After having fought off popular rejection of its neoliberal economic policies that serve its own interests, the European establishment has lost its first major election, as Andrew Spannaus reports.
By Andrew Spannaus Special to Consortium News
The revolt of voters across the Western world has reached a high point in Europe.
The Five Star Movement and the League, two so-called “populist” political parties in Italy, are preparing to form a government after Wednesday’s appointment of a new prime minister following an election result that could directly challenge the foundations of the European Union.
Like other anti-system movements around Europe, the Italian parties are calling in particular for abandoning the neoliberal economic policies and speculative finance, which are hollowing out the middle class.
The breakthrough comes two and a half months after the elections held on March 4, in which Italian voters sent an unequivocal message to the current political institutions, not simply of protest, but of a desire to actually give power to those willing to implement deep changes.
The two parties were not allies during the election, but they ultimately recognized that their anti-establishment positions, and in particular their opposition to the austerity-based policies of the E.U., made them obvious candidates to join together in an attempt to shake up Italy and Europe as a whole.
On the Heels of Trump and Brexit
After the shock of the Brexit vote and the U.S. presidential elections in 2016, Europe’s political elite looked fearfully towards the series of elections to be held across the continent in 2017. Political outsiders had already increased their support in recent years, fueled by anger over deepening economic difficulties and the related backlash against increased immigration mainly from Africa and the Middle East.
With the precedent of Trump’s victory and Britain’s vote to leave the EU, it seemed possible that some of those movements could actually force their way into government, opening a gape in the fabric of “liberal democracy” across Europe.
By the end of the summer, the revolt had faltered. The anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders had failed to break through in Holland, and although right-winger Marine Le Pen had done well in the first round of France’s presidential election, she was soundly defeated by neoliberal, centrist Emmanuel Macron in the run-off.
The results in Germany were more problematic, when in the September elections the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) successfully diverted votes from the political center, forcing the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats into months of negotiations to form a new Grand Coalition as a bulwark against the populists.
Then last October in Austria the anti-immigrant rhetoric of young conservative leader Sebastian Kurz led him to victory, producing a government based on an alliance with the far-right Freedom Party. Europe’s elites had taken some hits, but overall it seemed that disaster for them had been avoided.
Italy, however, would prove to be different. The Five Star Movement (M5S) increased its vote total in March as the top party, coming in at 32%. By itself this wouldn’t have been enough to overcome the establishment’s efforts to keep them out of government, though. Indeed the political parties that have governed Italy in recent years had hatched what they thought was a brilliant plan to block the newcomers: change the election law to reward the coalition with the highest vote total, rather than the single party. That way, even if M5S came in first, the center-right bloc led by Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia could still claim victory, for example; and in the likely event that the coalition didn’t have enough votes to govern, an agreement would be made with the centrist Democratic Party (Pd) for a sort of “Grand Coalition”, not too different from the governments in place in recent years.
What upset the apple cart was the success of the League, led by brash young leader Matteo Salvini. Formally known as the pro-secession “Northern League,” the party has succeeded in expanding beyond only the North, still drawing on anti-immigrant sentiment, but combining that with an effective anti-austerity message that allowed it to reach 17% of the vote. That beat Berlusconi’s party by several points. The center-right had gotten the most votes as a coalition (37%) but the internal balance of power had shifted; the best laid plans of the elites quickly came crashing down.
A Predictable Result
This outcome was actually entirely predictable, given the nature of the response by Italian institutions to the results of the country’s last general election, five years ago. In 2013, the Five Star Movement burst onto the scene with 25% of the national vote, despite having refused to even talk to the mass media; everything was done through the web and meet-ups, which proved to be more than enough to catalyze an effective movement against the “caste” of privileged members of the elite, seen as pursuing their own interests, and not those of the people, through various forms of corruption.
As time went by, the centrist parties in government deceived themselves into believing that warning people about the lack of experience of the M5S, and branding anyone who criticized the EU as inviting a return to nationalism and war, would scare voters away from the populists.
What the governments led by the center-left did not do, however, was considerably change the direction of the economy for the majority of the population. The situation improved slightly as the harshest austerity measures from previous years were abandoned and some limited initiatives were implemented to encourage investment and exports in the manufacturing sector.
But the drivers of the revolt against globalization run much deeper, rooted in the long-term destruction of the middle class with increases in poverty and inequality, and less stable working conditions for those who do have work. An increase in short-term employment and promises of better times if the country would just stay the course, was far from enough to stop the anti-system momentum.
After two months of back-and-forth, the League ultimately split from its center-right allies in order to avoid the risk of a grand coalition government that would continue the same centrist policies as in the past. They reached a deal with the Five Star Movement and accepted a non-politician close to M5S as prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, who is now tasked with implementing a “government contract” negotiated between the two parties.
There are significant differences between the partners, but the most important obstacles seem not to be internal, but rather put in place by Italian and European institutions. M5S and the League quickly came to agreement on general issues such as deficit spending for welfare reform (to significantly expand social benefits, not cut them as in recent years) and simplification of the tax code. The contract also includes the key points of separating commercial banks from investment banks (the Glass-Steagall principle) and using public institutions for targeted investment.
