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Rome vs. Brussels. Economic policies of the “Radical”-Far Right

by Klaus Draeger, December 9, 2018, via Defend Democracy Press

Comment on the dispute between the Italian government and the European Commission on Italy’s draft budget 2019

On macro-economics the Italian government is quite right in challenging the EU ‘consensus’ and criticizing the EU’s past and present austerity policies. On other issues (such as migration etc.) they are very much in line with the EU consensus on that – strengthening ‘fortress Europe`to the max, and aiming to go further on this, so that no migrant should be allowed to set foot on ‘Italian soil’.

If one thinks that this is ‘contradictory’ – yes it is indeed.  The more so, if you look at this from a ‘left wing emancipatory’ perspective. However, in reality things might be more complicated. Tom Gill’s piece on Italy in my view is pretty good in analyzing those contradictions, and also in criticizing the neo-liberal elements of the M5S-Lega coalition’s ‘peoples budget’: e.g. the flat tax rate of 15 % for small businesses, an amnesty for tax-dodgers, or the ‘citizen’s wage’ scheme which at a closer look is ‘workfare-light’, comparable to the infamous Hartz IV scheme in Germany.

Equally, we could look at Hungary and Poland: the governments of these countries (hard right, ‘illiberal’ etc.) definitely launched some attacks on the ‘neoliberal agenda’. For example, the PiS in Poland by introducing some kind of ‘social minima’ for the poor (aimed at their voter base in the countryside). And also by demanding a tax on western European supermarkets, which the ECJ rejected. In Hungary, Orbàn ‘reformed’ the pension system – integrating the ‘capital based’ pillars of it (introduced by the neo-liberal Hungarian “Socialists” in  the 1990s) into the statutory system. Apart from that, Orbán is of course building up a strict ‘workfare state’ regime for the unemployed and the excluded.

Social reforms involving at least some social minima (which in those countries did not exist before), and pension schemes of the kind mentioned here have proved quite popular among underprivileged sections of society in the respective countries insofar as they seem to provide them with a much-needed safety net – not to be laughed at since this is the very thing which the neo-liberal right and centre-left always denied them. In that respect, the European hard right is much smarter than the centre-left and even the radical left in regard to the means by which they have sought to win hegemony for their reactionary and authoritarian rule.

Which leads us also to the issue of ‘social inclusion’ (and how to generate it). To see how this works in principle we might go back to Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, or even further back to the “Bonapartism” of Napoleon III where, in my view, the earliest parallels with versions of the macro-economic and social policy in countries governed by “hard right” today could be seen at work. Only to mention Napoleon III: he deplored the massacres against the workers of the Paris Commune, created green parks which workers and their families should enjoy etc. – just to push back the specter of French Socialism growing in strength and to underpin his otherwise militarist and authoritarian rule.

For hard-right parties and their supporters, it’s pretty clear: only the hard-working masses – possibly including migrants already settled in Europe before the present “crisis” and “deserving” members of the gay community, as the deceived hard-right leader Pim Fortuyn put it in the Netherlands – will be entitled to protection by the national welfare state, while “new arrivals” [current refugees and migrants] are to be denied a welcome.

To draw on Bertolt Brecht’s distinction: The left opposition traditionally tried to follow the logic of ‘Keiner oder alle – alles oder nichts’ (all or nobody – all or nothing), seeking to push for an egalitarian and emancipatory, socially inclusive solution. The right-wing ‘populist’ opposition follows the logic of ‘Für alle reicht es nicht’ (there is not enough for everybody).

The problem for the lefties in my view is this: how to define this socially inclusive solution at the ‘national level’ (and downwards to the regional or local levels’) to become stronger? One can have a lot of proposals also for the European and global level. But these are mostly interesting for ‘experts’, intellectuals and the like (‘model building’ exercises – nothing against that – but often too complicated for ‘ordinary people’ to rally around such quite complex conceptions).

In particular, good-intentioned proposals of some forces on the left to transfer competencies on social policy to the EU level (e.g. by creating an EU-scheme for unemployment insurance etc.), will only backfire . The EU’s record on this are the dictates of the Troika (against Greece, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Ireland etc.) in the past, the EuroPlusPact (2011), the Fiscal Compact (2012) and ‘EU-Economic Governance’ (2012) with the European Semester Process – all that strongly biased to slash trade union rights, attack pensions and social welfare, collective bargaining and the like. With the current relationship of forces (authoritarian EU, neo-liberalist consensus between the centre-right and the hard right – see e.g. Austria), in my view it is illusionary to expect genuine social improvements from transferring social policy competencies to the EU level.


Klaus Draeger worked for the group of the European United Left/ Nordic GreenLeft as staff co-ordinator in the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs; now retired. He is a member of the advisory board of the German magazine ‘Z’ (Zeitschrift Marxistische Erneuerung ZME; Journal of Marxist Renewal).

 

13 Comments

  1. Ole C G Olesen says

    The Article is LEFTIST LIBERAL PIECE OF SHIT .. which attempts to LURE GULLIBLE VOTERS back in the LEFT FOLD … Voters have had ENOUGH of YOUR LIBTARD SCHIZOFRENIC AGENDA … on one side PRETENDING to be an Advocate for Common European man .. while on the other side to be PART of the POPULATION EXCHANGE Programe for Europe … We .. who have our brain cells left recognize YOU .. COMERADE NAPOLEON … FUCK OFF ! … And to OFF . GUARDIAN : I am dead tired of Your LIBTARD LEFT PROPAGANDA .. and will soon discontinue reading Your Stufff… IT IS WORTHLESS … besides of being FALSE

    • Chris says

      Agree with you entirely Ole on this article being a piece of leftist bullshit. The unintended irony in this sort of leftwing propaganda is that it makes a reassessment of history supposed ‘bad guys’ inevitable. If Hungary and Poland (and now Italy) – which any objective observer can see are nothing more than countries seeking to preserve their cultural identity – is really as this article says supposedly ‘far right’ then one has to ask: Well does that mean that those other supposedly far right regimes of Hitler and Mussolini were similar? i.e. actually quite moderate. (You might have guesed but I have long ago come to the conclusion that the answer to that question is YES!) Best wishes Ole! PS. Don’t give up on OFF Guardian – most of its material is much better than this article – which seems oddly out of place. I presume that by publishing this piece, OFFG is just showing it doesn’t censor differing opinions. Hopeully, it doesn’t indicate a leftist push to take over OFFG.

  2. Starac says

    Article by article, comment by comment…. The same argument. Sharply limited, fenced around.
    Long due for: defining and redefining “democracy”, future and well being of human species, purpose and path to exist.
    Tall ships are for museums.

    • Loverat says

      Most folk don’t visit museums – hence why most will not understand your language To understand the present you need to visit museums – tall ships included. We have to hold their hand on the journey to the well being of humanity.

  3. Joerg says

    What should be done is easy to see: Reinstall what worked so well in history: MERCANTILISM!

    It worked well for after-war West-Germany and Japan, it worked so well for Sweden in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s (Olof Palme). It worked so well for Prussia (before: the poorest state of German language) in the 18th and 19th century!

    For more see my comments from several days ago:
    https://off-guardian.org/2018/12/13/the-indiscreet-charm-of-the-gilets-jaunes/#comment-140865
    https://off-guardian.org/2018/12/01/fascism-is-the-true-face-of-capitalism/#comment-139791

    See also (only in German – but Klaus Draeger seems to be German speaking):
    “WELCHE STAATSWIRTSCHAFT?” – http://www.directupload.net/file/d/4556/o7qbq9dq_pdf.htm

    • Seamus Padraig says

      Nice work if you can get it! The problem with mercantilism is that it won’t work for all countries at once. For every country on earth that runs a trade surplus, there must be a country (or a group of countries) that runs a corresponding trade deficit. In other words, all trade deficits and all trade surpluses on earth must sum to zero. A better, more workable idea might be to strive for national (or regional) self-sufficiency.

