First of all, I would like to thank the Red-Green alliance of Denmark for their invitation to this important conference.
To start I would like to say that the old North/South couple does not work anymore. It has been overwhelmed by the new world order and by the strait jacket of new forms of social regulation. So-called globalization is reorganizing all the relationships between North and South and the South is advancing.
The South takes increasingly diverse forms and many are now inside the old North. I do not refer to migratory pressure alone. There is a risk of the parallel development of forms of undeclared social apartheid, characterized by degradation, social dumping and limited democracy, within northern countries themselves, such as in our Mezzogiorno, the South of Italy.
We face a mechanism that increases the gap between Centres and Suburbs of the planet. I speak of Centres and Suburbs of the planet, and not of North/South because it seems to me that this term is linked to an idea of the international division of labour whose geo-political parameters are no longer in line with the current paradigm of capitalistic development. We are in the initial stages of the development of an alternative project to the hegemonic view, which is dominated by the mechanism of inclusion/exclusion, considered as a natural evolution of social relationships.
The inclusion-exclusion duality offers a theory of overlapping circles:
on one side excluded masses in the Suburbs, but also in the Centres of the world economy. Capitalist globalization leads to, among other things, the crisis of the national development model and therefore to the crisis of the State-Nation, an attack on the welfare state, new exclusions and poverty both in the Centres and in the Suburbs. The included ones in the lower rungs of the social pyramid are forced into precarious jobs, with lower salaries, extreme flexibility, high levels of exploitation, and the reappearance of slave like working conditions. In the Centres mass unemployment is more and more a necessary condition for the destruction of social and labour rights, conquered thanks to past struggles: an enormous power of blackmail that forces women and men to new forms of dependence.
1998: A SPECIAL YEAR FOR E.U.ROPE
In a few days The E.U.ropean Council will decide which countries will participate in the formation of a single E.U.ropean currency.
A great deal has been written about German and Dutch resistance to Italian participation, mainly arising from their domestic political agendas. However , it will be hard to exclude Italy : its public budget is a lot better today (generally speaking) than the German one.
The German social and political crisis could produce a great shake-up to the Maastricht based E.U.ropean construction. Germany will hold political elections in September and, probably the SPD (Schroeder version) will win.
After Italy and France, the German election could represent a possibility for political and social change in the whole E.U., or, on the other hand, an attempt to redefine, with some moderate elements, a neo-liberal path. That same path which has imposed the infamous budget parameters of Maastricht Treaty, the same that struck hard at the living conditions of a large part of the E.U.ropean population, particularly the workers.
In France, the victory of the left, on one side contributed (through the political isolation of Germany) to its present crisis and, on the other hand, provoked the emergence of vast numbers of contradictions between France and Germany on crucial points of E.U.ropean construction.
Particularly regarding PESC (E.U.ropean security), its enlargement toward the South, and the government of a future single currency.
The French government has launched a strong campaign in this area to fix (open) (together with the future E.U.ropean central bank) a place made by political rapresentancies.
This insistence may seem quite strange, but let’s not forget that, concretely, this is one of the decisive battle grounds which will determine the future of E.U social and economical policies and whether they will continue in a neo-liberal way or, instead, change radically in a positive way. Today, a new protagonist of neo–liberalism has emerged in the figure of Tony Blair with his “new labour” in Great Britain although with some internal contradictions (for example the exit of Ken Coates ) provoking new ruptures. I think that in Great Britain, the question of a real “Labour refoundation” is on the agenda.
Meanwhile the negotiations for E.U. enlargement are underway (including Cyprus, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovenia). It’s an enormously complex game. On this point I just want to remark that new social disasters could be provoked if the E.U., (under German and British pressure), does not increase financial resources to finance the new entries without cutting the budget towards the poor zones already existing inside the E.U.
In general terms, therefore, the future enlargement of E.U. depends on the future German political situation. Furthermore, the negotiations with Cyprus could lead to a “no way back point” in the present crisis of relations between Turkey and E.U.. At the present moment an Italian pacifist (Dino Frisullo) is being held in prison in Turkey, accused of having demonstrated in favour of the Kurdish people.
