Saturday, 16 January 2010

Migrants fighting back against repression in Italy deserve our solidarity

The orange groves of Rosarno have become the latest front in the openly racist war being waged by the Italian state against migrants. As the Independent on Sunday reported last week;
Hundreds of migrant workers, most of them Africans, went on a rampage in a southern Italian town in a second day of rioting, with authorities reporting at least 37 injured, including 18 police officers and five migrants.

Violence flared throughout Friday in Rosarno, a town near the western coast of Calabria in the toe of the Italian peninsula. Police reinforcements were sent to the area, and the interior ministry created a task force to deal with the violence.

The rioting began after two men, one from Nigeria, the other from Togo, were wounded by pellet fire on Thursday. Migrants blamed racism, and protesters stoned police, attacked residents and smashed shop windows and cars.
The violence provoked condemnation from the United Nations and the Vatican. This incited Andrea Ronchi, Italy's European affairs minister, to claim with a straight face that "In Italy, there is no racism. It does not exist. It is an accusation made by people who do not know Italy." Even without the evidence of the past two years, from pogroms against the Roma and the revival of the Blackshirts to the "White Christmas" campaign, his closing statement belies his opener. "Italy has been alone on the economic and political front, facing the urgent problem of illegal immigration. I criticise Europe for wasting time in creating a refugees' rights agency." Indeed, how anybody could perceive racism and an anti-immigrant vendetta is beyond imagining.

For the Independent, Michael Day analyses the cause of the riots;
Not long ago, Italy, the "Bel Paese", welcomed non-European immigrants with open arms. As a result many poor people from Eastern Europe and Africa made a beeline for one of Europe's richest and most beautiful nations.

Given the small numbers of extracomunitari, as non-Europeans are known, that existed then and the realisation that they were an unlimited source of cheap labour, the government carried on courting them.

In 1986 a law was passed assigning some rights to non-EU workers. This encouraged more arrivals, and by December 2000 the number of non EU-workers had risen from 300,000 in the mid-1970s to over one million.

But the promise of integration and good race relations never materialised. Immigrants were accepted as a source of labour – but not as equals.

As Michele Musolino, a cardiologist and former mayoral candidate in Rosarno, said this week: "You want to know how it came to this? We allowed these people in, but we never made them citizens. We gave them food and clothes, but no rights or status."

Even now, although extracomuni-tari are everywhere in Italy's cities, there are practically no non-European faces on television, or in the worlds of culture or politics.

Instead the catalogue of ugly incidents, big and small, accumulates month by month. Last week, while thugs in Rosarno were hunting African fruit-pickers with baseball bats, a local official of the anti-immigrant Northern League was labelling a Muslim cleaning lady employed in a provincial government office as a security threat and demanding her dismissal.

In Rome, the emergence of 20 metre-long racist banners in the football stadium in recent years raised eyebrows but attracted no repercussions. Then in September 2008 six African immigrants were shot dead by gangsters in Naples.

The increasing number of desperate, illegal immigrants from Africa, who risk their lives on boat journeys and land bedraggled and starving on the southern coast, has fuelled people's fear of immigration. It has also allowed the Northern League to flourish to the extent it is now a powerful coalition member of Silvio Berlusconi's government.

Last week a young Ghanaian engineering graduate summed up the experience of many. "I came here to find heaven," he told reporters. "But I found hell."
Italy is an extreme example amongst Western nations. A combination of Mafia dominance of the black market and state disinterest in the welfare of non-Europeans has mounted to create the situation we now see. No Borders Brighton offers, as ever, a thoughtful and provocative analysis of the situation.

What we need to note is that, even faced with this most extreme example of slavery and exploitation, there came a breaking point beyond which the victims were provoked to fight back. If the situation continues as it has been, no doubt they will do so again. When they do, those opposed to oppression and injustice must be uncompromising in our support and solidarity, as well as unceasing in our efforts to highlight the situation.

An interesting sidenote comes from No Borders Brighton, on the story of the Mosewells here in the UK*;

The Express seems to have gotten too caught up in the fervour of its own xenophobia, so much so that the paper appears, in the guise of Leo McKinstry's article 'Immigrants Squat In Your House And You're Powerless', to be essaying the journalistic equivalent of foaming at the mouth. And like any mad rabid dog, he should really be taken out and shot, the poor thing.

In case you cannot bring yourselves to read the damned thing, here is our precise of the paper's rapidly cooling bile:
Good God! What's the world coming to? Gypos over here stealing our homes (a man's home is his castle, dontcha know?). And those namby pamby police, pussyfooting around, too tied up in Bolshevik red tape to do anything. Calling Mr Mosedale (the owner of the house) a racist too boot, simply because he, as a hard-working tax-paying British citizen, challenged the right of some foreigner right to live in Britain on benefits (they were living on benefits, weren't they?) or something. And then the damned gypos had the audacity to leave before he coud get them in court. Swine.

Absolute bloody disgrace if you ask me. (Cough, cough, splutter, splutter) Where is the iron discipline of a right wing dictatorship or an army coup when you need it?
Footnote: By the way, Marx did not spread the idea that “property is theft”. You are mistaking him for Pierre-Joseph Proudhon who, in the book 'What Is Property?: or, An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government', was in fact referring to capital and private property, and not personal property (things created by one's own labour, the clothes one wears, etc.). Unfortunately, "If the police carry on failing the public" the result will not be anarchy.

*Note that reports from the Muswell Hill Journal and Evening Standard contain no mention of the dogged political correctness with which the Daily Mail and Daily Express sex-up their versions. That these papers emphasise the ethnic grouping of the squatters only adds to the irony of their outrage at most-likely invented accusations of "racism." And the police claim that squatting is a "civil matter" is not an example of "the police more interested in imposing the oppressive ideology of diversity than in protecting honest members of the public," but of police knowing the law. Squatting is a civil matter in British law, and the ethnicity of the squatters has no bearing on that whatsoever.