04 December 2016

Italy: Shaken by Earthquakes both geological and political

2016: It's a year of earthquakes in Italy. Earlier this year, several villages crumbled into the dust, broken by the force of the earth. Today, Italy's political order has been shaken and its Establishment finds itself under a cloud of uncertainty and threat.

For those seeking to interpret events in Italy this article is probably the best I've found that provides a good summary of the issues at stake. Renzi's proposed reforms represented pro-EU safeguards for Italy which increasingly finds itself in a volatile situation vis-à-vis the EU and in particular the Eurozone.

Renzi's predicted loss is now certain and what this means for the EU will become clear in the days and weeks ahead. This is a huge victory for the populist Five-Star movement and once again the EU Establishment suffers defeat. Will Italy be leaving the Eurozone, or even the EU? You can be sure that many forces will work to prevent either from happening but no one knows what the outcome will be. The powers that be in the West are shaken and scrambling to reconstitute power centres, political alliances and narratives. Populism and the Right are ascendant.

Renzi represented a pseudo- Anti-Establishment, akin to Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and both the Sanders and Green Party movements in the USA. These forces represent a false front. Posing as radicals they are little more than weak (if disingenuous) reformists who wish to strengthen the existing system by 'tweaking' the parameters and most importantly the perceptions of the masses.

These forces are meant to serve as 'blow-off' or relief valves for popular discontent and anger. These methods and tactics have worked in the past but we seem to be in a new age. The old methods are failing. The reasons for this are many and worth exploring.

Regardless of the cause, one can be sure the phones are abuzz in Brussels as many a bureaucrat is seeking to contain the chaos and implement damage control.

The EU's only recent victory which does little to offset its setbacks is the defeat of the Right-wing candidate in Austria. Hofer and the FPÖ went down in defeat.



  1. In the section underneath the headline, it says there are "dark clouds on the horizon of Europe's future". Here and elsewhere I've seen such apocalyptic language used with greater frequency in mainstream news outlets since at least Trump's election victory. It is true that it remains to be seen what will happen but as far as the sky falling is concerned, I'll believe it when I see it. So far, everything I've seen indicates to me that nothing noticeable will change, politically or economically.

    I was wondering if you could elaborate on what you mean when you like Sanders and Stein to Renzi and Tsipras and refer to their organizations as "false fronts". I'm not sure I fully understand what you mean, especially since Wikileaks uncovered the Democratic Party's conspiracy to undermine Sanders' campaign as well as the ridicule of Jill Stein and her relegation to the political fringe.

    1. If you look at Sanders' record, while it seems radical for American politics on the surface (i.e. he's a genuine Socialist), he's made a lot of compromises. One can read articles by Socialists on how Sanders, when mayor of Burlington, was a kind of Natalist when it came to workers' rights (he cracked down on protesters who picketed the manufacturing, and selling, of munitions to South American countries). He also had no intention on closing down the kill-lists or drone program and is no less rabidly supportive of the military than Clinton or any other Republican figure.

      Sanders represents a reshuffling of the American political deck, and is a populist to boot, but he does not seriously threaten the Imperium of global American hegemony. If anything, he was a whip for getting leftist Democrats back into the party to invigorate the right-wing Hillary. But that has proven a colossal failure and the openly corrupt machinations have been revealed.

      I think Bernie would've been a better option for the presidency, but not because I think he would've actually changed anything substantial. But perhaps it's better to have Trump, it's like an unmasking of American power. In that vein, James Mattis makes perfect sense for Defense: the heart and soul of our military is Col. Jessup from A Few Good Men. It all seems like a Biblical parable, the crude cartoon characters are a reality.

    2. The sense in which I refer to them as false fronts is this...
      Sanders speaks of a revolution and yet does not challenge either the Wall Street paradigm or American militarism. In fact even while he calls for the regulation of Wall Street he supports the basic paradigm of the profit and finance system. In addition without challenging militarism, there is no hope of dealing with Wall Street. The two are symbiotic. The fact that the DNC used him and then plotted his demise and then he supported them... what should one think but that he's a power-mad opportunistic fool.
      Stein very dubiously called on Sanders to take up the mantle of the Green Party. That was a complete betrayal of her party and its supposed principles.
      Endorsing Sanders who then endorsed Clinton effectively meant that after that point Stein all but channeled support to the Clinton campaign, even while she was still running for president. After the election she has chosen to push for a recount. Why? How would the cause of the Green Party be served by a Clinton victory and presidency? Trump is awful but Clinton is just as bad in many respects and both represent the same fundamental forces.
      I know she contends she's not trying to help Clinton, but then what exactly is she doing? Why are members of her own party turning against her? Is this a stunt? Is this about money?
      Reform from within or smash the thing? Trump will hardly smash it but he might begin the process of breaking it. In terms of historical dialectic, one would think these so-called Leftists (like Stein and Sanders) would be far more thrilled at the prospect of a Trump presidency. Things are far more likely to shift to the Left after Trump then after Clinton.
      At the end of the day both Sanders and the Green Party represent little more than identity politics and some calls for restraint and regulation within the existing paradigm. They are maybe Centre-Left parties but probably more just Centrist.
      If they wanted to pursue the course of a genuine opposition they would not push for a Clinton victory but would instead speak against a Trump mandate, emphasise his loss of the popular vote and continue to oppose both him and the DNC. Instead they are doing little more than trying to rally the Left's energy and numbers into the Right-wing DNC.

    3. We've seen similar trends with regard to Syriza and Podemos, the latter of which has not yet been in power. The policies of both groups support Western militarism and the existing system. They support the Euro and thus a continuation of austerity. They clearly do not represent a 'radical' Left by any measure. If Podemos did support such a notion, why do they continue to endorse Syriza instead of denouncing them? Tsipras basically betrayed every principle he ran on and instead has demonstrated himself to be little more than a bought and paid for tool of both Berlin and Brussels. He ran on anti-austerity and instead increased it. He ran as Anti-NATO and has instead forged closer ties with it and has even expanded the military relationship with nations like Israel.
      I understand that out of pragmatic concerns some might argue that you have to work with what exists and that you can't change anything unless you work from within the system.
      But I reject that argument on both moral and practical grounds. The system has demonstrated itself as unreformable and moral compromise on these points (while perhaps expedient) lacks integrity. I don't think the US or even the Western system can be changed from within. It's well beyond that point. Should dissenters therefore work for restraint (essentially a mild conservatism) or flat out opposition... the latter of which leads to potentially dangerous consequences? If the option is for the former then you can hardly identify as 'radical left'.
      If Sanders and Stein can't take the heat, then they should get out of the kitchen and allow someone else to step in and actually present a viable Left-wing alternative to the existing structure.

    4. As far as the dark clouds, I wasn't thinking so much of Trump but the fact that the EU keeps taking these hits... immigration, Euro crisis, the Polish Right, Brexit, an almost Right-wing government in Austria, and now a very unstable Italy just made more unstable etc...

      The German elections next Summer or Fall and the French elections in the Spring are going to be especially meaningful for the future of the EU, Eurozone and NATO.