In recent months some journalists have sought to establish links between Syriza and Italy’s Five Star Movement on the basis that they are both ‘Euroskeptic’ parties. Such a sweeping comparison is superficial at best and fails to acknowledge major incompatibilities between the forces. Below are three reasons why Tsipras is unlikely to find common ground with Beppe Grillo’s populist movement:
- 1. Grillo is committed to destroying the single currency. Of all the ‘Euroskeptic’ parties The Five Star Movement is that most explicitly opposed to the Euro. In Italy, Grillo is organizing a ‘people’s referendum’ in the hope of forcing an Italian exit, while in Brussels they are at the head of an uncompromising assault against the single currency. Syriza on the other hand have seesawed on this issue but as recently as last week emphasized that they “support the Euro”. Even in the unlikely case of a forced Grexit such parity between the parties suggests their ideas of internationalism are in irreconcilable tension.
- 2. Grillo’s supporters see Syriza as representing ‘the political class’. From the perspective of the notoriously rowdy Five Star representatives in Europe, Syriza are just another manifestation of the ‘political class’ with an ‘old-fashioned’ bureaucracy and hierarchal structure actively at odds with their utopian ideal of cyber-democracy. Tsipras’s Keynsianism is likewise incompatible with the ‘alter-neoliberalism’ of the M5S who are hostile to freedom of movement and yet proselytize economic globalization.
- 3. Grillo has some foul bedfellows. Outside of Italy there is still a worrying tendency to misread Grillo’s movement as a force of the radical left. This is completely miguided. As the well known Italian literary collective Wu Ming brilliantly argued during the national elections, the movement is better seen as a consolidation of elite power than its negation. Meanwhile in Brussels, Grillo’s most significant alliances so far have been with UKIP’s Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen of the Front National: the far right. The idea that Syriza might stand in line with these parties is absurd.
Taken together these points demonstrate the dangers of the blanket term ‘Euroskeptic’. Much like ‘anti-establishment’ or ‘anti-politics’ there is no single meaning here and its use should always be subservient to more fundamental political distinctions, including left and right. As this debate goes on, then, Syriza’s supposed Euroskepticism must be distinguished from that of Grillo or Farage as constituting a challenge to the EU in its current form rather than Europe itself.