A technocracy is supposed to be rule by technical experts – people like scientists, engineers, or even, says Wikipedia, health professionals. Suddenly, it seems, we have a new definition: failed bankers and yesterday’s politicians.
Italy has a new prime minister, Mario Monti, a man who has never held any public office in that country. Indeed he has not been elected to any of the posts he’s held in the EU, and there was certainly no vote required for him to become the head of the government.
Monti does not represent any political party, left, right or centre, which may have gifted him the measure of popular support suggested by opinion polls. Realistically, this could have more to do with anger at the previous holder of this office.
In fact, the entire Italian cabinet is now made up of what are being described as technocrats, none of whom have been elected. The new super minister for economic development, transport and infrastructure is Corrado Passera, chief executive of Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy’s largest retail bank.
Passera will certainly know the economic implications of the present rate of Italian 10 year bonds hovering around 7 per cent. This is after all what brought down the last Italian government.
In Greece, the technocrat prime minister, Lucas Papademos, was in charge of the country’s central bank when it entered the euro.
Imagine how this might run in Britain: under mounting pressure from “the markets”, the coalition government resigns. “The markets” then put in Fred Goodwin, the man who ruined RBS, to run the country. He picks his pals for the cabinet.
Not everyone, it seems, is impressed by this political fiat. In Italy, students and the young working class on whose shoulders much of the burden for the crisis is being placed took to the streets in protest. “We are not merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers. People before profits!” read banners in Palermo.
What is being graphically illustrated in Italy and Greece is just how thin the veneer of democracy is under capitalism. There may be universal suffrage, but that counts for nothing when the needs of capitalism demand otherwise.
How often is it asserted that it’s important to cast a ballot in elections because the vote took such a time to win and thus is valuable? Then it turns out that what’s been won is fools’ gold which is all too easily discarded.
Rule by bankers also points up the ephemeral nature of political parties. For all their heated debating and trading of insults, their divisions over “principles”, these count for little when capitalism demands a politics, a government, which serves its needs directly.
Other EU politicians, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have welcomed Monti’s appointment without a word about the overriding of democratic norms. Usually they are so ready to lecture the world on the iniquities of states who flout the parliamentary principle. Indeed, military campaigns have been launched on this basis.
Clearly, the Italian national debt, standing at 1.9 trillion euros, too much for finance capital to bear. Its destabilising effects on the money markets are an enduring threat to profits generally, and banks in particular. Their answer: call in the bankers! ■