Paths of Racism, Flows of Labor: Nation-State Formation, Capitalism and the Metamorphosis of Racism in Italy

Turin Immigration Office (Utku Tavil, 2013)
Tur­in Immi­gra­tion Office (Utku Tavil, 2013)

The recent Euro­pean elec­tions in May 2014 were a star­tling dis­play of the rise of rad­i­cal racism in Europe. But the tri­umph of Ukip in the Unit­ed King­dom, the Front Nation­al and Marine Le Pen in France, and the Gold­en Dawn in Greece, whose mem­bers have been involved in sev­er­al racist attacks and mur­ders of immi­grants and left­ists, are mere­ly the more insti­tu­tion­al evi­dence of a deep­er trend. In Italy, where I write this text, the Euro­pean elec­tions led to the vic­to­ry of the left­ist, but strong­ly neolib­er­al, Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (PD), the for­mer PCI. Nev­er­the­less, racism increas­ing­ly cir­cu­lates with­in the coun­try, per­pe­trat­ed by the lead­ers and mem­bers of both left- and right-wing par­ties as well as pri­vate cit­i­zens.1

Dur­ing the spring of 2013, Cécile Kyenge, an immi­grant from the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Repub­lic of Con­go, became Min­is­ter of Inte­gra­tion in the cen­ter-left gov­ern­ment  of Enri­co Let­ta. The first black min­is­ter in Italy, Kyenge was tar­get­ed by racist attacks from mem­bers of the right-wing par­ty Lega Nord, and described by Rober­to Calderoli as “an orang­utan.” Of course, racist attacks are not lim­it­ed to ver­bal harass­ment. In Decem­ber 2011, in Flo­rence, a mem­ber of an extreme-right racist orga­ni­za­tion killed two Sene­gale­se ven­dors, and injured a third, in a local mar­ket.2 In met­ro­pol­i­tan con­texts, such as Milan or Rome, racist assaults again­st black peo­ple are dai­ly occur­rences. In 2009, a nine­teen-year-old sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion migrant from Burk­i­na Faso in Milan was killed by two kiosk own­ers for steal­ing a pack­et of bis­cuits – they ran after him and beat him with an iron bar, yelling, “fuck you, nig­ger.” We could go on to make a very lengthy list of such inci­dents, espe­cial­ly if we were to include the dai­ly racism migrant work­ers face on the job.

As the exam­ples from Italy show, the tar­gets of such racist attacks are most­ly immi­grants. They are accused of “steal­ing jobs,” espe­cial­ly – but not only – since the out­break of the eco­nom­ic cri­sis. On the insti­tu­tion­al lev­el, the­se “pop­u­lar” or “dai­ly” racist behav­iors have been trans­lat­ed into a very strict con­trol over labor mobil­i­ty. In 2002, after two decades of mass immi­gra­tion,3 the lat­est in a long series of racist laws – known as the Bossi-Fini law, after the two mem­bers of par­lia­ment who signed it (one from Lega Nord, and the oth­er from Allean­za Nazionale, the suc­ces­sor of the neo-fas­cist Movi­men­to Sociale Ital­iano) – entered into force, ful­ly dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing between migrants and natives. Accord­ing to the law, immi­grants can reside on nation­al ter­ri­to­ry only if they hold a for­mal con­tract of employ­ment, and they may be jailed on admin­is­tra­tive charges, such as not hold­ing a res­i­den­tial per­mit.4 The com­mon assump­tion in Ital­ian pol­i­tics is that the­se out­breaks of racism are the com­bined effect of mass migra­tions and finan­cial cri­sis: since the cri­sis has nar­rowed the labor mar­ket, com­pe­ti­tion between native and immi­grant work­ers has inten­si­fied.

