A Pandemic Catastrophe with Clear Perpetrators
The last year was the darkest in Italy since WWII. Never before has our country been hit with an economic, health and social crisis of such magnitude. The conjunction of pandemic and recession has had a devastating impact on the workers and people.
Italy was the first Western country to be hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, in January 2020. The “first wave” was characterized by a rapid increase in the number of cases, which in a few weeks overwhelmed the contact tracing and isolation capabilities in the epicenter of the epidemic (the Northern regions of the country).
It therefore became a disaster in terms of hospitalizations and deaths, especially in nursing homes for the elderly. At this stage virtually no help came from the EU.
Starting in October 2020, there was a “second wave” characterized by an exponential increase in positive cases with consequent difficulties in the territorial response capacity. Contact tracing went out. Mortality was higher than in the first wave and there was a rapid overload of hospital and care services.
Now – March 2021 – we are in the “third wave”. To date, the official number of Covid-19 cases in our country is more than 3.6 million (largely underestimated) with more than 109,000 deaths, among them hundreds of workers, especially health-care worker.
To this number we must add another tens of thousands of deaths due to diseases that were impossible to cure in the situation of the health emergency.
Italy has one of the highest rates of COVID mortality in the world. The causes of this high level of the impact of the pandemic in our country, which led to a humanitarian crisis, are different: decades of cuts in public health spending; therefore, the saturation of the hospital system, already in precarious conditions, and the lack of health-care workers; the massacre of the old people in the “nursing homes” where infected people have been sent; the lack of a recent pandemic plan and of a rational strategy; a chaotic, inadequate and superficial management by the government; the priority to continue to produce for profits at all costs; the social behavior of sectors of the population educated in the name of individualism, with poor social discipline.
Regarding the vaccines, the accumulation of delays in their delivery, the insufficient quantity to assure a good rate of vaccination and the poor quality and effectiveness of some of them, became an international scandal.
“Mistakes”, the mass media says. “Bourgeois crimes!”, the communists say.
Since the first case of Covid-19 was announced, no fundamental changes have occurred in the health-care sector, either in terms of the number of health-care personnel or in terms of hospital and care facilities. Even after the discovery of mutations in the virus, which spread faster and are probably more dangerous, the ruling class has shown no willingness to expand the National Health Service, or to make it totally public.
For their part, the corrupt leaders of the trade union bureaucracies have signed agreements that strengthen private health care.
The “lockdown” is hard only for the popular masses. The stock exchanges have continued to speculate without obstacles, large companies continue to produce for profits, which have grown in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, communication monopolies, private health-care services, large-scale distribution, etc.
On the political plane, the health emergency has become a weapon of the bourgeoisie to suppress workers’ rights and freedoms, dismantle social gains, introduce anti-worker measures, and militarize society.
An Economic Disaster
In this context the economic situation became more and more serious. Before the pandemic, the Italian economy was in stagnation. During 2020 Italian GDP fell about 9%. The recession was deeper than in 2008-9, despite the monetary stimulus measures.
During 2020, about 500,000 workers lost their jobs, especially women, young people and migrant workers. Many workers have been laid off and are living miserably. The small redundancy fund for the workers arrives with months of delay.
The official unemployment rate in Italy is 10.5%; for the young people (15-25 years) it is 33% (three times the EU average). The emigration of young workers, often high skilled, continues relentlessly.
For people who are working, working conditions have worsened more and more. Exploitation is increasing with old and new means and techniques. Many workers are in a terrible grip: either work or stay healthy.
Women have paid heavily for the consequences of the lockdown: domestic imprisonment, increase of workloads and acts of violence.
One year of the capitalist crisis, accelerated by the pandemic, has thrown millions of workers into unemployment, precariousness and poverty.
At the same time, a minority of big capitalists have increased their profits and incomes, taking advantage of government and EU support, loans, speculations, tax exemptions, etc.
The bosses are on the offensive all along the front. They want to use the collective labor agreements to reduce wages and rights, to increase precariousness and exploitation; they want their hands free for redundancies and demand to receive the entire “Recovery plan,” billion of Euros.
Last, but not least, the crisis created the basis to multiply the public debt, which hit a new post-war record in 2021 at 158.5% of GDP. The country is moving toward financial bankruptcy and this leads to more supervision and control by the EU Commission-ECB-IMF.
A Piloted Political Crisis by the Oligarchy
In this scenario, during the first and second wave of the pandemic, the Conte “2” government acted, supported by the 5 Star populist movement, the liberal-reformist Democratic Party and a small social-democratic party (LEU); this government had a small parliamentary majority.
