The Movimento Cinque Stelle has protected the System – a comment by Wu Ming

The Movimento Cinque Stelle has protected the System – a comment by Wu Ming

Now that the Five Star Movement has made such an impression in the Italian national elections, we believe it is no longer possible to avoid examining this phenomenon in terms of a political vacuum that the movement, founded by Beppe Grillo and Gianroberto Casaleggio, fills with its presence. The M5S draws attention away from the fact that there is an absence of a true radical movement in Italy. The M5S takes up this empty space to ensure that this remains the case.

Article by Wu Ming
Translation by Struggles In Italy, copy-edited by Giulio Sica and Wu Ming 1

Now that the Five Star Movement has made such an impression in the Italian national elections, we believe it is no longer possible to avoid examining this phenomenon in terms of a political vacuum that the movement, founded by Beppe Grillo and Gianroberto Casaleggio, fills with its presence. The M5S draws attention away from the fact that there is an absence of a true radical movement in Italy. The M5S takes up this empty space to ensure that this remains the case.

Despite its radical appearance and its revolutionary rhetoric, we believe that, over the past three years, the M5S has effectively defended the present system, acting as a force that has quelled rebellion and stabilised the system. Such a counterintuitive statement sounds absurd, if one only takes a superficial glance at Italian politics and society and looks no deeper. Really? Grillo, a stabilising factor? The man who wants to "send the old politics packing"? The man who, as everybody says, is going to make the country’s ungovernable? We believe that, over the past few years, Grillo's movement has ensured that the system in Italy remains the same.

Over the past three years, while other countries around the Mediterranean and more generally in the west have seen movements that are fighting against austerity and neoliberalism gaining in strength and, in some cases, taking root, here in Italy this has not happened. There have been some important struggles, of course, but they have remained confined to local territories, or they did not last long. There have been small fires, but not a major blaze to set the whole political landscape alight, as has been the case elsewhere. No indignados in our country; no Occupy; no "springs" of any kind; no "Je lutte des classes" against reforms to the pension system. We have not had a Tahrir Square or a Syntagma Square; we have not had a Puerta del Sol. We did not rise up as others have done elsewhere and, in some cases, are still doing. Why not?

There are many reasons for this, but we would like to suggest one. Perhaps it is not the main factor but we believe it has importance.

Here in Italy, a large proportion of this "indignation" was intercepted and reorganised by Grillo and Casaleggio – two wealthy men in their 60s with a background in the entertainment industry and in marketing. They created a political/economic franchise, with its own copyright and trademark, a movement rigidly controlled and mobilised from the top, hijacking slogans and ideas from social movements, and mixing them with apologies for an "ethical" capitalism, with superficial statements centred on the honesty of the individual/politician/administrator. They created a confused set of proposals, where neoliberal and anti-capitalist, centralist and federalist, libertarian and reactionary could co-exist. A manifesto for all occasions, cherry-picking ideas wherever they found them and whenever they considered them useful, typical of a diversionary movement.

There is an important distinction to be made here between the M5S and truly radical movements: the M5S divides the world into "us" and "them" in a completely different way from the radical movements mentioned above. When the Occupy movement suggested a distinction between the 1% and the 99% in society, this was based on the distribution of wealth, going right to the root of social inequalities: the 1% are the multi-millionaires. Had they known Grillo, Occupy would have included him as well. In Italy, Grillo is part of the 1%.

When the Spanish movement takes up the Argentinian cacerolazos’s rallying cry: "Que se vayan todos!", they are not simply referring to the "caste" of politicians, as happens in Italy, nor are they implicitly adding: "Let us take their place". They are demanding the self-organisation and self-management of society: let’s do our very best without them, let’s invent new forms and ways, in our neighbourhoods, in the workplace, in our schools. None of these forms resembles the techno-fetishistic nonsense of Grillo’s movement, the mountains of rhetoric that create only molehills, such as the M5S's mock "online primary elections". In Spain, truly radical practices involve joining together to protect the excluded, for instance, by physically preventing evictions, home repossessions and so on.

The Spanish protesters would include Grillo and Casaleggio among those who "must leave" (a movement led by a multi-millionaire and a man who heads an internet marketing and advertising company that was directly involved in the campaign, would be inconceivable!). They would probably also include the M5S's mayor of Parma, Federico Pizzarotti, who has been implementing austerity policies in Parma for months now, going back on his bombastic electoral promises, one after another.

A new phase is beginning now that "Grillism" has entered parliament, chosen as a last resort by millions of people who found all other political options either disgusting or unworthy of a vote. The only way to interpret the phase which is just beginning is to understand the role which Grillo and Casaleggio played in the phase just ending. Many believe they acted as arsonists; we believe they were actually firefighters.

Is it possible for a movement, born as a diversion, to become a radical force, addressing crucial problems and dividing "us" from "them" along true fault lines? To make it happen, something else must first occur. There has to be an Event which interrupts and cracks open the movement. In other words, Grillism should free itself from Grillo's grip. So far, it has not happened and it is unlikely it will happen now. But it is not impossible. As usual, we side with "rebellion". Even inside the M5S.

