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Table of Contents - Num. 26 April 2021

 

1) External Constriction and Materialist Theory

2) External Constriction, European Restructuring, Electrical and Digital Battle

European news
3) Multilateralism and EU Powers During the Pandemic

The struggle against coronavirus
4) The Challenge of Production

5) Challenges and Opportunities for Moscow in the World Contention

6-7) Congo’s Mining Chest from European Partition to Chinese Rise

8) The Biden Plan Gamble

News from the Silk Road
9) Two Hands to Two Hands 

10) Bipartisan Trade Agenda for Joe Biden

Demographic trends
11) Population Policies in Comparison

12) The Vaccine War


External Constriction and Materialist Theory

Mario Draghi takes his place in the wake and tradition of the grand commis of Europeanism – high-ranking officials of capitalism who have interpreted the connection between European imperialism and Italian imperialism over the decades – starting from the crucial factor of the world market.

The notion of this “external constriction” as grasped in Italy by the members of the European party can be traced back to the tools of Marxist political science.

In The German Ideology, Marx and Engels founded their theory of international relations on the basis of the notion of the world market. These are concepts we have often resorted to: large-scale industry, in creating the world market, “produced world history for the first time” and destroyed the “exclusiveness of separate nations”. It “created everywhere the same relations between the classes of society and thus destroyed the peculiar features of the various nationalities”. However, “while the bourgeoisie of each nation still retained separate national interests”, large-scale industry also created in the proletariat “a class which in all nations has the same interest and for which nationality is already dead, a class which is really rid of all of the old world and at the same time stands pitted against it”.

In his introduction to Unitary Imperialism [1980], Arrigo Cervetto again found in these theses the original principles of the Marxist theory of international politics: “Although competition and interdependence universalise the bourgeoisie, they also conserve its specific national interests. The global politics of the bourgeoisie therefore reflects the universality of competition and interdependence and the particularity of interests. International relations are therefore relations of universality and particularity. The Marxist theory of international politics becomes the science that deals with the contradictory dialectic between the general and the particular in the world history inaugurated by capitalism.”

In 1972, in the editorial “World Imperialism and Italian Crisis”, the same methodological criterion is used in order to understand the nature of the political imbalance in Italy: “What is the relationship between the development trends of world imperialism and the Italian imbalance crisis? How is the international situation reflected in the Italian situation?”

For Cervetto, the starting point was to be found in the classes’ international struggles: the political imbalance was the “Italian product” of those struggles, and the Italian state was ill-suited to “the international nature of the more concentrated sector of capitalism” – i.e., it did not correspond “to the needs of the big industrial, imperialist part of the Italian bourgeoisie”.

In the relationship between the world market and specific national features, we did observe about ten years ago, when we were reflecting on the “global facts” of politics, that Cervetto sets out a “law of movement of internationalisation”. The higher the level of capitalist development, the more crucial the international factor becomes:

“The global process will have more or less intense degrees of influence in the single areas and states and will create objective interdependences. The nature of these interdependences and the prevalence in them, for each area or country, of internal or external factors, will be defined in the end by a combination of elements, among which the level of capitalist development of each area and the latter’s relative weight in the global economy.” The process of that development has apparently paradoxical consequences for the single powers, “which is why, if the least developed country is the one most subject to imperialism, it is also, however, the country where the international factor becomes increasingly less prevalent, while the most developed country, even if it is less politically subject to imperialism, is also the country where the international factor becomes more prevalent”.

In the early 1970s, the concluding process of the thirty years of accelerated development, which characterised Italy’s “economic miracle”, also saw the sanctioning of Italy’s final maturation as an imperialist power. The prevalence of international determination, the objective base of the “external constriction”, was at its greatest.

(continued on p. 2)

External Constriction, European Restructuring, Electrical and Digital Battle

(continued from p. 1)

 

The law of movement of internationalisation is something that impacts all the powers in the process of uneven capitalist development. Conversely, the characteristics of the dialectic between the “universality of competition and interdependence” and “particularity of interests” need to be analysed in the specific case of each power. Half a century ago, the Italian particularity was its imbalance crisis, its non-correspondence between the state apparatus and the requirements of the more internationalised large groups. Since then, decade by decade, we have seen that a big bourgeois strategic line has been established only through the combination between national powers and European powers; this relationship has been precisely the implementation of the external constriction, which has gradually become more stringent with the consolidation of the European institutions, EU legislation and the monetary power of the ECB.

