The Italian left should hang their heads in shame

Today is a blog lay day only because I now have to pay the piper for being Australian but having to undertake work commitments in Europe – a very long tiring flight. At least I can read a lot of detective novels. But there was a story on Monday in the Italian media that I report on now as a conclusion to my stay here in Italy. The only conclusion is that the Italian left should hang their heads in shame for being surrender monkeys to the neo-liberal forces defined by the Troika.

The lack of leadership and initiative among the left has allowed the extreme right Lega Nord to garner electoral support that the left could have enjoyed had it not been so keen to play along with the so-called European vision, which is really code for the neo-liberal hegemony and redistribution of income from poor to rich – people, regions and nations.

In part, this is because the left is a heavily intellectual movement dominated by people who have money, security, nice housing and enjoy the ‘better’ things in life – meaning they have little contact with the seething masses in the streets and suburbs who are the targets and victims of the policy austerity regimes that the Eurozone has imposed.

Their love of Shakespeare and Verdi and Puccini presumably knows no bounds!

The – L’informazione indipendente Ageneparl – which is an independent news agency in Italy aimed at bringing the political and economic news to the general public in a simple, accessible language and format (le notizie sono scritte con un linguaggio semplice e mai specialistico ed hanno come obiettivo quello di avvicinare il grande pubblico all’informazione parlamentare ed economica”) – published an article yesterday that caught my attention.

The article (November 24, 2014) – Lavoro: Borghi Aquilini, inserire in costituzione prinicipio per piene occupazione – or “Jobs: Borghi Aquilini: wants to insert the principle of full employment into the constitution”.

What? Who is Borghi Aquilini – a left political leader perhaps? If only. Claudio Borghi Aquilini – is an economics lecturer at the Catholic University of Milan and writes for the the Italian news paper il Giornale on economic and political matters. He was previously the Managing Director of the Deutsche Bank in Italy.

He also happens to be the chief economist (“il responsabile economico della Lega Nord”) for the Lega Nord per l’Indipendenza della Padania who is prominent in their “Enough Euro, Another Europe is Possible” campaign (“Basta Euro, Un’Altra Europa è possibile!”). You can search it out if you want to know about that.

The Lega Nord wants independence for Padania (Northern Italy) within a federal structure and strong regional autonomy.

They also want the new federal state of Italy to exit the Euro. I won’t comment on their demand for a federal state, but their Euro exit strategy is the only sensible path for Italy to follow if they want to break out of the cycle of recession and increasing poverty.

So there is a lot of common ground there although the economics that underpin their concept of a new fiscal state is thoroughly neo-liberal and deeply flawed. They do not understand Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

Their anti-Euro stance has won them some electoral success in May European Parliament elections (6.2 per cent).

There were regional elections in two areas of Italy at the weekend, Emilia Romagna (centred on Bologna) and Calabria (south).

The Lega Nord won 19.42 per cent of the vote in Emilia Romagna, which is south of their usual power base centred on Milan.

Reuters reported that:

In Emilia Romagna, the anti-immigrant, anti-euro Northern League party … did better than expected, winning nearly 20 percent of the vote, while Forza Italia took 8 percent.

Forza Italia is Silvio Berlusconi’s party and the election was seen as nail in the coffin for his future political chances at the national level.

The Lega Nord leader claimed that the result was an indication that they can “break out of their northern base” and “allows me to go across Italy, from north to south because I want to get to 51 percent of the electorate”.

They are also strongly committed to environmental policies such as public green areas, national parks, recycling and opposes the big corporate food industry in favour of healthy alternatives.

But the League is also a nasty neo-fascist group fostering extremely conservative social policy stances – anti abortion, anti stem cell research, anti gay and same sex marriage, anti-immigration, and authoritarian rule of law positions. Their far right xenophobia amounts to racism.

They are also relative factionalised and there have been notable leadership spills and internal revolts.

Overall, not an attractive lot and one that the left should easily be able to pick off with some slick marketing and some strong framing of the alternative, with appealing language to support the frame.

But the left are pro-euro because the Lega Nord is anti-euro. Go figure. The left is scared of being confused with the Lega Nord in the electoral process. Go figure!

The left are so lacking in leadership and self-confidence that they do not think a fully articulated progressive social policy with an anti-euro stance could be differentiated from the filth that the Lega Nord push out.

And the article yesterday announced that the Lega Nord recognises the damage the Eurozone has caused for workers with high unemployment and lost incomes and plans to do something about it – something that will work.

The left talk relentlessly about ‘structural reform’ which is just the Troika neo-liberal mantra. Claudio Borghi Aquilini instead is now proposing to present to the Parliament:

… presenteremo in Parlamento un importante emendamento costituzionale in cui per la prima volta faremo passare il principio della piena occupazione come prioritario rispetto a qualsiasi parametro inventato da Bruxelles.

Which means they are planning to present to the Parliament a major constitutional amendment which will embed, for the first time, the principle of full employment. This principle will take priority over any of the rules imposed by Brussels (the European Commission) on the Eurozone nations.

In other words, the Stability and Growth Pact fiscal rules, the Two-Pack, the Six-Pack, the Fiscal Compact would be non-operative under Italian law if the economy was below full employment.

Sounds like a perfect interim step on the way to exiting and the basis for prosperity once the nation had left the euro and established its own currency.

Sounds like a perfect policy stance for the progressive left.

Why the hell is it being left to the crazies on the extreme right to articulate basic economic and social (in terms of employment) sense?

That is why the left should hang their heads in shame.


By framing their political stance in terms that people care about – jobs and opportunity, the right wingers gain political credibility and that gives them traction to then push their nasty agenda.

The political attraction could be garnered by the left if they concentrate their minds on what people really want.

But that would be too hard and going to the Opera and being a surrender monkey is easier.

Running in Rome

Briefly, I went back to old haunts. Villa Borghese gardens for one route and the second route the following day (see below) took me down to the river and along the paths. You have to watch the traffic but there are backstreets and once you get into the gardens or down the river things are fine.

Here was my 12.1 kms circuit on Tuesday morning before I left for Milan. I can recommend it for those with a similar propensity.


Thanks DNM for advice.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2014 Bill Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 31 Comments

  1. Thanks for the update (however depressing).
    This is the same situation as the political landscape in France for an Australian living overseas i see no improvement or alternative here come next election it may just be a voting exercise to keep the fascists out. (Even with the euro exit plans proposed by these extreme right parties they appear to be neo-liberal anyway. In effect partitioning france from the euro-crisis then replicating/sustaining the effects of the crisis anyway).

    Why is it too much to ask for a political party that understands the mechanics of a modern monetary system which so coincides with futhering the aspirations of the working class, social democracy, environment etc.

    I would have at least thought there would be a significant and vocal marxist style movement/politics in Italy?

    Hope the flight goes well. Best wishes!

  2. Beppe Grillo? 5 star Movement?
    It´s a well known populist anti euro anti banker party.They feature heavily in left wing Italian politics.

  3. I might add Reuters were predictable as usual highlighting Romes wish for resource poor Italy and Iberia to bring into its house half of the worlds poor.
    Rome is a devious internationalist organisation.
    Indeed it could be argued it reinvented itself as the first cross border corporate body after the fall of the empire.
    These 2 now poor countries have seen a net migration of 4.5 million per year !!!
    3 to 4 times its birth rate.
    What is enough for this unholy alliance of liberal Jewish bankers who wish to sustain capitalistic accumulation and Romes ambition for a new crop of naive good catholics.

    Can we have a king please.
    A man who is prepared to say enough to this malice.

  4. I find the political parties equally gutless here. When Labor was in government, the only policy the Liberals had was to oppose everything that Labor proposed. Now the Liberals are in power, Labor aren’t outright opposing absolutely everything for the sake of being different like the Liberals were, but they are gutless in a sense that they haven’t seized the opportunity to run this party into the ground like the Liberals did to Labor. There are similar flaws in this neo-Liberal government that are expressed in Italy’s right wing party. Anti-abortion, anti-stem cell research/therapy, racism, sexism, etc. Not to mention all the broken promises and outright nasty policies that are being proposed. There is plenty of ammunition but Labor has really not taken advantage of this. Labor is also not working to better inform the Australian public as to how MMT actually works and how this is very much a central component of the Australian federal budget. There is an enormous number of misinformed people out there who stand to make better choices about where they place their vote if only the information was made better available to them. I only became enlightened of MMT recently through a lecture i viewed by Steven Hail. I was grossly ignorant of the facts but it is hard to be better informed if you don’t know what you’re supposed to be looking for in the first place. I would like to think people’s attitudes would change if they better understood how the federal budget should work, too many assume it runs the same way as their own personal budget or that of a business (admittedly, i was one of them). Labor should be doing more to educate the people and yet it is doing so very little.

  5. Sarah,
    Sorry to break it to you but it is extremely likely that banks DO understand how modern money works and are able to accumulate a gargantuan amount of capital and real estate (more than anyone would ever tolerate if they were aware) by making absolutely sure that the populace is grossly misinformed. Why are all of the economic debates centred around commodity money vs. Central bank money? Why is it that you hear people talk about gold in monetary history (very unstable) but never tally sticks (stable for 700+ years)? Why are “economists” obsessed with inflation and interest rates rather than unemployment, output, sustainability and reasonable levels of equality (all economic concepts but barely even mentioned in the narrative)?

  6. Dear Bill

    The left is not for the euro because the nationalists are against it, but because the left has always had an anti-national bias. That’s why the left in Europe also finds it hard to oppose immigration, which clearly is bad for the masses in Europe. Mass immigration is always bad for the masses but usually good for the propertied classes. The left hasn’t figured out yet that there is an objective alliance between capitalists in high-wage countries and laborers in low-countries. The natural enemies of workers in high-wage countries are workers in low-wage countries. I don’t hesitate to state that the 2 most labor-friendly pieces of legislation ever adopted by the American Congress were the Chinese Exclusion Act, which protected American workers from competition by the teeming millions of China, and the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924, which protected American Labor from competition by the rest of the world.

    Leftists in countries like Italy and Australia have to decide. Do they want to feel solidarity with the masses in their own country or with the whole world? In the former case, they have to advocate severe restrictions on immigration. This all the more true because in every European country, immigrants are overrepresented among the beneficiaries of the welfare state. As Wouter Bos, the former leader of the Dutch Labor Party, once said: “We have to choose between a liberal immigration policy and an ungenerous welfare state on the one hand and a restrictive immigration policy and a generous welfare state on the other hand”. If only more leftists were aware of this.

    In my opinion, nationalism and socialism go hand in hand. Nationalism without socialism is fraudulent and socialism without nationalism is impotent. Nationalism without socialism is like a family get-together to which only the riches family members are invited. Socialism without nationalism is like a “family” get-together to which everybody is invited. The most successful socialists in the world have been the Swedish social-democrats. They started to become successful when they jettisoned their internationalism and concentrated on folkhemmet Sverige. The generous welfare state that the Swedish social-democrats built was meant for Swedes only, just as the NHS created by the British Labor Party was meant for the citizens of the UK only.

    Regards. James

  7. Dear Bill,

    Our constitution in Bulgaria for instance already has such provision. It says Bulgarian government guarantees that everybody who seeks job is employed! We have just to follow our constitution.


  8. Happy to help!

    The Lega Nord leader claimed that the result was an indication that they can “break out of their northern base” and “allows me to go across Italy, from north to south because I want to get to 51 percent of the electorate”.

    It’s worth pointing out that Emilia Romagna is still centred very much on the padana, and that although Bologna has a long association with left-winging politics, the region has always harboured some with fascist sympathies. Indeed Mussolini was a local boy. So in a period of general disillusionment, the relatively high turnout for the Lega Nord is not a huge surprise.

  9. @dnm
    Let’s not mix up social credit kibbo krift like movements from its capture by corporatist boy scout elements.
    The two could not be more different.
    I see bill censored my attack on liberal left wing forces which are always a attack on the family unit, the last bastion of defence from monetarism.
    Very predictable really , sad but not surprising.

    At the end of the day mmt is a centralizing corporatist solution.
    The old Irish idea of the state at least did not have this dead centralizing vortex at its center.
    We are living very much inside a British banking invention.
    The parliamentary oligarchy.

  10. I’ve come to the same conclusion many years ago. Left wingers can’t become some utopian workers of the world group. We can’t abandon patriotism completely to the right and let them define what is patriotic or not. I completely agree that when the founders of social democracy created things like the NHS or the Swedish welfare state they probably couldn’t have foreseen neoliberals letting in tides of immigrants (perhaps in a cynical long term ploy to destroy the welfare state?) for cheap labour.