Neither Luigi Di Maio, the 31-year old Five Star leader, nor Salvini seem cowed by threats from EU officials or pressure from the financial markets regarding the need to follow strict budget rules. In response to a recent objection claiming his proposals would break the public accounts, Di Maio claimed that when done right, the multiplier effect of public investment would boost, rather than hurt the economy.
Yet the establishment is doing everything it can to avoid an open clash with the EU. Like many countries with a parliamentary system, Italy has a “President of the Republic,” a figure-head intended as a guarantor of the institutions without a direct political role. The position is similar to that of a constitutional monarch, but in a republican system. Despite often being viewed as merely a figurehead, the Italian state president formally has the power to choose the head of the government, and also the cabinet. In this case, President Sergio Mattarella seems to be taking those responsibilities fairly seriously.
There is great pressure on the Italian elites to ensure that the coming populist government will not be able to call into question the architecture of the EU by openly challenging the budget orthodoxy of the European Commission in Brussels, and the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Thus Mattarella’s office made its opposition known to certain figures proposed by M5S and the League. This happened with one of the first names floated for prime minister, Giulio Sapelli, a professor of economic history who is strongly critical of globalization and EU economic policy. But his prospects were quickly shot down through a series of leaks to an obliging press.
Another name which has sparked opposition is that of Paolo Savona, a highly-credentialed economist who was minister of industry twenty-five years ago. Since then, he has become critical of the European single currency and the related spending constraints. Thus, despite clearly being qualified, when his name was suggested for the post of finance minister, objections immediately began to appear in the establishment media.
Di Maio and Salvini seem to be sticking to their guns on Savona, but it remains to be seen if they will succeed in obtaining his nomination. The situation raises serious questions about democracy in Italy. Well over 50% of Italian voters supported parties that strongly criticize the neoliberal policies of the EU; yet there is a concerted institutional effort to not allow someone who reflects precisely that view to guide the country’s economic policy.
The EU Against the People
This conflict is even more ironic because the insistence on EU principles comes from institutions which are supposed to be guarantors of the Italian state. Their view, however, is now that Italy is irreversibly part of the European Union, and any threat to lessen the bonds of integration would be unacceptable. Add to this the fact that over the years the EU has done everything it can to avoid having European citizens actually vote on the construction of the supranational government, and the paradox becomes clear: state institutions are defending Europe against the democratic choices of their own people.
There are certainly risks inherent in the coming populist government. The League wants to take a hard line on immigration, and has often curried favor with racists and xenophobes. This has been part of its identity from the start, although it has gradually worked to expand its appeal by focusing on the broader issue of problems with globalization and Europe.
M5S, on the other hand, is inconsistent and in recent months has seemed malleable even on important points in its program, in both economics and foreign policy. Di Maio quickly backtracked from his criticism of Trump’s bombing of Syria, for example, fearing it could damage his prospects to lead the government.
Furthermore, the M5S campaign against wasteful spending goes so far as aiming to stop important infrastructure projects like a new high-speed rail line between Italy and France; while its environmentalist bent is expressed in the desire to shutter the second largest steel production center in Europe, the Ilva plant in Taranto, due to environmental problems.
These issues and others provide plenty of legitimate grounds for criticism of the anti-establishment parties, and raise the question as to whether they will actually succeed in improving people’s lives. Yet there is no question that the voters have asked for change, and that change means abandoning the pro-austerity policies that are hollowing out the middle class and making people fear for their families’ future.
Despite the populist wave that has spread across the Western world in the past two years, European leaders in pursuit of their own interests have generally seemed to ignore the need to recognize the errors of the pro-finance, post-industrial model of recent decades, clinging to the hope that their neoliberal system will ultimately survive despite discontent from a significant portion of the population. The Italian elections have changed the calculus. Regardless of how effective the new government is, European institutions need to recognize that certain problems cannot be ignored. The only way for the elites to survive – to the extent they still can – will be to finally accept that their errors can longer be defended.
Andrew Spannaus is a journalist and strategic analyst based in Milan, Italy. He was elected Chairman of the Milan Foreign Press Association in March 2018. He has published the books “Perché vince Trump” (Why Trump is Winning – June 2016) and “La rivolta degli elettori” (The Revolt of the Voters – July 2017).
” liberal democracy ” is not democracy at all. Not even close. Europe is run by the Bilderbergs, an elite society whos aim is subjugation of everyone , globalism, an outshoot of old colonialism, where the elites rule, and everyone else is in essence slave labour. I’m surprised the middle class Europeans have taken this long to figure it out.
I think you’ll find Alex Jones has a copyright out on the Bilderberg BS and he won’t be happy with you infringing it. You clearly don’t have a f*****g clue about the EU. Either read some books or go back to polishing up the tinfoil hat.
All the best.
