Reflections on right and left wing after Eurogroup’s President urged Euro area governments to set a minimum wage
An old proverb says that he who is revolutionary in youth will become conservative with age. It seems the opposite happened to the Eurogroup president Jean Claude Juncker, representative of the European People’s Party (EPP) and former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, who a few days ago quoted Marx’s ideas to rationalize the introduction of a minimum wage in the European Union. It is still to be seen what will really be revolutionary or conservative today as Marx’s idea is being reevaluated, not for the political system foreshadowed as much for his analysis of the evils of capitalism.
Apparently today it is up to the conservatives to defend the social state and its achievements if many like Pietro Ostellino maintain in the Corriere, the welfare state with its safety nets, castrates the initiative and provokes individuals to passiveness and if Mario Monti says the conservatives are those who oppose change and right and left no longer exist. If nothing else, this stance assures us: Monti is the manifestation of a new liberal right that has been missing for too long in Italy. But it requires clarification of the definition of conservatism and progressivism.
It is passed off as truth that change is always progress in a teleological vision of life where the world has meaning and moves toward perfection. They want us to believe that we would be freer if we were less protected – when a multinational, which cuts production costs because they pay their employees peanuts, destroys competition by sweeping the small businesses or individual artisans into the streets – and that this course of action is progress. According to ethics of the predominant laissez-faire, free from the protection of the social state that weakens it, man is pushed to improve his condition and consequently increase the well-being of society in general.
Instead, in the last decade, we have seen that man did not do much with all his freedom and that technological progress has served often to invent new consumption that is destroying the planet, not improving human conditions. Every consumable product requires another one and with each new technology we believe in a spiral of need and swallow up one with the other. For the market to exist it needs to sell – so stores never close and we are always turned on, always open in a world where the poor have nothing to eat but have cell phones.
All things considered, the diverging positions of Monti and Juncker illustrate that conservatism is not the same in every country and that an Italian Christian Democrat doesn’t necessarily have the same values as a Christian Democrat from Luxembourg. Above all it reveals that a right and left wing still exist, and how, and today just like yesterday, with Christ or with Marx, the true revolution is always the same: give dignity to the weak.