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The crisis of the Italian ruling class

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No political, decision-making and economic crisis is devoid of cultural and spiritual implications. Moreover, the traits of this new and so-called elite are superficiality; the absolute ignorance of the depth and complexity of problems; the true psychosis and obsession for “communication”, advertising and the often useless presence on the media.

Nevertheless some structural data can be noted in the shift from the First to the Second Republic: the new irrelevance of the Italian strategic position; the total lack of autonomy in the old areas where in the past Italy operated almost undisturbed, such as the Middle East; the aggressive behaviours of those whom it thought were allies and friends both in the Atlantic Alliance and in the European Union.

If, however, currencies do not find a temporary and rational balance and we operate only with fixed rates – as, indeed, happens also with the  European single currency – the adjustments are always and only made with the reduction of the production base.

Italy celebrated the arrival of the Euro by passively and supinely accepting a Lira-Euro exchange rate that was influenced by the previous six months, when the Lira value had been too “high”, and it privatized its main assets at costs often not consistent with values.

Until the year 2000, the amount cashed from privatizations and securitizations totalled 178,019 billion liras, equal to 91 billion euros.

The first element of continuity between the First Republic and the  current phase is the excessive and often irregular funding of the ruling class, that is not matched by an internal meritocratic selection not based on family, clan, political group or faction criteria.

As Ennio Flaiano argued, to frighten a group of Italians just shout the word “merit!”.

Hence, while in the past the political parties acquired resources from companies with regular “withdrawals”, later the large privatizations permitted a single, but much more significant flow of funding.

The Second Republic emerged on the basis of the large distribution of resources to politicians in the Enimont affair, as the First Republic had been based on ENI and its US dollar transactions.

What happened later? Once the great donations were over, the ruling class – as petty swindlers or minor felons – lived on wiles and stratagems, modest transactions and friendships on the fringes of legality.

Furthermore with the Euro you could easily get again into debt, while on the international markets the old Lira had been ending up like the  Argentine Peso.

In is in 1986, however, that Italy came to rank fifth among the G6 countries, thus overtaking also Great Britain by 46 billion liras of additional GDP.

Since the early 1990s, however, Italy has been gradually losing ground vis-à-vis France (-21%), Germany (-29%), Great Britain (-11%), Japan (-27.7%) and the United States (-25.8%).

The other EU Member States used the Indian Summer of the 1990s to make structural reforms, while our politicians wasted time with their self-centred approach.

In 1987 Italy entered the EMS and its GDP rapidly rose from 617 billion  to 1,201 billion US dollars in 1991, with the Lira revaluing by 15.2% against the US Dollar and devaluing by 8.6% against the German Mark.

From 1991 to 1995, however, the Lira devalued by 29.8% against the German Mark and by 32.2% against the US Dollar.

The lack of guidance, understanding and control of the economic system by the ruling class – that is already in a phase of “renewal” – is evident.

Trade and monetary wars? Certainly so. Political leaders who are incompetent and often ignorant? Even more certainly so.

By now, however, the ruins in Italy obstruct the passage.

Nevertheless the dismantling of Italy’s civil society, ruling class and companies began in those years and it is continuing relentlessly.

The destabilization of the political system led to the choice of ignorant Parliamentarians and government leaders, often unable to understand and even decide on the various issues at stake.

Furthermore, the crisis originated in the United States in 2007 – which is not yet over – definitively destroyed the Italian economic and political system.

Since then the Italian economy has shrunk by at least 10% and production has fallen down to the level typical of the previous ten years, while 15% of the industrial capacity has been destroyed.

Also the approximately 200 billion euros of bad debts of the national banking system are a consequence of the crisis.

Against this background, also the rigidity of the labour market and its excessive cost are looming large.

An engine only producing friction and attrition – in an international context where no one has any interest in helping or supporting a friend or an ally.

Another naive or incompetent trait of Italy’s current ruling class is the idea that there can still be political, financial and strategic “White Knights”.

