Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Left? Right? Something else?

How can the results of this weekend’s parliamentary election in Italy fit into the left/right spectrum bequeathed to us from the French Revolution? The post-communist ‘leftist’ leader, Bersani, promised to keep wearing the Eurocrats’ austerity hairshirt while the ‘right-wing’ Bunga-Bunga man [above left] promised to defy them. Where then stands Bepe Grillo [above right], the novice comedian-turned pol, who said a pox on all known houses and their inhabitants and swept 25%?

But then again, what does any of it matter given that Italy’s voting papers weren’t even stacked in neat piles when the German paymasters promptly said that the beatings will continue until morale improves along with the Italian national debt. Except that it won’t because the austerity program has been shown to fail spectacularly by every conceivable measure with the sole exception of whether or not it has protected bank assets, bank managers and bank bondholders. (It has.)

The coverage reported in the European press at the Italians’ unthinkable refusal to bow down to the banker gods would be hilarious if it weren’t so deadly. All the mainstream wank-meisters are chorusing in remarkable unison about the irresponsibility, immaturity, populist self-indulgence and lazy-ass freeloading reflected in the vote for the anti-austerity Berlusconi and the neophyte Grillo. They twit Italians for refusing to face ‘reality’, and promptly insist that the empiricially-tested massive failure known as austerity must be continued indefinitely. No doubt they are boosted in these fantasies by Obama’s adoption of the GOP austerity pitch over here, despite the kabuki theatre now taking place and masking their underlying agreement to dismantle the safety net.

The difference between this electoral revolt and the one that occurred in Greece a few months back is that Italy is a much larger player and cannot be so easily intimidated. While threats to leave the Eurozone would be no big deal coming from Athens or Lisbon or even Madrid, Rome is different. It has a large enough economy and small enough overall debt load that it could plausibly wriggle out of the austerity straitjacket and the Eurozone itself and do all right in the long run, notwithstanding some immediate suffering. But we should not underestimate people’s willingness to sacrifice when they feel that the end result will be greater and more widely distributed fairness, including punishment of the guilty, i.e., the banks that orchestrated the current devastation.

Grillo is a peculiar case, but his success shows that something is afoot that the Usual Suspects cannot control. His highly personalized movement’s program is stuffed with attacks against the ‘political class’ as if ‘politics’ could be avoided entirely (military dictatorships like that line, too), and the proposed solutions like term limits are pointless—what, the next crop won’t slip into the same vices? But at the same time he has a point, and it clearly resonates with citizens: the professional pols who have run Italy since forever in living memory are a morally and now financially bankrupt cult.

The same could be said for virtually all ruling factions throughout Europe since everyone is shackled to the austerity wheel by the French and German banks whose refusal to take any hit for what they cooked up underlies the ongoing deterioration of the lives of the continent’s people. Eventually, a lot of them are going to say they’ve had enough and demand a new course, and Italy may be the epicenter of this inevitable denouement. The Euro-elites may put the genie back in the bottle again for a while, but it will never be permanent.

No comments: