[en] Class struggle, whispered the spectre. A miniseries in two episodes / 2

Part 1 is here. This post was originally published on Giap.

“We all have a friend, a lover, a relative, a neighbour or a colleague who was unequivocally left-wing until a few years ago, but who has recently begun reading weird blogs, following perplexing Facebook pages, quoting certified bullshitters as if they were independent maîtres à penser, and echoing Matteo Salvini’s ideas—with a communist twist…”
A spectre flies us to places of class struggle, where you can see that certain types of “Marxist” talk against immigration not only aren’t Marxist at all but are also a scam against workers. Against all workers, immigrant as well as local workers.

by Mauro Vanetti

editing: Camillo A. Formigatti, Roberto Amabile

translation: Antonio Scendrate, Ayan Meer, Camillo A. Formigatti, Claudio Mirabella, Daniele Contardo, Davide Tessitore, Filippo Ortona, Giovanni Vimercati, Marcello Bernardara, Mauro Vanetti, Niccolò Barca, Roberto Amabile, Simone Rossi, Stefania D’Urso, Tomaso Perani, Valerio De Sanctis

Contents of the second episode:

  1. Third night
  2. No-Border Lenin
  3. The last night
  4. In the good ol’ days… you would have grossed out the Left just the same
  5. Postscript

6. Third night

Now he was gaining confidence. He was already down the street, leaning against a wall.
“Well done! Climb up!” screamed Marx’s ghost while throwing an incredibly long rope ladder at him from a very distant point up in the sky. The rope unrolled until it almost touched the ground. It swung peacefully in front of Diego’s nose.
“Move your arse!” shouted the thunderous voice from above. The young man was terrified to his very core but, one trembling step at a time, he climbed between the buildings, over the fog, towards the stars, up to the lowest clouds. Every moment he feared he might fall but he dared not disobey the famous philosopher, dead in 1883.
Finally, he climbed over the parapet of the wicker basket and saw Marx manoeuvre the ropes and the flames of the hot-air balloon.
“OK. No jet this time, we have to travel during the daytime and we will watch from afar. You could use that spyglass, it has a good zoom.”
Diego could not help himself: “Dear lemur, master, but why call it ‘jet’ when you could use a beautiful Italian word, ‘aviogetto’? Also, why ‘zoom’? ‘Ingrandimento’! And the same goes with ‘OK’…” Marx tensed up at once. He screwed up his eyes under bushy eyebrows and gnashed his teeth. He relinquished control of the airship.
“First of all: lemur, my arse.”
“But it means nocturnal spirit! From Latin.”
“I know! But nowadays you just find little monkeys on Google. Language evolves, you dullard.”
“I see.”
“And where does this baloney against using foreign words come from? What is this linguistic defence of the fatherland? Workers have no fatherland. And if you ever read half a page of my works, I put in a foreign word every two lines. If it’s English, I put in some French. If it’s German, I put in some English. If it’s French, I put in some German. How could you be a man of culture in the nineteenth century without being a bit of a cosmopolitan? And you keep spouting this bullshit even though you’re from the twenty-first! Bugger off!”
“I apologise.”
“You are forgiven. Now, I’ll keep driving this contraption and you stop busting my balls. OK?”
“No! You must say ‘OK’.”
“But… please… I can’t…”
“Say it!”
“O… K.”

The balloon was made of a dark red fabric on which was written, in an elegant nineteenth-century golden font, the brand name ERMEN & ENGELS. “Don’t even try to ask me,” muttered the lemur.

Before dawn, the light from the sleepy metropolis made it easy to find one’s bearings. “That’s Rome!” said Diego with excitement. The spectre yawned and held their course, letting the capital city slide away to their left.
A couple of hours later, after seeing other smaller towns, an important city, laid out in a gridiron pattern, started to appear in the middle of a patchwork of rectangles of various green shades, fruit and vegetable crops.

“I recognise it! It’s Littoria!”
Marx glared at him.
“Latina, I mean. Latina …,” Diego corrected himself.
“Do you know what a Sikh is?” asked the old man.
“An exotic creed.”
“Exotic doesn’t mean much. You’d consider Corsica exotic too. It’s a religion that originates from India. There are more than twenty thousand Sikhs working in the Agro Pontino, in appalling conditions, for as long as 12 hours a day and for ridiculous wages. Their employers and bosses themselves give them the drugs they need to withstand the pace in the fields and the greenhouses. Engels told me that back in the old days the capitalists used similar methods in some of the English factories.”
“This is the effect of illegal immigration.”
“And you are wrong, as usual. Almost all of them are regular immigrants. The Bossi-Fini law states that set quotas of migrants may legally enter Italy on condition that they already have an employment contract in place before leaving their country. This is usually a farce, since this is almost impossible; but farces can turn into tragedies. There are recruiters who tour villages in Punjab and sell full packages on credit: employment contract, journey, accommodation. Migrants get into debt to the tune of 4 to 8 thousand euros, and at this point they’re at the mercy of these middlemen, who can force them to accept any job at all in order to pay their debt back. These recruiters are linked to the mafias who rule the roost in the Fondi market and to the gangmasters, who withhold part of the workers’ wages. And employers, who instantly kick them out if they dare complain and keep thousands more euros in exchange for signing the contract, which is needed to get and renew the stay permits.”
“Yes, that’s horrible. But look: why do they accept it?”

“Precisely because quotas are regulated! That’s why the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants suits bosses: it sets a hierarchy. In order to stay afloat and obtain a permit you become vulnerable to blackmail. By the way, who told you they accept it? Look down there.”

They had landed in 2016. A balloon was floating above one of the squares in Latina. Diego was thrilled at recognising a square fascist-style building. He took the spyglass to assess the crowd in the square.

There must had been about four thousand people. As usual, there was a blaze of red flags. They were very orderly listening to speeches in some Asian (Diego thought “exotic”) language, delivered after climbing on one of those large billboards mounted on vans. Almost all of them were men with brown skin, some with very dark and prominent beards; several wore trade union caps, others had colourful turbans. Who knows whether they were also carrying their kirpan, the dagger all Sikhs are bound by their faith to carry?
They are on strike. They will win a pay rise up to a more decent level.”
“How much?” Diego asked while still holding the spyglass.
“Five euros an hour,” the ghost replied.

7. No-border Lenin

Comrade Lenin cleanses the earth of scum, a poster by Viktor Deni, 1920. Not a fatherland but the world, not “our home, our rule” but a planet with no bosses was October’s dream and still is the communist programme. Click to enlarge.

Marx and Engels committed their entire lives to build parties, movements and international organisations of – guess what? – Marxist inspiration. Nevertheless, they never took public office; they didn’t even sit on a condo board. The first Marxist who took political power at the head of a revolution for longer than a few days was Lenin. From this standpoint, his opinion on immigration seems to be more relevant in understanding how to put internationalism into practice in terms of political programmes.

Our friend Diego hangs out with so-called “sovereignists” (“left-wing sovereignists”, obviously!) and since sovereignists not only love the Italian fatherland but, above all, the Russian fatherland, led by Presidentissimo Putin. Usually in that cultural milieu they want to score a bullseye by enrolling in the anti-immigrants’ ranks the quintessential trait d’union between Russia and Marxism: Lenin himself. That would be a nice shot, because they would get a uber-Russian, two-faced Janus, available for deployment in any argument. Are you right-wing? Take Putin, homophobic and anti-immigrant. Are you left-wing? Take Lenin, who is almost the same thing.

Here we must place a small obstacle in the way of this project. The obstacle is historical reality.

Lenin took part in the Second International (the First was dissolved in 1876–77) in which he represented the most left-wing faction. He clashed with the dominant line inside the organisation until he broke off all contact with the major parties that were part of it, and that put an end to the International just before the outbreak of the First World War. The fundamental reason for this break could be described, in modern terms, as follows: the majority of socialist parties adopted a “national sovereignty” line, supporting their national bourgeoisie against the others during the War.

Lenin struggled against all this. He was convinced that these political positions were the betrayal of Marxist Internationalism and he founded the Third International, namely the Communist International based in Moscow.

Long before this, back in August 1907, the Second International held a World Congress in Stuttgart. Lenin wrote a report from that Congress showing the beginnings of the future “sovereignty” degeneration of big socialist parties. For instance, Lenin criticised indignantly the attempt by some socialists from the most rapacious countries to approve a motion that could justify every form of colonialism (even though it was “socialist-colonialism”). This venture was abandoned but as a symptom it concerned Lenin a lot:

“This vote on the colonial question is of very great importance. First, it strikingly showed socialist opportunism, which succumbs to bourgeois blandishments. Secondly, it revealed a negative feature in the European labour movement, one that can do considerable harm to the proletarian cause, and for that reason should receive serious attention.”

Another debate during which confused positions emerged – and, in this case, were defeated with a very large majority – was the one about women’s issues and, in particular, about the right to vote: a minority position held that, based on tactical sophistries, it was first necessary to fight to obtain the male right to vote and only then to obtain that right universally. We flag this to remind ourselves that socialist and communist movements never set aside the struggle for civil rights, while its denigration is Diego’s hobbyhorse.

There is, however, an interesting passage in Lenin’s report about labourers’ migration. In fact, the Socialist Party of America (which had already tried, working with the Australians and Dutch, during the earlier Congress) had come up with this proposal: “To combat with all means at their command the wilful importation of cheap foreign labor calculated to destroy labor organizations, to lower the standard of living of the working class, and to retard the ultimate realisation of Socialism.”

The American delegate Hillquit defended the proposition to limit immigration blaming, in particular, Chinese people and others from less industrialised countries “who are incapable of assimilation with the workingmen of the country of their adoption”. This is the same hogwash we hear nowadays about Africans or Muslims, considered unable to “integrate” into our society. This horrible proposal was defeated. This is what Lenin wrote about it:

“A few words about the resolution on emigration and immigration. Here, too, in the Commission there was an attempt to defend narrow craft interests, to ban immigration of workers from backward countries (coolies—from China, etc). This is the same spirit of aristocratism that one finds among workers in some of the ‘civilised’ countries, who derive certain advantages from their privileged position and are, therefore, inclined to forget the need for international class solidarity. But no one at the Congress defended this craft and petty-bourgeois narrow-mindedness. The resolution fully meets the demands of revolutionary Social-Democracy.”

Oh dear! But this is exactly the opposite of what Diego is telling us, namely that the “globalist and snowflake lefties” are petty-bourgeois and detached from the proletariat, and for this reason defend immigrants! According to Lenin, it was precisely those who wanted to ban immigrants who were actually acquiescent to bourgeois ideology and their interests. Furthermore, as claimed by Lenin, the fact that the demand to stop immigration was spreading among some workers in Western countries was an indication that the bourgeoisie had “bought” a privileged layer of the working class.

The controversy with the American Socialists did not calm down over the following years. Notwithstanding Stuttgart and protests from the Japanese Socialists, the Socialist Party of America insisted on a “left-xenophobic” standing. In a letter to another group of American comrades, in 1915, Lenin wrote:

“In our struggle for true internationalism & against ‘jingo-socialism’ we always quote in our press the example of the opportunist leaders of the S.P. in America, who are in favor of restrictions of the immigration of Chinese and Japanese workers (especially after the Congress of Stuttgart, 1907, & against the decisions of Stuttgart). We think that one cannot be internationalist & be at the same time in favor of such restrictions. And we assert that Socialists in America, especially English Socialists, belonging to the ruling, and oppressing nation, who are not against any restrictions of immigration, against the possession of colonies (Hawaii) and for the entire freedom of colonies, that such Socialists are in reality jingoes.”

