The Editors

Last week we asked the Wu Ming Foundation to write a piece on Beppe Grillo and the Movimento 5 Stelle. Unhappy with the way we edited it, they withdrew it (with regrets on both sides but no bad feeling on either) and published it on their blog. You can read 'Grillismo: Yet another right-wing cult coming out of Italy' here.


  • 10 March 2013 at 10:29am
    Userdafi says:
    I'm disappointed in Wu Ming. I really am. I was hoping that they would come up with something more imaginative and thought-provoking.

    I mean, this is just the kind of stuff "La Repubblica" has been writing about for the last two years. Its just plain boring...and tiresome...and predictable.

    I've no intention of fact-checking their post. (Although i must say that as a Gay man I was particularly amused by the importance they gave to that homophobic quote).

    The truth is i don't give a damn. I really couldn't care less.

    I want change.

    I want a peaceful, nonviolent, democratic transition.

    I want FREE MEDIA. I want to see the caudillo's propaganda machine dismantled. I want democratic institutions. I want to save what is left of our culture and heritage. I want to rescue our countryside from being turned into a concrete jungle and prevent my homeland, Tuscany, from being turned into a colony of the 'Ndrangheta (the calabrian Mafia).

    No one is scared of Mr.Grillo here in Italy (To be frank, I'm far more concerned by the forces that back the status quo).

    I didn't vote for a "right-wing cult". I voted for the Movimento 5 Stelle.

    I'm not a "grillino". I'm an Italian who is telling his rulers to get stuffed.

    To quote the immortal words of Mr.Edmund Blackadder Esq.:

    "Peace, Freedom, and a few less fat bastards eating all the pie!"

  • 10 March 2013 at 2:32pm
    guido franzinetti says:
    LRB was right not to publish the article by the Wu Ming Foundation (and equally right to post it on the Blog). This goes to show that the formula of getting literati to discuss politics and the economy does not work everywhere and always (not in Italy, at any rate).

    The article on grillismo is broadly accurate, but it reveals the weakness of the Italian Left’s response to Grillo. Grillo’s M5S does, indeed, exhibit all the ambiguities, opportunism and flirtation with Italian Radical Right traditions. But it is not enough to say that.

    M5S is also, and most significantly, the ‘dark heart’ of the Italian Left. This is why it has proved much more insidious than the Lega Nord (which reflected the ‘dark heart’ of the Italian Northern voters more generally, Left, Right and Centre).

    An interviewer asked a Grillo supporter if he did not feel uncomfortable in supporting a movement dominated by a charismatic leader. The answer was: “Well, Berlinguer was a charismatic figure, wasn’t he?”. Regardless of the accuracy of any comparison between Enrico Berlinguer and Beppe Grillo, this is clearly the way many formers voters of the Italian left feel: why not? Why not vote for a charismatic leader? That is what we have always done, so why not?

    This is just the latest demonstration of the strength of what Italians call leaderismo (which could more accurately be called ducismo), always blended with hyper-democratic rhetoric. The leader decides everything. No questions asked. No proper accounts. No accountability.

    Beppe Grillo did not invent this tradition. Maybe Italian radical socialists (from which Mussolini emerged) invented it The Italian Communists, led by an understated leader who was only called Il Migliore (the Best One) did little to change that model. Enrico Berlinguer was last Communist able to play the charismatic card. The Italian New Left (from which Gad Lerner and many other media figures emerged) was, if anything, even more leaderista than the Communists: neo-anarchist rhetoric, matched by unchallenged leadership.

    The grillini are the products of this culture. Maybe the Wu Mings could have paid more attention to the Demos pre-election report (J. Bartlett et al., New political actors in Europe: Beppe Grillo and the M5S, 2013). From this report it emerges that the grillini have an above-average educational level, are internet-savvy. I would hazard a guess: they perhaps live with their parents, perhaps not, they don’t have a job, at least not a stable job, or they are self-employed and they are therefore persecuted by the tax authorities. They have plenty of time to spend on social media. I say this simply on the basis of working in a middle-sized provincial town in North-West Italy, nothing more. This guess may be accurate, as it probably reflects the reality all over Italy. Southern and Central Italy is full of young, qualified, unemployed with no prospect of employment until the last Baby Boomer drops dead. This would explain why the Grillo vote managed to achieve a national catchment area. In short, the grillini are ex-leftists who are snobbish to join the electorate of the Lega Nord or of Berlusconi. Chickens come home to roost.

  • 10 March 2013 at 4:21pm
    Userdafi says:
    ahahahaahaahahaha :P

    this is wonderful. It's getting better and better.

    So let me see if I got this "straight": The grillini are either a bunch of uneducated fascist morons or an horde of snobbish leftist nerds with a passion for social media (or,as in my case, Porn),a penchant for authoritarianism and a yearn for a charismatic leader (I would like mine to be well-endowed if possible, thnx!).

    The Grillini are either employed or not. Male or female. Tall or small. Gay or Straight. They live with their parents... or perhaps they don't.

    One thing is sure though. They are evil. For surely only an evil person would dare questioning our beloved "partitocracy".

    Lock your doors, hide your kids...the Grillini are coming!

    In the meantime, if you will excuse me I'm going to have a Kiki.

    Ciao Belli!

    • 15 March 2013 at 10:25am
      guido franzinetti says: @ Userdafi
      The high-pitched eloquence of Mr Userdafi cannot be matched.

      Meanwhile, back in the real, hard-copy world, there have been some interesting developments on the Italian theatrical scene.

      There appears to be no prospect of any government any time soon. Whatever the reasons, this means that the Monti government (which all political groups say they hate) remains in power, at least to carry out day-to-day business (which still means quite a few important decisions affecting millions of Italians).

      All political groups seem intent on making sure that they can avoid taking responsibility for new elections.

      This actually makes a lot of sense. After all, any government in power in Italy would have to (and will have to) take unpopular decisions. So it is much better for all political groups to have another year of technical or technocratic, unelected government (in other words, another Monti-style government).

      In case this scenario appears too fanciful, it is perhaps useful to remember that the Monti government was not imposed by a Turkish-style military coup, but fully supported by a parliament dominated by a solid centre-right majority, which did not have the stomach to govern in dire economic and financial straits. The centre-right does not have it now. The centre-left is hopelessly divided. The grillini have no reason to abandon their present position. After all, power without (government) responsibility is their favourite position. There is no alternative.

    • 19 March 2013 at 3:11pm
      Userdafi says: @ guido franzinetti
      "The high-pitched eloquence of Mr Userdafi cannot be matched"

      You think that's high-pitched? You should hear me in bed luv!

      what you call the "real, hard-copy world" is in fact the Montecitorio Village.

      The Montecitorio Bubble has very little to do with what is actually going on in the "real" Italy (whatever that might be)

      Surely the result of the election is proof enough of that, don't you think?

  • 11 March 2013 at 12:56am
    ander says:
    There's an apparently well-informed, and mercifully short editorial on Grillo at Scroll down past the one on Chavez, which is pretty good too.

  • 15 March 2013 at 11:32am
    Phil Edwards says:
    A Lib Dem friend once told me the party's secret strategy for gaining power (this was some time before 2010), and also explained the party's appalling record for unprincipled vote-chasing. The secret was the unprincipled vote-chasing: the strategy was to find out what people wanted (in any given location), offer to do it, get into power, then give the people more or less what they wanted and stay in power. A dialogue of the mutually bemused ensued:

    Wouldn't that mean promising different things to different people in different places?
    - Yes. Yes, it would. That's the whole point - people want different things in different places.
    But isn't that a bit unprincipled?
    - No. The principle is giving people what they want. The principle is democracy.
    Isn't there a danger you'll just end up listening to the people who shout the loudest?
    - Maybe, but surely that's better than not listening to anyone.
    What about if 'what the people want' is a crackdown on scruffy young people hanging around?
    - Well, if a minority of people are making life miserable for the majority, maybe there should be a bit of a crackdown.
    What about if 'the people' say they don't like immigrants?
    - Yes, well... I don't think that would ever happen.

    You'd be looking at Beppe Grillo for quite a while before you were reminded of Nick Clegg, but I do think there's something similar going on here. M5S populism is something like Lib Dem populism but with the liberal brakes off - and with an added boost from decades of "anti-political" sentiment, brought to a head by the double failure of the 'old politics' represented by the government led by Monti (who first confirmed the incapacity of the old parties to govern, and then found he couldn't get Italy out of crisis either - and discredited himself by the disastrous mis-step of allying himself with the old centre-right in the election).

    The key to Grillo - or one of the keys - is that, like the Lib Dems of old, he's "neither left nor right". Unlike them, he's taken that position to its logical conclusion, which is making his movement impossible to locate on the left or the right - not to say toxic to potential Left or Right allies. His policies on corruption, the environment and basic income, if they were the party's only policies, would put the M5S way out on the green, ethical Left of the Italian political spectrum, in the same region as Rivoluzione Civile (which got just over 1% of the vote to Grillo's 25%). At the same time, his policies on public services, the unions and immigration put him on the hard Right. I think this is entirely deliberate, and that the political (non-)positioning which results is the real point of the exercise; anyone who dismisses him as simply a right-wing populist is doing Grillo's work for him.

    • 19 March 2013 at 2:52pm
      Userdafi says: @ Phil Edwards
      "I think this is entirely deliberate, and that the political (non-)positioning which results is the real point of the exercise"

      For the life of me, I really can't understand why you guys are so unwilling to try to understand what is really going on here in Italy.

      Beppe's position is actually very simple: The M5S advocates regime change.

      The M5S wants to bring about a radical (albeit peaceful and democratic) transformation of the Italian Political System.

      Is that so difficult to understand?

      ps: so why do you think Ingroia got just over 1% of the vote then?

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