Has socialism a future?

Sottotitolo: 
This article is taken from the speech delivered by Giuliano Amato,  head of old Italian government, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Mondoperaio, the ancient magazine of the italian Socialist Party.

Mondoperaio - the magazine of which we celebrate its 70th anniversary, was a real cenacle which attracted those intellectuals who were on the left of the PCI. As well as who - in a phase in which we were an alternative to the “Compromesso storico”, the historic compromise, destined to become the platform for national solidarity- found an umbrella in the Socialist party and in Mondoperaio. This is an important element of the story: they came to look for an umbrella, because - it will have been hegemony, certainly not the proletariat dictatorship - there was life on the left of the PCI, and without this  umbrella it was evidently a life subjected to a lot of rain, so these people preferred joining us.

That season brought a lot of fruit. However, it did not bring a fruit in which we also believed, the  democratic  and liberal socialism alternative. Naturally, history here deals with some factual questions. For me the most important is what would have happened in Italy if the total chemical incompatibility between Bettino Craxi and Enrico Berlinguer had been the opposite: capacity of empathy of one towards the other.

Already they were very different physically, let alone adding the diversity of cultural and political characters and paradigms. Certainly, the alternative was among the most feasible outcome for Italy at that time. And my hypothesis, now counterfactual, was  the topic supported by Mondoperaio in that season: the Project for the alternative, of which the final drafters were Luciano Benadusi, a catholic socialist,  and myself.

It would have been another Italy in fact: instead the eighties started and from this point of view they started on the wrong track, that of a governability that was more and more an end in itself. The division on the left remained, indeed intensified, hardening the position of who had shared this possibility of a new leftwing syntony. It made it increasingly difficult, and in the end the single party was born, that inexorably led to reflect more than anything else the bond of national solidarity; so that, paradoxically, it was easier in this new party to unite the branches of Communist and of Christian Democratic origin than that which came from our side.

This is one of the most striking aspects that emphasize the wrong epilogue of a wrong story: and I remain with my counterfactual question without an answer.

This lack of an answer also depends on other factors, such as the progressive transformation of our societies,  in which there were and still are socialist parties; but with the feeling that the socialist culture has given all that it could give and that was useful in the century that is over. So now let's keep this whim as long as we live. And with the times in which we live, maybe we live more than anyone could hope for.

Here, I believe that the most important thing we have to convince ourselves of is that it is not so and that Tony Judt was right when, before he died in 2010, he wrote in his book Ill Fares the Land, he said “do not disperse, do not throw away of the just finished century the patrimony, starting from the welfare, that socialist political culture has produced ”.

And he belonged to a wing that was a bit more radical than we were in the world of the left, but he saw in the welfare and in the economic policies made by the socialist and social-democratic parties a heritage not to be lost.

He was absolutely right if today in the countries of Western Europe we are forced to say that a representative policy of the less well-off classes is taking hold far away from socialist politics.

Let's face it: the right passage that we all made to the market - the Bad Godesberg that the PCI has never explicitly wanted to do but that we all did anyway - the market wherever possible, the State when it is necessary. We have replaced it over the years. We had social policies, we had industrial policies, we had territorial policies: at a certain point all of this dried up and we left only monetary policies and fiscal policies in place. When the only policies that are taken in relation to  the economy are fiscal policy and monetary policy, it means that the market does everything and we have just framed it to avoid excessive slippage.

When that happened, there were no longer Franco Momigliano and Giorgio Fuà among the councilors (the advisors) of the government, but there were only macro-economists.

Why have I so often found myself in agreement with Alfredo Reichlin, who had been a leader of the PCI, in the last years of his life (and a bit of my life)? Because we both thought that once, in both of our parties, there were debates that began under the heading "Italy in the international division of labor". Today these are meaningless words: we live in a country where we invest in it, without asking ourselves the question of what will it be for us to produce in the world of tomorrow: what space will we have, what space will others have, how to work for the space we will have, from training to industrial and territorial policies.

We have left all the income distribution in the hands of a crazed global market that has created vast, strong and corrosive inequalities, even in the middle classes, increasing social vulnerability and bringing a growing number of citizens to vote for those who have amplified their anger and their protest: all electors that we lost because we had nothing to say. What must be recovered is just a policy corresponding to a socialist political culture of our time.

This issue opens with an article by Pietro Nenni. One of the things that I most regretted  of that time it is what I later discovered in an article by Mondoperaio: when he had just won, or was about to win the Peace prize in Moscow, he told that he had been in Budapest and had not seen signs of Soviet soldiers, while there were only peaceful Hungarian citizens cheering.

I must say that Palmiro Togliatti never said such a thing, he looked at it differently. I wouldn't have expected it from Nenni. Born a maximalist, he was maximalist even despite his acceptance of soviet policies. It is right to mention this, but I certainly prefer to remember the article, in which he underlines the crucial importance of international politics for socialists.

Do you realize that, in a historical phase in which three quarters of the things that matter are decided at supranational levels, we, who come from an international movement, for a number of understandable reasons, found ourselves closed in national borders, which allowed us to give the answers we wanted in the twentieth century, but which is today an authentic cage that excludes those who remain within it from the decision making?

So making use of the state dimension was not a mistake. But it was a mistake to have  completely lost the vision and therefore the international dimension, to the point that we are no longer able to measure the strength of the power of the States to not do what the sovereigns want - that is to close our eyes to the world - but as a way of governing the world.

That is because - in addition to the supranational government mission that should be our task to strengthen - there are still many national public powers with which it is possible to exercise control over a set of phenomena that occur at international level. Who, if not the socialists or the socialist culture, has to come up with these things that are part of their DNA?
In short, this is what I wanted to tell you: we are living the anniversary of Mondoperaio as a historical fact, but also as the possible beginning of a better story.

(The translation from Italian into English is by Insight)

* Giuliano Amato, former leader of the Socialist Party, was Prime Minister in 1992-93 and 2000-01. He os icurrently Member of the Constitutional Court.

Giuliano Amato*
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Free thinking for global social progress