Commentary. With one step after another, this government is reshaping the contents and forms of state power, having a field day with a defenseless opposition that is still yet to be built up.

Meloni’s authoritarian power grabs are adding up

Wednesday’s vote in the Chamber on the conversion text of the legislative decree on public administration, which included the amendment against controls by the Court of Auditors on NRRP spending – which the government wanted to pass on a confidence vote – is a further serious step taken towards a purely authoritarian conception of government. One might say it’s another measure to set up the “dictatorship of the majority” that Meloni intends to practice.

It comes with the aggravating circumstance of not having real majority support, but being only the expression of the greater part of a minority of the electoral body, which has become dominant by virtue of a misguided and unconstitutional electoral law.

With one step after another, this government is reshaping the contents and forms of state power, having a field day with a defenseless opposition that is still yet to be built up. Dominance over mass media works towards this goal. The government is so shameless that it’s not even hiding its irritation and is proceeding to enact repressive measures against divergent opinions coming from independent bodies – as, for instance, in the case of objections by the Parliamentary Bureau of the Chamber on tax reform, or from the Senate Budget Service on differentiated autonomy.

To quote Marco Revelli’s poignant words, this is a government with a heavy hand and a very thin skin. This can be seen while it’s trying to push through the Calderoli bill on differentiated autonomy – against a number of obstacles, including the more than 100,000 signatures deposited in the Senate in support of a popular initiative law to amend the articles introduced in the Constitution in 2001; or while trying to broaden the support in favor of the direct election of the premier (by courting Renzi). All the while, more concrete work is being done to neutralize the guarantor institutions that were created precisely in order to safeguard citizens from a kind of power unchecked by rules and norms.

It’s a good time to be carefully scrutinizing the work of governing bodies. The EU’s Anti-Fraud Agency agrees, which has announced that it has opened a series of investigations into the management of funds from the National Plans of some member countries. These include Italy, the main recipient of NGEU funds, in second place on the list, with 10 investigations that in nine cases ended with specific recommendations to the relevant authorities – just as many as those addressed to Hungary. It’s a different matter than the issue of audits by the Court of Auditors, since the alleged cases of fraud involve malicious intent, which isn’t protected by the “fiscal shield” protecting public officials against claims of gross negligence, which is being extended by the decree that is now going to the Senate.

But precisely because they are different things, the conclusion must be that choices about the NRRP should be well thought out and transparent. And they certainly haven’t been so far. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been all the complaints, from Italy and elsewhere, about the excessive and hasty hoarding by the Italian side of the full amount from the loans made available by the EU. Gentiloni reacted against this, saying the NRRP is an opportunity and not a bitter pill to swallow, well aware that failure on the part of Italy would drag with it the entire structure of the European project, shifting power to the “frugal” countries and the new axis shifted towards the East that is forming in Europe as one of the consequences of the ongoing war.

As is clear, the clash between the government and the Court of Auditors cannot be written off as merely an accounting or procedural affair. It is the tip of a much more massive iceberg. The issue that is emerging, in Italy and not only, concerns not so much the quantity of spending, but its quality. This is a rather different matter from the feasibility of individual projects and their deadlines, which the president of Confindustria tends to stress, highlighting the presumed efficiency of the private over the public. The issue concerns not only Italy, but also France, and even more so Germany, which has now entered a technical recession.

But this issue cannot be resolved by increasing the size of the projects, turning them into large infrastructure works, as German economist Daniel Gros proposed. If their fragmentation reveals the lack of a unifying design, gigantism will not solve the issue but make it worse.

Given all the countries involved, it is clear that we’re facing a point of crisis in the governance of the capitalist system, and it should be addressed as such. The lack of planning capacity on the part of public power, which has been mercilessly exposed – including by invoking the excuse of the constraints of a wartime economy – cannot be solved or countered with band aids, with the usual choreographed back-and-forth of accusations between those who are in government and those who aren’t. Instead, it requires the construction of a new agenda, at the European and domestic level, on which it would be possible to build a coherent opposition, and not only: to outline a new alternative economic policy.

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