mag 10, 2017
Corrado Poli

A FRENCH LESSON? ITALIANS DO IT BETTER!

In Europe and UK, people discuss French elections as if we all were French. Likewise, in June, we will be British and in September we’ll turn into Germans. Such an interest in other countries’ politics never happened before. Willing or not, Europeans share a single political and economic system: the EU matters a lot in reality and as a symbol. Diversities among western European countries have become irrelevant and occasional, but differences inside each country are dramatically growing. One of this is exactly the conflict between EU supporters and neo-nationalists which is taking place in most countries. To make a political system work, it is necessary to establish a relation between the two conflicting positions.

EU’s supporters divide into two factions. Some represent the well-established eurocracy and refuse any possible reform. Their goal is making the system work as it is. Others consider the possibility to partly amend some EU laws and institutions without overthrowing the basic foundations of it. Macron backs (or is backed by) the first faction; the Italian government (and the Democratic Party leader Renzi) embodies the second option. Notwithstanding Brexit, ironically May is closer to Macron than to Renzi. The clean break caused by the 2016 referendum has created an all-or-nothing situation: Brexit will not affect the financial and global relations between EU and UK all that much, but will weaken the call for reform of the political and social institutions. In the Hirschman’s scheme of “Exit, Voice and Loyalty”, the British demonstrated no loyalty to the EU and preferred a hasty “exit” rather than “voice” for change. The bad news is that they did not take any responsibility and gave up engaging for some viable reform. Good news, if any, is that they proved that it is quite possible to be upset by the current situation so that other countries’ following suit is a real risk.

Differently from France, in Italy the Democratic Party still plays a pivotal role in politics, while Macron had to found an overnight one-man party to give the old establishment a safe chance to win.

Among the anti-Europe populists there is the non-educated, old, violent and racist faction, and a more open-minded, utopist and intellectually elaborated one. The latter blackmails the conservatives also by waving the EU exit option, but in fact they use it as a pressure for reforms. Also from this point of view Italy can teach France a lesson. The angry and old fashion fashioned populism of Le Pen/Salvini, inspired by a neo-fascist heritage, is limited by the visionary and environmentalist populism of the 5Stars Movement which is not nationalist but loudly calls for a reform of European institutions. It’s up to the Italian Democratic Party to choose either Le Pen/Salvini or 5Stars as its major competitor. In the first case Italy would follow the French radical option; otherwise it would be possible to create the condition to reinforce both the Democratic Party and the 5Stars Movement role in a new dialectic which can gradually drive toward a new Europe.

It’s not surprising that ALDE initially admitted the 5Stars representatives into their EU Parliamentary group. Unfortunately, the French members of ALDE opposed, hence this opportunity vanished. ALDE would have found a strong ally to reform EU and would have contributed to a positive evolution of 5Stars. Nonetheless they preferred a sharp contrast along the lines of the Macron-Le Pen dialogue between two deaf persons. The “old is dying and the new cannot yet be born. In the interim, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”: this is what Gramsci wrote just a few years before Fascists and Nazis took over and Stalin had already established a totalitarian government in the Soviet Union. In the same years, British and American governments tackled the crisis by applying Roosevelt’s New Deal and Keynesian policies. Without revolutionary and subversive proclaims, progressive governments succeeded because considered people’s needs and the opposition’s demands and transformed them into effective policies.

 

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