But what this inter­pre­ta­tion miss­es is that Ital­ian racism, and Euro­pean racism in gen­er­al, is not a tran­si­to­ry or con­tin­gent effect of social phe­nom­e­na such as eco­nom­ic cri­sis, mass migra­tions, or right-wing pol­i­tics; rather, it is linked to the very core of Euro­pean moder­ni­ty, at the nexus of the rise of cap­i­tal­ism, the for­ma­tion of the nation-state, and the colo­nial project.

In what fol­lows I will dis­cuss Ital­ian and Euro­pean racial think­ing, the roots of which can be traced to the ori­gins of the nar­ra­tive of mod­ern Europe. Since the mid-19th cen­tu­ry, Europe has been char­ac­ter­ized by a “dou­ble path” of racism, direct­ed again­st South­ern­ers on the one hand, and the African col­o­nized pop­u­la­tion on the oth­er. To under­stand the present, not just the ques­tion of racism, but of Europe’s “South­ern” prob­lem, and of under­de­vel­op­ment itself, it will be nec­es­sary to con­sid­er the meta­mor­pho­sis of Ital­ian racism through the 20th cen­tu­ry, and the shape tak­en by Euro­pean racism with­in the cri­sis.5 It will be just as impor­tant to iden­ti­fy new pos­si­ble antiracist prac­tices, which can both iden­ti­fy and strug­gle again­st the mate­ri­al basis of racism.

The Material Basis of Racism

To reject the assump­tion that racism is the effect of oth­er social phe­nom­e­na, an inci­den­tal issue in the analy­sis of soci­ety and pol­i­tics, means iden­ti­fy­ing it as an endur­ing fac­tor in the his­to­ry of mod­ern cap­i­tal­ist soci­eties. I reflect here on racism as a his­tor­i­cal frac­ture in the nar­ra­tive of Euro­pean moder­ni­ty, which has shaped social rela­tions at the local, con­ti­nen­tal, and transna­tion­al lev­el, espe­cial­ly in the orga­ni­za­tion of the labor mar­ket. In this sense, in con­trast with the main­stream debate about racism in Europe, I stress the mate­ri­al basis of racism, includ­ing race and racial­iza­tion. I mean by racial­iza­tion a means for dis­ci­plin­ing inter­sub­jec­tive social rela­tion­ships, or bet­ter, for the con­struc­tion of insti­tu­tion­al and non-insti­tu­tion­al prac­tices and dis­cours­es ori­ent­ed towards the hier­ar­chi­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of dif­fer­ences, both real and imag­ined. In this sense, my aim is to start with the his­to­ries of eco­nom­ic and cul­tur­al process­es of essen­tial­iza­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion again­st cer­tain social groups, which results in man­i­fes­ta­tions of mate­ri­al and sym­bol­ic vio­lence.

As Frantz Fanon has pow­er­ful­ly point­ed out, racism is “the shame­less exploita­tion of one group of men by anoth­er” which entails process­es of “infe­ri­or­iza­tion” and the “gigan­tic work of eco­nom­ic, and even bio­log­i­cal, enslave­ment”;6 that is to say, it is not a con­stant of the human mind, but a ten­den­cy aris­ing with­in the his­to­ry of of the sys­tem which has imposed white suprema­cy on the social fab­ric and in the labor mar­ket. Thus, once again in con­tradis­tinc­tion to a main­stream Euro­pean read­ing of racism as ide­o­log­i­cal-cul­tur­al-onto­log­i­cal-psy­cho­log­i­cal need, as an “ances­tral sin” that describes a “def­er­en­tial racism” or a “racism with­out race,”7 I focus on the mate­ri­al and struc­tur­ing nature of racism, plac­ing it at the very cen­ter of the con­sti­tu­tion of colo­nial moder­ni­ty and at the core of the con­struc­tion and nar­ra­tion of mod­ern nation-states.

