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Creato Domenica, 10 Novembre 2019

A Debate on Socialism and Immigration

Italians First? by Luciano Nicolini 

(from Cenerentola No. 224, June 2019)

On 27 May 2019, as I was beginning to write this article, I received the following message from Davide Milanesi: 

«The Left is dead, that 19th-century Left based on solidarity: among individuals, classes, peoples; without need there is no solidarity: Henry Ford has won. As that anti-Semitic, Nazi, genius industrialist predicted, over the decades the possibility of accumulating wealth has taken the oxygen away from any idealistic impulse.

Ideals have lain beneath the ashes for too long: the ashes are cold. Oppression is indirect, muffled, rendered acceptable, even appealing, by the possibility of buying or the mirage of being able to buy one day; but to succeed, one must beat the competitors who live on the same street, in the same building, who go to the same school or work in the same factory. The Left, already decrepit, could not withstand the impact of Chinese growth and mass migration; faced with the former, induced by the low cost of local labour, western governments, in accord with bloated, toothless trade unions, instead of demanding the globalization of rights, lopped off those of their own workers; faced with the latter, they buried their heads in the sand and extended a red carpet to grim, ruthless figures who exploited this issue and proved even more unscrupulous.

Rights rust and crumble if they are not exercised. Dismayed but not resigned, we are reminded of a cartoon by Altan from at least 30 years ago: “Left and Right are obsolete concepts, Peppì” “And are top and bottom also obsolete?”»

In effect, the Italian Left suffered a serious setback in the elections of 26 May 2019. But, in truth, it had suffered that setback much earlier. Could one call “Left” that Democratic Party that with Matteo Renzi looked like the worst Christian Democrats? And is “The Left” truly represented by that group that calls itself such and whose members preferred to vote PD just to salvage what remained of their self-interests?

But if the Left lost the elections because it had already lost in the real world, then the Right won because it had already won in the real world. I am not referring, of course, to the European political landscape: at the European level, the Right, though gaining, was unable to diminish the power of centrist forces that have managed the Union thus far in the interest of the powerful. The Right triumphed in Italy and had already triumphed when the 5 Star Movement, the sole electoral bastion against neo-Nazism, joined forces with Salvini’s League and let it enter the government. The vote of 26 May only ratified this situation: the League went from 6% in the previous European elections to 34%, drawing voters from the PD (down from 41 to 23%), from Forza Italia (down from 17 to 9%), and from the 5 Star Movement (down from 21 to 17%). The reactionaries of Brothers of Italy also had modest success (up from 4 to 6%).

«But how can a normal person - many are wondering -vote for someone like Salvini?»

The answer is simple and is contained, I feel, in Davide’s brief statement: the poorest Italians are afraid of foreign competition and, even more, of having to share with immigrants the pensions and healthcare they so painfully earned. What appeals about Salvini is summarized in the slogan he has been shouting for months: “Italians first!”

«But how can we fail to understand - many are wondering, - that the only way to fight foreign competition is to invest in knowledge and research; and that the few migrants attempting to reach Italy in dinghies are not a problem?»

The answer is equally simple: average Italians are unable to influence knowledge and research (but are well aware that the university system, in charge of this, is corrupt); in many cases, they are aware that fewer migrants are arriving, but also know that poor countries are full of people who want to abandon their villages and come to Europe to seek fortune or escape misfortune. And, as I said above, they have no intention of sharing with them what little they possess.

The proposals of the Left (the real one, I mean) are weak: while they attribute the causes of the country’s economic decline to the economic policies suggested by the European Union, they invite Italians to practice an open-door policy, sustaining that, if the dominant classes were expropriated, there would be enough wealth for all. But just how do we expropriate them? With chit-chat? By revolution? It seems unlikely, and in the 20th century no revolution has been truly successful.