    I have compassion for people born in countries with authoritarian conservatives in charge but there has to be a limit to generosity. Its not realistic to think we can help everyone. We need to close the borders.

  11. @James Schipper:

    The natural enemies of workers in high-wage countries are workers in low-wage countries.

    The economic output of other countries (your trade deficit) does not undermine governments ability to run policies of full employment.
    Imho tariffs and embargos are generally a bad strategy to drive demand as opposed to subsidies. Too much subsidies will at worst devaluate your currency thereby gutting imports anyways, but that is not the primary goal.

    Regarding right wing parties in Europe and opposition to the Euro, it is my observation that they do for exactly the wrong reasons. They are concerned about ECB “printing money” and causing inflation. Don’t know the details of the parties stances in other European countries but here in Austria the right-wing’s Euro exit strategy is coupled with the introduction of a gold-standard.

  12. James national socialism is always going to be a tough sell
    it has a bit of history

  13. Dear Kevin

    You are of course quite right. Any political party that were to put the term national socialism in its name would commit the ultimate PR blunder. Maybe we should talk about social nationalism.

    The full name of the Nazi party was Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. The word worker is in there too. In any case, the problem with the Nazis was not their nationalism or socialism but their racism, authoritarianism and paranoid anti-Semitism. It should be pointed out that racism and nationalism are quite different because race is a biological community while a nation is a linguistic/cultural community. Mixing race and nationalism is as bad as mixing nationalism and religion. If you do, you may end up believing, for instance, that only whites can be real Brits or only Catholics can be real Poles.

    Regards. James

  14. I echo jake’s puzzlement expressed above concerning the writer completely ignoring the M5S movement in his analysis. I suppose it resists pigeonholing into a simple two dimensional left-right metric and as such is difficult for those who think in those terms to process into a reassuringly conforming narrative. I’d also take exception to the description of Padania as meaning “Northern Italy” and the characterization of the Emilia as south of Milan–east is surely the nearest cardinal point. Draw a line from Milan to Bologna and see which way it goes.

    Milan certainly has a anarchist/leftist culture in place, I was there on May day this year and the ostentatious deployment of carabinieri was as ever present as the leftist graffiti interspersed with the usual ultras dross. I asked one of the officers what the concern was with all the forces of order and he said there were rumors of ‘back bloc’ actions. There were no black bloc or actions I could find.

    Also, a jog along the low lunghitevere (as opposed to the main parallel streets above) will put one right in view (and mind) of Roma camps situated under the bridges which will (and perhaps should) fuel any existing anti-immigrant leanings.

  15. Oh do I love running the Circo! Great route and excellent observations. La sinistra non sa cosa sta facendo

  16. Dear Kurt Sperry (at 2014/11/28 at 2:55) and Jake (at 2014/11/26 at 6:40)

    Thanks for your comments. I am not sure why you are ‘puzzled’ in my disregard for Beppe Grillo’s movement or the geographic location of Bologna.

    In terms of geography, Bologna (44.494190300000000000; 11.346518500000002000) is only slightly more east than it is south of Milan (45.463681000000000000: 9.188171399999987000).

    So one looks to the north to see Milan from Bologna. But the point I was making related to the location of Lega Nord’s power base rather than what defines northern, central or southern Italy. Lega Nord’s power base is not Bologna (or Emilia-Romagna) but in Lombardia, centred on the ‘northern’ city of Milan. That is where its HQs are located. Lega is strongest in Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Guilia.

    You might like to read this book, which I found interesting – Michel Huysseune (2006) Modernity and Secession: The Social Sciences and the Political Discourse of the Lega Nord in Italy, Berghahn Books.

    Whether Emilia-Romagna is part of Padania is also somewhat questionable. Certainly, the Lega Nord include it because that satisfies their political aspirations in broadening the influence of their party.

    They surely did very well in the regional elections in that part of Italy relative to the May 2014 European Parliament elections.

    But even the existence of Padania is questioned. As a geographical unit, it historically referred to the regions in the Po River valley. But many claim it is an invention of the Lega Nord. There was an article in La Repubblica (2010) – Anche i geografi bocciano il sogno lumbàrd “Quindici Nord diversi senza un confine chiaro” – summarising research done by the Società geografica italiana. The title says it all.

