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 first installment of a two-part interview with Mr. Bocci. See the second installment here.
BU: First, I’d really like to extend my thanks to you again, Mr. Bocci, for agreeing to do this interview. Initially, I’d like you to elaborate on the concept of Tea Party Italia. Politically speaking, what is it that Tea Party Italia stands for?
Tea Party Italia is an umbrella organization born in the first half of 2010 in order to provide any help to the various TP groups that were starting their fight in several Italian cities. Our purpose has been clear from day one: reduce the scope and reach of the government, cutting public spending to the bone and returning most, if not all, economic prerogatives to individuals and families. Our fight is against more than 90 years of socialism that have poisoned the minds and hearts of the Italian people, reducing them to a mass of subjects always ready to extend their hands to receive government “help” while being exploited of almost 70% of what would be rightfully theirs.
The focus of our movement has been exclusively on the economic/fiscal issues. This single-mindedness has allowed us to attract people coming from various political traditions, ranging from libertarians to conservatives, from deeply religious people to outright atheists, a feat that should not be underestimated, given the fractiousness and litigiousness of the political landscape in Italy.
BU: Do you consider yourselves related to the Tea Party Movement in the United States, or do you think of yourselves in a more autonomous way?
As for the relationship with the American Tea Party movement, we have to answer a similar question every five seconds or so. Some people, given the outrageous lies spread by Italian and European mainstream media, have advised us to drop the name, come out with a different denomination, one that would resonate more with the Italian public opinion. We have always refused these suggestions.
The Italian Tea Party movement is not just taking some cues from our American brothers in arms. We thoroughly subscribe to their limited government, fiscal and personal responsibility and strict adherence to the American Constitution agenda.
The similarities between the movements are not limited to the object of our political action, but also the method of achieving such goals. We believe that the most efficient way to obtain a permanent reduction of government reach and its voracity in terms of liberty and our money is to educate taxpayers on the ills of a culture of dependency and the superiority of free market, laissez faire policies when it comes to managing a capitalist economy.
We also believe that the extraordinary success of the American Tea Party resides also in its leaderless structure, the so-called “starfish”, composed of hundreds, thousands of independent local chapters that rely on individuals for self-coordination, thus eliminating the need for traditional superstructures that were typical of the political landscape before 2009. Given the very hostile environment we have to operate in and the lack of a consolidated grassroots tradition in our country, we are experiencing some difficulties in making this step and therefore have to provide extra help in order to organize events in some parts of the country. This is only a temporary measure, made necessary by some attempts by career politicians to hijack the movement and use it for their particular interests, but we’re still putting a lot of effort in finding ways to implement the American Tea Party organizational paradigm in our very different political and cultural landscape.
Obviously the Italian Tea Party movement, as all its affiliated local groups, is and will remain separate and independent from our American brothers in arms. We are fighting separate battles towards a common goal: the end of the so-called social-democrat experiment and the return to a culture of self-reliance in every aspect of the political discourse.
We have had contacts with national organizations in the US, such as Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks, but we have found much more fruitful collaborations with some local chapters, mainly the Dallas Tea Party and some other TP groups around the nation. People in Washington have very different priorities from our own. It is much simpler to talk with “regular” folks that know what it’s like to fight in the trenches of the culture war.
At this level, we believe that transatlantic cooperation is not only possible, but also necessary, both from a cultural and political point of view. Most Americans tend to be somehow insular when it comes to dealing with foreign policy issues. Europeans, and Italians in particular, have a rather different way of reading the world we live in, not necessarily more “sophisticated” but definitely more nuanced. That’s why we intend to work tirelessly to establish direct links between local groups from both sides of the Atlantic. “United we stand, across the seas” has been a sort of mantra from day one. Putting these words into practice has been much more difficult than we imagined, but also potentially more rewarding than we could have ever imagined.
BU: You mentioned decentralized leadership when it comes to the operation of the Tea Party, which I agree has proven to be a major asset for the Tea Party Movement as a whole, but what about cultural leadership? Many in the American Tea Party look toward our Founding Fathers for philosophical guidance while figures such as Thomas Sowell, Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, and others have also experienced some level of popularity. When I first found your site, I noticed that one of the pages had an excerpt from one of Rand’s novels. So, I was wondering, who would you consider the cultural-philosophic guides to many within the Tea Party Italia and why?
The cultural landscape of the Italian Tea Party is wildly varied. Literally you can find between our growing ranks people coming from all sorts of political and cultural backgrounds. You name it, we got it. From hard-core libertarians who cite Murray Rothbard every five seconds, to classical liberals still looking to the wisdom of Luigi Einaudi (the first president of the Italian Republic, the towering figure in the classical liberal pantheon), liberists who will look to Sen. Antonio Martino as their reference point (a world-class economist, who studied with Milton Friedman and was one of the original “Chicago boys”), loyal objectivists (that’s where the Ayn Rand quote comes from), to conservatives, religious and not, who will have very different cultural referents. We also have some reformed ex members of the post-fascist “social-right” party, who have renounced their brand of socialism and profess their faith in free markets and personal responsibility. Von Mises and von Hayek are well known, but not so popular, given the fact that no “respectable” college would put one of their books in their curricula. Frederic Bastiat is having a resurgence in these years: we find his crystalline prose and infallible logic very helpful when it comes to bringing home some points in heated discussions.
There were some calls for a “fusionist” approach, finding a “third (fourth? fifth? who knows) way” to the Holy Grail of the liberal-conservative universe, the Theory of Everything that is Not Socialist, but, for the time being, cultural elaboration is pretty much left to the individual Tea Partier – or, as we like to call him/her “teapartygiano” (a wordplay on “partigiano,” the Italian word that indicates the freedom fighters who resisted Nazi-fascist occupation from 1943 to 1945. Many of them were conservatives, royalists, liberals but the hard left has ruthlessly hijacked the whole subject, deleting in true Orwellian style the “white partisans”). Finding some figure that unites every single member of the movement is very difficult. If I had to trust my guts, I’d have to utter the names of our true parents, the father and mother of modern liberal-conservatives, Ronald Wilson Reagan and Baroness Margaret Thatcher. Every aphorism will inevitably cause a roaring applause.
As per the relationship with the American Constitution, some of us have read and studied the works of the Founding Fathers and look at those words for guidance, political and spiritual. When I spoke at the Dallas Tea Party Tax Day, last April, I said that we consider the American Constitution the most important political document in the history of mankind. I meant every single word. I’m sure that most Italian Tea Partiers would agree, if they had the chance of reading and knowing the words of the Founding Fathers.
Unfortunately the socialist-dominated public schools and universities have shrouded those words with a veil of lies, distorting at every step the history of the American Revolution and its political significance in world history. In high school and university history courses, the American Revolution is viewed as a side show to the “real” revolution, the mother of all evils of the modern world, the French one, the one that socialists and statists alike so adore. Reversing decades of disinformation and outright lies will be a monumental task. We are willing to do it but, considered the urgency of the threats to the survival of an imperfect but moderately functioning democracy, cultural battles such as this will probably have to be put on the back burner. This pains us, given that we know that, in order to achieve a durable reversal of current government policies, we would have to win the culture war against the socialist groupthink. The issue is up for discussion, but any help on this very crucial battle would be more than welcome.
BU: Earlier, you gave an overview on the political stances of Tea Party Italia and the general methods of organization implicit within the localized groups and the movement as a whole. But what would you consider to be the more direct goals of Tea Party Italia? Do they focus on educating the public? Electing public officials? Some other goal or combination of goals? In essence, what does Tea Party Italia do as opposed to what does it stand for?
Borrowing the words of John Lennon, we’re not just “talking about a revolution,” we’re taking all necessary steps to finally have one, a real revolution, one that will encompass most aspects of life which Europeans have known for their whole lives. The long term goal is giving back to individuals full control of their economic life, dismantling piece by piece the hideous socialist machinery implemented by governments of all colours since 1923. Given that, our strategy focuses on something pretty much unheard of in continental Europe: grassroots lobbying.
Our most urgent aim is reaching as many people as possible in as many regions of Italy as possible and let them know that most of the things that they’ve been taught by public schools, public universities and state-financed media is wrong. (In Italy, right now, there are no independent media outlets: all of them, in one way or another, receive public funding, thus putting them in a huge conflict of interests.) People think that life without a single-payer mandatory health scheme is unthinkable, that a private system would deny care to the poor and that they should be thankful to the wise men who envisioned and implemented such a wonderful system. They are not aware that such a system has become hugely expensive and is driving the country to economic disaster. Same thing for mandatory public pension schemes and for the many privileges obtained by well-connected categories, such as lawyers, notaries, certified accountants, journalists, who limit the access to the profession driving up prices and stifling competition.
In a perfect world, we could demolish the Moloch that has robbed the future of several generations in a heartbeat. We do realize that any direct, maximalist approach would be disastrous. As Saul Alinsky said, “it is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be”. That’s why we are envisioning a three-pronged attack, one made of education, free market/fiscal responsibility lobbying and direct political action. All of these components are both necessary and urgent.
Unfortunately we have to carefully choose which battles to fight in order to maximize our meager financial and organizational means. During the last local elections, in May, we teamed up with other free-market, classical liberal organizations and drafted a pledge, which we then proceeded to propose to all candidates in local elections. The pledge was extremely short with a crystal-clear wording: never vote to increase taxes, always do your best to reduce public spending and return the savings to the rightful owners, i.e. taxpayers. In a few weeks, almost a hundred candidates publicly signed the pledge. A sizeable number of them were elected to public office (most of them, regrettably, in the minority), but we plan to keep a close eye on their actions in the coming months, letting them know that we’re not going to accept anything less than consequential actions in all occasions. To my knowledge, this is the first time that candidates and public officials in Italy accept to be considered directly responsible for their actions, something that in our political system is very complicated, due to the absence of primary elections and any other way for people to select the person who will represent them (most people are elected through blocked lists, compiled directly by the party leaders, who obviously choose only “safe,” reliable executioners of their will, rather than people who will actually bring know-how and talent to public life). This is just the first step, taken just to prove that grassroots lobbying, especially at the lower echelons of government is possible and that it can work also in Italy.
The current economic crisis has accelerated the growth of the movement and gave it that sense of urgency that was somehow lacking until a few weeks ago. We receive every day messages and calls from people that ask us what are we going to do to stop the madness that is driving the country off the cliff. Together with other liberal-conservative groups we are planning some actions for the coming weeks, something that will definitely make our presence impossible to ignore. Such a move is politically risky, but we feel that the time for careful consideration, conferences, and lengthy conversations on possible future policies is quickly running out. Right now, the only people that are taking actions are socialists, government unions (in the private sector, especially in smaller firms, trade unions are a thing of the past also in Italy) and those who have profited from looting the public coffers for the last 90 years. The producers have to wake up, let their voice be heard, before the inexorable forces of the market, made even more implacable by the bumbling attempts of politicians and central bankers to delay the inevitable, destroy in a few months what took our parents 70 years to build.
This is a particularly complicated time for the movement and for our country. We will have to choose our actions wisely and tread carefully, but most definitely we will have to continue our “normal” activity, i.e. organizing events everywhere in the country to let people know that the movement is still alive and kicking (aside from few, occasional articles – most of which are wildly distorted and slanderous – and the token appearances on national TV – nothing more than mildly disguised traps, where we were either ridiculed or viciously attacked – the media has simply chosen not to report anything we do, just in case). We will also continue helping local groups to develop their planning and organizational skills, plan future public events on a larger scale, prepare materials to educate both the individual Tea Partier and the general public, upgrade fundraising operations and several other things that slip my mind right now.
All this must be done at the same time, all with our “normal” yet very complicated lives to run (the movement relies exclusively on volunteers – no one is making any money from Tea Party Italia; all donations are spent on organizing public events and reimbursing living expenses incurred by the most dedicated volunteers, most of whom are young and certainly not wealthy). As you can imagine, we tend to feel overwhelmed almost all the time, but we keep on going. We cannot do otherwise. We would rather tend to our businesses, run our families or find our way in a complicated world. We are not allowed this privilege. In order to have a future, we have to take time and energy and money away from our life and pour it into this gigantic battle. There is literally no other choice. If you knew that everything you love and cherish could be obliterated by a disaster, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to avoid it? Simple as that.
If you would like to make a monetary donation to Tea Party Italia, go to their website at http://www.teapartyitalia.it/ and click on the donation box at the bottom right-hand corner of your screen.