The other point of contradiction, of course, is the Danish referendum of 28th of May on the Amsterdam Treaty, which could change the direction of the E.U.
But as I imagine you’ve been talking about it this morning, I will not touch on it.
Last, but not least, E.U.ropean construction which has until now been clearly right wing in orientation and lacking in founding ideals, appears once to be a site of important conflicts.
With regard to Italy, the question of “milk production percentages”, and, especially in the South, the peasant struggle around olives, oil, oranges and other products , are examples. It’s not a matter of “Italian tales”: they are the expression of the PAC (Common Agriculture Politics) of the E.U. and of the so-called attempts to “reform it” made by Germany and Great Britain.
There have also been the recent struggles of French, Greek, Spanish peasants, of British farmers and the “mad cow” (BSE ) scandal in Great Britain.
Let’s say that P.A.C. is under attack, because it produces enormous costs, health and environmental disasters, and because it increases poverty especially in Southern Europe. It also causes as much if not more unemployment, as industrial capitalistic “rationalization”.
Many moles are excavating under the nice, green, well cut grass of the old continents. All the crisis factors underneath the strong neo-liberal attack are coming out. And generally speaking, it seems to us that people are looking for a change, moving towards the left. A real one as in French case, a fake one in GB. In a lot of countries, social mobilizations are growing, but their directions are not certain. It depends a lot on what the several different lefts will be able to do in the next months. It’s true in Denmark (with the first general strike after 13 years), as much as in France, Italy and surely in Germany. And this is why 1998 will be a special year.
THE EMU AND THE E.U.RO
The drastic measures undertaken to achieve the Maastricht parameters have absorbed all the attention of the social and political subjects, reducing the space for a valuation of the meaning a new international currency like the Euro should have. A currency that will modify the economic relationships inside the E.U. and, particularly, between the E.U. and the rest of the world (which is something that should be studied more). While bankers and financiers have long been discussing this openly, the left is still embarrassed. Currency means capital whose destiny is to control the labour force. And to leave the monetary games to the European bankers, reducing the left field of action to the social level alone, will not be enough, particularly when taking into account the long terms effects of this decision.
I do not think this is the place to discuss the Maastricht criteria again. But, as we say in Italy, let me “put the feet in the plate” of the discussion.
A) the single European currency is the obvious, logical result of the unification process. A process realized in asymmetrical conditions (just think about state dimensions and economic strength). On the other hand, maintaining a large area of national autonomy regarding currency, means the necessity of new financial and economic instruments at E.U. level, operating in an articulate way to achieve an internal balance. This could also mean new instruments for the social system. Today’s instruments (which are defended nationally although with known differences) are in a state of continuous danger. With regard to the relationship the between E.U. budget and national budgets, it seems to me that the European left is lagging seriously behind.
B) Confronting the globalization process sometimes implies the reduction of the power of the dollar and its sovereignty. I do not take the position whereby the single currency is understood as an anti-USA, anti-imperialist instrument. We do not believe it. But let’s think about some figures of international trade. In 1992 export from countries of the Centres was carried out 30% in dollars, 23% in marks, 9% in yen. In particular, the percentage of the European bank accounts in dollars in Centre countries banks went from its maximum of 77% in 1984, down to 41% in 1995. Even for the international bonds stock, the dollar weight fell from 64% in 1984, to 33% in 1995. The explanations are quite complex: for example, Asian currency reserves are still mainly in dollars despite the yen supremacy in East Asia. The oil exchanges still are in dollars, while in Central Europe the leader is still the German mark. So today Europe with the E.M.U. will probably inherit the German mark percentage, but the future is not so automatic. This has been one of the reasons why the number of countries, to be included or not, has been a point of daily discussions since last year.
C) But perhaps the most important question is the possibility of reducing monetary instability at the international level. In a world which has abandoned the “gold standard system” the presence of different currencies with comparable strength is the best way to reach a balance. Of course it is an unstable balance that will require a great capacity to operate on different fronts (monetary and economic ones) with a strategic vision. The attention should be focused on this point so as to avoid the Euro just becoming another way of referring to the German mark.
