By Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori
We need to carefully consider what has happened recently in the Polish elections. Apart from the effects on Poland’s internal political system, it is worth analyzing the strategic equation of the "new populism" which is emerging in Hungary, in current Poland and in Bavaria with its ever less underhand opposition to the opening of Chancellor Merkel on immigration, as well as among some voters in the North of Italy, in Marine Le Pen’s France and finally "Brexit", the feared - and often hoped for – exit of Great Britain from the European Union.
And to think that we have just avoided the operation designed to disrupt the EU, which made use of the Greek crisis so as to subsequently trigger off the crisis of the Italian and Spanish sovereign debts.
Populism is a misnomer which does not accurately reflect the Machiavellian and harsh empirical reality: the real attack against the EU as a dangerous "third region" in the world economy which could even become the first, if it came to its senses and recovered its wits. Hence, a way for Europe’s competitors on the world market to get rid of a dangerous inconvenience: to use "populism" with a view to destabilizing the European Union from inside and capitalize on its careless and childish inability to define a Global Strategy at financial, fiscal, military and technological levels. Just think how much thinking and how many actions were needed for the Catholic and the Christian Democrats - from the Code of Camaldoli onwards - to bring Italy into Europe!
Therefore, we cannot speak of populism - a generic term which, in our political culture, has a completely different meaning from its origin. The "populism" of the Common Man’s Front was the rebellion of an anti-party movement against the "Republic of Parties" which was shaping and emerging after the proclamation of the Republic, as well as a Party which used the already strong divide between the North and the South of Italy. The anti-fascist political revolt was not a mass rebellion, as was thought after the Resistance and the Republic: Giannini’s Party, the Common Man’s Front, proved it to be deprived of any mass foundations. In fact, only Togliatti’s political genius managed to deflate and defuse the rebellion - indeed a really populist insurgency - of the Neapolitan writer and journalist, Guglielmo Giannini.
Marine Le Pen and her Front National Party are still siding with Marine’s father, Jean Marie Le Pen, in spite of what François Mitterand had thought for "his" new French Right: a tool designed to impoverish post-Gaullist conservatism and integrate it into a project in which his Socialist Party was to be still dominant. The underlying aim was to take the radical Right (another inane term in Europe’s political culture) away from the Republican Right in dangerous competition with the Socialist Party so as to create - thanks to the French presidential election system - a constant advantage for the Socialists, capable of “dealing the cards” in the French political system, as General De Gaulle had done at his time, while Mitterrand - as leader of the opposition – accused him of "permanent coup".
We do not know to what extent François Hollande is aware of this "Droite du Président", but I am afraid he is not. The primary fact, however, is that the elections in Poland raised for the first time the European issue, which is not populism but, more precisely, the end of the pro-European myth among European masses.
The separation between politicians and European bureaucrats and technocrats, which was invented to convince the most reluctant governments, including Italy’s, to make the modernizing reforms, has produced its Dantesque form of retaliation: today people lay the blame on Europe only while, for the time being, the much more guilty national governments are spared the masses’ anger. Nevertheless, we can be certain that sooner or later anger will break out. You cannot impoverish a continent so quickly and you cannot place it in the back-lines of globalization, without causing probably devastating effects at public order level. We must be well aware of this.
If the end of mass Europeanism is a fact, we must add other factors to our strategic equation: the new rigidity of EU borders towards the Russian Federation, with a special relationship between Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, and the United States, and the increasing narrowness of the European internal market, which will affect the relationship between Euro, US dollar, Chinese Yuan Renmimbi, and Russian ruble. Anything but the "optimal currency areas" for the Euro, according to the theory of Mundell, Nobel laureate in economics, who so much stimulated EU central bankers to quickly introduce the single currency.
