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Pitch Black: The Journey of Coal from Colombia to Italy; the Curse of Extractivism

By various - Re:Common, April 2016

By presenting the horrors suffered under the domination of multinational companies, this work by Re:Common will dispel any lingering doubt that the current economic system based on extractivism is a war against the poor (what subcommander Marcos called the “Fourth World War”).

If someone who trusts the mainstream media and academic analyses thinks that at some point colonialism disappeared from the face of the Earth, this work, based on documents and testimonies, demonstrates otherwise.

For those who believe that progress is the most striking characteristic of our times, starting with the post-World War II period, the voices of the missing that populate these pages will convince you that present-day capitalism is a just a revamped version of the Spanish conquest of five centuries ago.

Throughout this work, all the variables of extractivism can be seen: from occupation of the territory and displacement of people to the role of the offshore banking and financial system, as two complementary and inseparable parts of accumulation by theft/dispossession. In the occupied territories, the displacement occurs in the form of war, with the participation of military, paramilitary, guerrilla and the greatest variety of imaginable armed actors.

The victims are always the weak: poor women and their children, elderly men and women, peasants, Indians, blacks, mestizos, the “wretched of the Earth,” as Frantz Fanon calls them. I want to emphasize, though it may seem anachronistic, and without reference to academic sources, how the extractive model coincides with colonialism, despite the different eras. This is not only due to the violent occupation of territories and the displacement of populations, but also to the salient features of the model.

Economically, extractivism has generated enclave economies, as it did in the colonies, where the walled port and plantations with slaves were its masterworks. This colonial/extractive model held populations 6 hostage in both 1500 and 2000.

Extractivism produces powerful political interventions by multinational enterprises, often allied with States, which manage to modify legislation, co-opting municipalities and their governors. It is an asymmetrical relationship between powerful multinationals and weak states, or better, states weakened by their own local elite who benefit from the model.

Like colonialism, the extractive model promotes the militarization of the territories, because it is the only way to eradicate the population, which, recalling Subcommander Marcos, is the real enemy in this fourth world war. Militarization, violence, and systematic rape of women and girls are not excesses or errors; they are part of the model because the population is the military objective.

To understand extractivism, we must consider it not as an economic model, but as a system. Like capitalism. Certainly there is a capitalist economy, but capitalism is not just the economic aspect. Extractivism (as stated by Re:Common) is capitalism in its financial phase and cannot be understood only as an economic variable. It implies a culture that promotes not work but consumption, which has (systemic) corruption as one of its central features. Put in another way, corruption is the extraction mode of governing.

Therefore, extractivism is not an economic actor; it is a political, social, cultural, and of course also economic actor. At this point, it’s crucial that the central part of this work describes human beings and the Earth as the subjects for looting, which is much more than the theft of the commons. Understanding dispossession only as robbery places property ownership at the center of the matter, in the place of people and land; e.g., life.

Read the text (PDF).

Europe's energy transformation in the austerity trap

By Béla Galgóczi - European Trade Union Institute, 2015

Our planetary limits demand a radical transition from the energy-intensive economic model based on the extraction of finite resources, which has been dominant since the first industrial revolution, to a model that is both sustainable and equitable.

Unfortunately however, energy transformation in Europe has, after a promising start, fallen hostage to austerity and to the main philosophy underpinning the crisis management policies in which overall competitiveness is reduced to the much narrower concept of cost-competitiveness. Regulatory uncertainty, design failures built into incentive systems, and unjust distribution of the costs, have also contributed to the reversal of progress in energy transformation currently observable across Europe.

In this book three country case studies highlight the different facets of these conflicts, while additional light is thrown on the situation by an account of the lack of progress in achieving energy efficiency.

By way of conclusion, a mapping of the main conflicts and obstacles to progress will be of help in formulating policy recommendations. Ambitious climate and energy policy targets should be regarded not as a burden on the economy but rather as investment targets able to pave the way to higher employment and sustainable growth. It is high time for this perception to be recognised and implemented in the context of Europe’s new Investment Plan, thereby enabling clean energy investment to come to form its central pillar. A shift in this direction will require an overhaul of the regulatory and incentive systems to ensure that the need for just burden-sharing is adequately taken into account.

Read the report (Link).

Appeal from the Families of the Four No-TAV Demonstrators Arrested for Terrorism

From libcom.org, February 22, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

An extremely moving and heartfelt appeal from the families of four No Tav protesters, charged with terrorism and held in maximum security detention for allegedly damaging equipment on construction sites for the high speed rail link.

You’ve heard them talked about over the past few weeks. They are the people arrested on 9 December and charged (still to be proven) with attacking the TAV construction site in Chiomonte. A compressor was damaged in this attack and not a single person was injured. The charge, though, is of terrorism because ‘in this context’ these alleged actions ‘could have’ created panic in the population and severe damage to Italy. What? Damage to the public image. We’ll say it again: to the public image. The charge is based on the potential of this behaviour but, as the crime of unintentional terrorism does not exist in our legal system, this charge is of real and intentional terrorism. To make things clear, this is the same charge as in the ’70s and ’80s massacres, the bombs on trains and in the piazzas and, recently, in airports, underground metros and skyscrapers. Terrorism against people who were oblivious and unaware, which killed and which, yes, terrorised the entire population.

By contrast, our sons, brothers, sisters have always respected the lives of other people. They are generous people, they have ideas, they want a better world and are struggling to achieve that. They fight against every form of racism, denouncing the horrors of the CIE detention centres long before the press and public opinion discovered them and about which there is so much indignation today. They have created space and moments of confrontation. They’ve chosen to defend the life of an area, not to terrorise the population. Everyone in Val Susa will tell you this, as they are doing continually on their websites. And are these the people being terrorised? And can a burnt compressor really create severe damage to Italy?

Protecting Public Health on the Italian Riviera: the Maersk Case

From libcom.org, February 25, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Liguria, with its beautiful coastline and wonderful mountainous hinterland, has been a place for people from Northern Europe and the north of Italy to take holidays since the 19th century. After the Second World War the region saw a boom in tourism and in industrial development with all the attendant consequences: illegal building activity, destruction of the environment, very large numbers of migrants and urbanisation of the rural population.

Today the region is being hit by de-industrialization and a difficult rebuilding of the economy. Local government is focusing on mass tourism (particularly cruise ships) and port development, seemingly ignoring the increasingly impoverished population which pays the environmental costs of the associated pollution. Each autumn and winter there are devastating floods which claim lives, caused by the destruction of forests, the abandonment of rural areas and uncontrolled building. Little Liguria comes first on the list of Northern Italian regions for crime connected to illegal development (often involving the mafia and politicians) and second for unemployment.

Looking at the issue of the Maersk platform in Vado Ligure is a good way to understand Liguria’s economic system: public money serving private companies, indifference to the needs of the region and its inhabitants’ wishes and opinions, and the destruction of the natural environment.

Porto Marghera: The Last Firebrands

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