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Europe, Italy

Politics displaced, economy offshore

Nothing is where it should be. Without a government at Palazzo Chigi, Italian politics is displaced. And as the “Offshore Leaks” scandal has revealed, the economy has meanwhile moved to tax havens, says Mario Pianta

Nothing is where it should be. A Palazzo Chigi, the prime minister’s office in Rome, there’s no government resulting from the recent elections. Instead a group of “technicians” – called in during an ‘emergency’ a year and a half ago – that, under the banner of Mario Monti, accounted in the February poll for just 11% of the votes. Possible governments are not discussed in Parliament, but rather on the blog of Beppe Grillo (the comedian turned leader of Italy’s number one party), at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence (official residence of would be new Democrat Party leader, mayor Matteo Renzi) or the homes of Silvio Berlusconi (the right-wing PDL party leader and media magnate). The man directing the formation of the government is not at Palazzo Chigi, but the Quirinal, the Presidential Palace in the Italian capital. And from there, Giorgio Napolitano consults with Frankfurt, on the phone with European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.

Yesterday Draghi announced that Europe will be in recession for the first six months of this year, the crisis now also biting the “center” of the Continent, and that the ECB’s policy will not change: (relatively) easy money – especially for unsafe banks – austerity and relentless cuts to public spending, liberalization to lower wages. Today Frankfurt – not Brussels, not Rome – is the centre of politics as well as economics: yesterday Draghi warned speculators not to underestimate the “political capital” invested in Europe, the euro.

If in Rome you have the feeling that politics has evaporated, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has officially informed us that the economy has moved. It is no longer in Milan, the financial capital, in the small and medium sized firms of the north east, in the Roman palaces of large ( former state-owned) companies. It has moved far from the workers and the taxman, to those ‘paradises’ of capitalism.

It is in these tax havens that you will find a hundred thousand people, the richest of 170 countries, and 120,000 companies, that you find the heart of the world economy. For the poor mortals of the EU, this means one trillion euros of lower tax revenues and many millions of fewer jobs. For the super-rich it means being able to clean up illegal funds through front companies, having tax-free profits, managing their firms’ Chinese boxes, escaping all the rules, through today’s unregulated world of finance.

Among this capitalist elite are 200 Italian names (and nominees) of which we will read about soon – but we know most of them already, without having to wait for the revelations of “Offshore Leaks.” Just as we already know that this elite owns most of the country: the ten richest Italians – according to the Bank of Italy – possess wealth equal to that of the three million poorest Italians.

A geography turned upside down, a displaced politics, a power impervious to democracy, an aristocracy that concentrates wealth, the rich above the law: our country’s “Third Republic” is ending up as the Ancien Régime.

To fill this vacuum, this cancellation of democracy, it is time to unite and show the Italy that wants to take an alternative path to this feudal drift.


Translation/Edit Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or email [email protected]


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