The Italian Job

By   /   May 31, 2018  /   25 Comments

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RECENT EVENTS IN ITALY raise some disturbing questions about the possibility of executing radical policy reversals in this country. While New Zealand’s constitution is a considerably looser affair than Italy’s, it is still worth pondering what might happen here if a newly-elected, about-to-be-sworn-in government was promising to roll back the gains of neoliberalism. Before attempting an answer, however, it is worth re-capping what has happened in Italy.

Carlo Cottarelli – “Mr Scissors” – Italy’s presidentially-appointed Prime Minister.

RECENT EVENTS IN ITALY raise some disturbing questions about the possibility of executing radical policy reversals in this country. While New Zealand’s constitution is a considerably looser affair than Italy’s, it is still worth pondering what might happen here if a newly-elected, about-to-be-sworn-in government was promising to roll back the gains of neoliberalism. Before attempting an answer, however, it is worth re-capping what has happened in Italy.

Back in March, Italian voters went to the polls to elect a new legislature. The results of that election were reasonably clear: the traditional parties of both the left and the right suffered major losses and the two leading populist parties, the Internet-based Five-Star Movement and the anti-immigrant La Lega (The League) made significant gains. After several weeks of intense negotiation, the two populist parties presented a ministry led by Giuseppe Conte to the supposedly apolitical President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, so that he could swear them into office.

Rather than bestow his formal blessing on the new government, however, the President objected to the populist coalition’s choice of Paolo Savona as Finance Minister. Savona was an outspoken critic of the European Union’s rigid economic policies and Mattarella was unwilling to entrust such a person with Italy’s economic management. Not surprisingly, Conte refused to comply and the coalition parties withdrew from the government-formation process altogether.

Undaunted, Mattarella appointed an interim Prime Minister of his own choosing: a former high official of the International Monetary Fund, Carlo Cottarelli. Mattarella’s decision to ignore the will of the Italian people and appoint a notorious neoliberal technocrat as their prime minister has sparked both a political and a financial crisis. Italy’s repudiation of the Euro, and even its departure from the European Union, cannot now be discounted.

Could such a blatant attack on democracy occur here? Does our lack of a written constitution protect us from a similar intervention by the executive arm of government?

The short answer, unfortunately, is – No.

The German jurist, Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) summed up the fraught issues associated with a democratic system in crisis (he was writing about the doomed Weimar Republic of the early-1930s) by posing a key question. Who has the authority to identify the presence of a crisis, or emergency situation, serious enough for the executive power to declare an Ausnahmezustand, a “state of exception” in which the normal functioning of democracy is suspended lest its continuance put at jeopardy the security and/or survival of the legally constituted order? “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception”, declared Schmitt.

In the New Zealand context, Schmitt’s formulation would encourage the view that if a situation ever arose where the political and financial security of the realm were about to be put at risk by a yet-to-be-sworn-in government committed to implementing policies inimical to that security, then the Governor-General would be justified in wielding her reserve powers to prevent such a government taking office. As the sovereign’s representative, she would be entitled to decide that the election result had precipitated circumstances of such exceptional severity that a temporary suspension of New Zealand’s democratic norms was justified.

The Governor-General would not, of course, be making such critical constitutional decisions in a political vacuum. The moment it became clear that a government of transformational radicalism was in the offing, and that its leaders were absolutely determined to carry out their reform programme, the principal defenders of the status quo would mobilise all their resources to stop them.

The first to act would be the major financial institutions. These would set in motion a rapid devaluation of the Kiwi dollar and instigate a precipitate drop in share prices on the NZ stock exchange. These real-world effects would provide the mainstream news media with all the excuse it needed for a no-holds-barred assault on the parties readying themselves for government.

Very soon after the media began campaigning, surrogate voices speaking on behalf of the major right-wing parties would raise the possibility of vice-regal intervention. They would be joined in this effort by spokespersons from all the major right-wing interest groups: Federated Farmers, the Employers and Manufacturers Association, Chambers of Commerce.

Simultaneously, conservative youth organisations would unleash a whole series of social-media campaigns full of hair-raising disinformation about the reform parties’ intentions so as to arouse maximum public anxiety. Mass street demonstrations would follow which, if answered by the followers of the reform parties, would be marred by widespread violence and property destruction. If the reform parties declined to rise to the bait, then agent provocateurs could be hired to do the job.

Finally, the various agencies of national security would intervene with “hard evidence” of the reformers’ subversive intentions. Real or not, these revelations would lift the intensity of right-wing opposition to a whole new level. However reluctantly, all “responsible” opinion would now be urging the Governor-General to act.

Anxious that the ongoing political and financial crises not be allowed to deepen, the Governor-General would, with equal reluctance, agree to exercise her reserve powers. The “caretaker” Prime Minister from the previous government would be invited to remain in office pending new elections.