    As to Beppe Grillo’s M5S as being the hope for the future – well, I didn’t forget to mention them in my analysis. It was a deliberate omission. I just don’t consider them a particularly left grouping, even though they advocate leaving the Eurozone.

    They also didn’t do very well in the regional elections last weekend and were well down on their stronger vote in the 2013 general election.

    1. They have not advocated to put full employment into the constitution.

    2. Grillo, himself, has mixed with the fascists of Casa Pound and has welcomed them into his so-called “ecumenical movement”.

    3. Grillo is against giving Italian citizenship to those born in Italy of immigrant parents.

    4. He opposes labour unions.

    5. He believes in cutting public spending and privatising state run firms sich as Telecom Italia and electricity companies.

    6. The M5S mayor of Parma has cut city spending dramatically.

    7. M5S is also run in an autocratic manner with little grass roots input into the agenda set by Grillo and his partner Gianroberto Casaleggio.

    You might like to listen to this Novara radio programme – ‘Five Star Shaman’ – The Meaning of Beppe Grillo, which was broadcast on March 5, 2013.

    This article – – is interesting in this respect.

    When I was talking of the ‘left’ I was referring to the political viable left, which is now represented by the Democratic Party (PD) (ex Communist Party merging with more centrist groups). And it is an unambiguous disgrace.

    best wishes

  17. With draghi pushing for political union we can see the end game.
    Whether the protocols was a forgery or not the reality of our miserable existence is now impossible to deny.

    The social creditors were 100℅ correct.
    Shame nobody listener to them .

    Bill , you re one of them.
    A member of the war party.

  18. As you stated above the Lega Nord is ‘factionalized’ as seems to me is the entire Italian and EU political system, which looks to me to be at best marginally ‘democratic’ as well. The institutional structure seems entirely dysfunctional with regard to furthering what I call public purpose. It is said that Italy used to be much more democratic and public purpose oriented under the ‘original’ version of today’s constitution, but for a variety of reasons the institutional structure has tragically degenerated.

    So what I see is there is no ‘they’ or ‘left’ or ‘right’ with regard to ‘overall policy’ or ‘philosophy’ in any of the larger parties. Instead I see the parties themselves as something like coalitions of improbable partners, all of which makes things highly problematic for candidates as well as voters. In fact you could criticize anyone who voted for any party at all, given the implied philosophies of the various factions that exist within all of the major parties.

    For example, if you, Bill Mitchell, decided to stand for office you would have ‘moral’ difficulty being a candidate from any of the parties to a far greater extent than in the US or Australia where it’s highly problematic enough!
    And with the current structure only the parties can be on the ballot.

    So what I see has happened in Italy is that individuals become candidates of any given party on their own proposals and then attempt to move things in their direction, in sort of a shoving match between the factions, some of which seem almost ‘uninvited’.

    So what this comes down to, for example, is that while there may be what you might call ‘extreme right’ factions within the Lega Nord, that is not to assume-nor would Italians in general ‘automatically’ assume- that Claudio Borghi shares or supports those values, nor does the fact that he stood for office in the Lega Nord imply he shares or supports those ‘extreme right’ values, nor that the ‘extreme right faction’ supports his values. Instead, best I can tell, it is assumed that intellectuals like Claudio Borghi take the positions they do to advance their own ‘personal’ visions as Claudio has done with regard to adding full employment as a core value. That is, what we would call ‘hijacking’ the party- as claimed the Tea Party has done to the Republican party in the states- to promote a vision is actually the basis for political action in Italy, and not the other way around, where factions might exist due to their support of an overall party vision.

    Let me also add that the debate over the euro has similar aspects. First there is the economic debate with regard to euro policy, where the unemployment is caused by the deficit being too small/austerity, etc. However, at the same time there is the issue of nationalism and representation with regard to policy, which is entirely different than policy per se, though both debates have been heightened by the poor economic outcomes. So there is a strong ‘faction’ that is against nationalism, which it sees as the cause of the last two world wars, to the point of wishing to remain in the euro even with its counter productive economic policies and lack of ‘democratic’ representation, and work within that system to effect democratic and economic change. And you also have forces of nationalism demanding an exit from the euro for their reasons that go beyond unemployment, etc.

