Making Introductions—Anticapitalismo at the Farmer’s Market
Italian culture is admired worldwide for its appreciation of la dolce vida—a slower enjoyment of life’s sweet and ordinary pleasures. This sits in tension with the breakneck speed of modern capitalism. This pace is, by design, so deliberately demanding that anti-capitalist sociologist Zygmunt Bauman describes modern capitalism as “liquid.” Bauman points out that capitalism, underpinned by interlocking structures of domination, ever increases the speed of modern life, thereby engulfing possibilities for more relational, slower ways of being. This leaves ordinary people “impotent to resist the business-inspired rules of action” and “open to the invasion and domination. . . of the determining role of the economy.” 1 So, in spite of the prevailing notion of la dolce vida, the welfare of Italian society is not immune to the consequences of modern capitalism. Even traditional Italian cultural touchstones of extended mealtimes, afternoon riposo, and community bonds are ever-threatened by the unregulated velocity of modern life. How can resistance sustain itself while contending with this breakneck pace? Anti-capitalist organizers here in Padova, Italy, would begin by extending a hand in friendship and perhaps even opening a bottle of wine.
Padova is a heavily industrialized university city in the Veneto region of northern Italy. My partner and I moved here in October 2021 to spend a year learning about la dolce vida ourselves while he pursues a Master’s degree and I recover from mine. Like thousands of other cities across Europe, North America and beyond, there is a housing crisis here; we struggled to find a flat to rent and we landed in Mortise, an underserved neighbourhood on the northeastern fringe of the city. Mortise is worlds away from the beautified cobblestone streets of Padova’s ancient city centre. It is a working-class zona of immigrants, elderly folks, and students, of grimy serpentine streets and identical 1960s-built concrete apartment complexes.
On our second day living here, we went for a walk to try to make sense of where we would be spending our next year. We wouldn’t have looked twice at a large and derelict-seeming building, shrouded by concrete fencing and some pines, if it hadn’t been for an eclectic-looking group selling vegetables in the parking lot. Taking a deep breath, we approached with curiosity, bumbling out “non parliamo italiano” and explaining that we had just moved here from Canada. In a colourful patchwork of English and Italian, they explained in return that they were a farmer’s market collective, selling their organic produce and subverting the corporate chain supermercados. Something about the phrase anti-capitalismo truly transcends the language barrier; once we relayed that we are also anti-capitalists, we received handshakes and smiles, as well as some helpful tips about buses and an invitation to come back anytime.
Without really knowing it at the time, we had stumbled across something quite radical in our new neighbourhood. A week passed, and on Saturday morning we returned to the parking lot market, imagining we would buy armloads of vegetables and be on our way. Instead, we were greeted with inconceivable kindness by familiar faces. Within minutes, generous Massimo, one of the farmers and organizers, had opened a bottle of prosecco and put bubbling glasses in our hands. We shared a saluti and stood in a wide circle chatting in broken-blended English-Italian. A fascinating story began to emerge. The backdrop to the market, the neglected building with its crumbling utilitarian design, is actually an abandoned school. But if you take a peek inside, you would see that the space has been transformed into a community centre. And amazingly, for nearly 14 years, organizers have maintained an illegal occupation of the entire property. This is a home and headquarters for the Padova chapter of the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista, or the Communist Refoundation Party, and all the interwoven organizing that they get up to. Today, it is known to the wider community as la Casa del Popolo—simply, the House of the People.
Getting to Know “The House of the People”
As current Partito della Rifondazione Comunista (PRC) Secretary, Paolo explained to me that the global financial crisis in 2008 was devastating for poor, working-class, and migrant communities here in Padova. This metastasizing housing crisis, combined with the closure or deregulation of many industries and the ongoing increase in the cost of living, left many in precarious circumstances. The Italian state provides very little in the way of social assistance, especially for immigrants and refugees, and many community members found themselves without means and with nowhere safe to live. In response, PRC activists seized this abandoned elementary school. Organizers cleaned up, maintained, and mobilized the old school building as temporary housing; classrooms were transformed into makeshift apartments. So began an occupation that persists to this day. Over the last 14 years, hundreds of families and individuals have found shelter at la Casa del Popolo.