Guido Carli, Governor of the Bank of Italy from 1960 to 1975, President of the Confederation of Italian Industry from 1976 to 1980 and Treasury Minister from 1989 to 1992 at the time of the negotiations for the Maastricht Treaty, was one of the greatest interpreters of that external constriction, since his Atlanticist inclination was inseparable from the Europeanist one and even exceeded it. His memoirs, Cinquant’anni di vita italiana [Fifty Years of Italian Life], have a dual leitmotiv. For Carli, as in Goethe’s Faust, “two souls” are in conflict within the Italian economy, one in search of the protection and intervention by the state and the other that entrusts to the public powers the sole task of dictating general rules: “The struggle between these two souls was an uneven struggle, that of a small minority against the animal spirits of all the Italian ruling class which, after the collapse of fascism and the defeat, would have liked to return quickly to the protective womb of a corporative society.”

This is why, beginning in the postwar period with the linkup with the Bretton Woods institutions, Italy made recourse to an “external constriction” in order to introduce sets of rules that Italian society would not have had the capacity to produce by itself. This constriction did not succeed in preventing “external protectionism” – made up of customs duties, differential scale tariffs, quantitative constrictions on exports and ministerial authorisations – from seeking to replace it gradually with an “internal protectionism”. This was conveyed via easy credit terms, endowment funds to make up for the losses of state-owned companies, tax breaks, and direct and indirect aids – even to the point of the “hidden protectionism” established on a systemic corruption in the award of public contracts. Only the legislation following the Maastricht Treaty after 1992 and the creation of the ECB after 1998, we may add, definitively created the juridical and monetary conditions for Italy to be no longer able to circumvent the common market. The external constriction saved Italy “three times”, writes the former governor: in the immediate postwar period with adhesion to the Bretton Woods institutes, in 1957 with the Treaty of Rome which instituted the ECM and the EEC, and in 1992 with the Maastricht Treaty.

Carli insists on the fact that, since the immediate post-war period, the strategic link with internationalisation has been guaranteed by a minority group: “I can say without a shadow of doubt that the merit of Italy belonging to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, GATT and then the OECD is to be attributed entirely to Alcide De Gasperi and Luigi Einaudi. The industrialists, always present and focusing on corporative problems or on how to secure money, had absolutely no effect on that choice that would have epoch-making repercussions for our country. All of them bar one, Angelo Costa, the President of the Confederation of Italian Industry.”

We have no reason to doubt the genuineness of the convictions expressed by Carli in his memoirs, which in 1993 were indeed for the former governor a kind of political testament. However, the thesis that the implementation of the “external constriction” was almost an extreme act of political will, in the face of the “animal instincts” of the political and industrial class that clung to its protectionist, dirigiste and corporative spirit, requires some clarifications. We have to ask, then, how did the European strategic line of Italian imperialism succeed in imposing itself, in spite of the resistance of the big groups and not thanks to their push?

First of all, it cannot be said categorically that there was no awareness of the inevitability of the European and international connection. Costa, as the President of the Confederation of Italian Industry, was somehow led to that longer-term vision, as Carli recognises: because of his position, however, Costa was not just one of the many industrialists but he was the president of their association. Furthermore, in big banks such as Mattioli’s Comit, albeit controlled by IRI, the link with the external constriction was very present; the Raffaele Mattioli, Enrico Cuccia and Adolfo Tino current is to be included in the group of the European or Euro-Atlantic party. Carli mentions them, but in his exposition he does not seem to give organic force to their alignment with the constituents of the external constriction among the big groups.  Moreover, De Gasperi himself refers to the “fourth party”, the economic world of Northern Italy, which supported the appointment of Luigi Einaudi to his government, in spite of its subsequent discontent with his policy of austerity.

Secondly, we may say that it was the general interest of the Italian bourgeoisie, especially in the medium and long term, to have access to the European and international market, but at the same time it was the particular interest of the single groups to be protected from this external market in the short term. If De Gasperi, Einaudi, Cuccia, Carli etc. interpreted that long-term interest, it is plausible that the single groups – we need only think of Vittorio Valletta’s Fiat – knew very well that internationalisation was inescapable, but they believed they could ‘negotiate the price’ of that international constriction in the short term, with deferments and relative protective measures, precisely because the long-term strategic choice was in the hands of characters such as De Gasperi and Einaudi.

Thirdly and finally, we can return to Arrigo Cervetto’s 1972 article. “World Imperialism and Italian Crisis”. In a moment in which a countertrend to the reformist line of big capital emerged, Cervetto stressed that that choice was the “general line” of Italian capitalism and that it had “already won”: “Won not because it has already been established in Italy, but because it is the living condition itself, should the present world situation continue, of Italian imperialism, because it is the condition objectively imposed on it by being a component of the international imperialist system. In short, it is not a line that has reached a very high maturation in Italy; on the contrary, it is a line imposed on Italy by the fact that it has matured imperialistically.”

That is the point: in his apparent extreme subjectivist emphasis – Italy’s international linkup as the work of a very small minority in opposition to the dominant thought among politicians and industrialists – Carli refers to a De Gasperi-Einaudi line which interprets the height of the objective determination, that of the world markets on Italian imperialism. In this sense, the men of that minority are the interpreters of the external constriction on Italy. And in this sense, again, we can say today that Mario Draghi, more than an expression of the Italian European party, is the commissioner of the European party in Italy.

It is easy to recognise in the corporative and protectionist soul of Italian capitalism, which for Carli is so pervasive and dominant, the foundation of what we have defined as the grand coalition of the status quo. If anything, the instantaneous alignment of almost all the political forces behind the Draghi executive demonstrates that the Eurosceptical positions were and still are the extreme implementation of that negotiating the price with European legislation; a strategic break with the Union is threatened knowing in fact that it is guaranteed, and with that ambiguity the attempt is made to gain some Mediterranean discount and, above all, some electoral advantages.

More complex to define is the question of the terrain on which the external constriction will have to be enforced in the years to come. For the moment we underline a crucial aspect, the electrical and digital battle, because in it two trends are combined: the global dimension of a confrontation that is already leaving its mark on the course of the new ‘roaring 20s’, and the specific features of European restructuring in Italy, characterised by a real ‘twenty-year loss’ in productivity following the introduction of the euro.

A comment in The Washington Post on the line of Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden’s NSC adviser, reveals the new characteristic of the world contention, i.e., a dose of state interventionism that will affect the USA as well as the EU. Eugene Joseph Dionne observes that the Chinese challenge could reorientate the fundamental American attitude towards the role of the state in economic growth and high-tech investment in research and development. Dionne quotes an essay co-authored by Sullivan and Jennifer Harris in Foreign Policy [February 2020] – hence, before the outbreak of the pandemic of the century – in which its authors argued: “U.S. firms will continue to lose ground in the competition with Chinese companies if Washington continues to rely heavily on private sector research and development”. This choice is linked to the short term and not to the long term of a “grand strategy”.

In Sullivan and Harris’s essay, a line of state interventionism in the economy – which is demanded openly in the terms that in France or in Europe are those of an industrial policy – is argued for not as a temporary anticyclical measure, but as the development of an economic power to counteract the Chinese rise. In other words, there is a structural, and not contingent, linkup for a role for state capitalism, tied to the escalation of this contention and the spiralling with China into confrontation between continental powers. The explicit reference is to the “Made in China 2025” plan; the Biden administration has preannounced multi-year investment plans in infrastructure and new technologies that would have a  force of impact of $3,000–4,000 billion. It is crucial to observe that, in the same vein, there are the European plans for economic sovereignty or open strategic independence, which are variously expressed in the electrical field, in the digital field as digital sovereignty, and now also in the pharmaceutical field as healthcare sovereignty. These plans are partially gathered together in the initiatives financed by Next Generation EU.

One fact is certain: the European external constriction interpreted by Draghi will, to a great extent, have this new strategic characteristic.

Lotta Comunista, N° 607, March 2021

 

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