Northern League and 5 Stars are light years apart on cultural heritage. Is there cause for concern?

The Northern League and the 5-Star Movement are about to reach an agreement to form a government. What will become of cultural heritage? The distance between the two parties appears stark.

In view of the imminent reaching of an agreement between the 5 Star Movement and the Northern League to form the next government, it seems quite legitimate to wonder what will happen to cultural heritage under an executive led by Leghists and Grillians. Never before in the European Union, much less in Italy, has there been a parliament with a majority deemed "populist," strong enough to lead to the formation of a government led by two anti-system parties: the scenarios that are opening up are, therefore, completely unprecedented, but the first warnings are certainly not the best, if we consider that there has never been any talk of issues related to cultural heritage during the last few weeks (and in this respect, the League and the 5 Stars have appeared entirely consistent with the behavior shown during the election campaign: even before March 4, cultural heritage was practically never mentioned). Yet it is a strategic sector: evidently, however, it is not considered as such by the two governing forces. Indeed, the “totoministri” going crazy in these hours hardly ever take into consideration the possible name of the person who will be in charge of culture(it is likely that the role will fall to Alberto Bonisoli, indicated by the Pentastellati as their minister in pectore a few days before the opening of the polls).

All that remains, then, is to go over the electoral programs of the two parties that will share the ministries. And the distance between the 5 Star Movement and the Northern League on cultural heritage appears stark: on some key points, even, the two parties have opposing positions. Without pretending to provide an exhaustive overview of the documents presented by the two parties, we can start with the first key issue, the role of the superintendencies. Without mincing their words, the Grilloes unabashedly declare their opposition to the Franceschini reform, guilty of taking power away from the superintendencies: “the split that has occurred between the functions of protection of property in the hands of the Superintendencies and the enhancement in the hands of museums, without the provision of any discipline,” the program reads, “has made it difficult for the coordinated performance of the aforementioned functions.” Consequently, for the Pentastellati, it is necessary to return to giving the superintendencies the role that the Franceschini reform stripped them of: “we believe it is fundamental to once again attribute the full functions of landscape protection to the superintendencies, along with the need to make their work more bureaucratically efficient.”

Not of the same opinion is the Northern League, which in its program even puts in bold the point where it proposes an “analysis and audit of all the superintendencies that have changed face and name many times in recent years, making the landscape complex and difficult to understand who does and what.” One might wonder where this “analysis and verification” is supposed to lead, since the policy document is unclear: however, in a note published on the party’s website, it is stated that “in the cultural sphere the Northern League proposes to abolish the Superintendencies, which have caused a proven inability to move and grow our cultural system. It is therefore necessary to give the regions all decision-making powers in cultural heritage matters, transferring competencies to the territories according to the diversified needs of the cultural sectors. Entrusting Culture to the local institutions is the only way to protect it from chronic mobbing, clientelism and malfeasance.” How, then, will they coexist with a soul that wants to entrust more powers to the superintendencies, and the other that instead wants to abolish them by establishing a “museum and archaeological federalism” that at the moment appears to be a totally unknown object and about which perhaps even the leghists themselves are not clear?

Luigi Di Maio e Matteo Salvini
Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini

Another fundamental point on which the Leghists and the Grillini have diametrically opposed visions is the export of cultural goods, an area that was reformed just last August: the 5 Star Movement even devotes a page of its program to the “Revision of the Franceschini norm on the Export of Goods of Cultural Interest abroad,” specifying that it considers “the immediate revision of that part of the Market and Competition Law and the restoration of the fundamental function of control by the competent bodies” to be necessary. Leghists think differently, who consider the “archaeology market” (sic) “asphyxiated for ideological reasons and excessive public control.”

Still, another issue that has been the subject of long and heated debates among insiders is the presence of the third sector in the management of cultural heritage. The 5 Star Movement considers negative “the progressive recourse to volunteerism even for activities that require specific professional training” and therefore intends to “pursue a path for an adequate recognition and enhancement of professional figures working in the cultural heritage sector, establishing minimum requirements to ensure a good level of preparation of managers called upon to manage cultural heritage.” Add to this the fact that, on the occasion of the bill on the regulation of volunteering in cultural heritage, which was held in January in the Chamber, the Pentastern MEP Isabella Adinolfi showed interest in the matter. The Leghists, in contrast, have a programmatic point that identifies “third and fourth sectors (national microcredit institution) as partners in integrated cultural projects.”

The few points of tangency are found on the willingness to reform the Single Fund for the Performing Arts, the intent to improve communication of Italy’s cultural heritage, and the idea of investing in digitization. Not to mention the fact that the League and 5 Stars have in common an absolute lack of clarity and real pragmatism: both of their programs turn out to be very vague on almost every point. For the rest, even the same vision of culture appears different: the 5 Star Movement has presented, in the specific area of cultural heritage, an essentially leftist program, aimed at liberating culture from the logic of profit and commodification to which it has been subjected in recent years. The Northern League believes (anachronistically, in my opinion) that cultural heritage is a founding trait of Italian national identity, and that heritage also represents a tool to help tourism and economies (and especially as a tool to help tourism grow seems to be treated in the program). All the more so since, among the programmatic points of the leghists, are the establishment of a “marketing and development” group that would follow “business marketing logic” in the promotion of heritage, and the “endowment for large and autonomous Italian museums with a manager to work alongside the director.”

It is then true that it is precisely a manager who has been nominated by the Grillini as their minister of cultural heritage, and so there is serious reflection on the consistency with which the 5 Star Movement will be able to pursue with government action the demands presented in the program. And it is also true that, as the experience of the rest teaches us, programs are often totally disregarded when moving from campaign words to the deeds of government action. But it is also reasonable to imagine that the light years that divide the League and 5 Stars on cultural heritage could lead to a situation of immobility that risks being detrimental to the fate of a sector that needs radical reforms, especially in the area of labor. And precisely on cultural labor, as well as on other issues that represent absolute priorities (research, support for contemporary art, the relationship between museums and the territory, landscape plans, the same activities of promotion and communication), neither party has so far put forward proposals that can be said to be truly concrete.

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