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Ten Reflections and a Comment

The cycle of fear in the midst of the Anthropocene

Created date

Saturday, April 21, 2018 - 08:22

It is now clear that we are in a period of transition, even if we do not know where we are headed. It is evident that the political, economic and social system which has accompanied us since the end of the Second World War is no longer sustainable.

According to Amnesty International, exponentially growing inequalities have practically taken us back to the levels of Queen Victoria’s days: however, today on a global level. Ten years ago, 652 people possessed the same wealth as 2.3 billion people. Now they number just eight.

According to International Labour Organisation projections, the eighteen-year-olds of today will retire with an average pension of 632 euros.

Despite official statements, and surrounded by general indifference, we are reaching the limit of a 2 degrees centigrade increase in the temperature of the atmosphere since 1854, which is considered the limit beyond which our planet will suffer irreversible changes.

Finance has become detached from the economy creating a world of its own, the only one with no international control bodies, where financial transactions in a day are forty times higher than the production of goods and services around the entire planet. Since 2009, the major banks have paid over 800 billion fines as a result of illegal operations.

Political participation has fallen from an average of 86%, in 1960, to 63.7% today.

While an in-depth analysis of the situation would be extremely complex and involve all aspects of our life, it is possible to identify important – and at the same time simple – points of reflection on which to dwell together.

Reflection 1 

The crisis has deep roots.

In 1973, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a global governance plan – designed to reduce inequalities among its members – known by the name of New International Economic Order. The plan was born with the support of the United States (even if launched by Mexico and Algeria).

The post-war international system – of which the United Nations is part, for example – had come about on the initiative of the United States, the main winners of the Second World War, which was interested in preserving peace and development after a war in which it lost 405,000 soldiers out of a population of 132 million people. Germany lost more than five million out of 78 inhabitants, of which over two million civilians, against 8,000 in the United States and nearly thirteen million in the USSR).

The United Nations was created with Washington’s commitment to contribute 25% to the budget, which illustrates the difference with today, when Trump is threatening to withdraw.

But until the 1981 summit in Cancún, which brought together the twenty-two most important Heads of State in the world (excluding the communist camp), we lived in the illusion of the end of inequality, based on a world democracy where the majority of countries decided the course to follow for the common good.

Newly-elected president Reagan took part in Cancún and announced that the United States no longer accepted being subjected to the rules of an abstract world democracy. The United States – he said – is not a country like the others, and would go back to deciding its own international and trade policy. Margaret Thatcher was also at the same meeting, becoming the European counterpart of Reagan.

A different vision of the world was born: “Society does not exist. Individuals exist (Thatcher); “It is not factories that pollute, but trees” (Reagan). Poverty produces poverty, wealth produces wealth. So the rich should be taxed as little as possible, because they distribute wealth.

Reflection 2 

In 1989, a few years after Cancún, the Berlin Wall came down: it was the end of ideologies, the straitjackets that had led us to Nazism and Communism.

The core idea was that we must be pragmatic. Politics had to solve concrete problems, not pursue utopias. But the solution of a given problem without being part of a total vision of society – right or left, it does not matter – is actually called utilitarianism, and politics aimed at administration rather than at ideas distances political participation and increases corruption.

Without ideal programmes, the importance of the politician’s personality, possibly telegenic, increased and was measured on TV and not in public squares. Marketing, not ideas or programmes, became the main instrument for electoral campaigns.

Reflection 3 

At the same time, neoliberal globalisation came into play as a single thought without alternatives (Thatcher’s There Is No Alternative – TINA; it is interesting to note that, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the term globalisation had never appeared in the media).

This globalisation was based on the socioeconomic and political model of the so-called Washington Consensus, the development paradigm imposed by International Monetary Fund, World Bank and US Treasury. It envisaged the adoption of the following reforms: macroeconomic stabilisation, liberalisation (of trade, investments and finance), privatisation and deregulation.

