lunedì 6 gennaio 2014
Left, wake up!
(thanks to Grace Anderson's translation, I am able to offer here to your reflection a post written by Mimmo Porcaro, an Italian intellectual close to the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista (PRC) - a small fraction of the former Italian Communist Party (PCI). Once upon a time, the PCI was a large political party. Since 1991 it changed many times its name and split in different pieces, the largest wreck being the Democratic Party (PD), who managed to become the relative majority party by transforming itself in what had been for decades the relative majority party, namely, the Democrazia Cristiana (no need to translate). This transformation was accomplished some days ago, when Matteo Renzi became its secretary.
You can think of PRC as an Italian Syriza. This, at least, would be the PRC ambition, because Syriza in Greece was able to overcome the neoliberal left - the Pasok. On the contrary, in the last Italian political elections (February 2013) the PRC took part in an "incredible" (not credible) coalition of "left-wing" parties that reached a scanty 2.2%.
However, although their “numbers” are very different, Syriza and the PRC share the same pro-euro attitude. Their common political philosophy is: "we cannot leave the euro because the Treaties forbid it, but we must disobey the fiscal rules of the Treaties". It is a short-sighted philosophy, a philosophy without logic, a philosophy made of outmoded idealism, a philosophy that does not reckon with the most simple facts of economic accounting. In the absence of an exchange rate realignment, any expansionary fiscal policy in Southern countries, by increasing their imports, would worsen their external debt position, thereby calling for further sacrifices for the working class in the future. Besides that, the euro is in its essence an instrument of neoliberal policies, because its raison d’être is to favour capital mobility, to promote financial integration, that always and everywhere coincides with labour disintegration.
In a public meeting held on December 2012 I had warned the PRC secretary against the short-sightedness of this attitude, without much success. He resigned after his failure, but did it the Italian way, which means that he is still ruling the relic of his party.
True, in Greece this kind of hypocrisy was accepted by Syriza constituency. But Greek people are in despair. A much better example, and one I made during that meeting, would be the unfortunate trajectory of the Front de Gauche (FDG) in France. Credited with some 17% of the votes before the presidential elections of 2012, because of its supposedly critical political proposal – the euro-sceptic economist Jacques Sapir had cooperated to its economic programme – the FDG reached a 11% in the first round of the May 2012 French presidential elections, and fell shortly thereafter to 7%, in the legislative elections of June 2012.
Why? Well, I have a simple explanation (I had provided it in August 2011 writing on “Il Manifesto”). Most people affected by the crisis are opening their eyes, they see where the problem lies, and they understand the dirty game of the so-called “critic left” parties: to work as fake, call-bird, parties, that attract some left-wing voters, and give their votes to the neoliberal left, in exchange for some favour. This is the job Mélenchon (the secretary of the FDG) did in 2012, and for that job he was rewarded by its constituency with the loss of a 4% share (going from 11% to 7% in a month)! This is also the job PRC is doing in Italy, where a number of local bodies are run by PD-PRC governments. For that reason the PRC leadership has no interest in changing its attitude: as far as the euro regime will last, there will be always a fair reward for its useful idiots.
No matter how rational this attitude may be in the short run, it still meets a big problem: the euro regime will not last forever. The Roman Empire fell, so did the Sacred Roman Empire, so did the Russian Empire, so will do the Finance Empire. And the day after people will have to recognize what I explain in my book on “The sunset of the euro”: namely, that to the extent that “left” is supposed to defend “labour”, there cannot be a thing like a “left-wing euro”!
Mimmo Porcaro took part in the PRC workshops on the economic crisis, where he was the one and only intellectual to report correctly the argument I make in my book. He promoted, with others, a euro-critical motion in the PRC congress, that gathered 30% of the votes (interestingly enough, this seems to coincide with the share of euro-sceptics inside Syriza!).
Why am I losing time on these details? Well, it is to show you that something is slowly moving in the Italian left. My address of August 2011, where I implored the Italian left not to leave the debate on the euro to the right-wing movements, went unnoticed by the political leaders, but gathered a lot of across-the-board consensus in the public at large. As we use to say in Italy, it’s never too late – well: this is a rather universal idiom, I suppose!
