Soon after the racist, lying campaign initiated by a magistrate in Catania aiming to discredit the humanitarian work of the network of NGOs who have been rescuing refugees, a crowdfunding appeal has been launched in Italy to raise money to buy a boat to, it is said, “defend Europe from the plot to substitute the Italian population with the masses from Africa.”
The first task of the 40-metre long boat will be to “confront in the waters of Libya the NGO 'Fifth Column' and drive the refugees back to Libya. While it is highly unlikely that the exercise will get beyond media headlines, it exposes a spiral of racist paranoia in Italy. All of this is fuelled by the hypocrisy, impotence and criminal cynicism of Europe's establishment which beneath its pious declarations, buys into the dead-eyed racist narrative that the rescue ships are the motor of the “invasion” of refugees.
The result: increasing anti-migrant violence from the supporters of the populist Lega Nord and the Five Star movement, as they unashamedly dredge the sewers of lying propaganda in an effort to outbid their elector rivals in forthcoming elections. Meanwhile the Gentilone government has further restricted the activities of the rescue ships, forcing them further away from Libyan wars and imposing on-board supervision.
Both mainstream parties and the racists have said this is “the nation coming to its senses”. Doctors without borders have said it is a licence of mass murder. In such a context the growing coherence and strength of Italy's fascist “Casa Pound” should surprise no one. In the recent administrative elections, across the north and centre of Italy, there was a rise in its support. In the former bastions of the anti-fascist left, Todi in Umbria and Lucca in Toscana, it outscored the Five Star, coming third behind the centre-right and centre left.
Of course there is no imminent threat to Italy's bourgeois social order, or to its working-class movement, but the decade-long economic and financial crisis, now capped by the political discrediting of the ruling order, signals something like Gramsci's “morbid symptoms”. 280,000, mainly young, left the country last year to seek work. Stark evidence that Italy’s seemingly unstoppable decline is preparing Europe for a “perfect storm” of reaction.