Needless to say, the much-maligned, misrepresented and now deeply unpopular reform parties would suffer decisive electoral defeats. The “state of exception” could then, with great solemnity, be declared over.

All of which leads to the inescapable conclusion that if Grant Robertson didn’t already exist, Jacinda would have had to invent him. It’s one thing to promise “transformation” when none of the powers-that-be believe you; quite another when they do.

Just ask the Italians.

 

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25 Comments

  1. let me be frank says:

    I would suggest it would depend on the scale of the transformation

    • John W says:

      And / or the direction of the transformation and whether it can be captured further down the track and processes or assets created can directed towards privatised profit or ownership.

      eg Kiwi saver was allowed as the money is held in private hands.

      Kirk’s sounder and guaranteed superannuation scheme was not allowed as the money was held by the NZ State. Our elections were interfered with as “Communist” NZ was “reformed”. A gigantic loss for NZ.

      • Sam Sam says:

        They’ll know what a 21st century economy looks like when we’ve built it. Handing out helicopter money only buys time. Time to do what though? Well hit the zero carbon economy target by 2050. But helicopter money dosnt buy that much time. Got to check what every one is spending that cash on to see if it’s leading to a zero carbon economy.

        It didn’t have to be like this. A few things different at the start, starting with Metiria could have shown an unshakable resolve. Now it’s like we must play constant clean making us lose sight of the strategic picture. This puts a lot of pressure on Shannon Halbert to win Northcote so maybe the coalition gains a super MMP majority at the next election, so they can do the really, really big stuff like constitution reform. I wouldn’t feel comfy trying constitution reform with less than 72 MPs.

  2. Afewknowthetruth says:

    Globalists progressively wrecked Italy (just as they wrecked most nations) and the backlash is underway.

    The globalist will do whatever they can to maintain control (and profits). After all, didn’t George Bush describe the US constitution as ‘just a piece of paper’.

    NZ has no better protection from globalists than any other country, and in many respects is easier pickings.

    ‘This Is The New Italy’

    Years of neoliberal economic policies imposed by Brussels and by Italian politicians alike have devastated numerous industrial towns and the very fabric of Italian society, reports Attilio Moro.

    https://consortiumnews.com/2018/05/29/this-is-the-new-italy/

  3. Ada says:

    Labour would have got nowhere near 37% of the vote if they had promised to be as ‘transformational’ as Chris wants.

    Hence a political party who genuinely argued for the revolution would get nowhere near being in government.

  4. e-clectic says:

    So Russell Brand is right, don’t vote.

    • adam says:

      More than that, don’t do anything.

      Stop doing anything which helps the system.

      • David Stone says:

        Don’t borrow money from a bank. If everyone determined to live on their earnings, and never borrowed , the system would fix itself in a month. Another monetary system would have to be established and the population could be in control of it.
        That would be a protest with teeth and no violence or any excuse for a police state to take over.
        D J S

        • Sam Sam says:

          There’re specific things that particularly specific people are well tuned and suited to solve. For instance, if you haven’t noticed the Italian banks are spooking the markets again. The Italian bank crises is ready to form. The Italian bank issue, the Euro Bank issue and the Euro issue. As for a solution to the problem kiwi style we need to create a very stable currency and a stable basket of commodities that is designed to be stable, and to mimic the stability of a developed nations currency. Major difference though, the New Zealand dollar has to be fully redeemable for any of the commodities backing it, and to see how every one performs in a real digital economy. Almost every currency is subject to rampant speculation, bots, ect, ect ect. Our currency is backed by a basket of commodities. So, New Zealand needs to expand its trade routes and weight and volume of trade. And not just dairy, we need to create a stable currency out of the logging industry, the aquaculture industry, renewable energy and more. And we use and expand these smart contracts in place of fiat, once we expand and refine trade, we’ll have a stable and fully redeemable currency.

          While things are still queazy and query in Wellington, outside New Zealand, business is open full blast, this is the exiting stuff, particularly when the markets are looking like they are potentially on the verge of melting down. The problem in Europe is the euro dollar, it’s a complete failure. What New Zealand is doing with a combination of the Pacific reset and a very stable economy, we are creating what the euro dollar should have been. And this is extremely exiting stuff.

          New Zealand is in full development. Don’t let any one tell you otherwise. We are adding new features to the economy. And it’s interesting because Iv noticed that a lot of normies down Trotting and I’m not going to mention names because they’re many beliefs and opinions. It’s interesting people can be so negative, go into a community and find the time to make negative comments and basically try and damage as many brains as possible. Companies born in New Zealand are very community driven, and often times word spreads around the world about New Zealand and they’re not always factually based. And a lot of times they’re just fucked. A lot of doubt becomes senseless rumours. Iv become very sensitive to the need to stamp this out from the beginning. I ignored it in the beginning but then it spreads to some point where people talk about New Zealand in away that’s more than irritating.