It eliminated national protection barriers everywhere, reduced non-productive expenditure (education, health and social assistance) and promoted free competition among States. It is famous the definition of it given by Kissinger: “The new paradigm of American supremacy”. Developing countries experienced it as submission to economic rules imposed by the North. But Kissinger did not see that once the way to free competition had been opened, China and other countries would emerge.

Reflection 4 

The reaction of the left to the single thought was the “Third Way”, successfully proposed by Tony Blair: it was time to abandon the old ideas of the left and ride the globalisation, accepting the lack of alternatives.

Social democracy, from Blair to Renzi, seeks to transform itself into a transversal party which also embraces the centre, with an active policy on concrete facts and no outdated ideological cages.

In fact, in this way the left has lost its popular base, and the 2008 crisis, caused by the absence of controls on American banks and then come up to Europe (with the left in government almost everywhere), has eliminated its capacity to redistribute surplus.

Workers, middle classes in crisis and victims of globalisation seek new defenders and vote for Le Pen (France), Farage (Britain), Wilder (Netherlands) and so on, up to choosing Salvini and the Five Star Movement (Italy).

Reflection 5 

Numerous historians believe that greed and fear have been among the main engines of change in history.

In his latest book, Nel nome dell’umanità, Riccardo Petrella argues that these engines were implemented using three “traps”: in the name of God, in the name of the Nation and in the name of Profit. There is no doubt that since the fall of the Berlin Wall the values of globalisation (competition, profit, individualism and exaltation of wealth), together with the disappearance of social justice (solidarity, transparency, equity, etc.) from political debate, have created an ethics based on greed.

And twenty years later, in 2009, the economic and financial crisis – first in the United States (on real estate speculation) and then in Europe (on sovereign bonds) – has opened up a second cycle: that of fear.

Reflection 6 

The cycle of fear which is in full swing (without having abandoned greed and while the three “traps” are once again in use) has created a new right which is not about ideas, but is based on emotions.

Brexit and Trump are easy-to-see phenomena, but the real phenomenon is much deeper. We are in a liquid society that is not structured on ideologies or classes. And in this society it is easy for leaders who ride fear and greed to leap into the limelight.

The 2009 crisis joined up with mass immigration from countries invaded by the West to depose their dictators and automatically introduce democracy. (Nevertheless, the disintegration of Yugoslavia – a modern and European country – after the death of Tito should have been a warning.)

It is not democracy that is ushered in, but chaos, civil wars, blood and destruction.

In 2003, George W. Bush began the invasion of Iraq. In 2011, civil war broke out in Syria, becoming soon a clash among Arab powers, Europe, the United States and Russia (as a result: six million displaced and half a million dead). In 2013, Sarkozy pushed an invasion into Libya.

From the ruins of Iraq, ISIS was born – terrorism in the name of God, for a return to original Islam (Wahhabism, financed worldwide by Saudi Arabia with 80 billion dollars in the last twenty years). Fifteen years before, the veterans of the US-funded war against Russian occupation in Afghanistan had gathered under the leadership of Osama Bin Laden in another organization, Al Qaeda, making the first attack in history on North American soil, in 2001.

As El Roto, famous cartoonist of El País, says: “We send them bombs, and they send us migrants”.

Two “traps” are triggered on the arriving refugees: in the name of God and in the name of the Nation.

Now, in Europe, identitarian and sovereignty parties are the second political force, ahead of socialist parties. If European elections were held today, the radical right would gather forty million votes. It is in power in Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria, but it also conditions the governments of the Nordic countries, Netherlands and Germany itself (since Alternative für Deutschland won 92 seats).

In Hungary, Orbán has launched the so-called “illiberal democracy”, Poland has denounced the secularism of the European Union and called for a huge march with populists and sovereignists from all over Europe, to the cry of “In the name of God”. The Visegrád Group (Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and now also Austria) has denounced the yielding of Europe to Islam and created an East-West rift of Europe, which joins the North-South rift on the vision of the economy: austerity or solidarity.

But there is something new: the United States intervenes in Europe openly supporting nationalist and xenophobic right-wing parties, which at the same time look not only to Trump, but also to Putin (who is also intervening in the European elections), considering him a point of reference.

As a result, in a rapidly aging Europe (in Italy, for example, young people between the ages of 18 and 25 account for only 3% of those entitled to vote), immigration has become a great populist and xenophobic right-wing banner.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has launched a warning: Europe needs to absorb 20.5 million immigrants in the short term, so that it can support its pension system and maintain productivity levels. Statistics show that immigrants contribute to the system more than they cost; they constitute the great majority of new small businesses and their dream is to be quickly integrated into the European system.

But there is no debate on immigration and what categories of immigrants to welcome. They are now all seen as dangerous invaders, intent on destroying the European identity, on crime and as taking work away from European citizens, victims of intense unemployment. Even Trump, in a country made up of immigrants, has made immigration control one of his warhorses.

A tragic phenomenon is that young people, many less than retirees, are no longer politically active. In history, young people burst onto the political scene to change the world they find. If they had voted, Brexit would not have happened. But the political system – of the elderly – ignores them. In Italy, the Renzi government allocated 30 billion euros to save four banks. In the same year, the total in the budget for young Italians was two billion.

Since the creation of the United Nations in 1945, we have risen from 2.5 billion inhabitants to 7.5 billion today. The growth will stop only in 2050, when we will number 9.5 billion. Either we find an agreement on governability and immigration that we need, or we will have to shoot immigrants, as some have already proposed. 

Reflection 7 

Intellectuals and political scientists are increasingly surprised by the passivity of citizens, who seem to be completely anaesthetised and no longer react to anything, even if politics goes against their interests.

The story of Brexit has been the subject of many analyses. How is it possible that the most depressed areas, which received so much from Europe, voted to leave? How is it that Poland, the largest recipient of European funds (three times the Marshall Plan), votes against Europe? How does it explain that Trump, who had to drain the swamp from the great interests in favour of the people ignored by the great powers, governs by allying with big capital and the army (besides his family members), and his voters have remained faithful to him anyway? Today 92% of those who voted for him say they are ready to re-elect him.

There are many interpretations of this paradoxical situation. But as Talleyrand [actually, Joseph de Maistre (ed’s note)] said, “every country has the government it deserves”. And we should recognise that since the 2009 crisis, it is the political class that has lost the most credit.

The impact of the reality shows TV evasion since 1989 – and the accompanying sensation of extraneousness from political power – is worth mentioning here, as is the refuge in a virtual space like the Internet, which has contributed to an individualism that is the result of frustration and the lack of debate of ideas.

The macroscopic example of this anaesthesia is certainly climate change. Citizens see it every day in their daily lives: striking photos of the disappearance of the glaciers, snowfall in the Sahara, hurricanes, fires and storms. They also have all the data from the scientific community, which forced governments all over the world to meet in Paris, where, however, they signed an insufficient agreement, without effective controls.

Citizens have no need to study the situation to know. They can also see how governments speak, but do not act. These continue to spend three times what they invest in the renewable energy industry to finance the fossil fuel industry. Italy has even called a referendum to decide whether to continue exploiting oil fields in the south of the country.

Reflection 8 

Let’s now take the impact of technology, that of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on its way, especially.

The First was at the beginning of the 1800s, when mechanisation replaced individual labour: the mechanical looms replaced the manual ones. It was easy to recycle workers, who moved from the loom of the house to that of the factory.

The Second was at the end of 19th century, thanks to the use of machines powered by mechanical energy and new energy sources. Railway networks were born; steam ships and fast means of communication were constructed; there were important discoveries in the chemical, medical and scientific field – electricity, for example; assembly lines, telephones, etc. were invented.

Even here, thanks to the transfer from fields to factories, humans remained vital for production: so political battles began for a fair recognition of their work, and modern politics was born.

The Third Industrial Revolution came at the end of the Second World War: technological progress, with the Internet at the centre, changed the way people work.

And today, as a consequence of it, the Fourth is starting, which is based on artificial intelligence and robotisation, which now concern 17% of the production of goods and services – but, according to calculations, will lead to 30% in 2030.