Just maintaining the old school as a safe refuge for those in precarious circumstances, all inhabiting a clandestine space together, has brought countless challenges to PRC organizers. Comrades chuckle and shake their heads as they describe numerous difficulties: police violence and harassment, ongoing utility cut-offs, lack of heating, and high maintenance costs. The PRC’s values are firmly based on inclusive and immigrant-friendly action, but organizers acknowledge that providing housing to multiple families with different nationalities, cultures, histories, and economic situations in an occupied building has been no easy feat. Working with these challenges, the PRC is proud to proclaim that la Casa del Popolo “provides an acceptable housing response to those who would otherwise have ended up on the street in the absence of alternatives that neither the ‘market’ nor the state will offer.” 2 The closer you look at the old building, the more signs of daily life come into focus: potted plants, a tidy collection of cleaning supplies on the balcony, sheets and socks hanging on clotheslines under window sills. These details signal the underground transformation of a school into a home.
But over the last 14 years, la Casa del Popolo has expanded into much more than a shelter. There is a dizzying amount of solidarity, activism, and mutual aid interconnected and offered at the People’s House. As such, la Casa del Popolo has become essential to the survival and fabric of this neighbourhood. One of the first offerings developed after the occupation was the sportello sociale. Quite literally meaning “friendly counter,” the PRC offers a free, drop-in, legal advice clinic every Wednesday afternoon. 3 At the sportello sociale a volunteer team of comrades, lawyers, and immigrant rights activists provide lines of workers and immigrants a place to turn to, for everything from support against unfair evictions to counsel regarding workers’ rights to assistance with immigration paperwork.
Set up in a storage room off the old gymnasium, dimly lit only by a small power generator, the existence of this legal advice counter is vital. Everyone I’ve met here describes Italian bureaucracy as archaic and indiscernible; across class lines, it is the butt of jokes. But for immigrants and workers in need of answers and security, such important assistance would otherwise be nonexistent or expensive to access. Labour and housing markets alike are ever-increasingly deregulated, and Italy’s once mighty national labour unions face constant attack from the state. Labour rights groups and the UN alike have long criticized Italy for its shadowy economy, mistreatment of migrant workers, and truly dismal record for occupational health and safety. 4 Furthermore, immigrants that I’ve spoken with have assured me that navigating Italy’s costly, lengthy, and perplexing immigration apparatus is a nightmare. The Italian immigration system has been described as a willfully harmful and xenophobic failure. 5 With the complete absence of an adequate social security net or state legibility, the compassionate expertise offered by the sportello sociale is a candle in the darkness for workers and families backed into precarious situations. Even when my partner and I had our own challenges with our landlord regarding our rental contract, we went and spoke to the volunteer lawyer, who freely offered his counsel.
The stories of worker-tenant-immigrant exploitation heard at the sportello inspire action. Through advocacy and direct action, the PRC responds to the deregulation of the housing market by taking it upon themselves to step-in directly to prevent unjust evictions all across the city. Routinely, they mobilize pressure or aid when landlords or the state baselessly disables access to water, electricity, or gas to tenants. Scaling upwards, the PRC is also currently running an active campaign against the astronomic increase in municipal utility costs as Europe’s so-called gas crisis continues. From October 2021 to December 2021 the cost of utility bills has tripled, and over the past few months, PRC organizers have collected thousands of signatures to formally hand over to the municipality at an organized rally. Twinning this campaign is their organizing against the proposed construction of a new garbage incinerating factory, known as Linea 4. 6 The incinerator project looms despite the dystopian reality that hazy Padova rates among the worst cities in Europe for air quality. PRC comrades actively fight these economic and environmental onslaughts by all means of activism available to them: rallies, lobbying city council, speaking on the local news, collective and direct action, online media, in-person petitions, and tabling in busy piazzas. These are just some of the PRC’s offerings in revolutionary consciousness. Activists are not shy to speak out vehemently and focus responsibility for the miseries suffered under capitalism on the system and its corporate-political actors, and they do so with sustained consistency, showing up somewhere every single week.
Another consistent cornerstone of PRC mutual aid is a popular buying group called GAP (groppi di acquisto popolaire). On Sunday mornings, GAP comes alive in the parking lot as community members from all walks of life trickle in. This offering is simple: GAP organizes the collective purchase of basic and high-quality food staples, such as vegetables, pasta, rice, oil, and cheese. This in turn allows, on average, 150 families to simply come to la Casa del Popolo and buy their weekly groceries, from comrades, at cost. This food security tool not only subverts the inflating monopoly corporations have on food prices but also engages the community from within the community. During the week preceding the market, half-page GAP flyers appear on signposts and tucked into every Mortise mailbox, advertising the collective prices: 500 grams of pasta for 45 cents! Buffalo mozzarella for 2 euros! The flyers also proudly proclaim the joint GAP-PRC mission statement: “To bring down prices as a defence and support tool, for workers and retirees in the crisis—Solidarity, mutualism, organization—Leave no one behind!” 7
This mutual aid organizing is followed up by solidarity organizing with the PRC’s support of labour unions. While writing this, a massive national strike, organized by two of Italy’s largest trade unions, was planned for December 16th, 2021. In major cities of Milan and Rome, comrades, trade unionists, activists, and workers descended upon the streets to vehemently protest Prime Minister Draghi’s proposed budget. The PRC regards Draghi’s budget as nothing short of class warfare, which “doubles down” on his government’s dismal economic policies by gutting public spending, offering tax cuts to wealthy corporations, and redistributing resources away from trade unions and working classes. 8 The national Partito della Rifondazione Comunista has a large presence within union organizing, and in Padova, the PRC comrades are “prepared to do what is necessary” to fight against what they call “this new neoliberal offensive.” The Saturday before the strike, comrades gathered at la Casa Del Popolo to host a press conference and strategy meeting, 9 followed, of course, by lunch and wine prepared by their comrades at the farmer’s market. A chartered bus departed from la Casa Del Popolo at dawn on the day of the sciopero generale as members of the PRC Padova travelled to Milan to rally alongside other trade unionists and comrades on the streets.
The PRC’s scope also includes international affairs in various forms. La Casa del Popolo often offers space to international organizations or local immigrant community groups who organize in solidarity. On one particular weekend in November 2021, the atmosphere was buzzing as an immigrant delegation from the Moroccan Consulate hosted a conference and community lunch in the old gymnasium. But perhaps what surprised me most was learning how PRC mobilized protests against Jair Bolsonaro when the Brazilian president was bizarrely, and controversially, granted honorary citizenship by the far-right mayor of a neighbouring Veneto city. Activists descended on the streets to condemn the Brazilian politician and his honorary citizenship, only to be met with violence from police. 10 A video on the PRC Facebook page features leaders Paolo, Daniella, and others speaking out at this anti-Bolsonaro rally, condemning Bolsonaro for his fascist politics and human rights abuses. 11 For the PRC, expanding activism to include international affairs is just another obvious way to demonstrate that the “global labour movement will not be silenced.”
As the PRC’s many overtly political actions persist and evolve in reaction to the miseries of capitalism, the magnificent and humble weekly farmer’s market that my partner and I first stumbled into remains a constant. The small market is nothing more than a modest collection of pop-up tents and tables. The produce, grown organically on the small farms of comrades on the outskirts of Padova, shifts with the seasons. In October, they sold tomatoes and leafy greens; by January, massive cabbages, purple cauliflowers, and miraculously, citrus fruits are in season. Another reliable offering at the Saturday market is, perhaps also bizarrely, massage therapy; a talented physical therapist comrade treats the aches and pains of community members on his makeshift massage bed of wooden pallets and pillows. Knitting all this together is the central Saturday gathering place, a small folding table bar of local wine, espresso, sweet treats, and deviled eggs for shoppers and comrades alike to gather around, share, and enjoy. Certainly, there is always a lot going on, but the ambience of the market is unhurried, warm, and playful. A community gathers as a community over food and drink. Since arriving in Italy, my partner and I haven’t missed a single Saturday.