It would be great if we could identify groups and movements by what they are for rather than what they are against. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a news story with more references to what groups oppose (anti-this and anti-that).
OK radical progressives and keyboard revolutionaries, let’s take off the tinfoil hats for a couple of minutes and see what dastardly deeds the EU (bankers cabal) have been up to.
Water quality: If it wasn’t for the EU our beaches would still be awash with human sewage.
Air quality: If it wasn’t for the EU our cities would still be choking with PM10s.
Animal welfare: If it wasn’t for the EU veal calfs would be in tiny cages unable to move, sow pigs would be in stalls so narrow they couldn’t lie down and chickens would be kept in battery farms as tight as you could cram ’em in.
Workers rights: If it wasn’t for the EU, Working time Directive bosses would be free to work their employees into an early grave.
Food hygiene: After Brexit we can import that yummy, chlorine rinsed chicken of yours.
GM foods: After Brexit we can import all that lovely GM soya.
Human rights: After Brexit we won’t have to bother with that pesky European Court of Human Rights. We can go back to imprisoning people without trial (like what we did in Northern Ireland).
Climate change: After Brexit our industrial plants won’t have to bother with the EU Carbon Emission Trading Scheme. Back to pumping out as much CO2 as we want.
The EU isn’t perfect but don’t project your current rampant gangsterism posing as government on it.
“The Euro was always a dumb idea and the levers of economic control were always going to be set at positions optimum for Hamburg.”
Is it better or worse to have a plethora of incompetent policies in individual countries or to have common institution that bungles on epic scale? Should morons be united or “close to the people”?
Sweden and perhaps Russia are somewhat unique in getting decent benefits from currency independence. By the way of contrast, joining Euro had immediate benefits: government borrowing at a much lower interest rate. That was bungled by the European central bank that was not supposed to allow excessive borrowing, but it did.
This is a major problem of technocracy: technocrats are far less competent than the moniker suggests. Populists are often demagogical, clownish, anti-democratic etc., but when “responsible parties” get the suicidal combination of incompetence and bland personalities, “hilarity ensues”.
Reminds me the brilliant plan to focus the Tory campaign on leader personality, with one slight demerit that Mrs. May does not have any. Their very ticket to the leader position was that her position on the main issue splitting the party, Brexit, was a cypher. Similarly, right wing Labourites staked their mandate to lead on “electability” and “courage ” (to join USA in foreign interventions etc.)
“I wants my country back!
I wants bobbies on bicycles two by two.
I wants smiling vicars on every street corner.
I wants celebrity peadophiles to be able to roam the streets free from the threat of prosecution.
I wants the blacks and the Irish to know their place.”
Ah the early 1970’s weren’t those the days.
Italy’s citizens should beware – there are many many politicians like Alexis Tsipras ready to betray them.
I don’t go for this analyse at all, the same playbook is being used across Europe, the wave of immigration was not an unforeseen consequence of the attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria while at the same time main stream media encouraged xenophobia which directly lead to the removal of the established political parties. The Establishment is unpopular because it carries out policies benefiting those that control the empire. M5S replaced the DC in the entire South, the DC from 1948 onward had its victories assured by the mafia which in turn took its orders from the US. M5S is hardly a party. Rather than a unforeseen “European Spring” it was entirely guided from the centre of the Empire.
The entire playbook follows the age old logic of Giuseppe di Lampedusa and Nicolo Machiavelli.
The Tancredi strategy (The Leopard by Lampedusa)
“Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga com’è bisogna che tutto cambi”
For things to remain the same, things will have to change.
The multinationals that control the US are again following the logic of Machiavelli: the advice to Princes in my synthesis:
Don’t invade, get a captain to do your dirty work, when he becomes unpopular and more particularly when you the Prince who control the captain become unpopular brutally replace the captain with a new captain who serves your interests. Claim to be on the side of justice for the people with your new captain.
by Nicolo Machiavelli
When the duke occupied the Romagna he found it under the rule of weak masters, who rather plundered their subjects than ruled them, and gave them more cause for disunion than for union, so that the country was full of robbery, quarrels, and every kind of violence; and so, wishing to bring back peace and obedience to authority, he considered it necessary to give it a good governor. Thereupon he promoted Messer Ramiro d’Orco,(*) a swift and cruel man, to whom he gave the fullest power. This man in a short time restored peace and unity with the greatest success. Afterwards the duke considered that it was not advisable to confer such excessive authority, for he had no doubt but that he would become odious, so he set up a court of judgment in the country, under a most excellent president, wherein all cities had their advocates. And because he knew that the past severity had caused some hatred against himself, so, to clear himself in the minds of the people, and gain them entirely to himself, he desired to show that, if any cruelty had been practised, it had not originated with him, but in the natural sternness of the minister. Under this pretence he took Ramiro, and one morning caused him to be executed and left on the piazza at Cesena with the block and a bloody knife at his side. The barbarity of this spectacle caused the people to be at once satisfied and dismayed.