Since the year 2000 Italy’s foreign policy has been a perfect example of masochism.

Between 2000 and 2013 we finally recorded the closing down of 120,000 factories and the loss of one million and 160,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, our politicians think they can grant bonuses or tax exemptions for obvious electoral reasons. What a great idea!

Bonuses are always too expensive, but tax exemptions are a scam: if there is no similar reduction in public spending, the tax favours granted to a  group are paid by another one.

Not to mention public debt, which is approaching 140% of GDP.

There is no point in our politicians resorting to American experts – just to be fashionable – who recommend the sale of public debt securities only to Italians (as in Japan) and the usual “political stability”.

Let us not cherish illusions. Italian investors have not enough money to absorb the whole stock of securities issued, but political stability is impossible, owing to the old and new mass poverty existing in Italy.

Hence, on the one side there is the ruling classes’ old strategy of  selectively buying votes with favours and support; on the other, it is  impossible to keep this pace of electoral spending – even in the short term.

The typical Keynesianism of ignorant or too wise guys.

Furthermore, at a time when the ruling class is structurally weak, we witness an increase of non-transparent mechanisms and the strengthening of the lobby groups, who often draw up laws and influence the debate.

By now, instead of the old political parties, there is an intricacy of balances and power relations that are hardly perceived by voters, but which are now essential to pay for electoral campaigns and create the “image” of candidates.

Moreover, in Italy we are currently faced with a society of rentiers, namely those whose money come from investment rather than work: for the Italian Statistical Institute (ISTAT), the “wealthy” are the “employees” (12.2 million people) and the “silver pensioners” (5.2 million people). Finally there is a “ruling class” with a 70% higher income than the national average, made up of 4.6 million people.

Scarcely productive work, much widespread income from investment rather than work, no market and too much State.

However, the lower middle class and the working class are over. The working class is now fragmented into the wide – and apparently varied – population with temporary, low and insecure income.

The middle class – Italy’s historic axis – is now composed almost exclusively of retirees, while the old “bourgeoisie” is polarized between  the new rich and the future poor.

Just think of how much political ideology is vanishing, while the social classes that have built the modern world disappear and the politicians live their short time of glory by adapting to the most predictable and antiquated fashions and myths of mass communication.

Another essential aspect to note is the vertical drop of the school quality and the loss of value and quality of university degrees – another factor for which the current ruling class shall be held liable.

Hence all the old so-called “social elevators” – education, the now proletarized professions, crafts and specialized activities – do no longer work.

With this ruling class, the “foam” of the 1968 movement has come to power.

Indeed, while the 1968-styled Marxism wanted the “proletarianization” – so that the new poor would make the “revolution” – today we witness  impoverishment and proletarianization without any revolt or rebellion.

Paradoxes of history.

It is worth recalling that since 2012 over 800 entrepreneurs have committed suicide – a case out of four in Italy’s former rich North-East region.

Hence there are two possible options: either the current ruling classes work for the King of Prussia – but they still have to be elected here – or it is real inability, as well as lack of culture and experience.

The issue does not lie in singing the praises of small and sometimes unlikely economic growth in the last year. The indicator of severe material deprivation has grown by 0.4%, while the unemployment rate has decreased very slightly at national level (to 11.7% from the 11.9% of 2015), but it has increased by two tenths in Southern and island regions, thus reaching 19.6%.

In the future we will probably not have a “Mexican” Italy, with a small share of advanced industry, a mass of illegal economic activities and an old network of legal firms which, however, survive with underpaid labor force, deprived of any protection.

Conversely Italy is likely to become a fully deindustrialized nation, with its neighbouring countries taking over the best companies, and a large mass of population surviving on illegal economy or on the service sector.

 It is but a short step from decline to poverty.

And Italy will make this step as its ruling class is unable to control the “value chains” of large German or US productions in the North-East region, nor it knows how to effectively manage the non-tariff protection of the luxury goods it sells well in the world. It does not know the current monetary and geopolitical schemes and plots underway and finally it is  unable to create such a training system as to allow the evolution and technological upgrading we need in a world characterized by fierce global competition.

