Italian election: Grillo is no joke

February 24, 2013 at 10:44 am (capitalist crisis, democracy, elections, Europe, fascism, immigration, Italy, Jim D, populism, Racism)

Comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement seems likely to do well in the Italian general election today and tomorrow. They may well win over 100 seats – sufficient to cause gridlock in the Italian lower house and senate, or a weak coalition likely to collapse within months. The Five Star Movement (Movemento Cinque Stelle or M5S) has not received much coverage in the British media, which is much more interested in the antics of Silvio Berlusconi. Today’s Observer carries an uncritical article that portrays Grillo and his followers as “anti-politics” populists of a democratic, even somewhat leftist, bent. But Toby Abse, writing in the present issue of the AWL’s Solidarity, paints a very different picture:

Beppe Grillo

Beppe Grillo: willing to work with neo-Nazis

Italy’s new right

The general election of 24-25 February will see the arrival in Italy’s parliament of a large contingent from a new political movement, the Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle or M5S) of the 64-year-old comedian Beppe Grillo.

This new entry will closely parallel the arrival of the Lega Nord in the Italian parliament of 1992. M5S represents an attack on the major political parties and the traditional political class (what the Italians call la casta) and M5S is an attack from the right, not from the left.

Many have perceived Grillo as a figure of the left because of his involvement with earlier anti-Berlusconi movements and demonstrations (such as V Day, V2 Day and No Cav Day), his use of new social media, and his espousal of a horizontalist rhetoric.

Grillo appeared to be aligned with such movements as Popolo Viola (the Purple People) and Se Non Ora Quando? (If not now, when? — a feminist movement that campaigned against Berlusconi’s sexism), which have also used social media to bypass Berlusconi’s near-stranglehold over the mainstream television channels.

Grillo has a good stance on environmental issues and has close links with the No Tav movement against the projected high speed rail link between Lyons and Turin, a movement more usually associated with the radical left.

The rise of Grillo and of such “horizontalist” movements as the Popolo Viola in 2010-11 was a consequence of the ineffectual opposition to Berlusconi by the “post-communist” Partito Democratico della Sinistra/Democratici di Sinistra/Partito Democratico (PDS/DS/PD) and the implosion of Rifondazione Comunista in 2008 in the wake of its disastrous decision to participate at cabinet level in the 2006-8 Prodi government.

However, beneath the superficially attractive surface, is a rightwing demagogue whose movement’s structures are as top-down and as authoritarian as the Lega Nord in the heyday of Umberto Bossi.

Grillo has publicly opposed the granting of Italian citizenship to the children of immigrants and proclaimed his willingness to work with CasaPound, an extremely violent neo-Nazi movement whose rules require all its members to read Mein Kampf but never to deny the Holocaust on Facebook.

CasaPound has a record of murderous attacks on black people — although it tried to distance itself from a member or ex-member who went on a killing spree against Senegalese in Florence — and recently mounted a premeditated physical attack on an election candidate of the radical left Rivoluzione Civile in the Lazio region.

In the course of the general election campaign, Grillo has expressed the view that there is no need for trade unions, provided workers are represented on company boards.

It is misguided to see Grillo’s call for Italy’s exit from the eurozone and return to the lira as progressive. It is all part of a xenophobic package in which “the Germans” rather than Angela Merkel are the object of attack. It presupposes a return to protectionism and competitive devaluations which may be in the interest of certain sections of Italian capital — especially small businesses of the kind that sympathised with the Lega Nord — but are contrary to the interests of the Italian working class, whose real wages would fall even further than they already have over the last decade.

For all its faults, Rivoluzione Civile, an electoral cartel that includes Rifondazione Comunista and the Italian Green Party, represents the only serious electoral opposition to the austerity imposed by the 13 months of Monti’s technocratic government, a government which enjoyed the support of both the PD and Berlusconi for all its anti-working class measures.

Voting for M5S to attack La Casta in 2013 is like voting for the Lega Nord in 1992-94 in response to Tangentopoli: a rightist, xenophobic, racist response to a real crisis of the system.

(NB: More excellent coverage of the Italian election over at Tendance Coatsey)


  1. dagmar said,

    It is bizarre that “use of new social media” can somehow be seen as being something of the left (or the right, or having very much to do with a particular political direction at all). One example, also from Italy: Wikipedia in Italy is largely a ‘far-right’ project.

  2. budgeteurotrip said,

    you don’t have a clue of what you are writing! M5S is not right-wing, racist and whatever you wrote here! Next time you r going to write something about politics, get more serious information!