Translator's note: the English text is also available here and here
The debate continues (in Italian) here

Posted By

StrugglesInItaly
Feb 26 2013 15:55

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  • The M5S fills the absence of radical movements in Italy. There is a gap in the political system; a blank that the M5S fills in order to keep it… empty.

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Comments

Italian Citizien
Feb 26 2013 19:03

Hello....I think you need some news about the Movimento 5 Stelle and what is happening about it in Italy.
- "Grillo and Casaleggio, two wealthy sixty-something year-olds with a background in the entertainment industry and in marketing."
Not exactly, Casaleggio is a WebMaster/Publisher and he works in the web as many others does in the World. There are no big industry organizations, there's an indipendent organization with NO public money (all most important italian publishers are funded with public money). We citizens need a big voice to be heard and Casaleggio help us to do it in the best way trough the internet. Most part of italian people does not know how to use the internet in the best way. Casaleggio can help us with his experience. And, basically, Casaleggio is not a politician, he has never been, and he won't to be.
Grillo isn't a politician neither, he won't and he can't sit into the Parlamento, he is just a comedian who speak the Truth out to milions of italians who sleep for so long into Berlusconi's (and others) lies. There are no big industry behind him. Now the question is: Is Grillo more dangerous than Berlusconi???
- "the M5S presents its “us vs. them” division"
Nope, the M5S presents "the citizens take back the power". Just saying the old politicians keep us out of the public power using censorship and lies in years. There are no division between poors and millionairs in the M5S.
- "superficial praises of the individual honesty of those who rule and administer the public good"
Superficial?!? In a country with a very high public good corruption??? Maybe the higher after Greece. No my friend, it isn't superficial at all.
- "Their program is a confused mixture of neoliberal and anti-capitalist recipes, centralism and federalism, liberal and conservative values"
Well, this is the first way to destabilize the System. No labels, only ideas.
- "A one-size-fits-all program, without a clear aim"
The '5 Stars' in the name of the Movement are the 5 biggest aims. Then the program is in a no-stop evolution, voted by the M5S members (all citizens).
- "Pizzarotti – the same person who has led the austerity policies in Parma for a few months now, and who is denying his bombastic electoral promises, one after another"
Do you know what happened in Parma when M5S has arrived? Old politicians jailed? 800milions euro of public debit? Corruption everywhere? Parma is a real disaster and it's not so easy to keep it safe in few months, they are working for it but it's really hard to do and no ones knows about the disaster before Pizzarotti has arrived. So, again, the M5S bring the Truth to the citizens and work hard for them.
- "the movement should free itself from Grillo’s grip"
The M5S is free. Grillo is a guarantor, not a leader. He just give a guide-line to organize hundreds of citizens without political experience. Then people are free to discuss about the program, the spokepersons and so on. A new never-seen-before Movement needs someone who pay attention to the people who want to be part of the Movement. Why? Think about what Italy is sadly known: mafia, corrupters, fascists, infiltrators. No way, we need a guarantor.
- "we side with “rebellion"
Good to know! Me too! wink
Take a look here and come inside the "new italian spring"! http://www.beppegrillo.it/en/ smile

Sten
Feb 26 2013 21:48
Italian Citizien wrote:
- "Grillo and Casaleggio, two wealthy sixty-something year-olds with a background in the entertainment industry and in marketing."
Not exactly, Casaleggio is a WebMaster/Publisher and he works in the web as many others does in the World. There are no big industry organizations, there's an indipendent organization with NO public money (all most important italian publishers are funded with public money).

How's that "not exact"? There's no "big industry" (Casaleggio's llc is nothing compared to Berlusconi's Fininvest), but saying they both are moderately wealthy marketers seems correct.

Italian Citizien wrote:
Nope, the M5S presents "the citizens take back the power". Just saying the old politicians keep us out of the public power using censorship and lies in years. There are no division between poors and millionairs in the M5S.

Heh, class collaboration.
Grillo speaks about the necessity for the people to take power in their hands and "stop delegating" and yet he keeps organising actions under the same old forms.
He doesn't want to change the fundamentals of the system; he only wants to replace politicians with good, honest, common citizens (with the same, old parliamentary elections, naturally), who will then "keep in check" the political class and the State affairs.

Italian Citizien wrote:
Quote:
- "Their program is a confused mixture of neoliberal and anti-capitalist recipes, centralism and federalism, liberal and conservative values"

Well, this is the first way to destabilize the System. No labels, only ideas.

Syncretism isn't really destabilising ...

The main point, overall, is right. The M5S is incredibly more "non-politicised" and less radical than the other movements of Europe (or even the movements Italy itself had in the past).

StrugglesInItaly
Feb 27 2013 09:20

Your comment confirms most of our doubts about M5S. While we do understand why so many people voted for it, we can't agree with its vision of society, and with the behaviour of its owner (if you don't like "leader", do you prefer owner? He is, actually, the owner of the party) and with many of its practices.

"Re Grillo: yesterday morning a newly-elected member of parliament from M5S stated that they intended to meet to elect the head of their parliamentary group, who would be appointed to meet the President of the Republic. Then Grillo decided to go in person, with no concern for the elected representatives. Are you sure that he's just a guarantor?

ocelot
Feb 27 2013 13:44

Casaleggio finally speaks to the media - the foreign media only, of course. There's no way he could get the Italian media* to swallow the half of his tall tales of "a new, direct democracy that will see the elimination of all barriers between the citizen and the state"

Guardian: Italy's web guru tastes power as new political movement goes viral

Quote:
In addition, Casaleggio has had to contend with bitter accusations from the rank and file that the process was not subject to independent verification – a row that came on top of another resulting from Grillo's insistence that the movement's representatives should not take part in TV talk shows.

Casaleggio is unrepentant. "The statute contains rules. If they want to change the rules, they can create another movement," he said.

And who wrote the statute? "Grillo and I," Casaleggio replied.

The affair has revived claims that the M5S is inherently undemocratic and that Casaleggio, in particular, has a hidden agenda.

"The problem with these people is that they think everyone does something to have something else in return," he said. "The only thing we get is the warmth of the people. It's the only thing we get in exchange."

"the warmth of the people"? You couldn't make this shit up.

---
* admittedly, much of which is not known for its fair and politically un-biased reporting

ocelot
Feb 27 2013 14:41

Alberto Toscano echoes the Wu Ming assessment of "Grillismo" as a vacuum - a vacuum of the left.

Italy's left loses the popularity contest again

Quote:
The undisputed victor is of course Beppe Grillo, leader and sole brand owner of the Five Star Movement, which has risen to become the biggest party in the Italian parliament, after only three and a half years in existence. Obscenity is a core weapon in Grillo's arsenal – this is the man who once called the Nobel prize scientist Rita Levi-Montalcini an "old whore", and organised a mass meeting under the banner of "Fuck off Day". For all the differences in their politics, the parallels in style between Berlusconi and Grillo have been remarked on by many: above all, they both perform an extremely personalised form of politics, in which crass soundbites abound.

But the grotesque enigma that is this Italian election should perhaps be approached from the opposite direction: how did Pierluigi Bersani's coalition, built around the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD), manage to lose an election after what seemed to be the terminal decline of Berlusconi?
[...]
The city squares filled by Grillo's supporters are a sad reminder of the truly popular response to the crisis in Spain and Greece. They are the symptom or negative image of the so-called left's incapacity, in its long-term desire for governmental respectability, to mobilise public energies and collective action. One should always beware of the anti-political slogan "neither left nor right", which is key to Grillo's movement. But unlike a right that can do very well with an atomised, resentful electorate, a left without mass politics is not deserving of the name.

NannerNannerNan...
Feb 27 2013 22:50

I'm really depressed and angry about this whole Beppe Grillo movement-party-thing... but also slightly smug.

I once said to someone that politics was simply a popularity contest in tthe worst and the most literal sense. I said that it's all a damn spectacle that merges so completely into reality TV shows, weekly dramas, and nightly news that the politicians might as well be actors - and I also said that the reason people vote on their gut instinct (or don't even vote at all!) is not because they're "dumb" but because that crap is so far removed from their personal reality that they have to. She disagreed.

I think this whole bizzare goddam thing proves it. From his weird usage of the "V for Vendetta" symbol and his being a comedian-cum-politician, to his vulgar populism and his big rhetoric and tiny politics.

I had zero knowledge of this guy and his movement before yesterday, and it is all such naked demagougery for a people so goddam beaten down. Jesus, I hope this guy makes to power and reveals himself to be just another powerhungry politician!

Havaan
Feb 28 2013 13:19

I never noticed the V is the same V from V for Vendetta, oh gosh I can't stop laughing now.

The politics or lack there of they represent is pretty disgusting, general calls for the end of corruption, change, people power, taking power back and a new politics. Not very imaginative, I'd expect better from moneyed PR people to be honest, thought they could be a bit more imaginative, rather then dredge up this general crap and the V oh the V, I will never stop laughing now I realise that.

wojtek
Feb 28 2013 13:59

Italy's 'Waldo moment'?

KriegPhilosophy
Feb 28 2013 20:11
Quote:
I never noticed the V is the same V from V for Vendetta, oh gosh I can't stop laughing now.

It's v for fuck off in italian apparently.

Quote:
The politics or lack there of they represent is pretty disgusting, general calls for the end of corruption, change, people power, taking power back and a new politics. Not very imaginative, I'd expect better from moneyed PR people to be honest, thought they could be a bit more imaginative, rather then dredge up this general crap and the V oh the V, I will never stop laughing now I realise that.

But, it's interesting how this basically represents the symptoms are showing that in the long run that instability is growing. Though the M5S is also simply a personification of the popular dissatisfaction that has been growing with "traditional" political parties and it remains to be seen what the future brings economically and politically.

Quote:
Italy's 'Waldo moment'?

think its a new type of political marketing so pretty much.

Ed
Feb 28 2013 21:53

There's currently a petition going round trying to put pressure on Grillo and M5S to make an alliance with the centre-left (from an m5s voter).. dunno how many have signed from inside the party but will be interesting to see if that goes anywhere.

wojtek
Mar 5 2013 23:54