The collapse of the ‘populist’ government in Italy will only pave the way for further disaster.
Over the last few days we have watched the slow-burning and somewhat pathetic collapse of the 5-Star/League government amid a flurry of invocations the Virgin Mary and quotations from the Gospel. Now the second and last day of consultations between party representatives and the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella is also drawing to a close.
If we can say one thing about this crisis it is that is has demonstrated, once again, the complete dearth of competence and foresight among the Italian political classes. So much so that Prime Minister Conte – who had until mid- August signed every law proposed by the 5-Star/League government, and whose debut speech in the Senate proclaimed the success of Salvini’s repressive “security” laws – is now lauded as a great statesman. Not only that, only a couple of years on from his spectacular fall from grace, Matteo Renzi has now been allowed to re-emerge as the leader of the ‘opposition’, despite having no mandate whatsoever, simply because he is the only player with a coherent project capable of protecting the interests of capital, albeit a project which has been repeatedly rejected by the Italian electorate.
The sorry spectacle of Salvini struggling to get his words out in his speech to the Senate reveals the extent to which the figure of the strong leader was artfully inflated, by his supporters, but also by the Democratic Party (PD), though for different reasons, as well as by the mainstream media.
Salvini now faces political death unless he can rally rank-and-file supporters and provoke mobilisations on the streets. This, however, seems unlikely. The political and industrial classes currently propping up Salvini will be keen to maintain influence on government. Once they feel he can no longer protect their interests, all the Facebook likes in the world won’t save him.
It doesn’t look good for the 5 Star Movement (M5S) either, who have done their best to keep a low profile, but whose desperate decision to embrace the PD as possible partners in government (previously the enemy against whom they have always defined themselves) reveals the utter vacuity of their political project.
In short, the picture we have in front of us – epitomised by the theatrics that took place in the Senate a day ago – is that of a spiralling crisis from which the ruling classes have no way out. This applies to all three current nuances of Italian neoliberalism: centre-right, centre-left and 5 Star Movement. Strategic decisions on the country’s priorities are not taken in the houses of parliament but rather have now become almost entirely subject to the will of the international financial institutions and the markets, to Presidential prerogative, and to the European Commission. The repressive “security” laws, the major infrastructure projects, the tax cuts for business, the cuts to public spending, the absence of industrial policies and of housing plans, are all consequences of this. Indeed, the scenario represented by the proposed autumn budget is that of a government capable of managing an economy within the constraints of EU budget obligations.
It is not difficult to discern what was missing in the parliamentary speeches of the last few days, and more importantly from the public debate of all these months. What is missing is representation of working-class interests. There is no political force capable of giving a voice to workers, the precariously employed and unemployed, women and young people. This is what we will work tirelessly to achieve.
In Italian society, disillusionment, anger and frustration are rife, feeding off betrayed expectations. These emotions are channelled by political actors toward a racist and regressive ideology, fed and legitimized in recent months by the League’s ministers, or in the 5-Star’s rallying cries against a “political caste,” already greatly weakened in comparison to the past.
We must create a systemic alternative to this desolate scenario, built on entirely new priorities and social relations. With this ruling class, oscillating between adventurism and total subalternity to Euro-Atlantic powers, there is no future, nor are there credible solutions.
And we must not forget that all political parties – from the PD to the League, to Forza Italia – signed the 2011 amendment to Article 81 of the constitution making a balanced budget a constitutional requirement, marking the death of the welfare state. Once again this autumn the budget will be inaugurated with the tired motto of “the money is not there, Europe asks us to tighten the belt” as they take an axe to pensions, health care, income, the minimum wage.
What would a real ‘government of change’ consist of?
Without a doubt, the abolition of Salvini’s “security” laws on public order and immigration, as well as the Minniti and Bossi-Fini immigration laws; the cancellation of the ‘Jobs Act’ and the restoration of Article 18 of the labour code, both liberalisations of the labour market; the cancellation of the Turin-Lyon high-speed trainline; the abolition of the reform of regional government that will see richer regions given greater privileges than poorer ones. Above all we need a plan that provides for a radical change in economic, social and environmental policy, that prioritises the redistribution of wealth, with a highly progressive taxation, the recovery of money lost through tax-evasion by investors and billionaires to be reinvested in the collective welfare, and to be able to guarantee education, health, work, dignity to all.
Without this no real change can be possible. And to make these changes we must have courage. We cannot continue to accept the harmful logic of the lesser evil, where the fear of the reactionary right that drives us back into the arms of the neoliberal centre which itself created the conditions for the far-right to emerge. We may be weak now, but we are determined, and we are fearless, and our strength will come from being on the right side of history.
It is useless for us to waste time playing by someone else’s rules, on a terrain that does not belong to us. We must forge our own path, that of support for struggles, conflict, of organising on the peripheries, in working-class neighbourhoods, building a movement from the bottom up to fight the horrors of environmental disaster, poverty, racism and sexism.
We still have time!
Potere al Popolo!
Translation in English of the statement:
Una penosa crisi di governo ne prepara un altro peggiore. Non faremo sconti