30 comments on “Bring on the Clowns: Italian Election

  1. Ben Folley on said:

    I don’t claim to know a lot myself – other useful links and info welcome! But thanks for the post Andy.

  2. Was going to post this leak in an ‘swp thread’ – but the title of this thread seems more appropriate:

    Latest outrage story circulating amongst SWP IDOOP people about the CC, apparently this is true:

    “The CC has decided that it will have up to 45 minutes to speak at aggregates, granting itself a lengthy introduction, an extended contribution from a second CC speaker, and a right of reply. Faction speakers have been granted just 6 minutes with no right of reply.”

  3. uncle albert on said:

    Can’t help wondering if something similar could happen in the U.K. Certainly, the Labour Party doesn’t seem to be shaping up as the receptacle of anti-government votes at a time of unprecedented crisis.

    I checked through some voting statistics the other day and didn’t find much to give cause for optimism.
    Though Labour allowed themselves to punch the air a few times after winning Corby back from the Tories, the voting tally shows that they won with fewer votes than when they lost the seat in the 2010 general election.
    Then there’s the matter of the Bristol mayoral election, where the favourite, Labour’s Marvin Rees – a decent enough chap who was over-chaperoned during the campaign – lost to an independent in an area containing two of Labour’s target parliamentary seats. And in Rotherham, Labour could only manage its lowest vote since 1918. And there’s the Bradford West earthquake also.

    The lastest polling in Eastleigh places Labour a good way below UKIP, casting doubt on Labour’s One Nation credibility. Perhaps Ed should take a leaf out the the Grillo playbook and hold a ‘Fuck Off Establishment’ day* – he’d better do something soon or else it could be too late.

    * http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/02/04/080204fa_fact_mueller

  4. Labour’s Marvin Rees – a decent enough chap

    Get away – some of us remember the H Blocks.

    On the OP, the headline policies of Grillo’s party look pretty good – against corruption and pollution, in favour of basic income and free Internet – and part of me is deeply impressed that he’s come from nowhere to get the highest vote for any single party in the lower house. But I don’t know – I just can’t see that what Italy needs right now is a “sod the lot of them” party refusing to call itself either Right or Left and refusing to make alliances with anyone. Maybe it’s doughnut and hole, but I think the zero seats won by Rivoluzione Civile (supported by most of the far left and the Greens and the established anti-corruption parties) is a better marker of the state of the Italian left, i.e. in deep trouble.

  5. uncle albert: Can’t help wondering if something similar could happen in the U.K. Certainly, the Labour Party doesn’t seem to be shaping up as the receptacle of anti-government votes at a time of unprecedented crisis.

    What would a British equivalent entail? The David Mitchell and Charlie Brooker party? God help us…

    The Italian centre-left seems to be going through a process of steady disintegration. The more years go by, the more complete and sincere their capitulation to the status quo becomes.

    Even this Grillo fella seems to be proposing a series of technical solutions to what is a political crisis, ignoring anything that might actually have an edge (eg the fundamental issue of taxation!).

    It really takes some doing, competing with Ireland over how alienating you can make democracy.

    But somehow, Italy manages…

  6. The deterioration of Italy’s political landscape started long before Grillo, with the election of a man who clearly prioritised business over politics, namely Silvio Berlusconi.

  7. “Though Labour allowed themselves to punch the air a few times after winning Corby back from the Tories, the voting tally shows that they won with fewer votes than when they lost the seat in the 2010 general election.” Of course, that would be down to the simple fact that by-election turnouts are nearly always down compared to general elections.

  8. uncle albert on said:

    MANZIL: What would a British equivalent entail?

    Well, I suppose Labour did attempt a Grillo-like initiative with their comedian candidate in Eastleigh – but to no avail. So let’s just say that Labour’s refusal to mount an effective national opposition has left a gaping opportunity for a media-savvy operator with a ‘people first’ message.
    Perhaps Siobhan Benita might be tempted away from her zumba classes?

  9. lone nut on said:

    “Surely Mervyn Rees????”
    Not even. It was Merlyn Rees, and as the latter died in 2006 I doubt that he would have been able to change his name slightly and run for the mayorship of Bristol in 2010.

  10. Time was The Late Merlyn Rees (Labour) would have walked it. Maybe not in Bristol, admittedly.

    PS Sorry I started this – I do know it says ‘Marvin’.

  11. uncle albert on said:

    Manzil: I’d just succeeded in forgetting about her

    I think she’s worth remembering – her policies, on the whole, looked to be pretty good: fares freeze until 2014, 20,000 new homes each year at £100,000-£150,000, locked into a regulated secondary market etc.

    She’s said she’ll be standing for Mayor again and there’s an unconfirmed murmur on the streets suggesting she’ll be the NHAP candidate.

  12. Jesus, no wonder so many commenters here get themselves in such a terrible mess.

    Grillo is a RIGHTST populist. He actually has links with Italian fascists


    calls for the elimination of public sector pensions


    and opposes trade unions, not their demands, their existence


    But hey, maybe Labour should take a leaf out of his book, or we should support the anti-labour movement Benita (who does)?

    The Italian Left committed suicide by supporting Prodi’s pro-war and anti-worker government. The British Left doesn’t even seem to need the allure of office before capitulating to the Right.

  13. I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Grillo certainly isn’t a leftist – and I wouldn’t trust him as far as I can throw him – but neither he nor the M5S is “right” in any straightforward sense.

  14. It would be interesting to know more about the make-up of its 150-odd members elected to parliament, the demographics and outlook of its activists, voters etc.

    Could possibly tell you more about how it’s likely to behave than a biography of Grillo?