The left stood to take over from the “Thirdway” across the entire empire, desparate measures were chosen: The age old and high risk strategy of splitting the left using fear of others. While this works the consequences are as predictable as setting a fire in a dry forrest.
The fact that the political media elite use the term “populist” as a term of abuse shows their hatred of democracy. They see the people as ignorant. They have nothing but contempt for the people and they “know” the people are unfit to participate in policy formulation and the creation of the laws.
The EU, together with NATO, are supranational institutions that are not accountable to the public (a public that funds them, by the way). They are undemocratic forces used by the wealthy to promote their own interests, like regime change in oil-producing Middle Eastern nations. The US-CIA planned and promoted the EU as part of its post-war plans for hegemony. It’s easier to control a friendly centralized junta than to deal with 44 separate democratic nations. Those who vote for exiting the EU are not racists or dummies — they are anti-imperialists who understand perfectly how their rights have been eroded by people they never voted for.
Wow, just wow.
The EU in top hat and tails twirls it’s moustache and cackles manically while liberty lies tied to the rail tracks.
The EU is a flawed construct and is work in progress. Yes, under the ideological influence of Jacques Delors and his gang (from a generation scared by two World wars), it embarked on a course of never ending centerlisation. The experiment went too far (as they tend to do) with the Euro. The Euro was always a dumb idea and the levers of economic control were always going to be set at positions optimum for Hamburg.
J-C Juncker, Donald Tusk, Herman Van Rompuy are not Jacques Delors and co..
Yes the central executive functions of the EU are in no direct way democratic, but like the Roman Senate they sound out the temperament of the mob and adjust their policies accordingly (lest their heads end up on pikes). The mood of the mob (pretty uniformly across the states) is not in favour of continued concentration of control from the centre.
I am not cheerleading for Brussels, their double standards regards putting Hungary and Romania (small, new entrants) into special measures while letting Spain (large, well established) away with murder in Catalonia is sickening.
Why does it always have to come back to a super powerful, hyper intelligent CIA with some people? So in the 1950’s the CIA took the Coal and Steel Community and cunningly manipulated it to transform it into the EEC against the will of the Europeans. FFS! In the 1950’s the CIA was an employment agency for Ivy League frat boys not bright enough to make it in the real world (Allen Dulles and J. J. Angleton excepted).
HERE HERE !! The sooner people figure this out, the better. Nato and the EU indeed are not accountable to the people, and as such are extremely dangerous. The levels of debt being amassed by European countries are designed literally to sink them. I’m afraid its almost too late to kick them out.
What does “populism” actually mean in Italy? In the US, it refers only to the ideology of our better-off, the middle class. One of the most revealing things about a country is the way that they treat their poor — those who can’t work, and those for whom no jobs are available. Here in the US, liberals (or progressives, if you prefer) have embraced and supported neoliberal economic policies since the 1990s.
Please use black type instead of this annoying, harder to read grey type. Good article. Peace.
this is a well thought out article
well worth the time to read…
we feel much the same in the united states about our banking systems also…
removing the separation from private banking and commercial banking has caused the USA much grief as well and both of the established Neoliberal’s and Neocons seem to be strongly against doing anything about our very own form of austerity here in the USA
Economic sovereignty is political sovereignty. Spending into your base resources in what ever ways necessary to insure imports are not a burden and most often an asset. In this policy no individual gains in lest the whole nation gains.
More food for thought:
Patiently waiting for European commentators, citizens, political parties and governments to realize, acknowledge and act upon the fact that whatever unwanted immigration into EU there may be, can only be reduced by refusing to cooperate with and participate in (i.e, NATO) the continual wars of the USA from (essentially all of) Africa through the Middle East and the Ukraine into the Baltics.
One just might conclude that the US has duped Europe into making economic war upon itself.
i have to agree with you, if the united states and NATO had not invaded and tried to force regime change in so many country’s such as Iraq Libya and Syria and aided and abetted with the Saudis in Yemen you would not see people fleeing the country’s where they once called home and becoming refugees in the first place…..
Consideing how much is said and written aginst antiglobalism I wonder why nothing is said abot the greatest economc forum taking place in Peterburg these days. 15000 businessmen from more than 50 countries take part in it. Presidents of France,Japan, some more countries take part in it. Many journalists too.
Herman you are correct and I agree with your point. NAFTA was supposed to create a Mexican middle class. That is how Clinton sold it to democrats in the House. It is my opinion (call me cynical) that many of them knew that the language in the bill that stated that Mexican workers could or may organize unions and could or may bargain collectively on wages, overtime pay, work place safety, retirement etc., was hollow and had no binding obligation. Clinton and the Democrats in Congress sold out workers on both sides of the border. I was a charter member of our union and a shop steward. The rank and file among us were pissed. Clinton and his cronies delivered for Wall Street and transnational corporations, as he gave the middle finger to the American middle class.
Spot on article on how MSM desperately are doing their utmost to undermine the voice of the people and whom they voted for. Luckily it seems they are not succeeding
Very good. Very informative about important developments from a group that might not let us all down as Greece leadership did.
