Sunday, December 4, 2016

Italians reject reforms. Renzi resigns.

In what has been described by some as the “Third Domino”, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is to resign after a referendum voted no on his constitutional reforms today. The other two domino's are the Brexit vote and the election of Trump in the US and they are seen as the rejection of the status quo also.

The possibility now looms that Italy could, like the UK, seek to exit from the EU as one of the leading opposition parties, the Five Star Movement has talked of a referendum on EU membership and is supported by another antiestablishment party, the Northern league. The BBC is reporting the early percentages as the Yes vote at 39-43% and the No at 57-61%.

I am not deeply aware of all the issues but from what I have read there is concern about increased centralization of power with these reforms and the strengthening of the executive branch of government.   Italy also has significant debt issues and the economy is still 12% smaller than when the financial crisis began in 2008. Both immigration and the size of the government bureaucracy are issues.

As always though, supporters of the reforms Renzi wants saying they will make Italy more competitive is a warning to workers as is the call for less government. “More competitive” means lower wages, benefits and a reduction of the power of workers and our unions in the workplace.

Right wing parties and politicians like France’s Marine Le Pen of the Front Nationale are ecstatic, "The Italians have disavowed the EU and Renzi. We must listen to this thirst for freedom of nations," Le Pen is reported as saying.

These developments are an attempt to put a break on capitalist globalization and on the part of the capitalists of various nations, (and some workers) a return to the independence of the sovereign nation state, or more accurately, the political formation we call the nation state within the framework of a global economy. This contradiction, the existence of nation states with an global economy, Marx pointed our 150 years ago, that the nation state is an obstacle to the development of a globally integrated economy and that this contradiction cannot be resolved with the framework of capitalism. World wars are the result of competing nation states as are more regional ones that we see in the era of nuclear weapons. In the last analysis national economies cannot escape being dragged in to the world economy, it is an inevitable process under capitalism. But this contradiction, this tension, cannot be undone except through the elimination of capitalism and the creation of a democratic socialist federation of nation states.

For workers in the advanced capitalist countries these developments are also a rejection of capitalist globalization which they see as destroying their living standards allowing capital to seek cheaper labor, or the migration of cheaper labor to higher waged countries undermining wages.  As workers living standards have declined, the wealth at the top increases as the body politic is mired in corruption. People see no way forward if things stay as they are.

Here in the US, given the absence of any offensive at all from the heads of organized labor, a con man like Trump has been elected president in what are some of the most undemocratic of all bourgeois elections, and all bourgeois elections are undemocratic. We are serious on this blog when we write that the heads of the workers’ organizations at the highest levels are responsible for the rise of Trump in the US as they have the resources to offer an alternative but have not. They have cooperated with capitalism and its representatives and are cooperating with the con man Trump. For the labor leadership, there is no other choice as mobilizing the power of their own members and the working class in general can only lead to chaos.

We saw the same with Syriza and Tsipras in Greece who when the Greek working class made it clear they were prepared to fight austerity imposed on them by the EU and the World Bank, capitulated immediately rather than launch a Europe wide campaign to drive back the offensive of global capital.

All is not bad news as far as elections go today, as we have seen a huge shift in to the Labor Party in Britain and the rise of Corbyn.  On Italy’s northern border in Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen an environmental candidate defeated far right candidate Norbert Hofer by a 53.3 percent to 46.7 percent today. Had the right-winger won and the potential for an Austrian exit from the EU been on the cards, the EU, would have been thrown it to a severe crisis and still may be. Instead, "I will be a pro-European president of Austria open to the world." Van der Bellen said, giving the EU figures like Merkel some breathing room.

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