Italian Constituent for the Commons

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Excerpted from Ugo Mattei:

"Once it became clear that the clash over the commons was of constitutional magnitude in Italy, the consequence was to shift the struggle at the constituent level.

On April 13, 2013, in what in retrospect can be seen as an inconsequential presidential bid by Stefano Rodotà, the commons movement launched the “Costituente dei beni comuni” [Constituent for the commons] at the Teatro Valle in Rome in a very crowded assembly. The Constituent as the political heir of the Rodotà Commission, was highly aware of the political transformation that the commons, both theoretically and practically, have accomplished since their introduction in the bill of 2007. It is no accident that the Constituent was launched at the Teatro Valle, the occupied theater which for three years has performed the role of national trailblazer in the fight for the institutionalization of the commons, generating a unique artistic, political, and juridical experience. It now entered a new phase [...].

The idea to “revive” the Rodotà Commission as an itinerant body that would meet in the venues of the most significant commons struggles, was also a move of indignation caused by the complete official neglect of its 2008 bill, which was never discussed in open parliamentary session in all these years despite the importance and the timely nature of the commission’s work. [...]

In the absence of a delegation by Parliament to draft a detailed law on the commons, the jurist of the Constituent decided to get the delegation directly from the people. Of course, this move has created some strain within the jurist’s group as some were openly opposed to this extra-parliamentary move while others have remained rather ambiguous. Nevertheless, the Constituent for the commons organized itself around two organisms: the Territorial Assemblies, in which itinerant jurists meet with territorial assemblies in which many local struggles for the commons present themselves, and the Redacting Commission that produces the actual textual proposals. At the territorial Assemblies, the jurists collect the materials and ascertain the legal issues that emerge in the different fights for the commons. They interrogate the various commoners and receive opinions and reflections from the people involved. This information and the materials collected become one of the important “law in action” ingredients for the production, during redacting meetings, of a sort of “restatement of the commons.” This restatement details and follows up on the Rodotà Commission’s enabling bill, something that should have officially happened if, in working democratic conditions, Parliament was to take seriously and approve the work of the Ministerial Commission. From a much broader perspective, which justifies its Constituent claim, the itinerant work is a process of people’s alphabetization in the commons. Further, it is a process by which jurists, rather than receiving authority from an established constitutional setting, actually seek in their capacity to translate the active citizens’ vision of the commons into a formal legal language and grammar. Si parva cum magna licet comparare, we are seeking to formalize in jurist’s terminology a sort of adapted Savigny’s Volksgeist.

The Constituent’s work is slow but constant. Some jurists quit and some others come on board, which is a proof of the fact that nobody is indispensable, but everybody can be useful when it comes to collective enterprises. In its first year and a half there have been territorial assemblies with activists in L’Aquila, Pisa, Rome, Padua, Susa, Naples, and Macerata. Furthermore, the jurists involved have met at Rome’s Teatro Valle three times, and one meeting in Naples produced the first sections of the Commons restatement, which applies and interprets existing law and makes it evolve in a way that is coherent to the people’s claim to recover and generate new commons. The innovative working method and the unprecedented alliance between the jurists and the movements constitute a political factor of considerable importance.

It is a genuine bottom-up process potentially extensible beyond the Italian borders. [...]"