“Jingoism” refers to an extreme patriotism, in the form of aggressive or warlike foreign policy. The “jingo-socialists” today are those we’d call rossobruni (red-brown, “National Bolsheviks”).

Lenin deals with this topic several times in his writings. During 1913, he writes a brief article dealing mainly with immigration in America, but also treating migrations in general. Quite often xenophobes argue that the anti-capitalist left is not aware of the fact that in the present age capitalism itself creates and plans migrations. We are obviously aware of this; the main point is that this is not enough to decide which side to take. This is how Lenin tackles the issue:

“Capitalism has given rise to a special form of migration of nations. The rapidly developing industrial countries, introducing machinery on a large scale and ousting the backward countries from the world market, raise wages at home above the average rate and thus attract workers from the backward countries. […] There can be no doubt that dire poverty alone compels people to abandon their native land, and that the capitalists exploit the immigrant workers in the most shameless manner. But only reactionaries can shut their eyes to the progressive significance of this modern migration of nations. Emancipation from the yoke of capital is impossible without the further development of capitalism, and without the class struggle that is based on it. And it is into this struggle that capitalism is drawing the masses of the working people of the whole world, breaking down the musty, fusty habits of local life, breaking down national barriers and prejudices, uniting workers from all countries in huge factories and mines in America, Germany, and so forth.”

Undoubtedly this thought is more complex than racist memes and Salvini’s blogposts: it is a dialectic thought. At the same time, Lenin states that emigration is a dreadful matter, a disgusting business opportunity for capitalists, yet he is of the opinion that migration has a progressist and even revolutionary value. And how does he label those who refuse this truth? Reactionaries. Nowadays, we would call them fascists, or something along these lines.

Among the various websites and Facebook pages spreading xenophobic poison and applying “Marxist” labels to it, one of the most vicious is “Ufficio Sinistri”, a page maintained by a certain Vallepiano, who is also the author of a book by the same name. Nowadays Vallepiano displays a great deal of zeal in providing “left wing” justifications of any of Matteo Salvini’s actions and of the League’s hate campaigns. On 14th June 2019, Vallepiano published – without quoting any source, of course – a speech allegedly given by Samora Machel (1933-1986) in which the Mozambican anti-colonialist leader bashed emigration from Africa while describing it as an anti-revolutionary praxis.
In the comments below the post, someone who knows Machel’s views and biography well (he was also a migrant) enquired about the sources used in the post; it soon turned out that the extract from the speech had been blatantly fabricated. After being chased a few times, Vallepiano came up with the title of a book, a rare collection of talks by Machel; however, Lorenzo Vianini from the Nicoletta Bourbaki group was able to trace it that same day and having assessed it, established that no such sentence existed; on the contrary, the content stated quite the opposite. These are typical methods adopted in rossobruni (literally “red-browns”, namely “Communist”-Fascist crossover) circles. We had already encountered a similar approach with the fake meme in Pasolini’s style “You see, dear Alberto…” created and circulated by the same circles. [Wu Ming]

En passant, let us also point out that according to Lenin, capitalism indeed triggers migration, but not due to an international plot hatched to deceive migrants, who would have remained at home, if only they “knew the truth”. Actually, the wage gap forces the proletarian masses to move from country to country for commonsense reasons.

And what about national borders? This topic suits customs officers, and seemingly thrills those like Diego. Are you perhaps trying to tell us that Lenin was a “no-border” hippie, a cosmopolitan for whom borders are insignificant imaginary lines? Not quite, but that’s where we’re heading:

“The bourgeoisie incites the workers of one nation against those of another in the endeavour to keep them disunited. Class-conscious workers, realising that the break-down of all the national barriers by capitalism is inevitable and progressive, are trying to help to enlighten and organise their fellow-workers from the backward countries.”

This last sentence might sound quite patronising towards workers from poor countries, however just a few lines earlier the author himself explains how at times those who provide valuable examples of class struggle to indigenous workers are indeed immigrants:

“Workers who had participated in various strikes in Russia introduced into America the bolder and more aggressive spirit of the mass strike.”

This observation reflects events occurring in the last few years in Italy very well. On the one hand, foreign workers’ participation has been increasingly integrated in the unions and in the struggles of Italian workers, while on the other hand they represented the peak of particularly audacious and fiery protests on several occasions (especially in agriculture and logistics).

Lenin deals again with this topic in 1916 when he writes one of his masterpieces, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. In this text, he states that if in the previous phase of capitalism the migration of the labour force (excluding the slave trade) occurred mainly from Europe, in the imperialistic phase the import of workforce was mainly from the colonies and the poorest countries. Imperialism exports capital and military troops to the colonies, and in turn imports raw materials and labourers from them:

“One of the special features of imperialism connected with the facts I am describing, is the decline in emigration from imperialist countries and the increase in immigration into these countries from the more backward countries where lower wages are paid. […] In France, the workers employed in the mining industry are, ‘in great part’, foreigners: Poles, Italians and Spaniards. In the United States, immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe are engaged in the most poorly paid jobs, while American workers provide the highest percentage of overseers or of the better-paid workers. Imperialism has the tendency to create privileged sections also among the workers, and to detach them from the broad masses of the proletariat.”

Lenin employs a critique which is the exact opposite of the one often purveyed, according to which immigration has created a layer of semi-slaves detached from the mass of workers. On the contrary, Lenin states that the most worrying phenomenon is the formation of a privileged layer of indigenous workers looking down on the others, including immigrants. Nowadays, this analysis ought to be deeply revised due to the decolonisation process, the great growth of the proletariat in Western countries, and the proletarianisation of the middle classes. Nevertheless, it is still representative of the Leninist approach: the problem is not represented by the immigrants and the lowest layers of this class, the problem lies in the detachment of the highest layers and in those attempting to provide them with a political voice.

The year following the publication of this text about imperialism is 1917, the year of the two revolutions. Lenin begins 1917 as a refugee and ends it as the political leader of Soviet Russia. This is the perfect occasion to observe how his ideas about immigration were applied to reality.

Obviously, a Russia after the October Revolution, shattered by World War I and by a civil war, engulfed by counterrevolutionary intrigues of every kind and huge economic problems, wasn’t really the target of vast streams of immigration. On the contrary, there was a huge number of emigrants: aristocrats and rich bourgeois escaping from the Revolution, political opponents and economic migrants from various social classes. However, except for political and military reasons, the attitude during the early years – that is, before Stalinism – was to realise the Bolshevik political programme to abolish passport controls, both for internal (one of the most hated characteristics of the tsarist regime, reintroduced by Stalin in 1932) as well as external travel.

The Constitution of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic, written in 1918, more than being just a juridical authority, is a political document that declares the long-term objectives and the general principles of the new regime. On immigration, it expresses a position of radical opening of the borders:

“Art. 20. In consequence of the solidarity of the workers of all nations, the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic grants all political rights of Russian citizens to foreigners who live in the territory of the Russian Republic and are engaged in work and who belong to the working class or to the peasantry who do not use other people’s labour. The Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic also recognises the right of local soviets to grant citizenship to such foreigners without complicated formality.

Art. 21. The Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic offers shelter to all foreigners who seek refuge from political or religious persecution.

Art. 22. The Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic, recognizing the equal rights of all citizens, irrespective of their racial or national connections, proclaims that it is contrary to the fundamental laws of the Republic to establish or allow any privileges or advantages on this basis, as well as any kind of oppression of national minorities or limitation of their equality.”

Constitution of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic, original cover, 1918

So: according to article 20, free immigration and citizenship for everybody; according to article 21, hospitality for all refugees; according to article 22, absolute prohibition of racial and ethnic discrimination. A left-wing party so Leninist as to adopt such demands in its programme would certainly be accused by Diego as being in the service of globalised capitalism. How many revolutions did Diego take part in? None? Ah, there it is: we’d rather rely on October, I daresay.

Workers of all countries and oppressed people from the colonies, raise Lenin’s flag higher! A 1932 poster by V. B. Koretskij.

8. The last night

He hoped to see a helicopter, a seaplane, a spaceship. But that fourth night, Karl Marx’s spectre did not show up again. Diego went upstairs, a bit disappointed, and slept all night.

The next morning, he was still a little shaken. He suddenly craved to read some books, to study. Perhaps it was the right time for a change.

The memories of the ghost, however, were already vanishing. Everything that happened seemed unreal and inexplicable to him. It could not have happened, neither the journey with Marx’s spirit nor all those struggles waged by aliens, uprooted turbo-slaves, puppets of bourgeois cosmopolitanism; and, what’s more, what were all those flags of the snowflake Left, concerned only about gay and civil rights, doing in the fields and on the factory floors? Implausible, dream-like, false.

Nevertheless, he decided to check every single event, one by one, on the Internet to see whether they were true or not, to check their background, to discover what happened afterwards; to search the newspapers to see if other similar stories were showing up, in other sectors of the economy, with other demands, and what links they had with Italians, and who was following them.

But something else happened: he received a text from an “Adriano CasaPound”. The text said: “You read about the nigga in Rozzano? Jot down a piece for the Primato, come on.”

He picked up his phone from the desk and saw that it was on top of a pile of overdue bills: power, gas, broadband… His contract as a lecturer with the Comunione & Liberazione University was ending next September.

He replied: “I’m writing it today.”

“Good, camerata, good. Nobis!” Adriano texted back.

Diego shook his head to chase the disturbing thoughts away.

A lemur, he was just a lemur.

9. In the good ol’ days… you would have grossed out the Left just the same

It would be impossible to explore the entire history of the Left worldwide, with all its different shades of coherence and anti-capitalism, to find out where and when an attitude on immigration similar to Diego’s has ever been hegemonic within a party or trade union or social movement.

Based on the analysis above, it seems that we could exclude that this was the case for Marx, Lenin and all their associates. However, when we discussed Lenin’s position, we saw that distorted anti-immigration political stances indeed did emerge, here and there, in the socialist-communist international movement, compelling others to fight a theoretical battle in defence of the fundamental ideas of Internationalism. The Third International, founded by Lenin and Trotsky and joined by Gramsci and Bordiga as representatives from Italy, struggled with these kind of topics as well. During its fourth congress, in 1922, the participants discussed the “oriental issue”, or what today would be called the “colonial issue” or the “Third-World issue”.

As had become clear some years before at the Second International meetings, the countries where the virus of xenophobia had most contaminated the Left were the richest countries with access to the oceans: the UK, Canada, USA, Australia, Japan. For social, cultural, historical and just geographical reasons – boats crossing the ocean are more conspicuous than land migration, like the boats and rescue ships in the Mediterranean today, and bring people from the remotest countries – Unions and the Left leaning towards reformist ideas in these countries proposed various forms of immigration regulations or even blockades, sometimes in a selective way against countries deemed as more “barbarian”.

