Left wing: the reasons for defeat 

by Adriano Autino

The general elections held in Italy last 13 May demonstrate various things, of which the nearest and for me most alarming is that clamorously I had mistaken myself. Mine has been a rather ingenuous error, the confusion between the social and the political level: 

Between social and politics, therefore, there is in the middle, the political awareness of the voting people, which is neither automatic nor sure, see how insufficient the fortune which social analysis still enjoys as a discipline. 

People are convinced that Right and Left wings still exist, and this makes them continue to exist, at a political layer, if no longer at a social layer: a sort of zombie, that can still inflict damage. 

Therefore right and left wings still exist, and the left has lost. We must acknowledge and face this reality, and not to try to snub it as we had thought to try to. 

When Sylvie Coyau interviewed Amartya Sen (Nobel 1998 for the economy), about two years ago, between other questions she made a direct one, pushing him back against the wall. Sylvie Coyau is a good (leftist) scientific journalist: she asked AS if he were of left or of right wing. AS answered: "I side with the people, and poor people in particular, therefore you can put me, in a very wide sense, in the field of the international left wing". He said also he does not feel himself neither socialist nor Marxist (if we mean Marxism, as it is meant universally, as the socialist model of government of the society). But he continued to appreciate the (dynamic) method of social analysis proposed by Marx. He said that, rather than try to eliminate the free market, a very much worthier and useful work is the one of opening it truly to the people who today are excluded. 
I myself agree 100% with the substance of such a speech. I thought of being able to directly aim high, abandoning the obsolete outlines of right and left. But in so doing, probably, I would leave the sensibility of the majority of the people, and I would no longer be useful to many people, perhaps nobody. 

Moreover, since the left has lost, it is possible that some fecund reflections can be developed, and it can free itself from its old blinkers. The left has lost, and it is right that they have lost the old social analysis, the prescriptions of mere conservation of the existing, the non-humanist conception of people and of "weak" layers of society: all concepts that are still the ideological guide of the left. It is not right, that the Right has won, with its disrespect for legality, its insolence, its aim to defend the freedom of the powerful (while claiming to defend the freedom of all), and I stop myself here, because there is little to analyse in the ideology of this Italian right wing. Now we will judge the new government by facts: if it will reduce taxes, if it will launch economic development, if it will start great public works, as it has promised. If it will render life easier for small companies, as many implicitly expect (notice that this hasn't been promised however).

I thought that some would have been rewarded (i) Emma Bonino and Luca Coscioni (Radical Party), because they only noticed the voice of the 1500 scientists that demontrsated in the public square last February on the Regge-Dulbecco call and (ii) Antonio Di Pietro (Italia dei Valori), being the only one to take account of the moral issue. But they have not even captured the forecast 4%, and the majority of voters sided with the two so-called poles. 

I am interested, as I said, to analyze the reasons for the defeat of the left, and to understand what the more restless and careful to the social changes part of the electorate went to look for -- or (wrongly) believed to recognize -- in the right-handed ideological paraphernalia.

Left and right wings share, to me, a non-humanist concept, deeply injurious to the dignity of the people. In fact the left wing maintains that in society there are layers of weak people, that they must be protected and defended forever. Such layers really exist, obviously, but it is not automatic that their interests are those claimed by the left. The left wing thinks that a fiscal yield must exist, that allows support for the weak layers of society, and that the "employers" must give eternal guarantees to these layers. The right wing believes that weak layers exist, and that the social duty of the strong layers is to profit by them politically and economically. There are also various shades here: the more fascist right wing thinks that the weak people must simply serve, and that, if they do not submit to serve, they must be crushed or be driven away. The most catholic and more liberal right wings think instead that the weak people must benignly and gracefully be helped, being incapable of existing independently. What unites the right and the left wings is just such a conception of the layers of weak people in our society. Some parts of society are labelled like weak people, and nearly transformed to social castes, with all the characteristics of the castes: extreme difficulty of migration for the individuals from one caste to another, and robust barriers that prevent this migration.

The left wing thinks that the weak people must be guarded and be defended, the right wing that they must be crushed or be made objects of charity. 

