An Ungovernable Italy: Interview with Bifo

by | 1 Mar 2013

Amador Fernández-Savater
: What is the context in which the Italian elections have taken place?

Bifo: The political disintegration of Europe. Europe was born as a project of peace and social solidarity, taking up the legacy of the socialist and internationalist culture that opposed fascism. In the 90s, finance capital’s major centres of power decided to destroy the European model and the signing of the Maastricht Treaty unleashed the neo-liberal assault. In the last three years, the anti-Europe of the ECB and Deutsche Bank seized the opportunity of the 2008 financial crisis in the US to transform the cultural diversity of the European continent (its Protestant culture, gothic and communitarian, its Catholic culture, baroque and individualist, its spiritualist and iconoclastic orthodoxy) into a factor of political disintegration of the European Union; and above all in order to make labour resistance bow completely before capitalist globalisation. The drastic cutting of wages, the elimination of the 8 hour limit to a working day, labour precarity among young people, the postponement of retirement for older people and the privatisation of services. The European population has to pay the debt accumulated by the financial system because debt functions as a gun pointed at the backs of workers.

AFS: We are at a historic turning point.

Bifo: Two things can happen. Either the labour movement can stop this offensive and set in gear a process of social reconstruction of the European Union, or in the next decade civil war will break out in many parts of Europe, fascism will spread everywhere and labour will be subjected to 19th century conditions of exploitation.

AFS: What has the Italian electorate had to say about this alternative?

Bifo: 75% of the Italian electorate has said NO to the European project of Merkel-Draghi-Monti: 25% abstained; 25% voted for Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement; and the other 25% voted for the party of the mafia and fascism, for the most brilliant swindler in history, Berlusconi, the sworn enemy of Angela Merkel because the mafia cannot accept economic rule from Berlin. The Italian elections are a response that can evolve in a positive direction or a catastrophic one. It depends on the progressives, on the intellectuals and the autonomous social movements of the continent, it depends on us.

AFS: What is your analysis of the Grillo phenomenon?

Bifo: Beppe Grillo’s movement is the novelty in these elections. It has picked up votes mainly from the left movements, but it has also gathered votes on the right. Beppe Grillo has said repeatedly that his movement would steal votes from the right and it has achieved this. I do not believe the 5 Star Movement will be able to govern Italy, that is not the point. The important and positive function that the Movement can have is to make the country ungovernable for the anti-European party of Draghi-Merkel-Monti. The Italian electorate has said: we will not pay the debt. Default. Europe’s financial governability has ended, even if Berlusconi and Bersani reach an agreement in order to survive and keep impoverishing the country by transferring resources and wealth to the financial system. That agreement has no future, it will not last. But it is then that the worst can begin.

AFS: What do you have in mind?

Bifo: The financial class will try to strangle Italy as it has done with Greece. The political crisis will be turbulent and violent. The result may be frightening. The mafia and fascism have shown they control 35% of the Italian electorate and the left no longer exists. The idea of the North’s secession will re-appear even with the Lega Nord’s collapse.

AFS: Do you see an alternative?

Bifo: Yes, a process of liberating Europe from the violence of finance capital could also begin – the reconstruction of Europe on a social basis. Outside the political schemas of the 20th century, there could arise everywhere an unconventional movement for organised default and productive autonomy. An occupation movement could transform universities into sites of practical research for finding post-capitalist solutions. The factories, which finance capital wants to destroy, could be occupied and self-managed, as was done in Argentina after 2001. The squares could be occupied so that they became sites of permanent debate.

AFS: This movement of society that you propose, would it have any programme?

Bifo: The programme was set forth by Beppe Grillo, a programme which, despite what the professional liars of La Repubblica say, is very reasonable:

  • A citizen wage.
  • Reduction of the working week to 30 hours.
  • The restitution to schools of the 8 billion dollars that the Berlusconi government stole from the education system.
  • Good working conditions for all precarious workers in education, health and transport.
  • Nationalisation of banks that have favoured speculation at the cost of the community.
  • Immediate abolition of the fiscal pact.

AFS: There are those who say that Grillo’s party administers the absence of movements in Italy and reproduces it.

Bifo: I don’t agree with that. Must everyone stay still when society is unable to move? We shouldn’t complain because someone else is practising politics in our space, but rather practise politics and create a movement. Grillo’s party has prevented the government of financial dictatorship. Now it is the turn for the movement of society. Will society have the necessary energy and intelligence to self-manage social life with a movement of generalised occupation? If we don’t have that energy, we deserve the disaster that will come.

This is a rushed translation of an interview with Franco Berardi (Bifo), conducted by Amador Fernández-Savater for the Interferencias blog on, published 27thFebruary.

Many thanks to the Irish Left Review.


  1. The 5 Star Movement gained considerably more votes from the Left in the Italian election this week than from Berlusconi and the right. And who is Casaleggio? The web tells us he was born in 1954, then jumps to his employment resume starting with Olivetti. Where did he grow up? Who are his parents, siblings? Does he have a wife, partner, children? Where did he get his university degree? These are not deep questions. I think he is engineering a totalitarian dictatorship of the Web. And Grillo is his tool.
    Grillo’s “tsunami tour” campaign. Tsunami is a violently destructive phenomenon. Grillo shouts instead of speaks at his rallies. Shouting is a form of violence. Grillo says enough about a lot of things that people of all spectrums can agree with, all things to all people. What’s not to be suspicious about? Granted, none of the three other parties elected to Italy’s new parliament gave electors reason for joy. The tsunami found a way to fill the void.
    When Italy experienced the “strategia della tensione” in the Seventies, the Red Brigades and other so-called radical left organizations only hurt the Left in Italy, never helped it. And the parties of the Italian Left 40 years ago had much better individuals and principles than those today.

  2. Bifo, what are you on? Have you read their ‘non-statute’? Please! These people remind me of the ‘geek capitalism’ of California’s silicon valley, all cool slogans and sitting on the floor meetings. L’immaginazione al potere… Remember the slogan? But in the real factories of the third world, including in our own third world, as Amazon teaches us, there’s no room for those cool slogans, let me tell you. Casaleggio makes me yearn for a real revolution, against people like him, failed businessmen with illusions of grandeur.


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