Some confuse the limits of their knowledge with the boundaries of the world. The ideology of immutability can be defeated, but perhaps courage is not enough, recklessness is needed in the light of the harshness of the times.
Alberto Bradanini is a former Italian diplomat. Among many positions, he was Ambassador of Italy to Tehran (2008-2012) and to Beijing (2013-2015). He is currently President of the Research Center on Contemporary China.
Versione originale italiana qui
Translated and edited by BRAVE NEW EUROPE
In the twentieth-century the Left sacrificed substantial freedom in its ideal vision in favour of equality (or if one prefers justice), while the Right preferred the defence of formal freedom, neglecting the value of equality, thus undermining the essence of freedom, which is not such if it is not accompanied by social justice. Today’s thinking, unified by the demolition of the Berlin Wall (which tragically abandoned the twentieth-century idealistic commitment to a society free from capitalist alienation) no longer makes it possible to distinguish the values of the so-called Left from those of the Right. While the proletariat and the bourgeoisie of yesteryear are being replaced by atomised multitudes of rulers, who are scattering both within what remains of the nation state and in the globalised arena (where power relations are all in favour of financial capital), the surviving Left has struck down the flag of social redemption in line with the values of liberal capitalism.
While there is no doubt that the 20th century generated tragedies and conflicts, including Nazism and twentieth-century Communism, it was also the time of labour struggles and political torments that allowed the construction of the welfare state and the protection of so many collective goods from which we still benefit today. In the thirty years of reconstruction at the end of the Second World War, the omnipotence of the economy had been curbed until the 1980s, giving space to the political perspective and the struggles to contain the privileges of the few in favour of the needs of the many.
Starting from the fall of the Berlin Wall, therefore, and in a more accentuated way in the first twenty years of the new century, the hierarchy of the previous societal values was reversed. The triumphant liberal narrative thus imposes the exegesis of the end of every ideology. The then cantor of this liturgy, the American philosopher Francis Fukuyama, had presented the American/centric destiny – liberal democracy and market economy – as the funnel into which all the nations of the world would sooner or later plummet. In those years, the worldwide destiny of political and economic institutions seemed to coalesce.
The Right took a deep breath of relief, finally freed from that threatening shadow that for a century and a half (Manifesto of 1848) had been sending shivers down the spines of the ruling classes. In the political vision of this, the absolutising encumbrance of the past prevents people from thinking of a different future, while tradition is nothing but the preservation of privileges, attachment to one’s own status of domination, impediment to a fairer ideality of collective life.
In turn, the Left is overwhelmed with guilt for having focused on the wrong cause, so that, lacking a shred of critical reflection, it tries to correct the book of history to make us forget that naive childish enchantment of having believed in the possibility of a better world. Instead of taking the opportunity to rewrite the everlasting laws of justice and freedom in the light of the horrors and errors of the 20th century, the anaemic left-wing leaders who survived abandon the tension towards change, turning back to a disheartening economisation and aiming to sit at the lower table of the lords’ dining hall.
The world of work, the subordinate classes, and the lowliest of this world, who had invested in good faith in a liberating resurrection, are losing references and orientation. In the vacuum of ideals, these abandoned people retreated to the margins, in the confused search for a way out of the fog, waiting to resume the road towards social palingenesis, its irrepressible port of arrival. Beyond the Berlin Wall lived an obtuse and prevaricatory system at the service of a privileged elite. And yet, its shadow – alternative to capitalism – was enough to inspire respect and moderation, fearing that that incontinent tide, with its acts and misdeeds, might flood over the dikes into the West. That nightmare had contributed to the improvement of conditions of the subordinate classes that from 1945 to 1980 recorded well-being and social progress as never before.
Today, the Italian Left reflects market-liberal values (exactly those that it itself once branded Right), purged of political energy, at the service of the mere occupation of spaces of power. In the absence of a teleological design and with the support of the ethically corrupt machine of media consensus (public and private), it presents few and marginal profiles of differentiation with respect to the Right.
In the humiliating instrumentality of labelling adjectives (sovereignty and populism first and foremost, which have little to do, if that was the intent, with nationalism and confusion-manipulation), the only intangible perspective of the left-wing parties that survived the collapse of idealism is the messianic faith in the European Union. A faith that lingers between religion and superstition, but which presupposes the renunciation of resorting to historical analysis to understand events, as suggested by a great 19th century German philosopher, avoiding falling into the uncritical trap of a static ideology.
The European Union (so to speak) exposes itself to the gaze of anyone, even the most inattentive, as an unreformable technostructure that only an endless instrumental imagination could transform into a utopian sketch of Federal Europe. While an increasing number of Europeans are distancing themselves more and more every day from this dreamlike creature, the sleep of reason continues to define the minds of the leaders of several nations, in particular of the Eurozone (without any distinction between Right, Centre, and Left, who once ballots have been cast, climb the steps of power to carry out the same policy). The EU is nothing more than an anti-democratic scaffolding that aims at the economic and political colonisation of the classes and subordinate national governments, that will never give birth to a European Democratic State, especially in the absence of a European Demos (not Laos, the indistinct mass). The Demos, in fact, is rooted in the identity of culture and language, in the defeats and victories, in the hatred and love that cement the veins of a nation. All this must be clearly recognized, precisely to contain the onset of new nationalisms or worse. “Men – say the Taoists – use words to explain the world, to describe life, but life is not to be found in words, it is elsewhere”.
But what’s more, the birth of a hypothetical Federal Europe – if it ever came to life – would make the insignia of supranational liberalism shine even stronger in its service to the European financial elites, with American-centric domination. Such a hypothetical European state would not govern the market, but for the market, it would not be based on the fundamental needs of the human beings and community values of a socialism updated to the 21st century (nothing to do with Soviet bureaucratic nihilism, of course), but on the monarchical domination of world finance.
If some people had in mind that even such a hypothetical Federal Europe would have such characteristics, then the suggestion would be to read history with a careful eye. If a different future for the losing classes still has a chance, it lies exclusively within the nation state, the only protected institutional place where the resistance force of the dominated can hope to stand up to the dominant. True inter-nationalism (very different from the indistinct globalism of the financial markets), the genuine horizon of socialist doctrine, posits and presupposes the existence of the nation-state.
Theoretically there are solid reasons to hope for a rebalancing of world geopolitics in favour of Europe, but certainly not of this Europe founded on the law of the jungle, politically/militarily occupied by the USA and economically enslaved to German ordoliberalism. A hypothetical third geopolitical pole – which includes all European nations, including Russia, which shares Europe’s history, culture and common economic interests – remains feasible, even if difficult to achieve, only in the realistic perspective of a confederal state respectful of the identity and interests of all European nations, large and small. It would be a question of opening up a different path, on which it would be worth spending a few more lines, another time.
The most aware European ruling classes would have the duty to exhume from their unconscious the notion of Political Union for the sole purpose of disproving once and for all its persecution, noting that this chimera has slumbered in the ether spread by the ruling elites only to facilitate the plundering of foolish peoples (above all, but not only those of Southern Europe: just look at the pre-comatose state of France).
In the perspective of a freer and fairer society, where even the last on the social scale can hope for a better future, stable work, adequate social services, culture for all, true welcome (not the mystifying one that leaves immigrants in the street) and so on, it is necessary to rebuild the state, drained in the past decades by the humiliating neoliberal policies of reckless cuts. I will be replaced by an efficient, democratic, and transparent state, administered by the best people of the nation. The latter are not lacking, hidden in the marginal recesses of society, obliterated by a power that defends undeserved privileges with the narrative fed by the media machine of consensus, void of culture, and enslaved (the exceptions are relegated to the margins or in the meanders of the internet).
The borders between nations, to return to the EU, are not an impassable dividing barrier, but legitimate identity factors, meeting points, moments of exchange, are the “defensive walls” that prevent the overpowering of the strongest. Today, for example, in the absence of the monetary frontier, the common currency is an instrument for plundering raids and impoverishment in favour of the financial elites of the North.
Faced with the tragedy both viral and economic, the political decision has been monopolised by technicians, apparently neutral, whose level of concord is reminiscent of the dark centuries of religious wars. In Italy, for example, the Left in the governing coalition, denying its genesis and after having torn down the banner of anti-capitalism, is waving that of anti-fascism in the absence of fascism, instead of fighting financial capitalism and messianic faith to achieve a Europe of our dreams. This is why popular demonstrations of dissent are all classified as populist and right-wing, while they express a social unease deserving of much more attention from an arrogant and undercultured left. Only from the ashes of its desirable implosion can new aggregations be reborn that give hope to the oppressed part of society and a future to our suffering country.
Some confuse the limits of their knowledge with the boundaries of the world. The ideology of immutability can be defeated, but perhaps courage is not enough, recklessness is needed in light of the harshness of the times. Error, disorientation, uncertainty, or the unexpected must not be discouraged. The abandonment of the master’s lexicon would be a good start. False blackmail generates subjugation to the logic of the dominant thought. It is immobility – and there is nothing worse – that prevents us from sleeping.