Neo-humanist thought, instead, sees the people, as they are born accidentally in the territory of one nation rather than another, equally they are accidentally born in various social layers. Potentially all the intellectual abilities of all people are, not equal - because anyway some are born more intellectually equipped than others -, but absolutely independent of the social layer in which they are born. There is therefore absolutely no reason why a greater number of good brains must be born in some specific social layers. After birth, the development and the putting to fruit of a good brain, the fact that it is not ruined or wasted, depends often (even if not always systematically) on the social conditions in which it grows up. 
In neo-humanist thought, humanity, both collectively or as individuals, would draw an enormous advantage from the maximum development of its own intellectual potential. That means: to help to develop the maximum intellectual potential of all individuals is a precise interest - not wanting to define it as a duty - of all mankind, and in particular of the social layers that are already stronger. We are convinced that in the so-called weak people social layers, both in post-industrial countries and in the pre-industrial society, very good brains exist, that they can give their contribution to the society, in entrepreneurial terms, in new ideas and all that is necessary in order to answer the challenges of our time. We think that, if a person is born socially weak, he does not inevitably have to stay in this condition for the rest of his life, and it is a duty of the institutions to truly give to all the Earthlings the possibility to become socially strong. 

If we analyze from this point of view the politics of the right and left wings of the world, we can see that they are all devoid. Since for small and weak people to become strong it means to grow individually, to become entrepreneurs, to develop their own potentialities and ideas, a great part of the left wing sees such a process as smoke in their eyes: such a scenario sees in fact the continuous proliferation of new companies, and not that "tidy" social context of a few great companies, with their king sitting on the throne (and a very clear and defined opposition for trade unions, to negotiate) and multitudes of disciplined employee-consumers. The micro-companies, just in the phase in which they try to leave the nest and grow, are shot with taxes and absurd, vexing impediments, in order to convince the neo-entrepreneur that his interest is to remain in his original caste; that he should keep aspiring to a job, and remove the crickets from his head. The left wing that lost the elections is for the conservation of the status quo, conservation of the division of society in classes (even if they are more and more artful and arbitrary), and the conservation of the existing economic powers. The left wing that thinks not to have lost the elections (Communist Refoundation Party), maintains an active consent area only because it perpetuates the illusion of a plan, also obsolete, but keeping the goal of the social promotion of the ranks of the weakest. 

The only revolutionary character of the leftist ideology was, historically, the one aimed at turning upside down the existing social order and establishing a socialist government of society: in such a revolutionary action it would have been the upsetting and overturning of the existing powers, (even if it is not sure that, in a revolution, the most intelligent and able people automatically and always succeed to occupy the leadership positions).

The left wing abandoned its revolutionary plan many years ago, and it couldn't do anything different, because it was demonstrated that the 1917 style Soviet revolution was never feasible in post-industrial societies. But by doing so, the left has lost any social promotion character, and has become a factor in the conservation of the existing powers, just begging for some more crumbs for its own "protected" ones. The socialist revolution was based on a very simple paradigm: the working class is weak only if it is not united, if joined it becomes socially and politically strong, and it can become economically strong too, by means of the revolution. It was then a plan finalized to make the weak classes strong, and not - as the current creed of the left - to hold them eternally weak, subordinate and "protected". And just that character, to be united "Marx-style", which was its great potential in the industrial age, is now its current weakness. The same character determines the obsolescence of its character as vanguard for the residual employee working class. 

With the electronic revolution, and the consequent progressive dismemberment of the great fordist factories, the plan of a socialist society has faded whatever legitimate aspirations for social justice there were in the industrial age. The collectivism of the socialist model, historically no longer necessary (for the goals of social promotion), ends by quickly showing its innate tendency to lead to authoritarianism, to bureaucratism, to nationalism, typical of the decaying phases of the socialist revolutions, and extreme frustration of any request of increase and social promotion. But the sacrosanct aim of every people to be stronger and freer in society, i.e. the aim to change social promotion, did not fade at all. 

We, neo-humanists, believe in a new social promotion paradigm, whose objective is no longer the rolling of power, to make wealth change hands, and so on. Our paradigm was very well expressed by Amartya Sen. We think that the socially strong area can grow and expand in society, with the growing of an open economy, and that, through this growth process, the same idea of power can mature and become more human and more humanist. Civilization does work by examples, and often in history it was enough for an enlightened and enlightening example, in order to render ridiculous and obsolete all those people who behaved in a different way. They were therefore in some way obliged to change, so evolution took place. Excellent examples can be found in history (Ghandi, and others). So we trust that, in the globalized society, one or two excellent examples could enchain evolutionary changes, more shattering than any violent revolution (by the way all violent revolutions generate new hatreds and feuds, that are not extinguished over the course of centuries). 

Even if all this, after the recent Italian elections, seems to be at least postponed in perspective, we will not stop being involved in politics. We formulated some points of a possible political program, and will continue to hold them in sight, so that a discussion can begin, and those people who agree with us can join us. We must be aware that this is a long job, and that it will probably not see unexpected flames of interest: it is neither easy, nor discounted that the new and progressive social ranks will become aware of themselves and of their specific interests. But sometimes, once primed, the process can accelerate, even explode: we will work for this goal.

[AA - TDF 2/2001 - 02/06/2001]
[The English version was revised by Ben Croxford]