D) Concerning our country, Italy, the objective difficulties involved in reaching the Maastricht parameters, are linked to the delay regarding concerns about the lack of a necessary focus of attention on the political and institutional aspects which could transform the single currency in monetarism. The debate on the new European Bank control leadership is an aspect of the same question. Meanwhile the cyclic temptation of taking one step back contrasts with the need to break isolation, especially considering the troubled geographical area in which we find ourselves. The cold war is over and the interest of the USA in Italy has a smaller importance in the Agenda. Let’s not forget the different situation with the centre-left government, and the different relationship between USA and Italy, manifest also in the last Iraqi crisis, or in the Albanian military adventure of Italian neo-colonialism.
3 MAIN EUROPEAN QUESTIONS
There are three main European questions about E.U. we need to deal with.
1) The first is who will “govern” the future single European currency coming into existence next year. The battle between France and Germany is therefore crucial. France wants a “political government” of the single currency. That means not just in the hands of the European Central Bank, but also in those of a board of representatives of members of the E.U. governments (of course just the governments and not organized society). Concretely this position means that monetary politics should take into account the material interests and demands of the people.
The German position, in contrast, is strictly tied up with a vision close to that of the Central Bank, the only body allowed to govern currency. Therefore it is a government only oriented towards the goal of stabilizing prices, a monetarist government. Concretely, it is economically determined by big financial interests and generally speaking, by big industries of E.U. inside the capitalistic globalization.
2) The second question to struggle for, based on the interests of the workers and the people of the E.U., is a common fiscal policy (or at least an agreed one) as a pre-condition to brake fiscal dumping within the different E.U. countries. This should alleviate fiscal pressure on labour and displace it towards rent and profits, financial speculation, and the huge gains of the highest zones of the middle class.
3) The third question, which is also quite important, is to reaffirm the necessity (for each single country and the E.U. as such) to fight against the politics of liberalization of capital movements and of the international trade promoted by WTO. Liberalization which has been imposed on a huge part of the world by IMF, OECD, USA, the main centres of capitalistic command of the actual phase of globalization.
Capital and trade movements must be negotiated taking in account people’s demands. Particularly regarding urgent improvements in the living conditions in the world “suburbs”, food self-soberignity in each country, cancelling debt, transferring appropriate technology and financial resources from Centres to Suburbs, financing environmental care, etc. Particularly we support the idea of taxation of international capital movements (Tobin tax could be one of the instruments).
4) For the same reasons we are strongly against the M.A.I. (Multilateral Agreement on Investments) and against the “Transatlantic agreement” within Europe and the USA.
THE ITALIAN SITUATION
As in other areas of Europe, also in Italy the problem is not just to be against, but also to be for. What I mean is that we need to articulate concrete proposals.
As you know Rifondazione Comunista is not part of the centre-left government (Ulivo), although it supports the coalition. Since the beginning of this new delicate experience, we are fighting on each single issue to reorient government action. We did not give to this government a “blank cheque””. It means that Prodi needs to show real changes to gain our votes on single issues.
Given the advance in macro-economical terms, we think that it’s time to start a new phase in government action. That is why we are proposing to take concrete measures to redistribute wealth and first of all to tackle major Italian problem, unemployment (actually 12% nationally, but a lot worst in the South, especially within youth and women reaching in some cases up to 50%). Since 1990 there has been a strong reduction in the labour force, with 1.5 million people on the street. The proposals that I will explain now represent, therefore, our major priorities.
A) STRUGGLE FOR EMPLOYMENT
- Work time reduction. Modern unemployment is growing in Italy, despite better macro-economy figures. It has a structural and massive character whose causes are also linked to technology introduction and the elimination of more and more workers. The reduction of work-time (35 hours a week) with the same salary has been the centre of our battle, even in the October government crisis. By law, starting on January 2001, despite the resistance of the Italian bosses (and French ones).
- Public utility jobs. Concrete proposals on environmental protection, historical sites, personal care, childhood, elderly people, equal trade. Concrete ways not just to defend the welfare state (that has been built through struggles) but also to stop the irrational capitalistic destruction of resources and quality of life. We have made concrete proposals in each field, against the logic of big “infrastructure” (highways, high-speed train transport without attacking road traffic, the double line from Trieste to Wien, the bridge over Sicily, etc.)
