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Greece, Italy: now markets choose prime ministers

I am not entitled to vote in either Greece or Italy; even if I were, I would not support either George Papandreou or Silvio Berlusconi, anyway. In the normal run of events, I would greet their departure from office with Zen-like equanimity.

But what we have seen in the last week or so is not the normal run of events. Two elected governments have collapsed, and replaced by administrations for which nobody voted.

In effect, democracy has been suspended. The historical precedents are ominous, and while I am racking my brains for obvious historical parallels from recent decades, they do not come readily to me.

The justification seems to be that Greece and Italy need regimes headed by neutral ‘technocrat’ bankers to get themselves out of economic crisis. Given that they find themselves where they are precisely because they unquestioningly followed the advice of exactly the same social strata for far too long, that argument hardly strikes one as persuasive.

Some on the Italian left – not least Fausto Bertinotti, former leader of Partito della Rifondazione Communista – are already invoking the concept of Bonapartism, famously devised by Marx to analyse French politics in the Second Empire.

The idea here is that in exceptional circumstances, the state can assume relative independence from the principal contending social forces and purport to arbitrate between them, while all the time governing in the interests of the established ruling class.

Typically the process will be embodied in a charismatic leader. In this instance, animal magnetism is not a trait obviously possessed by Lucas Papademos or Mario Monti. Then again, maybe smartly suited middle age bankers have replaced caudillos as appropriate figureheads for the neoliberal era.

Bertinotti unnecessarily couches his concerns in nationalist terms. The problem is not, as he contends, that Italy is somehow occupied by a foreign power. Let’s leave the Fourth Reich fantasies to the paranoid right.

The reality is that the Italian ruling class, as an integral component of the global elite, can only assert its own interests by simultaneously asserting the interest of multinational finance capital as a whole, and has not displayed the least hesitation in doing so.

It is too hasty definitively to pronounce that the developments we have witnessed over the last two weeks are necessarily the precursor of greater authoritarianism to come.

But allowing financial markets rather than electorates start picking governments is clearly a retrograde step. Watch the events unfold with some concern.

5 Comments

  1. Syzygy says:

    The markets create the justification. Goldman Sachs, the ‘defunct’ Trilateral Commission and the EU Commission supply the means to implement. Seamless corporate/political control:

    http://think-left.org/2011/11/07/the-market-has-a-name-it-is-goldman-sachs/

    This is another sub-prime crisis engineered by the banks.. with sovereign bonds instead of mortgages being the target. The contagion is between banks not the PIIGs.

    http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2011/11/buckle-up-credit-crunch-2/

  2. GarryK says:

    I am deeply worried, as it isn’t clear when normal democracy will return.

    If the Greek and Italian economies are heading south, and major trouble kicks off, will these ‘Technocrats’ justify staying longer to see austerity is delivered against the wishes of the people? Will increasing force be justified to deal with protesters?

    I am also concerned that the mainstream media in the UK has barely raised a whisper to the appointment of market-supporting technocrats.

  3. Syzygy says:

    I agree Garry. I do worry about how similar all of this is to the 1930s. The mainstream media almost universally accept this as a non-partisan, apolitical solution … when of course it is not!

  4. GarryK says:

    Sue,

    I was going to sleep soundly tonight, and then I read the link to golemxiv…….

    That’s not good.

  5. Syzygy says:

    Blame the banks and devious neo-libs/cons not me!

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