I believe we should put things clearly:

1) competing with countries like China on the same products is impossible; of course, sooner or later the workers in those countries will tire of sweating for meagre wages, and at that point things will change; but that point is still far away;

2) blocking immigration is equally impossible; no one in history has ever managed to do so, and not even Salvini will;

3) we must promote Italy as a tourist destination (which conflicts with the closed-door policy Salvini would like to implement), but it is inconceivable that a country of 60 million can live on tourism alone;

4) we must therefore emphasise knowledge and research to develop products that cannot be made elsewhere; this demands a complete and immediate reform of public education, beginning with the universities;

5) Italy must shoulder the costs of accepting immigrants, seeking to integrate them as best we can and charging the costs to the ruling classes, but without concealing that there will be a price to pay for all, in terms of lower consumption;

6) lastly, in exchange for those sacrifices, we must offer Italians the possibility of a life more worth living, with greater satisfaction in our work, greater freedom in managing our daily lives, greater solidarity, a more efficient civil justice system, and so forth.

Could it work?

Not necessarily. In fact, what occurred in the administrative elections of the village of Riace, held at the same time as the European elections, suggests the opposite: even in that village whose mayor, Mimmo Lucano, had pursued (with many limitations) a policy like the one I am proposing (practicing an open-door policy while seeking to relaunch the local community), Salvini’s Lega scored a major victory.

But I fail to see any other possible paths. And those that lead to the best places are not always the shortest.

 

In my opinion, the formulation is unacceptable by Eugen Galasso 

(received on 7 July 2019, published in Cenerentola no. 226, October 2019).

I have carefully read and reread Luciano’s editorial in the June issue of Cenerentola (pages 2-3), agreeing with the first part and partially with the second (it is not entirely true that immigration cannot be “blocked”; let’s say it could have been blocked, or at least limited, a few decades ago with an international, not European, decision coordinated, for example, by the UN, which is being transformed into a sort of useless super-entity based on the reciprocal vetoes of the superpowers).  

But from point 5 onward I disagree, and in my opinion the formulation, is unacceptable:

A) Why should the price be paid by all and not just by the ruling classes? Supporting it means agreeing with “blood and tears” proposals, which perhaps were acceptable in wartime 1940 (Winston Churchill’s famous speech to the House of Commons on 13 may 1940), but in Italy we have already sacrificed much with the social butchery governments of Monti (the worst), Letta, Renzi, and Gentiloni; nor does the current government, confused and ambiguously Fascist-leaning, seem willing (or able) to improve things...

B) In Italy the spirit of sacrifice is linked to the hyper-Catholic, yea sanctimonious, culture and strongly implemented by individuals like Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, banker and several times minister of the economy, but also economic super-consultant. Padoa-Schioppa shall be remembered for his call to a “life of hardship” (article of 26 August 2003 in Il Corriere della Sera); 

C) But besides his declarations of intent, comrade Luciano commits a serious error, I believe: he fails to quantify the extent of the sacrifice (if any). If he had said X, explaining, of course, why, based on what arguments, what causes, one might consider it. Expressed this way, with no additional information or, above all, no explanations, I feel it could gain more votes for those who reject any form of immigration or, without mincing words, for Salvini... 

Point 6 is also generic. We don’t know, nor will we ever know, what that “life more worth living” is. It almost sounds like the «die now and pay later» of Woody Allen, and all this, I’m sorry to say or repeat, can only gain votes for Salvini, which, with an empirical calculation of the “red” regions and provinces, also come from the Left (abstentionism aside)...

 

I haven’t changed my mind by Luciano Nicolini

(from Cenerentola no. 226, October 2019)

First of all, a premise: I am very pleased that Eugen has criticized me. As our readers know, I tend to be overly concise, and criticism, even when it doesn’t change how I think, is useful for explaining what I have said.

Regarding the first objection: I am absolutely convinced that immigration cannot be blocked. If there are too many people for available resources in one part of the planet and fewer in another, a population shift is inevitable. You can delay it, (perhaps) regulate, but as for blocking it, as I wrote in my editorial, «no one in history has ever managed it» and, in all probability, «not even Salvini will».