As I keep saying, there are lessons here for Australia. We have a government that governs for the 1%, that is desperately trying to generate even more inequality than already exists by giving tax concessions to big business and banks (which are currently undergoing a mauling in a Royal Commissiin) while squeezing the middle class and those on welfare with such punitive measures as a system supposedly to stop welfare rorts but which in reality is a crude and cruel attempt to demonise welfare recipients. After five years of this government, propped up by a mainstream media dominated by the former Australian, now US citizen, Rupert Murdoch, our debt has ballooned, those in poverty have increased, but we have doubled the number of Billionaires. Australia faces an election, tipped to be in August, with the government having trailed the (Labor… that’s how we spell it) Opposition for almost the entire time so there are hopes of a change. However as bad as things are for many, Australians generally still enjoy a good way of life, so I am not sure that our revolution will be as profound as it needs to be to shake off the many shackles we have, among them being our subservience to a United States led by the idiot Trump and a fractious relationship with our biggest trading partner, China. Oh to have a Syriza in the mix.
Syriza was a trojan horse.
Italy’s new government is more neoliberal than populist, by Mario Pianta, Social Europe, 21 May 2018
Will they oppose the agenda of “The Slaughterers”? More info at link below.
May 25, 2018
A perfect summation of this sick world.
Thank you for posting this link.
I just wonder, how they decide that something or someone is “populist”, “leftist”, “regime”?It seems to me that they put it every time, when they are implying, that it is something bad or dangerous!They never call names on Saudi Arabia, Israel, or their leaders, or anybody who plays their tune!
Padre: Obama explains that exactly!
Hillary and Obama are the true Populists and Trump is the nativist, zenophobics and maybe “even worse”.
The question is what unseen FORCES are preventing the people from seeing this?
CitiGroup is run by populists too. They picked Obama’s cabinet for him in 2008.
If Hillary was a populist, then why did she need to rig the campaign against Sanders (who her adoring fans smeared as a “populist” during her lousy campaign)?
Obama pretended to be a populist, he is good at pretending.
I would suggest that one of the “unseen FORCES” is David Brock, and his multiple paid minions (who, along with the delusional idiots, are about the only people who are unable to admit that the Butcher of Libya is anything but a bloodthirsty ecocidal superpredator corporatist – better known as Fascist).
It should be pointed out here that the symbol of Fascism, the Faces, is an axe with a bunch of sticks tied around the handle. It is a visual representation of the Hillary slogan “Stronger Together” that the forces of Fascism – which is essentially late-stage Capitalism, used to promote her above the actual progressives and leftists, leading inevitably and predictably to the rise of Trump. (When the elections were rigged against Sanders, the election of Trump was assured by the same people who now lead the McResistance.)
I believe the New World Order villains won’t go away
quietly. See article at link below.
December 14, 2014
“Is There An Open Conspiracy To Control The World”?
Neoliberals (libertarians like the Koch brothers) who bought the US government and created their own legislative body, ALEC, the ownership class, the globalists, actually HATE the nation-state and would prefer dismantling it altogether except for the MIC (maybe because nationhood has caused so many problems in the ME). But another reason is control of the money supply, which the private banks want. They don’t like that a sovereign nation can issue its own currency at will and never go broke. They prefer extending credit, which has enslaved the world in private debt of over $233 trillion! That’s why they try to force nations into unions like the EU so that they forfeit control of their own currencies. The EU today is a financial disaster, proving that a one world currency would never work.
“The “nation-state” as a fundamental unit of man’s organized life has ceased to be the principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state.” ~ Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages, 1970
“A major advantage of a government as chief banker and credit creator is that when debts come to outstrip the means to pay, the government can write down the debt. That is how China’s banks have operated. It is a prerequisite for saving companies from bankruptcy and preventing their ownership from being transferred to foreigners, raiders or vultures.” ~ Michael Hudson
All the world saw how the EU and Merkel’s Germany ( the EU being effectively an imperial holding of Germany and its Bundesbank.) The Lisbon treaty gave Germany an advantage but it was the “Growth and Stability Act” which consolidated power in Germany to rule Europe.
The whole world saw how Merkel and Schäuble destroyed millions of lives in Greece ruined the country humiliated democracy and subjected the Greek people to rule by German diktat. The world saw Germany hover over all the events until finally Merkel showed up and gave her diktat to destroy millions of lives in Greece to prop up German and French banks who in reality are insolvent.
I, among others at the time, thought – well, this is the end of the EU, Germany and the Neoliberals will not get away with this. A direct connection from Greece to Italy can easily be made and justified. We seem to have been correct, the EU is falling apart from the actions of authoritarian elites and their deeply corrupt system and ideology.
I don’t think the elites have caught up to reality yet, the Enlightenment is DEAD, everything which has come from it is soiled, sullied thoroughly corrupted and moribund. So called “liberal democracy” along with the other “ideals” of the enlightenment have failed.
