Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Italy: Grillo, the Five Stars Movement, Fascism, and their SWP and Counterfire Fans.

with 11 comments


Left Wing ‘Coalition of Resistance’?

For the left the Italian elections results were deeply disappointing.

The left bloc, Rivoluzione Civile, got the results below, and  failed to enter Italy’s elected Chambers.

Chamber of Deputies
Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
2013 765,172 2.25
/ 630
Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
12 of
overall seats won
2013 549,987 1.79
/ 315



More worrying is the rise of the Five Star (Cinque Stelle) Movement (M5S)  led by Beppe Grillo.

They got  the most number of votes in the Chamber,  25.5% of the overall and 109 of the 630 seats. In the Senate, it was second overall and  got  54 of the 135 Senate seats.

This from the Guardian’s Comment is Free is good place to start to look at this result,

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 multimillionaires. Had it known Grillo, Occupy would have included him as well. In Italy, Grillo is part of the 1%.

Comrade Toby Abse writes (it is essential to read the article in full),

…more attention needs to be paid to Beppe Grillo and M5S, particularly in view of the SWP’s appalling stance on this question. The 64-year-old stand-up comedian – whose own tax records would probably bear no scrutiny like so many of his ilk – is no ‘leftwinger’ and his shadowy media advisers in Casaleggio Associates, who make Peter Mandelson look like a model of transparency, used to have rightwing associations.

He has courted the violent neo-Nazis of CasaPound, having at least one friendly meeting with their representatives.3 Grillo has repeatedly expressed hostility to trade unions, arguing that all workers need are representatives on company boards.

This is how Socialist Worker described the Five Stars Movement,

The only party with anything to celebrate was the left wing, anti-corruption, Five Star Movement.

Led by former comedian Beppe Grillo, this new party picked up a quarter of the votes.

If anything Counterfire makes a worse misjudgement.

They compare Five Stars to the British  left-wing and union Coalition of Resistance.

Populism” is the word being used to describe Grillo and the Cinque Stelle, the sort of condescending label that tells you very little – though it’s an improvement on the Guardian‘s description of them as “irrelevant”, which must surely rank as one of the more grotesque political miscalculations of recent times, even by that newspaper’s standards. In fact the movement is more like an amalgam of campaigns, many of them civic or environmental. And it’s rooted in opposition to the corruption and cronyism endemic in much of Italian political life.

The origins are local and its roots are in local activity. Back in 2009 in Florence there was the first national meeting of Comuni a Cinque Stelle (roughly translatable as Five-Star Councils) aimed at linking up local campaigns for proper public water supply, sanitation, control of building, clean energy and so on. Basic issues which united people across the usual party boundaries. You could describe it as a movement of active citizenship, but also as a sort of coalition of resistance.

Dave Broder’s letter to the Guardian yesterday nailed this lie.

I challenge the assertion that Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement poses an alternative to the dogma of austerity. Following the ex-comedian’s friendly televised meeting with the fascist CasaPound group, his calls for trade unions to be “wiped out”, and his complaints about migrant communities settling in Italy, it should be obvious that the large M5S vote is small-minded and defeatist, rather than some new voice of hope for the working class and poor. Italy may be driving in the wrong direction, but this “fuck everything” demagogue trying to grasp at the steering wheel does no favours to those on the receiving end of austerity.
David Broder
Rome, Italy

Jim Denham points out the “extraordinary degeneracy” of those on the British left who think that Cinque Stelle is ‘progressive’.

M5S is linked with CasaPound (named after Ezra Pound, who backed Mussolini to the hilt, and was mired in profound antisemitism).

CasaPound had received a lot of publicity in Europe (see Dans la maison des néofascistes italiens from Le Monde’s Rome correspondent earlier this year).

Clearly nobody would want to reduce Cinque Stelle to this connection.

But what do the British SWP and Counterfire think they are doing giving such indulgence to a group with these ties?

With this (Wikipedia),

The name, inspired by the poet Ezra Pound, in particular, refers to his Cantos against usury, the economic positions of critical both to capitalism and Marxism and its membership of the Italian Social Republic. References political association are more specifically related fascist ideology, with particular attention to the Manifesto of Verona, the Labour Charter of 1927 and social legislation of Fascism itself. The chosen symbol is a stylized turtle, the shell octagonal.


11 Responses

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  1. Good links and analysis.

    But my bet is that SWPers/Counterfirers don’t know what Wikipedia is.

    And they probably think Ezra Pound was just a misunderstood “anti-Zionist”!

    modernity's ghost

    March 1, 2013 at 7:17 pm

  2. Was pleased to Rosario Crocetta elected to the senate, if only because it will really piss off the Mafia.

    But really that’s just me clutching at straws to have anything positive to say about this rather depressing election. Perhaps the most we can hope for in the short term in Italy is the collapse of the 5 Star Movement under the weight of it’s many internal contradictions, providing an opening for the more genuine and consistent anti-establishment/anti-corruption politics of Civil Revolution to break through.

    As I say, clutching at straws…


    March 2, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    • Mario Tronti, the intellectual parent of ‘operaismo’ (left Marxist) got elected too, as a Senator, under the Partito Democratico (the centre-left former Communist) banner.


      Make of that what we will.

      Andrew Coates

      March 2, 2013 at 1:43 pm

  3. Re Ezra Pound the important thing about selecting him as a icon is that he was an ardent anti-semite and worshipper of Hitler even before official Fascism threw in its lot with the Nazis in 1938 (up to that point there were still Jews in senior positions in the Fascist party, Mussolini himself threatened war against Germany when it launched its first attempt to takeover Austria in 1934 etc – none of which is in any way a defence of fascism which was engaged in its own atrocious colonial wars in Libya and Ethiopia even before it fully adopted Nazi racism) and he remained so even after WW2 corresponding with white power terrorists in the USA when he was semi-incarcerated in a lunatic asylum there.

    So the Casa Pound were by choosing that name deliberately disassociating themselves from all the so-called ‘post-fascists’ who continue to try and distinguish ‘good’ Italian from ‘bad’ German fascism (and who actually form a very significant part of Berlusconi’s coalition) as well as from the Strasserite Third Position types who are openly racist and anti-semitic but for whom Hitler was just not revolutionary enough.

    As for Grillo implying that he is a crypto-fascist is I think premature

    If he resembles anyone at all on the historical right its more Mussolini’s narcissistic precursor d’Annunzio (like Grillo a popular anti-establishment celebrity rather than a politician) who also tried to ride an anti-politics wave into power but who without Benito’s thorough training in the pre-WW1 PSI and Second International just lacked the organisational skills and sheer brutality to succeed.

    But I am actually rather more reminded of the Berlusconi who Grillo so loathes and who also swept into power by exploiting the inchoate mass discontent with politics after Tangentopoli (that he achieved this feat despite himself being a prime mover in its corruption is itself an extraordinary testimony to the power of modern mass media to convince a nation that 2+2 does in fact equal 5).

    But whereas for Berlusconi for all his eccentricities represented and in government served real class interests, with Grillo I suspect that if you remove the demagogic mask there may be nothing behind it at all and that his whole ‘movement’ will evaporate as as rapidly as it appeared – although like d’Annunzio’s following elements of it may be left behind to rally behind someone much, much worse

    • Exactly Roger and thanks for the information.

      Here is an interesting article on CasaPound, which makes one prediction to begin with that has come true,

      “You’d be forgiven for thinking that a group of zine-publishing techie squatters into rock music, baiting the state and defending the working class were part of the anarchist left. But, writes the Moyote Project, Italy’s Casa Pound movement is symptomatic of the radical right’s growing ability to assimilate progressive agendas into a toxic and populist political brew.”


      Anti-National Translation has some good links about them as well: http://antigerman.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/casa-pound/

      Andrew Coates

      March 2, 2013 at 5:20 pm

  4. And yay for the Wu Ming Foundation whose CiF piece you link to – huge fan of the novel Q which they published as ‘Luther Blissett’,

  5. Nazis (National Socialists) are only on the right compared to communists.

    M. Simon

    March 3, 2013 at 3:33 pm

  6. “the most we can hope for in the short term in Italy is the collapse of the 5 Star Movement under the weight of it’s many internal contradictions”

    There is hope. Mussolini collapsed under the weight of his contradictions. Well it required an allied advance and a German retreat. But fortunately there are no Iranian troops in Italy. Yet.


    M. Simon

    March 3, 2013 at 7:28 pm

  7. probably, Rees, German & Co. see in Grillo the new Galloway (the first time as farce, the second time as tragedy) … the comrades of the ICT make the following observation:

    a Grillo moving to the left of Bersani – so to speak – with a programme as clear as it was demagogic, which, in a certain way, reminds us of the programme of early Fascism in 1919 (and it is no coincidence that they verbally stood on the left too), in short, a confused programme expressing the aversion of large sections of the population to traditional politics, as well as the class struggle.


    March 5, 2013 at 1:32 am

    • Its good reminder that they’re no better than the SWP.

      Talking of which, there’s lot to catch up on about that!

      How about a famous Enty link list on the SWP crisis – a full one, not the shrivelled Jepps one.

      Andrew Coates

      March 5, 2013 at 12:49 pm

  8. Almost one year is gone, and what do you see? The only real opposition is the 5 stars movement, ’cause all others are parasites! In few yewars is the 3rd time they made a freak government without making vote peoples… they are betrayers of the Constitution and the only force acting against them is by the movement.


    February 27, 2014 at 11:18 pm

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