Workers Vanguard No. 903
23 November 2007
Defeat Racist Campaign Against Gypsies, Immigrants!
Stop the Deportations!
Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants!
We print below a November 12 leaflet, abridged and edited for publication, by the Lega Trotskista d’Italia, section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist). As proletarian revolutionary internationalists, the ICL fights to mobilize the workers movement against vicious, racist attacks on immigrants, whether in Europe, the U.S. or other capitalist countries. In so doing, we do not seek to tinker with the capitalist system by promoting an “alternative” immigration policy. Rather, we seek to imbue the working class with the consciousness that it must fight in defense of all the oppressed as part of a struggle to sweep away the murderous capitalist profit system through socialist revolution.
Our Italian comrades’ fight against the persecution of immigrants including of Roma (Gypsy), Romanian, North African and Chinese descent by the popular-front government led by Romano Prodi will have resonance for the workers movement in the U.S., which has seen escalating anti-immigrant hysteria pushed by the Democratic and Republican parties alike.
This was underlined recently when Democratic New York governor Eliot Spitzer—who as attorney general obtained strikebreaking injunctions against the December 2005 New York City transit strike—furiously backpedaled from his proposal to grant a driver’s license to anyone who passes a driving test, irrespective of immigration status. As the racist backlash over the plan swelled, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton at first evaded taking a position before coming out against this minimal measure. Meanwhile, roundups of immigrants and deportations continue apace, threatening the whole workers movement by attacking its most vulnerable sections. The need to mobilize labor’s power in defense of immigrant workers and to demand full citizenship rights for all immigrants requires a political struggle against the pro-capitalist labor tops, who tie workers to their exploiters through their support to the Democratic Party, and against the reformist left, which strengthens those ties through its “Anybody but Bush” politics.
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On October 31, the capitalist popular-front government of the Democratic Party and Rifondazione Comunista (RC) unanimously approved an obscene racist decree that allows for deportations of foreign citizens, including from the European Union [EU], for “crimes” against public “safety” and “human dignity.” In practice, the law allows the deportation of thousands of Roma and Romanian immigrants for such “crimes” as begging and washing car windows.
Newspapers and TV stations have used the killing of a woman in Rome, a murder of which a Romanian Roma man has been accused, to launch a hysterical campaign reminiscent of the stereotypes in Mussolini’s racist propaganda. The Rome City Council sent in bulldozers to demolish shanties on the city’s outskirts, and the government launched an ethnically based roundup in Roma camps and immigrant neighborhoods. Police departments were mobilized to deport dozens of Roma and Romanian immigrants, and the government announced 5,000 more deportations.
The racist hysteria unleashed by the government has directly fed reactionary right-wing forces. The head of National Alliance, [Gianfranco] Fini, strolled through Rome neighborhoods calling for the deportation of all homeless people and unemployed immigrants, and fascist squads wielding clubs and knives attacked three Romanian immigrants in front of a supermarket. Racist patrols, arson and violent attacks have pounded Roma camps for months. The fascists are a deadly threat to all minorities, immigrants and the working class. What is needed are defense guards of workers and immigrants, based on the trade unions, to defend Roma camps and immigrant neighborhoods!
Although the fascists exploit the occasion to put their genocidal program into practice, the real immoral instigators of the lynching (to use the words of [leftist newspaper] Il Manifesto) are sitting in the government in Rome, and they are called the Democratic Party, Rifondazione Comunista & Co.
By attacking the Roma in the name of “security,” the government takes aim at an easy target, a marginalized and defenseless minority persecuted for centuries and surrounded by pervasive racist prejudice. The government’s real aim is to tighten control on the flow of immigrant labor and to strengthen the repressive powers of the bourgeois state apparatus. The capitalists need a pool of labor that is deprived of rights and can be blackmailed and subjected to threats of deportation in order to increase profits, increase the exploitation of the proletariat and divide it along ethnic lines. In Italy there are 600,000 Romanian immigrants, concentrated in the most exploited and oppressed layers of the proletariat. Such a victim was Ion Cazacu, a construction worker burned to death in the town of Gallarate in 2000 by his Italian “master” for having dared to ask for decent working conditions.
With the extension of the European Union to include Romania and other East European countries, the capitalists fear that immigrants who have formally become European citizens will be more difficult to discriminate against, deport and terrorize than non-EU citizens. The expansion of the European Union is the fruit of the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union and the East European deformed workers states, a historic defeat for the proletariat that reduced these countries to miserable semicolonies of imperialist Europe, prey to interethnic conflicts and nationalist wars.
Restrictions on the right to work and the racist persecutions and deportations that Romanian immigrants are subjected to show the true face of the European imperialist “democracies.” For the countries of East Europe, entry into the European Union meant “shock therapy” against workers and minorities and the transformation of those countries into protectorates of the main European imperialist powers (including Italy, one of the main investors in Romania). Just as the racial laws against Slovenians, Croats, Roma and Jews under fascism served the imperial fantasies of the Italian bourgeoisie, so today nationalist revanchism and attacks against immigrants and minorities are part of the bourgeoisie’s ambitions to play the role of regional power in the Mediterranean and the Balkans. No restrictions against East European workers! Stop the deportations! Down with the capitalist European Union!