Hence what can we do to avoid Italy’s evident decline? First and foremost we need to talk about it and later imagine the programme of a new ruling  class.

It is difficult, but not impossible.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

Europe

Europe’s former imperial countries are now desperate U.S. colonies

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nord stream

India is no longer a colony of the UK, but Germany and other European countries have become — now quite obviously — colonies of the United States, and their economies will be financially bled by the world-bestriding U.S. imperialist center, just like the UK and other European nations had previously (and infamously) exploited India and its other colonies.

The U.S. Government’s having blown-up the Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia to Europe — after years of efforts to sabotage them more subtly by other, more ‘diplomatic’ (but less permanent), means — will leave Europe permanently forced to pay vastly higher rates to America and other liquefied natural gas (LNG) suppliers, and no longer with even a hope of receiving the far less-expensive Russian gas, which, until recently, fueled so many European firms to international competitiveness. Now, there’s no longer even a hope for Europe to avoid sliding into the usual model of colonies, as being banana republics, of one sort or another.

It was so natural for Russia to be Europe’s main energy-supplier, because Russia is a part of Europe, on the same continent as the other European nations, and therefore could pipeline its energy to them, and Russia had a surfeit of energy while the other European nations had a surfeit of need for it. That’s the way international capitalism is supposed to function, but imperialistic capitalism is instead international fascism, and it survives and grows only by exploiting other nations. From now on, the European nations, other than Russia, will, for at least a long time (because those giant gas-pipelines have been destroyed) be paying the world’s highest prices for energy (containerized and shipped, instead of simply pipelined), and buying much of it from Europe’s imperial center, which is increasingly recognizable now as being Europe’s real enemy: America. They will be paying tribute to the emperor — the billionaires who control the USA. These are the puppet-masters behind “the free world” (as their ‘news’-media refer to it), which is actually the new international-fascist empire. As Barack Obama called it, America is “the one indisensable nation,” which means that all other nations (in this case, the ones in Europe) are “dispensable.” Now, these former imperial nations will finally get a taste of what it’s like to be a “dispensable nation.” 

Here are some of the key U.S. operatives in Europe, who managed this situation, for the U.S. owners — brought this situation about (before Joe Biden’s agents ultimately just pulled the plug on the whole operation):

Boris Johnson, Olaf Schulz, Annalena Baerbock, Robert Habeck, Ursula von der Leyen, Josep Borrell, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Jens Stoltenberg, Emmanuel Macron, Mario Draghi — and, of course, behind the scenes, the billionaires who funded those leaders’ political careers (via political donations, plus those billionaires’ news-media and their other mass-public-opinion-forming organizations). These key agents will no doubt be paid well, in their retirements, regardless of what the public might think of them after their ‘service to the public’ is over.

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Europe

Exporting Religious Hatred to England

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A mob vandalised a Hindu temple in UK's Leicester. Twitter

Not a place hitting the main news channels often, Leicester is a small town of 250,000 inhabitants about a hundred miles north of London and 40 miles east of Birmingham the UK’s second largest city.

But an imported ideology is now the cause of religious violence that has profoundly affected Leicester’s ethnic community of South Asians.  This Hindutva ideology represents a belief in the transcendence of Hinduism and its culture.

Leicester prides itself as a city of tolerance and diversity where different religions and races all live together in relative harmony — a sort of ‘live and let live and mind your own business’ philosophy that had worked until recently.  But under the surface simmering tensions burst forth recently.  The trigger was a South Asia Cup cricket match between Indian and Pakistan held in Dubai and won by India.

Couple Hindutva with India’s win and groups of Hindu young men were keen to demonstrate their might, and did so on isolated young Muslims.  The latter then formed their own groups ready for revenge.