Nor, I believe, could the UN have done it.

Concerning point A): It is true that «in Italy we have already given much with the social butchery governments» but if we intend (as I hope) to pursue an open-door policy toward immigrants, this would carry significant costs, which I don’t believe could be sustained without a burden on the lower classes, not even by completely expropriating the ruling classes, who have already (quite a while ago) taken much of their wealth abroad. Only a little land, a few properties, and a series of fairly unprofitable companies would be left to expropriate. 

B) It is true that «in Italy the spirit of sacrifice is linked to the hyper-Catholic culture» and that we laypeople would have to show men and women the path to happiness, but it is equally true that creating socialism means asking those with more to renounce it and give it to those with less, and that the immigrants arriving in Italy generally have less than the Italians.  So…

C) It is true: I have not quantified the extent of (any) sacrifice. But this is not an error: having worked for years at a large statistical consulting office, forecasting the future of the population, I am well aware that when one seeks to quantify certain things there is a high risk of error. However, at the cost of looking ridiculous, I shall try. 

We all know that much of the world’s population lives in poverty. In particular, Africa, separated from us by a narrow sea, is inhabited by a large number of poor people. According to UN projections, fairly reliable over a brief period, Africa’s population will increase by about 200 million over the next ten years. Is it likely it will be able to keep them all? I find that rather improbable. How many can it keep? No one knows but, since Eugen asks me to bet, based on what has occurred in other (forcibly) similar contexts, I would say: not more than two-thirds. In that case, at least 60 million people would be moving to richer countries over the next ten years. 

«OK» one might object, «but not everyone will come to Europe!»

Certainly not. But on the other hand, many poor people will come to Europe from other parts of the world that according to UN projections will show similar increases in population.

Now, let’s assume that Italy (as I hope) institutes an open-door policy, while the other countries of Europe continue with their current limited-entry policies. The probable consequence would be the arrival of sixty million people to our country (which is already densely populated). What costs, Eugen asks me, would the current inhabitants of Italy have to sustain to host them?

Based on what many comrades say, they would have to sustain no cost: expropriation of the ruling classes would provide everything needed for everyone to live well while maintaining, or even increasing, current levels of consumption. As I have said, I have serious doubts about this.

In fact, even assuming that an equitable division of resources among Italy’s current 60 million inhabitants could produce a monthly per capita income of € 2,400, those resources divided by 120 million inhabitants (the total with immigration) would reduce income to only € 1,200.

«OK» one might object, «but the 60 million new Italians will not be idle! They will help increase the wealth produced….»

Of course. But, as we all know, work cannot be invented (better: it can be invented up to a certain point) and, above all, production that can be exported to pay for necessary imports can be invented only up to a certain point.

In conclusion: I am not saying that an open-door policy like the one we libertarians propose would bring all Italians below what the Italian National Institute of Statistics considers the level of absolute poverty (around € 800 monthly for a single person living in a northern Italian city), but I believe that much of the population would see its ability to consume significantly reduced.

So what should we do? Join Salvini’s crusade against immigrants? Stop pursuing an open-door policy?

Certainly not. But, if we want to take a socialist approach, we have to offer our citizens something more than high levels of consumption. In other words, «a life more worth living».

«We don’t know, and will never know» Eugen writes, «what a “life more worth living” is». However, I think I know: as I wrote in an earlier article, it is a life «with greater satisfaction in our work, greater freedom to manage our daily lives, greater solidarity, an efficient civil justice system, and so forth». I prefer (and I think I am not alone) to work creatively all year than to take a week’s vacation in the Caribbean. I prefer not to obey the orders of an idiotic manager than to eat meat every day (and I am not a vegetarian). I prefer not to be stopped by police officers who make me blow into a balloon than to drink mineral water imported from Ireland (yes, I found this in a bar near my home). I would be happier if, after suffering an injustice, I were reimbursed quickly, rather than win at three levels in court and discover, at the end, to have just spent money on lawyers. And so forth…

 

 

 

 

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