In Europe, the autonomy of transport alone will get obsolete six million taxi, truck and public transport drivers, totally changing the transport system, automotive industry, insurance companies, etc. But this time, will the taxi drivers be able to “recycle themselves” in a society that will privilege technological knowledge over traditional work?

We are heading towards a structural problem, which politics is still ignoring. But does this not risk increasing unemployment, fear, and social and political tensions? It is just one example of how far politics is dramatically distancing itself from technology, finance and globalisation.

Reflection 9 

And now, the crisis of multilateralism.

Consciousness was born from the ruins of the Second World War – after the tragedies provoked by nationalisms and the idea of domination over others – that lasting peace could only be sought through multilateral cooperation.

International organisations were established – the United Nations with all its agencies and funds: from UNICEF to FAO, from the World Health Organisation to the International Atomic Energy Agency; and in Europe the great project of the European Community, together with all the regional projects: from ASEAN to the Organisation of African Unity, from the Organisation of American States to Mercosur, etc.

This entire multilateral system is today in crisis. Trump’s trade wars are destroying the trade system. From Roosevelt’s world democracy, from Reagan’s free competition and trade, we have moved to the exclusivity of North American interests: America First. Monetary wars are on the horizon.

Here comes the idea of competition instead of cooperation, greed as a value to replace the value of cooperation; the latter, which helps the weak and controls the strong, is ending.

But just as Kissinger did not see that free competition would one day turn against the United States, Trump does not see that opening a politics of confrontation will backfire, one day. Russia, China and the United States are returning to the era – which seemed to have disappeared – of gunboat policy.

The present and the immediate future seem a dangerous re-edition of the 1930s, then resulted in the Second World War. Are those who vote for nationalism aware of this? As Pope Francis says, we are already in a “piecemeal” Third World War.

To wars in the name of the Nation in Africa we are adding those in the name of God, from the Rohingya in Myanmar to Islamic terrorists.

We have spent decades breaking down walls, and now we are erecting more than before. The future seems to go against the interests of humanity, which now knows planetary threats that did not exist in the 1930s – from climate to nuclear –, in a process of social and economic Darwinism that we already know where it will lead.

Reflection 10 

It is evident that the final reflection should concern the need to find a governability of globalisation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

It is not true that we are without ideologies: neoliberal globalisation is an ideology of an unprecedented force, which has produced new phenomena such as global finance and a multinational system stronger than governments, where the example of the use of Facebook to treat citizens as merchandise and to exert influence on political and commercial choices show us that we are in a profound crisis of democracy.

We are entering a dystopian world described by the pioneers of science fiction: the world of George Orwell and Arthur C. Clarke, based on machines and the power of the few.

Only ten years ago, an ascent to total power like that of Xi Jinping in China, Erdoğan in Turkey or Putin in Russia was unthinkable; Brexit and Trump were inconceivable; it was absurd to think that tax havens would reach the colossal figure of 80 trillion dollars; it was unimaginable that eight people would possess the same wealth as 2.3 billion; it was impossible to believe that Norway would have a winter with temperatures close to those of spring.

Ten years ago the financial crisis opened a period of deep and dramatic transformations. With this “acceleration of the rhythm of human history”, as Toynbee called it, where will we be in ten years time?

We must immediately launch a general dialogue, which can only be based on the rediscovery of common values, on the construction of peace and cooperation, on international law as a cornerstone for relations between States, and rediscover the sense of sharing, peace and social justice as a basis for cohabitation, which puts the person back at the centre of society – by replacing capital, finance and greed – and frees society from fear.

Will we be able to find the way to do so?


(c) La Forgia


The reflections of Roberto Savio touch problems which have roots that are not recent and have become increasingly serious over time. His arguments coincide with mine, which are directed both to the present and to a re-reading of the past in the light of contemporary needs. With no claim to being exhaustive, the following are a number of considerations stimulated by Savio’s article.

