Webster G. Tarpley, Ph.D.
February 21, 2013
This coming Sunday and Monday, Italians will go to the polls to choose a new parliament and thus a new prime minister, while setting the stage for the election of a new president of the republic shortly thereafter.
Most indications are that the most numerous faction in the coming parliament, with just over one third of the votes, will be the Common Good coalition, composed of the Democratic Party (the remains of the old Italian Communist Party), the Left Ecology Freedom movement of Nichi Vendola, which includes various paleocommunists, and some smaller forces. This coalition is led by Pier Luigi Bersani, a colorless bureaucrat. Ironically, despite its leftist rhetoric, the Common Good is the formation most likely to continue the austerity policies which are currently tearing Italy apart.
Coming in second with almost 30% should be the center-right coalition around the People of Freedom, the party of the irrepressible former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, joined by the Northern League of Umberto Bossi, a xenophobic group which also articulates the resentments of northern Italy against the south, the Mezzogiorno.
Another important leader is Giulio Tremonti, the former Minister of Economics and Finance. Berlusconi, a wealthy businessman and three-time prime minister, was most recently in power from 2008 to November 2011. Berlusconi’s fall had been prepared through a series of lurid revelations about his personal life, including an attack by the CIA document dump known as Wikileaks. Berlusconi’s second-place status represents a remarkable comeback, and the last polls show him closing on Bersani.
Third place with almost 20% is likely to belong to a new and unorthodox political formation, the Five Star Movement (5SM), where the dominant personality is the former Genoese comedian Beppe Grillo, a colorful and talented demagogue. The 5SM is anti-politician, anti-euro, anti-infrastructure, anti-tax, and anti-mainstream media. Like the GOP, they want to reduce the public debt, meaning they want deflation. Grillo proposes a guaranteed annual income for all Italians, a 30-hour work week, and a drastic reduction of energy consumption and of production. He demands free Wi-Fi for all. Without modern production, how can these benefits be provided?
Grillo wants to abort the infrastructure projects – like the new high-speed train tunnel between Turin and France and the bridge between Calabria and Sicily – upon which Italy’s economic future depends. He is long on petty bourgeois process reforms like term limits, media reform, corporate governance, and banning convicted felons from parliament, but short on defending the standard of living for working people. On a bizarre note, he has praised the British response to the 2008 banking crisis. As many as 100 members of the 5SM, many of them total political novices, and more than a few adventurers who have jumped on board Grillo’s bandwagon, may now enter parliament, with predictably destabilizing consequences. Grillo could be the vehicle for an Italian color revolution along the lines of Ukraine or Georgia.
In fourth place, with less than 10%, is expected to be the current prime minister of Italy, Mario Monti, a former eurocrat of the Brussels Commission who has led a brutal technocratic austerity regime since coming to power in November 2011 through a coup d’état sponsored by the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, and executed by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano with help from Mario Draghi at the European Central Bank.
Both Monti and Draghi are former employees of Goldman Sachs, the widely hated zombie bank. When Monti seized power, he was widely acclaimed as a savior and enjoyed an approval rating of 70%; his approval has now fallen to about 30%. Like Gorbachev, he is unpopular at home but remains the darling of foreign leaders. Even the London Financial Times is bearish on Monti, accusing him of starting his austerity regime when Italy was already in recession.
Among the also-rans are Civic Revolution of Antonio Ingroia, a merger of the Greens with Antonio Di Pietro’s anti-corruption forces left over from the “Clean Hands” movement of the early 1990s, which targeted politicians but did very little to attack the larger corruption of the Bank of Italy and the big banks.
Another smaller list is Stop the Decline, led by the strange Oscar Giannino, backed up by a clique of US-educated professors of neo-liberal austerity economics. This list was paid to poach votes from Berlusconi. But now Giannino has been hit with a scandal based on his false claim of holding a master’s degree from a Chicago university.
The Italian political landscape is extremely fragmented, so public opinion polls – which cannot by law be published after February 8 – are more than usually unreliable. Under the Italian system, the political force which comes in first gets 54% of the seats in the lower house. Multi-party coalitions must get 10% to enter parliament. If the 10% is not achieved, the individual parties fall back under the rule which prescribes that parties not in a coalition must get 4% to win seats.
Italian politics, which for many decades after World War II had eight parties, has undergone massive Weimarization, especially since Monti’s coup. There are now no fewer than 25 political parties or organizations. This time around, there are four new parties, including those of Monti and Grillo. Two parties, including one led by Gianfranco Fini, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, and another by former Defense Minister Ignazio LaRussa, have split from Berlusconi. Two parties have also split from the Democratic Party, including the libertarian Radicals of Marco Panella and Emma Bonino.
