Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Italian left 'will not work with anti-system parties' because the centre-left IS the system

Many people do not realise how few non-left-wing academics there are in the West these days - or how frightened those few are of expressing their views. 

In England favouring Brexit can mean unpleasant social or even career consequences: some of your colleagues will simply stop speaking to you. Brexit, which is scarcely a conservative position, since Anthony Wedgwood Benn, Michael Foot and Peter Shore supported it back in the day, as they say, and Dennis Skinner and Jeremy Corbyn do so now.

Even liking Tony Blair, academics have told me, is unmentionable.

The LSE blogs are a singularly dreary evidence of this lack of diversity of opinion, but somehow I found myself reading this post by James L. Newell, Professor of Politics (which is not a real academic subject) at the University of Salford. 

He is very unhappy about the Italian election result. I remind you that it is a sin against charity to take pleasure in another's sorrow. He says:

So, the future of the Italian left looks grim indeed – but so too does the future of Italy and of Europe. For the former, there is the prospect that the M5s fails successfully to complete its transition from party of protest to party of government, as it grapples with the difficulties of making decisions that will inevitably have winners and losers, and so ends up fuelling the already high levels of popular disenchantment with Italy’s political class. For Europe, there is the near certainty of conflict between an incoming government and the Brussels institutions given that both the M5s and Lega have built their remarkable successes on growing Euroscepticism. For those Italians who belong to the ‘educated classes’ – comfortable with the cultural changes of globalisation, in sympathy with the left’s internationalist themes and now the bedrock of what remains of the left – the outcome of Sunday’s election will have been a very sad one indeed.
I'd say it seems to perceptive people that the future of Italy hasn't looked so hopeful since - when? At least since the Communist Party broke up and probably since 'Il sorpasso', when Italy kidded herself that her economy was larger than Great Britain's. 

The article is much less interesting than the comments. This is usually the case with articles that touch on immigration.

But the passage above is, I think, worth quoting for the idea that it is the 'educated classes' for whom the outcome will be very sad indeed. 

So there you have it. The 'bedrock' of the left, whose entire reason for existing is to better the condition of the working class, is nowadays 'the educated classes'. 

Enoch Powell once predicted something of the sort.
In the end, the Labour party could cease to represent labour. Stranger historic ironies have happened than that.
The point could have been made by someone on the right but someone on the left admits it. It's no longer a slur but a fact.

This might be the reason why the left is doing so badly. Left-wing parties that depend on the well-off cannot thrive. Why would they?

Why the educated classes, however much they sympathise with internationalist themes, should be happy to offer asylum to over 100,000 African chancers who landed in Sicily in the first nine months of last year is bewildering. I wonder if it is left wing university lecturers who are to blame.

I think it probably is. Partly. But being internationalist is also about social class, about either living far from the poor or living among them physically but not in spirit, by being a BoBo (
BOurgeois BOhemian). As well as and connected to its class signals it is also a courtship ritual, supposed to help young men get more desirable girls than xenophobia does, although this is only true if xenophobic women are few or relatively unattractive or both. Perhaps in Italy they are.

But these things are not the whole explanation. Europe has ceased to believe in God. Internationalism, welfare and hatred of racism and discrimination are filling the void for the 'educated classes' left by the sacred. Politics becomes ritual. The ritual killing of the forces of evil symbolically represented, on this occasion, by Matteo Salvini and the League.

Matteo Renzi, the outgoing Italian Prime Minister who led the Democratic Party, the successor to the Communist Party, 
to defeat and 19% of the vote, said in his resignation speech on Monday that the PD would 
never act as a front for government made up of anti-systemic forces,
meaning the 5 Stars party and the biggest of the right-wing parties, the anti-immigration League.

How very telling. I thought the left were supposed to be anti-systemic. I thought that was the point of the left.

But no. The centre left long ago became the system.

We shall see what will happen. I am pleased that Silvio Berlusconi's party did less well than the League. What I find saddening is that almost one fifth of voters voted for the Democratic Party, despite the crisis in Sicily. It's  a long way down from the unprecedented 41% scored under Mr Renzi in 2014 but it is too soon to say that the party and the centre left cannot make a comeback. 

It is clear that the centre left everywhere in Western Europe is in crisis but so is the centre right. Both of these are good things.


  1. I do find it hard to believe that a future where illiberal parties govern and threaten the checks and balances looks just as optimistic in a reality where they do not. Economically of course you are in the right, but coming down to the democratic core of our society I do think because italy rallies under the populist flag political stability is looking awfully bleak.

  2. The "educated classes" comfortable with open borders and rarely meeting an immigrant who isn't serving them

  3. https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/12/meet-the-anti-immigrant-federalist-who-could-well-be-italys-next-prime-minister/

  4. I don't know what 'illiberal parties' means. The definition of 'illiberal' I find is 'opposed to liberal principles; restricting freedom of thought or behaviour'. The League is very in favour of freedom of thought and democracy. The triumph of the League and the Five Star Movement, both offering voters a real choice about various issues that had previously been out of bounds, seems very democratic. Why does the League threaten checks and balances? or stability?

    The invasion of African refugees threatens stability and the failure of any of the main parties to argue that Italy should alter its adhesion to the UN Convention on Refugees restricts democracy.

  5. Most of my thoughts on anti-liberalism or illiberalism is in reference to the two articles below. Owen splits liberalism in 3 stages where the third stage is more of an expressive individualistic nature that is based on EU-mandated economic openness – the free movements of goods, capital, and labour. Populist isolationism counters this, and once in government and sovreignty is restored there is a power vacuum that easily filled by a more authoritarian shaped structure. The new candidate pm Matteo even "praised Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who is famous for his authoritarian bent and for advocating what he has called “illiberal” democracy, and who has pushed back against taking in refugees from the Middle East."

    I am not arguing the people are in the wrong by casting their vote, and consider immigration just as much as a threat as others but I do not think going back to previous european political arrangements is helping stability and peace.

    Owen: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1758-5899.12435/full

  6. The EU is a tariff union. It has free trade internally because it wants to have as many of the characteristics as possible of a state but to the outside world it is not open. England traditionally was. The EU is far more authoritarian and far less democratic than independent democratic states like Switzerland or the USA. If only EU countries had regular referendums like the Swiss.

    1. There are 2 ways to look at liberalism: from inside a nation state, and from the outside.
      From the inside, it all depends on how much the nation state elected representatives respect the liberal principles. From the outside, unless the respective union (the EU in this case) becomes a nation state, it is hard to talk about liberal principles.
      The impossible situation that the EU is in right now, is although not a state, it tries to impose political rules upon the member states, via economic tools. As such, it becomes a rather illiberal structure.
      Brussels sees the rise of nationalism as illiberal, as it comes with the somewhat restrictive and self serving economic consequences, whereas Italians/Brits see the opposite. Quite a paradox.