Alessandro Di Battista. Multilevel movements. The Movimento 5 Stelle.
The Movimento 5 Stelle is trying to bring citizen politics inside the Parliament. The usual procedure of the movement is that issues are debated and decided in assemblies and then they are transposed and voted in the Parliament.
There is no more need for political intermediaries: the Internet but also squares and civic centres are more than enough to organize most political debates and initiatives (Di Battista spent 140€ in his political campaign for the Italian parliament). And the good thing of not relying on third parties’ money to run one’s political campaign is that you do not need to pay favours back. The real revolution is that money is put out of the political equation.
Same is likely to happen with media: most papers will shut down and it will come the time when citizens will pay some specific journalists for a given report or documentary.
The Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) heavily relies on networks to be able to get rid of money and, thus, be free from the strings attached: honesty and determination are the main drivers for change and the main assets of M5S. On the other hand, +80% of the MPs of the M5S are graduates, which makes the movement a highly capitalized on in terms of human capital and knowledge. Indeed, it is participation what is sought for by M5S, so that more people with their knowledge and ideas can contribute to make better politics.
Q: how true is that M5S is neither right nor left when some principles are clearly from the left? Why not vindicate a left-wing ideology? On the other hand, how will M5S adapt itself if it came into office? Di Battista: one of the problems is that the left in Italy has been doing “bad” things during many decades. Detaching oneself from that is but healthy. Citizens should be able to present their ideas just for the sake of themselves, without having to clarify whether they are right of left sided, or having to identify them with a given label. About how the party works, now M5S is running a direct democracy project were any citizen can make a proposal and anyone else can vote it, with a binding commitment from M5S that if there is a major voting in favour of a proposal, the movement will bring it to the Parliament. And that is the idea: more participation, more engagement.
Joan Subirats: is the M5S creating a dichotomy between the good and the bad guys, the politicians vs. the common people, etc.? Di Battista: it is not about creating dichotomies, but about opening or disclosing the space of participation. Of course there is a role for the politicians to spark the debate and to try and reach a decision, even if it is not within a consensus. It is not about saying that politicians do not know anything because the citizens are always right: it is about fostering the voice of the citizen, about the citizen having a more balanced power when it comes to decision-making or, at least, to create a debate, and informed debate. It is about free and open information.
Joan Subirats: what is the Role of Beppe Grillo in the movement? Di Battista: Grillo is charismatic, of course, and he influences lots of people, but he is not the intolerant and autocratic person that some say him to be. The list of MPs was open and voted by the government, decisions are taken at the assembly as is the management of the budget or all related to hiring collaboratives.
Marc Rius: it is very different to avoid the appropriation of some labels by certain political parties than denying the existence of the right-left axis. On the other hand, it is very hard to understand that Grillo is having no influence on the movement. Anyway, what is the position of the movement in the immigration issue? Di Battista: Of course Grillo has a great influence: he was the founder of the movement. But influence is one thing and lack of independence is another very different thing. All the decisions are taken at the assembly. About immigration, it is fair acknowledging that the programme was put together in quite a rush. The movement has a strong commitment not with immigrants, but with citizenship and right to citizenship.
Marta Berenguer: how does the assembly work? Di Battista: the assembly is made up by territorial units or meetups (e.g. 15 in Rome). Each meetup makes their own decisions and then they are aggregated and discussed at higher levels. The final decision is made by the MPs at the parliament. Depending on the decision to be made, specific assemblies will be organized.
Q: What about Europe? Di Battista: the European institutions have to be transformed radically. So, it is not about leaving Europe or abandoning the Euro, but definitely Europe needs some serious fixing.