- Rights of unemployed people. That includes free access for the unemployed to services (transport, house, health, school, etc.). The framework is that of “guaranteed minimum work”.
B) THE RENAISSANCE OF SOUTHERN ITALY
First of all, a new form of qualified public intervention, in this historically marginalized area. Concretely we propose an “Agency for development and employment in the South”, with priority given to the solution of dramatic living conditions.
C) BATTLE AGAINST INDUSTRIAL PRIVATIZATION
Particularly for strategic sectors as energy, telecommunications, etc. On the other hand we must focus attention on scientific, industrial, technological investigation to develop an autonomous capacity able to struggle against international monopolistic control of the multinationals.
The defence and valorisation of the environment (including historical sites and monuments) represents one of the strategic challenges to irrational capitalistic destruction. In a country like Italy, with its extensive resources, this point has a particular significance.
What we need is a real “ecological transformation” of the whole economy, qualifying the nexus between work and environment, with particular care paid to water management. A strong reduction of garbage, recycling policies, differentiating for sectors, it’s something that can’t be delayed.
As I was saying before, Maastricht and P.A.C. if not changed, will mean the reduction of the agricultural labour force from the current 9.3% to 7.5% in 2005 at a European level. In Italy it will fall by 4.5% especially in the South, penalized by the attempts to make it produce for Northern Europe at lower and lower prices. Therefore it is urgent 1) to modify the E.U. agriculture policy 2) to valorise the food processing industry, increasing added-value to products.
F) FISCAL POLICIES
The fiscal situation is characterized by huge tax evasion. Such a big figure influences the entire economic and financial situation. Just to give a figure, we are talking about 141 billion dollars (15.000 million dollars) tax evasion per year. That’s why it’s absolutely vital to recuperate these resources for public investments. After the liberalization on a European scale of capital movements since 1990, it’s time to define an harmonized tax system.
G) WELFARE STATE
Some notions. The defence of the pension system, requalification of the national health system defence of public structures, defence of workers right to access to a qualified preventive medicine.
Education: is one of the major battlefields in our conflictual relations with the Prodi government. We are fighting to defend the public system, against the tendency to make it equivalent to private schools, which are almost always those of the catholic church, and thus state financed.
Housing politics, justice and the struggle against the Mafia, migrants rights, union democracy and workers rights, the role of the institutional and administrative reform, and finally cooperation to development toward less developed countries: they are all specific points on which we have detailed proposals.
To conclude let me say that, once again, this ambitious program can only be developed at a European level through a strong alliance around concrete programs, producing actions. Some work has been done (European march against unemployment, Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris, Lisbon, etc.) but a lot remains to be done. We will certainly do our part, together with the G.U.E (United Left Parliamentary Group) in Brussels.
Finally let me share some worries with you.
A) We must define again the border between chauvinism, nationalism, internationalism and self-determination. After the war in ex-Yugoslavia, after Albania, Kosovo, Algeria and the ability to manipulate “self-determination” together with the tragic epilogues of nationalism, nothing is the same as it was before. None of us thinks the same things. We must formulate a theoretical frame-work for direct action and struggle. We know it’s difficult.
It’s a challenge for all of us to support this effort in a creative manner. But we cannot hide behind a finger. We do not want a Europe constructed as a sum of single and individualistic nationalisms.
B) Let me close with a reference to the Suburbs of the world, where the IMF and the World Bank experimented with their “structural adjustment Plans”, which are really plans for massacres.
Also Europe has its own responsibility. The E.U. is the strongest commercial power in the world, and makes rules all over the planet. The “wealth fortress”, closed to development, expels the migrants, many of them coming from marginalized areas, useless as producers and as consumers. Our task must be to build up a “new antagonistic social block” (in Gramscian terms). That must be multiethnic, multicultural. Otherwise it will not be. For us this also means paying close attention to the Mediterraneam, North Africa, Middle East, Turkey, etc.
Our Europe cannot be based on egoism. On the contrary, it must be based on reciprocal solidarity with the Suburbs of the planet, hit by economical globalization. We must build a European development cooperation policy based on reciprocal support. We have enough hope. Now, it’s up to us to organize it.