Here is a wonderfully written essay about the end of the Enlightenment and its fatal flaw.
Thanks for the link(brilliant essay)
As noted, the significance goes far beyond Italy, as purported new Finance Minister Paolo Savona, is a supporter of two of the four basic points of the LaRouchpac program for the US economy and intevention into the crucial 2018 mid-term elections. They are: an Italian Glass-Steagall Act, which both leading parties want, to break up the big so-called “universal banks” demanded by the European Union, which absorb trillions of bailout money from the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve, and do not do any productive lending; and a National Bank with the ability to issue credit for productive employment and new infrastructure, outside the EU austerity limits on government productive credit. Those two measures, if the parties can stick to them, can avert another financial blowout and start real economic growth again, and will be a model for other distressed economies within and without the EU,
J.D.D. – Sounds interesting and I hope it works. One factor which makes this somewhat problematic is that Italy is on the euro so they can’t control the value of their currency. But if they have their own National Bank that could do wonders.
Those espousing a Eurosceptic stance too often fall into a fundamentalist carapace they attribute to a monolithic EU. Sure, there are certainly highly bureaucratic, anti-democratic forces within the Brussels executive but the EU is more flexible than the obsessed Eurosceptic psyche allows.
The model driven by Jacques Delors; tariff free trade begets unified standards begets freedom of movement begets single currency begets unified government was a false and failed proposition. It all depends at which point of the spectrum you wish to peg your stance and that’s just it, the EU allows for that flexibility. Pragmatism is in vogue Jacques Delors is so passé.
On the positive side of the EU balance sheet, it thinks in terms beyond the 4 or 5 years in office that national governments seem only capable of. This strategic planning capability is responsible for amongst other things, better environmental legislation than any single state is likely to have drafted.
The Brexit campaign was targeted on a transactional premise that the UK payed in more than it received back. The Remain camp were not capable of rebutting the argument but rebuttal was entirely possible. The Highlands & Islands of Scotland received substantial funds from the EU for infrastructure projects when it had Area One status (as did other regions of the UK). After many hundreds of years of population decline, the Highlands has a growing population. This was not the direct responsibility of the EU, but the infrastructure investment facilitated growth. It’s not that Westminster never directed investment at the Highlands & Islands, there were examples but these were one off industrial plants grafted onto a rural environment (and most failed). Again, it’s the ability to think beyond one parliamentary term that makes the difference.
Sure, the UK pays in more than it gets out, but the investment is now targeted towards the continental east. In turn, when the former Soviet block countries expand their economies, the investment will move on. These are sound socialist principles hardly the work of a laissez faire obsessed executive.
There are other examples of flexibility; Turkey in the Single market, Norway in the Customs union, Germany maintaining different quality standards for products than the EU that discourages other EU states from exporting to Germany (which the EU manages to turn a blind eye to), states paying lip service to legislation (which the UK lacked the imagination to copy), I could go on.
Marine Le Pen spoke some sense when she said that the next big battle will between pro-globalisation and anti-globalisation rather than left v’s right. My generation is unlikely to contribute constructively to that debate. Our upbringing has brainwashed us to shout “fascist” and “racist” rather than hear the other side out. I never understood her anti-EU stance or perhaps it was not quite an implacable as she chose to make out.
Back to the start of my rant. It is good that the people of Italy are free to opt for a more Eurosceptic position than has been coerced on them to date. I would plant myself on the spectrum between unified standards and freedom of movement, perhaps this will also be the new Italian position.
Vivian, What you are dealing with here is just illogical EMOTION. That is what started the American Revolution, the colonies went nuts over a simple “tea tax” (to pay for a war that defended the colonies) and equated that with some kind of despotic repression. And as you know your history, that started the whole Revolutionary War witch brought slavery into the United States. Whereas other great countries like Canada, Australia and India were more than happy to stay with England. When you bring emotion into it, people like Trump and Farage have an advantage of logical people like Obama, Hillary, Junker, etc… (and Putin knows this).
The first slaves were brought to the American colonies in 1619. The Indians revolted against British rule in 1857. They were not at all happy to “stay with England.”
And counterintuitively in the American Canada wars, the French speaking Canadians sided with the hated Red coats. The Canucks had the saintly founding fathers down as scheming, anti-democratic, plutocrats from day one.
Just out of interest, from European perspective having school kids pledging allegiance to the flag and playing the national anthem at domestic sporting fixtures is seriously creepy. One might say conditioning for a fascist state. When my sister lived in Portland, some of her fellow ex-pats complained to the Headteacher about their kids having to pledge allegiance every morning (I mean they weren’t even going to be citizens). The Headteacher told them it was compulsory but if it bothered them that much the kids could just mouth the words.
Sorry. The US is about 100 years behind Europe culturally and is obsessed with flags & pledges especially in less cosmopolitan rural areas. Until it has its cities and population bombed into oblivion it is still going to see the idea of a nation as a good thing (Trump) and not the cause of misery. If Europe (or the World) is united into one entity, it won’t attack itself but if it is divided into small separate States then we have to learn the lesson of war all over again. Individual nations can be picked off one by one by Russia, China, Iran, etc and can’t cope with things like immigration and trade.
