Solidarity with the Rosarno Labourers, Against the Bosses’ Iron bars and Lockouts

After two days of clashes in Rosarno 66 people have treated in hospital, 17 locals, 19 police and 30 immigrants. Two of the latter were beaten with metal bars on the night of January 7-8 and remain in a serious condition. Others were run over by cars. This was the response to the sudden explosion of anger the day before, after two immigrants were wounded by a coward with an airgun. The blind rage of the immigrants, who have poured in hundreds on to the main road that runs through the town, has spared nothing in its path, leaving a trail of burnt-out and damaged cars - some with people inside - and rubbish bins overturned. Images of the protests have found plenty of space in the media (1).

The revolt was really inevitable. A BBC video in February (2) showed the awful living conditions of these proletarian brothers. Anyone looking at it, like the reporter himself, cannot believe the reality of conditions that some could imagine only in distant lands, but not in the heart of "civilized" Europe. For those poor souls who some days have the "luck" of being chosen by the foremen, the pay is less than 20 euros for 12 hours of hard work in the cold, harvesting citrus fruit and vegetables. These are slave conditions. In fact in some ways many slaves live in better conditions. In May 2008 three businessmen, also in Rosarno, were arrested for "enslavement" of some laborers. Marco Rovelli, author of "Slaves", describes the former paper mill on Spinoza, where the immigrants were housed until last year:

A place that the best Hollywood set designer would find hard to copy in all its apocalyptic horror. You go and find yourself amidst a smoke screen, in the glare of a fire. In the midst of this glow, cut by shafts of light that enter from the roof vents covered with yellow corrugated plastic, like a cathedral of desolation, this is a real wasteland that no-one sees. Cooking on open fires next to huts made of wooden boards nailed together, with walls of cardboard and plastic and yet more cardboard to make a roof covered with shoes, stones and boots. Mounds of earth. Rubbish. Eternit. Debris. Bricks.

In other buildings which are still occupied, the situation is identical. Just a spark was needed to explode the anger which had built up for years, and the spark duly arrived. The "insurgents", these proletarian brothers, have our total solidarity. We hope that all the comrades and the proletarians (in Calabria, in particular) immediately give them every possible support, with pickets, leafletting, and demonstrations. Unfortunately, the level of disorganization and discouragement of the class, in particular in the South, is such that we dont’ expect a massive response, but it is nevertheless necessary to support and defend those comrades who have finally shown that it is possible to rebel against the infamy of capital. This is the time for solidarity and concrete action. It is not the time to remain stunned or scared.

The living conditions of the Southern proletariat are among the worst you will see anywhere. In a region that is a real economic and social desert there is no prospect of improvement. We have written about this just recently (3). The productive "desertification" of Calabria further materially weakens the possibilities for an effective response - such as a strike, for example. Moreover, the poison of racism, injected in large doses in the last few years, has begun to have its effects. An obvious example of this is the declaration of the Minister Maroni, who clearly blamed the immigrants who took part in the riots - in a masterclass in reversing reality - for the miserable living conditions, and exploitation of the workers, suffered at the hands of the local bourgeoisie, which in wide areras of Calabria is called 'ndrangheta. Maroni also gracefully neglects the fact that, if they are forced to put up with everything and to live in the subspecies of a pigsty, it is also down to the law crafted by his own boss (Bossi) and the "democratic" Fini (4).


The 'ndrangheta itself can not be indifferent nor opposed to any decision to move laborers to various places elsewhere, including outside the region. With or without the consent of the peasants, the harvest can now be ended. It’s a sort of lockout (5). Anonymous statements released by L’Unità (6) as well as those of Kollettivo Onda Rossa from Cinque Frondi (7), appear to suggest that the immigrants are going to make life awkward for some important people and interests, upsetting established social hierarchies. Well! It's about time someone did! Roberto Saviano - who proposes an inter-class and legalistic path, (ergo contradictory and sterile) - captures the situation however when he says:

Immigrants seem to have a courage to fight the mafia that Italians have lost. For them combatting criminal organizations is a matter of life or death. And whatever our views on the uprising we have to realize that they had to rebel and the healthy part of the African community accepts no compromise with the 'ndrangheta ... I would like to emphasize at this point, once again, that Africans are in Italy to do jobs that Italians do not want to do and defend the rights that Italians do not want to defend.

This link between the Italian and immigrant proletariat is the key issue. A link that has still to be built, but absolutely necessary for the defence of the immediate and historic interests of the working class. At present, what is coming out of this is a rather disastrous, sadistic and stupid quest for a scapegoat, with racism as an outlet for a situation that seems hopeless.

The most popular sport for the young people of Rosarno is black hunting. Where "black" does not mean a subsaharian but indicates - without discrimination - African: dark or light skin, it is all the same ... There are techniques to lynch a black. First, of course, be in a group. Then put yourselves in strategic places, where the immigrants are forced to go if they want to go from one place to another.

This description by Rovelli is reflected in the articles from correspondents in the area, who report the slogan hammered repeatedly by many Rosarnesi is “ ‘sti Niri’ Go home!” (8). Even the shootings are not new. About a year ago there was a case similar to that of today: two young men from a car fired several shots against two African boys who were returning from the fields. Even then there was a mass protest of the labourers.

In this affair the dramatic lack of a solid point of revolutionary reference emerges once again, i.e. the class party that can connect and channel the bursts of anger of some sectors into a more general proletarian class struggle against the capitalist system. Today (and for a very long time) the proletariat experiences or, at most, expresses its anger and opposition to this society in isolated incidents or explosions of anger but, because they have not involved the majority of workers or the proletariat in general, they are suppressed, or disappear like water in the sand (at least, it seems like that, although it is difficult to know exactly what is moving under the surface).

On the morning of 8 January, the immigrants protests revived. A big and combative demonstration took place in front of the town hall (now taken over by the anti-mafia commission) (9), clearly identifying bourgeois political power as the cause of the social disaster. This was a spontaneous initiative that is to be welcomed. But we can expect nothing from bourgeois power. Politically we must begin to act as the working class, rather than suffer for being working class. Power belongs to the working class - if it is united.

Comrades, proletarian Calabrese, join in the immigrants’ protests. One class, one struggle!




(4) Bossi is leader of the racist Lega Nord and Fini, the Alleanza Nazionale (the former fascist party), both are in Berlusconi’s coalition government

(5) Of about 2,000 immigrant laborers in the area between Rosarno and Gioia Tauro, more than 1,200 have been moved out by the authorities by January 10, hundreds of others were driven away by different means.



(8) “sti niri” is Calabrian dialect for “These blacks”

(9) In 2008 the local authority was shut down by the government for its Mafia links. It has still not been replaced. See