Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What's going on in Italy?

Nothing good. The populist parties that "won" the last Italian election--the Five Star Movement and the Northern League--are forming a government that will be mostly reactionary and mostly unstable. As Paul Mason puts it: "a coherent programme of xenophobic nationalism and neoliberal economics will always beat a bunch of quasi-populist progressive rhetoric with no substance."
How should the left respond when the current government starts fallling apart? Mason recommends:
1. Ditch neoliberalism. Rip up the copy of the Lisbon Treaty that exists inside your heads and come up with a programme that actually solves the crisis of stagnation and low growth that the Eurozone imposes on countries like Italy.
2. The national investment bank, the citizens’ minimum wage and the state investment plan in health, transport and education are all things a left-wing government should offer. To do so it has to fight for fiscal leeway within Europe and to reform the EU treaties in the direction of social justice.
3. In complete contrast to the Italian right – the left has to fight for progressive taxation and state intervention. Their idea that growth alone can solve the problem of debt and deficit, without the need to tax the rich, tax assets and tax big corporations is a chimera.
4. The left has to find ways of separating citizens’ genuine concerns over illegal migration from the general atmosphere of racism, and prevalence of ethno-nationalism in Italy.
[I particularly liked this last one, because it is so very, very true. Anyone who follows left politics in Europe has be struck by how profoundly uninspiring most social democratic "leaders" are these days.]
5. Finally, the left has to find popular leaders. Matteo Renzi, the leader of the Democratic Party, was touted as the Blair, the Obama and even the Macron of the left. He’s the opposite. Unfortunately, as we’ve found in Britain, social democratic parties that make peace with a dud system tend to attract generation after generation of dud politicians. All over Europe, left-wing intellectuals and technocrats seem to think it’s beneath their dignity to speak in the language of their own people; to speak of hope, pride, dignity, community and struggle.
Amen. Now let's get to it.
The new government’s programme is the first coherent example in Europe of what I’ve called “neoliberalism in one country”.


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