Two former 5SM members come forth. “The movement is dead: all that’s left is a successful brand”. “One of the media’s deceits was to validate its revolutionary stature”.
“We witnessed an experiment. An attempt at social engineering. An experiment that shows how much we need democracy and how easy it is to sell pie in the sky. But this story, the story of the Movement, will end badly, very badly”. These forthright and abrasive comments belong to the authors of the book Supernova (ed. Ponte alle Grazie) Nicola Biondo and Marco Canestrari, who are very familiar with the 5SM organisational machine having contributed to its progress and ideals for many years before turning their back on it in dismay.
Nicola Biondo, a writer and journalist for La Stampa, L’Unità and Avvenimenti, from April 2013 to the summer of 2014 headed the 5SM Communications Department for the Lower house of Parliament and had known Gianroberto Casaleggio since 2010. Easy going and on time, still a hint of a Sicilian accent despite his many years in Trentino, his northern adoptive region, the former head of Communications for the 5SM discusses the issues without holding back, rewinding the film of how he believes Grillo’s project has been betrayed.
Biondo, the 5SM has always shown a particular aversion towards traditional party politics. Do you believe the direct democracy experiment they have promoted has actually been effectively implemented?
The direct democracy the Movement and Casaleggio have been going on about doesn’t exist. The facts bear this out: in the councils they manage, for example, there’s never been any kind of poll. Their parliamentary referendums have been used to politically get rid of a few thousand registered candidates and over half of the candidates chosen are suggested by the “heavyweights”, starting with Luigi Di Maio and working on down. Voters are dwindling, and the Rousseau platform is an empty shell. The Rousseau platform (that may or may not dictate policy) has lost 30% of its registered members in a year, close to 40,000 people. The rhetoric about direct and participated democracy, thanks to which the 5SM collected 32% of the vote at the latest elections, claims that complex situations can be shunned: candidates ask for votes by promising to follow orders, rather than reach decisions. In the end however, the orders it was supposed to follow, as direct democracy would entail, have been disregarded: the ILVA steel works in Taranto are still operating, as are the MUOS satellite system and the TAP gas pipeline, and Rome is still a mess. All by the wayside. After 10 years of rhetoric one can safely say, based on the actual results, that Casaleggio’s direct democracy is a hoax.
What do you think of the Movement’s foreign affairs policy? What do you believe is the reason behind the 5 Star’s change of heart with regard to Russia and Putin?
For the Movement Putin was at first a criminal politician who had journalists killed and curtailed his people’s freedom. He then became the strong man the world so desperately needs. What is the cost of this switch and who stands to gain? This question should be primarily addressed to Casaleggio: this U-turn was planned in its offices. In our new book, Sistema Casaleggio, we analyse how the Movement is a political asset in the hands of a commercial entity; the party’s foreign politics is aligned to the needs of a business enterprise. Casaleggio, both father and son, have been secretly fostering relations with the new Anglo-American far-right: the promoters of Brexit, Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica. And they’ve turned their gaze east: towards Moscow and then China. Russia and China are entities that are not subject to the critical oversight of democratic consent; they are states that engage in trade wars, where the concentration of multinationals is very high and goes hand in hand with a very rigid social stratification which does not envisage any form of liberal expression, be it political or economic, other than that fostered by those in power. Casaleggio Jr. operates in his dual guise as manager of a political asset and a businessman. ‘His’ Movement provides access to a network that he couldn’t even dream of penetrating otherwise. The contacts made by his avatars in parliament become his contacts, his business and public relations’ agents. When a diplomat, a multinational or a foreign political leader shakes hands with Luigi Di Maio, or they enter into a trade agreement with one of the Movement’s ministers, it’s as if they were shaking hands or signing a deal directly with Davide, the Casaleggio businessman, who in turn, as is happening more and more, is dictating trade policy to its political asset, pointing to areas it should focus on (new technologies, AI, telecommunications..), and advertising his readiness to provide lobbying services to potential investors. He controls the drawbridge which provides access to the mechanism. Is there a plan to jettison Italy’s historical allies and replace them with Russia and China? That’s what the facts would seem to indicate. The Salvini-Casaleggio government cares little whether foreign powers take over strategic assets in Italy, our home made sovereigntists are ready to cede sovereignty to all and sundry. We needn’t worry, there won’t be a specific night when Italy leaves the EU, when Italexit is finally ratified. We’re already stumbling in that darkness. Control is gradually being whittled away because Rome is totally isolated. Is it clear now why certain trade agreements can lead Italy to forsake its historic partnerships? Or see the latter turn their backs on us? These agreements in question are those on the new Silk Road and 5G broadband.
Davide Casaleggio claims: “I’m simply a registered member who voluntarily and for no fee provides technical assistance.”
It’s one of the many lies that the Heir feeds his audiences. And no one, to this day, has asked why he needs to come up with this and so many other lies. The relationship that binds the Movement to this businessman is unparalleled. Every one of the Movement’s parliamentarians hands over 300 euro a month for a poor quality and unsafe product like Rousseau. Davide Casaleggio is the chairman of the Casaleggio Association, the Rousseau Association and the Gianroberto Casaleggio Association, all entities that meet different corporate requirements. As it turns out, he manages these legal entities as if they were divisions of a single company; Rousseau in particular, seems to act as the 5SM treasury and the Gianroberto Casaleggio Association as a business incubator. The conflicts of interest of the Second Republic have been replaced by the influence peddling of the Third.
Following Gianroberto Casaleggio’s death and Beppe Grillo’s gradual marginalisation, who actually runs the Movement right now?
The Movement is dead, all that’s left is a successful brand. Today we have Luigi Di Maio’s party. He has transformed the Movement into his own personal, autocratic party. The take-over took place with oversight by Davide Casaleggio and other powers, to whom Di Maio has made many promises.
Do you find that in joining forces in government with the Lega, the 5SM has had to relinquish or betray some of its founding principles? And do you think this government will run its full term?
None of the founding principles are still standing. They’ve been replaced by the fiercest propaganda while the quality of the policies is standard and the people selected to run them are hopeless. The media has deceived everyone by suggesting that the Movement was revolutionary: on the contrary, it is nothing more than a façade. And as such it can be dangerous, seeing as behind its political personnel crouch other personalities and powers that have a very strong influence over them. Both on a national and international level. Sixty percent of the current parliament’s members were elected for the first time, and are waiting until September 2020 when they’ll be eligible for a pension. In February 2020 this parliament will be called upon to elect the new State President. These two factors alone are indicative of how long the legislature is likely to last. Of course, if the international scenario were to change, there would be repercussions here as well.
This article is also published in the May/June issue of eastwest.