    • Jim Denham said,


      The matter is very simply settled: Is the following…

      “Grillo has publicly opposed the granting of Italian citizenship to the children of immigrants and proclaimed his willingness to work with CasaPound, an extremely violent neo-Nazi movement whose rules require all its members to read Mein Kampf but never to deny the Holocaust on Facebook”…

      …true or not?

      • Uncle Tom said,

        I think part of this is untrue, I do not think Casa Pound promotes Mein Kampf. You will need a citation to support this.

        Italian fascism is not the same as German Nazism, though there is overlap.

      • Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        I’d also like a citation but Toby Abse teaches Italian politics and history and there is nothing at all implausible about a group that names itself after a fascist whose last propaganda broadcast from Nazi-occupied Italy began ‘Adolf Hitler Saint and Martyr…’ handing out copies of Mein Kampf.

      • Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        And there are indeed Italian neo-fascists who at least formally declare that Nazism was to Mussolini’s Fascism as we tend to claim Stalinism was to Leninism (which as with us doesn’t preclude them being besotted with the imagery of what they claim to theoretically reject, the issuing of partial apologias or just plain lying about the picture of the mustachioed dictator they keep in the draw).

        But these are now all members of whatever Berlusconi calls his coalition (a major founding constituent of which was the post-fascist Allianza Nazionale which was previously the openly neo-fascist MSI) or are in the tiny Strasserite Third Position grouping which also stood in the elections and got a fraction of 1%.

        The people associated with Casa Pound sound much more like common or garden neo-nazi thugs you’d see at any BNP or EDL event than anyone trying to set a distance (however dishonest and rhetorical) from Hitlerism.

        Choosing Ezra Pound as their patron saint tells you that immediately – as Pound was a fanatical anti-semite and racist who was always as much an admirer of Hitler as of Mussolini.

  3. Senato, risultati definitivi: vince il Pd con Pizzetti, perdono le estreme, male la Lega e il Pdl. Alle comunali si cambia maggioranza? M5S ago della bilancia? | Quaderni corsari said,

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  5. Uncle Tom said,

    As far as I understand, one guy from Casa Pound appeared on a Five-Star Movement electoral list and Grillo was confronted about it and said, “We are an ecumenical movement”, explaining that they had a basic reform agenda and it did not matter what your further ideology was as long as you were committed to that agenda.

    But, of course, this is provocative to the typical infantile Trot trolls who seem to think it is A-okay to claim every CIA-backed coup in the world is a “genuine workers’ revolution” and that anyone who opposes these are “anti-working-class”, while the new régimes always bend over to the IMF and destroy the economy worse than any dictators had. Many of these same Trot and anarchist trolls do not mind participating in strategic alliances with libertarians, ultra-Atlanticist and Zionist neoliberal imperialists, and the rest, so long as are not billed as “right-of-centre” in their country of residence…usually as long as they like gay marriage or something irrelevant. Even those who have the decency not to ally with such people will attempt to carry out regular conversations with them, not intervening every two seconds accusing that person of being a murderer.

    Yet, if you are mildly polite to one “fascist”, the world is over and you deserve to have some rent-a-mob throw bricks through your windows and egg your house.

    Get your priorities straight.

    PS: I probably would not have voted for Grillo’s party if I were Italian, but is the implication here that voting for the (Italian) Democrats is acceptable? They are pushing austerity, raising taxes and cutting benefits and wages to bail out the international banks, not Grillo and not Casa Pound!

    • Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce (Much More Bounce) OOps upside your Head this time with feeling said,

      fascist crankpott obviously

  6. Italian Elections: Internet, Grillo’s Blog and the Case of Media Freedom | Fakiha Hassan Rizvi said,

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  7. Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,


    depicts a very poorly assorted grab-bag of left and libertarian and green ideas but none (other than the obsessive anti-politics – and if I had been ruled by Berlusconi for much of the last two decades I’d be anti-politics as well) that are expressly or uniquely fascist.

    And given how amorphous the new party is of course the odd fascist will have seen it as a perfect subject for entrism.

    Given the utter collapse of the old left vote and pathetic 2.25% showing of Rivuluzione Civil it is fairly clear that a lot of former RC etc votes have gone to them,

    • Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      Having said that I didn’t spot Toby Abse’s authorship on first skim and know he is far far more knowledgeble about Italian politics than anyone who is likely to comment down here.

      I’d still like to see some actual references for his claims though.

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  14. Grillo en zijn Vijfsterrenclub | Ravotr said,

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