It’s not about being a woman (Giorgia Meloni) or having immigrant ancestors (Rishi Sunak): it’s about whether you’re a part of, and siding with, a history of domination or one of emancipation. The issue is so clear, I would almost call it banal, but the recurring right-winger claim to “shattering glass ceilings” – most recently in the presentation of the Meloni government’s program before the Chambers of Parliament – shows that it’s not that clear at all.
Meloni’s story is a personal success story, not a collective women’s liberation story. In the vocabulary of the right, equality, when it’s even considered, is transfigured into identity, disguises itself as artificial equity, and is defined in a strictly formal sense (it’s no accident that the programmatic speech before Parliament focused so much on liberal democracy). That is not a step forward for women. The goal is not to be accepted among the ranks of the oppressors, but to dismantle the mechanisms of domination; it’s not earning equal access to the privileges of an unequal society, but transforming society.
When the argument centers on the equality of “competitive conditions” (Draghi), there is a “commodification of feminist thought” (bell hooks), which gets diverted into a neoliberal feminism, antithetical to a path of social liberation and transformation. Rather, true feminism shares in the struggle against a state of subalternity, the same as the servile conditions of logistics workers and farm laborers, or the vulnerability of migrants. Women’s liberation is marked by an awareness of the transversal nature of emancipatory processes (intersectionality), and, preserving the originality and independence proper to each struggle, it is naturally part of a “historical bloc,” that is, a class united by standing against oppression.
The crux is always the same: either domination or emancipation, within history as an “uninterrupted struggle, sometimes hidden, sometimes overt” (Marx, Engels) between oppressors and oppressed, the subalterns and the ruling class. This is not an oversimplification, but a demystification.
There are all too many masks hiding the truth: war for democracy (covering up war between imperialisms); corporations as subject and object of politics (covering up the liquidation of social and workers’ rights); differentiated autonomy (the institutionalization and growth of inequality); (semi)-presidentialism in the name of executive stability and popular sovereignty (the concentration of power and populism); “the people decide” (removing the voices of oppositions, minorities and dissent, which means removing the content of democracy); simplification and deregulation (green light to the law of the strongest); hotspots in African countries to protect migrants (offshoring of torture and denial of the right to asylum). Let’s not add feminism to the long list.
And speaking of domination, emancipation and denial of the conflict, what is coming up with the right today (the extreme one, not center-right) is a nationalism asserting itself with overbearance that conveys an identitarian vision, aiming at the definitive erasure of social conflict (already denied and anesthetized for years), firmly neoliberal in sanctioning the centrality and freedom of business and far from guileless in its appeal to the basic pathos of the triad “God, country, family.”
From the neoliberal vein, the new government sets up merit as the ultimate standard, subsumed within the perspective of meritocracy, with its legitimization and reproduction of inequality; with the correlated interpretation of poverty as guilt, of social distress as deviance, and with any redistribution of wealth – neutralized in the forms of a “charitable” handout – only allowed to “those who deserve it.”
Then there is security, the mantra of the right, invoked as a “distinctive reality”: one doesn’t even have to predict that it will come at the expense of rights and spaces for dissent and protest, as it’s already happening. On the day the government went to the Chamber for the vote of confidence, the police intervened at Sapienza against students and the Minister of the Interior threatened the blockade of ships that have saved lives.
Finally, the “freedom” mentioned several times in Giorgia Meloni’s speech is a purely individualistic and self-referential freedom. Freedom without substantive equality, a privilege for the few. Within the logic of domination, not liberation and emancipation. Just like this government: neoliberal, authoritarian, patriarchal, nationalist. It is necessary to say “no,” to build up forces on the side of emancipation, on the side of the conflictual and social democracy of the Italian Constitution – an antifascist one, born of the Resistance.
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