“We Need to Look to Our Future”: The Roots, History, and Leaders of the PRC in Padova
My reflections are rooted in my experience as a non-Italian-speaking outsider living temporarily in this neighbourhood. At first, from my limited perspective as an outsider, the volume and diversity of interwoven organizing here all seemed at once casual, random, and sprawling. But the PRC is not disorganized; they’re busy. Each time we visit la Casa, some different radical action is happening. With colourful wooden beehives in the backyard and a low-key Soviet-era military truck in the parking lot, the atmosphere at la Casa del Popolo is gritty and eclectic. The layers of interwoven mutual aid have a wonderfully bombastic, practical, and rolling quality. “To leave no one behind” is a common Partito della Rifondazione Comunista motto. For example, a Facebook post cheerfully summarizes the events at la Casa del Popolo over the course of just one weekend: “Conventions, lunches, shopping groups, food bank, support counter, local farmers market… a lot of stuff! We’ll be waiting for you!” 12
“A lot of stuff” is an understatement. But like the physical building itself, there is more to all this organizing than what meets the eye. There is something deeply intentional to the mutualismo and activism here. When I asked farmer-comrade, and now friend, Elisabetta (who, upon first meeting us, looked us square in the eye, raised a fist, and said boldly in accented English, “I am communist!”) about the volume and inclusivity of all these distinct mutual aid activities, she quoted Zygmunt Bauman. According to Elisabetta (and Bauman), all of these separate actions converge into “pockets of resistance.” And these pockets are the necessary strongholds against the ever-evolving crisis of globalized capitalism. 13
Bauman, who passed away in 2017, is something of a champion for organizers here. Somewhat unknown in North America, he is especially influential among progressive activists in Italy, as well as in Spain, and South America. A compassionate academic and Polish Holocaust survivor with communist roots, Bauman’s critiques run from subjects like modern love to modern capitalism, all the while condemning the wolfish nature of neoliberalism, globalization, and consumerism. Elisabetta showed me her Italian-language copy of Liquid Modernity, 14 published in 2000, wherein Bauman studies the disappearance of the “solid” structures and institutions that perhaps once provided the stable foundations for society. In Bauman’s theories, the term “liquid” describes the highly-adaptable, industrialized systems that propel capitalist-fabricated consumerism. The manufacturable “liquidity” of capitalism reproduces hyper-concentrated socio-material power among the elites and state. In turn, Bauman notes that this has exploitative consequences for the day-to-day struggles of workers, marginalized individuals, and their communities. In Padova, I notice this in the unregulated struggles of migrant, gig economy, and domestic labourers who suffer directly from this demand for cheaper services with faster results.
In another article titled Living in the Era of Liquid Modernity, Bauman condemns the “hand-washing politicians” who “dump systemic contradictions on their subjects’ shoulders.” 15 Conversely, the PRC leadership are community members who can be found both giving impassioned speeches to crowds or on the evening news, but also working the cash box at the market or simply standing around on a Saturday morning chatting and listening. Further, Bauman urges society to see through media propaganda and recognize how the state redirects the “gnawing pain of powerlessness. . . to ever new objects of hatred and new targets of aggression,” 16 namely refugees or the unemployed. This is plain in scarcity-based, right-wing sentiments in mainstream Italian politics. But another motto of the PRC commonly printed on their flyers is “Fatti non Parole”: facts, not words. Their commitment to anti-racism and justice is lived out in the results of their actions and the diverse identities of comrades and those who access PRC services in the community. Just as Bauman denounces consumeristic tactics that accelerate the speed of liquid modernity to continually reaggregate elite power over workers, the PRC develops purchasing strategies to combat rising corporate greed. So while Bauman repeatedly points out that the mutable “liquid” quality of modern capitalism purposefully prevents the positive possibilities of longer-term, effective collective action, it is precisely persistent and nimble action—or pockets of resistance—that offers us our means of survival.
The persistence of partisan, anti-capitalist, and anti-Fascist organizing has an involved and revolutionary history in Italy. 17 While it is impossible to fully summarize these intricacies here, it has struck me to learn that Italian socialism was born from long-held multicultural values of community and solidarity, giving rise to organized socialist party politics in response to Mussolini’s racist rise to prominence in the early 1920s. 18 The Italian Communist Party (CPI) played a major role in the Italian resistance movement against the Fascist regime and subsequent Nazi occupation. Likewise, communist fighters also participated in armed resistance to the colonial-Fascist invasion of Ethiopia. 19 In turn, the CPI became Italy’s second largest political party following WWII. From the 1960s into the ’80s, the party rode waves of internal, national, and international transformation, as well as social and political unrest. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, the mainstream Italian Communist Party split; one faction became the Democratic Party of the Left and another became the PRC.
While the Democratic Party of the Left floundered and eventually dissolved in 1998, the PRC cemented itself in “social radicalism and philo-Soviet attitudes,” 20 transforming itself from a traditional political party into a collezionista of many mutual aid “pockets.” Responding to the emergence of neoliberalism, the migrant crisis, and the erosion of trade unions, the PRC focused on sites of struggle where they could directly improve the lives of working-class people. 21 In turn, the PRC has largely turned away from the classical models of mass party politics, projecting itself toward local chapters and “decentralized networking structures only suitable to the strategic objective of cohesion to the movement for a global worker justice.” 22 However, due to this, the PRC has been criticized as a party unable to build any practical strategy in the mainstream Italian political arena; the PRC hasn’t held a seat in national Italian politics since 2008.
Gaining popularity in mainstream politics remains the greatest challenge the PRC faces, and the rise of far-right sentiments, anti-democratic obscurement, a lack of faith in the national party leadership, a divided popular electoral base, and lack of resources or funding all make this even more difficult. Therefore, while the PRC continues to receive criticism for not “re-aggregating lost forces” in the “communist diaspora” of Italy, where far-left sentiments linger but are divided, 23 we might wonder if the PRC’s particular focus on providing mutual aid relief further diminishes their abilities to be more competitive in national politics. When I ask the PRC Secretary, Paolo, about this tension, he smiles. He doesn’t have time to get completely bogged down in the gaming of Italian politics when there is work that desperately needs to be done now. Paolo always stresses the “refoundation” aspect of who they are, repeating his common line: “We have a very large history in our past, but we need to look to our future.” For Paolo and the Padova PRC community, looking to the future is all about what the PRC can do to make a difference for their community, in the here and now, through striking a balance of both political activism and mutual aid organizing.