In the his­to­ry of cap­i­tal­ism, from its out­set and at all lat­i­tudes, class dom­i­na­tion has large­ly been inter­twined with and sup­port­ed by race dis­cours­es, assum­ing dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal inflec­tions, always accord­ing to new or con­tin­gent polit­i­cal and eco­nom­i­cal cir­cum­stances – or, in Marx­i­an terms, accord­ing to the char­ac­ter of the cap­i­tal­ist tran­si­tion and forms of accu­mu­la­tion. From this per­spec­tive – and again again­st the idea of racism as psy­cho­log­i­cal or ances­tral sin – it is pos­si­ble to ana­lyze the meta­mor­pho­sis of racism in Italy, con­sid­er­ing the dif­fer­ent social groups it tar­gets, in order to bring to the fore the sys­tem of hier­ar­chies built around and sup­port­ed by “race man­age­ment”8 in Europe and Italy. In this sense, as crit­i­cal race the­o­ry has demon­strat­ed, race is not an objec­tive or fixed cat­e­go­ry, but rather some­thing that “soci­ety invents, manip­u­lates, or retires when con­ve­nient.”9 It is a pow­er­ful dis­posi­tif of social con­trol and the orga­ni­za­tion and dis­ci­plin­ing of liv­ing labor, describ­ing an actu­al “wage of white­ness” – to refer to the clas­sic def­i­n­i­tion of W.E.B Du Bois – that is con­sti­tu­tive of mod­ern cap­i­tal­ist for­ma­tions.10

Despite the resis­tance in the Ital­ian and Euro­pean debate to dis­cussing “race,”11 to talk dis­tinct­ly about race means both call­ing up a whole sys­tem of his­tor­i­cal­ly con­struct­ed inequal­i­ties and high­light­ing the mate­ri­al and struc­tural nature of racism – that is to say, its strong con­nec­tion to the rela­tions of pro­duc­tion and their trans­for­ma­tion. How­ev­er, focus­ing on the nec­es­sary con­nec­tion between the cap­i­tal­ist use of race and the rela­tions of pro­duc­tion does not require a deter­min­is­tic or econ­o­mistic point of view. Rather, this focus allows us to rethink the con­cept of rela­tions of pro­duc­tion, start­ing from the racial­iza­tion process in order to stress the unavoid­able “artic­u­la­tion”12 or “trans­la­tion”13 of race in cap­i­tal­ist social for­ma­tions. Fol­low­ing Marx, this means ana­lyz­ing cap­i­tal as a social rela­tion, and so insist­ing on the struc­tures of dom­i­na­tion and exploita­tion which lie with­in racism, as well as on the expe­ri­ences that exceed and chal­lenge it. Final­ly, it should be not­ed that by empha­siz­ing the nec­es­sary con­nec­tion between racial­iza­tion and the rela­tions of pro­duc­tion, I do not mean to deny that racism and racial­iza­tion pre­date cap­i­tal­ism; I only mean to trace the his­to­ry of cap­i­tal­ism as it has been marked and sat­u­rat­ed by race.

The Double Path in Italian Racism

Ital­ian racism, and indeed Euro­pean racism in gen­er­al, has fol­lowed a “dou­ble path”: first, the inven­tion of the “geo­graph­i­cal­ly close” Oth­er in the South of the coun­try (strict­ly inter­twined with the racial­iza­tion of South­ern or Mediter­ranean Europe, a sort of joint-space between Europe and Africa); sec­ond, the con­struc­tion of the colo­nial Oth­er in Africa. The­se two process, which led to Ital­ian nation-build­ing and the for­ma­tion of mod­ern Europe itself, have been bound up with one oth­er, each describ­ing a speci­fic facet of Ital­ian racism.