  15. Comment from Guardian online that seemed to hit it:
    “There’s a lot of this sort of thing here in Argentina, with a right-wing anti-politics, promoted by the big media groups (which are really economic interest groups), which appeals to anyone with a sense of frustration but without much of an idea of what exactly to do. Every so often the middle and upper middle classes take to the streets banging their tin pots and expressing their rage.”

    Grillo seems to be leftish but has made troublesome comments with regards to immigration. I read this at https://strugglesinitaly.wordpress.com/info-on-italian-politics/en-grillo-and-movimento-5-stelle-updated-version/
    “In October 2007 a post appeared on Grillo’s blog called “Desecrated Borders”. It said that ‘a country cannot throw onto the shoulders of its own people the problems caused by tens of thousands of Roma people from Romania who are arriving in Italy’, and described the problem as ‘a volcano, a time bomb’.”
    There are also criticisms in the article about how the 5 star movement is virtually the private property of one man.

  16. uncle albert on said:

    Matty: right-wing anti-politics, promoted by the big media groups

    One of the interesting aspects of the Grillo campaign was his neglect by mainstream media, leading to his own principled non-participation and preference for distributed online networks.

    Something similar seems to be occurring in the UK – when I attended a meeting of my local clinical commissioning group (as an objector) of about thirty members of the public present all except one (a labour party member) had been motivated by a 38 degrees online campaign.

    Frankly, the prospects for the far left seem to be difficult when it comes to online political campaigning – where everyone is free to chip in with their two penn’orth. It seems to be no longer possible to get away with the familiar top down, authoritarian malarkey.

  17. Someone forwarded me this link to a piece Perry Anderson wrote in 2009 on the squandered opportunities for the Italian left which I thought was quite useful right now;


    There seems to be a difference of opinion on Grillo. I’m surprised some people are saying he is leaning to the left as my understanding was that he was anti-immigrant, anti-union and had described the left as thieves (I assume attacking high taxes but may be wrong about that).

    He seems to fit quite well into the UKIP, Geert Wilders, Pim Fortuyn et al mould but Socialist Worker seems to be saying he’s a left anti-austerity vote. I’m now confused.

  18. Grillo is opposed to austerity, the euro, corruption, privatisation of public services, pollution, bureaucracy, big government, political parties, trade unions and immigration; take your pick out of that lot. Most of all he’s the “against business as usual” candidate – No to austerity, No to Monti, No to Berlusconi and No to Bersani and the PD as well.

    Grillo both is and isn’t a new phenomenon. The thing about Italy is that the political system has been basically screwed ever since it was founded in 1948. Historically the respectable Right and the respectable Left have conspired to ignore this and act as if nothing was wrong – the Right because it meant they got to keep power, the Left because they thought that if they played the game the Right would eventually trust them and let them into power. So every so often ‘outsider’ figures have formed new parties pitching for the “Emperor’s New Clothes” vote – “sod the lot of them” parties, basically. Sometimes they’re progressive, like the anti-corruption parties that flowered in the mid-90s; more often they’re reactionary, just because anti-political appeals go better with maintaining the status quo than with changing it. The genius of Berlusconi (and he is a superb political operator) was to elevate “sod the lot of them” to the level of a programme for government – the basic appeal of his parties has always been “never mind the politics, vote for me and I’ll sort things out”. (This is also why he’s tended to lose his allies – most Italian right-wing parties do actually have an interest in politics.)

    So in one way Grillo is nothing new – he’s just the latest example of l’antipolitica. What is new is how hard it is to locate him on the political spectrum. I think it’s a deliberate strategy, and his approach to the neo-fascist Casa Pound group fits right in: in lots of ways he’s to the Left of Bersani, so he avoided being pigeonholed by positioning himself to the Right of Berlusconi. The trouble is, it means he’s nothing more than a wrecking candidate. He’s ruled out any kind of lasting alliance, so the only exit strategies I can see are

    a) another election, in which M5S’s support drops away to the point where the main parties can ignore it (unlikely, particularly if the election is being called in response to the problem caused by the M5S)
    b) another election, in which M5S’s support grows to the point where they can form a government (also unlikely, but not to be ruled out)

    I’m betting on getting to a) eventually, but not until next year at the earliest. We’re in for a bumpy ride.

    Andy – cheers! A university library near you will probably have a copy, and if they don’t they ought to. (No paperback as yet, sadly.)

  19. How did I miss that. A great book, Phil!

    And yes, I first read it from a uni library. For some reason it wasn’t in Waterstone’s.

    This country…

  20. Jellytot on said:

    @21While we are recommending books in Italian politics

    Paul Ginsborg’s “A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics, 1943-1988” is good on the postwar PCI.

  21. Phil on said:

    Yes, I used it. (Along with several others may I hasten to add.) The sequel, Italy and its discontents is pretty good too, although it’s more openly partisan.

  22. Manzil on said:

    I thought this was interesting in today’s Guardian:

    Casaleggio, while insisting that “we have no suggestions to make”, spoke approvingly of a fourth option – a technocratic government supported by the main parties, like the one headed by Mario Monti since November 2011. He said: “The Monti government has had a majority that has allowed it to pass many laws and decree-laws.”

    The argument over its place on the political spectrum is one thing. But if it represents a populist anti-politics mood, wouldn’t an endorsement of another unelected technocratic regime kill it stone dead? What were people voting M5S against, if not Italy’s rule by technocrats? If they just rejected the party system or the choice of Bersani/Berlusconi, wouldn’t they have supported Monti?

  23. That certainly sounds like playing with fire. But then, so does everything else the M5S can do now – ally with the Old Left just to get things done (which is being suggested, but would be very bad for the movement’s credibility); ally with Berlusconi (which isn’t, and would be even worse); or Grillo’s own preferred option, sit on the sidelines cackling evilly and offering to help out by forming a single-party M5S government (which is going to start looking a bit immature any time now).