Lampedusa's racist horror

Submitted by Matthew on 16 October, 2013 - 12:38

The indescribable horror of what happened off the island of Lampedusa on 6 October, and the subsequent grotesquely cynic parade of public grief by a political class wholly culpable for the conditions that led to it, speak eloquently of the morally putrid fabric of bourgeois Italy.

As the bodies of the 50 or so other migrants drowned within a week of those at Lampedusa are still being searched for, no one should fool themselves that the declarations of “never again” from President Napoletano and the coalition government of Letta/Alfano, or the background chorus of other European states, signal any fundamental change to the criminally racist and repressive regimes that have been responsible for so many deaths.

Notwithstanding some shifts in opinion polls towards ending the criminalising Bossi/Fini law at the heart of the murderous expulsion of migrants, there is little evidence that bedrock racist assumptions among Italians about migrants have modified over the last 20 years. In conditions of mounting economic despair and suffering, they have worsened!

The proof of it has come not only from the predictably forked tongue of the Italian”“right” in government and the poisonous filth of the Northern League. It has also come from the leaders of the Five Star movement of Beppe Grillo and Gianroberto Casaleggio.

Taken by surprise by a move (by two Five Star parliamentarians) to force through an amendment to abolish the Bossi/Fini law in the Justice Commission of the Senate, these self-proclaimed avatars of the “new politics” first condemned the initiative as “not in the movement's program”. They later admitted the real reason, was no less than squalid opportunism of the “old” politics — such a position would have been a kiss of death in future elections.

Despite wide support from their colleagues the two parliamentarians were summarily expelled. The issue remains unresolved, threatening  to blow wide open the evermore tenuous unity of the outfit. 

Grillo is undoubtedly right when he points to the reality of widespread racism, especially in the north where a lot of his support has come from people moving away from the League of Bossi and Maroni. “We vote the League to protect us from the immigrant, we are trade unionists to protect us from the boss”, was the refrain among militants of the metalworkers’ union FIOM.

The silence, inactivity, and impotence of the bulk of the Italian trade union movement (and it should be said, underneath the rhetoric, the radical left) is a failure of principle.

Right now, in Reggio Calabria, where three years ago thousands of migrant orange picking workers rebelled against the subhuman conditions imposed upon them, the same illegal conditions flourish even more transparently and widely!

When will the left begin to challenge this state of affairs? Until it does the prospects for building a serious working class led movement of opposition to a society mired in continual crisis is, sadly, more and more distant.

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