Where were the police one might ask.  Well, a couple of beaten up Asian teenagers did not register as exhibiting anything more than random teenage violence.  They were slow to react and did not discuss the ominous truth of religion as the prime mover behind the violence.

Civic leaders on both sides are now trying to quell the attacks.  But the damage has been done and the seeds of ill-feeling have been sown within the community meaning Hindus vis-a-vis Muslims and vice versa. 

India’s per capita GDP is higher than for Pakistan or Bangladesh, the two countries bordering it, which together constitute the subcontinent.  Thus the three countries are similar culturally.  The next question to ask is why then is India hugging the bottom on the 2020 World Happiness Report, next to ill-fated war-torn places like Yemen.  India is ranked 144 while its rival and neighbor Pakistan, although lower in per capita GDP, ranks a shocking (for India) 66.  Bangladesh also ranks much higher than India at 107, despite its devastating floods and typhoons.

Perhaps the answer lies in the pervasive hate that is the currency of the ruling BJP (Bharatia Janata Party), a currency spent liberally during general elections to the detriment of the Congress Party, which has stood for a secular India since independence.

But hate yields more votes as BJP leaders Norendra Modi and Amit Shah know well.  After all, they came to power via the destruction of the historic nearly five century old Babri Mosque, built on a Hindu holy site in an effort to ally Hindus by an astute Babur, the Mughal whose hold on India, just wrested from the Muslim Pathan kings, was still weak.  It worked for Babur then; its destruction worked for the BJP in the 21st century

Has India become more civilized since? 

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Giorgia Meloni: a return to Mussolini’s Italy?

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Image source: giorgiameloni.it

In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of far-right political parties across Europe. They have managed to use the widespread discontent from society with the values and functioning of democracy to establish strong footholds in many countries, including those that were thought to be immune to such radicalisation. The reach of the far right does not recognise boundaries, and it is not a new phenomenon either. It has had a considerable historical role in Latin America, in Indonesia, Japan, Australia, Myanmar, India, South Africa, Germany, Italy, the United States, and more recently in Turkey, Brazil and Hungary which have suffered serious damage to their democratic rules and institutions. It is in this context that the election of Giorgia Meloni in Italy as the possible next Prime Minister.

Italy has a long history with fascism and far-right extremism that has forever characterised Italian politics. Italy’s history after the WWII can largely be blamed for this slow but steady radicalisation of its political landscape. Unlike Germany that went through a serious process of denazification after allied victory, Italy was not cleared of vestiges of fascism. After 1945, and with the emergence of the USSR as a rival power, the allies focused their attention and efforts on fighting Communist USSR. Italy, surprisingly, had a considerable number of communist supporters, therefore fascism was seen as something positive in the fight of USSR ideology expansionism. Fascism was good to fight communism, and allies turned a blind eye to it, and the creation of the Italian Social Movement (MSI) in 1946 did not raise any red flags. The party managed to become the fourth largest in Italy in 20 years.

The woman who will become Italy’s next Prime Minister leads a conservative party that can be traced back to the MSI: The Brothers of Italy, whose logo revives the MSI emblem. Meloni´s victory should be read against the backdrop of recent triumphs for the far right elsewhere in Europe. In France, despite the loss of Le Pen in the presidential election, the share of popular vote shifted the French political centre to the right; in Sweden the Sweden Democrats are expected to play a major role in defining Swedish politics after having won the second largest share of seats at the general election earlier in September; the same in happening in Hungary and Poland.

This revival of far-right extremism is not new. The collapse of the USSR allowed formerly dormant far right movements to flourish. This resurgence should  also be understood as the inability of centre and centre-left parties to connect with voters, and to appear attractive. Italy’s recent economic crisis has made Italians particularly susceptible to anti-establishment ideas. Italy was one of the countries that suffered the most during the pandemic specially fairly early on: Lots of people died, a lot of businesses had to close down, Italy found it hard to get support from the rest of the European Union. Meloni and her coalition capitalised this discontent. Meloni has chosen to fight the same enemies as other populist leaders: the LGBTQ+ community; immigrants, the European Union, Muslims; former Italian leaders and multiculturalism. She echoes Mussolini’s natalist obsession; Volume Mussolini argued that the Western race was in danger of extinction by other races of colour, Meloni has focused on ethnic substitution, defined as the loss of Italian identity as a result of globalisation and uncontrolled mass immigration fostered by the European Union. This has translated into harsh xenophobic policies.

