Quer pasticciaccio brutto...
March 2, 2018 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Y'all want to know what voting for the least bad option actually looks like? Renzi manages to be underwhelming, underachieving and not even that great on policy AND YET is the only sane option.

I vote both in the US and in Italy and the despair I feel is real.
posted by lydhre at 8:47 AM on March 2 [8 favorites]

I sent a link to the John Oliver piece to a friend of mine who lives in Rome. He says the situation is "much worse than Oliver says it is." Shudder.
posted by dnash at 8:58 AM on March 2 [3 favorites]

Was it only four years ago that I smugly told a friend that I would not return to Hungary until Fidesz was out of power? Last week I found myself saying that Berlusconi wouldn't be so bad...
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:16 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]

I like Varoufakis' thinking (plus we share a birth date)
posted by infini at 9:18 AM on March 2

Thanks for this post - I really appreciate in-depth posts about non-US current events!

Jacobin had an essay about the whole thing and an interview about the history of communism on the Italian left.

I was just reading a novel called The Unseen, a to-me-somewhat-unsatisfactory novel about the late seventies and Autonomia. It seems like the civil conflict of the seventies, which was lost by the left, laid the groundwork for Italy's present. A particularly depressing string of events, because different people seem to have tried everything - mass movements, mass strikes, compromise with the ruling party in the hope of gains (the communist party, surprisingly enough), violence, actions deeply rooted in the working class rather than the middle class, etc etc, and it all still broke down under violent repression from the Italian state. You feel like the Italian seventies illustrate the limits of not-actually-a-full-on-guerilla-war class conflict in fairly modern state, and it's pretty grim.
posted by Frowner at 9:48 AM on March 2

(The Jacobin interview's below the fold; nice title, their article.)

Sounds like you might like La scuola cattolica.
posted by progosk at 9:59 AM on March 2

I looked to see if you had the Jacobin ones, but my eye just completely skipped that link!
posted by Frowner at 10:02 AM on March 2

The Guardian has had a fair bit on Italy over the past weeks including this about Bannons favorite Nazi's.
Italy's Northern League pledges mass migrant deportations
posted by adamvasco at 10:48 AM on March 2

I would really love for just one English language article to note that Lega Nord used to want to break away from the rest of Italy and used to direct the brunt of their racism towards Southern Italians*; their newfangled “Italians First” racist bullshit is an entirely cynical move to get more votes.

* Anyone to the south of them, basically, but Rome was sort of the the Italian Mason-Dixon line.
posted by romakimmy at 1:52 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]

So what's the deal with the Five Star thing, anyway? Sounds like a bit of Third Positionism?
posted by atoxyl at 2:30 PM on March 2

There was a poll among prospective Five Star voters a month ago, regarding the desired coalition partners of M5S. More than 40% of their voters (42,6%) wanted the party to cooperate with the leftmost party formation likely to win seats in the election (Liberi e Uguali) while 38% preferred a coalition with Lega Nord. This is indicative of both the muddle that is their politics and an indicator of possible fragility as soon as they would have to turn to one side or the other.
posted by talos at 2:57 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]

Erm, no atoxyl, that would be more the Roberto Fiore / Casa Pound contingent.

There’s a lot in the links above on the Five Stars. Their 31-year old new leader Di Maio just cut a spiffing figure (well, compared to old Silvio anyway...) on Porta a Porta; a widely circulated explainer has them in nutshell (on Europe).
posted by progosk at 3:01 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]

I guess what confused me is they seem to have a left-populist tinge, but also keep getting articles comparing them to Mussolini.
posted by atoxyl at 4:23 PM on March 2

I would really love for just one English language article to note that Lega Nord used to want to break away from the rest of Italy and used to direct the brunt of their racism towards Southern Italians*; their newfangled “Italians First” racist bullshit is an entirely cynical move to get more votes.

I think separatism is still in their party constitution?
posted by Chrysostom at 9:57 PM on March 2

Five Stars, or M5S as they’re usually abbreviated here, are very much an out-with-the-old phenomenon at core, and in a way you could say Italy is lucky that that sentiment was captured by a movement launched by a comedian, rather than something more immediately darker/threatening. But it is peculiar, now that they’ve gathered steam and critical mass, that you’re more likely to hear people worry about their potential crypto-fascism than about the actual fascism that Salvini’s lot preach and practice (aided and abetted by other blackshirt nostalgics such as Casa Pound). R. Saviano called out the media’s complicity in this, the collective inability to call fascism by its name.
I keep thinking that folks here would go weak at the knees if they had a chance to just acclaim a king. Italy has a pretty bad case of that nation-as-family framing thing, and between deep-running (and pervasively corrupt) patriarchism and Vatican longa manus, what could be an inimitable motley federation of boundless creativity and love for life, its multiplicity an example for what an EU could ideally be an even greater version of - instead keeps itself firmly tied to the same sorry masts of yore. By which metaphor M5S is just the latest siren-call, and likely to lead to more entropy than purposeful focus, or new course.
posted by progosk at 11:15 PM on March 2 [6 favorites]

Part of what's driving the abstention crowd this time around is the feeling that the new electoral system basically perverts any hope of actual representation of your views. This hasn't escaped notice, and there's an initiative underway to take this to Strasbourg.
posted by progosk at 1:41 AM on March 3

Two more contextual articles on the M5S:

- Guardian: Italy's Five Star Movement part of growing club of Putin sympathisers in west

- R. Saviano, repubblica.it: Why I defend the NGOs saving migrant lives (from M5S propaganda slanders, as the article clarifies) [in Italian]

Oh, and: seems that some of the accusations of their latent fascism are to do with both Di Maio and Di Battista's dads being pretty declared fascists - for what that's worth...
posted by progosk at 3:46 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]

More further reading on the general state of il belpaese: C. Balmer, Reuters: Rising poverty gnaws at Italian social fabric as election nears.
posted by progosk at 4:27 AM on March 3

Three billboards outside the Castel Nuovo, Naples (for romakimmy).
posted by progosk at 9:06 AM on March 3 [2 favorites]

(Oh look, here's how it went down five years ago, almost to the day - what a foreshadowing of what's going play out tomorrow...)
posted by progosk at 10:27 AM on March 3

And given the years that have passed, Wuming's shrewd analysis of M5S (previously) has, if anything, gained in urgency... (and is perhaps a better answer to atoxyl, tbh).
posted by progosk at 10:41 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]

Notoriously unreliable though they are, the exit-polls have M5S at around 30%.

Jacobin's D. Broder interviews M5S-specialist J. Jacoboni: The Experiment - Italy’s Five Star Movement offers a hollow promise of democracy.
posted by progosk at 2:42 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]

Y. Mounk, Guardian: How populist uprisings could bring down liberal democracy.

By comparison to Haider and Wilders, a figure like Beppe Grillo seems far more benign at first blush, promising to take power from a self-serving and geriatric “political caste”, and to fight for a more modern and tolerant Italy. But once the Five Star Movement gained in popularity, it quickly took on an antisystem hue. Its attacks on the corruption of individual politicians slowly morphed into a radical rejection of key aspects of the political system, including parliament itself. Anger against the political establishment was sustained by a growing willingness to engage in conspiracy theories or to tell outright lies about political opponents.

The reason why populists and political newcomers are so willing to challenge basic democratic norms is in part tactical: whenever populists break such norms, they attract the univocal condemnation of the political establishment. And this of course proves that, as advertised, the populists really do represent a clean break from the status quo. There is thus something performative about populists’ tendency to break democratic norms: while their most provocative statements are often considered gaffes by political observers, their very willingness to commit such gaffes is a big part of their appeal.

But their recklessness is no less dangerous for all of that. Once some members of the political system are willing to break the rules, others have a big incentive to follow suit. And that, increasingly, is what they do. While some of the most spectacular attacks on basic democratic norms have come from political newcomers, the representatives of old, established parties have also become increasingly willing to undermine the basic rules of the game.

posted by progosk at 3:31 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]

Annnnd as the results are coming in it's not looking good, folks. The left is by all intents and purposes over, and I'm not just talking about the left proper, means of production and all, but the tamest centre-left lib-dem Partito Democratico is likely going to end below 20%; the overtly fascist are below 1% (what we call "area code percentages"), the right wing coalition is whizzing up to 35% with the League leading, and the populist 5-star are around 30%.

posted by _dario at 6:21 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]

What’s clear is that this is worse, significantly so, than Trump’s election in the U.S.

Whatever the actual parliamentary consequences (even when actual numbers of seats begin to become clear, the knock-back effects on the proposed coalitions are yet to be seen), what we have here is:
- stronger-than-expected participation (73%)
- though the rules were somewhat more opaque than usual, there’s no oh-but-the-popular-vote to hide behind
- whatever would be termed liberal civic/political democratic conscience has been reduced to less than 30% of the electorate
- the collective sentiment of nativism/FYIGM/accelerationism/Berlusconi4ever has captured the hearts and minds of over two-thirds of voting-age Italians.

Eerily, what was looking like an almost German situation yesterday, with a wide centrist coalition the potential sad-but-reasonable scenario, today I’m only wondering what’s to keep M5S and Lega - each energized by results beyond rational expectation, yet by themselves both too tied down to reign free, as they feel they deserve to, from throwing their lots in together, for a stranglehold straight majority. None of the Lega’s electorate would object to such power, and half (if not more) of M5S’s dream of the same (while the other half might recoil in horror, but have no way to even express that)...

Italy is showing its true colours here, and porca miseria they are ugly.
posted by progosk at 11:36 PM on March 4 [7 favorites]

Can someone more familiar with Italian politics point us to a primer on why so many people seem upset with M5S? I looked over what I could find, and they seem kind of ok, am I missing something basic here?

Is it just "well, they're populist, and so were the Fascists?" Or is there actually substantive stuff they've done that is bad? I looked over their agenda and policies and they don't seem bad. They're pro-LGBT rights, pro-environment. they're kind of vague on immigrants, which is worrying, is there some racism under the shiny surface or what?
posted by sotonohito at 10:43 AM on March 5

Have a look at this, and for more recent points, this, this and, if you can wade through it, this Googletranslation of Saviano's Why I defend the NGOs saving migrant lives (from M5S propaganda slanders, as the article clarifies).
posted by progosk at 11:00 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]

(Two more readable analyses of MS5's cynical shift on the refugee crisis: N. Sigone, The Local: Rome mayor's anti-migrant stance signals a shift to the right for the Five Star Movement.; D. Fulvi, greenleft: Italy: New wave of racism scapegoats NGOs and refugees.)
posted by progosk at 11:09 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]

The main issue being that whatever has been variously published as their actual agenda has repeatedly been shown not to be worth the blogpost it's written in; and given that they stand principally against a lot of things, what they actually intend to do (and what that stands for) takes a lot of reading between the lines. And to have a full third of the electorate sign up for that kind of known unknown is... very worrying.
posted by progosk at 11:17 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]

Ah. Thanks progosk, I understand now. And I'm depressed now. Yikes.
posted by sotonohito at 11:42 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]

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