Banks hope for Bersani-Monti regime to continue austerity
The banking community, as represented by Mediobanca and others, is hoping for a Bersani-Monti coalition government to continue the savage austerity policies that Monti’s technocratic ministers have been imposing over the last 15 months. Bersani’s party and its predecessors have always seen their business model as begging the big banks to let them join the government, in exchange for which they will break the labor movement, suppress strikes, and impose budget austerity across the board. Incredibly, Bersani has been one of Monti’s warmest admirers. Bersani has not learned the lesson of Weimar Germany, when the Social Democrats (SPD) supported Hunger Chancellor Heinrich Brüning’s austerity program, wrecking the economy and the political system, and opening the door to National Socialism.
Mediobanca concedes that a Bersani-Monti tandem will be weak, and might need more support from smaller parties, leading to instability with early elections likely in the short term. Although the Common Good will have a majority in the Chamber of Deputies due to the majority bonus, there is no bonus in the Senate, where most members are directly elected by winning their districts. This is where the Common Good plus Monti may fall short.
Some might say that Italians can choose among a genocidal professor, a party hack, a genial satyr, and a scurrilous clown. How did the current situation arise?
During the Obama years, the first goal of the US intelligence community has been to destroy the Berlusconi government, for geopolitical reasons. Based on Berlusconi’s close personal relationship with Putin, he had secured for Italy an important role in the construction of the Nordstream pipeline, and an even more important participation in the Southstream pipeline — both projects which Washington wanted to sabotage.
Berlusconi also made overtures to President Lukashenko of Belarus, much demonized in Foggy Bottom. The State Department wants to turn the European Union against Putin’s Russia, but the pro-US eurocrats and eurogarchs complained that Italy was becoming an advocate for Moscow within the Brussels bureaucracy. Lucia Annunziata wrote in La Stampa of May 25, 2009 under the title “The Shadow of a Plot” that center-right circles believed US-Italian relations were being hurt by “the excessive closeness of premier Silvio Berlusconi to the Russian Prime Minister Putin.”
The London Economist commented: Italy is one of the countries which have gotten much closer to Moscow than Washington desires, starting from the [August 2008] crisis in Georgia. By 2010 at the latest, US agencies were fully mobilized to overthrow Berlusconi.
State Department campaign to topple Berlusconi, 2008-2011
One part of this effort involved Gianfranco Fini, the former neofascist whom Berlusconi had made President of the Chamber of Deputies in 2008. Fini had been a member of the official neofascist party. In July 2010, after a faction fight, Fini was expelled from Berlusconi’s party, managing to take with him 34 deputies and 10 senators in a move which weakened, but did not destroy, Berlusconi’s governing majority. It was later revealed that Fini’s actions had been closely coordinated with the US embassy in Rome.
During 2009, David Thorne took over as US ambassador to Italy. Thorne was a Yale roommate of John Kerry, who has just become US Secretary of State. Thorne, like Kerry and the Bushes, is a member of the infamous Skull and Bones secret society, and is the twin brother of Kerry’s ex-wife. Thorne’s first meeting on becoming ambassador was with Fini, and not with Berlusconi. Fini is also reported to be a close personal friend of Nancy Pelosi, when Speaker of the House had the same job as Fini. (Il Fatto Quotidiano, September 15, 2010)
Fini, true to form, is now a part of the pro-austerity With Monti For Italy coalition. Bur despite his US backing, Fini may be close to the last hurrah. He had rented a theater in Agrigento, Sicily for a major appearance, but found the premises empty except for a few dozen supporters.
When the Fini operation failed, the CIA turned to exposés of the wild parties at Berlusconi’s mansion in Arcore, near Milan, feeding an immense international propaganda campaign. In December 2009, Berlusconi was struck on the face and seriously injured by an alabaster model of the Milan Cathedral. Italian judges, some of them politically motivated, pursued scores of legal actions against Berlusconi. One of these judges, Ilda Boccassini, was a sympathizer of the left countergang Lotta Continua well into the 1980s. Wikileaks documents made public in December 2010 confirmed the deep hostility of the State Department to Berlusconi.
Giorgio Napolitano, Henry Kissinger’s favorite communist
The coup that finally ousted Berlusconi in November 2011 was managed by Giorgio Napolitano, the president of the Italian Republic and thus the head of state. The Italian presidency has often been almost a ceremonial office, but it acquires significant powers when governments fall, which is frequently. Napolitano has vastly expanded these powers.
For most of his life, Napolitano has been an active member of the Italian Communist Party. He belonged to the right-wing faction around Giorgio Amendola – Napolitano was known as Skinny Giorgio, and Amendola as Fat Giorgio. It has recently been revealed that between 1977 and 1981, Napolitano conducted secret meetings with the Carter administration’s ambassador to Rome, Richard Gardner of the Trilateral Commission. These meetings only became public knowledge in 2005, with the publication of Gardner’s memoirs, Mission Italy. This puts Napolitano in contact with the US embassy during the kidnapping and murder of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, in whose death US intelligence agencies played an important role.
Henry Kissinger once called Napolitano “my favorite communist.” Business Week referred to him as the point man in Italy for the New York Council on Foreign Relations. The Italian press has dubbed him King George. But thanks in large part to Putin’s support for the Italian prime minister, it took the CIA two years to overthrow Berlusconi. In the end, only economic and financial warfare, plus Napolitano’s treachery, would prove decisive.
Mario Monti: Bilderberg, trilateral, Goldman Sachs
In October 2011, the Yale-educated economist Mario Monti, a eurogarch of the Brussels Commission from 1994 to 1999, was president of the Bocconi University of Milan, a business school. He had worked on the Santer, Prodi, and Barroso commissions in Brussels. He was and remains the European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission, founded by David Rockefeller, as well as a member of the secretive Bilderberg group. He was also a consultant for Goldman Sachs and Coca-Cola.
While Berlusconi was under siege by the Anglo-Americans, Napolitano plotted for months to make Monti the kingpin of a regime of technocrats – supposedly nonpartisan experts who did not represent any political party and could therefore more readily impose pitiless austerity. This was a formula the International Monetary Fund had been trying to force on Italy for 30 years and more.
A modern coup d’état using spreads, not tanks
The indispensable ingredient in the Napolitano-Monti coup was a broad-based and coordinated attack on Italian government bonds by Wall Street, the City of London, and their European satellites. This attack involved threats by ratings agencies to downgrade Italian debt, backed up by massive derivatives speculation against the bonds using credit default swaps (CDS) to increase the interest-rate premium – or spread – paid by Italy compared to Germany in borrowing. (The agencies were later investigated for fraud by Judge Michele Ruggiero of Trani.) Of course, the European Central Bank could at any time have wiped out the speculators by purchasing large quantities of Italian bonds in the open market and driving up the price.
But Napolitano and Monti knew that they could count on the new boss of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi to sabotage the Italian bonds. Draghi took over from the Frenchman Trichet in the night of Halloween 2011, and the attack on Italy began immediately on November 1.
During the summer of 2011, Berlusconi had resisted demands for draconian austerity, perhaps because he knew that Italy was too big to fail and that sooner or later Wall Street and London would have to back off. He was vilified for a lack of civic virtue. During the final attack on Berlusconi, Italian bond yields reached 7%, and the famous spread peaked at 575 basis points over the rate on German bonds. The New York Times cited reports that Draghi “had restricted… purchases of Italian bonds to put more pressure on Mr. Berlusconi to quit” and to extort more austerity from Italy. “If so, the pressure worked.” (NYT, November 9, 2011) The parliament was in panic.
On November 8, 2011 Napolitano appointed Monti, who had never been elected to any public office, as senator for life. This also meant immunity from prosecution for life, unless and until the Italian Senate voted to take this parliamentary immunity away. Also on November 8, Berlusconi concluded that he had lost his parliamentary majority. On November 10, 2011, the new senator for life Monti met with Napolitano at the Quirinal Palace for a two-hour discussion of economic “growth” by means of “structural reforms.” Napolitano still ridiculed rumors that he would make Monti the next prime minister. On the same day, Obama called Napolitano to assure him of US support in his management of the post-Berlusconi crisis. Just this month, Napolitano visited Obama with the obvious goal of getting more US support for Monti.
Berlusconi and other politicians like the anti-corruption activist Di Pietro were pressing for early elections to let the Italian people show what they wanted. But Napolitano was intent on carrying out his cold coup: “markets trumped traditional democratic processes,” wrote the New York Times on December 2, 2011. On November 13, Napolitano officially charged Monti with forming a government of non-party austerity technocrats, and Monti won a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies by 556 to 61. Only the Northern League opposed Monti. This lopsided vote recalled a similar one carried out in the resort town of Vichy, France on July 10,1940 in which the National Assembly voted dictatorial powers for Marshal Pétain, effectively replacing the Third French Republic with a fascist regime. On that day, the vote — managed by the infamous Pierre Laval — had been 569 in favor, 80 against, and 18 abstentions.
Monti’s cabinet was composed of little-known figures, mainly from northern Italy, with Catholic, academic, or military backgrounds. One who has become infamous is Labor Minister Elsa Fornero, a professor who cried in public over her own cruelty when she presented her anti-retiree measures. There was the impression that the Monti cabinet were bit players reading lines that had been written by the IMF and the ECB.
Presidential powers from von Hindenburg to Napolitano
Napolitano was following in the footsteps of German Reich President Field Marshal von Hindenburg, who pushed aside the Reichstag (parliament) as the maker of governments when he named the austerity enforcer Heinrich Brüning as chancellor in March, 1930. After this point, no German government could obtain a governing majority, and all relied on Hindenburg’s emergency powers to stay in office — including von Papen, von Schleicher, and finally Hitler in the first weeks of 1933. These were all called presidential governments, as Monti’s has been. By relegating the parliament to irrelevance, von Hindenburg contributed mightily to the atrophy and death of German democracy.
At the time, I called attention to the obvious coup d’état by Goldman Sachs and its allies, with a similar operation in Greece around the same time. Paolo Becchi, Professor of the Philosophy of Jurisprudence at the University of Genoa, noted that Napolitano “telling a technocrat from Brussels to form a government is nothing but a coup d’état ordered by powerful forces, partly from outside Italy, and managed by the President of the Republic.” Up until now, the bankers had been willing to govern indirectly, masking their power with the faces of politicians.
Now, the bankers wanted to seize power directly: “But it was necessary at least to keep up appearances. With an attitude which is typical of all the followers of Cataline [who attempted a coup against the Roman Republic in the time of Cicero], Monti’s main concern was to seize power with legal means.” Becchi added: “In the moment when political power is brought down to the level of financial power, a coup d’état is always possible, and so easy to carry out that almost nobody realizes it.” (Libero, December 1, 2011)
Monti’s economic measures aimed at shifting an initial €24 billion over three years of the cost of the economic depression away from bankers and speculators and onto the shoulders of working people. The minimum of years on the job to obtain a pension was raised from 40 years to 42 years and one month for men. The minimum age for old-age pensions was raised from 60 years to 62 and then to 66 in 2018. Increases in pension payments would generally be frozen. The property tax (IMU) was increased by 30% and extended to resident homeowners, who had previously been exempt. The value added tax (IVA) was raised from 21% to 23%. As camouflage, a luxury tax on yachts, private planes, and Ferraris was introduced. Only the Northern League and Di Pietro voted against these measures.
Then came a push to make Italy a hire and fire society on the American model, striking down protections that had been in place for decades. Taxi drivers, pharmacists, doctors, lawyers, and notaries were deprived of minimum fees for their services, and their professions were deregulated.
Thanks to Monti’s measures, the Italian unemployment rate has risen from 8.5% in November 2011 to 11.2% in February 2013, the worst in 13 years. Almost 3 million Italians are out of work, with 644,000 or 29% of them laid off on Monti’s watch. Youth unemployment is now at an all-time record of 37%. By December of 2012, industrial production, after falling every months since Monti took power, was down by 7% compared to December 2011.
Grillo: Endless referendums, endless instability
The early Northern League told Italians and foreigners and southerners were responsible for their problems. Grillo blames politicians and political parties. Bersani’s support for Monti’s austerity, combined with Berlusconi’s personal excesses, has focused new attention on the comedian Beppe Grillo and his 5SM. Grillo may well emerge as the big winner of these elections. Grillo has a recent precedent: the comedian Guglielmo Giannini, who in 1944 founded the Man In the Street (uomo qualunque) movement, an Italian precursor of French poujadisme.
Giannini appealed to the angry postwar petty bourgeoisie with populist themes of anti-politics, anti-politicians, anti-corruption, anti-government, deregulation, and anti-taxes. Grillo uses many of the techniques of Giannini, such as obscene and abusive slogans, or mocking the names of his opponents: for Grillo, Monti becomes Rigor Montis.
Grillo, ignoring the lessons of the Weimar Republic, recommends hyper-democracy as a method of governing. The basic approach to all controversies is to organize a referendum. This can work at the level of local government, where some of Grillo’s supporters started, but might lead to chaos if applied nationwide. Grillo wants a referendum on whether Italy should stay in the euro, an idea which appeals in Italy to a few ultra-lefts, but mainly to reactionaries. Grillo (like the framers of Weimar) focuses on the need of government to make sure that all voices receive representation, but neglects the equally imperative need on to promote majorities capable of deciding issues and exercising power.
Grillo mayor fails to solve pre-school issue in Parma
The first big success for Grillo came in Parma, traditionally the turf of the PCI/Democratic Party. Here Grillo’s candidate took over as mayor early in 2012. Within less than a year, Grillo was greeted by protests over the rising cost of living, especially for the mayor’s raising of the price of pre-school for working families, while eliminating multi-child discounts. Up to this point, Grillo had enjoyed all the advantages of the Muslim Brotherhood under Mubarak, or of Jesse Ventura running for governor of Minnesota, meaning the ability to criticize without any responsibility.
When confronted with an attack on his own record, Grillo responded with petulance, suggesting he cannot take criticism. Grillo has been declining television interviews, preferring to give speeches to large crowds in the piazza of many cities. But observers note that this is also a way to avoid probing questions from hostile journalists. In any case, big crowds do not necessarily indicate election majorities. Grillo portrays himself as a victim of the mass media, even though enjoys extensive coverage in the current phase. He is rich, but campaigns in a mini-van to increase his populist appeal.
According to Elisabetta Gualmini and Piergiorgio Corbetta in their survey of the Grillo movement entitled Il Partito del Grillo (Bologna: Il Mulino/Istituto Cattaneo, 2013), about 60% of Grillo’s support comes from angry, male, sometimes unemployed generation X technicians, IT and software personnel, and small businessmen born between 1969 and 1978, and thus aged between 35 and 44. There are few pensioners, few housewives, few women of any background. Over 50% describe themselves as extreme left, left, or center-left, while about 30% self-described as center-right to right. Grillo represents a protest movement that cuts across the other political parties.
An ominous symptom is the dictatorship of Grillo inside the party. In recent weeks, Grillo has ousted a regional councilor from Emilia-Romagna for complaining on television of the lack of democracy inside the 5SM. He also expelled a Bologna city councilwoman for taking part in Ballaró, a widely viewed television talk show, after Grillo banned such appearances, presumably to keep the spotlight on himself. Previously, he had expelled three candidates from Bologna and a member of the Ferrara city council. Grillo considers the 5SM is a trademark which he owns. The dissidents are generally excommunicated by means of a tweet. Does Grillo write the tweets, blog, scripts, and speeches by himself, or is he controlled and supported by a syndicate?
Grillo’s Svengalis: Casaleggio associates
Some say Grillo is a synthetic candidate. According to published accounts, Grillo’s Svengali and teleprompter is political consultant Gianroberto Casaleggio, 58, of Casaleggio Associates, a company specialized in political and media consulting and strategies for Internet marketing – more or less the methods which have put Grillo where he is today.
Casaleggio and Grillo confer by telephone on average three times a day. Casaleggio, like Grillo, sports the hair style of an aging freak, trying to look like John Lennon, but unlike Grillo usually wears a suit. (Tommaso Caldarelli, Giornalettismo, May 25, 2012) Casaleggio’s office is near Piazza Scala in Milan. The dominant partner at Casaleggio Associates is Enrico Sassoon, currently the director of the Italian edition of the Harvard Business Review.
Sassoon has worked for Pirelli, and is currently a leading light of the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy. Sassoon is also on the board of the Italian branch of the Aspen Institute, where his colleagues are mostly members of the Bilderberg group. Giampietro Zanetti, a Berlusconi backer, writes in his blog: “Who is behind Grillo? Bilderberg and the Aspen Institute!”
Casaleggio, who once advised Di Pietro and Olivetti, believes that “by 2018 the world will be divided into: the West with direct democracy and free access to the Internet, and the enemies of freedom like China-Russia-Middle East.” In 2020 there will be a new world war, with the population reduced by a billion, then catharsis, and finally rebirth in the name of Gaia, and world government.” (Marco Alfieri, La Stampa, May 26, 2012) Is this really what Grillo’s voters want?
Grillo and Casaleggio are the authors of a book called We Are At War – meaning that Grillo is the Guy Fawkes or Ludendorff of a war against political parties as such. The need to destroy political parties is one of the favorite themes of various disinformation channels of the US intelligence community, who see this as part of the effort to smash the national states and impose the Empire. A coincidence?
In 2012, the big political news from Europe was the emergence of Alexis Tsipras and Syriza to fight austerity in Greece with program, leadership, organization, and strategy, and not with utopias of participatory democracy. Grillo is the opposite of Syriza on most points, meaning that Italy now risks a new round of destabilization. Which method will prevail?