FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Italy Rejects Austerity

These are comments on an election in which votes are still being counted, so some slight changes in outcome are possible. I just want to note a few things in broad outline about the apparent results of the elections in Italy.

First, the current, caretaker government of Mario Monti, a government that even Nobel Paul Krugman today in the NY Times called “a proconsul imposed by Germany” to carry out austerity policies, was decisively rejected: its 9% is under the threshold that allows some of its coalition partners that running below 2% as parties, to have seats in parliament. Thus, Gianfranco Fini, once leader of the ex-fascist National Alliance, is excluded from parliament for instance.

More importantly, 91% of the Italian voters rejected Monti, his politics, austerity. A more thorough rejection of a sitting government and the policies it stands for, is hard to imagine.

Second, only 75% of eligible voters voted. This is a new low in Italian history since World War II. This refusal of the existing political establishment also took somewhat more, if inchoate form in the massive and unexpected (by mainstream thinkers) vote for the Comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star movement.

This movement has garnered about 25% of the national vote. It is now the largest party in Parma, in the region of Veneto (where we live), and among artisans and crafts workers – a group that until now, in the North at least, was the backbone of the racist Northern League. Wherever Grillo’s party has grown, the Lega Nord has shrunk.

Now, Grillo’s movement cannot be defined as “Left” or as “working class”. It is however, probably also unfair to call it Right wing. So the question is: what did people vote for in voting for this protest movement?

I think it is clear that they responded to two things: the vote for Grillo was a vote against all the existing parties first of all, against their monopoly not only on political power, but over everything – getting access to jobs, promotions, financing, everything.

Second Grillo’s program included the following measures:

1. unilateral default on the public debt

2. nationalization of the banks

3. a guaranteed “citizenship” income of 1000 euros a month

in other words, much of the vote for Grillo was a vote for a program that is as close to the program advocated for years by Midnight Notes, or by the books of Negri and Hardt, etc. as any political party in a rich country has approached.

The vote for Grillo, in other words, exists in lieu of a serious left that says these things. (I went to hear Toni Negri speak the other day here in Padua, presenting the book version of his and Hardt’s non-manifesto of last year. He was interesting and I will send some further notes about that talk in the next day or two.)

This point is reinforced by the fact that the “far left” – at least among electoral parties – is now, in Italy, reduced to close to US Green Party levels – Nichi Vendola’s SEL – part of the larger coalition of the center-left got about 3% or less nationwide and the further left “Civil Revolution” coalition of Ingroia, despite polls showing it polling 4-5% which would have gained seats in parliament, ended up around 1%.

I think this is because these supposedly radical left parties never really clearly spoke out against the use of public debt to impose austerity and destroy labor and welfare rights, nor call for the kind of radical measures one hears only from Grillo on the one hand, or Negri on the other. Since one is a major media figure with a party and the other is considered the anti-Christ here, never referred to in any media, the votes went to Grillo.

The Democratic Party, together with Vendola’s and a couple of smaller parties, will almost certainly end up with more votes than any other coalition – by 2-3% more or less, but will not have enough seats to form a government EXCEPT if they did the unthinkable: form a coalition with Grillo on the basis of default on the debt, nationalization of the banks, massive investment in green industry, transport, research and alternative energy, and a guaranteed income for all. This will not happen.

Berlusconi is in second place, and is not quite done. The vote for him is also partly a vote against Monti – always freer to speak what’s on his mind (even if only for opportunistic reasons) than is the center-left with its concern for “respectability”, he spoke out against imposing austerity during a major recession, against government by EU imposition and market and ratings agencies pressures, and demanded the return of taxes created by Monti to cover the debt.

That is true and Berlusconi did well, but it is still worth noting that the two coalitions directly identified with capitalism – Berlusconi and the Northern League who stand for government by entrepreneurs big and small, and Monti who stands for government by private and central banks, lost. The first because they came in second to the center-left, the latter because they were thoroughly rejected and ended up with less than 10%. Together these two pro-capitalist coalitions ended up with around 35%.

This again means that nearly two-thirds of voters rejected direct rule by different factions of the capitalist class as such.

So, what now ? I have no idea. But the results demonstrate that a politics that rejects payment of the public debt, calls for default, supports making finance a public utility like water or electricity, and provides a guaranteed income and a new direction for society has some potential in Italy. But for this to happen a movement much larger than even the 800,000 that showed up for Grillo in Rome a few days ago will be needed — if only to impose new directions on the political forces existing,as well as to create entirely new ones and new institutions.

Steven Colatrella can be reached at: stevencolatrella@gmail.com

 

More articles by:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
Ellen Lindeen
What Does it Mean to Teach Peace?
Adewale Maye and Eileen Appelbaum
Paid Family and Medical Leave: a Bargain Even Low-Wage Workers Can Afford
Ramzy Baroud
War Versus Peace: Israel Has Decided and So Should We
Ann Garrison
Vets for Peace to Barbara Lee: Support Manning and Assange
Thomas Knapp
The Mueller Report Changed my Mind on Term Limits
Jill Richardson
Why is Going Green So Hard? Because the System Isn’t
Mallika Khanna
The Greenwashing of Earth Day
Arshad Khan
Do the Harmless Pangolins Have to Become Extinct?
Paul Armentano
Pushing Marijuana Legalization Across the Finish Line
B. R. Gowani
Surreal Realities: Pelosi, Maneka Gandhi, Pompeo, Trump
Paul Buhle
Using the Law to Build a Socialist Society
David Yearsley
Call Saul
Elliot Sperber
Ecology Over Economy 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail