Wu Ming vs Beppe Grillo

flopping fish

Italian opposition to austerity. That’s Ireland as well underneath – just lying there looking a bit stunned.


As giddy as I am about the drubbing that unelected fiscal superintendent and senator for life Mario Monti received in Italy in the weekend’s elections, it remains the case that Beppe Grillo’s pan-ideological Five Star Movement (M5S) is no genuine alternative to Bersmontilusconism.

I don’t have time until the end of the week to write much about the results, but for now, a link to the Italian writers’ collective Wu Ming, who do a good job taking Grillo down in this brief post – especially reminding us of the continued imposition of austerity by Parma’s M5S mayor elected last year, Federico Pizzarotti. (One should also note Grillo’s flirtation with the far-right Casa Pound outfits) – will have to suffice.

Italy remains, like Ireland, a stunned fish flopping about on the fishing-boat deck of European austerity: not really liking what’s going on, but not knowing what to do about it either.

“We did not have a movement comparable to the Spanish #indignados or to the #Occupy protests. We did not have anything comparable to the ‘Je lutte des classes’ struggle against reforms to the pension system,” write Wu Ming. “Our Tahrir Squares, our Puertas del Sol, our Syntagma Squares remained empty. In short, we did not fight back.”


The original post in Italian is here:



  1. #1 by Craig Willy on February 27, 2013 - 10:16 am

    Hmm. It depends what the objective is. If the M5S is serious about a referendum on the euro, that will mean change. That it is not a left-wing movement I think is not an argument against its potentially transformative power.

  2. #2 by Maggie G on February 27, 2013 - 7:49 pm

    We must look how Italy get into this slum: It was by NATO controled Operation Gladio which stands behind assassination of Aldo Moro, Olof Palme and also Iran Contra. Gladio goes hand by hand with P2. And P2 member is Berlusconi. The country was run by criminals who achieved their goal by terrorism. There’s a book abou it: Puppetmasters: The Political Use of Terrorism in Italy.

    Hence Grillo’s promise to revisit all international treaties including NATO membership, free trade agreements and the most notably the Euro, with a referendum – providing ample opportunities for potshots at Chancellor Merkel, playing to a revived anti-German sentiment originating in the Nazi occupation of Italy. Hence Grillo’s proposals for ‘citizen’s wage’ for the unemployed, support for small and medium sized businesses, a strengthened say for small shareholders while demanding a clamp down on financial speculation and executive greed. Hence his call to reverse cuts to health and education. But Grillo is also strong on issues fundamental to a functioning democracy, like a law on the conflict of interest (targeting Berlusconi), which explicably the centre-Left failed to implement when in government. True he is silent on tax, and the big economic issues, like the role of public spending and government activism in kick starting growth and job creation, and the roll back in labour rights. And overall his policies – developed, like the Pirate parties of northern Europe – by activists via the web, lack detail. But the fact that far more left-wing voters (accounting for 40% of his supporters according to one survey) than right wingers swung behind him is telling.

  3. #3 by Maggie G on February 27, 2013 - 8:40 pm

    A popular view of the crisis in the eurozone is that it is a balance of payments crisis caused by the growing gap in competitiveness between core and periphery countries. This view is equally used to validate austerity-based national policies repressing domestic consumption, as well as pleas for leaving the euro to regain competitiveness through currency depreciation.

    This view is based on two (unwarranted) concerns. The first is that a rise in net exports is the best strategy for getting out of recession. This is obviously not true, as fiscal policy is an alternative (and more effective) solution. Yet, the attempt to use exports to drive demand is functional to the refusal to use fiscal expansion.

    The second is that trade deficit countries face an unsustainable growing foreign debt. The reality is that all a trade deficit entails is an increased stock of currency-denominated savings held abroad. When this stock happens to be greater than desired, the currency will depreciate. Unless the country specifically negotiates a loan (like Britain in the 1940s), no increase in foreign debt is needed to match the trade deficit.

    Rather, trade surpluses (not deficits) need to be funded.

    In Euroland, for example, the trade surpluses of core countries have been funded by bank loans, and ultimately government deficits of peripheral countries.

    Dr. Terzi is a Professor of Economics and coordinator of the Mecpoc Project at Franklin College Switzerland.

  4. #4 by Maggie G on February 27, 2013 - 8:45 pm

    “In Euroland, for example, the trade surpluses of core countries have been funded by bank loans, and ultimately government deficits of peripheral countries.”

    Yes, German export is main cause of all that mess as German corporations pay no taxes inside EU. They actually siphooning money out of public sector of peripheral countries because those people must taking care about infrastructure and security but there is no equal money comming back in taxes.
    Beppe Grillo is right.

  5. #5 by Leigh Phillips on February 28, 2013 - 1:23 am

    Craig – That’s a sound point. I’ll flesh out my argument in a few days. I think that a referendum on the euro at least would at least be a serious challenge to the austerian status quo, for sure.

    But I am quite torn on the issue of dissolution of the euro.

    On the one hand, yes, were Greece or Italy to pull out of the euro, one might think that it would benefit them in their being able to externally devalue. There are many characters within Syriza’s left that make precisely this argument.

    On the other hand, our economies are so interwoven now that this really does mean something on the level of autarky for Greece (which does not really produce much ‘stuff’ domestically). Italy would be better off, admittedly, with its stronger industrial base.

    Additionally, is a series of beggar-thy-neighbour competitive devaluations (which would happen within weeks or days of a single country leaving) really the solution?

    For me, the solution is a Europe-wide democratic transformation.

    Which means that resistance may begin in Greece and Italy and the rest of the periphery, but it *must* pass through Germany and the rest of the core.

    The most important ideological task at the moment, IMHO, is an overhaul of the public discussion in Germany. The SPD and the Greens are not up to the task (indeed, the German Greens can be some of the most fiscally and anti-democratically reactionary – and ignorant – characters as far as eurozone response crisis is concerned). Some of the work by Die Linke trying to change minds within Germany is interesting, but they really need to step up their game. Even they appear to be captured to some extent by the rigid limits of economic discourse in Germany.

    And true international governance is not only necessary (to deal with everything from the internet to trade to climate change), but its construction is happening already without democracy whether we like it or not (from the WTO to the UN Security Council and ICC to even the International Whaling Commission) – where everything is decided on a treaty-basis, not a legislative basis.

    The fight must be for a construction of true democratic international governance structures, not retreat to national solutions.

  6. #6 by Leigh Phillips on February 28, 2013 - 1:33 am

    Maggie – Your narrative of the construction of the crisis is not wrong, although I have a few quibbles. But I’m not a fan of the conspiracy-mongering regarding Operation Gladio and P2. Ridiculous waste of time bothering about this stuff.

    I’ll write more about the problems with Grillo in a few days.

  7. #7 by Roger Cole on March 4, 2013 - 6:33 pm

    There is no European people, no European demos, so what do you mean by a “Europe-wide democratic transformation”? In fact, all the EU or the European Empire is now offering is perpetual austerity at home and perpetual war abroad. In North Africa and the Middle East it does so by supporting Muslim fanatics in Syria and opposing them in Mali. The only common rationale being never ending war.

  8. #8 by Marc on March 4, 2013 - 9:15 pm

    If we need democratic international governance structures, first we must disband the undemocratic Eurosoviet Union.

    And all these plans for the Eurozone always seem to hinge on Germany and my country Netherlands having to pay far more. NOT GONNA HAPPEN!

    There is no free lunch, and if they don’t like our medicine, they can always get out of the Euro which ironically would make them better off and us worse off.

    Better for my country would be if we got out of the Euro. This terrible rich-enriching and poor-impoverishing currency must be destroyed.