      • Joerg says

        @Seamus Padraig (my comment from 5 hours ago didn’t apear- here it is again)
        For every country on earth that runs a trade surplus, there must be a country (or a group of countries) that runs a corresponding trade deficit. In other words, all trade deficits and all trade surpluses on earth must sum to zero.”
        Yes, Seamus Padraig, but Mercantilism is just the opposite of getting a national surplus by trade. As a matter of fact, Mercantilism was adopted to DEFEND against a national deficit. The Prussia of Fredericks father for example noticed that traders from other German states came into Prussia bought all the wool there, brought it back to their own countries where it was woven to textiles. And then the traders brought these textiles back to Prussia and sold it there. so Fredericks father (Friedrich-Wilhelm I.) erected state owned textile factories, then forbade that Prussian wool got sold to foreign traders, while at the same time it was bought up by the state’s textile factories, which then produced the cloth needed in Prussia.
        By the way England (not yet “Great Britain”) had a deficit problem with the French “Cognac”. so they invented (or at least: pushed) the production of home made “Whisky”. the Dutch did the same with their “Genever” (later adopted in England as their “Gin”)

        As a matter of fact, You, Seamus Padraig, give the right answer:
        A better, more workable idea might be to strive for national (or regional) self-sufficiency.”
        And I understand perfectly that with “self-sufficiency” You don’t mean what bothered pre-war Nazi Germany and pre-war Japan: Being cut of off rubber (coming from Brazil and Malaysia) – then a fundamentally important substance – also for the military (in nowadays USA you have the same hysteria of being cut off of “seldom earths” – Lithium and other substances coming mainly from China).
        This “self-sufficiency” of Mercantilism has the idea that a nation (more in the sense of a “market” with its participants – and not as a nationalistic-identity institution) becomes rich because of its productivity not because of a “trade surplus”.
        Let’s take a farmer of , let’s say, 300 years ago. He produced grain, fruits (apples) meat (chicken, pigs, cattle, sheeps) but needed things he couldn’t produce: Textiles, shoes, candles (for light after sunset), ploughshare, vehicles (a coach, wagons), harnesses, pottery, and so on. And, yes, he “sold” (by barter or for money) a part of his products for that. But his “surplus” was based on his work – not on his trade with the smith, shoemaker and so on.

        When You, Seamus Padraig, say “For every country on earth that runs a trade surplus, there must be a country (or a group of countries) that runs a corresponding trade deficit“, you hit the nail on the head! E. g. Germany’s trade surplus is nothing but parasitic, because it pushes other countries into debt.
        But if you tell a poor(!) German citizen (I now too little about Japanese, Japan being also a export-surplus country), that we should turn to Mercantilism (with high(!) protective tariffs – answered immediately by other countries with also high protective tariffs there, thus spoiling German exports) he/she will protest. Because he/she thinks he/she is profiting from this export-surplus. But not even that is the case! Shareholders of German big companies are mostly foreigners. Sadly Germany is one of the greatest exporters of military good. But “Krauss-Maffei” (machines but also tanks and other military goods) for example belongs to a 100% to a Chinese corporation.
        Mercantilism in the past was aimed at infrastructure. first canals, than railways then “autobahns”.
        But nowadays Mercantilism is about to distribute the country’s gross national product to every citizen.

        .By the way, when You said: “>Open borders and welfare are, over the long haul, incompatible goals>” I totally agree!

        • Joerg says

          Sorry, OffG – my mistake! Of course my comment had appeared.

  4. Seamus Padraig says

    Sorry, but if something like the post-war Sozialstaat is to survive at all, there will have to be some limitations placed on immigration. Open borders and welfare are, over the long haul, incompatible goals.

