Foreign Correspondent: Libertarianism in Italy
Nowadays in Italy the forces of civil and economic libertarianism are profoundly divided. In our country, political language, praxis, and theory are nearly always "heterosynthetic"; i.e., they are a synthesis of heterogeneous elements in reciprocal contradiction. Most of the time civil libertarianism is linked with economic authoritarianism while likewise economic libertarianism is linked with civil authoritarianism: incoherence is sovereign.
Up to now, the only political force which has uncompromisingly fought for civil liberties is the Radical Party. The libertarianism of the party, however, does not go beyond the sphere of civil rights. It is a radical libertarianism but not an all-embracing one, intensive but not extensive; it is a heterosynthetic libertarianism because it is tied to an attitude which is mainly a corporate-statist one; i.e., authoritarianism in the economic field.
This essential economic authoritarianism is concealed by the smoke-screen of so-called libertarian socialism. The Radical Party, confined within the sphere of civil rights, without an ideological background which could provide it with an overall vision of society, has to borrow from others its basis when it disgresses into economic problems. And this way it drowns in the muddy pool of sub-Marxism. It has come to a superficial anticapitalism under the pressure of a sort of inferiority complex towards the self-styled "proletarian" movements which have always accused the Radical Party of being a bourgeois movement.
Confronted by the colossal failure of the Eastern-type economic statism, the Radical Party proposes an alternative objection to the free-market economy. In other words, it proposes a third alternative which is neither "capitalist" nor "statist;" i.e., the so-called self-management. This would-be self-management, however, is not a third alternative because the founding of new firms must be financed by someone. If we want to eliminate the abhorred "private capitalist" there will have to be a capitalist state which provides the financing. Moreover, the use of the word self-management itself is a fraud; actually, this so-called self-management is nothing but management by a different group of outsiders; i.e., control by State-protected corporate oligarchies which, as opposed to free entrepreneurs, are not restrained by the profit-loss alternative.
In their defense of tradition, order, and discipline, the "capitalists" themselves are nearly always advocates of statism. Many "capitalists" are strenuous defenders of the so-called public morality and common-sense decency.
When civil and economic libertarianism are not divided but united, we have a watered-down form of libertarianism as exemplified by the superficial libertarianism of the Liberal Party and Republican Party. The libertarianism of these parties, as opposed to the Radical's, is distributed amongst various spheres but in very small doses.
The Italian Libertarian Movement (Movimento Libertario) was founded to bridge the gap between civil and economic liberties. It seeks to establish a homosynthetic libertarianism which is radical and omnilateral, intensive and extensive at one time; its goal is the reunification of libertarianism.
The new libertarians believe that the fight against State intervention must be fought at all levels. To the conservative formula "law and order," libertarians answer "order without law." They do not want a society based on bullying or on the freedom of the strong to overpower the weak. They believe, however, that to delegate the control to the external coercion of the State is the worst possible way to face the problem of power, since the State is always an uncontrollable controller. Libertarians believe that the only control is competition and not monopoly, expansion rather than restriction of opportunities.
Some of the aspects of the libertarian programme, with regard to civil rights, are the liberalization of hard and soft drugs and of prostitution in all forms (including brothels); the abolition of censorship, of the public order law, and of madhouses; the radical reform of the law codes; the liberation of women; and the defense of gay rights and all minorities.
Economywise the libertarians are in favour of an absolutely free market.
The floodtide of statism is nearly sweeping away the Italian economy—50 percent of industry is already in the hands of the State. The situation, however, is worse than it may seem; apart from obvious nationalizations there are in fact even clandestine nationalizations.
Even the truly private sector of industry, which, as I have mentioned, is a minority, depends mainly on financing from state banks (which in Italy have a credit monopoly). The state of affairs is such that the president of the Confindustria (industrials' confederation) himself, Guido Carli, has proposed that the state banks' credit towards firms be converted to shareholding-participations in those firms; i.e., that in Italy the de-facto nationalization of the private industry be ratified legally. This escalation of statism has thrown Italy into the most severe post-war economic crisis; boundless bureaucracy, which is installed in the 60,000 government agencies, devours a conspicuous part of the national income, destroys the profitability of firms, and throws them evermore into the hands of the State; this is the underdevelopment spiral.
In the disastrous outcome towards which statism is dragging the Italian economy, the libertarians see the confirmation of their laissez-faire option. They believe that the Italian economy could be healed through a radical libertarianization which implies a dismantling of the governmental section of the economy, the liquidation of the parasites of the bureaucrat-client complex entrenched in government agencies, and a drastic cut in the tax burden.
A peculiarity of the Italian Libertarian Movement is the emphasis it puts on the language problem. The libertarians think that the division between civil and economic liberties and the consequent anomalous combinations of libertarianism and authoritarianism are deeply rooted at linguistic levels.
Orwell once said that, "Political language is destined to give an appearance of solidity to that which is only wind." The libertarians maintain that nowadays political language is already "Orwellian"; it already has that inversion potential which Orwell spoke about. The current political language tends to give an appearance of logic to what is illogic and an appearance of illogic to what is logic. In other words, it tends to connect that which is logically incoherent and to disconnect that which is logically coherent.
The most macroscopic cases of the "logicide" usage of current language are established by the words left, center, and right. Our criticism towards these words does not consist in pointing out the sense in which they are overgeneralizations. Generalizations are both legitimate and necessary to satisfy the need for synthesis. The fact is that these words are not simple syntheses but syntheses of a special kind, heterosynthesis. Each of them implies, in fact, a plurality of meanings amongst which there is not uniformity but antagonism so that their overall meaning is equivocal.
There is not uniformity but antagonism between the meanings of "civil libertarianism" (in other words, the protection of the individual against the state in the area of civil rights) and of economic statism which are both implicit in the word "left." There is likewise no uniformity but antagonism between the meanings of civil authoritarianism and economic libertarianism both implicit in the word "right." The words left and right, therefore, illogically connect statism in one way or the other to anti-statism.
Libertarianism (which cannot be classified in terms of left, center, and right and appears as a bizarre fusion of the extreme left and the extreme right) is seen in this light as something extremely contradictory. Therefore linguistic imperialists, those who avail themselves of heterosynthetic words as tools of domination, can easily single out libertarians in public as madmen.
As a matter of fact, however, the real contradiction is in the words, left, center, and right and not in the libertarians. For this reason they refuse to play with the tricked cards of the ruling vocabulary. The libertarians oppose the logicide violence of the "semiomafia killers" with verbal disobedience.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Foreign Correspondent: Libertarianism in Italy".