Carlos García Hernández: The Hope of Southern Europe – An Interview with Senator Gianluigi Paragone, founder of Italexit

This is something new: an anti-EU political party with Modern Monetary Theory policies

Carlos García Hernández is managing director of the publishing house Lola Books

Originally published in Spanish in Ediciones Páralo

Translated and Edited by BRAVE NEW EUROPE

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On 23 July 2020 the ray of hope that many of us had been waiting for for a long time in southern Europe finally became a reality. This hope is called Italexit, a party created by 48-year-old Italian Senator Gianluigi Paragone.

Italexit aims at the recovery of Italian monetary sovereignty and Italy’s exit from the European Union. Its founding manifesto sets out the nine points for Italy on which the new party’s political project is based:

1. Exit from the euro and recovery of monetary sovereignty
2. Reversal of privatisation and creation of a public bank
3. Reindustrialisation and technological innovation
4. Food sovereignty
5. Full employment through a governmental job guarantee
6. Recovering State Border Control
7. Recovery of the public health system
8. Ecological action plan
9. Creating a new European framework based on the sovereignty of all nations

The following interview is the first interview that Gianluigi Paragone gave in Spanish. It was conducted on 28 July 2020. In it he sets out several of the points of his plan for the recovery of full Italian sovereignty, as well as his vision on the most important political and economic issues.

Italexit is a complex and inevitably cross-cutting project. The three factors for achieving such transversality are, in Paragone’s words, socialism, Catholicism, and liberalism (not neo-liberalism, which he is strongly opposed to). A difficult balance, but enormously hopeful. If Italexit succeeds in bringing together with its electoral proposal the three traditions on which it is based, it would achieve a magnificent work in which people from all backgrounds would be united to achieve a common goal: the recovery of sovereignty as the only means of ending the economic and social disaster that the euro and the European Union have brought to Italy and southern Europe.

Like all hope, Italexit also contains a riddle that we cannot yet unravel. We will have to watch its development and its political action. However, there is a sign in Italexit’s proposal that makes it a much more serious project than other innovative projects of the past. I am referring to Italexit’s commitment to modern monetary theory. If, as Gianluigi Paragone actually says, Italexit adopts the principles of modern monetary theory as the fundamental axis of its economic proposal, it is possible that we are not only dealing with a political movement destined to radically improve Italy’s economic situation, but we may also be dealing with a party with the capacity to revolutionise the economic life of all those nations that follow in its footsteps.

Why should Italy leave the euro and the European Union?

Because it is not in Italy’s interest to be in the European Union. It is in Italy’s interest in the medium and long term to have its own currency. Moreover, I believe that the EU project is destined to collapse, so I think it is best to leave sooner than later.

What is the main obstacle you expect to encounter in your fight for Italy’s sovereignty? Are you afraid of possible reprisals if your political project gains strength?

My main fear is that Italians will not be given the opportunity to understand my proposal and that they will not comprehend that the European Union is an enemy that will impoverish them. Europe is taking advantage of Italian resources. My aim is for the citizens to understand why Italy would be better off outside the EU. The citizens may have believed that Italy has better overcome the challenges it has faced by being within the EU; however, that is an unprovable opinion. When people drown, Europe lets them take their heads out of the water to breathe, but then push their heads back in. Italians are used to breathing like this and do not understand that you can breathe in a different way.

What concrete steps should Italy take to leave the euro and the European Union and then stabilise the country’s economy?

The first and most important step is a democratic and popular vote. If the Italians do not trust a party that has this programme, nothing can be done. The EU has been built from the top down, but you cannot get out of it without popular consensus. No party can claim to take Italy out of the euro and the European Union without taking this step. It is important for Italians to understand the dangers of being part of the EU.

What would be the main differences between Brexit and Italexit, and do you think that Italy’s path to sovereignty would be more difficult than that of the UK?

The first difference is that the United Kingdom has its own currency and Italy is in the Eurozone. That is the a major difference and difficulty. The second major difference is cultural and constitutional. The Italian constitution is very different from the British Magna Carta. The Italian constitution is a perfect blend of three great traditions: socialism, Catholicism with respect for citizens’ rights, and liberalism (not neo-liberalism). Liberalism allows private property, but always within the limits of the Constitution. Although the traditions of the United Kingdom and Italy are different, both share common interests that are outside the EU.

Let us imagine that we are on the day after the next elections in Italy and that Gianluigi Paragone is the new leader of Italy. What would happen from that moment on? What would be the fundamental milestones during Gianluigi Paragone’s mandate?

Such a situation would mean that my party has won the elections thanks to the clear will of the voters. Every political action presupposes a dialectical dimension. Getting out of the euro or the EU is not a question of muscle. The EU would be acting in its own interests by not challenging a country which, not through a referendum but through free elections, decided to leave the EU because it is a project in which it no longer believes.

There would then be two possible scenarios. In the first scenario, the treaties with the EU would be renegotiated intelligently and always with the clear objective of leaving the EU. The second scenario is one in which no agreement is reached. In that case the EU should not be shocked that Italy has opted for a plan B for a non-negotiated exit.

You have publicly defended modern monetary theory. What role would modern monetary theory play in your government? Do you envisage an Italy in which, thanks to monetary sovereignty, permanent full employment would be achieved without inflation as proposed by Bill Mitchell, Pavlina Tcherneva and the other economists of modern monetary theory?

For me it is essential that the ruling class does not lead citizens into poverty in the midst of a crisis. However, this is precisely the aim of the EU elites, who have taken advantage of the crisis to impoverish the citizens. For me, full employment is a primary condition. It should be remembered that the first article of the Italian Constitution states that Italy is a democratic republic founded on labour. Therefore, the fathers of the Constitution understood that full employment is a fundamental objective. Work is a right of citizenship, not something granted as a favour. The state must guarantee access to work. Today, workers’ rights are disregarded and within Europe Italian workers are the most exploited. That is why the wages of Italians have been devalued. For its part, the state tells the citizens that they have to ask for credits in order to increase their standard of living. In other words, they take away your labour rights, but in return they give you the possibility of getting into debt by claiming that the interest rates are favourable to those who go ask for loans. We, however, say that those who take on debt give up their freedom.

Modern monetary theory is an important perspective for achieving the ultimate goal of full employment. Modern monetary theory is an instrument that serves as a mechanical workshop in which to repair the economy’s car in order to achieve the goals we have set.

What are its references in terms of economic policy and ideology? I ask this because there are many people who do not know where to place you within the political spectrum. Are you on the left or on the right of the political spectrum?

When an entrepreneur tries not to be crushed by a multinational, he doesn’t ask you if you are member of a party on the left or the right. When a worker complains that his labour rights are not being respected because he is being exploited by the economic system, the worker does not care if you are from the left or right wing, what he asks you is if you are willing to fight for his rights. That is why the rights of the entrepreneur and the worker find a point of union in the Italian Constitution, because the Italian Constitution does not legitimise the political class to attack workers by destroying their jobs. The role of my political proposal is to recover the true objective of the Italian Constitution. For me, it is essential to recover the spirit of the Constitution, which is based on socialist, Catholic, and liberal ideals. Within the scope of the Constitution, there is room for freedom of enterprise, but Article 36 makes it clear how the worker is to be paid. The fathers of the constitution did not fight over the question of who should earn more or less money, but asked themselves how to draw up the best possible Constitution with the aim of finding an optimum balance in the lives of Italians.

However, I have read the proposals of the Italexit Manifesto and I have not found any elements that would be considered right-wing.

That is because they are socialist proposals. However, these proposals could also belong to the best of Catholicism, when in its golden age fought for small businesses. Probably the worst attacks on the working class have come from left-wing parties since they adopted neoliberalism. You find the socialist sense, but in those proposals the sense and the opinions of the liberals and the Catholics are also expressed. That is what is needed today, to give the worker the guarantee that he will not be at the mercy of the markets and to give the Italian entrepreneur the guarantee that the small fish will not be swallowed up by the multinational big fish. Today the entrepreneur has to endure the worst fiscal pressures, the worst bureaucracies, and the worst of globalisation, but instead the multinationals gobble up the inventiveness of small entrepreneurs. This seems to me to be profoundly unfair. Catholicism, socialism, and liberalism are functional in the real economy if they are all incorporated together, you cannot live under permanent martial law.

How do you imagine Italy in 10 years’ time?

If we continue with the same policies as we have done up to now, Italy will be poorer, more humiliated and even more on sale through discounts and liquidations. But that is not only the case for Italy. Italy is a very strong nation, but the crisis will affect the entire Mediterranean and the political space of Europe does not pay attention to the countries that the north calls PIIGS.

What is the relationship that Italy should have with the rest of Europe? Should the European Union be replaced by another body of a European nature or would it be better to forget about the whole project?

The EU project is a project that, according to the treaties in force, I will neither consider nor try to correct. However, Italy is a country which, like other sovereign countries, could be an important player in a new confederal-type Europe in which full powers are in the hands of the sovereign states. They would be the ones to decide on economic measures and their relationship with the markets. They would thus be able to decide their economic and social policies at all times.

Once full sovereignty is achieved, what are the main challenges that Italy would face?

The state would have to take over a part of the public debt that is now in the hands of the speculative markets. The state has to return to being a strong state with the power to face the storms of the financial markets and globalisation. Italy must have a state that is on the side of entrepreneurs and workers and that knows that small things are important. We start from the concept that small things are precious. This is the basis of our history, which challenged the powerful families in their manors and villas. Today the idea that small is precious is being lost. This loss is a big mistake. Small gives Italy added value. Small is the strength of a winning state.

Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Paragone. I wish you every success.

NOTE: this interview could not have been transcribed without the invaluable help of Catalda Scialfa, to whom I send my thanks.

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