The time of the illogical political philosophy, of the backyard mentality, of the partisan interests, is over. From now on, every “progressive” party refusing to tackle the issue of the euro seriously will be an accomplice of neoliberal policies and of the resistible ascent of the populist right. I am glad and proud to see that Mimmo shares this view).
by Mimmo Porcaro
The “pitchfork” movement is ambiguous, coarse and largely influenced by the far right. Of course it is. But if what we have been saying for some time about the effects of the crisis are true, and similarly our considerations about the transformation (and disintegration) of the job market, the shutdown of the political system, the neoliberal nature of the Italian Democratic Party (PD) and the lack of autonomy of the largest national trade unions are true, then it is inevitable that any popular radical protest should take on an ambivalent form and become a subject of dispute between Right and Left about objectives and methods of action. It is also therefore inevitable that we should witness an increase in protests without any real conflict, conflicts without any real movements and movements that are decidedly populist, in the sense of believing in slogans like “send all the politicians packing”; incapacity for identifying the enemy; a tendency to take out frustrations on underprivileged groups and a fascination for authoritarian leadership and government.. It will certainly be a matter of degree, of analysis based on the facts and assessed on a case-by-case basis, and perhaps the pitchfork revolt of 9 December will appear to be a particularly ambiguous case. However, movements can no longer be prejudged without participation or at least an attempt to participate, to pass among them or without having separated the wheat from the chaff: without having proposed, from within a definition of the movements’ aims and objectives. From now on, to snub or to object to a movement because it smacks of populism will mean to snub or object to any movement, with the exception of trade union movements which, on the other hand (and this is not a coincidence) are generally absent, or student movements, which (and this is no coincidence either) are far from effective.
If the Left wishes to return to being the Left and to count for something, it must first distance itself from what now appears to be its prevailing attitude. If it wants to be a solution for the country, it must first acknowledge that it is in itself a part of the problem. That is because, some time ago, its majority component passed to the enemy and it is jointly responsible for the neoliberalist destruction of democracy and the welfare state (far from being the “dangerous right-wing”… the most dangerous Right is already here and is already in power: it is called “larghe intese”, it is called “Grosse Koalition”, it is called PD and the so-called “European socialism”…). That is because the participatory democracy alternative proposed by the relics of the anti-globalization movement is extremely weak compared to the pressing need to reform class and property relationships, and it is particularly incomprehensible for that large part of the population that has neither the time nor the resources to participate in anything. That is also, finally, because the same radical Left, perhaps afraid of the consequences of its own best analysis, cannot free itself from the trap of pro-Europeanism (and pro-euro). It has not until now offered any neo-socialist solutions capable of freeing the country from dependence on transatlantic capitalism, nor can it construct a “national-democratic” discourse capable of preventing the dissemination of right-wing nationalism. It also seems unable to release itself from the idea that the single real popular struggle is that of the CGIL [General Coalition of Labour Union] or other movements which have always been connected to the Left (such as the meritorious NO TAV [No to the high-speed train] movement).
We have to stop both the hesitation and the illusions. We have to wake up and begin perhaps to tackle the main problem once and for all: that of breaking the alliance between the unionized (and skilled) groups of workers and pro-European capitalism, and the alliance between the weaker groups of workers and protectionist capitalism, to construct real employment unity (whether self-employment or otherwise). How can it be done? By concentrating efforts on breaking down the oligopoly of the largest trade unions, without therefore always agreeing with FIOM [Federation of Metalworkers] and without eternally hoping that the CGIL will come to its senses. That can be done by constructing people’s committees against the recession (and a “social party” that we usually only talk about) capable of moving in the magma of current conflicts. Certainly, strong ideas can be formulated (new socialism, constitutional and democratic nationalism...) but also ideas that are apparently more prosaic. Understanding, for example, that the taxation question has changed form, because if the small-time tax evader of the past defended his wealth by stealing from the welfare state, today’s tax evader – given the harshness of the recession and the increasing hijacking of public funds for payment of the national debt – defends himself from poverty by stealing money from financial speculation. We certainly should not be praising tax evasion but we must acknowledge that to demand recovery of unpaid taxes today is to condemn people to starvation. We must recognize that the harshness of the penalty on the small-time tax evader is the result of the choice of not demanding money from the large-scale evader. In acknowledging that where the unionized workers would be offered, instead of the generic fight against evasion, a reduction in the tax burden and in the fines for “small fry” and a decided increase in taxation of unearned income and capital gains, the trade unions would finally manage to attract those different categories of workers: those who are obliged to register for VAT in order to work (unskilled), the new generation of self-employed workers and finally the highly-qualified traditional freelance professions. Above all, policies of this kind would break up the abovementioned workers’ ill starred alliance with large capital which, reflected in the incapacity and the guilt of the current Left, now represents the main obstacle to a democratic solution to the Italian crisis.