1) When one asks seriously if we are in transition towards a new world, then it means that in all probability a step has already been taken. The concept follows the idea, but the real is not rational: it is full of contradictions. And it is for this reason, and because of the misalignments between different temporal and spatial scales, that possibilities for action open up.

On a longer and wider time and space scale, the world in which we live is marked by two transitions. The first is the one marked by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, by the development of nuclear arsenals and their proliferation. With the atomic weapon we entered an era in which conceiving the end of humanity or civilisation is no longer a mystical fantasy or a literary vision, but a real possibility: humanity can put an end to its history not through divine judgment or the random motion of an asteroid, but by its own hand.

That the atomic weapon has not been used to hit an enemy since 1945 does not mean that it has no very concrete effects. It has, and they are many and pervasive, even though they are often not easily perceivable in everyday life. The threat of the nuclear weapon always exists behind the use of conventional forces; and this is formally the last resort to defend power: which is why – in addition to the United States, Russia, France, Great Britain, Israel, India and Pakistan – the “national bomb” is useful for a tyrannical regime like that of North Korea and constitutes a hope for Iranian theocracy.

Possession of the nuclear weapon shows that the power of the State in question has an anti-human and potentially exterminating nature. I am convinced that the fight against all nuclear arsenals, of any State, should come first in the battle against militarism and imperialism. The destructiveness of the nuclear weapon is the exact opposite of the international solidarity of peoples fighting against their oppressors; defence against nuclear threats is a powerful means of justifying militarism and gathering consensus around the ruling classes and political castes.

Even the second transition has already taken place, but as for the first, it is a matter of controlling its effects and reducing the damage, if it is still possible.

We discuss the cumulative importance of the ecological effects of the First Industrial Revolution, but everything suggests that the few decades following the Second World War – an infinitesimal period on a geological scale – produced the extraordinary effect of determining what is now considered by most experts a new and particular geological era: the Anthropocene. This refers to the impact of human activity on the planet which is so widespread and profound that it rivals the forces of nature and deserves a place on the scale of geological time. It is not good news for humanity: it is progress, so to speak, of which we cannot be proud, because it threatens catastrophes.

The battle against global warming has its own specificity, but at the same time it is the condensation of contradictions within world society and in the relationship between modern social systems and nature. For example, that battle also passes through the reduction in population growth, but the transition on a global scale to a demographic regime of low birth and low mortality also requires that the drama of the inequality of living conditions among the peoples of the planet be faced. This is something that requires both social and technological change. It is an unprecedented enterprise, for which all the existing economic and political powers are absolutely inadequate.

Nuclear arsenals and climate change are evidence of the lack of sustainability of the current world system. They are the product of the most modern technology and science, but they are not determined by them. Technology is a material cause, but the real cause lies entirely in the sphere of relations among human beings, that is in the relations and institutions in which economic and political power is concentrated.

The transition in the era of the possible atomic annihilation of civilisation was intentional and consciously organised by the holders of political power, above all – but not only – the United States and the Soviet Union. The transition towards the Anthropocene was instead a spontaneous product due primarily to a form of abstract wealth, and therefore without limits in its accumulation: the search for maximum profit. It is therefore the result of the development of capitalism and universal commodification, starting from human labour.

However, industrialisation of the so-called socialist states has also contributed to the Anthropocene as a means of consolidating and increasing the power of the dominant castes of the States themselves; and the particular contradictions of that industrialisation, which can be summarised in the enormous waste of all possible resources, from human to natural resources, with a rhythm (to be distinguished from total volume) even higher than that of capitalism, for which the saving of labour time contributes positively to profitability, but also – depending on the circumstances – the saving of matter and energy.

Nuclear arsenals and global climate change have this in common: they are the result of technological and scientific rationality applied in a type of society which is as a whole irrational, that is not aimed at consciously meeting the needs of the majority of the population and maintaining a balance in the relationship between society and nature.

Technology as a material cause, capitalist classes and political castes as a real cause, reproduction of relations and institutions of economic and political power as the final cause: this is how the forces of production have been converted into forces of destruction.

