• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Italian Job

A triumph of “populism”; a hung Parliament; “ungovernable” Italy; Berlusconi’s demise; the latest chapter in the “end of socialist parties” European saga. Italy’s latest elections were a roller coaster featuring plenty of thrills. Yet the top political nugget is unmistakable; only one coalition may aspire to an absolute majority, an – unlikely – alliance between the populist Five Star Movement and the extreme-right League, led by Matteo Salvini.

That’s what actually will be hangin’ in the air for the next – long – days; arguably as many as 51, according to a projection by JP Morgan relayed by Bloomberg. “Europe”, meanwhile, will also be hangin’ in the balance, as Italy is the third largest economy in the eurozone.

The Italian race was a highly personalized affair, centered on four stars; former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi – the Italian Tony Blair – of the center-left PD; the larger than life Silvio “bunga bunga” Berlusconi of the right-wing Forza Italia; populist Five Star leader Luigi di Maio; and extreme-right Lega leader Matteo Salvini.

As for Sergio Mattarella, the president of the Italian Republic, he will have to pull nothing less than a magic trick to come up with a government.

“Italy for Italians”

With nearly 32% of the votes, the populist Five Star Movement is now the top party of a largely fractured Italy. 5S won largely in the south while Lega won largely in the north. Rejection of Traditional Politics was the winner overall. As for the PD, they even managed to lose historically leftist Emilia-Romagna.

Five Star’s platform features a promise to lower taxes – which in Italy tend to hover around a Dante-esque lower circle of hell; set up an universal minimum wage; raise pensions; revise the terms of “hire and fire”; invest in new technologies; cut off red tape for business; and on the crucial immigration issue, come up with more bilateral treaties to increase repatriation of immigrants.

Contrary to alarmist hysteria, Italy is not exactly sinking. The fundamentals are actually solid. GDP went up 1.5% in 2017 – twice the rate of Rome’s forecasts. Of course that’s much less than the 2.5% European average – but still that’s Italy’s best score in ten years, when the nation was mostly mired in a horrible recession. Industrial production went up by 3%, and exports by 7% – leading to a trade surplus of 48 billion euros.

Still, the center-left coalition, in power since 2013, ended up in smithereens. The PD will hardly recover. Blair clone Renzi, the party’s secretary, might as well say goodbye, as the stigma of “loser” will not vanish.

Indeed, this election result might as well represent the end of a historical cycle of socialist parties – only in name – in power; their demise is due to the simple fact they went hardcore neoliberal. The PD most likely will turn into an opposition radical chic minority vehicle for sectors of the educated middle class paying lip service to “humanitarian values”. Definitely not a mass party.

All eyes are focused on whether Five Stars leader Luigi di Maio – who succeeded founder Beppe Grillo – will bow out to a political alliance.

5S may be entering a new, more moderate, phase; in fact they will have to, otherwise their “change you can believe in” narrative simply won’t be implemented (even as they insist nothing can change with those corrupt political parties in place.)

5S have been presented with a historical chance to actually rule. As much as there’s a fierce internal struggle between the orthodox and the “governists”, they would hardly trade this electoral gift for playing the role of opposition.

As for the 45-year-old Milanese Salvini, he was rewarded for a master political coup. Salvini erased “Nord” from the party’s name and got rid of the green representing wealthy – and largely mythical – Padania to the benefit of a nationalist/populist blue. And he bet on campaigning hard on immigration – in the process thoroughly overtaking its right-wing ally, Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

Salvini was praised by Marine le Pen and fully supported by Steve Bannon. He even conquered large swathes of southern Italy, promising only 15% in taxes and protection for Italian olive oil from Northern African competition. Sporting sweatshirts emblazoned with “Italy for Italians”, his tirades against “clandestine” immigrants, Nigerian drug dealers, the euro, Islam and homosexual liaisons were wildly popular.

Exit bunga-bunga?