          Every ones got an opinion let’s just make ours positive. And if there’re opinions that are fucked then all us community members should be professional, be polite, and be responsible for New Zealand’s reputation both at home and abroad.

      • Lone Comet says:

        specifically stop eating meat, dairy and buying anything in plastic

  5. John W says:

    Geoff Whitlam was sacked by the Ozzie Govt general who acted on orders from outside Oz.

  6. OCON says:

    Ardern in particular has been talking the transformation talk (but not the walk); over selling it and making it seem like its a stroll in the park.

    However transformation is a very different beast to the superficial easy way in which Ardern speaks about it. Its disruptive; it breaks down existing and often entrenched structures; it changes the lives of those caught up in the middle of it; its seldom popular. It requires quite some time to think through what it means and what you want to achieve and to put in place a plan to implement it.

    It happens rarely. And transformational strategies are generally only successful if there is a significant degree of popular support. This is not currently the case in NZ (see recent polls).

    Its what Roger Douglas and the Lange government did in the 80’s in reaction to Muldoon’s facist like extremism.

    In reality Arden and her acolytes don’t want to do this; they don’t want to deal with the messiness of transformation politics. Unfortunately for labour she has totally over sold the concept – I doubt if she actually understands what she’s talking about.

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      … ‘ Its what Roger Douglas and the Lange government did in the 80’s in reaction to Muldoon’s facist like extremism ‘ …

      How rarely do we find people willing to give accurate recent political history a dusting to point to what is exactly and precisely happening now to be used as a yardstrick… yet this is what you and Chris Trotter have effectively done :

      ——————————-

      …. ‘ The first to act would be the major financial institutions. These would set in motion a rapid devaluation of the Kiwi dollar and instigate a precipitate drop in share prices on the NZ stock exchange. These real-world effects would provide the mainstream news media with all the excuse it needed for a no-holds-barred assault on the parties readying themselves for government ‘ ….

      – Chris Trotter.

      ——————————

      … ‘ A key point of the free-market cabal’s programme was to devalue the New Zealand dollar, an extremely sensitive issue. Several weeks before the July, 1984 election, Douglas, Labour’s shadow finance minister, “accidentally” released a statement which signaled his intent to devalue. Since it was a near certainty that labour, aided by the New Zealand Party’s drawing votes from the Nationals, would win, speculators began to dump the New Zealand dollar, planning, post-devaluation, to cash in each dollar of foreign currency for more New Zealand dollars than previously.

      With Labour’s victory, the simmering foreign exchange crisis exploded.

      The Reserve Bank’s foreign Exchange holdings quickly ran dry, and Labour demanded, even before the end of the several-week transition period, that Muldoon devalue. After a brief struggle, Muldoon capitulated, and devalued by 20%. Speculators made tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars overnight ‘ …

      Excerpt from the ‘ New Right Fight ‘, by Hugh Price.

      New Right Fight – Who are the New Right?
      http://www.newrightfight.co.nz/pageA.html

      ——————————-

      History repeats,… and those who wish to deliberately conceal that fact rely on the passage of time , the dimming of memories , the twisting of facts and the rise of a totally new and younger generation that had no recollection of such things nor any real interest simply because those ‘distant’ events ( at least , to them ) happened such a ‘long time ago’.

      In this case, 34 years ago to be precise. The infants of 1984 have absolutely no idea of the destruction wrought with the advent of the 1984 general election and the rise of the far right ,- and the ongoing degradation and impoverishment for the working people of this country. They simply only know that ‘ life is just so unfair’…

      They have no touchstone with history nor understanding with which to measure why ‘ life is so unfair ‘ …

      Please do read ‘ the New Right Fight’.

      Forgive its early format style.

      Look past some perceived ‘personal colloquialism’s or terms of phrase’ by the author ; because I assure you that at least in layman’s terms , Hugh Price ( of Hugh Price Publishers for those of you who remember ) was an accurate observer of contemporary far right political / economic change in NZ during that critical time period . And he was appalled at what he saw.

      As so should you be.

      And in effect, … this is what Mr Trotters article is all about.

      The far right wings destructive 1984 takeover and the maintaining of the current ‘status quo ‘ in order to preserve their stranglehold on NZ society.

      Don’t enable them do so any longer by remaining in ignorance .

      Arm yourselves with knowledge.

  7. Denny Paoa says:

    Well it could be part of the trend in europe where nations are being undermined by factions, political or along nationalism, racists, secular lines. The devolution of sovereign nations where independent states are appearing to be a ‘popular’ choice for regions within these countries. I hope this trend does continue, its the only way to defeat globalisation.

  8. Aaron says:

    One important point to note; In the UK, no matter how hysterical the media get people keep supporting Jeremy Corban. At some point people just stop believing the media so the second election is likely to go both ways.

    We should also remember that our parliamentary consitution originated from a system of Kings who declared themselves to be above the law. We’ve come a long way since then with ever increasing democracy along the way. Neoliberalism will one day be viewed as just a bump along the road.

    The only question is how pissed off does the population have to get before it finally rises from it’s slumber and enforces it’s superior power.

    • David Stone says:

      A significant part of why Jeremy retains the support is that he is believed. He,s being on the same gig all his life. Against the flow of opinion. Now that people are looking for an alternative he is right there. The world has at last caught up with him rather than he jumping on the band wagon.
      D J S

  9. LOLBAGZ says:

    Chilling, and well told

  10. Johnnybg says:

    Trotter sums up the current situation in Italy pretty well, but in some ways he misunderstands what’s really going on. It’s not really a left or right thing. The masters of our corporatised & commodified world are the liberal/neo-liberal globalisation establishment. There is no real left or right anymore in countries like Italy or NZ. All we have are slightly left or right tinged neo-lib centrist parties whose strings are pulled by the globalisation establishment. People everywhere are waking up to fact that as long as this sate of affairs continues real change will never come, in fact things are getting much worse at an alarming rate. This situation has led to increasing voter apathy, frustration & radicalisation right across the board (although the well healed she’ll be rights still adhere to the delusion that everything’s hunky dory). Italian radicals, from the disillusioned extremes of the political spectrum, have put aside their traditional differences & are at forefront of the battle against the neo-lib establishment & their crippling austerity agenda. Greek radicals also tried to free themselves from the dictatorial IMF & ECB jackboot but when it came to the crunch, they buckled. Now the German/French masters of the Dis-united States of Europe (the fourth Reich) & the ECB, are forcing Greece to privatise some of their key state owned assets (sound familiar). The radical Italian vanguard should be commended for taking up the baton for independence & real, meaningful change, but the banker jackboot is now coming down hard upon them as well. Could we here in NZ take up the baton if & when Italy fails? Although we’re small fry in the global scheme of things, I’ve always believed we could lead the charge, but it would require exemplary leadership, vision, solidarity, sacrifice & a transitional road map. N.B. unfortunately there will also be collateral damage (the bankers & neo-lib ideologues & bureaucrats will flee in droves like Myers before them) Correction; ‘ausnahmezustand’ is more correctly translated as a ‘state of emergency’.

    • Strypey says:

      Johnnybg:
      > “There is no real left or right anymore in countries like Italy or NZ.”

      I both agree and disagree with your analysis. As usual, I think a glance at the political compass can help us understand the situation better than the simplistic one-axis (red/blue) political spectrum the news media use:
      https://www.politicalcompass.org/nz2017

      Where I agree with you is that an increasing chunk of the public, whether liberal or conservative in their social views, are becoming disillusioned with the increasingly obvious failures of corporatist “more market” economic policy. In 2017, PC.org placed NZ First, the Greens, Mana, and the Māori part as left of centre (economically), although only Mana significantly to the left, while both National and Labour were far to the right (as were ACT, United Future, and TOP). But that’s only half the story. On their second axis, representing conservative/ liberal (authoritarian/ libertarian in their wording), NZ First was well into the conservative square, along with all the parties of the (economic) right, except for TOP. Whereas the Greens and Mana were well into the liberal square, and Māori were just on the liberal side of the centre line.

      So I agree with you that there is an argument for putting aside our differences on social policy, and uniting against the corporatist establishment, whether blue or red. But such a united front can only ever be temporary. Sooner or later, the post-neo-liberal order that emerges with define itself as socially liberal (social democracy or something more radical) or socially conservative (Muldoonism or something even scarier). Give that the biggest parties tend towards the latter, I can understand a lot of people seeing social left/right divide as being more important than the economic one, to the ultimate outcome of any rebellion against the corporate empire.

  11. Marc says:

    It is like a repeat of the Weimar Republic, it seems:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimar_Republic

    Once sufficiently disillusioned, the angry and frustrated voters will vote for new STRONG leaders, and history will repeat itself yet again. It is true that humans never learn much, that is following generations forget the suffering of wars and so forth, some young ones never experienced it, so are prone to repeat past mistakes of humanity.

    The rest will be new wars and destruction, it is foreseeable.

  12. Johnnybg says:

    Viva L’Italia ~ well done Italy ~ finally a we have a major nation growing a pair & sticking it to the globalisation establishment. The question is, how long will the banker bullies allow them to row their own waka? Never mind, the wall of terror has now been breached & others will follow.