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We have translated this text by Italian neo-workerist economist Andrea Fumagalli, first published on Effimera.org. Fumagalli analyses Italy’s new right-wing government resulting from the alliance of far-right Lega Nord and populist Five Star Movement (M5S). Some people, especially outside of Italy, have thought of the M5S as a leftist electoral force. The M5S, however, has always declared to be “neither left nor right” and its leadership has been anti-immigration since the beginnings. Their acceptance to form a government with racist and sexist Lega’s leader Matteo Salvini as Minister of the Interior has finally dissipated any shades of doubt, but – unfortunately – it has also accomplished the political “miracle” of bringing part of the previously leftist public opinion to find this policy acceptable. Fumagalli states clearly that the reconstruction of a progressive alternative in Italy must oppose both populist nationalism and neoliberal technocracy.
Unfortunately, what happened in Italian politics in the last weeks is not very surprising. It tastes like déjà vu, although it ended with a mysterious and slightly pathetic sensational turn. Of course, with the new government led by the far-right party Lega the situation is tragic. After long negotiations, announcements and retractions, President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella authorised the new government composed of the M5S and Lega. Only a few days before, the would-be PM Giuseppe Conte was discarded as Mattarella had refused Paolo Savona as Minister for the Economy because of his anti-EU positions. Now, ironically, Savona is Minister of European Affairs while the new Minister of Economics is Giovanni Tria, whose positions are not really different, although they are more moderate and closer to Forza Italia [Berlusconi’s party] than to Lega. His recent flat tax proposals indicate clearly his intentions to redistribute income from the poor to the rich.
It is not important to determine whether the new government represents a victory for Salvini [Lega’s leader] or for Mattarella: it is a government that complies with the expectations of the financial oligarchy, as its program does not question economic liberalism and aims at reducing taxes for those with a higher income. The recent pressures by “financial biopower” – from the threats by rating agencies of downgrading the Italian economy, and the speculative strains on Italian bonds – have done their job. This is not the first time the President of the Republic intervenes in the political equilibrium in such a way. On 22 March 2013, the President of the Republic of the time – Giorgio Napolitano – had given the mandate to form a government to Democratic Party SG Pier Luigi Bersani. Bersani’s government proposal was rejected because there was no certainty of a parliamentary majority. Napolitano thus decided to impose a transversal solution based on the alliance between the Democratic Party and Forza Italia. And there is no need to remind anyone of what happened in the summer of 2011, in the wake of the speculative attack led by the Deutsche Bank, when a letter by Draghi and Trichet engendered the crisis of the Berlusconi government and brought Mario Monti to the post of PM, in this case too under Napolitano’s directives.
Financial biopower is today the real lever of capital’s economic and political command over labour, in a context of authoritarian democracy. We should not refrain from saying that we are facing the “end of democracy”. In all this darkness, one thing is clear: Italy’s new government is an outcome of the left’s defeat, caused by the latter’s subordination to the economic and financial elites. It’s useless to moan about the tragedy of the new Lega government – that will increase repression and racism – by regretting the former governments as if they were progressive. It is better to ask ourselves how the M5S and Lega have gained 50% of the votes. The M5S-Lega government is the final result of the failure of a “left” (particularly the Democratic Party) that was only able to implement the diktats of the financial markets. Until July 2015, Tsipras and Varoufakis’s Greece had tried to challenge the power of the financial oligarchy and the IMF. In the arena of the European institutions, this represented an occasion for France and Italy, even Spain, to intervene and critically question austerity. But Greece was left alone.
The inability of the centre-left to question Europe’s tears and blood policies that shift resources towards the financial markets (institutionalisation of precarity, privatisation and financialisation of the welfare state, increases in regressive taxation and in the VAT, decreases in taxes on wealth and profits), favoured the channelling of social discontent towards populist positions that, far from relaunching labour’s struggle against capital, embraced the dialectics of “sovereignty versus Europe”.
What came into being is an abominable cultural hegemony that became political, which sees the abandonment of the Euro and the return to the Lira as the only way out of the austerity cage. Some of the radical left too has contributed to this drift, without realising that, in this way, it was reinforcing the positions of the class enemy. As a consequence, the issues of social justice, of the struggle against old and new forms of exploitation, of the right to free welfare services, were demagogically robbed by the most reactionary populist forces, with clear racist and sexist infusions.
No wonder the “left” today is undergoing an extremely severe crisis. We need to build on the ruins, opening a way (which at the moment is very narrow) between populist, sovereignist, reactionary demagogy on the one hand, and Renzi and Gentiloni’s [Democratic Party leaders] subordination to the European elites (in the name of a bogus Europeanism) on the other hand. The bet for the future is recovering the left-wing component of the M5S’s social basis. This bet needs to be accompanied by strong political innovation and the capacity to carry out concrete social action on the ground. In my personal opinion, a beginning could be a campaign for a totally unconditional universal income (and, thus, a universal income based on conflict against capitalism rather than on compatibility with it), for the right to environmental sustainability, for the expansion of civil rights (beyond the nuclear family), for the experimentation with public welfare from below in order to build economic and financial autonomy through the construction of alternative monetary circuits (and not just complementary ones), in order to reduce the leverage of capital’s blackmail and its vital subsumption of living labour, in the name of a sustainable, egalitarian, and self-determined society.