Italy’s Five Star movement, which announced its arrival on the political scene as the harbinger of a new, modern “non-ideological” Italy, cleansed of the filth and corruption of the “old”, has just joined forces with the right-wing populist UKIP in the European Parliament.
After weeks of “democratic” debate, and a online referendum, it was announced last week that Five Start leader Beppe Grillo and UKIP’s Nigel Farage had managed to fish from the sewers of Europe’s political right the minimum of 48 representatives necessary to constitute a parliamentary group of Euro deputies.
Among the new bedfellows of the 24 UKIP and 17 Five Star MEPs are an elected Le Pen deputy, Joelle Bergeron, several from Lithuania’s “Order and Justice” party, a few from Sweden’s ultra-racist “Democrats”, and a few more of the same ilk from the Czech extreme right.
They share a visceral opposition to Europe and to immigration, differing only in the virulence of their racist utterances or, in the case of Grillo and his friends, the degree of philistine self-delusion that “racism” is just another “old” ideology.
Nothing since the galloping victory of Renzi a few weeks ago could more urgently underline the debacle that is now being played out in the Italian left and working class movement. The Grillo phenomenon was, in its origins, a cry of anger and protest from millions of the most downtrodden. In less than two years, amidst the unresolved political and economic crisis, Grillo now increasingly figures as the aspiring right-wing opposition, following the collapse of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the Five Star haemorrhage of three million votes.
And the left that in the same European elections claimed that the positive performance of the Tsipras campaign marked a turning point in the direction of building a Syriza movement in Italy?
Fine words, but the campaign’s largest politically organised component, SEL led by the governor of Puglia, Nichi Vendola, has split. Its deputies and senators prefer to “tough it out” in the battle to persuade Renzi, and the left of his party to throw a few crumbs more to the masses.
Nothing surprising here, given that in two-thirds of the country the so called radical left, Vendola’s outfit and Ferrero’s Communist Refoundation, are in alliance with Renzi’s Democrats in local, regional and provincial councils.
But the picture is even blacker in “red” Livorno, historically the most left-wing city in the country. In order to defeat the Democratic Party candidate in the second round of the recent mayoral elections, the whole of the radical left backed the Five Star movement, the leader of which declared not so long ago that the local steelworks of 3,000 workers should be closed and trade unions abolished. Little wonder that the fascist right in the city voted for the Grillo candidate!
The shameful spectacle of political impotence and retreat continues. And all this despite real, courageous battles and struggles going on, especially from sections of the remarkable base unions and others. The need for revolutionary clarity, theory and organisation was never more burningly obvious than in Italy today.