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    • Joerg says

      @Seamus Padraig
      For every country on earth that runs a trade surplus, there must be a country (or a group of countries) that runs a corresponding trade deficit. In other words, all trade deficits and all trade surpluses on earth must sum to zero.”
      Yes, Seamus Padraig, but Mercantilism is just the opposite of getting a national surplus by trade. As a matter of fact, Mercantilism was adopted to DEFEND against a national deficit. The Prussia of Fredericks father for example noticed that traders from other German states came into Prussia bought all the wool there, brought it back to their own countries where it was woven to textiles. And then the traders brought these textiles back to Prussia and sold it there. so Fredericks father (Friedrich-Wilhelm I.) erected state owned textile factories, then forbade that Prussian wool got sold to foreign traders, while at the same time it was bought up by the state’s textile factories, which then produced the cloth needed in Prussia.
      By the way England (not yet “Great Britain”) had a deficit problem with the French “Cognac”. so they invented (or at least: pushed) the production of home made “Whisky”. the Dutch did the same with their “Genever” (later adopted in England as their “Gin”)

      As a matter of fact, You, Seamus Padraig, give the right answer:
      A better, more workable idea might be to strive for national (or regional) self-sufficiency.”
      And I understand perfectly that with “self-sufficiency” You don’t mean what bothered pre-war Nazi Germany and pre-war Japan: Being cut of off rubber (coming from Brazil and Malaysia) – then a fundamentally important substance – also for the military (in nowadays USA you have the same hysteria of being cut off of “seldom earths” – Lithium and other substances coming mainly from China).
      This “self-sufficiency” of Mercantilism has the idea that a nation (more in the sense of a “market” with its participants – and not as a nationalistic-identity institution) becomes rich because of its productivity not because of a “trade surplus”.
      Let’s take a farmer of , let’s say, 300 years ago. He produced grain, fruits (apples) meat (chicken, pigs, cattle, sheeps) but needed things he couldn’t produce: Textiles, shoes, candles (for light after sunset), ploughshare, vehicles (a coach, wagons), harnesses, pottery, and so on. And, yes, he “sold” (by barter or for money) a part of his products for that. But his “surplus” was based on his work – not on his trade with the smith, shoemaker and so on.

      When You, Seamus Padraig, say “For every country on earth that runs a trade surplus, there must be a country (or a group of countries) that runs a corresponding trade deficit“, you hit the nail on the head! E. g. Germany’s trade surplus is nothing but parasitic, because it pushes other countries into debt.
      But if you tell a poor(!) German citizen (I now too little about Japanese, Japan being also a export-surplus country), that we should turn to Mercantilism (with high(!) protective tariffs – answered immediately by other countries with also high protective tariffs there, thus spoiling German exports) he/she will protest. Because he/she thinks he/she is profiting from this export-surplus. But not even that is the case! Shareholders of German big companies are mostly foreigners. Sadly Germany is one of the greatest exporters of military good. But “Krauss-Maffei” (machines but also tanks and other military goods) for example belongs to a 100% to a Chinese corporation.
      Mercantilism in the past was aimed at infrastructure. first canals, than railways then “autobahns”.
      But nowadays Mercantilism is about to distribute the country’s gross national product to every citizen.

      .By the way, when You said: “>Open borders and welfare are, over the long haul, incompatible goals>” I totally agree!

  5. What are the options? says

    “demanding a tax on western European supermarkets, which the ECJ rejected”

    Selling imported products at a much cheaper price than locally produced ones destabilises the social order.

    Demand for a tax on foreign supermarkets sounds fair and reasonable. When a demand for such a tax is rejected, it is time to demand an outright BAN on these supermarkets! It’s the logical step to preserve dignity and humanity.

    What hope ordinary people have if the ECJ (The European Court of Justice) is siding with the Big Corporates?

    If it means ‘Fuck the ECJ’, well it is time to ‘Fuck the ECJ’.

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