The Collapse of European Politics

Class-consciousness is sleeping, hypnotized from a trash media system, but it is not dead. We could seize some signs of malaise in the pathological estrangement from the polls.

L’aristocratie avait fait de tous les citoyens une longue chaîne qui remontait du paysan au roi : la démocratie brise la chaîne et met chaque anneau à part […] Ainsi, non-seulement la démocratie fait oublier à chaque homme ses aïeux, mais elle lui cache ses descendants et le sépare de ses contemporains ; elle le ramène sans cesse vers lui seul, et menace de le renfermer enfin tout entier dans la solitude de son propre cœur.

Alexis de Tocqueville, La démocratie en Amérique, vol III, partie II, chapitre 2, ed. 1866.

A meaningful text of Antonio Lettieri (The many faces of Eurozone crisis, resumes clearly the general political situation in the EU and in particular in the Eurozone.

Going through the different European states, we feel that, under the differences, there is a common, crucial factor: the collapse of politics, as we knew it up to 1989, and the birth of new processes and institutions that deliberate with an evident lack of public and wide consensus. Let us take only some examples:

1. In Italy, – but not only here – we are facing a deep crisis of parliamentary institutions, i.e. of the so-called representative democracy and the simultaneous growth of one-person parties. Just think that in Italian Parliament the biggest group is the so-called “mixed group”, with more than 200 members, coming from their “home parties”. Moreover, the very word “party” is more and more replaced with names echoing market products as – in addition to the old “Forza Italia” – “Coraggio Italia”, Italia Viva”, “Noi per l’Italia”, “Energie per l’Italia” and so on.  The decline of a strong mass-party system, which could take charge and mediate different social needs, hinders any fair and ethically healthy work of the Parliament.

 2. “If Rome mourns, Athens doesn’t laugh”. As Antonio Lettieri points out, Netherlands and Belgium were without a government for several months (in some cases more than a year!). What could it mean? The substantial uselessness of a national government, because the real power is elsewhere, in the Euro-ruling classes, whose representatives sit in Brussels (but not in European Parliament!).

3. Until 1989, with the threatening presence of URSS in Europe and in the world, the free deployment of a market economy had known some difficulties, so that the public opinions in the western countries could exert an, albeit limited, control on political choices. After 1989, the triumph of the single thought of liberal capitalism has made clear the fragility of the traditional political apparatus (superstructure). Without systemic alternatives, politics proves itself ineffective; in this way, not few citizens trust on “competent people”, on “technicians”, as if it were possible to make neutral and “scientifically correct” choices.

4. Class-consciousness is sleeping, hypnotized from a trash media system, but it is not dead. We could seize some signs of malaise in the pathological estrangement from the polls (in Italy, in the last local elections we knew an abstention of more than 50% – in some cases, in the urban neighbourhoods, the most touched from the economic crisis, more that 70% – but also in the low-level, almost feral, public debate. Lately, an important Italian political essayist and TV-anchor man, considered as leftist, Corrado Augias, had affirmed:  “it is fair that persons without a definite political idea and an adequate political culture prefer not to go to the poll stations: in this way we’ll have a better government.” A government of the best – the Competents ones. The narrow-mindedness of this opinion is obvious: leaving more than the half of a population without political representation – even if a “populistic” one – means that people is ready to consign itself to the first demagogue who promises heaven and earth. Must I remind the tragedies of XX Century?

5. The “false consciousness” prevails in the mainstream discourse. We exalt the achievement all over the world of civil rights and individual freedom; we condemn the autocratic regimes of Russia, China, but always in an abstract, neo-illuministic, a-historical perspective.

Quite rightly, we get angry with Egypt of Al-Sisi because of the assassination of Giulio Regeni and the detention of Patrick Zaki. At the same time, we seem almost to ignore the horrible situation in the Italian prisons, where – mostly poor people and migrants – suffer for overcrowded jails and slowness of trials. We denounce the two-years of pre-trial detention on Patrick Zaki, but we do not remember enough that Italy has 34, 6 % of pre-trial detention compared to a European average of 22 %. We complain the situation of women in Taliban Afghanistan; but what about the same, persistent situation of women in Saudi Arabia, and not from few years?

Moreover, what about the social and economic divide, that is increasingly dramatic inside our societies and that we oft face only with the so-called “compassionate capitalism”, which softens the hard conditions of the lowest classes, without changing the mechanisms that those conditions have generated?

6. Solutions? I am not particularly optimist. It seems to me that the oldish European ruling classes entrenched behind the Euro to defend the status quo of their privileges, refrains politics.  For example, who could perceive today a long-sighted migratory policy? Have we Europeans a serious and long-term vision of the relationships with China and Russia? Could we face the new strategic, global balance with obsolete means as the cold-war NATO? Could we hope in a new political Renaissance in our continent – not in Saudi Arabia, as Matteo Renzi says? Could we imagine a renewal of a party system, able to give voice to the entire social body?

We know very well how the blindness of European governments on the verge of 1914 has condemned Europe, however affluent, cultivated, scientifically advanced, to self-destruction.

Claudio Salone

Professor of ancient literatures, Rome -