Certainly, their present lack of seats in the national parliament is an ongoing challenge, but the PRC’s sustained presence in community change-making merits celebration. The PRC has survived, where other socialist parties have not, by organizing through hyper-local, radical, migrant-friendly social activism. It is not prioritizing “charity” offerings over political engagement; I think activists here would argue that the revolution begins by revolutionizing how we take care of each other. It responds to the velocity of capitalism, to reference Bauman’s terminology, with a breadth of values-driven organizing, activism, subversion tactics, education, and aid. Comrades share a collective commitment to safeguard the PRC’s Marxist heritage while pursuing a horizon of a new mutuality. 24 These new horizons continue to evolve as they respond to current events and the day-to-day needs of workers and community members as instigators and sustainers of various radical social actions. The PRC cultivates itself as an open-minded political party, able to relate to its society “in the deepest meaning of the term” where it works to meaningfully create “collective, innovative and supportive experiences at local-levels.” 25
As such, the PRC in Padova is never idle; if you visit the PRC Padova Facebook page, you’d get a sense of the intensity and sprawl of their work. 26 They are under-resourced, meaning party leaders are visible and totally involved in the daily work of organizing. Paolo, who spent three years in prison in the ’70s for trying to incite a communist revolution (“I’d do it again if necessary for our cause!” he proclaims), blocks unjust evictions one day and speaks on the evening news about the attack on trade unions the next. Another impressive leader is Daniella. An active PRC ally and the daughter of an anti-colonial and anti-fascist resistance fighter, Daniella is a long-time Padova city councillor, demonstrating that while a communist presence may be absent from national government, it holds critical space at local levels. Besides championing socialist values in the municipal sphere, on Sundays, Daniella greets people by name as they come by the GAP market for their at-cost groceries. She works in solidarity with feminist groups across the city. She uses her connections to find housing or employment for migrants in crisis. She facilitates the monthly “Karl Marx Circle,” a discussion group where comrades gather to analyze political theory against the news of the day.
Likewise, the younger generation of PRC activists is also involved in the work. Radicalized around issues of economic injustice and now in his late-20s, another comrade named Francesco is equally disillusioned by the “uselessness” of trying to make a change from inside traditional Italian political institutions. He shares that in Italy, “the state and the system do not want to help us, so we have to cooperate and help each-other.” When I asked Francesco about his commitment to the PRC and its pockets of resistance, he shared this:
I could say, I am Marxist and blah blah blah, but the best and more simple answer is that I feel good when I do it. I don’t like the system where we live and I suffer for the injustices that I see every day and I feel bad if I ignore them. I may not change the world, maybe I will never see the revolution in my life, but I think that I will be able to say “I tried to do my best, in my little possibilities, to change something” and that makes me feel good.
The influence of revolutionary thinkers like Bauman and Marx is threaded in Francesco’s words; there is a persistent, high-level critique of the structural injustices and exploitative power systems. But the ongoing work itself is always relational. As Bauman said, “a good society is a society which believes that it is not good enough; that it is the task of the collective to ensure individuals against individually suffered misfortune; and that the quality of society is measured by the quality of life of its weakest.” 27
The PRC also increasingly draws upon intersectional inspirations. Maintaining solidarity across all social justice struggles continues to form the basis of the PRC’s open-minded vision for a freer world. As such, the PRC is committed to supporting the struggles of workers and their families, but also the collective liberation of all oppressed identities. This is nothing short of a rarity here in Italian politics. For example, in November 2021, the national parliament infuriatingly voted down a bill that would have made violence against queer people, disabled people, and women a hate crime, with the vocal far-right claiming the anti-hate bill would infringe upon their own freedom of expression. 28 Chatting again with Francesco, he was proud to tell me that, “the work of my party is the right compromise: we offer mutual aid, we follow and support all—and believe me, really all—the green, feminist, LGTBQI+, radical, and anti-capitalist groups here, but we still participate in elections and try to do our work inside institutions.” So while critics could argue that this “compromise” might mean an emphasis on mutualismo activism undercuts opportunities for traditional institutional political success, the PRC’s trajectory and pace are on target with the pressing needs of its community. To quote Bauman once more, “An alternative world is possible. One needs to start somewhere to bring it closer.” 29
Pockets of Solidarity and Other Futures for La Casa del Popolo
Through the patient 14-year occupation of the former school, the temporary housing, the regularity of the sportello sociale on Wednesdays, the GAP market on Sundays, the friendly little vegetable market on Saturdays, direct action, rallies, petitions, protests, elections, and a hundred other little political acts of protest or mutualismo, the PRC, and its resistance pockets, persist. The PRC adapts to be attentive and reactionary to the many systemic injustices in Padova, Italy and beyond, because the pace of modern capitalism forces them to be. The aggregate total of these many resistance pockets at la Casa del Popolo indeed brings an “alternative world” closer, one act of mutualismo at a time. The PRC’s commitment to action and to holding space, both the space of a physical building and the space for “no one to be left behind” has transformational impacts on people’s lives, here in smog-laden northern Italy, that reverberate into the future. Food is shared and support is offered. The breadth of PRC activism expands, but interactions remain warm and kind. We are temporary newcomers here, but Paolo always reminds us that we are welcome anytime. We start volunteering with food distribution, we work through the language barrier. When it’s my partner’s birthday, people remember and wish him buon compleanno with raised glasses and cake.
On another Saturday farmer’s market morning in November, I ran into Paolo, both with arms full of vegetables. With a wink and a wave, he ushers me inside the old school. There I find la Casa del Popolo has been transformed once more. This time, the floor of the old gymnasium is a sea of cardboard boxes brimming with non-perishable foods, assembly-line style, with a handful of volunteers working efficiently together to pack food hampers. Paolo explains that this is a partnership between the PRC and a Moroccan community association through EU-funded food relief contracts. Thousands of dollars worth of groceries provide food security resources to our neighbourhood and it all gets organized right here in this illegal squat. Paolo explains how these groups asked the PRC if they could use this so-called “underground” space to mobilize. Further, they leverage the PRC’s contacts to get aid to community members in need. As Paolo explains all of this, he chuckles with a twinkle in his eye. I too was left marvelling at this bemusing situation. For all they might lack in parliamentary legitimacy, despite the challenges stacked against them as a small and radical political organization, the PRC reliably gets things done. It goes to show the practical power of united local actions. I recall Francesco insisting that the PRC’s collectioniza model inspired the successful radical leftist-coalition SYRIZA, who controlled parliament in Greece from 2015–2019. I wonder about the other ways that persistent pockets of resistance can cement wider solidarity.
I reflect that our education in la dolce vida here in Padova has been our weekend mornings spent at la Casa del Popolo, mispronouncing the Italian words for various vegetables, sipping espresso or wine, and asking lots of questions about Italian politics. Reflecting upon my brief time living in Padova—a time spent away from my own dear community, as an outsider in a country where my grasp on the language often falters—the comradery and the extended kindness of the PRC have been a beacon of grace for me and my partner. Since moving here, my eyes have been humbly opened to a wider world of injustices and struggles under the thumb of capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism. But it doesn’t take much for me to imagine, and witness, how sustaining the PRC is for community members struggling to survive in this post-industrialized, economically-squeezed, and often overtly-racist Italian landscape. Like seeds in the ground, pockets of resistance such as this hold the hopeful promise for ways of being that are rooted in solidarity, compassion, and justice.
Further proof that from little things big things can indeed grow, and proof also that in Italy all good things do take time, la Casa del Popolo stands on the precipice of change once more. In December 2021, we arrived at the Saturday market one morning to find Elisabetta, Massimo, and the rest giddy with excitement. They explained that a major victory was underway. Due to their sustained longevity in the community, their many accomplishments as organizers, and some helpful insider pressure from city councillor-comrade Daniella, soon the old school will officially cease to be a squat. The PRC and its organizers will have a layer of legal protection to ensure they can continue with their important work at la Casa del Popolo without fear of police interruption or other squat-related complications. The abandoned school lot will be zoned formally by the municipality of Padova for what it is: a House for the People. This victory means the PRC can legally and visibly do even more within the walls and grounds of the old school; Paolo envisions building a library for students to study in and Elisabetta envisions a vegetable garden. This victory is a moment for celebration. Massimo pops another bottle of prosecco in the parking lot, and we raise our glasses to a more hopeful and fair future. *
Many of the intellectual materials and personal information I gathered to write this article came from Italian media sources or from my time spent in the community and conversations with comrades, leaders and community members who mostly speak Italian. I am a non-Italian speaker. Therefore, any mistakes, misinterpretations, or nuances lost are a fault completely of my own.