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A blog of Post-Capitalist critique in general, economic, philosophical and political analyses, Post-Capitalist poetry and prose, Post-Capitalist philology, book reviews, Postcapitalist news, interviews, praxis, art and much more! For the record, Davide Ferri is a Postcapitalist, who graduated with a B.A.Economics(Honours) degree from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University, India. He currently lives and works in Mumbai.

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Friday, 18 November 2011

THE FALL OF BERLUSCONI AND THE RISE OF MONTI

THE FALL OF BERLUSCONI AND THE RISE OF MONTI


Written by Davide Ferri
B.A.Economics(Honours)
Delhi University
First published on November 13, 2011

My girlfriend and some dear friends asked me about my "Postcapitalist" views on the recent political and economic events relative to the sovereign debt crisis that hit Italy. I hope this brief article will suffice.

[in the following video, Merkel's and Sarkozy's non-verbal communication on Italian prime minister Berlusconi. Press on CC to turn on subtitles]



Under the infamous spur of Supranational institutions and European investors, unpopular Neo-liberal policies — of the likes of privatisations, deregulation, liberalisations, government spending cuts (austerity), underselling of State companies and whatever fills the pockets of the European bourgeoisie— would have surely been implemented in Italy, either in case of a victory of the "Left" party or in case of a reappointment of Mr Berlusconi (who is part of the Right-wing party "PDL") or in case of a formation of a "transitional" mandate led by Italian economist Mario Monti. 
As expected, Mr Monti — "neighbourly" called "Super Mario" by the Liberal press, recalling the famous videogame hero —  was appointed as Prime Minister of Italy, on November 12, 2011, getting an even more expected indistinct burst of applause both from "Left", Right and Italian mass media.
President of Republic Giorgio Napolitano — after appointing Supermario Monti as Senator for Life — commissioned his so-called "technical" government in order to "face the crisis"; by helping the financial capitalists to recover from the financial humbug that they themselves contributed to build up.
In short, the crisis of financial capitalists will have to be warded off by building up a crises for the vast majority of the Italians; under the pretext of "restarting the economy".




This "sounds good" for most of the unaware liberal public opinion, who is completely downhearted for the ongoing crisis and for the years of Berlusconi's ad personam laws and disastrous governance.
This also "sounds good" for the Liberal parties, for the Church, for investor-friendly opportunists and Liberal press. In short, it sounds good for a tiny minority, symbolically disguised as a "totality" thanks to the meticulous work of liberal journalists and years of hegemonic pro-capitalist ideology.
I would point out, for the record, that Mr Monti — the friend of the banks and the investors — is a member of the famous neoliberal think tank "Trilateral Commission" (founded by Mr Mr David Rockefeller), a member of Bilderberg group, International Advisor for the "quite-discussed" Goldman Sachs, Coca-Cola Company and former "European Commissioner for Internal Market, Services, Customs and Taxation". Noteworthy is that the latter EU role has been confirmed by Berlusconi's govt. in 1995 and that in 1999 Mr Monti has been reconfirmed as European Commissioner for Competition by d'Alema's "left-wing" Government [1] .
Mr Monti has been opportunistically depicted by the Italian media as the "saviour" of Italians suffering the stagnation of a wretched economy, the "Super Mario" of the situation, whilst he actually represents a politically "neutral" tool for the Italian left-wing and right-wing Parties that will allow them not to get their own hands dirty with the rough measures of austerity, whilst staying sufficiently far from the bludgeon blows of this policy and the miserable consequences of its unpopular character.
Mr Monti is also a tool for European Investors to save the Euro currency from falling into the chasm, a scenario in which the competitive French and German bourgeoisie would probably suffer hikes in currency values of less competitive countries like Greece or Italy.
Monti is the capitalist hope behind the recapitalisation of the banks and the fence against the "spread" of a large-scale economic crisis in Continental Europe that would harm German and French bankers, among others. 

