One of the great injustices to English readers is the lack of a translation of the collection of Pasolini’s articles which goes by the Italian name Scritti Corsari. I here attempt the first English language translation of one of these articles that relates to the issues of cultural sustainability that this blog explores. Please note that I have translated the Italian word sviluppo into the English word ‘growth’, but an alternative translation is the word ‘development’, which I have not chosen because in my view it is more general and less specific to what Pasolini intended than the word ‘growth’.
‘Growth and Progress
by Pier Paolo Pasolini, translated by Robin Monotti Graziadei.
There are two words that often return in our conversations: rather, they are the key words of our conversations. These two words are “growth” and “progress”. Are they two synonyms? Or if they are not synonyms, do they indicate two differents moments of the same phenomenon? Or do they indicate two different phenomena that are necessarily integrated with each other? Or, again, do they indicate two phenomena that are only partially analogous and synchronic? Lastly; do they indicate two phenomena that are opposed between each other, that only apparently coincide and integrate with each other? We have to absolutely clarify the meaning of these words and their relation, if we want to understand each other in a discussion that relates very closely to our every day and even physical life.
Let’s see: the word “growth” has today a net of references that relate to a context that is definitely of the “right”.
Who, in fact, wants growth? In other words, who wants it not in the abstract and ideal, but in a concrete way and for reasons of immediate economic interest? It’s evident: those who want “growth” in that sense are those who produce; that is the industrialists. And, as “growth” in Italy is this growth, they are more exactly those industrialists who produce superfluous goods. Technology (applied science) has created the possibility of a practically unlimited industrialization, of a solidly transnational character. The consumers of superfluous goods, on their part, irrationally and unknowingly agree in wanting “growth” (this growth). For them it means social advancement and liberation, with a consequent repudiation of the cultural values that had provided them with the models of being the “poor”, the “workers”, the “savers”, the “soldiers”, the “believers”. The “masses” are therefore for “growth”: but they live this ideology only existentially, and existentially they carry the new values of consumerism. This does not deny that their choice is decisive, triumphalist and adamant.
Who, instead, wants “progress”? Those who do not have any immediate interest to satisfy through “progress”: workers, land labourers, intellectuals of the left. It is wanted by those who work and therefore are exploited. When I say “it is wanted” I say it in the authentic and total meaning (there may be some “producer” who wants, beyond anything else, and maybe sincerely, progress: but his particular case does not count). “Progress” is therefore an ideal notion (social and political): “growth” is instead a pragmatic economic fact.
Now it is this split which requires a “sinchronicity” between “growth” and “progress”, as true progress is not conceivable (or so it seems) without creating the necessary economic premises to achieve it.
What was Lenin’s key word as soon as the revolution was won? It was a key word that invited the immediate and grand “growth” of an underdeveloped country. Soviet and electrical industry… Having won the class war for “progress” now a fight needed to be won, maybe greyer but nevertheless not less grand, for “growth”. I would like to add though – not without hesitation – that this is not a compulsory condition to apply revolutionary Marxism to establish a Communist society. Industry and total industrialisation were not invented either by Marx or Lenin: they were invented by the bourgeoisie. To industrialize a Communist agricultural country means to enter in competition with the already industrialized bourgeois countries. This is what, in this case, Stalin did. And anyway he had no choice.
So: the Right wants “growth” (for the simple reason that it makes it); the Left wants “progress”.
But in case the Left wins the struggle for power, then it also wants – in order to really progress socially and politically – “growth”. A “growth” whose outline has already been formed and fixed in the context of bourgeois industrialization.
However here in Italy, the case is historically different. No revolution has been won. Here the Left that wants “progress” in order to accept “growth”, really needs to accept this “growth”: the growth of economic expansion and bourgeois technology.
Is this a contradiction? Is it a choice that poses a case for individual conscience? Probably yes. But in the least it is a problem that needs to be addressed clearly: that is without ever confusing, even for a single instant, the idea of “progress” with the reality of this “growth”. For the Left (let’s even say the electorate, to talk in the order of millions of citizens), this is the situation: a worker lives Marxist ideology consciously, and consequently, between his other values, lives consciously the idea of “progress”; wheras, contemporaneously, he lives, existentially, the consumerist ideology, and consequently, a fortiori, the values of “growth”. The worker is therefore split. But he is not the only one.
Even classical bourgeois power is in this moment completely disassociated: for us Italians this bourgeois power (which is practically fascist) are the Christian Democrats.
At this stage though I would like to leave the terminology that I (artist!) used behind, and to descend into a vivacious example. The split that now breaks in two the old clerical-fascist power, can be represented by two opposing and irreconcilable symbols: “Jesus” (in this case the Jesus of the Vatican) on one side, and the “blue-jeans Jesus” on the other. Two forms of power one in front of the other: on this side the great crowd of priests, of soldiers, of the right-thinking and of the hitmen; on that side the “industrialists” producers of superfluous goods and the great masses of consumers, secular and, maybe idiotically unreligious. A fight took place between the “Jesus” of the Vatican and the “Jesus” of the blue-jeans. In the Vatican – when this product and its billboards appeared – there arose high laments. High laments usually followed by the secular hand which saw to eliminate the enemies which the Church perhaps didn’t name, limiting itself to the laments. But this time, nothing followed the laments. The long hand remained inexplicably inert. Italy is plastered in billboards representing behinds with the writing “he who loves me follows me” and clad in those Jesus blue-jeans. The Vatican’s Jesus lost.
Now the christian-democrat clerical-fascist power, finds itself torn apart by these two “Jesuses”: the old form of power and the new reality of power…’