*And above I meant that England just abolished slavery with a simple law (no civil war).
European Champions League final on tonight, a really big deal. Liverpool v’s Real Madrid, so an international match right? They will be blasting out God save the Queen and the Spanish nationals anthem before the game, I mean it’s a final right? No they won’t because it’s just a club game.
Yet orange Mussolini wants players put up against a wall and shot if they “take the knee” when the Baltimore Alligators play the Washington Blue socks (you may have surmised that I have neither knowledge nor interest in American sport).
The issue with the “simple ‘tea tax'” was that the East India Trading company was exempt from the tax, thus granting them essentially a corporate monopoly, driving individual traders out of business.
Much like the tax breaks given to Wal-Mart (largely due to its political influence in Bill Clinton’s Arkansas while Hillary was on the board of directors, initially) drove small independent retailers out of business.
If you knew your history, you would know this. (Much like you would know that slavery was endemic long before the Revolutionary war, and that India was far from happy with being ruled by the British.)
It amazes me how much those who are still so delusional as to think that the Democratic Establishment is somehow a good thing are able to mix their blatant ignorance with their overbearing arrogance, even after they were defeated by a clownish reality TV star, in a stunning display of hubris.
Unfortunately, unlike in good literature, those who are logically and emotionally bankrupt are unable to admit their vacuous positions even when confronted with a glaring defeat, instead, like typical Fascists (Fascism, as Mussolini is credited as saying, being characterized by a merger of the Corporation and the State), they can only seek out scapegoats for the problems they brought on themselves, rather than do the necessary self-reflection that a sentient being would do upon being so thoroughly embarrassed as anyone less deplorable would be, if they were to loose to a manchild with the attention span of a gnat.
Some different viewpoints:
Lib-Pop Politics: Why Italy’s New Government Is More Neoliberal Than Populist
by Mario Pianta 21 May 2018
For Italy – a new government, the same “privileged ally”
by Manlio Dinucci 24 May 2018
When discussing right-wing oligarchy economic policy, it is an error to call this “neoliberal” although advocated by fake liberals. This only assists them in posing as liberals, when they are in fact extreme right-wing both in economic policy and other foreign and domestic policy. The term “neoliberal” is best used only in quotes to expose fake liberals.
Do not think that Liberalism is in any way a left-wing ideology, as that is the root of the confusion of many.
Mao’s Combat Liberalism, though it uses some terminology that is a bit overly sectarian, pretty much nails it.
MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail is also a good understanding of the hypocritical posing of Liberals.
Liberals ARE right-wing. To expect them to be otherwise is to ignore what the word actually means.
Outside the US, where we have lost all understanding of the English Language, Ronald Reagan is seen as the epitome of a liberal Head of State.
It would have been much more useful had the half witted French voted for Le pen or one of the others instead of the establishment man, Macron, who lets Trump brush the dandruff of his jacket. Talk about a Yankee stooge, Mrs May is a poodle but Macron is barely a lap dog.
The first order of business for this new Italian Govt is to exit from this CIA construct called the EU which was setup for the benefit of greedy bankers & their privatisation enablers? All assists that were privatised such as vital infrastructure such as water, power etc needs to be taken back & renationalised! Then Italy should default on the austerity debt inflicted by the Trioika cabal & leave them holding this steaming pile of debt then depart the European Bank & establishing the return if their own currency? Then lock up & jail all of these neoliberal bankers & privatisation enablers & throw away the key? Iceland provided the model on how this was achieved as they set a excellent precedent? Hopefully other Countries can separate from this corrupt European Union designed by the Banker scum elites just to loot & pillage with unbridled avarice!
“The Italian elections have changed the calculus.” Apparently not, according to Andrew Spannaus.
Go Italy!! I will point out that the austerity imposed a la IMF (a) hasn’t worked (b) has caused great pain and suffering in many European countries and (c) is the proximate cause for the screams from the third world nations who are suffering the IMF’s tender ministrations (which even the IMF admits don’t work). The real revelation is how the assholes that keep pumping out these policies that the 99% hate manage to keep the policies in place in spite of the wishes of a supposedly “democratic” electorate. There’s a couple of other things I’d like to point out.
1. That austerity is the result of The United States’ inability to keep control of its banks. Their austerity is the direct result of the crashing of the global economy by the US in 2008. Their own governments were not being ridiculous.
2. The refugee problem is a direct result of the United States’ Imperial pretensions. If we weren’t making unnecessary war all across the Middle East leaving a series of failed and extremely weak states in our wake, they wouldn’t have a refugee problem.
3. The Europeans kow-towed to American sanctions (part of our imperial pretensions). But those crafty Ruskies! They issued counter sanctions that didn’t really hurt them but did cost the EU countries billions, further intensifying the austerity.