He is the fence against a deeper crisis of Capitalism which would much likely occur in case Italy defaults, namely, its government is not able to repay its debt with the international finance. As far as get to know from the liberal Italian intelligentsia, Monti is an adviser in the service of the Italian people and the Italian economy as a whole.
Noteworthy is that while the humbug behind his role is being concocted at high levels, mass media, "Left", Right and a large part of the middle-class public opinion merely indulge in childishly blaming Mr Berlusconi "the person" for what all bad happened to Italy in economic terms.
A music "farewell" concert has even been held in front of the Quirinal Palace — the official residence of the President of Republic, wherein the Prime Minister was urged to resign — to "celebrate" Mr Berlusconi's removal.


"Berlusconi, the game is over!", "Thanks Napolitano!", shout the masses in front of the Quirinal Palace in Rome, whilst exclusively proving what all decades of mass media oligopoly and Liberal hegemonic ideology could create within the middle class and wage-labourers in terms of political consciousness. Berlusconi's game is certainly over, true, and he now appears as the cosy political "Bernard Madoff" of the national situation; the "guilty right-winger behind all", within a pure theatrical fiction apt to hide the perverse economic practices of a Capitalist system.
He now appears as the means of "mass distraction" in the midst of a crisis which will increasingly wipe away the purchasing power of all the people, "celebrating masses" included, thanks to the neo-liberal policies a' la Argentina 2000 backed by Mr Monti & Co.


[for the fetishists of the figure of Berlusconi, namely, Berlusconi 'the person', here's one of Berlusconi's (poor) "figures"]






The fall of Berlusconi is the mere "illusion" of a better future for the Italian people, as if the problem of a system, which has always been unsustainable, was "the person", the "single individual", the "Lord of televisions", the comedy persona that Berlusconi has always represented. In the post-Berlusconi era, the US/EU-backed austerity implemented by Mr Monti in Italy — and unanimously applauded by mass media and Italian parties — will cudgel the Italian wage-labourers in a far more violent way vìs-a-vìs the policies of labour market "flexibility" in the early neoliberal years.


What to say, a coup of international finance?
Italy's "legal" most immediate future hovers between the possible post-Monti rule of Social Democrats unaware that unemployment, crises and low wages are products of Capitalism...of its contradictions of Capital and Wage-Labour...and "post-Communists à la Occhetto and d'Alema who abandoned Marxism". History will say whether pseudo-liberal OWS and Anarchist movements in Europe will radicalise further or a new Socialist Movement will gain political relevance, in the light of the recent capitalist attacks on the wage-labourers of the State[2], agricultural, industrial and service sectors.
In case of a mature Postcapitalist radicalisation of the masses, Capitalism will likely face riots and agitations in the West; and this time they would be on a larger-scale vìs-a-vìs what Europe and the US experienced in the early 2011. New York, Rome, London and Greece already proved what "a depression in the way of becoming" can produce, not to mention a "full-blown" one. It is fundamental to outline that the peak of the crisis hasn't been reached yet. Once the (dialectical) peak is reached, the masses — if conscientised enough on the (at least "current") powerlessness of bourgeois government and of the reasons behind the past popular movements failure — may radicalise further and become in favour of the overthrow of Capitalism.  This is a possibility that cannot be a-priori excluded, as the masses e.g. — thanks to their contextual material scarcity — could already perceive, among other things, the growing politico-economic powerlessness of the Italian security forces (also affected by the crisis), the Italian parliament and mass media.
In case of a further anti-capitalist radicalisation, I would personally not get surprised if the crisis of profitability of Capitalism ended compelling the Italian govt. to pave the way for a bourgeois dictatorship, so as to temporarily raise the lost profitability of Capital. Capitalism will inevitably collapse, as proved by Marx and never disproved by Bourgeois economics (and/or "misproved" by underconsumptionist "marxists" à la Sweezy, Baran and Co. to know more about this specific topic, check my article on Realisation Crises in Capitalism)

[in the following video, Berlusconi's conversation with State TV's manager Sacca' or, if it pleases you more, how much billionaires' Capitalism cares about "friendships"]




The Liberal solution to the debt crisis is, of course, not a "systemic" solution, insofar as it aims at maintaining the system and not abolishing it, by doing away with its inherent non-human contradictions.
Bourgeois economics and bourgeois politics doesn't see the crises as natural products of Capitalism, occurring everywhere in this Capitalist planet of slums, infested by low wages and unemployment.
Neoliberal and pro-capitalist ideology has become so strong among the public opinion that it has become easier, at least for the western middle class, to imagine apocalyptical scenarios à la "2012" and "Armageddon" than envisioning the end of Capitalism[3] and the historical coming of Marxist Communism: the grassroots, uncompromising and non-bureaucratic one.
Within the framework of a liberal solution there could be an ambiguous "tactical" demand, which might virtually ward-off the immiseration of many Italians and lighten the economic pressure on Italian Wage-Labourers.
Such a demand would be a referendum on the Italian exit from the Euro Zone, which would boost Italian competition against German, French and European commodities and service in general.
However, there is still a lot of debate on whether such a choice is going to create long-run benefits or damages. Although the debt-related burden could be relatively relieved in the short-run, a dangerous capital outflow (considering that an italian currency would be strongly devaluated) could actually occur and exacerbate the precarious condition of wage-labourers and the economy as a whole.
Remarkably, Greece has been denied this kind of referendum.


(I would add that noteworthy have been the "angry shouts", "burps" and "farts" of the markets as soon as they started hearing about the referendum initiative!).


It is definitely important to remark that after the "comprehensible" leftist disappointment for the USSR governance, a serious refutation/confirmation of the validity of economic theories of Marx et al. on the part of "leftists", cultural Marxists, and right-wingers is not even carried out anymore; even though it could shine a light on many dynamics of present-day contradictions of Capitalism.
The "leftist" and right-wing intellectual impasse reached its peak after naively localising in the USSR's collapse the "end of Marxism": an epistemological, economic, sociological and political abomination, which hasn't substantially moved history ahead of a single spit.
Only recently, boss-friendly newspapers à la Wall Street Journal, BBC started (paradoxically) bringing the topic back to the public attention in the light of the recent dehydration of Capitalism (though in an ambiguous "social democratic" fashion). The condition of Capitalism is at present so wretched that even Liberals started praising Marx's works! John Gray (liberal) writes on BBC:

Looking to a future in which the market permeates every corner of life, Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto: "Everything that is solid melts into air". For someone living in early Victorian England - the Manifesto was published in 1848 - it was an astonishingly far-seeing observation. At the time nothing seemed more solid than the society on the margins of which Marx lived. A century and a half later we find ourselves in the world he anticipated, where everyone's life is experimental and provisional, and sudden ruin can happen at any time.

Also:

This state of perpetual unrest is the permanent revolution of capitalism and I think it's going to be with us in any future that's realistically imaginable. We're only part of the way through a financial crisis that will turn many more things upside down. [4]

Mr Gray, throughout his article merely admits what is obvious, namely, that Capitalism cannot sustain itself without sucking blood from the vast majority of the population: wage-labourers of the State, agricultural, industrial and service sector.  Like most of hardcore Liberals, this queer intellectual refuses to dismantle his personal liberal taboo behind a critical evaluation of Marxist Communism and Marxist economics in general. He remains a believer of the "Liberal Utopia" and — as a real pious Liberal — cannot go beyond his own love for the contradictions of Capital and subjugated Wage-Labour, which are tacitly considered as "eternal", as "natural". He fails to go beyond the outdated and boring attempts to render these contradictions as tolerable as possible for the working class,  to make "harmony" out of one system where inter-class harmony can never exist.

