Is it true that you are communist?
What else can one be, the way things are?
Communism left 70 million dead. . .
That wasn’t communism.
What was it, then?
Industrialism. Lenin proposed electrification plus soviets, that is to say, popular control . . . but popular control evaporated!
And what remained?
Industrialism. Stalin imposed the development of heavy industry against agriculture and thence the displacement of people, the sacrifices, the deaths. . . A crazy dream!
But . . . without the Stalinist industrial force, the Nazis would have won!
Trick or death, what a tragedy.
Soviet Communism and Western capitalism share the same crazy ideology: forced industrialization of society.
Communism fell, but not capitalism.
It’s in crisis. And what future does it have?
Tell me how you see it.
Some years ago, the pay gap between a worker and an executive was 1:20. And now it’s 1:250! The drift is clear: the rich few are getting richer and richer and the poor many are getting poorer and poorer.
But living in democracy.
Well, see the citizenry’s growing disinterest in elections. . . Things being the way they are, with what ideal of life will we give hope to society? With the free market. . .?
What ideal do you propose?
I am Christian, therefore I am communist. The first Christian communities were very communist . . . except that they were expecting the immediate end of the world.
There are days when around here too . . .
Which is why I propose hermeneutic communism: non-dogmatic communism, weak communism. Only this can save us.
Weak communism? Describe it for me.
Without essences, without absolutes to be realized at all costs. It is only an ideal of equitable society, a society that progressively weakens violence like dialectics.
I’m beginning to get it: another dream.
Communism as specter, more defined by what I don’t want than by anything else.
What do you not want?
I don’t want social classes, economic inequality (enough of inheritance!), a Europe dominated by bankers, a Church that prevents priests from getting married, wasting money on weapons while cutting healthcare. . .
And, all this, without absolutism.
That’s it! Today only one absolute dominates us.
Austerity! Everything for the sake of paying the public debt. That’s an absolute.
Does any country come close to your dream?
Chávez’s Venezuela, Lula’s Brazil, Morales’s Bolivia, Kirchner’s Argentina, Correa’s Ecuador. . .
Latin American countries are taking the management of their wealth and the socialization of health and education seriously.
Can you provide data?
Venezuela has tripled its health coverage, reduced the mortality rate by a third, eliminated illiteracy, reduced poverty by 72% since 2003. . . And that without dispensing with democracy.
Selling oil to the United States.
To build hospitals. They are counterbalancing Anglo-Saxon imperialism with models of community life. There democracy is taken seriously!
Is this applicable to Europe?
Here the Left has to come up with a program of the opposition, not of the government. If a state of the Left is not imaginable, resistance is imaginable.
Yes, local conflicts. Life is not for just amusing yourself, it is for fighting and resisting. That’s good for mental health. Psychological malaise originates in not having a reason to fight.
Fighting, as a member of the European Parliament?
I’m putting forward a policy of the tolerant Left, to avoid terrorist violence.
How is Monti doing in Italy?
A good technocrat: he is fixing the system on behalf of the master.
How do you see the south of Europe, Spain. . .?
We could produce what we need, but we are draining money from ourselves. We’ll end up as colonies of the master of capital.
Where is that master?
I don’t know, but I do know that 1% of Italians hold 50% of the Italian wealth. And that we could buy fewer airplanes and make better schools! The excess of industrial irrealism suffocated communism; the excess of financial realism is now suffocating capitalism.
Against the crisis, production?
Minus the old industrialism: Let us produce only what is necessary. Fewer cars, fewer goods, more and better local agriculture!
We’ll be poorer.
But without so many people killing themselves; and there won’t be so much social differences. Or else there will be violence — let’s be pragmatic, and let’s prevent that.
What are you doing for your ideal?
I’m providing scholarships to young medical students. It makes me happy to do that.
And every day I pray the prayers at the end of the day.
Gianni Vattimo, openly gay and avowedly Catholic, is a philosopher and politician in Italy. His latest book (co-authored with Santiago Zabala) is Hermeneutic Communism: From Heidegger to Marx. The original interview “Gianni Vattimo, filósofo: ‘Sólo un comunismo débil puede salvarnos'” was published in La Vanguardia on 29 November 2012. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).