"...The weekly meetings with hundreds of people and lively discussions and debate where the members confronted each other democratically are over now.
“Once a month a leader indoctrinates 30 or so ‘fans’, awaiting a place on the lists for the next election. Many of the best activists in Genoa have abandoned the movement. We are dismounting from this machine as it no longer is what we started out with. Someone has decided to change it without agreement, to take a direction altogether different — so long.”
Thus reads the email sent last week by the 5-Star leader and two of his colleagues in the city council of Genova, Italy’s most historic working-class city.
It was but the latest episode and sign of the deepening crisis and possible disentragration of the formation launched in 2007 by the Genovese comic Beppe Grillo. It follows on from the ever-widening corruption scandal engulfing the movements latest and most conspicuous success, the recently elected first citizen of Rome
Also the debacle two weeks ago in which, having abandoned membership of the UKIP-led racist group of deputies in Brussels to join the Belgian-led liberals, Five Star was summarily rejected by the latter, and forced to return cap in hand to Farage on condition the group raised its already racist and anti-Europe profile and gave support to Putin and Trump.
And all of this just after such success in the December referendum, forcing the resignation of Renzi and the prospects of a Five Star victory in any new election.
Contrary to its self-mythologising the movement was not born from the base of a free association of “citizens” of the Internet. Rather from a business plan of the late Gian Roberto Casalaggio, renowned expert in internet communications and marketing and formerly of Webeggspa, a prestigious consulting company.
Founding his own company in 2004, Casaleggio Associati-Strategy he burnished his reputation as a modern wizard of the new technology by working with most of the world’s leading multinationals. In 2007 he met Beppe Grillo and decided to found a blog that within a remarkably short time became one of the most visited sites on the net.
The movement was born, growing sensationally around its programme of the radical overthrow of what it termed the “obscene and corrupt political order of the caste in power".
Casaleggio conducted himself as a sort of padre padrone or "grey Eminence”.
He had a ruthlessly clear aim to build, shape in both form and content the movement along the lines of the communication principles facilitated uniquely by the net and successfully employed in his business models.
At its heart is the rule “uno vale uno” (loosely translated as one person one vote) which simultaneously invoked the democratic unique autonomy and substance of each, while reductively hollowing out the "whole" to a relation of abstract "atoms". It was increasingly a means of controlling any form of challenge to the imperatives of "teamwork", adherence to "functional units" deployed to fulfil the array of centrally-imposed single tasks, or the "meetups" to confirm the "responsibility" or less of the elected officers in fulfilling their targets.
Totally absent was the idea and practice of democratic representation, delegacy, via a structure of integrated, regulated face-to-face assembly. A process which through debate and decision-making could create a higher plain of centralised decision making a democratic and effective means of forging a collective voice, the principled and necessary condition for a united line of march of the organisation.
The Grillo phenomenon therefore can be best be understood as the latest stage of the "commercialisation" of politics in Italy, similar to Berlusconi and his media industry. However 5 Star also purports to be a phenomenon of protest, representing a commercialisation, a "business" of dissent” — a way of converting the massive and just anger and hate for the ruling order into a cynical and lying marketing ploy.
The operation has increasingly encountered opposition. At least 30 of its deputies from both of Italy’s partliamentary houses have either been expelled or resigned. Thousands more have abandoned the movement as the evertightenig bureaucratic if not oligarchic grip has tightened in direct proportion to its electoral success.
The slow but constant evolution into a bourgeois party of a populist force is hardly something new. The openly expressed hatred its leaders have exhibited for the organised working class and trad eunion principle, its open racist embrace are the surest gurantee that cn the elctoral period ahead, the Five Star outfit will remain a bulwark of the Italian social order.
That it will almost certainly retain the desperate electoral support of millions of the most oppressed testifies cruelly to the real state of affairs, materially, politically and culturally.
All this underlines once more just how far the Italian left has been consigned to an historic irrelevance.