Alex Foti on Thu, 15 Mar 2018 12:31:09 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> the new spaghetti polarity

hi boys, hi sisters,

i don't feel any more italian than i feel european. i think i have more in common with somebody living in Liège or Barcelona than somebody living in the Italian provinces (invariably nightmarish from Lombardy to Calabria). so i don't claim i have a special grasp of the italian mind (wotever it is) and altho i happen to be born here and speak the language, i don't particularly feel connected to my own 'people' (yes i do eat pasta, no i didnt cheer zidane gettin kicked out).

Still March 4 was a watershed in Italian modern history. The Second Republic (in existence since Bribesville and the rise of Berlusconi and Prodi in the 1990s) has crumbled along with its protagonists: Forza Italia and Ulivo-PD. The ante-litteram macronian Renzi is the biggest loser, but his left critics have evaporated, while Berlusconi was surpassed by evil nazipopulist Salvini with his Lega ('Nord' was dropped in a successful bid to make the party national - it can be now considered equivalent to Front National in France and Austria's FDP). The clear winner is the 5-Star Movement, which scored almost a third of the votes and in many areas of the Mezzogiorno got absolute majority. Even if Salvini got 18% of votes, he leads a coalition that has more seats than M5S in parliament. Thus there's two contenders for power and no clear majority in sight: hence the current stalemate. Many activists (myself included) are trying to push the PD to give backing to a 5star government which would implement conditional minimum income and a minimum wage law. However, italian family capitalism and its media seem to favor the right-wing alternative (i.e. a rightist government somehow supported by the PD to appease financial markets).

A caricature of the vote could be that Northern small entrepreneurs voted for Lega's flat tax and Southern unemployed youth voted for 5Star's basic income. There is truth in that, however if we dissaggregate the vote according to provincial districts (the one in use for the proportional share at the Chamber of Deputies, where all Italian citizens over 18 are eligible to vote), we see that such a split is not so clear-cut. For instance 5stars triumph in deindustrialized Liguria as well as in exporting Emilia, and confirm their great score in Piedmont. It's noteworthy that the PD's last remaining strongholds are in Tuscany (Renzi is florentine) and in Milan, where the city center gives PCI-like percentages to the PD. The informational middle-class and financial bourgeoisie of Italy's wealthiest city bucked the general trend and voted for europe and innovation, eschewing either right-wing or social populism.

The radical left was an unexpected protagonist of the campaign, due to racism and antifascism being at the center of pubblic attention after a leghista+fascista tried to commit a mass murder of blacks in Macerata (and a Senegalese activist was shot and killed by a fascist in Florence right after the elections). As the official left (3% at the ballot) waffled about macerata, and the PD persuaded the three red institutions of the left in Italy, the partisans' association ANPI, the formerly communist union CGIL, and the leftist cultural association ARCI, to call off a national demo, there was a rank-and-file insurrection and centri sociali and the antifa network seized the day and convened all the Italian movement in Macerata. From then on, antifa protests spread to Bologna, Palermo, Turin, Milano and reunited all of our people like we hadn't seen in a long time. Main beneficiary at the ballot of this ferment was Potere al Popolo (Power to the People), a marxist-leninist red-star formation born in Naples (theater of an interesting left-populist municipalist experiment), which got a paltry 1.1% but according to some has potential (if the autonomists are not in and it sticks to an anti-european, jobs-for-all platform, it won't go far). The main result of the antifa movement of '18 is that the neofascists of Casa Pound got a pitiful score, in spite of media attention, and the neonazists of Forza Nuova were taught a lesson they won't easily forget.

Going back to Europe, it's clear this vote goes against the Macron-Merkel plan-in-the-making for liberal restoration, just like the Austrian vote (and Dutch government's recent europhobic stance). Of the two formations, it's certainly Salvini's Lega that is benefiting from opposition to Maastricht and Brussels, while the 5Star movement is an odd beast that could end up being a lot less anti-establishment that its critics fear. They were very close to join United-States-of-Europe Verhofstadt's yellow liberals in the European parliament and have quietly shelved the idea of holding a referendum on the euro. In fact, the European establishment and the international financial press seem more welcoming of cinquestelle than the Italian establishment. Fact is that the privileges enjoyed by family capitalism (agnellis, benettons, debenedettis etc) and top bureaucrats (public managers are paid extravagant salaries in italy) would be taken away by a 5star government, while a lega government would keep capitalist hierarchies intact and make sure that entrepreneurs find the low-wage workers they need, unencumbered by subsidies to the poor. It's true that Di Maio (their Spitzenkandidat) is an intellectual dwarf and that Grillo can be mercurial and bullying, but for all their downsides they are neither misogynist nor homophobic, and their xenophobia is utilitarian rather than ideological. Salvini is a guy that swore on the Gospels in Milan's piazza duomo that he'll become prime minister and doesn't want Disney's Elsa to go queer. He's pure reaction of the worst kind. It's Putin and Trump's legitimate child. He's gotta be stopped.

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