And that brings us to the fate of Silvio “Il Cavaliere” Berlusconi, cutting quite a lonely figure in his seventh electoral campaign, something totally against his glamour-drenched historical script. He rambled on like a scratched CD. He lost his mojo. He was heavily criticized even by his – much younger – allies. And the worst – from his point of view – happened; the Lega boomed yet that was still not enough to propel his alliance towards a large majority.

Silvio could always come up with a last-minute cliffhanger – an alliance with Renzi. Too little, too late.

This election graphically represented the fear, anger and distress of millions of Italians threatened by de-industrialization and under-employment – all victims of the “disciplines of the euro”, which translate as “austerity” and its catalogue of ills. Italy’s economy remains a whopping 6% smaller than in 2008, when the crisis hit.

Brussels was the ultimate loser, big time. Those mediocre Eurocrats never asked themselves any questions regarding the roots of Italy’s extreme distress as well as myriad problems plaguing the industrial North-agrarian South divide. High unemployment and low growth may increase budget deficits. The easy answer is Brussels-imposed welfare cuts – but the real answer would be fighting white-collar corruption, the banking casino and Mafiosi deals.

The EU as it stands has lost any memory of its immeasurably complex ties with the civilization that forged the Best of the West – from the Roman empire to the Renaissance.

Meanwhile, it’s Circus Maximus time. Even as Salvini insists there will be no coalition and the center-right will rule by itself, Italy may even wake up one of these days to a political outlook closer to Hungary’s Orban than Germany’s Frau Merkel. The real Italian Job would be the surge of an anti-Brussels coalition of convenience between 5S and Lega. As Cicero would have it, stranger things have happened in the magic peninsula.

More articles by:

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).  His latest book is Empire of ChaosHe may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
Christopher Fons – Conor McMullen
The Centrism of Elizabeth Warren
Nino Pagliccia
Peace Restored in Ecuador, But is trust?
Rebecca Gordon
Extorting Ukraine is Bad Enough But Trump Has Done Much Worse
Kathleen Wallace
Trump Can’t Survive Where the Bats and Moonlight Laugh
Clark T. Scott
Cross-eyed, Fanged and Horned
Eileen Appelbaum
The PR Campaign to Hide the Real Cause of those Sky-High Surprise Medical Bills
Olivia Alperstein
Nuclear Weapons are an Existential Threat
Colin Todhunter
Asia-Pacific Trade Deal: Trading Away Indian Agriculture?
Sarah Anderson
Where is “Line Worker Barbie”?
Brian Cloughley
Yearning to Breathe Free
Jill Richardson
Why are LGBTQ Rights Even a Debate?
Jesse Jackson
What I Learn While Having Lunch at Cook County Jail
Kathy Kelly
Death, Misery and Bloodshed in Yemen
Maximilian Werner
Leadership Lacking for Wolf Protection
Arshad Khan
The Turkish Gambit
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Rare Wildflower vs. Mining Company
Dianne Woodward
Race Against Time (and For Palestinians)
Norman Ball
Wall Street Sees the Light of Domestic Reindustrialization
Ramzy Baroud
The Last Lifeline: The Real Reason Behind Abbas’ Call for Elections
Binoy Kampmark
African Swine Fever Does Its Worst
Nicky Reid
Screwing Over the Kurds: An All-American Pastime
Louis Proyect
“Our Boys”: a Brutally Honest Film About the Consequences of the Occupation
Coco Das
#OUTNOW
Cesar Chelala
Donald Trump vs. William Shakespeare
Ron Jacobs
Calling the Kettle White: Ishmael Reed Unbound
Stephen Cooper
Scientist vs. Cooper: The Interview, Round 3 
Susan Block
How “Hustlers” Hustles Us
Charles R. Larson
Review: Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”
David Yearsley
Sunset Songs
October 17, 2019
Steve Early
The Irishman Cometh: Teamster History Hits the Big Screen (Again)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail