Category Archives: politics

Italian populism and the art of propaganda: how to gain consensus without governing

In this contribution, our blog coordinator Emanuele Lombardini explain his point of view on the present crisis in Italy and the growing of populism in the country, in light of recent political events. It’s a bit longer than most entries on this blog but the  the topic deserves special attention, to allow non-Italians  to better understand the events.


All propaganda must be popular, adapting its level to the least intelligent of the individuals to whom it is directed. The larger the mass is to convince, the smaller the mental effort must be made. Their capacity to elaborate informations is very poor, as well as their memory”.

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “Principle of Vulgarization”)

The best way to make sense to what is happening in the Italian political scenario since March 5th onwards, is to use the words of Joseph Gobbels, Third Reich Minister of Propaganda. Because it’s only propaganda that moves on the debate. Economic crisis, high unemployment rate, inability of governments to communicate the importance of being part of the EU to be competitive and the unexpected explosion in the numbers of migrants landed on Italian coasts, fueled anger and indignations in people, so populist forces only need to feed this desire for rebellion to gain consensus, without making any serious and concrete proposal.

Moreover, among M5S (Five Stars Movement) and Lega voters, besides people tired of institutions, there is also a part less educated and another part  little inclined to go beyond a search on Google. People only need simple solutions to complex problems, and this nothing better for populist forces.

Italian Constitution state that is the President of Republic that have the power to nominate Prime Minister and “on the indication of the latter”, all the Ministers. This was not the first time that President of Republic says ‘no’ to one of the name on the list, so it is usual to present him also some alternative names. But the institutional clash is exactly that 5 Stars Movement and Lega wanted to provoke from the beginning of this crisis.

They found help in a particularly poor electoral law, which only allow a grouping to govern if a single party of a coalition reach 40%. None of the three blocks achieved this result, so President Sergio Mattarella tried first to join M5S (most voted party) and center-right (most voted coalition). But the attempt failed on the request from M5S to dialogate only with Lega, without Forza Italia and ‘condemned’ Berlusconi. Then he tried to join M5S with Democratic Party (second most voted party) but also this attempt failed, because of a ‘suffered no’ from this latter party.

When, in order to avoid a new ‘techincal Monti-style government’ Berlusconi accepted to ‘step aside’, it officially started the populist alliance’s attempt to delegitimate the institutions we are watching to, which is functional to the only real project: to grow consensus and return to the vote as soon as possible, without getting their hands dirty with the responsibility of government, with the risk of losing voters.

Propaganda must limit itself to a small number of ideas and repeat them tirelessly, always present them under different perspectives, but always converging on the same concept. Without doubts or uncertainties. From here comes the phrase: “A lie repeated endlessly becomes the truth”.

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “Principle of Orchestration”)

Never stop propaganda. This is only important thing for the Italian populist parties. And do it in their own way: small number of ideas, few simple concepts that indignant people have to assimilate and built the consensus around them.

So, there is the so-called ‘Government contract’: a mix of economical proposals without coverage, a parallel currency, a ‘far west –style’ justice and racial discriminations. And there is the battle, sought and wanted on the appointed Minister of Economy Paolo Savona, a highly regarded professor well known in Europe for his ‘Euro-Exit’ ideas. President Mattarella accepted a ‘non elected’ mostly unknown prime minister (jurist and professor Giuseppe Conte), and all the list of ministers they propose. Except for Savona. And that’s exactly they want to reach. For M5S and Lega was important to present this name without an alternative one to say: “Without Paolo Savona, we will not make government start” and go to the clash.

It was above all Lega Leader Matteo Salvini who wants the clash, even if he spoke of ‘dignity’: everything was functional to build a narrative that had only one great ‘all season’ enemy, to be used as a ‘non government alibi’ and if needed as lightning rod in case the ‘impossible government’ had started and failed in their ‘proposals’.

“It is necessary to adopt only one idea, one symbol. And above all, to identify the adversary in an enemy, in the sole responsible of all evils “

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “The Unique Enemy”)

M5S and Lega leaders, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, are well aware that it is impossible to get into the Government quickly through the change of the electoral law.

How to get out of the stall and gain consensus, then? Maximizing the tone of the fight, lowering even more the level of arguments and pointing to the belly of the voters (in example: video-harangues on facebook and tweets through which they call for a mass mobilitation), in a sort of massacre game and reduce as much as possible the number of real ‘competitors’. Then return to the vote as soon as possible. And if there is still not enough consensus, start again.

First step reached: Italy, probably will vote again in July, only 4 months after last elections:  none of the parties – not even the Democratic Party and +Europa  (albeit for different reasons) – will support the technical government that President Mattarella has now entrusted to a famous economist, Carlo Cottarelli, former International Monetary Fund official. He will therefore only remain in office at interim with limited tasks until next elections.

Uploading errors and faults to the opponent, responding to the attack with the attack. If you cannot deny bad news, invent new ones to distract “

(Joseph Goebbels, The 11 Principles of Propaganda, Transposition).

The only real winner of this game, unfortunately, is Matteo Salvini. The former MEP Parliament used the initial real M5S willing to govern (and their claimed inexperience, and multiform shape) to make them accept a right oriented ‘Government contract’ that distorted some of their principles and disturbed the ‘left oriented’ base Movement. More, Salvini is eroding Forza Italia spaces, and when Italy will return to vote, probably he will succeed in the objective of seeing Lega  consensus grow a lot.

And if M5S were to lose also some votes because of that ‘compromise’, then could be also possible that Lega becomes first Italian party.

This is why it is absolutely necessary that the liberal, pro-European and democratic forces – setting aside the differences – already join forces to build a real alternative to a drift that risks turning Italy into Venezuela rather than Hungary. Only in this way, with a dialogue around shared projects, can we really change Europe and lay the foundations for a re-start that gives Italy the leading role in the Union.

 

 

 

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+EUROPA, NO MORE SIGNATURES TO COLLECT: A GREAT VICTORY FOR LIBERALISM AND DEMOCRACY

In this contribution, our blog coordinator Emanuele Lombardini, talks about some important news regarding +Europa, the new liberal democratic and pro-European Italian movement: it will be allowed to compete in the next political elections thanks to a gesture of democracy made by a very different party.

Liberalism in Italy is still alive. Not that it had ever died, for heaven’s sake, but certainly the long absence from Parliament of a true party that expresses liberal democratic and pro-European values ​​has, over the years, contributed a lot to lowering the awareness among Italian people of the importance of the EU for national growth, giving space to populists and neo-fascist drifts.

In a press conference, former European Commissioner Emma Bonino, and one of the leaders of +Europa, announced the new pro-European, federalist and liberal democratic Italian movement will not anymore have to collect signatures and will be officially allowed to compete in the next election race.  The news has enormous importance for European and Italian Liberalism because Italian voters now have the chance to choose a really liberal democratic proposal, the only real opposition to the racist and populist drift that is slipping country into chaos.

This was made possible thanks to Bruno Tabacci, a politician whose roots are very far from Emma Bonino’s.  Tabacci is founder and leader of Centro Democratico, a small Catholic-inspired party born of one of the many splits of the ancient Democrazia Cristiana. During the same press conference Tabacci announced that Centro Democratico will  join +Europa. Tabacci’s party is already represented in the Italian Parliament after the 2013 elections (it gained a seat as part of “Italia Bene commune” coalition), and this fact gives +Europa the right to compete in the next electoral round. According to Italian law, all the parties present in the current parliament are automatically allowed to compete in the next one, whether they present themselves alone or together with a group of parties under a common symbol and name.

Centro Democratico and Tabacci therefore become the fourth member of + Europa, alongside Radicali Italiani, Forza Europa and political association Movimenta.

Bruno Tabacci’s decision has great importance because it recognises two important aspects: firstly that Italy absolutely needs a really liberal democratic and europeist party (Partito Liberale Italiano choose to join the centre right side, together with populists and nationalists) and secondly that it is important that each party has the same chances to compete. Tabacci said: “I want my gesture to be considered a contribution to democracy. I decided to make the symbol of my party available for +Europa to recover a dimension of freedom that I consider fundamental. If there had not been Emma Bonino’s list we would all have been poorer”. This decision was really a great message of democracy: even if Radicali and CD share some challenges and topics, they are very far apart in some other areas. It must be said that in the 2014 European elections Centro Democratico appeared alongside  liberal democratic movements in Italy: the white and orange CD symbol was within the one of “Scelta Europea con Guy Verhofstadt” and Tabacci was also one of the unlucky candidates on the same list. Tabacci himself took part in the last pro-European meeting that was held in Rome and of which Liberal Words wrote: “It’s time to take a step towards democracy. This is why I was there, at a pro-European gathering in Rome – he said – Our different points of view in some topics are not a problem”.

Tabacci is the only politician who took concrete action to save the chance to give Italian voters the chance to choose a pro-European proposal.  Other politicians, both in centre-left and in the centre-right side, only expressed words of appreciation for Emma Bonino, but none of them gave any real help to reduce or avoid the collection of signatures. It was only thanks to an amendment within the budget law, after a letter written by  Emma Bonino, Forza Europa leader Benedetto Della Vedova and Radicali Italiani secretary Riccardo Magi to premier Paolo Gentiloni, that +Europa obtained permission to reduce the required number of signatures to be collected from 50.000 to 25.000. So now, no more signatures are needed. But both Radicali Italiani and Forza will remain committed together to fight the new electoral law, a fight for democracy: other lists in fact do still have the trouble of collecting signatures.

European liberalism can therefore hope to have its representatives in the Italian government, which is certainly a big step forward compared to the past. But it’s only now that the real battle begins.  Many people in Italy believe that + Europe may be the real surprise of the upcoming elections and that it can also attract the votes of some disgruntled people who in the past had supported the Democratic Party, especially if +Europa presents itself alone, without allies.

Emma Bonino is a widely respected politician and her battles have reached cross-party to create consensus among the various political affiliations. This is driving + Europa, that now seems much closer than before to reach 3% of voters, the minimum in order to elect their representatives in Parliament if they choose to go alone (while within a coalition it is sufficient to reach 1%) and that is why now the Democratic Party, until now very closed to discuss about an alliance,  reopened the dialogue in the search of a political agreement. The race to bring Europe back to the centre of Italian political debate has begun!

Emanuele Lombardini

WHY EUROPEAN LIBERAL LEADERS WILL LEAD THE WAY

In this contribution, Anja Fabiani, our individual members country coordinator from Slovenia, describes why European and liberal leaders will grow in importance and will become a role model for any other leadership in the international scene over the next few years.

Smart power leadership is essential for future leaders. More than this; it’s the driving force behind successful global leadership. We understand it as a metaphor; it is not about the concrete leadership process or a leader as a personality.

Smart power leadership means  the combination of various sources and strategies, of hard and soft approaches, all dependent on context. Different players constitute the social and political reality, they interact with each other and contribute to the changes in the same way that conventional leaders once did. Civil society and cyber revolution are part of it. This means radical democratisation as other forms of hegemony fall apart.

The process of Enlightenment is unfinished. It never will be complete but  it has revived the contra revolution of religious and other ideological belief systems. Today, Society is not threatened neither by class, nor by God warriors – endless expansion threatens it. Future leaders will show their capacity when referring to the frame of limitation; how they will relate to Others (third World, powerless…) and to technological and scientific developments.

European worth lies in the heritage of its intellectual diversity.

European worth lies in the heritage of its intellectual diversity. Not in the civilizational elitism nor in the mimicry of ideologies alone but in an interaction of both. United in truth; It is the different intellectual and cultural models, arisen from Europe’s past, which today form the new reality. This is the context of smart power and the potential of European leadership. It could be a role model for any other leadership outside when properly understood. It is renewed; it is newly enlightened.

Transformative leadership is the leadership which addresses the exchange of needs and targets values of liberty or justice. It is inspirational, not pushy; it reaches out to the liberal norms. Transactional leadership is harder; but combination is the perfect harmony.

So, why is the future leader European and liberal?

In understanding the process of changing global society, it is never just European, but it carries its essential part: self-limitation with ratio, self-consciousness of diversity and claim for peaceful co-existence.

The new leader flies on the wings of freedom, only by personal choice and in full interaction with Others, with full respect to Equality, Fraternity and Liberty and with the reference to Moral Imperative.

They will never allow others to limit their Freedom, not with vain ideas, nor fixed ideology, and never by terror.

The future European liberal leader is Millennial

The future European liberal leader is Millennial,  they turn the world upside down and shake it because they know that everything is meant to be change.

It is about the dance of existence in the heart of Europe. It is about freedom when there will no longer be a need to explain what freedom is or where Europe is placed. Leadership as such will transcendent its meaning.

Until then, we, all leaders, are the force behind and have the responsibility to understand.

Europe faces challenges, which are bound to stoke tensions between security and freedom. We should act united, in common defence, but open. Real threat lies not in openness but in the tension toward it, in extremism or radicalisation.

Liberals should move forward to bright horizons of centre. Why are we always in third or fourth place? Why not first? It feels so natural.

The first real smart power leadership

Individual membership of ALDE Party is a genius idea because it is a grassroots movement, which involves the spectrum of civil society, but is a part of political family, which lets people act on both levels. Truly democratic. We could name it: the first real smart power leadership. The challenge for the future will be to maintain its purity –people acting with no power aspirations, loyal to ideals – but still maintaining influence on decision-making processes. On the other hand, Europe as a value, has never been more important. It is  now centre-stage.

We have a chance as never before. Towards smart leadership: the first step is to build transnational European lists, to have transnational delegates to European structures, to have European citizenship and to federalise the continent in a completely new way.

Go for it. Stand up for it.

Be the inspiration and the transformation.

Anja Fabiani

TRANSFORMING THE BREXIT DEBACLE INTO A VICTORY FOR EUROPEAN DEMOCRACY: THE CASE FOR TRANSNATIONAL LISTS

In this contribution, Sebastien Martin from France, discusses how to transform Brexit into a chance for European Democracy and relaunch the topic of transnational lists for the European Parliament. In particular, he supports Emmanuel Macron’s idea to use the 73 UK seats.

Back in the 1950s, the three European founding treaties stated that “the European Parliament shall consist of delegates who shall be designated by the respective Parliaments from among their members in accordance with the procedure laid down by each Member State”. But, already fixing their aim higher, they gave to the Parliament the task to “draw up proposals for elections by direct universal suffrage in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States”. The first point is, as we all know, a reality since the European Electoral Act of 1976, which enabled the first European elections by direct suffrage three years later. The second point though – a uniform procedure covering a pan-European circumscription – remained, until now, unachieved

  1. The constitutional framework: the step back of the Treaty of Amsterdam

For more than 40 years, all constitutional amendments have maintained the idea that a single uniform procedure for European elections was the main objective of any future efforts to modify the Electoral Act. Unfortunately, the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) revised those ambitions downward by creating the option of having elections held “in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States or in accordance with principles common to all Member States” (now Article 223(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)).

The same treaty encouraged the Council, a few years later, to amend the Electoral Act of 1976. In its original Article 7, the Act contemplated only – as the founding treaties – a uniform electoral procedure. In 2002, the Council cut short this option with a very laconic formulation, whereby “the electoral procedure shall be governed in each Member State by its national provisions”.

2. The institutional procedure: the blocking of the European Council

The Treaty of Maastricht (1992), the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community, contained a second paragraph regarding the procedure to be specifically followed to amend the 1976 Act, and which has been later defined as a “special legislative procedure” by the Treaty of Lisbon (2007). In what is now Article 223(2) of TFEU, the Parliament has the exclusive right to initiate the procedure reforming the Electoral Act, but its proposal shall be unanimously approved by the Council and ultimately ratified by each Member State as per its own constitutional requirements.