This government acted through continuous emergency decrees, suspended constitutional rights and marginalized the role of the bourgeois Parliament. Italy has been in a permanent “state of emergency” since January 31, 2020.
The political line of the government and the measures it adopted are largely influenced and orientated by the interests of the major associations of the bosses, which do not want to stop the production and circulation of non-essential goods.
In the “second wave” of the pandemic the government passed incremental measures through October with little success, before unveiling a new package of restrictions on November 3, when the infection was already very high.
The Conte 2 government adopted several decrees with a packet of measures to help capital, such as liquidity, grants, loans, tax exemptions, etc., totaling 750 billion Euros (almost half the GDP). The majority went to big capital and a little for the small capitalist.
Given the street protests of the lower petty bourgeoisie and some sectors of the workers against the impact of the measures, such as the curfew and shop closures without economic help, the government was under pressure to keep the economic impact to a minimum and to avoid the consequences of the lockdown, helping some sectors.
This politics of “half measures” in favor of some sectors of the middle class irritated the big bourgeoisie.
The political clash between the different bourgeois factions precipitated the use of European funds of the “Recovery Plan” (209 billion € for Italy). Various sectors, especially the big industrialists, scrambled to grab most of these funds. Another problem was the measures to reduce public debt, without touching the great wealth.
In January 2021 the severity of the political, economic and social crisis pushed the ruling circles into a political crisis in order to replace Conti with Draghi (former president of the ECB, former vice-president of Goldman Sachs, member of the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg group) and give this personality a larger parliamentary majority supporting the new government.
The formation of the Draghi government puts the working class and the popular masses face to face with a more concentrated, ferocious and cynical executive power. It has a large majority in a delegitimized parliament, but vast strata of the population have no faith in this government of big capital.
All the political parties of the ruling class have become weakened, including the populists and the social democrats, unable to carry out any progressive or reformist task.
The measures that Draghi’s reactionary government will approve will raise mistrust and cause protests. The bourgeoisie will find greater difficulties to politically tie large sectors of the working masses of the city and the countryside to its politics.
Perspectives of Class Struggle
The pandemic, and the economic and social crisis made evident and sharpened all the problems and contradictions of bourgeois society: the damages caused to the public health system by decades of liberalism, the unprecedented social inequalities (in Italy the 3% rich own 34% of the wealth), the chronic defects of the Italian capitalist system, the criticalities and weaknesses of the economy, the corruption and bankruptcy policy of the ruling class, etc.
Two phenomena are developing in this situation:
1) the level of social discontent is very high among the workers, the youth and wide sectors of the petty bourgeoisie; it could explode with massive demonstrations in the streets;
2) an increasing mistrust in bourgeois institutions, in the government, the judiciary system, the old and new bourgeois political parties.
The growing discontent on this basis plays a very important role in preparing the subjective conditions for overthrowing capitalism through the socialist revolution. Of course, the most important subjective factor is still missing: the organization of the working class in an independent and revolutionary Party.
However, the pandemic has destroyed many illusions and the bourgeoisie has revealed its incapacity to remain the ruling class of society.
In the next period, no social class will be able to survive as in the old days. The “new normal” will be worse than the “old normal” for the great majority of the workers, women, and young people.
Until now the risks of the pandemic, government repression and the politics of the reformist and trade union leadership is preventing a large mobilization of the workers. Nevertheless, the situation is preparing an escalation of class conflict.
The question of “who must pay for the crisis and debt?” will arise once more, and more sharply.
In this scenario we work to transform the discontent into political opposition to the government in the factories, in the workplaces, in the schools, in the streets, with the unity of action for the vital and urgent interests of the proletariat.
To gain influence over sectors of the advanced workers we spread our slogans:
No to layoffs! Work and wages, dignity and rights, health and safety in the workplaces!
Down with the government of the financial oligarchy!
The crisis and the debt must be paid by the bosses, the bankers and the rich!
Unity and struggle for the reconstruction of the Communist Party!
The situation will open opportunities for the communists that demand the necessity of the revolutionary way out of the crisis of the imperialist-capitalist system, the revolutionary passage to socialism in order to abolish exploitation and economic crises, to prevent and manage the pandemics and develop the economy in equilibrium with nature.
Therefore, the struggle for the unity of the communists in a single Marxist-Leninist organization is the task that the situation puts on the agenda and that we have to solve.