Luca Bocci is responsible for the international projects of Tea Party Italia, a coalition of several Italian Tea Party groups founded in May 2010. As a journalist specialized in international affairs and finance, Bocci has worked for several national newspapers, including “Il Giornale,” “La Padania,” “L’Opinione,” in addition to working as a professional translator and international trade advisor. He has participated in local politics for more than 10 years, and from July 2010 to June 2011 has been the National Spokesperson of Tea Party Italia.
Brian Underwood is a contributing writer at themendenhall.com
This interview is the second installment of a two-part interview with Mr. Bocci. See the first installment here.
BU: In the United States, the Tea Party has shown some success in electing pro-liberty candidates to political office. Now, public officials like Senator Rand Paul, Senator Mike Lee, Representative Ron Paul, Representative Justin Amash, and others have all been very supportive of Tea Party policies and groups. Have Tea Party groups experienced the same kind of success or is it more of an “outside-looking-in” perspective for the time being?
I believe that this will be the aim of every TP group around the world: converting the political capital accumulated with online activism and grassroots campaigning into “fungible” political currency, i.e. votes in primaries and general elections. Every TP group I know all over the world has this purpose. Some are more ahead then others.
The guys and gals from the Australian TEA Party have managed to directly influence the election of a candidate in a local election and are trying to pressure some independent candidates in order to force the collapse of Labor government in a general election. The Tokyo Tea Party has been capable of successfully supporting several candidates in local elections, but I guess you’ll have to ask them directly the details. (Communication with Japan is always very complicated – their English is not so good, my Japanese is almost nonexistent.) The situation in Italy, Canada, the Netherlands and Argentina varies, but generally we find more problems in converting our actions into political capital.
Every country has got specific electoral/political systems and some are more resistant to outside pressure. The Italian system, for example, is pretty much impossible to influence at the national level, as long as the current, hideous electoral system is in place. Right now, we are campaigning with other groups to call for the abolition of the locked list system while returning to a system that allows citizens to directly influence the choice of the person who will represent them in the national parliament. Until then, we will be limited to the municipal/county level, where we can still make the difference.
The main problem is that, for the time being, few local groups have got the organizational skills to put in place a serious campaign, one capable of affecting significantly the election of a politician. That’s the problem of a movement that has a considerable following but is spread all over the country: we rarely have the critical mass of votes, activists, fundraising resources in a single district. This situation will change, in Italy like in Argentina, like in Canada. Unfortunately we do not know how long it will take to make this crucial transition.
We’re working to implement some organizational changes that could help us maximize our resources, but we’re not sure of achieving immediate results. That’s why I’d like to maximize transatlantic cooperation at a grassroots level. That’s what is sorely lacking right now. We’ll have to step up our efforts, with the help of any American Tea Partier. I am definitely sure that we will achieve a great deal of results with minimal effort from both sides, but we’ll have to find both the time and the right way to do this fundamental action. It is very easy to make mistakes and waste time and money, but the potential rewards are too big not to give our best to make it work. We most definitely need some guidance on this subject. We’ll just have to find the right way to link activists from both sides of the Atlantic.
BU: Obviously with the “starfish” structure, absolute uniformity is impossible, but how do you handle schisms between various groups? Do you sort of let them stand, as I’ve seen done in the U.S., or do you try to reach out to the misguided chapter?
Our philosophy in this matter could be expressed as absolute expedience. Aside from the fact that the “starfish” structure remains more a goal than an achievement for our movement, the most active group of organizers spends most of the time trying to put out dialectic fires or verbal fights between the various components of the various groups. Being leaderless and tendentially anarchical obviously has some serious drawbacks, but we do believe that, in the end, people will realize that the real fight, against statism, socialism and paternalistic tendencies is the only one that really matters. This is where the political upbringing of each and every activist comes into play.
In Italy, politics have never been seen as “service” but as the ultimate ego trip, a ruthless, chaotic run for personal power, to be redistributed to your personal clique to consolidate your gains. There’s a saying in Italy: when two Italians meet they talk about soccer, when they’re three they start a political party. For the time being, groups tend to be informal and united more on ideals than expediency. You have the libertarians that pass most of their time campaigning for Ron Paul, picking fights with the Rick Perry conservatives (it gets sometimes ugly, trust me), the religious “right” that tries to steer the movement on social and moral issues, the radical crowd that seems to be utterly fixated on finding new and creative ways to irritate the Catholics, with their sometimes senseless attacks on the “evils” of the Vatican. Then you have us, the “not very moderate moderators”, who try to put a little order in this mess and remind everyone that the real fight is elsewhere, that all actions should be productive in terms of visibility, fundraising or organization.
To be completely frank, I’d love to have some of the problems people in the US have. Wayward groups, fixated on minor, sometimes unpalatable issues, that “spring up” from nowhere are a sign of extreme vitality of the American TP movement. We sometimes have to beg people to take the torch and try to organize a simple meeting in some particularly hostile districts.
In Italy we also have to fight another serious problem. People do not want to get involved in local issues; they find them “irrelevant” or not worth their time. We have become so accustomed to statism to have internalized the concept that Washington (well, Rome) runs everything and is the one that always calls the shots. Why waste time discussing in the regional (state) parliament when it is the central (federal) government that holds the purse? This is what has caused the actual, derelict state of Italian politics, where factual debates are nonexistent and most of the time we hear people screaming and shouting on the television just to play their part in a disgusting comedy run with the People’s money.
We believe that all politics are and always will be local, that people will always be more interested in what surrounds their circle of interests and that there is nothing wrong with this. I’m sure that when activists realize that the movement is not the last in a painfully long line of failed political experiments but something radically different, something that could change our country forever, they will stop wasting time and start to work on building the tools to demolish the socialist beast. Until then, we’ll just have to maintain the course and try, try harder and try again. No shortcuts, I’m afraid. We’ll have to do it the right way, which is mighty hard. Freedom isn’t free but sometimes it’s frustrating to realize that some people find it incredibly difficult to prioritize things. You care about legalization of marijuana? Good for you. Would you rather have free dope or free enterprise and a really free market? Would you rather have the ban on abortion or a fair/flat tax system? First things first.
BU: In the first installment of the interview, you’ve mentioned career politicians attempting to hijack the Tea Party Movement. Naturally, we have that issue too (even Mitt Romney, as late as the September 7 debate, appealed to Tea Party sentiment). How do you try to prevent and mitigate the effects of such attempts?
How we do it? With repeated “cease and desist” letters from our very sympathetic lawyer or with diplomatic attempts with the most reasonable ones. The situation in Italy, obviously, is much different from the American one. We are much smaller and still have to prove that we can be a force to be reckoned with. Still, it happened several times in the past to read news stories talking about the necessity to “build something similar to the American Tea Party movement”. Our answer, inevitably, was “indeed, that’s why we’ve been trying to do it for the past 18 months”.
I do believe that career politicians, in Italy and elsewhere, do not have a single clue about the TP movement. The very few that have grasped its monumental importance are either fighting it with all their strength or embracing it in the only way possible: listening to the local groups and working in the institution to further its agenda. In Europe we see neither behavior. Politicians are only interested in grabbing headlines and airtime on mainstream media. They talk about the Tea Party because somewhere in their confused mind has arisen the idea of exploiting the power of the message of the Tea Party to build some consensus but they are truly, completely clueless.
In Italy, especially, they think that it’s possible to use a name that is becoming somehow a political commodity to propose policies that have got nothing in common with our vision of a freer, less regulated, more responsible society. We heard rumors that Mr. Berlusconi, that is hiking taxes like a mad man in order to keep alive the hideous Socialist machine that is bleeding the country white, last year considered quite seriously the idea of “creating” a movement using the Tea Party name and putting a very discredited lady politician to create his own little Sarah Palin. We moved immediately to remind anyone that the name “Tea Party Italia” is a registered trademark in our country and that any attempt to use it to represent anything that does not respond to the TP ethos will be fought with all our strength in court. I’m not so presumptuous to believe that our “trick” convinced him to follow other paths, but many other politicians may have been dissuaded by it.
Last year a Senator contacted us in order to organize some events in his region. He fancied the idea of becoming the “head” of the Tea Party. I was entrusted with the mission of going to Rome and talk with him. In the Senate building we spoke very frankly about the movement and I repeated to him that, should he know someone interested in building a TP group, he should advise them to just do it. I also reminded him that such a group would have had to share the basic tenets of the Tea Party vision, i.e. fiscal responsibility, minimal government, laissez-faire market policies, the gradual demolition of the welfare state and the shift of economic focus from the government back to the individual. We never heard from him again.
Last week, Belpietro, the editor in chief of a prominent daily newspaper wrote that Italy needed its own Tea Party. We sent him an open letter, reminding him that, while ruefully inadequate, a Tea Party in Italy already exists and that it could become much more effective if its views were not censored in any conceivable way by the media. We received no answer. So, in short, how do we keep politicians from hijacking the Tea Party movement? Keeping true to its ideals, its vision and reminding every member of what the TP really stands for. An informed activist will not be swayed by empty promises or political gimmicks. This recipe, in my humble opinion, works like a charm everywhere in the world, but I don’t think that most of our brothers in arms in the US need this reminder. They know perfectly well what’s at stake and how to defend what they have built in the last two years.
BU: What is your outlook on the future?
Extremely bleak, unfortunately, in my country more than elsewhere. The European situation is unraveling at such a speed that would have been impossible to predict just a few months back. Everything that people said would have never happened here is happening right before our eyes. Politicians of all political colors are resorting to every conceivable method in order to extort more money from their subjects. The word “democracy” in countries under special administration is rapidly becoming a ruse, almost an insult. In Greece right now they are forcing people to pay a blatantly unjust tax with their electrical bill. Can you believe their gall? “If you don’t pay, I’ll cut your electricity” What will be their next step? Flogging people in the town square? Throwing everyone in jail? Outlawing private property?
The dissolution of the social-democrat experiment is rapidly unfolding but, unfortunately, is not leading to a real revolution, to the return to a society based on personal responsibility, free market and the rule of law. Europe is choosing to jump from the cliff, blinded by the childish belief that a free meal is not only possible, but that the “smartest” and best connected individuals are entitled to it. I’ve talked before about the fact that this situation looks increasingly more like the one in pre-revolutionary France, with a limited number of privileged individuals living on the backs of the productive members of society. Back then they were called aristocrats, now they’re public “servants” (the irony of this definition is simply amazing), bureaucrats, special interests, mixed economy facilitators and people who would do anything to be at their place.
Nothing new here, mind you. The same exact thing happened in the Soviet Union. The military overstretch was just the tip of the iceberg. The Soviet economy was destroyed by the growing weight of a class of privileged apparatchiks who thought that, just by being willing executioners of a criminal regime, they were entitled to a standard of living way better than the one reserved to the regular workers, those who were supposed to be free of the “exploitation of capitalism.”
Liberals on the mainstream media in Europe are screaming at the top of their lungs for the return of the so-called “primacy of politics over economics”, as if it were possible to erase public debt by parliamentary decree. People fail to realize that you cannot cure a poisoned body by injecting ever increasing doses of the poison that is killing it. They are willing to call for expropriation of anyone else’s wealth, thinking that they will be the ones to profit from this massive thievery. They will be sorely disappointed. The system is about to collapse and, if the liberals and their cronies have it their way, will leave nothing but a pile of rubble.
Time is quickly running out and there is only one way to escape this catastrophe: cut now, cut everything, fire everyone, return power and control to the people, privatize everything, return to a system of sound currency and drastically reduce taxation. I frankly don’t know if people on both sides of the Atlantic will wake up in time to avoid the final collapse. I know that, as far as the global Tea Party is concerned, we will do our best to sound the clarion and call people of good will and good heart to the fight.
If things should go south, there is one thing we cannot afford: regrets. Do everything in your power to spread the message, do not be afraid of the rage of the leftists. In front of the Truth, they’re powerless. Educate yourself, educate your neighbor. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. I pray every day that people will find the courage to keep on fighting, even if everything around them is collapsing. I know that the global Tea Party movement will keep on fighting, one way or another. This is a battle we simply cannot afford to lose.
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