Gray-style commentators aside, the neoliberal "pensée unique" still dominates undisturbed in our Postmodern world (I dare say "postmodern" mostly because pervaded by postmodernists! That's all). Such an ideology could succesfully spread in a Capitalist world that witnessed the virtual end of the "organised Marxist-Leninist left" and found its legitimation in remaining "idle" at a level of consciousness still boringly espousing childish theories of the likes of "invisible hands" à la Smith and "supply creates its own demand" à la James Mill and J.B. Say. Of course, there is nothing more old than this humbug.
Every attempt to save Capitalism from its cyclical (and natural) dehydration has become a holy act, a quasi-religious ritual.


The Marxist Communist solution to the debt crisis — apart from the categorical refusal to pay the infamous debt of a parasitic class of investors — espouses the political and economic coming of Socialism (State-led though internationalist and class-less) as an historical phase introducing Communism (State-less, nation-less and class-less) — in a legal framework which may ward off, among other things, the horrible political and economic errors committed in the USSR and its zones of influence.
Socialism will help in raising the productive forces necessary to Communism, in which, apart from production, also distribution will be socialised and people will be able to have economic benefits "beyond their work" and "according to their need".
The first phase of Marxist Communism — commonly known as "Socialism" — cannot have "cyclical crises". Employment is held at 100% by the national employment bureau whilst inflation is kept at 0% by means of the economic planning regulation of prices; which may be arguably adjusted to equilibrium (Supply=Demand) with the "trial and errors method", as defined by Italian economist Barone and "perfected" by Polish economist Oskar Lange.
The growing purchasing power resulting from growing wages in Socialism must necessarily be accompanied by a growing investment in distribution and production on the part of the State authorities, so as to ward off the "shop queues", which were typical of a non-investing USSR. It should be emphasised that the Soviet Union, apart from suffering an economic humbug, had a huge political problem relative to its "anti-Marxist" character and the scarcity of the historical conditions (wars, invasions, famines, inherited bureaucratic problems, isolation etc), which hindered the correct implementation of a Socialist experiment. The scope of this article, of course, doesn't allow us to dwell up on it further. However, it is sufficient to remark, for now, that the economic and political method are there. Many intellectuals and revolutionaries wrote on the matter: Marx, Engels, Mattick, Grossman, Lange, Dobb, Taylor, Barone, Sweezy etc.



The crises in Capitalism are by now a self-evident reality, even for part of the liberal intelligentsia that has always been quite reluctant in categorising the cyclical shocks as inherent features of Capitalism (some liberals still argue that the "crisis doesn't exist").


It is well-known, at least by whomever carefully read Marx's works, that the investors expect an average rate of profit on Capital and whenever this rate goes below the average they end up holding back investment, expecting future higher returns until the average rate of profit is not restored or a rate of profit above the average is not achieved. This "held" investment produces overproduction, insofar as the absent investment will not be able absorb a share of production in department I (machine-producing firms), spreading the crises of realisation of commodities among all departments (even department II: consumer goods), with consequent layoffs, mass under-consumption and so on and so forth.
The tendency of the rate of profit to fall (TRPF) has always been a reality. There will be a point at which the decreased variable capital and increased constant capital, as well as the increased surplus value, will not yield enough profits for the mere existence of a Capitalist class.
The growing costs of depreciation on the grown size of Capital and the lack of a mass of variable capital who can absorb the production of Capitalists that keep producing — hoping for growing returns— will exacerbate the crisis of realisation of Capitalism, sooner or later.


On the other hand, it should be remarked, a democratic communist revolution is not "around the corner".
A Marxist attempt to overthrow Capitalism must reckon with all those objective factors that may help to prevent the desire of realisation of determined class social wants from being socially felt, as well as all those factors that may help to repress the popular claim on the realisation of social needs.


ENDNOTES:
[1] For the record, D'Alema is a former "Communist".
[2] See Grundrisse by Karl Marx. Marx points out that even State workers suffer for a surplus value.
[3] As correctly pointed out by "Cultural (ambiguous) Marxist" Zizek.
[4] John Gray — A Point of View: The revolution of capitalism — 3 September 2011, BBC

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