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03/22/2020

The Director of the Italian Communist Party explains why coronavirus has the West shaken to the core

The Director of the Italian Communist Party explains why coronavirus has the West shaken to the core

As the number of people diagnosed with Covid-19 throughout the world surges past 267,000, Italy continues to be hit harder than almost any other country. Despite a nationwide quarantine, Italy faced its highest death toll yet only yesterday, the total number reaching 4 825. Italy’s coronavirus deaths now even surpass those of China where the virus first broke out.

We discussed the situation in Italy today with Francesco Valerio della Croce, a National Secretariat member and National Head of International Department of the Italian Communist Party. On top of his political life, he is a professor of European Law at Rome Sapienza University.

How would you describe the current social situation in Italy? What are the conditions like for ordinary citizens? How is morale?

 

Our lives have changed profoundly. The state of emergency has forced us to change our lifestyle and enter into conditions of mass isolation. There was initially a strong underestimation of both the virus’ virulence and the effect it would have on people’s lives. What has been made clear is the incredible fragility and inadequacy of our social, economic and political system when it comes to handling such emergencies. The same can be said of all western countries. Even today, many of the measures taken by the Italian government seem inadequate and discriminatory to workers.

 

Why do you think Italy has proven so susceptible to the virus? How do you evaluate the government’s response measures? Has the public been a priority, or are market pressures dominating the discourse?

The virus arrived in Europe due to the global dimension of economic and international relations that characterize the current global system, I would not go so far as to seek a scientific explanation that pertains to other areas of possibility. The situation has been, and is still being, underestimated. Italy has adopted quarantine measures, reduced public mobility, closed schools and universities and suspended certain commercial activities, yet, the government continues to give ample discretion to private companies to decide whether or not they will halt production. This is not only a serious mistake, it will leave millions of workers exposed to the risk of catching the virus and potentially losing their lives. This is exactly the opposite of what has been done in China to incredible success. All of this is happening because the governmental structure in Italy is designed to support private companies’ profits, putting business ahead of the population’s health and lives. We communists support the agitation and strikes organized by workers and union organizations who believe that this barbarism must be answered with social conflict rather than yet another compromise.

When China launched its first quarantine measures, Europe was quick to criticize them for being less than democratic. Now, it seems the whole world is heading toward adapting China’s strategy in the fight against the Coronavirus. Do you have any thoughts on this controversy?

Europe, and the West in general, has a Synophobic mentality when it comes to relations with China: they see the country as an enemy and a threat. However, this is not the case. Among a wide variety of measures taken, China is currently more active than any other country in terms of concrete acts of solidarity with those places most affected by the virus such as Italy. Today, Western countries and people are beginning to copy the Chinese model. The dominant classes in the West envy China’s ability to take decisive action… however, these elites do not understand that China does not have an “authoritarian system”, in fact, they follow an economic, social and productive model that puts the general interests of society at the center. It does so through centralized planning and a strong State under the leadership of the Communist Party, with which the Chinese people have developed a solid relationship of trust through a variety of social institutions. The Chinese model cannot be understood by someone looking at only one element of society, it must be conceived of in unity. In the face of the coronavirus tragedy, this model has demonstrated its superiority and indispensability for humanity. Attacking China today means mystifying reality and trying to defend the indefensible, that is, the capitalist model which has proven unable to adapt to global changes and challenges.

The Italian government has asked for help from the European Union but received no response. China on the other hand, rushed to help Italy. Chinese and Cuban doctors have already arrived in Italy with their medical supplies. How does Italy evaluate this attitude?

Faced with the guilty immobility of the European Union, imprisoned by the neoliberal ideology of austerity and the centrality of the market against the role of the State, the Italian people are opening their eyes to the fundamental role of countries such as China and Cuba and slowly beginning to identify with political and economic systems aimed at transition to socialism. After thirty years, the rhetoric about “the end of history” and the triumph of global capitalism can no longer be defended: the unsustainability and limitations of Capitalism are all too clear. The truth is that Western societies are in such a state of disarray over the epidemic because of the decades-long sustained campaign they waged to limit or eliminate the role of the state in people’s lives, starting with the end of the welfare state. The religion of the free market provided a basis for the loss of fundamental rights such as access to healthcare. Only state intervention can guarantee universal healthcare, especially when it comes to the poorest social classes. Today, the socialist countries are giving us a lesson on the prospects for international relations in a world beyond American unipolarism and Eurocentrism, a multipolar world where sovereign socialist states play the decisive role. This horrific tragedy has shown that humanity can and must seek new social models to avoid falling into ruin.

 When will life start to return to normal in Italy? Do you have any other expectations for what might come of this situation?

We do not know yet. Much will depend on the decisions that are being made now, as well as on what other countries decide to do. More than ever, it is clear that humanity has a shared future: for better or for worse. The limitations of Western systems do not leave us with a lot of hope. However, people’s growing awareness of the need for radical change may itself become a solution for getting out of this situation as quickly as possible. The first step of escaping this crisis is realizing that nothing can remain the way it was before.

 

 

 
Elif İlhamoğlu
Elif İlhamoğlu is political scientist and  journalist (Turkey). She is studying for PHD on the political science and international relations department at Istanbul University (Middle East studies). She visited Middle East countries, Syria, Lebanon, Iran several times and did interviews with the leaders as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hilal al-Hilal Secretary General of the Syrian Ba'ath Party.

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