Italy's referendum: a vote against neoliberalism and authoritarianism

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When it comes to neoliberalism the enemy of our enemies is unfortunately not our friend.


How did we ever get to a state where “centre left” and “neoliberalism” occur in the same sentence without the words “are implacable enemies” somewhere in there? One of the most successful talking points of the right has been to equate neoliberalism with “freedom”, whereas in reality it means the dictatorship of capitalism.


As Mark Blyth says, the Left doesn’t exist anymore. It died. A campaign against it lasting decades was waged by the moneyed interests, it was equated with the worst excesses of Stalinism whenever possible, and, lately, with increasingly esoteric doctrines bred in university department hothouses which sound like gibberish to the average person. As a result it’s gone. The neoliberal third-way types won[1]. The political conflict is between the neoliberal austerians and the various flavors of nationalist.


This just past election in America? That’s the new normal. Horrifying, isn’t it?

[1] Crucially they won the hearts and minds of the electorate in sufficient numbers that the left can’t recuperate. Consider Corbyn. He has about 30% of the electorate who really like him. If I was in the UK I’d vote for him, no problem. But that’s all he’s getting and, thus, the conservatives are poised to win forever. And if labour goes to the Blairites it’ll gain some ground but lose about as much as it gained, meaning Tories win again. Of course, Tories may get their own Trump which will cleave the party in twain, but that only means that the country will be, effectively, ungovernable.

We broke democracy. No idea how it can be fixed again.


Alt-Spaghetti has been around forever.

That’s an interesting interpretation; German public media has lumped the referendum result together with Brexit, the Austrian presidential vote where the far right candidate only lost by a hair’s breadth, and other unpleasantness.


If history is any guide, global capital is perfectly able to integrate ethno nationalist backlash into itself. The far right is no threat at all to private property, and useful for disciplining third world labour by rolling back multi cultural tolerance.


Blyth’s book Austerity, the History of a Bad Idea, was pretty remarkable. Really made me see things in a new light.


You mean this lot?


There are some simplifications in this post.

I personally voted against the “reform” to defend our Carta from clueless people trying to turn it into some hybrid Anglo-German clusterfuck, but I’m honest enough to recognise I’m in the minority (and doubly so among Italians living abroad, who overwhelmingly backed the proposed changes). Most people voted against Renzi because in Italy anyone ruling for more than a year automatically becomes a scapegoat. Even Berlusconi lost this sort of referendum in the same way. Public opinion simply turns much faster than elsewhere. There are deep-seated reasons for which we had 65 different governments in 67 years of Republic, and most of them have little to do with parliamentarian rules.

Other random points that the post, I think, gets wrong:

Renzi wasn’t a staunch supporter of EU austerity, but like Hollande he was completely hopeless at building a united front strong enough to stop it (which, to be fair, is really hard to achieve with 27 members, half of which are Eastern European capitalism-cheerleading proto-fascist countries). The proof is that, for the first time ever, Italy is going to veto the EU budget unless they get more money to handle the migrant crisis and provide economic stimulus. That move signals resolution as much as desperate diplomatic isolation, but it’s more than most countries ever tried. Yes, Renzi was fundamentally a neoliberal and managed to pass a number of radical right-wing employment law “reforms”, but some in his administration were smart enough to admit things can’t go on like this.

Also, the drive for centralisation was an attempt at balancing out the excesses of regionalism that were actually introduced in the past (Italian regional parliaments are notorious money-pits and cesspools of corruption, from North to South, to the point that most Regional MPs make much more money than national ones). The changes were badly written (which is not surprising, considering the average qualifications and non-existing cursus honorum of “lawmakers” surrounding Renzi: marketing executives, financiers, PR figures, “sons of”, etc etc…) and haphazardly bundled together, but some of them are desperately needed.


Frankly speaking, this article is bullshit.
The reform proposed by Mr Renzi (which is not an austerity fan, having pushed at Europe level to relax budget rules) has been on the agenda of all center left coalitions since at least 15 years (and before that if the Communist Party). It was seen as necessary to have a sane working system (Mr. Renzi’s will be the 64th government in 70 years), and everybody agreed on the general idea. It was just the occasion for his enemies (especially in his party) to get rid of him.

If it was tldr, the happiest reactions out of Italy were from Mrs. LePen and Mr. Forage and I think that should make you think
[edit for clarity of last phrase]


How did we ever get to a state where “centre left” and “neoliberalism” occur in the same sentence without the words “are implacable enemies” somewhere in there?


In a Cory post on continental Europe? I am shocked.


Not like this and not supported by everyone in those parties. It was a contentious attempt, badly formulated, stuffed with unrelated amendments (like abolishing some public authorities) with the sole aim to gather enough support from all sort of different people, and imposed on Parliament in very unorthodox ways (he set up a commission to work on it, and when they came back with the “wrong” answer, he just replaced everyone on that commission that he could replace). Constitutional amendments with large support in Parliament don’t need this sort of referendum; this one was not one of them. Looking at the result, it was for the best, as the majority of the country simply did not want it.

Seen by who? 60% of the voters, with a very high turnout, clearly didn’t see it as necessary. That’s how democracy works.

He could have avoided internal opposition by guaranteeing a few changes to the electoral law that they asked for, but he steamrolled them instead, so they had no reason to support him as soon as they (rightly) guessed he would lose. And that’s natural - it happens all the time in Italy, after one or two years any government has more enemies than friends. Anyone who has studied post-WWII Italy knows this. Forcing matters like this was a huge miscalculation, and here we are.


The article made me remember Berlusconi. It strikes me that he was something like a Trump before Trump. A Trumpusconi.

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Cory is lucky, I got nearly an A4 sheet of historian rant basically because of a throwaway remark about Hitler having to go to Germany to get anywhere because Austria was too progressive. It’s things like that that cause me to wonder if, perhaps, despite everything I have been brought up to believe, the UK really doesn’t belong in the EU, because we can’t be bothered to learn 27 countries worth of intricate tribal history.

As opposed to UK history which is… not tribal?

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Did I remotely say or imply that? I don’t think I did. But I need to go to bed and I can’t be bothered to unpack the full ramifications of my remark.

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I don’t think you wanted to say that, but it just seemed a weird way to put it. Specifying ‘tribal’ history implies that there is some other sort. (I guess natural history?)