italian version

The Italian Left Today


Giovanni De Sio Cesari

Social Rights

The left is the political faction that, in its essence, aims to address the issues of the poorest. In the past, the term "workers" referred to the poorest, but now the poorest are the precarious workers, the unemployed, the underemployed, those who cannot make ends meet, the poor, those at risk of poverty. They are no longer the majority as they once were, but they are still millions, many millions.

However, these people are increasingly less attracted to the left. Today, the poorest neighborhoods, the marginalized suburbs, which still exist unfortunately, are no longer strongholds of the left, but increasingly vote for the right, leading to a crisis of the left. Let's try to analyze the causes of this historical upheaval.

I believe the essential point is that the left has shifted from being the champion of the weakest to primarily supporting other causes, such as gay unions, surrogacy, woke issues, and migrants. These are very different problems, and there's no reason to think that those who cannot make ends meet are troubled by the fact that some wealthy individual cannot register a child born through surrogacy as their own, or that citizenship is granted at 14 or 18 years old to the children of those who are their competitors, formidable competitors, in the search for a job to survive.

I am not against these issues, but they are different problems from those of the poor, of those who cannot make ends meet. We cannot, as is often done, think that the right-wing vote of the poorest is only the result of ignorance, populist propaganda, and similar nonsense. In a free country like ours, demagogy interests both the right and the left, and we cannot think that those who do not think like us are only fools or perhaps dishonest, as it appears in many positions taken by left-wing intellectuals.

In the end, we must recognize that the problems of the weak are addressed more by the right, and this is why they increasingly vote for the right. So the problem is: why does the left prioritize issues that interest the poorest less? I believe we need to review the historical origins of our left.

The Path of the Left

The Italian left is, unlike in other countries, mostly of Marxist origin. In the 1950s, the left was mainly composed of communists, those who proposed an alternative model (Don Camillo and Peppone), and in the 1950s, the workers truly believed that the Soviet model would solve their problems. As that model appeared to be losing in the comparison with the Western one (defined as capitalist, but I would say 'welfare state'), other motivations were sought.

Improvement was no longer seen in a now clearly outdated Soviet model, but within the context of the democratic societies of the West, previously defined as capitalist. Berlinguer already focused on the problem of corruption (which is a transversal issue) and then sought an alliance with the DC (no longer defined as bourgeois). I believe that since then, the left, having lost its raison d'Ítre in the decline of the Soviet model, has ended up shifting to other themes (the radical chic) that had little or nothing to do with Marxism, so much so that they were absent in real communism.

Since '68, economic issues have been set aside, the wellbeing that the masses began to savor was defined as consumerism (consumerism is the real fascism, said Pasolini), and there was talk of alienation, sexual freedom, gays, feminism, and so on. These problems are also important, but they are of little interest to those who cannot make ends meet; they are problems that interest the more affluent. The communist culture then replaced economic aspects with those of alienation, consumerism, gays, etc.: this seems to me the ideological path.

Gradually, the culture of the Italian left abandoned Marxism very, too slowly, to become a democratic left that had already established itself in Europe, especially in the more prosperous northern countries. The Western left (especially in the Baltic countries) was not at all compromised with communism, but here it struggles to assert itself because the Marxist legacy still remains. I believe this is one of the causes (not the only one) for which the left appears a bit snobbish (or radical chic, as it was once said).

In our reality (which is not that of a century ago), neither the role of entrepreneurship nor state intervention is doubted. Right and left are distinguished by a greater emphasis placed on one or the other element. The ideological extremism of either of the two stances is out of touch with reality. Even admitting, for the sake of argument, that the pure communist or capitalist was right, in our society they have no significant following.

The government left (real, democratic) considers that the essential element is the consumer, without whom the entrepreneur cannot exist. In simple terms, no business can exist if it doesn't sell, and it cannot sell if there is poverty. Paying workers well is the best way to develop production. The development of businesses presupposes general wellbeing. If workers are paid little, who then buys the products?

The outdated idea of Marxism, instead, had its focal point in the fact that the producer and the consumer had opposing interests. Certainly, there are ethical and social motivations: however, the essential point for which the state must be 'social' seems to me to be this. In fact, in the West, on the one hand, freedom is given to entrepreneurship, but about 40% of income is managed by the state (which also manages large enterprises in a privatized regime). This model is what has made our countries the most prosperous and also free and democratic.


Emigration and Globalization

Now, the success of the right among the poorer classes is primarily tied to the emphasis it places on two fundamental issues that truly concern these groups: globalization and immigration, on which the left instead insists on an ideological support that does not take the real situation into account.

Regarding globalization, it does not impoverish the West as a whole. The rise of China has not brought poverty to the West; on the contrary, it hasn't. Indeed, it is not necessarily true that if one country becomes richer, another becomes poorer: this was true when resources were limited, but not when technological progress made it possible to produce more than we can consume. However, globalization has led to income polarization: if a product made in China costs half of what is produced in Italy, it causes job losses for those in Italy producing that product, who are generally the less affluent classes.

If producing abroad is cheaper, then national companies must cut costs by limiting wages, and if ideological norms prevent this, industrial desertification intensifies: income disparity is mainly an effect of globalization. Indeed, with globalization, only part of Westerners has seen income increases, sometimes significantly, while another part fears living worse than their parents, something that hasn't happened for centuries in the West. In the United States, with Trump, globalization was curbed, leading to development and especially full employment, which is the truly effective means of increasing wages.

A similar phenomenon occurs with immigration. When Italians arrived in America a century ago, they found job offers right on the pier. The problem now is that the availability of modest jobs is increasingly scarce due to technical development, so immigrants no longer find work and compete with the poorest.

On the other hand, let's observe this: opposition to immigration is not a whim of Salvini but a fact that spans the entire advanced world, from America to Australia, through Europe and Japan, affecting the left, right, and center. All gone mad? All fools? Certainly not: it is a fact with causes rooted in concrete reality. The immigrant who is content with less and has fewer demands can be a resource for the affluent classes but is a formidable competitor for the less affluent: consider, for example, housekeepers or caregivers, now almost all foreign; an Italian is not even contacted anymore.

I also do not believe that immigration can solve the problems of the countries it comes from; in fact, it probably exacerbates them. Now, the left ideologically supports immigration, while the right opposes it. So, is it surprising that in Parioli, people vote more left and in Garbatella more right?

Immigrants coming to Italy actually want to go to northern countries that don't want them. In the end, the difference between the right and the left is in the emphasis they place on the issue. Acceptance of migrants is not desired by anyone: it would be easy, if we or Europe wanted them, to bring them directly by plane or ferry. But no one proposes such a thing because no one wants them.

The left, strangely, declares itself in favor of globalization and immigration, thus no longer serving the interests of the weaker workers. So, the left loses sight of the economic needs of the weakest, getting lost in what some define as bourgeois snobbery, radical chic issues. A similar argument applies to globalization: Trump, though inadequate, owes his success precisely to curbing globalization and "America First" (which, in reality, has also been followed by Biden).