The anti-immigrant decree coincides with a fierce anti-worker offensive symbolized by pension cuts and increased slashing of work contracts. It is necessary to fight for the distribution of all existing work among the entire workforce without any cuts to wages and including an adequate sliding scale of wages. It is necessary to fight for the unionization of all non-unionized workers. The fight for the immediate, basic needs of the working masses must be linked to the perspective of proletarian power and an internationally planned and collectivized economy that places humanity’s enormous resources in the service of the masses and not for the profit of a small minority of exploiters. It is in the interests of all workers to defeat the government’s racist attacks. An attack on one is an attack on all: Full citizenship rights for all immigrants!
Following approval of the decree, [RC’s] Liberazione (2 November) denounced the government’s measures. What a pity that Rifondazione is directly responsible for the new “racial laws.” RC is part of the government that approved them. Its Minister for “Social Welfare,” Paolo Ferrero, voted in favor of the decree and RC leaders defend it. In the end, Rifondazione would be happy with a figleaf amendment to sweeten the repressive decree. These racist laws are an integral part of Rifondazione’s policy of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie. It is not the first time that Rifondazione has approved such laws. The most obvious example is that of the Turco-Napolitano Law of the first Prodi government [1996-98], for which Rifondazione voted and which instituted the CPT ethnic prisons and opened the road to deportations and racist terror. After having withdrawn its support to the first Prodi government, RC then opposed the CPT and the [2002 anti-immigrant] Bossi-Fini Law, but once back in government it continued to support racist laws, imperialist missions (Lebanon and Afghanistan) and anti-worker measures.
The Prodi government is a capitalist government, a variant of what Marxists call popular fronts: coalitions between bourgeois parties and reformist workers parties. We oppose all forms of support to or trust in these governments. We are against any kind of electoral support, however “critical” it may be, to parties of the working class that are in popular fronts. In contrast are the reformist tails of Rifondazione, which all supported the government in the elections: Falcemartello [affiliated with the International Marxist Tendency of the late Ted Grant], the Workers Communist Party [MPCL—affiliated with Jorge Altamira’s Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International] and Sinistra Critica [Critical Left—affiliated with the United Secretariat of the late Ernest Mandel]. These groups also bear responsibility for the government’s attacks.
Falcemartello continues to remain inside Rifondazione as the latter sells out working-class interests bit by bit, and this in itself is class betrayal. From the moment it was clear that RC’s credibility in the eyes of workers was at risk, Falcemartello called on RC to quit the government in order to save face. But this operation, doubly criminal, serves only to maintain Rifondazione’s authority in the workers movement and to spread the illusion that it is possible to transform RC into a party that fights for the interests of the workers. Even should RC break with the government, as it did in 1998 so as not to lose control of its base, it would do so in order to tie workers to class collaboration with the bourgeoisie. Rifondazione Comunista cannot be reformed. It is a bourgeois workers party, with a social base in the workers movement and a pro-capitalist leadership and program. In order to fight for the interests of workers and immigrants, it is necessary to break with the class collaboration of Rifondazione, Falcemartello, Sinistra Critica and MPCL.
The bourgeoisie considers the Roma to be some sort of “subhumans” that they would like to get rid of and that make an easy scapegoat in periods of social and economic crisis. For centuries, the Roma have been persecuted and hunted from one country to another. With the end of the pre-capitalist economy in which they occupied a marginal economic niche as artisans and performing artists, they were thrown to the margins of society, becoming victims of terrible persecutions, bloody pogroms and the Nazi and fascist extermination, ending with the porrajmos, the extermination of 500,000 Roma. Capitalism in its phase of decay continues to keep this persecuted people in a state of endemic poverty and segregation. Only socialist revolution will make possible the full integration of Roma into society with full rights, as shown by the example of the October 1917 proletarian revolution in Russia that overthrew capitalist power. The October Revolution destroyed the tsarist empire—that prison house of peoples—and laid the basis for freeing the oppressed nations and ethnic minorities, including the Roma peoples, from the jackboot of Great Russian chauvinism.
Professing his anti-communist faith, RC leader Nichi Vendola justified the racist stereotypes against Romanians, saying that “during the regimes of Eastern Europe, Romania was a black hole, a conglomeration of moral and material misery” (Il Manifesto, 2 November). Even under the grotesque Stalinist regime of Ceaucescu, Romania (as with Tito’s Yugoslavia) was a deformed workers state in which the collectivized and nationalized economy guaranteed an unprecedented standard of living and degree of national and ethnic integration. The Roma were recognized as a national minority and had the right to education in their language, besides being relatively integrated into the proletariat, army and state apparatus. It was the counterrevolutionary destruction of those workers states that turned the Balkans, East Europe and the Soviet Union into a conglomerate of interethnic massacres, nationalist genocide and desperate poverty. The current emigration of Roma from Romania is often in order to escape horrible racist persecution.
The LTd’I fought to the end for unconditional military defense of these deformed workers states and the Soviet Union against capitalist counterrevolution, and for a workers political revolution to sweep away the Stalinist bureaucratic caste and replace it with a workers soviet government. On the contrary, Falcemartello, Sinistra Critica and the forerunners of the MPCL all sided with the forces of counterrevolution supported by the imperialists, contributing to counterrevolution with all its devastating consequences. The LTd’I fights to build a revolutionary, multiethnic workers party that mobilizes the working class at the head of all the oppressed in the struggle for a socialist society.