movement of Imola, Italy.