In 2011, former Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff (ALDE, UK), then-Chair of the EP’s Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO), prepared a project of reform which unfortunately failed to reach the plenary assembly. Instead, the European Parliament opted in 2013 for mere recommendations to the Member States. A second proposal, backed by Danuta Hübner (EPP, Poland) and Jo Leinen (S&D, Germany), has finally been voted in plenary by the Parliament on 11 November 2015. Since then, the project has been blocked by the European Council which argued, not directly on the point of transnational lists but rather on the official recognition of Spitzenkandidaten, that its prerogatives were being diminished by the proposal.

3. A perfect alignment of the stars – but citizen support might be the ultimate element to tip the scales

The European Parliament, in its latest resolution on Brexit dated 5 April 2017, has reiterated its willingness to move forward on the reform of the Electoral Act, implicitly making the connection between the transnational list initiative and the UK seats which will become vacant.

Macron, since the start of its French presidential campaign, made clear that transnational lists were one of the priorities of En Marche’s European policy and that the 73 UK seats shall be used to support the initiative. Now elected, Mr. Macron is de facto a member of the European Council, which raises the hopes that the Council’s position will finally move forward on the topic – probably at the cost of concessions to be made to some other provisions of the European Parliament’s proposal.

In a world where citizens are more willing to take the power back into their own hands, online petitions are a powerful tool to bring legitimacy and weight to overcome institutional lethargy. And we, as ALDE’s Individual Members, have a duty to raise public awareness on the ongoing debates, support our ALDE Group in Parliament, and ask our recently elected Delegates to testify about our unconditional commitment at the next Party’s Congress and Council meetings.

As Andrew Duff wrote in a recent article for the European Policy Center, “the time for such a radical reform is now. The introduction of European lists would at a stroke Europeanise the European elections and re-invent the Parliament”. Let’s make sure that ALDE is pushing as hard as possible to transform the Brexit debacle into a victory for European democracy. The countdown has already begun.

Sebastien Martin

IL POPULISMO, IL FASCISMO E IL MEZZOGIORNO IN UN’EUROPA CHE CAMBIA

In this blog post (in Italian) Massimo Ricciuti describes the situation in Italy, the return of ‘fascist’ ideas and possible liberal solutions. Furthermore, he explains the particular situation in Southern Italy

In queste settimane, immediatamente successive alla tornata delle elezioni amministrative in Italia,  alle presidenziali e successivamente alle legislative francesi (oltre quelle inglesi) sono emerse questioni drammaticamente importanti che ci toccano da vicino. C’è una crisi generalizzata delle istituzioni democratiche, è vero e tale crisi fa immediatamente affrontata. Ma il punto più preoccupante che è emerso in questi giorni è la sfacciata ricomposizione di gruppi e forze politiche dichiaratamente fasciste. Purtroppo la questione è generalizzata e coinvolge tutta l’Europa.  E’ quindi quanto mai urgente porsi il problema di “quale Europa” ci sia bisogno.

Cambiare per superare la ‘transizione permanente’

E’ ormai acclarato che siamo definitivamente entrati in quella che si chiama “fase di transizione permanente”. La qual cosa ci pone di fronte a rimetterci continuamente in discussione come cittadini di un’Europa che se vuol davvero essere all’altezza delle sfide della contemporaneità deve fare del “cambiamento” il suo elemento distintivo. Il cambiamento (o anche crisi) è parte fondamentale della vita dei singoli ma anche delle istituzioni. Ma il cambiamento spesso fa paura e non è un caso che il sentimento dominante oggi è la paura. Le società contemporanee sono afflitte da questa sensazione di incapacità di affrontare il nuovo e ecco che trovano terreno fertile forze politiche e gruppi che si reggono proprio sulla paura. Ma abbiamo il dovere della memoria. E deve essere sempre presente la cognizione che le peggiori dittature sono diretta espressione dell’incapacità dei singoli e delle istituzioni di reagire positivamente alle fasi di crisi (cambiamento). Dalla Brexit all’Ungheria, dal fenomeno Le Pen fino allo scampato pericolo populista in Olanda e continuando fino all’Italia si può dire che l’Europa si sia battuta con tenacia impedendo l’imporsi di una egemonia reazionaria e illiberale. Ma è vero che nel frattempo elementi di forte preoccupazione si sono palesati in tutti i Paesi membri della UE. Non nascondiamoci dietro allo scampato pericolo…perché qualcosa che brucia c’è, e solo un’ Europa rinnovata e più forte può far fronte a segnali spesso intollerabili e sfacciati. Un’Europa che spesso è proprio il bersaglio principale di sovranisti di ogni risma. Per esempio, non è casuale quello che sta accadendo in Italia oggi.

