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IW 06

Italy

Govern with the bankers? No, nationalize the banking system

 

The case of “bancopolis” is not an unforeseen pathology. Thanks to the vast process of privatization and concentration activated during the extense legislation of the center-left during the nineties, the banking sector is the area of Italian capitalism which has best resisted the battle-worn domestic and international competition. The utilities of the Italian banks are simply enormous, as a result of the median increase in net profits, of 46,8%, for the four largest banking institutions during the first nine months of 2004. Their international projection is on the rise, as deduced from the first rate positioning in Europe of the Banca Intesa and Unicredito, survivor of the happy fusion with the German bank Hypovereins and today mistress of Polish finances. It overall weight in the national economy has developed in a manner directly proportional to the crisis of overproduction of the big export industries (automobile and food processing in first place) and to the crisis of the traditional areas of the small and medium sized businesses: whether through growing bank indebtedness of the companies or through the corresponding extension of stock adquisition of the banks in the companies. In synthesis, the decline of Italian capitalism in international capitalist production has translated into a powerful development of finance capital and into a fine-spun and ever-increasingly inextricable and extended web involving financial benefits and profits.

The looting banks

Precisely this evolution of the events has relaunched a savage struggle among capitalist sharks over the “distribution of the booty”. The criss-crossed absorptions of Antonveneta and the BNL through a consorcium of new traders of differing extraction and origin is not therefore an unforeseen pathology but rather the emerging point of everyday capitalism and its law of the jungle. Here resides in actual fact the authentic scandal: not (only) in the manifest illegaility of a handful of carreerists, but rather in that traditional everyday legality which has seen and continues to see all the powerful financiers in the country promote, each against the other, the common expropriation of social wealth. On the basis of those big and respectable banks going by the names of Banca Intesa, Unicredito, San Paolo, Capitalia, Monte dei Paschi, which leverage the highest banking costs in Europe in order to finance their own speculative business dealings; which are direct or indirect protagonists in all the big financial crimes over the past few years (Cirio, Parmalat, Argentine bonds); which have been over the last ten years in the vanguard, together with Confindustria, of imposing sacrifices upon the masses, just as today they are on the front line, entrusting Prodi with new “unpopular reforms”; always with the support of that national press which, coincidentally, are controlled by the big banks (through Corriere).

The left and the power of the banks

In the face of all this there emerges, even more so today, the profound subordination of the Italian left to the dominant classes of the country. I am not speaking of the leadership majority of the DS, who are only interested in climbing the political staircase towards obtaining central representation of Italian capitalism in open competion with Margherita, and as a result capitive of the aspiring bankers of Unipol just as yesterday they were the audacious captains of Telecom. I am speaking of the leadership groups of the left which defines itself as “radical”: which certainly criticize (very submissively) “the excesses” of the DS and the so-called “financialization of the economy”; but, on the other hand, with the aim of appearing worthy of confidence by the DS and Margherita themselves, as future companions in the government, they give up placing in discussion the power of the banks and their function of looting, limiting themselves to defending improbable “ethical codes” or demanding taxing financial gain on the basis of the European interest rate: a demand so minimalist and so vague as to be capable of being presented today by the Confindustria de Montezemolo itself, whether as a means of capitalist rationalization and redimensioning of the finance careerists, or as a lever of an ultimate transfer of wealth for the benefit of the big export industry (support for exports, for restructuring, for technological research, etc.). Isn't this a really incredible divergence, between the radical character of capitalist looting and the pragmatic moderation of a left that on top of it all calls itself an “alternative”?

Que se vayan todos” (All of them must go)

On the contrary, the banking scandal should demand, more than ever, the actualization of a program for a real alternative. Of a program whose class struggle radicalization should be equal and contrary to the everyday radicalization of capitalism in crisis. Of a program which, on the basis of the concrete experience of millions of workers, consumers, bank account holders, has the courage to openly defend the nationalization of the banks, without compensation (because they have already received too much) and under control of the workers. this is an indispensable meausre of moral hygiene and of social re-appropriation of expropriated wealth.

Of course a struggle of the masses for the nationalization of the bank is incompatible with any alliance with Confindustria, with the bankers who support Prodi, with the spokespersons and defenders of Unipol. It demands a deep breaking of ties with the ruling classes of the country and an alternative perspective on society and on power: where it is the men and women workers who lead Italy, and no longer their bosses and their usurers. “¡Que se vayan todos!” (all of them must go) is the simple and clear slogan that for some years has accompanied the uprising of the masses in many parts of Latin America. Does not the social and moral crisis of the ruling classes of our country no demonstrate indeed the extraordinary timeliness of this slogan for Italy? Why does the Italian left, instead of disputing amongst themselves for Prodi's favors, not unite its forces around this elementary slogan? Why does it not work to reorient each immediate objective, each concrete struggle, each movement, towards this general perspective, developing the political consciousness of the workers?

Collaboration with the capitalists or the breaking of all ties with the capitalists? Government with the bankers or the struggle for the nationalization of the banks? This is, then, the crossroads facing, once again, the Italian left, and not it alone. Any kind of “third road” rests on literature (ever flowery) of pious wishes.

By Marco Ferrando