This issue is dealt with extensively in the section The proletariat’s duties in the Pacific:

“In view of the coming danger, the Communist Parties of the imperialist countries – America, Japan, Britain, Australia and Canada – must not merely issue propaganda against the war, but must do everything possible to eliminate the factors that disorganise the workers’ movement in their countries and make it easier for capitalists to exploit national and racial antagonisms. These factors are the immigration question and the question of cheap coloured labour. Most of the coloured workers brought from China and India to work on the sugar plantations in the southern part of the Pacific are still recruited under the system of indentured labour. This has led to workers in imperialist countries to demand the introduction of laws against immigration and coloured labour, both in America and Australia. These restrictive laws deepen the antagonism between coloured and white workers, which divides and weakens the unity of the workers’ movement. The Communist Parties of America, Canada and Australia must conduct a vigorous campaign against restrictive immigration laws and must explain to the proletarian masses in these countries that such laws, by inflaming racial hatred, will rebound on them in the long run. The capitalists are against restrictive laws in the interests of free importation of cheap coloured labour and with it the lowering of the wages of white workers. The capitalists’ intention to take the offensive can be properly dealt with in only one way – the immigrant workers must join the ranks of existing trade unions of white workers. Simultaneously, the demand must be raised that the coloured workers’ pay should be brought up to the same level as the white workers’ pay. Such a move on the part of the Communist Parties will expose the intentions of the capitalists and at the same time graphically demonstrate to the coloured workers that the international proletariat has no racial prejudice.”

The system of indentured servitude is quite similar to the debts that Sikh immigrants working in the Agro Pontino incur with workforce mediators (reeking of mafia and gangmasters) not a century ago, but here and now. But who knows whether Diego has ever heard of them?

Since the late 1920s, a lot has been going on: Stalinism, the people’s fronts, “people’s democracies”, decolonisation, Maoism, more or less eclectic revolutionary movements, the transformation of many communist parties from Leninist revolutionary vanguards to mass parties more indulgent towards capitalism… The Left has been missing much of the theoretical rigour we have seen in the examples mentioned so far. Nevertheless, nobody has ever taken the kind of anti-immigrant stances of faux Marxist nationalists which Diego defends in our time.

Paolo Cinanni

Consider, for instance, Paolo Cinanni (1916-1988). A partisan during the Italian Liberation War and the leader of several farmers’ fights in its aftermath, Cinanni was an intellectual of the Italian Communist Party, with which he had a troubled relationship. Together with Carlo Levi, he founded the Federazione Italiana Lavoratori Emigrati e Famiglie (the Italian Federation of Emigrant Workers and Families, FILEF for short). In the framework of FILEF he gave birth to his most important theoretical work, Emigration and Imperialism. We mention Cinanni because a friend of Diego read about him in a comment on some anti-euro blog and brought him up in a low-grade debate on Twitter.

A very childish attitude underlies the instrumental exploitation of this author – and many others – in order to support the closure of borders: you take a piece of analysis and suggest it implies a practice similar to… Salvini’s.

This approach is particularly irritating and insulting in the case of militant authors, like Cinanni, who wrote unmistakably which political practices derive from their theoretical analyses. For instance, it would take a lot of guts for a nationalist to quote the following excerpt as though it were supporting their ideas:

“Emigration creates, as a matter of fact, decay, and this provokes new emigration, in a spiral process that leaves breathless our regions where this exodus occurs. The only commodity these regions continue to produce is the workforce, but with its departure they lose not only the expenditures incurred for its formation – more and more qualified and, hence, more and more expensive – but they lose the surplus value it produces in the regions and in the countries where it is employed, in particularly exploitative conditions.”

“Did you see that?!” Diego gets excited. “Cinanni says emigration is a bad thing that causes exploitation.”

Let’s give Diego a cup of chamomile and explain to him that, with all due respect, we didn’t need Cinanni to tell us: we all have relatives who are emigrants and they would usually have preferred to avoid it. But mostly we are all aware of the miserable conditions of Italian provinces where there has been and is large-scale emigration, internal or international, especially from the southern and the island regions.

What Cinanni says is that emigration impoverishes the country of origin in favour of the countries of destination; in today’s case, it transfers economic resources from the immigrants’ countries of provenance to benefit Italian capitalists. In other words, Cinanni claims that immigration is an economic advantage for the richer countries, which is precisely the opposite of what today’s xenophobes claim, that immigrants impoverish Italy. He even goes so far as to maintain that the countries of destination for migrants should compensate the countries of departure economically, something that is not accomplished by the remittances sent by migrants.

Cinanni’s analysis is also incompatible with the theory that immigrants create unemployment; indeed, Cinanni explains that, if anyone, the emigrants are responsible for it, demonstrating that in capitalism the number of employed (and unemployed) workers is not a fixed but a dynamic variable, just as Marx thought.

But if for the communist Cinanni, emigration is a capitalist evil (one of his texts is entitled The evil of emigration), isn’t he saying that halting immigration is a socialist virtue? No. He himself explains it very clearly:

“Migration for work purposes as it happens today incites competition within the working class itself; although anyone knows that immigration allows greater leeway to the production process and broadens the range of sectors of production, accelerating the overall development in the country of immigration, it is not rare for the foreign worker to hear that he steals jobs and bread from the local worker.

It is the ruling classes themselves that on the one hand promote immigration and on the other fear the unity of local workers with immigrants. They also fuel the same xenophobic campaigns, taking their cue from the most diverse events and occasional events. In this way, within Italy itself, the newspaper owned by FIAT 1 conducts in Turin a systematic campaign against southern people. In Switzerland it is the industrialist Schwarzenbach, leader of the anti-foreigner party, who runs the raving xenophobic campaign, influencing the most naive and inexperienced local workers to the point of crime, killing innocent victims among immigrant workers.”

To Cinanni, as to us, xenophobia is one of the bosses’ weapons that does not stand against capitalist migration politics, but rather complements it.

Once again, we face a dialectic thought, which requires some effort in order to understand the contradictions. If it is true that capitalists try to divide employees in order to better exploit them, it is also true that by itself immigration does not cause economic problems of a general nature, since it tends to produce, at first, economic growth proportional to population growth:

“Proportionally to the mass of immigrant workers, production increases accordingly in all sectors; the demand for consumer goods increases on the market, without this resulting – where there is no abusive speculation – in any disturbance to the economy of the country, for immigrants always produce more than they consume, representing the best guarantee against inflation.”

Therefore, the point is not to defend the national economy against a catastrophic invasion, since there is no such threat and the national economy will likely benefit from the supply of immigrant workforce, but rather to defend the living standards of blue collar, white collar and other wage-labourers, in other words, to seize larger shares of income from the hands of the bosses. How to do this? At the outset, Cinanni debunks the Italians first! slogan (or Germans first, or Belgians first, or, as in his example, EU citizens first):

“In our opinion, every immigrant workforce must “cost” the economy that is employing it the same as the local workforce. Indeed, every preference plays in the opposite direction, and every difference in treatment puts workers in competition with each other, breaking the unity of the labour market, and undermining, together with class unity, any prospect of social advancement.
Emigration shall not become the modern ‘reserve army’, with which the local working class is blackmailed; if the immigrant workforce costs less allowing Capital a higher profit, objectively – even without their awareness – they compete with local workers, causing the rage of discrimination, civil ostracism, and xenophobia.
This should be avoided, and it is especially important that the working class and its organisations become aware of it and require an effective ‘equivalence of labour cost’.”

According to Cinanni, immigrants are not a reserve army of labour, since they have similar employment rates as local people. Using slogans like Italians first risks rendering immigrants as a reserve army of labour: they all become unemployed and so economically separated from the local indigenous working class, easy prey for “wage dumping” (that is, paying wages much lower than is normal in an industry). Conversely, a vital necessity for the labour movement becomes that of equalising the cost of immigrant and indigenous labour, that is, raising the wages of immigrants to equality.

Some might reply that it is utopian, since immigrants are tramps living in shacks, they are Lumpenproletariat, they cannot catch up. Well, nowadays in Italy this is false. Income distribution proves it.

Wage levels by citizenship in Italy, 2011, 2nd trimester

ItaliansEU foreignersNon-EU foreigners EU foreign/Italnon-EU foreign/Ital
median (p50)1234 1000100081%81%
1st decile (p10)670 45050067%75%
1st quartile (p25)1000 70070070%70%
3rd quartile (p75)1520 1200120079%79%
last decile (p90)1925 1500140078%73%
Source: Elaborazioni REF Ricerche su microdati Istat (IT)

It is not straightforward to read these data, but what they say is that half of non-EU citizens are poorer than three-quarters of Italian citizens. The other half of non-EU citizens, therefore, earn more than the poorest quarter of Italian citizens. The same holds true for foreign EU citizens (among whom Romanians are the most represented minority). This is good news: it tells us that after all, even though the immigrants earn clearly less on average, there is no ethnic stratification as foreign proletarians belong to the same class as Italian proletarians, and they are roughly mixed from the remuneration point of view. Divide and rule? They try, but they have succeeded only to some extent. Equality is not out of reach, we just have to struggle: everybody can benefit from it (except for the capitalists).

And what does Cinanni say exactly about the likes of Diego, the “leftist” xenophobes who would correct the “do-gooder” politics of left-wing parties and unions introducing slogans against immigration? Well, he doesn’t mess around:

“Nowadays, in many countries, even big labour organisations seem to be affected by xenophobic leprosy; certain trade unions close themselves off in the most blind corporatism, without being able, however, to guarantee the fundamental demands of the local working class, in whose name they claim to side with anti-foreigner discrimination. Actually, even the union bosses’ good faith is doubtful: despite knowing that on an economic level immigration boosts the economic development of the country; despite also being aware that on a union level, the contribution of migrant workers could represent a decisive support to strengthen the bargaining power of the whole working class; and that on a political level, the unity of the whole working class might represent – for instance, in Switzerland – a stable bulwark against every social and anti-democratic convolution; despite knowing all of this, still some union bosses pretend to believe the fairy tale of the immigrant who ‘steals the bread’ of the native worker, and they too endorse – as it happened in Switzerland – the anti-foreigner referendum.”

ceSan Gallo, Switzerland, First May parade in the early Seventies. Italian immigrant workers strike against xenophobia, for the right to free and unrestricted movement (seasonal workers were forced to leave the country every nine months), for family reunion, and for the unity of the working class. Photo by Raniero Fratini, Swiss national broadcasting service journalist. Source

Cinanni writes in an interesting “Middle-earth”, that is, Western Europe during the Seventies: an economic space where regions with strong emigration, like southern Italy, coexist with regions with strong immigration and, finally, more and more mixed regions. The latter is what Italy has become nowadays, both a land of emigrants (the “brain drain” or rather an “arm drain” of Italians to Germany, France, England and Canada) and the target of large migratory flows from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Cinanni is right to raise the issue of how to hinder the destructive process of emigration, which is suffocating the South and which he sees as a continuation, in the post-colonial period, of the imperialist politics of domination and plunder of poorer countries and backward regions. He dismisses straightaway the reactionary idea of halting emigration and deporting migrants, which he calls useless and actually counter-productive. Instead, he invokes the overcoming of capitalism, socialism and the social and political struggle in the countries of origin, of course, but also in the countries of destination:

Only in a balanced economy, planned according to social needs, do the productive forces develop together and at the same pace of the economic system, and in this case there will be no need for either emigration or immigration. However, under the domination of Capital, with the worsening of uneven development and territorial imbalances, the workforce drain worsens too and for this reason the single perspective and the single struggle for the return do not seem enough to us. In fact, it raises its demands and directs its action only towards the government of the country of origin, leaving emigration unarmed against the system that exploits it daily and the imperialist policy that causes the same underdevelopment in the countries of exodus. Therefore, the ‘going-back-home’ perspective, to which any emigrant is particularly sensitive, should be accompanied by the ‘compensation’ perspective, namely the effective equivalence of the cost between immigrant and local labour for the economy that employs both. This consideration originates from the most rigorous analysis of the phenomenon but, above all, represents the fundamental requirement to maintain the unit of the labour movement.”

In 2016 Rodolfo Ricci edited a collection of Cinanni’s writings, a mine of extremely valuable analyses which help understand how the issue was framed in the early Seventies. This publication is freely downloadable online (Italian).

After this inevitably cursory slideshow, one might well say that, in the second half of the 19th as well as in the first and the second half of the 20th century, all the sharpest communist thinkers supported similar politics in matter of immigration.

This politics is the exact opposite of what people like Diego preach.

This politics has always been anti-racist, border-free, internationalist, in favour of the unity of the working class.

If someone can’t swallow it, then the problem is theirs, but at least we hope that after this article, they will stop playing hide and seek.

10. Postscript

In this text we discussed migrants in general, not so-called refugees. The great majority of migrants living in Italy are regular immigrants (8% of the population).

A significant minority (one immigrant in every ten) are illegal migrants, i.e. without documents. Many of them will obtain these documents sooner or later, and they will become regular immigrants; and, conversely, regular migrants could lose their legal right to stay in Italy and become illegal.

Illegal migrants do not belong to a peculiar race: they are simply people treated as outcasts due to unjust (and inapplicable) bureaucratic rules. “Refugees” are an even smaller group — less than 1% of the population — that are talked about disproportionately on political grounds.

August Diehl in Raoul Peck’s 2017 movie The Young Karl Marx. Here’s the trailer.

Diego often confuses these categories and thinks that in Italy millions of migrants are settled “in hotels” for 35 euro per day. Let’s try not to be as dumb as Diego.

Karl Marx was a migrant and a refugee of German, Dutch and Jewish origins. He emigrated in 1843 to France, from which he was deported in 1845 under pressure from Prussia, taking refuge in Belgium. He was arrested and deported from Belgium in 1848. Back in France and then in revolution-torn Germany, he was deported again in 1849 to France, but even France did not accept him. He then became a refugee in London.

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, known as Lenin, was a migrant and a refugee of Russian-German-Swedish-Jewish descent. In 1900, he emigrated to Switzerland and then Germany. In 1902, he dodged the Bavarian police by relocating to London. Back in Russia after the 1905 Revolution, he fled the country as a refugee in 1907, returning to Switzerland, then France and briefly to London. During WWI he lived as an immigrant in a (now Polish) region of Austria-Hungary and in Switzerland, unable to get back to Russia until, as is well known, 1917.


  1. La Stampa, one of the oldest Italian newspapers and symbol of the powerful industrial bourgeoisie in Turin and in Italy. FIAT is the largest automobile manufacturer in Italy and, at the time, in Europe.

Reading and viewing recommendations

■ Luca Lombardi, The miseries of the anti-immigrant Left (Le miserie della sinistra anti-immigrati, Italian)

■ David L. Wilson, Marx on Immigration. Workers, Wages, and Legal Status

■ Paolo Cinanni, Rodolfo Ricci (ed.), What emigration is. Writings of Paolo Cinanni (Che cos’è l’emigrazione. Scritti di Paolo Cinanni, Italian)

The Harvest, a movie directed by Andrea Paco Mariani. On farm gangmasters in the Agro Pontino and Indian labourers’ strikes.


Class struggle, whispered the spectre is dedicated to Soumaila Sacko, trade unionist of USB (Unione Sindacale di Base, Grassroots Trade Union) who was killed in San Calogero (Vibo Valentia, Italy) on June 2nd 2018.

Follow Mauro on Twitter → @maurovanetti

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[en] Class struggle, whispered the spectre. A miniseries in two episodes / 1

This post was originally published on Giap.

“We all have a friend, a lover, a relative, a neighbour, or a colleague who was unequivocally left-wing until a few years ago, but who has recently begun reading weird blogs, following perplexing Facebook pages, quoting certified bullshitters as if they were independent maîtres à penser, and echoing Matteo Salvini’s ideas—with a communist twist…”
A spectre flies us to the places of class struggle, where you can see that certain “Marxist” arguments against immigration not only aren’t Marxist at all, but are also a scam against workers. Against all workers, immigrant as well as local.

by Mauro Vanetti

editing: Camillo A. Formigatti, Roberto Amabile

translation: Antonio Scendrate, Ayan Meer, Camillo A. Formigatti, Claudio Mirabella, Daniele Contardo, Davide Tessitore, Filippo Ortona, Giovanni Vimercati, Marcello Bernardara, Mauro Vanetti, Niccolò Barca, Roberto Amabile, Simone Rossi, Stefania D’Urso, Tomaso Perani, Valerio De Sanctis

Contents of the first episode

1. First night
2. Those like Diego
3. Marx and the Reserve Army of Labour
4. Second night
5. Marx the do-gooder
È importante frequentare i kebabbari, soprattutto di sera

1. First night

A spectre haunted the closing kebab shop. He was drunk and singing in French.
Three half-asleep students and a couple of Tunisians were watching him, intrigued; the Arabs recognised the bawdy song’s lyrics and laughed.
He ordered a kebab wrap to soak up his Barolo.
“With everything,” the man replied, shaggy-bearded and olive-skinned like a Saracen.
After devouring his nightly meal voraciously, he came back to his senses. He saw the name on the street sign and grinned: he had just had an idea for one of his tricks.

Prima apparizione dello spettro

Diego sensed a cold finger hovering over his forehead and suddenly woke up, aghast at this unreal feeling. He opened his eyes and saw the translucent shape of an old man peering at him in the darkness, with lively eyes flashing under thick eyebrows.
“Boo,” said the phantom placidly, sitting beside the bed with his legs crossed.
Diego trembled and screamed, and fell onto the floor, scrambling towards a corner of the room.
“Gadzooks,” he babbled at last with a feeble voice. “Are you the Ghost of Christmas Past?”
“Oh please. I do look a bit like Santa but I’m definitely not. If I get to pick a holiday, I’m the ghost of May Day. Actually, I’m the spectre of Karl Marx.”
“Maestro!” Diego exclaimed, while falling on his knees at the ectoplasm’s feet.
“Maestro my arse. You don’t know a thing. I’m back because I need to show you something. Get back to bed, we’re going to fly.”

Diego complied without a word, still amazed by the supernatural turn of events. The spirit walked on the sheets in a very dignified way and took command, sarcastically eyeing the pastel-coloured pyjamas of his passenger. As Marx snapped his fingers, the room and the whole house disappeared, leaving only the bed floating among the stars. It started an impossible flight through space and time, at the end of which the sun had already dawned for a long time, one hundred yards below them, over the Apulian countryside.

Assemblea a Nardò

“It’s 2011, it’s August and we are in Nardò, in the province of Lecce,” said Marx. “Look at what’s happening at that farm.”
Dozens of Africans had gathered at the entrance to a short and squarish building covered in pink and grey plaster, sun-burnt and weathered, with a flat roof like a Mexican pueblo. Makeshift tents were all over the place and a banner was hanging from the façade. Some Africans were loitering and lolling around the area, others were debating excitedly. As the flying bed approached and finally landed amidst the branches of a tall maritime pine, Diego noticed that almost all of them were smiling with a look of self-satisfaction.
“Scrounging refugees?” Diego asked, rubbing his eyes.
“No,” said Marx, grabbing the young man by the ear and dragging him. “Look more closely: striking farm labourers.”

An Italian man with a megaphone announced that the protest had reached its third consecutive day of strike in the tomato fields and expressed solidarity with the protest’s leader, a student from Cameroon who had been the object of mafia-style threats. A Ghanaian took the floor straight after him, explaining the demands: extra wages whenever the tomatoes have to be divided by size, a stop to undeclared labour, improved health and security standards, direct negotiation between bosses and workers, together with labour unions and an employment office of some sort but without any mediation role for the gangmasters. Then another one spoke, explaining in broken Italian that something also had to be done about a serious problem the immigrant workers were facing: the gangmasters withheld their documents in order to blackmail them, leaving them just with copies. He said that without documents and with that skin colour they were constantly at risk, as the police could easily give them hell; this was definitely another thing worth fighting for.

Class struggle,” whispered the spectre, spellbound.

2. Those like Diego


We all have a friend, a lover, a relative, a neighbour, or a colleague who was unequivocally left-wing until a few years ago, but who has recently begun reading weird blogs, following perplexing Facebook pages, quoting certified bullshitters as if they were independent maîtres à penser, and echoing Matteo Salvini’s ideas—with a communist twist. Sometimes we are that person. And the subject on which so many of us have slipped is always the same: immigration.

Let’s analyse a typical conversation that could take place with this acquaintance of ours, whom we’ll call “Diego” now – for simplicity’s sake.

In general, the first thing Diego would do is shun racism, and profess his hatred for fascists and the Lega. To prove to us that he’s a bona fide comrade, he may even sing Bandiera Rossa without missing a beat, and list every time he voted like us, or went to a squatted social centre with us, or even marched in protest at our side. Mind you, he has not become a fascist.

However, he’s realised that “it’s our fault” if the right is rising. He says it exactly like this, emphatically stressing “our”—because he’s been mired in it until recently. Indeed, he goes on, the Left and comrades have ended up countering xenophobia with “do-gooder” and “no border” ideas that mirror those of Big Business. According to Diego, bosses need cheap foreign labour and hence they heartily support immigration.

Generally, a bit of bickering would ensue. But Diego tries to end it with what he thinks is the ace up his sleeve: “Even Karl Marx,” exclaims Diego, “explained that immigrants are the reserve army of labour!”

According to Diego, the reserve army of labour is made up of desperate workers uprooted from their homeland, used by employers to keep wages low. If the conversation is happening online, Diego will send us a link to one of these weird blogs he’s often browsing nowadays, where some of Marx’s quotes are thrown about to prove that going after migrants is helpful in order to defend the proletariat. If we’re talking in person, he’ll send us the link anyway, to make sure we read it later. Those like Diego love proselytising about what opened their eyes and led them beyond the “immigrationist” clichés bandied around by the globalist and radical-chic Left.

Sono antirazzista ma

The name of this Facebook page is “Leftist and anti-racist, but against the foreign invasion.” I am not racist, BUT…

This article aims at debunking two false beliefs: that “real Marxists of yesteryear” justifies hostility toward migrants, and that anti-immigration policies benefit the class struggle.

Some may say these are merely marginal opinions, associated with a fringe of irrelevant provocateurs—no-one important manipulates Marx to support Salvini!

Alas, this is not true. Here’s the introduction to Salvini’s electoral manifesto for the Lega leadership:Primarie della Lega, 2017

Candidate Matteo Salvini’s Programme for the Federal Secretariat of the “Northern League for the Independence of Padania” (Spring 2017 and yes, that is the party’s official name! We mean, half the party’s name, the other one for voters in the South is called the “League for Premier Salvini”). In 2018, Salvini was appointed Minister of the Interior.

The highlighted sentence, “Low-cost labour derived from uncontrolled migration provides ‘the reserve army of labour’” is a fake quotation from Marx’s Capital.

3. Marx and the Reserve Army of Labour

Let’s start from this wretched reserve army of labour. Karl Marx talks about it extensively in chapter 25, section VII, book I of Das Kapital. The reserve army of labour is made up of unemployed people.

In Marx’s time, there were many simplistic beliefs according to which unemployment was due to the workers having too many children. The most notorious and brutal manifestation of this idea is Malthus’s theory of overpopulation, which described poverty as a natural consequence of the excessive fertility of the working classes. Since Italian workers nowadays have few children, today’s Malthusians, like our Diego, came out with a new — even duller — explanation: poverty in Europe is a consequence of the excessive fertility of Africans.

Marx, on the other hand, came up with a more sophisticated idea: it is capital accumulation itself, in the context of a market economy, that automatically creates a relative overpopulation, that is, a certain amount of workforce available for production but kept at rest. This relative overpopulation (that is, the unemployed and first-time job seekers) eventually becomes nothing less than a “reserve” within the proletarian “army” used by the companies. Just like the reserve of an actual army, this reserve army of labour can be mobilised whenever the need arises – which occurs regularly, as capitalism has a cyclical trend (expansion – crisis – recovery) and continuously revolutionises its production techniques by design, moving the workforce between different production sectors or towards newly-introduced sectors. If capitalism waited for new workers to be born and to reach working age every time it needed new recruits, it would crumble into ruin: so it has to enrol them as soon as possible, just as it must be able to get rid of most excess workers should the need arise.

Marx’s idea that a natural rate of unemployment exists in capitalism with no relation to demographics has meanwhile become mainstream, and even bourgeois economists now refer to natural unemployment and cyclical unemployment.

Leggerlo prima di citarlo mentula canis

According to Marx, the reserve army of labour has three components: floating, stagnant and latent:

■ Floating [labour] overpopulation consists of dismissed: expelled from production, they try to re-enter it another way or sometimes, Marx says, they will emigrate. In Marx’s time youth unemployment was not a serious issue, so he mainly thought of adult workers as being replaced by young or even child workers; nowadays, we would include in this subcategory many unemployed young people who are looking for their first job.

■ Stagnant overpopulation consists of temps: well yes, contrary to what you might think, temporary employment also existed in Marx and Engels’ time. From the under- and partially employed, capital draws new full-time workers whenever it needs to increase its standing workforce.

■ Latent overpopulation is made up of rural population in a process of migrating to urban areas. Many migrants from semi-industrialised countries are part of this subcategory. (The largest share of foreigners in Italy, though, probably come from cities.)

As you can see, apart from latent overpopulation (now practically extinct in the West) the two other categories do not require the reliance of capital on external sources to fill the army of the unemployed.

An even more striking example comes from the Mezzogiorno, Southern Italy: countless people migrate from Southern Italy, yet this does not create a shortage of workers there. On the contrary, unemployment is peaking in exactly those areas with maximum emigration. Even Diego can understand that if we believe immigration creates unemployment, we should equally believe that emigration creates employment – but this is not what happens.

What effect does unemployment have on wages according to Marx (and almost everyone else)? It lowers them, of course. Obviously, competition among proletarians lowers the price of labour-power. This is one of the many advantages of the reserve army of labour for capitalists, while it’s the main rip-off for employed wage-earners. Without other factors to counterbalance that downward pressure (factors that fortunately exist!), the presence of natural unemployment would push wages down to subsistence levels.

A 2018 neo-fascist flyer reads: “What did Karl Marx say? Industrial reserve army? Immigration is needed to lower salaries, rights and welfare. To turn Europe into a Third-world country, to turn us all into a mass of wretched people, temp-workers exploited and without rights. The LEFT today doesn’t break the chains, it fights for them! Not AGAINST but FOR the DOMINANT FINANCIAL ELITES! As they blab about rights, about opportunities and emancipation they are actually domesticating us to new damnation and servitude!”
It’s a perfect example: falsified Marx, the concept of “industrial reserve army” reduced to empty words and bent to a racist point of view in order to divide workers..

As you can see, Marx didn’t think that capitalism needed a little help from Africa to exploit workers: its intrinsic dynamics were more than enough. But Marx wasn’t a fatalist either. He believed one could fight capital’s tendency to turn the proletariat into wretched people who can barely survive. He believed in this so much that he spent his whole life trying.

How did Marx suggest dealing with the reserve army of labour?
Surely not by declaring war against them. Guess what? He proposed integrating them into working-class struggles and possibly trying to have them reabsorbed into the working class itself: for instance, by decreasing working time to share available jobs among everyone, thus reducing unemployment and giving capitalists less chance to take advantage of it; or by making the working conditions of the stagnant overpopulation the same as everybody else, thus preventing firms from using casualised work.

Although they both spoke of the brutal and alienating character of that process, you won’t find appeals by Marx and Engels to stop the peasants from migrating to cities. On the contrary, we do read positive remarks by them about the progressive effect of such migration. This is how they describe the endeavours of the bourgeoisie to this end:

“It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.” (Manifesto of the Communist Party, chapter 1)

4. Second night

Seconda apparizione dello spettro

Diego wasn’t sleeping. Was last night just a nightmare? Was it really a spirit? What would Hegel say? Perhaps he would have tried to study the phenomenology of Spirit! Ha ha ha! No, it isn’t funny. His sense of humour had been affected too.

What if Marx’s spirit was right? Diego didn’t actually meticulously read all the books he had often cited. Some of them he had never read. Really, in 21st-century Italy, who reads Marx? Quoting him was a kind of homage. He just wanted to warn against immigrationist turbo-globalism…

The door opened.
“Let’s go, we’re leaving, hurry up!” the bearded spirit yelled, bursting into the room.
“By Jove! Where are we going?” the young man asked, running to grab a pair of shoes and a coat. He didn’t want to spend another cold night just in his pyjamas.
“We’re going to Emilia. I have a couple of stories to tell you.”
Diego made some space on the bed for the revived German philosopher, economist and revolutionary Karl Marx, who clicked his tongue. “We’re not taking that wreck. I’ve got my jet. Get in.”
“An aviogetto!” Diego uttered, worried and astonished, while a mysterious red jet with no pilot landed smoothly on the street. A stray cat was scared.
“I warn you,” Marx said after travelling for a few minutes, “we’ve almost arrived and you won’t like what you see. Shut up and learn something.”

L'aeroplano di Marx

The fighter landed in a field. It was night. Clamour and engine noises came from a warehouse on one side. On the other side, a long viaduct stood above the horizon. The two human figures quickly walked into the dark; the older one showed the way and when they came to the gates of the factory, he gestured to Diego to keep quiet and look.

There were different gates for the lorries and about ten badly-dressed guys were keeping an eye on them. They sounded Arabic. They appeared quiet, but alert. Some of them waved red flags in front of several white lorries that had stopped in the middle of the road. On the side of the white monsters, three letters were written: “GLS”. A young man switched his megaphone to siren mode and let it scream into the night. There were a few police cars.

One lorry was parked near the corner of the warehouse gate. Suddenly, it accelerated and turned right to break through the blockade. At that point, there wasn’t really a blockade as the protesters had already dispersed, but a balding man about 50 was still on the road, he was wearing a union hat and looked like a good guy.

The man saw the lorry, he was alarmed and ran in front of it, showing his hand, palms up. The driver didn’t yield and sped up. Maybe he was sure that the porter would step aside, maybe he was just bothered by the blockade and the idea that he, as an Italian, had to accept the demands of these North Africans, maybe he was forced to by his bosses. In any case, the lorry hit the porter, slammed him violently to the ground and eventually came to a halt.

The comrades of the man suddenly came running, shouting out their despair and their rage. Some surrounded the body on the ground, others tried to catch the killer and lynch him. Police stepped in to stop them; a man wearing a white shirt, one of the managers, came out of the warehouse.

Diego had turned pale.
“Let’s leave,” said the ghost, bleak. “That Egyptian man was a union leader; he will die. His name was Abd El Salam Ahmed El Danf,” the ghost explained while the red jet was taking off again, invisible to the porters mourning their comrade.

Abd El Salam vive

Marx was driving. Diego watched the Emilian countryside, the A1 motorway, the factories, the weird in-the-middle-of-nowhere high-speed train station, rapidly flowing under them; then again and again, one after another, awful square warehouses. The old man’s phantom pushed the joystick forward and the plane flew down, just a few metres over the ground, slowing down.

“Are we landing?”
“No, that’s enough for tonight, I just want to show you a tent. There it is!”
The tent, decorated with red flags, was standing a few steps away from the gate of yet another warehouse. A really modern-looking warehouse: white metal battens on every side, mirror glass. You could mistake it for a chemical laboratory, yet they just process pork meat. It seemed that another structure emerged from the front of the building, a kind of small triangle-based tower. On the top of the small tower, the sign: “CASTELFRIGO”.

In front of the tent, gathered around a fire in an oil drum, some tired but cheerful foreigners’ faces: one from Eastern Europe, one from Africa, two from China.
The fighter jet sped away above them and continued its flight.

Many months of indefinite strikes, including hunger strikes, o renew the contract of workers employed by fake cooperatives and to put an end to illegal practices adopted by porterage cooperatives that broker workforce in the meat processing industry. Strike-breaking measures set up by CISL, police crackdowns, any amount of conniving by union bureaucrats. I ask you right now: do they look like “uprooted slaves” willing to be exploited to you?”
Diego hesitated. “They are indeed uprooted…”
“They’re growing their own roots…” answered the ghost; then he slapped him on the head. “…you moron!”

Basta schiavi

5. Marx the do-gooder

Karl Marx, like Friedrich Engels, lived in England for many years. At that time in England, there was both racism against Asian and African people from British colonies, as well as general xenophobia against people from other countries. Most immigrants came from Ireland, which was at the time still part of the United Kingdom.
Marx and Engels wrote a lot on the subject, shedding light on the miserable living conditions of Irish workers and how such conditions brought ethnic and social conflicts. They also wrote about the spectacular differences that existed between them, most of them being former farmhands or peasants from very poor areas, and the English working class, which had already settled into industrial capitalism. Nor did they hold back from criticising Irish nationalist political leaders.
Diego tells us that the founders of scientific socialism were certainly not “do-gooders”. We would be forced to say he’s right if we found in Marx’s texts something like that:

Watch out, that’s not Marx!

“And most important of all! Every industrial and commercial centre in England now possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians.
The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker, the English worker regards himself as a member of the oppressed nation, suffering an invasion: foreign invaders become a tool of the English aristocrats and capitalists against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination. The English worker justly defends his own religious, social, and national traditions against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much the same as that of the American Indians who tried to defend themselves against the Whites’ invasion to avoid ending up in reservations: how could one blame him?
This antagonism is artificially deadened and kept at bay by the globalist press, the ‘tolerant’ sermons of priests, left-wing satire doling out goodwill and piety towards the ‘poor Irish’. In short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes and their foolish servants. The ‘do-goodery’ is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organisation. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And the latter is quite aware of this.”

Where did Marx write these lines? Fucking nowhere. The first paragraph is his, but I invented everything else. This is not Marx: it’s Diego’s imaginary Marx. Let’s read instead the real Marx, in his letter to Sigfrid Mayer and August Vogt on April 9th, 1870:

“The King of a-shantee”. 1882 anti-Irish cartoon. The title is a pun between “king of shanty” and “king of Ashantee”, an African tribe. The mocking of poverty overlaps, through the depiction of Irish as negroids and monkeyish, a clear racist message. Source hereOther examples here.

“And most important of all! Every industrial and commercial centre in England now possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life.
In relation to the Irish worker, he regards himself as a member of the ruling nation and consequently he becomes a tool of the English aristocrats and capitalists against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself. He cherishes religious, social, and national prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much the same as that of the ‘poor whites’ to the Negroes in the former slave states of the USA. The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own money. He sees in the English worker both the accomplice and the stupid tool of the English rulers in Ireland.
This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organisation. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And the latter is quite aware of this.”

What have we just read? Exactly what it seems. Marx saw reality and knew exactly that there was bad blood between English and Irish workers. When in the Manifesto he writes “the working men have no country”, he describes the condition which objectively would make sense for them and to which they are pushed by the development of the world economy. Yet he knows, of course, that they are fraught with ethnic prejudices, religious prejudices etc. To Marx, however, this typically working-class sentiment of rivalry with proletarians of other nationalities is convenient for bosses and the bosses themselves stir it up continuously.

Trust di cervelli

Marx never argues that capitalists promote do-goodery and tolerance towards immigrants; instead, Marx argues that the dominant class diffuses, more or less subtly, xenophobia and racism.
It’s interesting to note that even racist humour magazines are dangerous tools in the hands of the dominant class. Today we would say: anti-immigrant cartoonists like Marione or Krancic, right-wing singers like Povia (who, by the way, actually claims in a hideous song the nonsense that “Carletto Marx” agreed with him).

Basically, Marx says that workers who reason like Diego are like scabs: they get hoodwinked by the bourgeoisie and divide their own class. And he adds that this is the same even for immigrants who hate locals, although naturally he devotes less time to this.

But this letter tells us much more. Generally, migrations of the labour force are not a bourgeois plot: they happen spontaneously and at the initiative of the migrants themselves, to decide their own destiny and look for a better life. Capitalism automatically creates the conditions of economic disparity which feed migration; the bourgeois take advantage of that _a posteriori _for their own economic and political interests, as they do with anything.
In this particular case, however, Marx is pretty convinced there’s really a sort of capitalist conspiracy: Ireland, after all, is an inner colony of Britain, the latter determining the former’s agrarian policy, encouraging the depopulation of the island’s countryside. In fact, he talks about “forcible emigration”. Even so, Marx does not propose that the communists demand a policy of halting immigration. On the contrary, he recognises in this melting pot an opportunity for the First International he founded.

Workers’ organisation disrupts the plans of Big Business. Trends that, left to themselves (or rather, left to the bosses), would be reactionary, can thus be turned into something progressive. Labour-power is a special commodity and one of its characteristics is that it is not inert. Workers are human beings with a developable consciousness. All of Marxism is permeated with the awareness that class struggle (that is, the impossibility of regarding workers just as factors in production) shapes the world.

As closing remarks in the letter, having explained the importance of gaining the sympathy of Irish workers by defending the liberation of Ireland from the imperialist yoke, Marx describes with admiration the efforts of his daughter Jenny to inform the general public about the Irish question. He concludes by saying that it is crucial for the International to strengthen cooperation between Irish workers and workers of other nationalities, not only in Britain but also in America, where national divisions have always fragmented the labour movement in a particularly harmful way.

OK, it seems obvious, yet apparently it isn’t, so it’s better to write it down explicitly: according to the founders of the First International, workers of different nationalities should unite, both by forming links between the working class of one country and another, and, within each country, between native and immigrant people. That’s why it was called International Workingmen’s Association. Class brotherhood had to be promoted. Today, the xenophobes would certainly call them do-gooders.

The “do-gooders” of the First International.

The “do-gooders” of the First International.

This is what Marx proposed in 1871, the year of the Paris Commune:

“It is necessary that our aims should be thus comprehensive to include every form of working-class activity. To have made them of a special character would have been to adapt them to the needs of one section — one nation of workmen alone. But how could all men be asked to unite to further the objects of a few?”

This quotation answers yet another widespread rubbish argument, namely that it was Marx’s opinion that each nation should struggle separately. It is a misunderstanding born from a passage in the Manifesto which actually claims the opposite (“Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle.”)… but let’s keep that for another time.

In the interview, Marx continues:

“To give an example, one of the commonest forms of the movement for emancipation is that of strikes. Formerly, when a strike took place in one country it was defeated by the importation of workmen from another. The International has nearly stopped all that. It receives information of the intended strike, it spreads that information among its members, who at once see that for them the seat of the struggle must be forbidden ground. The masters are thus left alone to reckon with their men. […] By these means a strike of the cigar makers of Barcelona was brought to a victorious issue the other day.”

As with many of these writings, if Diego read it without understanding much he would get easily excited: in fact, here Marx is saying that the International stopped the import of foreign scabs. Yet it is how that matters: the International stopped the foreign strike-breakers organising the foreign workers by involving them in the common struggle. To the internationalists, it would have been unthinkable to ask the state (that is, the police) to stop the scabs by putting up walls at the frontiers. Rather, for as long as there have been cops in this world, they have always escorted blacklegs across the picket line.

Regardless, the deepest message is another one: one should always consider foreign workers – whom the ruling class would intend to use as cheap commodities to lower the cost of other commodities – as human beings who must be included, convinced, involved. In Diego’s rhetoric, instead, immigrants are objects or, at best, “slaves” to be pitied. It’s the same rhetoric as their exploiters’.

End of the first episode

Go to sleep, Diego

Thanks to the great Winsor McCay for the inspiration.

contents of the second episode

6. Third night
7. No-Border Lenin
8. The last night
9. In the good ol’ days… you would have grossed out the Left just the same
10. Postscript

Follow Mauro on Twitter → @maurovanetti

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About the statue of Indro Montanelli, a racist and a rapist

On June 13, in Milan, the statue dedicated to Italian journalist Indro Montanelli was smeared by red paint and marked with the writings “rapist, racist”.

This is the second time that activists smear the statue of Montanelli: the first time, in 2019, they covered it in pink paint during a women’s demonstration on March 8th. The action was claimed by Non Una di Meno, the Italian branch of the Ni Una Menos feminist movement. This last action was claimed by two different student activist groups (Milan Student’s network and Lume collective) and was completed between the evening of June 13th and the morning of the 14th.

Following the Black Lives Matter movement and the throwing of Edward Colston’s statue into the river in Bristol, UK, the statue of Montanelli had become a matter of discussion in the Italian mainstream media and social media in previous days. The reason, activists say, is that the monument erected by Milan’s municipality just a few years after the journalist’s death, deserves to be removed.

Indro Montanelli died in Milan in 2001 at the age of 92, after a life of immense success and fame. He was considered “the prince of journalism” and had been one of the most powerful voices in the Italian media for most of his life, even though his career started in a way that embarrassed some of his liberal admirers. He was indeed a keen supporter of Mussolini, and wrote in several magazines and newspapers of the fascist regime.

He was particularly vocal regarding the 1935 Italian colonial aggression against Ethiopia (Abyssinia at the time), an aggression he participated in with enthusiasm. One of his articles in the magazine Civiltà fascista (Fascist Civilization), recommended the soldiers to avoid any pity and human feelings towards Ethiopians. “White man must command”, he wrote.

While in Abyssinia, Montanelli bought and married a 12 year old child who he kept as his enslaved wife. More than once, he explained his actions in interviews and writings, always bragging about it and showing no regret. The last mention of the child he enslaved for his sexual pleasure dates as recently as 2000, just one year before his death. In a public letter in response to a 18 year old girl asking about his famous Ethiopian “love story”, Montanelli called her “my little animal” and described the atrocious details of her rape. In 1969, Italian journalist and activist Elvira Banotti challenged Montanelli on the topic during a TV interview, and then Montanelli finally admitted that what he had done in Ethiopia, would have been considered rape in Europe.

montanelli lettera

The letter where the “great journalist” details the rape of his enslaved 12 year old child in 2000, just one year before he died.


Italy conducted the war against Ethiopia with genocidal intent. It is estimated that about 275.000 Ethiopian soldiers and civilians were killed by the Italian army, while Italy’s death toll counted around 4.300. Mussolini and his commanders on the ground (particularly General Badoglio, who later signed the armistice with the Allies) ordered a systematic use of chemical weapons against the Ethiopian army and population, and violated the Geneva Convention in many other ways.

For decades Montanelli denied the Italian war crimes in Ethiopia, even after they were proved in well documented studies by historians such as Angelo Del Boca. It was only after the Italian government admitted the use of chemical weapons against Ethiopians in 1996 – 60 years after the events occurred – that Montanelli recognized he was wrong in believing it didn’t happen. Until then, he had been the most important creators of one of the lies that has been polluting Italian historical memory and debate: the myth of Italians as good people, whose colonial aggressions were conducted with kindness and humanity.

john robinson

The US State Deptartment prevented African American supporting Ethiopia from traveling to the front to take part in its war with fascist Italy. But a few did, including renowned aviator John C. Robinson, who took charge of Ethiopia’s fledgling Air Force. Source: https://t.co/qdczDOC3g2?amp=1

Although he was a supporter of the most violent expressions of the fascist regime, after WWII he became a revisionist, and in his many and widely read books about that era, he erased the ferocity of fascism and depicted Mussolini as a good man who, in the end, was fooled by his hierarchs. Montanelli managed to pass his revisioned narrative by claiming an objective point of view stemming from his opposition to Mussolini’s politics. An opposition he paid with imprisonment. However, Montanelli was briefly incarcerated just before Mussolini’s fall because the Duce considered him a “fascism profiteer” and not at all a political opponent. In reality, as we wrote above, he was a vibrant fascist.

During the Italian Civil War (1943-45) that followed the fall of Mussolini, Montanelli faked his participation in the Resistance and, with the help of his friend, the gestapo commander Theodor Saevecke, also known as the executioner of Piazzale Loreto, he flew to Switzerland. When in charge of the gestapo in Milan, Saevecke ordered the deportation of 700 Jewish people and the execution of many partisans, among whom were 15 men who were killed and exposed in Piazzale Loreto. In 1999, Saevecke was finally put on trial in Italy, and Montanelli testified in his favor. “I don’t give a fuck of their noises”, Montanelli said when he faced the screams and insults of the victims’ families.

The executioner of Piazzale Loreto was not the only nazi slaughterer Montanelli supported. Even the infamous Erik Priebke, who ordered the massacre of 335 Italian soldiers and civilians at the Fosse Ardeatine in Rome, received a letter of solidarity from him.

Like others who had joined Italian fascism, after WWII, Montanelli committed body and soul to the war against Communism, a war that provided for many war criminals a way to come back to action and allowed for their crimes to be forgiven? with the help of a new ally, the USA. While the American government pushed for a radical right wing turn in Italian politics, in a series of letters and meetings with the American embassy, Montanelli suggested the creation of a force made of 100.000 beaters of clear anti-communist faith. They should have been chosen among former fascists, army officials, businessmen and mobsters, who, though a terrorist strategy, would lead a law and order golpe. The near future that Montanelli wished for his country was a civil war that would have destroyed the Italian Communist Party and brought to power a Pinochet-like regime.

His ideas were actually put in place during the strategy of tension following which the neofascists and the secret services organized a series of terrorist attacks in order to stop the rise of the PCI to government. Montanelli took part in the events by decoying the investigation that followed the massacre of Piazza Fontana, when a bomb placed by neo-fascist inside a bank in Milan killed 17 people. The anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli was wrongfully accused for the attacked and died following a “fall” from the window of the police headquarters where he had been illegally detained for 3 days.

That is not all, the “great journalist” also used his media power to protect the business interests which caused the Vajont dam disaster which killed between 1,900 and 2,500 people in 1963.

Obviously, Montanelli was also a fierce opponent of the civil rights movement in the USA, because, he affirmed, the white race had to be protected.

With all this in mind, it is perhaps no surprise that Montanelli became a target of the Red Brigades, who kneecapped him in 1977, in the very spot where his statue was built to honor him as “the father of Italian journalism” and a red terrorism victim. After the protest from the anti-racist activists, the entire mainstream journalism world and most of the political spectrum emerged as one man in defense of his legacy and memory. Among them, the centre-left Mayor of Milan Giuseppe Sala stood out with a particularly disturbing statement: “everybody makes mistakes and we should all watch our own lives”.

The statue has been rapidly cleaned and is now guarded night and day by law enforcement members. But nevertheless, never in all these years Indro Montanelli’s crimes were so widely discussed in the Italian media. Like elsewhere, in Italy new generations look a lot less willing than before to forgive the “mistakes” of important men.

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[fr] Pourquoi est ce que le coronavirus tue t-il autant en Italie ?

Le coronavirus touche le monde entier, mais il n y a pas de doutes qu’il y a un pays qui a été touché plus durement que n’importe quel autre : l’Italie. Alors que le bilan des personnes décédées dépasse les 15.000 morts, plus du double de la Chine, à l’étranger des vidéos de maires italiens engueulant les personnes qui sortent faire un jogging ou promener leur chien circulent sur internet. «Les italiens ne peuvent pas suivre les règles», «les italiens boivent de l’eau sales», «Les italiens ont un système de santé qui est public et par conséquent digne du tiers-monde»: vous pouvez lire ce genre de commentaires sur les réseaux sociaux.

Ce n’est pas seulement une question de racisme: Les medias italiens ainsi que les politiciens diffusent l’idée qu’une personne qui marche seule dans un parc est responsable de la contagion et de la mort de plusieurs personnes, avec comme conséquence une militarisation de la société et une incroyable série de mesures fortes prises à l’encontre de toute personne qui ne se plie pas aux injonctions de la police. Nous parlons de personnes arrêtées par les militaires et livrées à la police parce qu’elles marchaient seules a 500m de leur maison. Ou encerclées et battues parce qu’elles faisaient du jogging (encore une fois seules) sur une route déserte. Le gouvernement a récemment élevé l’amende pour «le non respect des directives» au montant astronomique de 3000€.

En fait la réalité raconte une toute autre histoire. L’histoire d’un pays en ruine après des dizaines d’années de coupes budgetaires du secteur public et de l’émigration, et gouverné par des clowns qui sont totalement soumis aux désirs des hommes d’affaires.

Nous allons examiner les 5 raisons pour lesquelles tant de gens meurent en Italie, dans l’espoir que cela vous aidera, lecteurs du monde entier à agir pour que votre gouvernement ne fasse pas la même erreur et puisse sauver des vies.

  • Le problème démographique
  • L’austérité, la grande faucheuse
  • Privatisation, privatisation, privatisation
  • La responsabilité des hommes d’affaires
  • Le rôle de la pollution.

Le probleme demographique

L’Italie est le deuxième plus vieux pays au monde, avec 35% de la population qui a plus de 65 ans. Est-ce parce que nous mangeons bien et que nous prenons des apéritifs avec des amis sur une magnifique piazza tous les jours? Non, en fait c’est parce qu’il n’y a pas d’enfants. Au début de l’année 2020, pour chaque 100 décès il n’y avait que seulement 67 naissances. Dix ans auparavant, il y avait 96 nouvelles naissances pour chaque 100 morts. C’est le taux le plus bas depuis la fondation de l’Etat Italien en 1861, lorsqu’ils ont commencé a récolter les données. La population italienne a diminué de 116.000 personnes par an.

Est-ce que les italiens n’ont pas envie d’avoir des enfants car ils sont exigeants et qu’ils preferent rester à la maison avec leur mamma plutôt que de fonder leur propre famille? La encore, non. Il n’y a pas d’enfants car les jeunes couples ne peuvent plus subvenir à leur besoins. Comme rapporté par l’Istat, la moitié des travailleurs italiens gagnent moins de 11€ par heure, et 6% d’entre eux gagnent moins de 7.50€ par heure. La plupart des travailleurs sous-payés sont des jeunes et les jeunes travailleurs doivent se traîner le fardeau des contrats à court terme sans protections et des dépenses sociales record.

Comme résultat il y a 120.000 Italiens qui ont quitté le pays en 2019, 3.000 de plus qu’en 2018. 5.3 millions d’Italiens sont enregistrés comme vivant à l’étranger, un million de plus qu’il y a a peine 8 ans, et les vrais chiffres sont probablement beaucoup plus importants car la majeure partie des immigrés ne s’enregistre pas aux consulats. La plupart des immigrés sont jeunes et beaucoup sont des médecins. 52% des docteurs européens ayant quitté leur propre pays sont Italiens.

Tout cela explique la prévalence des personnes âgées au sein de la population, affectant l’économie et le système de santé, qui n’est pas en mesure d’aider les plus fragiles en cas d’épidémie qui est plus dangereuse pour eux que pour personne d’autre. Les vieux médecins, travailleurs d’usine, chauffeurs de camion, vendeurs, doivent continuer de travailler et par consequent tomber malade. Il est important de noter que l’âge minimum pour le départ à la retraite a été elevé a 67 ans en Italie.

L’austérité, la grande faucheuse

Beaucoup pensent que l’austérité en Italie est le produit de la crise de 2008, mais en fait notre pays a commencé à effectuer de sévères coupes budgétaires dans les dépenses sociales dès le debut des années 90. En 1980, l’Italie possédait 500.000 lits d’hôpitaux, tandis qu’aujourd’hui ils ne sont que 200.000. Nous avons 3.2 lits d’hôpitaux pour 1000 habitants, tandis que la France en a 6 et que l’Allemagne en a 8. En 1982 il y avait 922 lits de réanimation pour 100.000 personnes, en 2015 il n’y en avait plus que 275. Le nombre d’hôpitaux en 1998 était de 1381, tandis qu’aujourd’hui il n’est plus que de 1000. 200 d’entre eux ont été fermés durant ces 10 dernières années. Pendant ce temps, la population est devenue plus vieille et plus malade.

Entre 2009 et 2018, 37 milliards d’euros ont été supprimés du budget de la santé, créant un manque de medecins, d’infirmiers, d’assistants sociaux, de structures sanitaires. Entre 2009 et 2017, 6.2% des postes medecins et des infirmiers furent supprimés (46.500 personnes). Des mesures qui on réduit notre système de santé vacillant. Une pénurie de personnel « que le gouvernement, en plein milieu d’une pandémie, tente de récuperer hâtivement en recrutant des milliers de volontaires parmi les nouveaux diplômés, mais aussi parmi les médecins et les infirmiers retraités. Pendant ce temps, la population a vieilli et est devenue plus malade.

Healthcare spending per countries

Dépense par habitant et par pays. Source: Eurostat

Jeter des vieux médecins à l’intérieur d’hôpitaux pleins de malades affectés par une maladie qui tue particulièrement les plus vieux est une folie, mais beaucoup continuent de répondre à l’appel, avec les conséquences évidentes et tragiques. Un vieux médecin de 73 ans est mort de coronavirus il y a quelques jours, après s’être porté volontaire pour aider.

Privatisation, privatisation, privatisation

Comme les coupes budgétaires dans le service public n’étaient pas assez, le Système de santé Italien a été largement privatisé durant les dernières décennies. Le système de santé Italien est fait de 51.80% d’hôpitaux publics et de 48.20% d’hôpitaux privés, qui fournissent un service public et qui sont ensuite remboursés par l’Etat. En 1998 le ratio était 61.3 pour 38.7%.

Le processus de privatisation s’est fait de pair avec la régionalisation de la santé. Depuis les années 90, certains partis politiques, surtout la Ligue du Nord ont fait pression pour donner plus de pouvoirs aux gouvernements régionaux sur certains secteurs clés, dont la santé. Ceci a rendu le système sanitaire italien profondément inégalitaire entre les régions, et a laissé une grande liberté de manœuvre aux gouvernements régionaux, qui, souvent, ont agi dans l’interet des sociétés de leurs amis.

La Lombardie, région ou il y a la plus grande majorité de cas de coronavirus et de décès, a été longtemps considérée l’Eldorado des entreprises de santé privées. Grâce principalement à Roberto Formigoni, gouverneur de la région entre 1995 et 2013, et purgeant actuellement une peine de 5 ans détention à domicile pour corruption dans le secteur de la santé. Grâce a ses liens avec les entreprises de santé liées à l’Eglise, il a transformé le système de santé de la Lombardie en un marché financé par des fonds publics de l’ordre de milliards de dollars. Et ses successeurs Roberto Maroni et Attilio Fontana (l’actuel gouverneur) ont parfaitement suivi ses pas.

Résultat, 40% des lits d’hôpitaux en Lombardie sont privés. Et il va sans dire que, les hôpitaux privés sont loin de la première ligne dans l’actuelle épidémie de coronavirus. Contrairement à l’Espagne, l’Italie n’a pris aucune mesure sérieuse pour nationaliser les hôpitaux privés, même si les hôpitaux publics sont débordés sous la pression quotidienne de milliers de malades infectés par le coronavirus et que des hôpitaux de campagne sont construits partout en Lombardie. 65 médecins et infirmiers ont été envoyés par Cuba pour aider les hôpitaux publics, et le gouvernement continue de protéger les hôpitaux privés.

Tout ce que le gouvernement a pu faire, c’était de demander timidement leur aide. Un appel auquel, honteusement, certains hôpitaux répondirent pour se faire encore plus d’argent, ou du moins éviter de dépenser un centime de leur poche. Alors que le service de santé public fait face à une urgence insupportable, l’hôpital San Raffaele, l’un des plus grands hôpitaux de Milan, a eu le culot de demander des dons pour construire une nouvelle unité de soins intensifs dans son gymnase. Le San Raffaele appartient à une société évaluée à 1.65 milliards d’euros.

Conséquence, le système de santé Italien est loin de pouvoir répondre au grand défi auquel il est appellé à faire face. Sur les réseaux sociaux, des centaines de gens rapportent que les hôpitaux refusent de les dépister et de les hospitaliser, malgré le fait qu’ils n’étaient plus capables de réspirer. Mais lorsque vous commencez à avoir des problèmes respiratoires, il est souvent trop tard pour appeler une ambulance. Une femme de 48 ans originaire de Brescia est morte du coronavirus chez elle, et les gens meurent sans avoir été examinés par un docteur.