However distinct they are as social forms, capitalism and pseudo-socialism also have this in common: the reproduction of power relations – concentrated in the State and in companies –, implemented through the “free” market or state planning, denies the possibility of social control over political and economic dynamics. In different ways they deny the possibility of conscious self-management of society at all levels. In this sense they condemn humanity to live in a sort of prehistory.

The above considerations are highly generalised, but are necessary for taking stock of the qualitative leap in human history that took place during the 20th century. They are also sufficient reasons for concluding that the control and overturning of the two transitions requires the rejection of the two social forms that produced them: capitalism and totalitarian pseudo-socialism.

2) Paradoxically, the advent of the atomic era and the progressive intensification of the processes resulting in global climate change coincide with the creation of a set of multilateral institutions and, over time, of regional international agreements of various kinds: the United Nations and its various agencies, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Economic Community, NATO, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON), the Warsaw Pact, ASEAN and so on.

Never as in the post-World War II period has international society been so widely structured and institutionalised. And, another paradox, never as in the post-World War II period has international society denied the legitimacy of war as a means of resolving disputes between States and affirming the right of peoples and individuals to equality, freedom, self-determination and even certain economic and social rights.

This while nuclear missiles, military alliances and the dynamics of economic power severely limited – where they existed (that is in a small part of the world) – the extent and possibilities of the exercise of democratic rights and the sovereignty of people.

These paradoxes demonstrate the contradictory nature of social forms of modernity: a promise of progress and liberation, but at the same time an intensification of risks and problems on a global scale.

The fact is that the real globalisation is not of economics or politics, but is of risks and problems. While the incorporation of the nuclear weapon in missiles, the development of capitalism and the industrialisation of totalitarian pseudo-socialism produced global risks and problems for the whole of humanity, institutions of power have remained particular and national, albeit with a radius of action that goes beyond territorial boundaries and with dense diplomatic relations.

The shape and dynamics of world society are not static, but continue to be based on reproduction of the differences in levels of socio-economic development and economic and political power. While interdependence grows, social inequality is reproduced and its forms become complicated.

It follows that the answer to global risks and problems cannot be at the national level. Or rather, the territorial state constitutes the area in which political action begins a process of change – overthrowing the institutions of power –, but can only fully and permanently achieve its objectives at higher levels: regional, continental and global.

3) Let’s consider greed and fear mentioned by Savio.

In our times, fear and insecurity are powerful forces into which more fears blend: the precariousness of work and unemployment, the future of children, the mortgage, the immigrant and terrorism. The insecurity and fear of the immigrant demonstrated by many European citizens are the result of precise European economic and social policies, articulated in the different EU states and the eurozone. Fear of the immigrant is equivalent to the definition of a scapegoat, to a false target.

Regional and national policies, in turn, are inscribed in a given structural configuration of macroeconomic imbalances according to which, schematically, the United States is the pole of world demand and Germany, China and Japan the poles of world supply. The precariousness of employment in Europe is therefore the result both of a structure and of political decisions (and non-decisions). And it is this precariousness, moved by greed, which in turn feeds the fear of immigration.

Remaining at the national level, how is it possible to solve a dual problem which results from both a structure of the world economy and from policies and institutions operating on a regional, almost continental level?

If the dual problem of fear of the immigrant and of the greed that produces precariousness cannot be solved at a national level, it is at the regional level that we can start to deal with it. However, not from a nationalist point of view and by putting the cart before the horse, that is not by demanding to leave the European Union and the eurozone.

We have to start facing it with partial and sectoral struggles, with defensive movements, but which with their unification start to change the balance of forces with national economic and political power. Only then can the question of national government and of the relationship with the other governments of the European Union and of the eurozone be raised … .

In addition to being ridiculous to set the goal of leaving the European Union and the eurozone when you are not even able to conduct defensive struggles or have a political entity that can govern (the cart before the horse referred to above), any social movement and any government that seriously intends to fight greed and fear must be able to relate to other movements and possibly other governments in Europe.

