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Movimento 5 Stelle is a grass-roots political movement founded by comedian Beppe Grillo in 2009. Many civic lists showing M5S’s brand took part in electoral competitions during the last administrative elections in Italy, where they obtained good results (from 3% to 12%).
The inspiration for M5S came from the success of the so-called “V-Day”, a great kermesse organized by Grillo in 2007: a giant crowd gathered in Piazza Maggiore, Bologna, when a huge “fuck you” was yelled against politicians (the so called “caste” of privileged governors and administrators) and the press (which is commonly seen as unfree and controlled).
M5S has been criticized because of its “anti-political” approach, but in a few years it gained many activists, followers and sympathizers. People who were not used to take part to political activities shared their first experience of activism inside Grillo’s “Meetups”. Moreover, M5S’ agenda focuses on issues which appear to be cross-ideological: ecologism and degrowth, digital freedom, direct democracy, transparency. Actually, M5S activists proudly claim that they’re favourable to “ideas” to be put into practice, and against any “ideology”.
Internet is the main medium of their activism, and they use the social network Meetup to organize, discuss and take decisions. Grillo’s successful blog (eng. version) is the only actual “think tank” of M5S, collecting the comedian’s boasts against politicians, denunciations of corporative economic unfairness and “revolutionary” ideas for green economy and a better society.
M5S has also attracted many criticisms. In the first place, it has to be noted that Grillo’s ideas on many issues – immigration and economy, for example – are pretty ambiguous. Many of his followers are disappointed leftists tired of traditional parties, and they share progressive views on such topics; but others appear to be more conservative, sometimes even turning to xenophobic and crypto-fascist ideas.
Grillo’s informatic guru Gianroberto Casaleggio is often seen as the true inspirator of M5S. His ideas about democracy, expressed in two videos called “Prometeus” and “Gaia”, are far from orthodox: in his opinion, human hopes dwell only on a nuclear holocaust that will drastically reduce Earth’s population; and on the internet, which is seen as the incarnation of Freedom itself. Such ideas about the internet (which do not imply any kind of criticism against, say, the few billionaire agencies which are actually monopolizing the web), are candidly supported by the most part of M5S activists.
Casaleggio’s role inside M5S raised some criticism also among its activists after the last administrative elections. Some M5S candidates elected in local administrations denounced that an unofficial “central committee” was being created out of any democratic procedure: people were just selected by Casaleggio, and even Grillo seemed to have no weight in such decisions.
One of the “economic counselors” of Beppe Grillo is financial operator Eugenio Benettazzo, whose controversial articles are often published on Grillo’s weblog. Benettazzo can be seen sometimes at meetings organized by the neofascist party Forza Nuova, and he wrote a controversial article where he argued that the financial crisis occurred in the USA because of “racial promiscuity”.
Being “not left-wing nor right-wing”, M5S attracts people from both sides, and also others who don’t have any particular opinion about that. The backbone of Grillo’s views is, in this sense, clearly populist: “the people” is the only “true” political subject, and there’s no room for traditional class divisions.
This kind of populism, which is often accompanied by the idea that politicians should work just as administrators “employed” by citizens, is deeply rooted in the Italian political sensibility. A man of the same kind of Grillo – comedian and journalist Guglielmo Giannini – founded a political party called l’Uomo Qualunque (“The Common Man”) in the late 1940s. Although short-lived, this party had great success in the first political elections of Italian postwar history. Giannini’s UQ was only the first of a long list of “qualunquistic” and populistic parties and movements, well rooted in the Italian middle-class, which appeared in Italian recent history.