Meloni’s election ironically coincide with the 100th anniversary of the March on Rome in October 1922 that brought Mussolini to power. 100 years later Italians. May have elected its first woman to become a Prime Minister, while this represents a break with the past and it symbolises a good step forward in theory, she also represents one of Italy’s worst chapters in its past: Mussolini’s Fascism. Meloni was a former MSI activist, and she is likely to form a government deeply rooted in populism and fascism, are very dangerous combination for contemporary European politics. We should not also allow to be fooled by her election as a woman. She has followed a similar path to Marie Le Pen called gender washing. She has adopted unknown threatening image as a female politician to mask the force of her extremism. For someone who is not familiar with Italian politics, her victory could be read as the triumph of female empowerment and gender equality. Throughout her campaign, she posed as a defender of women, however, her party has rolled back on women’s rights, especially access to abortion.

Gender washing is particularly predominant among right wing parties, as they do a better job at promoting women. Women like Meloni and Le Pen Are protected by the elite, because they support, the very pillars of male power and privilege, these women very often behave in the same way as the men in power. Meloni’s slogan God, Fatherland, and Family echoes the man-dominated and conservative model dating back to the Italy of Mussolini in the 1920s. Meloni’s politics should become more important than her gender, especially as she does not advance women’s empowerment, on the contrary, her victory means a drawback for women’s rights in Italy. Meloni is simply one more far-right candidate that has made it to power.

This should be worrying for Europe as a whole. There has been a constant failure to address the growing threat of the far-right movement at national and on a European level. In recent years, we have seen a slow and steady shift of European politics to the right, and the normalisation of a less inclusive and more racist and discriminatory discourse. This shift to the right should be seen as a ticking time bomb for the pillars of democracy. The pandemic and the current war in Ukraine have not helped the case for democracy.

There are rising living costs in the continent that are undermining governments and European institutions, and making people feel less satisfied with the way their countries are handling these issues. Crises have always been excellent breeding grounds for extremism, whatever political ideology it is. People are more scared during a crisis, allowing the politics or fear to work, and swing voters towards far-right extremists in particular. People that are more likely to vote for far-right alternatives, favour certainty and stability amidst societal changes. Change is perceived as a threat to conservative voters. Under current conditions, there are enough real or perceived changes for extremist to put the blame on. This is one of the greatest paradoxes and dangers of populism and extremism: it often identifies real problems, but seeks to replace them with something worse, the slow and almost imperceptible destruction of democratic values, institutions, and liberties.

The irony behind this is that although populists are usually extremely bad at running a country, the blame will never be placed on them. Populist leaders consolidate support by creating enemies and dividing the population between “us” and “them”. Failure in public policies, inability to provide viable solutions to crises will never be attributed to their elected officials, but rather to the enemies they have decided to use as scapegoats. In this way, as populist governments are unlikely to solve crises, things will eventually worsen, and more crises are inevitable;  meaning more fear is  also unavoidable. This creates a vicious circle that provides populists and extremists with further opportunities for power.

If there is something to be learnt from the current shift in international politics to the right, is the fact that voting behaviour differs from country to country. All politics is local. Voters are influenced by charismatic leaders, local events, regional issues etc. However, when it comes to the rise of extremism, common ground can be found between countries: the existence of a political, economic, or social crisis. Some far-right narratives have been able to cross borders, namely, anti-immigration and white and male supremacism. The Europe of today may be very dissimilar to the Europe of the near future should far-right movement continue to attain power in most countries. Far-right populist parties are a pan-European concern that should be addressed if we want democracy to survive in the long run.

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