When are the Europeans going to tell the US to relocate it where the sun don’t shine? I’ve seen many commenters say that Oh, the EU can’t do that, everything is too integrated. My response to those commenters is that Oh, no, the EU absolutely can do these sorts of things. They will be unpleasant and painful. What they are going through now is unpleasant and painful. At some point they will decide that if it’s going to be unpleasant and painful, we might as well be free and not vassals.
Except for the Euro, and EU “Officials” (representatives to Brussels), who are imposing the regulatory regime of so-called European values, which has included austerity), what else do the people of Europe have vested in the EU? A common language? Founding principals based on religious authority? Common agreement on economic principals? National borders and immigration policy among sovereign States? Anything other than the EU apparatus in Brussels?
I’m not sure that there had been enough time, beyond one or possibly two generations, to have had the bits and pieces that make up a single culture sink in to the hearts and minds of the populace (I’m not sure there is any such thing as an EU Voter.), to the point of loyal acceptance of austerity, willingly and self-sacrificially. The abortion referendum coming up in Ireland might be telling. There has been backlash there regarding US anti-abortion (or Right-to-Life, if you prefer) advocates’ intervention, which is illegal in Ireland. The Irish have been clawing their way out of austerity, so it is may well be a bellweather, or not (given the residual cultural diversity from one country to another.)
RnM…good point on Ireland. I was in Dublin around the centennial celebration of the 1916 uprising and was very impressed how the average citizen was aware of their history. I believe this translates into a much greater degree of civic pride than we have here in the states. Largely unreported, Dubliners went out in droves to stop a government tax imposed on water consumption. They were going to set up meters to tax the water in order to pay off debt imposed by the EU but street patrols prevented their installation.
Not sure how it works with EU, bu according to WTO rules the US must give all countries “most favored nation status.” In other words you cannot tax imports of goods made in low-wage countries differently than in developed ones. The result? Companies are forced to move operations to low-wage countries if they want to remain in business. It is just that simple. It’s not about greed. It’s about the rules of the game.
Time to get out of the WTO and implement wage-price equalization taxes to level the playing field on which American workers are expected to compete. In my opinion.
Luke Lea – “Time to get out of the WTO and implement wage-price equalization taxes to level the playing field on which American workers are expected to compete. In my opinion.”
That’s a very good opinion, Luke. I agree. The WTO is just another supranational organization set up by the neoliberal elites of the world in order to benefit their corporate masters, not the average American.
Ross Perot warned against globalization and he was crucified for saying it. Trump is trying to stop it, but, go figure, the Left is fighting him on it! He is being called a “Nationalist”, a “Populist”, as if there’s something wrong with trying to level the playing field for your own citizens.
Trump has his own clothing line made in China.
Trump’s idea of levelling the playing field is to make working conditions (pay, safety, etc) in the US as low as they are in Indonesia or Guatemala (where any attempt to organize for better pay and worker safety has been met with US funded and trained death squads).
I would agree that Globalization is a bad thing – which is why it was the Left that tried to shut down the WTO meetings in Seattle that woke the rest of the country up to what was happening.
Now, you may be under the impression that the Democrats, a proudly pro-capitalist party that rigged their primaries to keep a New Deal FDR type from getting the nomination, are somehow something other than a far-right grouping.
Here’s a handy way to tell. Are the pro-Capitalist? Then they are right wing.
Are they anti-Capitalist? Then, and only then, is a grouping on the Left.
Does the Left oppose Trump? Of course, because he is anti-worker, anti-environment, anti-education, anti-science, pro-intervention, pro-racist (not only at home, but he supports the world’s only remaining apartheid state), pro-mass incarceration, etc. It was his squawking about pulling out of the TPP an NAFTA that were the only good things about his campaign (as well as his claim to be anti-intervention), but anyone who has actually watched the reality of what has transpired since is aware that this squawking was simply the simple lies that most politicians tell.
Political Compass is a good site to examine what this “right” and “left” thing actually mean, and where various figures fall (It also expands the one-dimensional measurement of right v left into an Authoritarian v Libertarian axis, to give it two dimensions.)
Another option is to tax low-cost imports to fund development aid in producer countries, based upon public needs there. So if the producer state improves its social conditions and standard of living, it needs less aid, its buyers are taxed less, and it sells more. The wholesale cost difference is reduced or removed by the tax, true foreign aid is funded, and US industry survives.
Sam, good point, I think. Globalization weakens national sovereignty. Our current law free foreign policy does as well. And allowing open borders does as well. For those who think we should have a strong policy on immigration, that immigration can only occur when it serves our interests, it makes sense to buttress that position by improving the lot of people where they live. There are cultural forces at work that suggest people who come to the United States, in the main, would prefer to stay within the culture and location where they are. Creating jobs in Mexico and demand in Mexico would seem a sensible thing for us to do and the right thing for the Mexican people.
Too, as you and others have suggested, a foreign policy built on foreign assistance rather than military and economic force is a far better one to secure peace and prevent a whole lot of suffering.