Viruses don’t come from another planet
Diseases always reflect the ways of living (of producing, eating, moving around, etc.) of a given society. Any cure that doesn’t start from this fact – which today implies a clear questioning of industrial society – can only stop the effects of diseases without going back to their causes. Not by chance the first Coronavirus hotbed developed in an area in China of great urban concentration and heavy industrial pollution. Not by chances the first hotbeds in Italy developed in the most industrialized and polluted areas. If nocivities and the environmental turmoil they cause are not removed, health emergencies will happen again.
The Health System
Health workers making protection vests out of bin bags and use bedsheets to make face masks; continuous alarms re limited resources for intensive therapies. How could all this happen? That’s what they don’t say in the daily fear news so that they don’t have to talk about responsibilities. From 1978 onwards, between left and right governments, the Health System has suffered the combined effects of cuts and privatizations. The progressive transformation of the Health System into a company has reduced structures, personnel, wards, and therapies that were not profitable, in particular cutting down everything that was linked to preventive medicine. For this reason hospital beds have been halved and reduced to less than half of the emergency ones. As medical and political metaphors are becoming more and more explicitly military (the virus is the aggressor, the body is under siege, society is at war, the government is deploying the army), the real enemy of individual and collective health disappears: the logic of profit.
To contain the virus means freeing everybody
From Saturday 7th March and throughout the entire week that followed protests have been rising in about forty prisons all over Italy. In at least thirty of these, real revolts break out. Over six thousand prisoners take part in the uprisings with units destroyed and set on fire, fire to prison police cars, prisoners on roofs, mass escapes, screws taken hostage and the prison of Modena “actually” closed down thanks to the damage. The State shows its muscles: antiriot police and prison police special squads intervene, the screws surround the prisons arms in hand, the army is deployed in Puglia to block those who have escaped, in Modena relatives say they heard shots distinctly. Then beatings and mass transfers. The bottom line is very heavy: 15 prisoners dead. Their deaths are quickly covered up, they talk about deaths “mainly” (and the others?) caused by overdose of psychotropic drugs and methadone.
The spark that ignited the fire is the suspension of visits intended as a ridiculous measure of contagion containment (visitors are potentially infected… not the guards?) along with the awareness of facing the risk of an epidemic like mice in a trap (cases have already been reported in Brescia, Milan, Voghera, Pavia, Lecce, Modena and Bologna), but the powder keg is constituted of inhuman living conditions: endemic overcrowding, the guards’ violence, impossibility to access alternative measures.
Amnesty and pardon: prisoners’ requests are at this moment nothing more than a public health measure to limit the harm caused by the spreading of the infection in overcrowded environments (up to 8 prisoners per cell). If in Iran 70,000 prisoners with sentences of less than five years were released in order to contain the contagion, in Italy, after protests, revolts and an actual State massacre, those with sentences of less than six months were given the possibility to be put under house arrest and those with sentences of less than eighteen months under house arrest with an electronic tag. In fact the situation is worsening rather than getting better (the law in force already envisages house arrest, subject to the approval of a surveillance judge, for those with sentences of less than three years, and without electronic tag). Not to mention the fact that in Italy 34.5% of prisoners are awaiting trial and have no sentence to serve. These weak measures, however, wouldn’t have been achieved without the prisoners’ decisive and brave demonstration of strength, as they were aware that reality didn’t offer them any salvation: either imprisonment and death or revolt and life.
Even if it is being proclaimed on an institutional level that all non-essential activities must be stopped, many factories are still open: even those with very high concentration of workers being in close contact with one another during production and in canteens. (And at the same time police with sirens are patrolling cycling lanes, parks and woods hunting for “plague-spreaders”. And at the same time mobile phone companies are carrying out mass filing in order to “trace” individual movements). As in the rest of Italy, strikes in several factories (Dana, Pama, Fly, Siemens44, Mariani, Sapes, Tecnoclima, Ebara…) were reported in Trentino, and in addition many workers decided to stay at home even if there wasn’t any strike. It’s not just an understandable reaction of fear due to the virus, but a contribution to everybody’s health. These strikes must be supported and extended to all non-essential production lines. If health is not compatible with profit, so much the worse for profit.
All in the same boat?
These days we’re seeing a massive injection of nationalist rhetoric on all channels: “All together against the common enemy”. In this tricolour tale life conditions that are not at all the same for everyone disappear as if by magic (in order to stay at home, you need to have one and be able to keep it…).But let’s look a little bit further. If it’s impossible to make forecasts of the aftermath, one thing is certain. The economic effects of this “health crisis” will have a well differentiated weight on society. Millions of people will have the practical problem of finding what’s needed to live. Even the loans from the European Central Bank won’t be at all free, but they will impose new austerity measures that will strike mainly the poorest. To push the boat ahead will be those who are already half under the water. Let’s remember it when the notes of the national anthem disappear.
Translated by act for freedom now!