Des centaines de gens partagent leur expérience sur les réseaux sociaux, qui est toujours la même : ils ont commencé a développé tous les symptômes typiques – fièvre élevée, toux, souffle court – ils appellent leur médecin traitant et le numéro spécial coronavirus pour demander un masque et des soins, et ils répondent souvent « pas de masque, restez chez vous, appelez une ambulance si vous ne pouvez pas respirer ».

Même les travailleurs de la santé (y compris médecins et infirmiers) n’ont pas été testés, même si ils ont été en contact avec des patients atteints du covid-19, même si ils développent des symptômes. Mais les recherches montrent que vous pouvez transmettre le virus lorsque les symptômes ne sont pas encore visibles, ou même si ils ne sont jamais apparus. A cause du manque total de prévention des contaminations en milieu hospitalier, Sassari, en Sardaigne enregistre une contamination massive de ses médecins et infirmiers avec 90% du total des patients atteints.

La situation est si critique que le chef de la protection civile Angelo Borrelli a admis que le nombre réel de cas est probablement dix fois plus élevé que ce qui est rapporté.

La responsabilité des patrons

A Bergame la situation a pris des proportions catastrophiques. Des cercueils de victimes de coronavirus sont évacués sur des véhicules de l’armée pour être incinérés ailleurs, car les morgues sont pleines, et une vidéo poignante montre le nombre de morts dans la rubrique nécrologie du journal local.

La vallée voisine de Seriana est désormais reconnue comme étant le troisième foyer de l’épidémie commencée en Février dernier et qui actuellement tue des centaines d’Italiens tous les jours, avec quelques municipalités près de Lodi (parmi elles Codogno)ainsi que le petit village de Vo’ Euganeo dans la région Vénétie. Mais contrairement aux deux autres, la vallée Seriana n’a pas été déclarée « zone rouge » et entièrement confinée – même si certaines de ses villes ont perdu presque autant d’habitants en moins d’un moins que sur toute l’année 2019. Pourquoi ?

A cause des entrepreneurs. Comme rapporté par les journalistes, les deux Régions ainsi que l’institut supérieur de la santé (la plus haute institution italienne en matière de santé) voulaient confiner la zone au début du mois de Mars, mais le gouvernement temporisa. La Confindustria – organisation du patronat Italien – s’opposa fermement à cette requête pour protéger les intérêts de plusieurs usines de la vallée, et le projet fut finalement annulé. Les la plupart des usines continuent de travailler malgré l’épidémie.

death toll bergamo coronavirus

Nombre de morts à Bergame, par année. Source: Isaia Invernizzi https://twitter.com/EasyInve/status/1243467630721273856/photo/1

Sous la pression des chiffres de l’épidémie et à une moindre mesure, de celle des gros syndicats (CGIL, CISL, UIL – forcés à agir par une série de grèves sauvages), le gouvernement M5S-PD a décidé de prendre des mesures contre les patrons, en apparence seulement, en ordonnant la fermeture de toutes les usines non essentielles.

En apparence, car le dilemme de décider ce qui est essentiel et ce qui ne l’est pas fut laissé aux sociétés, qui peuvent simplement auto-certifier leur importance pour les besoins nationaux et donc continuer à travailler. Les grands syndicats menacent timidement de faire des grèves locales et sectorielles, mais pour l’instant sans résultat.

Le rôle de la pollution

Comme le montre plusieurs recherches, le risque de contracter une pneumonie virale est plus grand dans les zones polluées. Et la vallée du Po, ou il y a le plus grand nombre de cas et de décès dus au Covid-19 , a le pire taux de pollution d’Europe. Il est probable que la pollution de l’air, en particulier les particules PM10, ait un rôle dans la transmission du virus et peut être même rendre les gens, particulièrement les vieux, encore plus vulnérables au coronavirus. Même si la pollution a considérablement diminué durant ces dernières semaines grâce au confinement, ses séquelles aux poumons demeurent.

Les organisations écologistes réclament depuis longtemps des mesures pour réduire la pollution dans la vallée, et non seulement personne n’a jamais écouté, mais la situation s’est aggravée ces dernières années.


Les raisons pour lesquelles l’Italie enregistre des milliers de morts dues au coronavirus sont surtout l’œuvre de l’homme et auraient pu être évitées si les décisions n’étaient pas uniquement guidées par le profit. Combien de vies pourraient être sauvées si notre pays était plus égalitaire ? Qui est responsable de la catastrophe que nous vivons ?

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[en] Why is coronavirus killing so many people in Italy?

confindustria covid 19

“Confindustria-19. Your health is worth less than our profits”. Source: twitter

[Updated on 31/03/2020] Coronavirus is hitting all around the world, but there’s no doubt that one country has been hit more harshly that any other: Italy. While the death tool has passed the 12.500 mark, about four times China’s, outside the country videos of Italian mayors freaking out at people walking in the street with their dogs or jogging become viral. “Italians can’t follow rules”, “Italians drink dirty water”, “Italians have a public – and therefore third-world – healthcare system”: you can read this kind of statements all around social media.

It’s not just a matter of racism: Italian medias and politicians are also spreading the idea that one person walking alone in a park is responsible for the contagion and the death of many, resulting in a progressive militarization of society and incredibly hard measures taken against anyone that isn’t behaving as the police likes. We are talking about people threatened by soldiers and reported to the police because they were walking alone 500 mt from home or surrounded and beaten because they were jogging (again, alone) on an empty road. The government has recently raised the fine for “not following the directives” to the astonishing amount of 3000 €.

Reality, though, tells a different story. A story about a country in ruins after decades of cuts to social spending and emigration, and governed by puppets that are completely prone to the desires of businesses.

We’ll examine the five reasons why so many people in Italy are dying, in the hope that this will help you readers from all around the world act so that your government doesn’t make the same mistake and lives can be saved.

  • The demographic issue
  • Austerity, the grim reaper
  • Privatization, privatization, privatization
  • The responsibility of businesses
  • The role of pollution

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The actual Italian results of the European Elections

European elections results in ItalyOn the morning of May 27th, with the almost definitive results of the European election in Italy, the Wu Ming Foundation published a thread of tweets with their first thoughts on the election results. They then decided to republish them, in article form, on their blog Giap!.

At the time of writing, the mainstream media in Italy were claiming these results (in brackets the general election result) for the main parties:
Lega 34,3% electing 29 ENF MEP (17,4%)
PD 22,7% electing 19 S&D MEP (18,7%)
M5S 17,1% electing 14 EFDD MEP (32,7%)
Forza Italia 8,8% electing 7 EPP MEP (14%)
Fratelli d’Italia 6,5% electing 6 ECR MEP (4,35%)
Others 10,7% (12,85%)

Responding to these results, the media framed the debate in the following terms:

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#Bologna: #Làbas & Laboratorio Crash Evicted

This gallery contains 10 photos.

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Trade union leader released after three days of protests across Italy

2017_01_27_aldoThe national coordinator of the Si Cobas trade union was released on bail yesterday after his lawyer stated that the accusations against him are beginning to collapse. Aldo Milani, the head of Si Cobas was arrested on Friday during negotiations he was conducting. According to Si Cobas: “In the late afternoon (of 26th January 2016) our national coordinator Aldo Milani was taken away by the police, arrested and transferred to jail in Modena and, as of yet (the morning of of January 27th), his legal defense has not been able to contact him.” Milani was charged with extortion relating to industrial action that the union was taking against a food processing company in the province of Modena, Northern Italy. Continue reading

Posted in Activism, Labour, Migrant struggles, Repression, Tertiary and services, Unions, [en] | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Foodora strikes in Italy – the dark side of the sharing economy

1. The sharing economy?
2. Foodora in Italy
3. New conditions and first strikes
4. Evolution of the struggle
5. Flexibility and the Italian labour market
6. Sources

1. The sharing economy?

foodollsNewspapers report every day how our world is changing because of digital technologies. We often read about full automation, digitalization of life and the end of work. All these themes are interwoven in the sharing economy: apps that connect supply and demand to share a particular good. Foodora is not one of them, as nothing is shared. Foodora is part of the gig-economy, like Uber, MechanicalTurk or Task Rabbit.
Foodora offers restaurants the possibility of new customers by providing a flexible fleet of couriers. An app monitors purchases and assigns them to the couriers based on an algorithm that calculates speed and distances. Restaurants get new orders without employing any more people, paying 30% only on completed deliveries, meaning they have no additional costs. Customers get the food they want from a great variety of restaurants, at home, by paying €2.90 per delivery. Young cyclists, who the company calls “riders” (even in Italian), get to earn some money by moving through the city in their free time. Foodora, the once-small Berlin-based startup has grown into an international business, located in 10 countries and 36 cities. It opened in Italy two years ago, starting in Turin and Milan (northern Italy) and will soon be expanding to Rome, with prospective sales volume growing at a rate of 75% every month.
Currently the riders, roughly 300 in Turin and 600 in Milan, are not directly employed by the company. Instead, they are employed using a contract structure known as “co.co.co” (“contract for continued collaboration on a project”). These contracts effectively result in the riders being regarded as autonomous workers collaborating with the company, which enables the company to bypass several labour regulations which apply to direct employees.
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Posted in Labour, Precarious Workers, Tertiary and services, [en] | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

[fr] Le pari de Matteo Renzi avec la démocratie: Le référendum Italien

renzi_selfieLe 4 Décembre prochain, le peuple italien sera appelé aux urnes pour le référendum sur la reforme constitutionnelle proposée par le gouvernement conservateur et pro-austérité de Matteo Renzi. Le sujet domine la vie politique italienne en raison de l’impact que pourrait avoir cette reforme sur la vie politique et institutionnelle italienne si elle est approuvée, mais aussi en raison de l’agitation qu’elle pourrait provoquer dans la politique italienne si elle venait a être rejetée.

L’importance accordée au référendum a rapidement polarisé la vie socio-politique italienne, servant de paravent a chaque force socio-politique majeur afin de détourner l’attention publique sur ses tares. Le gouvernement et le Parti Démocrate font face a une opposition populaire grandissante en raison de l’énorme écart entre l’effet loué des politiques appliquées par les gouvernants et les difficultés d’une large frange de la population, difficultés engendrées par les politiques néolibérales dictée par l’Union Européenne. Le Mouvement 5 étoiles, malgré ses récentes victoires aux élections municipales a Rome et a Turin, est toujours aux prises avec son identité et sa structure et la médiocrité de ses élus locaux est bien visible. Forza Italia, le parti de Berlusconi, la Ligue du Nord et les autres partis de droite voient en ce référendum le moyen de déloger Renzi du pouvoir afin de se l’approprier et de continuer sur la même ligne politique néolibérale. Les différentes forces de Gauche voient en ce référendum l’occasion de revenir sur la scène politique nationale comme alternatives fiables et stables. La fédération des employeurs Confindustria est d’ores et déjà favorable au débat national car il représente une belle occasion de détourner l’attention publique sur les salaires décroissants, les droits du travail, la sécurité au travail, la précarité du travail et l’enrichissement des employeurs.

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