By Patrick Brogan
“Italians First!” was the slogan for this year’s general election. This perhaps should be no surprise as nationalism is en vogue across the rest of Europe. Although those in Brussels rejoiced that Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders didn’t seize the reins of power in Paris and Amsterdam, their increased popularity has underlined the urge of EU citizens to reject the status quo and vote in anti-establishment, and mostly Far-Right, parties and Italy is no exception.
While the latest reports suggest the 5 Star Movement and Lega are still working out a deal, the Italian people have rejected the more established parties of the Democratic Party and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. The 5 Star Movement (5SM) received the largest share of votes with 33.22% with other “new” parties Lega coming third with nearly 18% of the vote and Fratelli d’Italia gaining just over 4%.
Not all of these parties are Far-Right. The 5SM say that they don’t fit into the Left-Right divide. They were founded by comedian Beppe Grillo and are named after five principles they wish to uphold; public water access, sustainable transport, sustainable development, internet access and environmentalism. However, the current leader, Luigi di Maio, said Italy should be increasing its birth rate rather than settling for migrants. This certainly points towards the Far-Right.
The other parties are far clearer when it comes to where they stand on the political spectrum. Lega was initially founded as an organisation that wanted the north of Italy to separate from the rest of the country. They are anti-immigration and are described as Euroskeptic. This is a bit inaccurate as their leader said he wants to see a stable Italy and also Europe. It would be fair to say they are anti-EU rather than anti-Europe. The Fratelli d’Italia were formed from Alleanza Nazionale. This party are an offshoot of Mussolini’s old party. Say no more.
So, what brought us this far? As we pointed out in a previous article, it’s usually frustration that leads to these populist rises. Social and economic factors combine to make the ordinary citizen rage against the system. And Italy’s fall from grace since the war has been a dramatic one. Firstly, we need to talk about Communism.
The allies really feared Italy would succumb to Communism. And for good reason. The Italian Communist party had over two million members at one stage and Italy was right on the doorstep, almost touching, the Iron Curtain as the below images shows. Terrorist groups like the Red Brigade inspired real fear in the Italian public and were even behind the murder of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro in 1978. Although, that murder is not as straightforward as it was initially depicted in the media as this article points out, which brings us nicely into our next topic.
Pic courtesy of https://www.sutori.com/
Before we get into the economics of post-war Italy, it is important to look at the West’s attitude towards Italy. Such was the paranoia around ‘the boot’ falling into the hands of the Red Terror, the US pumped millions into the Italian economy. There were also more sinister goings-on. Operation Gladio being one. Not many people are aware of what this is. To give a whistle-stop tour of what it entailed; the US and British intelligence services were afraid of the encroaching USSR as previously mentioned, but they also saw an opportunity in the ruins of Europe. They left many of their operatives behind, or men trained by their forces, to carry out covert operations often disguised as Right-wing groups.
This was all designed to turn public opinion against Communism and thus, the European people would look to the US for protection and this helped NATO‘s expansion. Part of these tactics included using false-flag terrorist attacks. Some critics have said Operation Gladio, or the updated version; Gladio B, are responsible for the creation of ISIS.
This all sounds very far-fetched, and we may never have known of it or how deep filtered into European society it had become if it was not for an Italian, fittingly enough, or more precisely an Italian Prime Minister in the shape of Giulio Andreotti who blew the lid in 1990. Perhaps, this can explain how the death of Aldo Moro is not as straightforward as it first seemed. This is, of course, a story in itself and the turn-to person in the world of alternative online journalism on this topic is FBI whistleblower Sibil Edmonds. Click here and here for more.
The Boom Years
The Italian economy from the 50s onwards was booming. Now, in the €uro, it has come unstuck. The US and the Marshall Plan was steady stream of cashola for the Italian economy and continued to be so for years afterwards as it was afraid without a booming Italian economy it would become part of the Eastern Bloc. But, there were some unique aspects to their economy that made them a major player in global commerce.
Firstly, there were the civil servants. 3 million of them. When Rome was bringing in huge taxes from imports and the domestic economy, it could afford to pay these civil servants and pay them well. Not so much now. The biggest factor was how the finance department used the currency, the lira.
Whenever it was needed, the lira could be devalued. The Italian economy was heavily based on inflation. The Italians could produce cheap, knock-off products. It was what is described as a low added value manufacturer. Because of the relatively low value of the lira, producing high-end products was difficult so they, in turn, produced cheaper products and due to the value of the lira, these items were easy to sell abroad because of the relatively low prices. Some of this was illegal and the Italian shadow economy made up a huge fraction of the overall economy. Nearly one fifth in total.
Three major factors. The first and possibly the least worst was the collapse of the Iron Curtain. Now that the Commies were gone, Uncle Sam no longer had to back up the Italians. At the time though, this wasn’t a big issue as Italy was still a rich country. The second one of these is of Italy’s own making; joining the Eurozone. Italy could no longer regulate its own currency and had to fall into line with the rest of Europe. As Italy and her Ionian neighbour Greece found out the hard way, the ECB interest rates support the Euro’s biggest economy and none of the rest. These changes in interest rates can be detrimental to any country that isn’t Germany.
Lastly, and this is a biggy. China joined the World Trade Organisation just before the Euro was about to be used in real life. Not only China, but a plethora of Asian countries knocked Italy off its preach as number one producer of cheap products. These countries now had better access to the global marketplace and no longer could Italy use its ace-in-the-hole; devaluing the lira. For more on Italy’s economic decline view this excellent video (which actually inspired this article);
To Sum Up
Italy like other European nations has turned to Right-wing factions to solve its problems. This is no surprise given that Italy has borne the brunt of the Libyan migration crisis. If we look at Italy’s recent past it is even less surprising. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia were the Right-wing populist party of the 90s. Fratelli d’Italia have been described as a racist faction, but even they have been in government three times in the last 25 years. The US-backed Right-wing militias and terrorist groups. Mussolini invented Fascism! Right-wing politics is nothing new in the Republic. That said, these Right-wing groups are nowhere near as extreme as we have seen in other elections. Yes, that is a reference to Geert Wilders.
Given the way Italy was set-up after the war it is no surprise they are in trouble now. The Allied forces got into bed with the Mafia in Sicily, a big contributor to the shadow economy. Entering the Euro has been a disaster for themselves and Greece. And China and the East were inevitably going to undercut their prices, sooner or later. Yet, none the populist parties have a solution for these problems. They can look to Libyan migrants as long as they like, it won’t solve anything. Politicians, in general, tend to just paper over the cracks, but populist parties on both sides are especially guilty of this. With nobody willing to address the underlying faults in the economy, the problem will just worsen. The land famous for creating many of the Western World’s greatest works of art could quickly find itself in the centre of Dante’s Inferno and might just bring the rest of the Eurozone with it.
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