“Saving lives is a luxury we cannot afford”

Submitted by AWL on 23 August, 2017 - 10:38 Author: Hugh Edwards

In the last issue we carried a piece on ever-growing xenophobia and racism across Italy, highlighting the launch of a ship by a gang of neo-fascists dedicated to “Defend Europe” by physically confronting the humanitarian NGO ships involved in rescuing refugees off the coast of Libya. On both sides of that ship were emblazoned the words — “No way, you will not make Europe home, no way”.

The news of this putrescent exercise was greeted, typically, superficially, and dismissively by the bulk of Italy’s bourgeois media. All the more so as the farcical itinerary of the craft saw it driven from one port to another, first in Italy then in North Africa, by protests and action by fishermen and port workers. But there was more behind the media attitudes, especially from the liberal pro-government profile of opinion shapers. The quotation in the headline — it is from a senior government spokesperson — says why. These are the words of the Minister of Interior, Marco Minniti, a former hardline Stalinist of the now defunct Communist Party of Italy. He openly and arrogantly shares in substance what is written on the neo-fascist ship.

There is much more behind his pious platitudes that “the best way of helping the refugees is in their own homes”. Since he took office in December 2016, Minniti has ratched up the repressive profile of a state that, with regard to migrants, has been repeatedly condemned for its violations human rights.

First he abolished asylum seekers’ right of repeal against initial rejection. Then he opened the notoriously vicious prisons otherwise dubbed “Centres for Detention and Expulsion”, sadistically saluting their “success” in deporting more and more victims.

On 2 August, the parliament ratified the goverment’s decision, earlier reached with Libya’s so-called prime minister, El-Farraj, to send troops and ships to Tripoli, while simultaneously imposing a repressive “code of conduct” upon NGOs in the Mediterranean, restricting, under the hostile gaze of armed guards aboard, their space of operation in regard to rescue. The objective was clear: to clear the presence, and witness of the NGOs from Libya’s territorial waters, itself amplified arbitrarily in the Italian Libyan “accord”, permitting a free hand to the ruthlessly violent Libyan coastguard and so, too, to the Italian naval presence, to block and drive back the criminally overcrowded crafts of the traffikers.

In all of this cynically mounted theatre of bourgeois real politik the fate of the refugees counts for less than nothing. This then is the context that explains the sick, poisonous rash of lying media “exposures” in an attempt to criminalise the actions of the NGOs, accused, laughably, of being guilty of “collaboration” with the traffickers due to their “extremist ideology of humanitarianism”, which offered a “non-stop taxi service to” economic migrants “incentivised by stories of the land of plenty in Italy and beyond”. Guff, of course, but deliberately spewed out to a population now in the grip of a virulent xenophobia, and where Minniti could round off his success, appropriately, by declaring contempuously “the far West is finished”.

Now the toast of his PD centrist-left party and coalition government, the opinion polls underline, at least for the moment, his success in restoring their fortunes ahead of prospective national elections. Playing the racist card is always one way of besting the populist chauvinism and racism of Berlusconi, Salvini, and Grillo.

As history has taught us, the price will be paid by Italy’s working class. Nothing could illustrate more eloquently the utter capitulation and impotence of the Italian reformist and so called radical left. As the Neapolitan writer, Roberto Saviano stated, “a left that won’t defend the weakest has lost itself — its silence is its requiem”.