Il ritorno di nostalgie ‘fasciste’  e come superarle

Proprio in questi giorni si sta discutendo, in Parlamento, della possibilità di estendere il reato di apologia del fascismo anche su web e di inasprire le pene per chi commette tale reato. La reazione delle destre populiste (Salvini, Fratelli d’Italia e il Movimento Cinque Stelle di Grillo) sì è subito fatta sentire. Tra l’altro in questi partiti vi sono molti assessori, consiglieri comunali e regionali che non fanno mistero di inneggiare a Benito Mussolini e al nazifascismo.

Credo di non essere il solo a essere preoccupato per tutto questo.

Di sicuro si tratta dell’ennesimo fenomeno che segnala una debolezza di tenuta della forma della democrazia rappresentativa e dei suoi meccanismi di funzionamento ma anche di una sensazione di lontananza delle istituzioni che devono rispondere a nuove urgenze che la contemporaneità richiede.

Però risulta evidente che esiste una questione “fascista” , in Italia, mai metabolizzata e risolta. E’ come se ci fosse una sorta di “rimozione” psicologica…. E spesso accade che chi si macchia del reato di apologia del fascismo non viene perseguito ma tollerato. Questo fa pensare che in fondo questo Paese non abbia mai affrontato realmente il ventennio fascista e forse ne abbia quasi nostalgia!

Mussolini viene ricordato come un “nonno” severo e nulla più dalla maggior parte degli italiani,  la cosa è drammatica.

Per questo occorre subito smettere di rincorrere i populisti e le loro tematiche. Occorre puntare sull’Europa come propulsore di democrazia e civiltà. Occorre rilanciare l’open society contro i sovranismi di ogni tipo.

La ‘Questione meridionale’: clientele da superare

Esiste, inoltre, un’altra questione che riguarda il mezzogiorno d’Italia e il ruolo che dovrebbe avere in un’Europa che sia protagonista dei cambiamenti che riguardano i Paesi che affacciano sul Mediterraneo. Un’Europa che sappia governare i cambiamenti e che stimoli e sproni zone come il sud-Italia a essere partecipe del presente e artefice del proprio futuro e non vittima di ataviche cattive abitudini e atteggiamenti conservatori. E’ proprio dalla presa di coscienza delle proprie possibilità che il sud e i Paesi mediterranei potranno (nel medio periodo) essere un volano per  tutta l’Europa visto il ruolo che potrebbero avere su un’area in cui gli scambi commerciali, culturali e economici offrono ambi margini e occasioni di sviluppo e crescita. Ma il Mezzogiorno di Italia la smetta di perpetuare modelli di governo locale plebiscitari, peronisti e clientelari! Abbia la forza di scommettere su se stesso e sulle proprie capacità di saper attrarre investimenti. Dimostri di saper sfruttare le sue naturali risorse e “faccia sistema” con il resto del Paese e si faccia parte propulsiva di un nuovo progetto di rilancio europeo che parta dal mediterraneo…. E vedrete che con un po’ di rigore e una decisa assunzione di responsabilità il sud potrà essere nel giro di un decennio l’esempio di un nuovo modo di fare impresa. Un ponte di opportunità per tutta l’ Europa. Un ruolo strategico (non è un caso che la base NATO di Napoli sia stata scelta come riferimento europeo per la lotta al terrorismo)

A patto che si smetta con nostalgie nefaste…

Massimo Ricciuti

European democracy reloaded (or pruned)

In this blog post, Leonardo De Melo talks about the future of the European Union, primarily for young people who do not remember a time when the Union didn’t exist. Leonardo leads a thoughtful discussion on what future these young people will inherit, particularly concerning education and employment opportunities. Finally, Leonardo discusses the need for Government transparency and openness. Continue reading European democracy reloaded (or pruned)