After its birth as a nation-state in 1861, Italy imme­di­ate­ly had to nego­ti­ate the nar­ra­tion of its iden­ti­ty at the Euro­pean lev­el. In fact, in order to enter the ranks of the mod­ern Euro­pean state, Italy had to shake off the image of a back­ward, poor, oppressed, and irra­tional coun­try, deeply ingrained in the cul­tur­al tax­on­o­my of mod­ern Europe. Trav­el lit­er­a­ture at the turn of the 19th cen­tu­ry large­ly describes Italy as a coun­try of incred­i­ble nat­u­ral beau­ty, but one that is eco­nom­i­cal­ly back­ward, lag­ging behind the social and polit­i­cal devel­op­ment of oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries. The South of the coun­try espe­cial­ly is described as “pic­turesque” and yet “prim­i­tive,” with lit­tle sense of moral­i­ty, ded­i­cat­ed instead to civil iner­tia.14 It is “a par­adise inhab­it­ed by dev­ils,” accord­ing to the famous def­i­n­i­tion of Naples attrib­ut­ed to Johann Wolf­gang von Goethe. This image was clear­ly anti­thet­i­cal to the rep­u­ta­tion of Europe for dynamism and tech­no­log­i­cal advance­ment, rep­re­sent­ed above all by Great Britain in its tran­si­tion to cap­i­tal­ism and the first Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion.15

In this sce­nar­io, the nar­ra­tion of the new­born nation-state found its basis in the idea of the exis­tence of “Two Ital­ies,” coined by the Ital­ian pos­i­tivist anthro­pol­o­gist Alfre­do Nice­foro of the Lom­brosian School. In the 1890s, Nice­foro – pro­vid­ing “sci­en­tific” sup­port for the racial­iza­tion of south­ern Ital­ians – described the exis­tence of two races in Italy:16 the “Aryan and Cau­casian” in the North and a “Negroid” in the South. Accord­ing to Nice­foro, the Ital­ian pop­u­la­tions of Ger­man­ic descent in the North were “eas­ier to dis­ci­pline and edu­cate” and “much inclined to the com­mon inter­est,” while the Lat­in pop­u­la­tions orig­i­nat­ing in the South were “rebels, undis­ci­plined, and too often averse to edu­ca­tion.” Fur­ther­more, just as the “Ger­mans” were “civil­ians” capa­ble of self-gov­ern­ment, the “Latins” were con­sid­ered  less civ­i­lized, and, espe­cial­ly, polit­i­cal­ly imma­ture.17 As a result, the exis­tence of “Two Ital­ies,” each  one inhab­it­ed by a dif­fer­ent racial group, sig­ni­fies the exis­tence of two dif­fer­ent moral and sociopo­lit­i­cal incli­na­tions, where the “Negroid” ances­try of south­ern Ital­ians becomes the evi­dence of their infe­ri­or­i­ty and crim­i­nal behav­iors, as well as the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for bru­tal repres­sion of social upris­ings in the South.

Thus, the racial­iza­tion of south­ern Ital­ians and the inven­tion of an “accursed race” [raz­za maledet­ta] – accord­ing to the force­ful expres­sion of the Merid­ion­al­ist Napoleone Cola­jan­ni in a 1898 pam­phlet strong­ly crit­i­cal of the racial the­o­ry of the Lom­brosian crim­i­nal anthro­pol­o­gy school – con­sti­tut­ed the basis from which the nar­ra­tion of mod­ern Italy was built. On the one hand, the exis­tence of “Two Ital­ies” gave Ital­ian polit­i­cal elites the oppor­tu­ni­ty to mark a pos­i­tivist dif­fer­ence between the North and the South of the coun­try, offer­ing a tidy expla­na­tion for the inter­nal social and eco­nom­ic gap to oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries. The South was given the main respon­si­bil­i­ty for the sev­ere eco­nom­ic cri­sis affect­ing Italy in the last decade of the 19th cen­tu­ry, cov­er­ing over the incom­pe­tence and irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty of nation­al pol­i­cy in address­ing this issue. On the oth­er hand, “Two Ital­ies” also allowed the con­struc­tion of a vast sup­ply of cheap (because it was racial­ized) labor that enabled the eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment of the coun­try. The devel­op­ment of Ital­ian cap­i­tal­ism was the first con­crete trans­la­tion in the local con­text of the “mod­ern racial cap­i­tal­ism”18 that was devel­op­ing in the Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia.

