During a crisis for a capitalist state, sometimes a general appears on television to say they are taking charge. In Italy the process is currently a bit subtler—a banker in a suit has emerged to calm everything down and spread reassurance.
That’s why Sergio Mattarella, the Italian head of state, asked Mario Draghi on Wednesday to take over as prime minister.
Mattarella said, “Elections are not something the country can afford at the moment.”
As European Central Bank president from 2011 to 2019, Draghi was seen as the saviour of the Euro currency union from a banking emergency.
He is not just the bosses’ banker. He is Europe’s bosses’ banker.
The Covid crisis and the economic crisis are crashing into each other in Italy. The bosses’ solution is to push through austerity but they don’t believe the elected politicians can do it.
The European Commission has oversight of how governments spend their share of a huge bailout fund.
Italy is supposed to receive £175 billion, roughly 10 percent of national output, in grants and loans over five years. This is the largest sum of any European Union (EU) country.
This money inevitably comes at a cost—austerity and “reform”.
The bosses like Draghi and most political parties sent out a general call of support for him.
Some of this is genuine. Much of it is to see if Draghi and some technocrats can push through the attacks on workers that the bosses and the EU want.
Politicians are also manoeuvring for personal and party advantage in anticipation of parliamentary elections due by 2023.
The existing political lash-ups had failed to get the changes the bosses want. The previous government under Giuseppe Conte feared losing support and encouraging its rivals if it launched full-scale attacks on workers.
As the Financial Times newspaper puts it, “A Draghi-led government can be expected to introduce reforms aimed at raising productivity, improving public services, streamlining the judicial system and rooting out corruption.”
To achieve a majority, Draghi will almost certainly have to convince one of either the anti-migrant far right League party, led by Matteo Salvini, or the formerly anti-European Five Star Movement to support him.
Salvini did not rule out supporting a Draghi government, but has also repeatedly called for a new general election. Salvini’s League and the fascist Brothers of Italy together are on 40 percent in polls.
Italy’s centre former left Democratic Party is seen as likely to support Draghi. So too is Italia Viva, a small party led by former prime minister Matteo Renzi—an Italian Keir Starmer with a bit more spine.
Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia may support Draghi.
The Five Star movement sums up the problem for the political parties and for the left. It filled a vacuum campaigning in the 2010s against the corruption of the elite and on how out of touch the establishment was.
It quickly won a quarter of all votes. Within five years it joined with the far right League to form a government.
Five Star then joined with the social democrats to prop them up. If it does it a third time and supports a bankers’ government they will probably split.
Draghi is vulnerable both from organised workers but also from politicians building a base including on the far right. Workers’ action to fill the vacuum, rather than another populist, is the only route to defending workers against the crisis and the bosses.