There could be no clearer indication of what the coming to power of Salvini/Di Maio has unleashed in Italy than recent events in Rome’s city council.
A motion from the ultra-right “Brothers of Italy” party, passed by a slim majority, committed the council to dedicate one of the city’s thoroughfares to Giorgio Almirante, the principal private secretary of Mussolini’s Minister of Popular Culture, and editor of an extreme voice of racist hatred, the Defence of Race.
The vote was supported by members of the Five-Star movement and thus underlines the deepening wave of ideological and political poison gripping the Italian people and how the racist campaign of Salvini threatens to engulf its Five Star coalition partner.
In recent municipal elections the party of Di Maio lost heavily, especially in its base in the south.
Emboldened, Salvini has now called for a new census of Roma and for all non-Italian Roma to be expelled from the country, a move even more reminiscent of Italy’s fascist past.
Italy’s new politics has brought out contradictions and divisions among Europe’s leading powers.
The critical but opportunistic response of Macron to Salvini’s “adventurist” action of banning NGO rescue ships from Italian ports was contemptuously dismissed by the Italian leader, who was able to point out Macron’s hypocrisy on migration. (The French government daily metes out brutal racist violence against migrants on the Italian/French border.)
Salvini’s spirited “nationalistic” defence of his actions had the immediate effect of uniting behind him sections of the Italian bourgeoisie who opposed his party.
No doubt Macron’s words reflect European leaders’ growing fears that Salvini will speed up the disintegration of European unity. In the background, Marine Le Pen pressures Macron, Steve Bannon predicts the arrival of an apocalypse for “Europe’s elite”, and the European elections are approaching.
Meanwhile Salvini — for whom Cromwell’s observation “no one travels further than he who does not know where he is going”, may be apt — is forging a national and European voice of the extreme racist right. (He is now being courted now by Forza Italia). This should be a warning to the European left everywhere.
In a recent article in the Observer Kenan Malik highlighted the collective decisions of the European states over three decades to mount, strengthen and violently maintain a racist fortress against immigrants.
Their policy has, said Malik, “consisted of a three-pronged strategy of criminalising migrants, militarising border controls and externalising controls by paying non-EU states, on the other side of the Mediterranean huge amounts of money to act as Europe’s immigration police; in effect re-locating Europe’s borders for the proposed immigration policy, beyond Europe… so when the far right identitarian populist movements harass Médicins Sans Frontières and other NGO rescue crafts, or when they attack migrants, we ought to remember that they are not the first to do so. They are following European officialdom.”
Malik makes clear that African immigration throughout these decades has been integrally bound up with not just the systemic demand for immigrant labour in Europe, but also with the policies of global capitalist penetration in Africa involving deals and contracts with murderous elites in countries like Niger, Mali, Senegal, and Ethiopia.
Desperate efforts of people fleeing from such places for the “refuge” of Europe illustrates the horror they have endured under this latest form of neo-colonialism.
The racism of capitalist Europe is a structural constituent of the social political reality. As too is the resistance and self-organisation of the immigrant populations and especially among migrant workers.
Relevant in Italy is the emergence of the base unions among the most exploited of the country’s “precariat” — in the logistics enterprises in the gig economy, in agriculture and in the face of systematic discrimination and increasing racist institutional repression.
It is a reality reflected in the speech of Paolo Saumahoro, speaking at the funeral of his workmate, a young Malian trade union activist, Soumayly Sacko. Sacko was murdered by a racist thug as he helped two fellow workers to find scrap metal with which to build a home, among the wreckage of broken down factories near where they worked for 20 Euros for a 12-hour day.
Saumahoro made an angry militant attack on the Italian trade union movement and the country’s so called left: “The left doesn’t exist. It needs to be born from places like this and from the conflicts and social contradictions here, bringing together and uniting workers together in the fight for our common needs. We need to start from the rural areas, places dispersed and forgotten. If the left is not here it’s nowhere”.
That message goes to the heart of the matter for the left when we consider how we fight racism across the whole of Europe.
First and foremost the banner we fly must be one of internationalism, the political and practical foundation of a working-class led revolutionary course.
All our actions and struggles must have in mind the need to resist, challenge and ultimately overthrow the global order of capitalism, if humanity is to survive what lies ahead of us.