Saturday, July 26, 2008

Kindred spirits

Italy's Senate to its undocumented residents: You're unequal before the law (h/t Lenin's Tomb). Yes, Italy moves ever closer to fascism:
Under new laws approved by the Senate, illegal immigrants convicted of crimes will now face jail sentences a third longer than those for Italians.
Courts will be able to jail illegal immigrants for up to four years rather than simply deport them.
Property rented to illegal immigrants can also be confiscated.
Both the Catholic Church and Italy's left-wing opposition say that, as well as targeting immigrants unfairly, the new laws may also encourage racism.
I don't think racism there needs much encouragement. Italy's own nativists have been on the warpath, endeavoring to further persecute the Roma who reside there. The Northern League (or Lega Nord) has been advancing in the polls, while whatever there was of a left has simply collapsed.

I hinted at the similarities between what's going on in Italy and what's going on here. Over at The Sanctuary, rachelfirm has gone a bit further (in discussing the callous reaction of Italian beach-goers to the death of two Roma children recently):
What struck me about this story, other than the shockingly callous response of the beach-goers, was that it sound all too familiar. In our own country, we stand by as an entire population of migrants is de-humanized and criminalized. On the US-Mexican boder, there have been 117 deaths so far this year. The bodies pile up, while Americans turn a blind eye.
The word "illegal" has become not an adjective for a beaureaucratic process of gaining status, but rather an entire race of people who have been deemed less than worthy of humanity, kindness and compassion.
People die and we continue to sunbathe.
There's a great deal of not only individual racism, but just as importantly racism on the structural and cultural level - in the US as in Italy. Culturally, an element of white supremacy and exceptionalism characterize both nations. Each has its own version of manifest destiny (Michael Parenti touches briefly on both in his book Superpatriotism, and I've spent some time on the US version elsewhere on this blog). Those cultural assumptions can be found at work most blatantly in nativist rhetoric, but even those who aren't consciously racist or anti-immigrant may still buy into those assumptions. It appears that just as in the US, Italy has its own set of politicians and pundits who have managed to push their extremist rhetoric into the political mainstream. I'm willing to bet that the Lega Nord's estimates of "illegal immigrant" criminality are about as inaccurate as those of our own nativists. Structurally, in both nations, the legal and economic systems are rigged against ethnic minorities, and if the nativists have their way, the systems will only become more rigged. Pogroms, whether against the Roma or against humans of Mexican and Central American origin (e.g., ICE Raids), have been given official sanction.

As for the state of the leftist opposition in Italy, I'm not familiar enough to know what to suggest. I do know that this blog, Arthur Silber's blog, and American Leftist have certainly offered some ideas for the American situation - some of which may be applicable in Italy. Certainly, I'd suggest that any leftist parties and organizations still extant in Italy abandon neoliberalism entirely. I'd also suggest that those of conscience who either are involved in existing immigrants rights organizations or thinking of getting involved look for ways to network, to create the sorts of coalitions needed to withstand the current nativist assault. An internet presence wouldn't hurt either (sort of like the Sanctuarysphere that has recently emerged here in the US - if there's already an Italian equivalent, so much the better!), to the extent that it can serve as a tonic to the usual hate-speech that usually gets plenty of an airing of corporate media.

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