In other words, problems like those of precariousness and immigration cannot be solved effectively if not on a continental scale. What we need to fight for is not the destruction of the European Union and the monetary unit. The fact is that what is missing to it is a common budget, and social and economic policy, aimed at satisfying the needs of citizens rather than those of competitiveness between States of the region and in the world. In other words: we must fight for the United States of Europe.

This is a process that must be thought of as conflicting and unequal, and the outcome of which depends a great deal not on closing up a priori inside presumed national independence. Wherever the process begins, we need to act as a stimulus for all European workers and citizens so that movements converge on the fundamental objectives. If this were to happen, objectively the pillars of the economic and political power of capitalism and imperialism of European states would also be questioned: the United States of Europe is impossible within the framework of the various European capitalisms and imperialisms.

And this is all the more necessary for the following reasons: first, precariousness does not result from either technology or immigration as such, but from policies that do not have employment as an objective; and, second, because in its turn extra-EU immigration is not only the result of the demographic growth of underdeveloped countries – which is also certainly a problem –, but also of their poverty.

“Helping them at home” is not a mistaken idea, but it rings as completely hypocritical and powerless when it does not translate into ways other than the imperialistic exploitation of people and natural resources.

4) The foregoing is evidently not on the agenda, but to me it seems much more realistic than alternative positions closed in the national state that conceive internationalism as a mere sum of national movements. The latter is a perspective long since surpassed by the development of capitalism and even its very imperfect international institutions: to place oneself below the historical level reached by the adversary means devoting oneself to impotence – or worse, contributing to the diffusion of a reactionary mentality.

If and when something happens in the future that comes close to the synchronism of the movements born between the 60s and 70s, the possibility of the United States of Europe will also be put to the test. This is an eventuality that nobody can foresee and never determine, but which I consider probable precisely because interdependence is stronger today than half a century ago.

It should come as no surprise that this did not occur in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, despite its seriousness. Or perhaps also for this reason: it is known – except in the minds of those who want to delude themselves – that there is no automatic correlation between economic crisis and large progressive social movements. The rise in unemployment is not favourable to mobilisation, let alone when the series of defeats is lengthy.

However, here we are not interested in a sociological discourse on the conditions and dynamics of workers’ mobilisation, which can become a fatalistic alibi. The crux of the historical problem of the passivity of European citizens noted by Roberto Savio is part of a larger problem.

We already know how strong the system is and what are its destructuring and restructuring capabilities – which historically pass through crises and disasters – with regard to both socio-economic and political relationships. I will not dwell on the reasons and the dynamics of post-democracy and society of the spectacle, and not on the atomising effect that social networks can have.

5) In conclusion, I’m interested in pointing the finger at another problem: that of the subjectivity of what is called “left” in Europe. Between the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century, the left underwent a colossal regression … . The fundamental problem of the left … is its degeneration and internal corruption, corruption to be understood primarily as an ideal and political fact.

On this line of thought, a passage from Marx occurs to me, although in a different context. I find it suggestive and adequate, both as regards the subjectivity of the European left and the condition of the former “socialist” countries, especially China and Russia:

“Alongside the modern evils, a whole series of inherited evils oppress us, arising from the passive survival of antiquated modes of production, with their inevitable train of social and political anachronisms. We suffer not only from the living, but from the dead. Le mort saisit le vif! [The dead holds the living in his grasp]” (Preface to the 1st edition of Capital, July 25, 1867).

It can be said that ideology, which for the European left was a cause for pride before the comrades of the rest of the world, has become or has turned out to be a dead weight, or rather a kind of non-dead that continues to devour the living. I would say that today the existential centre of something that can be said to be left has moved to the New World: in a more political sense to Latin America, in a more intellectual sense to the United States. I would not be surprised if, as in the past, a welcome surprise were to come from precisely the United States.

Be that as it may, fighting the non-dead is one of our priorities.

[translation from Italian by Phil Harris (for IDN-InDepthNews)]

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