Grillo and Grillism

, by Giorgio Anselmi, Translated by Alice Stradi

All the versions of this article: [English] [italiano]

Grillo and Grillism

“There’s only one way to avoid great disillusions: not to have great delusions.” European federalists really didn’t need Schopenhauer’s warning in order to abandon any hope of evolution of the national State. The Ventotene Manifesto had already told us that without a European Federation we would fall back into the “old aporeias”. There isn’t certainly any coincidence that the deepest and most severe critique of the Nations’ decay came from the Italian federalists. In Italy it’s constantly in front of us, every single day of the year.

This is not the place to remember the phases of that involution, especially considering that we’ve always firmly defended the italian Unification against the secessionist sirens. However, we do have the right to underline the fact that the Italian State’s issues were born with it. We’re on 1861. The Kingdom of Italy has just seen the light. Just as they are doing in these days, the newly elected members of the Parliament of the time get to Turin, the first capital of the Kingdom. Among them there’s Ferdinando Petruccelli della Gattina, from Basilicata. He’ll be sitting on the benches of the opposition because of his ideological proximity with Mazzini. He fought for the Italian unification and he now participates with confidence to this first reunion of the delegates of the Nation. The following year he will publish a book on his experience as a congressman: I Moribondi di Palazzo Carignano (Moribund People in Palazzo Carignano). There hadn’t only been a passage, as Croce said, from the Poetry of the Risorgimento (the Italian Unification) to the prose of the administration. 150 years after, it sounds just like the complaints of Rizzo and Stella on the Italian “casta” (the caste).

But let’s turn back to the present. In summer 2011, when Berlusconi and his cabinet were in undeniable crisis, we wrote on these very same pages that Italy was seriously ill and that the cure would be long and painful. In the last 40 years, our country has been under the effect of two powerful drugs: the devaluation, that allowed the country to periodically gain some competitiveness and save the economy; and an increasing public debt that ensured the approval of the citizens, the inflation having been limited by the adhesion to the EMF.

The first shock dates back to the 90s. Even then the bitter medicines handed out first by the Amato Cabinet and then by the Ciampi Cabinet avoided the worse, but “Tangentopoli” and the crisis of the First Republic’s parties led to the rise of a new politician capable of making a so-called coalition and of winning the elections: Berlusconi. The last twenty years have been marked by the presence of the Cavaliere. His political outline can be described as eurosceptic, but characterized by ambiguity and opportunism, both very typical of him. Once in the eurozone, it was very convenient for him to pay German-like interest rates on the public debt and at once to avoid painful responses in terms of popularity and votes. The economic crisis and the war on debt, together with personal behaviours that made a laughing stock of him for the whole world, finally obliged the “Cavaliere” to quit.

The Monti Cabinet, with all the restrictions of his “weird majority”, was an emergency surgeon, as the Prime Minister himself has recognized. Twenty years after, the downfall has once again been avoided, and for the second time a mix of austerity and political paralysis of the parties has created a new political phenomenon: Beppe Grillo. As all the populist parties, his Movimento 5 Stelle has ideas at once confused and contradictory. It would nevertheless be a mistake not to make a distinction between these two products of the degeneration of the Italian State. Thanks to Hamilton, we can now realize how the changes in the international order have an influence on the structures of power in the national States. The berlusconismo (“Berlusconi-mania”) was a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall, of the triumph of deregulated liberism and American monopolarism. The success of M5S is also due to the systemic and structural crisis of the occidental world due to that very same globalization. Furthermore, the EMF project and its initial success kept in a European context the self-sufficient and anarchic ambitions of berlusconismo.

Today the European unification itself is to be in danger. Under the pressure of the markets the governments have prepared measures that can save the Euro, but acting so they also put the national democracy on standby without giving in return a European democracy. We’ve become a no-man’s land. The national democratic organs become on a daily basis more helpless and deprived of authority, and from a European point of view choices are always more perceived as an imposition of certain nations upon others. Also, the recovery of the national government budgets had no European relaunch to be counterbalanced with.

“Grillism” (from the name of the leader of the movement, Beppe Grillo) is a confused, ruffled and even chaotic reaction to this situation. On one hand, it conveys some ideas that go in the right direction: fight against corruption and crime, opposition to the excesses of the financial world, new model of development, minimum wage, respect for the environment, attention to the quality of life rather than to the quantity of goods. On the other hand, some other aspects are alarming if not scary, such as the cult of personality, the refusal of confrontation, the Euro referendum, the claim to get 100% of the votes, the sneaking protectionism, the intolerance for some constitutional limits, the veiled or not-so-veiled contempt for some institutions. To these new political actors the federalists will have to assume the pedagogical role that they’ve always exercited with everybody. Pajetta once allowed a prefecture to be occupied to respond to Scelva’s oppressive policy. Then Togliatti told him “Bravo! And now what do you do with it?”. It will therefore be necessary for the grillini (Grillo’s supporters) to understand that it’s hard to deal with “little Italy” and that they’ll also be crashed under its old and new vices, if they don’t convert to a European perspective; therefore, they’d better avoid having flights of fancy from the very beginning.

The incoming weeks will be a test bench. The temptation to get to new elections and score a higher percentage will be extremely strong. If that was the case, we could assist to that mix of impossibility to rule the country and new elections that starting from 1930 led the Weimar Republic to its own ruin. On the other hand, President Napolitano will without a doubt suggest plenty of ways for the M5S to take some responsibilities and contribute to save Italy and Europe. This obviously doesn’t concern “Movimento 5 Stelle” only, but also all the other political forces. This certainly won’t be enough. We need a strong push from Europe; better, from the Eurozone. UK’s self-exclusion removed the obstacle that Germany and France have often used to justify their inaction. The Commission and the Parliament is finally waking up. It’s not thanks to slogans and gags that Italy will not implode.

It is necessary to act and to do it straight away. Federalists, by means of the petition to the European Parliament and of the launch of an ECI to develop a European Program of sustainable development (European Plan for sustainable development - twitter account @ECIeurdevplan) have clearly shown the way to follow. We don’t want to see our good reasons recognized once it’s too late.

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