    To conclude, I was on a panel at Bergamo last year with Claudio Borghi and it was clear we were on the same side with regard to economic policy and public purpose, including the elements of the financial structure that sustain full employment, along with the need to overcome the deficit fear mongering, etc.

  19. @

    I woke up to your agenda when in one lecture you celebrated the destruction of the African village by british imperial forces imposing a money / tax monopoly on them.

    I clearly remember you appearing amused by it all.
    It comes down to a matter of trust.
    You expect people to choose between CONTROL who you represent and the KOAS faction of the EU /BIS.
    I am sure if most people even half understood distributionism / social credit they would select neither.

  20. I am sure if most people even half understood distributionism / social credit they would select neither.

    life in pre-civilized times was all sunshine and lollipops …

  21. @ham stay
    Your comment is without context.
    In large parts of Europe (certainly in the British isles pre enclosure ) the mean standard of living was much higher.
    If you survived childhood you were likely to have a much longer lifespan
    For Christ sake the British nearly lost the Boar war because their soldiery were stunted
    The poor Baldrics could barely walk.

    Do you know where the word roboten / robot comes from.

    It meant wage slave in the then newly banked lowlands.

    Obviously you are much better off being a feudal serf working 50 days a year for your master then being a wage slave for the company tokens.

  22. dear Dork of Cork

    your output and input is quite amazing and thought provoking> the cork is definitely out of the dork
    why you don’t also have a blog? it would be quite interesting, just saying

  23. Dork,
    Your statement is at best intellectually dishonest.
    I use the example of Ghana to illustrate how our monetary system works.
    And my Chianciano remarks ended with something like “the British wouldn’t impose a tax of 10,000, and then only allow people to earn 9,000 at their coffee plantation, and then go burn down the huts of those who weren’t able to pay… like the EU does.”

  24. Bill, let me add a bit to my comments.
    First, note I only stated that I support the full employment goal.
    That does not mean I support all of the other economic agendas.
    For example, I don’t support the notion that a devaluation is needed to support exports as a means to full employment, and numerous other associated economic proposals.
    And I also agree with you that numerous proposals of the ‘left’ and 5* aren’t worthy of support either.
    And I have enormous sympathy for progressive voters who find it nearly impossible to support any party.
    About all the can do is decide what their most important issue is and vote for the lesser of the evils who supports that issue, providing even that is tolerable.

    Personally, the same dynamic has kept me from voting at all in US elections.
    Interestingly, when I gave my talk to the Dallas Tea Party several years ago and then the same talk to Jamie Galbraith’s ‘way left’ group in Paris, I received overwhelming support from both audiences.
    The proposals were a full payroll tax holiday, a one time federal distribution to the states to get them over the hump, and a JG for everyone willing and able to work. And yes, they both supported the proposals, but for different reasons of course!

    Unfortunately the fact that ‘the other side’ showed support caused both sides to distance themselves from them.

  25. “the British wouldn’t impose a tax of 10,000, and then only allow people to earn 9,000 at their coffee plantation, and then go burn down the huts of those who weren’t able to pay… like the EU does.”

    I guess the primitivist logic would be that they should have, since that would make them free to return to a more nomadic lifestyle… 😉

  26. I’m Italian and yes, Bill got it right, as usual. One thing I’d like to note: from a legal point, introducing a constitutional amendment for full employment is pointless. The Constitution is powerless against EU law and International Treaties. The latter win on inner law and on the Constitution too. Italy’s own supreme court decided in this way. Moreover, a referendum on fiscal/economic laws and on treaties is not allowed by the Constitution. In other words: the only (legal) way to exit the Euro area or change the nonsense EU rules is to have a government that declares to exit the Treaties. Something unlikely to happen.

  27. Interesting discussion.

    To those that think that Sweden built its welfare state while keeping migration down, you are quite mistaken. Sweden built its post-war system on full employment and recruitment of labor from abroad. Large companies ran with the states blessing campaigns in Finland, Italy and Yugoslavia to recruit laborers to Swedish factories.

    See for details this graph of migration to and from Sweden (it is based on the public data provided by our central bureau of statistics).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top