Without a wide area for its natural circulation, the single currency will not compete with the US dollar, while the new Chinese plans of "related reference currencies" to rebuild a new "Bretton Woods" will use the Euro as buffer currency. Furthermore, this will lead to downward competition for the Euro – hence, with its final marginalization on international capital markets. This is what the United States wanted from the beginning and what the Russia-China axis fears, since one of the greatest financial and geopolitical wars of the last two centuries are being fought on the European single currency.
Therefore, a European Union in which the incentives to walk out will increase and where Great Britain will still reiterate Margaret Thatcher’s cry: I want my money back!. A European Union which, because of its strategic and geopolitical weakness, will be unable to define a common fiscal policy for the countries which will be less attracted by the official or implied exit from the Union.
In this regard, as previously mentioned, Poland and its last elections are a perfect case in point. On October 25 last year, in Poland, the Right - not a "populist", but a real traditional Right – won with the Party Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc (Law and Justice), a strongly Eurosceptic Party led by Beata Szydlo, but guided and directed - behind the scenes - by Alexander Jaroslaw Kaczynski, former Prime Minister between 2006 and 2007. Obviously this Right in power in Poland will make relations with Germany more complex. These relations are already very tense and not only for the tragic memories of World War II, but also for the long-standing issue of the mass graves discovered in the Katyn forest, which is still associated with the terrible memories of the death of Kaczynski's twin brother in the Belarusian skies. Also in a context of diverging strategy between the European Union and the United States in the Syrian region, it is worth recalling that twenty-one major accidents between the Russian Federation and NATO occurred between March 2014 and March 2015 along the North-East border between Poland and the Baltic States.
The "Law and Justice" Party has obtained 38% of the total valid votes, a share enabling it to reach, alone, the absolute majority of seats which amounts to 230. The previous government of the "Civic Platform" Party, led by Ewa Kopacz, fell both for internal corruption and for what voters regarded as continuous yielding to EU demands on immigration.
This is exactly the type of populism currently prevailing in Europe: the synthesis between politicians’ endemic corruption - which is a global problem of our times and a very dangerous effect of globalization - and the fear of downward competition of the labor force coming from abroad. This is a real challenge which we must rise up to: the more national control over new and ever more globalized businesses decreases, the more wage protection diminishes – and not for the labor force, that is experiencing unusual pressure between domestic prices and "globalized" wages. A new Left, combining both pragmatism and idealism, shall take care of these new types and conditions of work, which will eventually affect also immigrant workers.
What can we do with wages which are not even needed to build a shred of internal market, with export-led economies which can fight global competition only by shaving all production costs? In fact, in the recent Polish elections, Barbara Nowacka’s “United Left” coalition barely reached 8% of votes, after roving between nostalgia for Kommunismus and the neoradical and libertarian needs of leftist Americanism.
The "migrant invasion", the slogan with which the winning Party campaigned for the Polish elections, is not a populist cry, because it was matched by financial, fiscal and tax measures to support domestic workers and companies, as well as by a strong commitment in terms of identity and nationalism. This is precisely the new populism or, rather, the new social nationalism: identity, against the rhetoric of the Europe of currencies; the perception that old alliances are no longer working; return to national defense, protection of the poorest walks of society and local businesses against the great predatory global capital.
Gone are the days of globalization in the minds and hearts of Europeans, who want greater military and non-military security, which is not ensured by the old coalitions born of the Cold War. Europeans also want to be ensured safe jobs and wages and finally be protected from the clearly "subversive" effects of globalization.
If the European Union equips itself to rationally respond to these challenges, it will survive. On the contrary, if it keeps on having the naïve globalizing dream - partially anti-American and partially imitating and timidly following the US line - which we have experienced until now, this will be its end. And it will also sound the death knell of our hopes. The economic, cultural, technological and productive irrelevance will swallow us up.
Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, theHebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York.
He currently chairs "La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa", he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and Khashoggi Holding’s advisor.
In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d'Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: "A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of "Honorable" of the Académie des Sciences de l'Institut de France."