Fol­low­ing the coor­di­nates mapped by white suprema­cy, South­ern­ers, who had been con­sid­ered lazy and unin­tel­li­gent because of the pres­ence of “Negro” blood in theirs veins,19 were sub­ject­ed to harsh forms of exploita­tion and wage dis­crim­i­na­tion, becom­ing cheap labor-pow­er in ser­vice of the devel­op­ment of Ital­ian cap­i­tal­ism. This was not much dif­fer­ent from what was hap­pen­ing in the Unit­ed States, where race man­age­ment, draw­ing impor­tant lessons from the work of Alfre­do Nice­foro, was pro­duc­ing a real tax­on­o­my of race. Accord­ing to David Roediger’s analy­sis of Amer­i­can race man­age­ment in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, Ger­man work­ers (who “embod­ied strength, dogged­ness, and thrift”) occu­pied the high­est lev­els of wage and labor hier­ar­chies, while all oth­er work­ers grad­u­al­ly found place­ment in the low­er ranks: Ital­ians, espe­cial­ly those from the South (“Ital­ians alleged­ly excelled with pick and shov­el but were unable to assist engi­neers,” as Roedi­ger records), then Slavs (fun­neled “into filthy and unhealthy jobs because they were ‘immune’ to dirt”), then Arme­ni­ans (who “ranked ‘good’ in none of the twen­ty-two job cat­e­gories list­ed and rose to fair only once: wheel­bar­row”). At the very bot­tom were Chi­ne­se work­ers, who were con­sid­ered bio­log­i­cal­ly ill-equipped with low intel­li­gence.20

The oth­er path of Ital­ian racism, name­ly the con­struc­tion of the colo­nial Oth­er in Africa, took place almost simul­ta­ne­ous­ly with the inven­tion of the “accursed race.” Italy had just been uni­fied for twen­ty years when, between 1882 and 1885, it gave way to its first colo­nial expe­ri­ence, once again aim­ing – among oth­er rea­sons – to become a mem­ber of mod­ern Europe in all respects. In con­quer­ing Africa, all the rhetoric used for the racial­iza­tion of South­ern Ital­ians was put to work. Much of pos­i­tivist anthro­pol­o­gy, start­ing from the assumed incli­na­tion to indo­lence and lazi­ness because of “Negroid” descent, was drawn upon in order to racial­ize the col­o­nized pop­u­la­tion in Africa. This was the basis for a cor­re­spon­dence between South­ern Ital­ians and Africans. At that time, this cor­re­spon­dence was so strong, as his­to­ri­ans of colo­nial Italy point out, that “when the gov­ern­ment began to talk about Africa, the left oppo­si­tion [which was again­st the colo­nial expan­sion] warned that ‘Italy had Africa at home.’”21

The idea of “Africa at home” played a speci­fic role in the con­struc­tion of nation­al iden­ti­ty, clear­ly reveal­ing the Ital­ian aspi­ra­tions for redemp­tion, which is the pos­si­bil­i­ty of hold­ing a dif­fer­ent posi­tion in the Euro­pean con­text. To become “empire builders” meant that Italy could rep­re­sent itself as more Euro­pean, polit­i­cal­ly stronger and more mod­ern. At the same time, it pro­vid­ed an oppor­tu­ni­ty to mark a dis­tance between Ital­ians – as white col­o­niz­ers – and racial­ized non-Euro­peans, seiz­ing on the pos­si­bil­i­ty to start a process of “whiten­ing” in order to enter moder­ni­ty in all respects. What is cru­cial, how­ev­er, is that the colo­nial project expressed the mate­ri­al aspi­ra­tions for man­ag­ing the tran­si­tion to cap­i­tal­ism.

On the one hand, it aimed to man­age pover­ty in the South, and the ris­ing migra­tion away from the South. In a first stage of colo­nial expan­sion, many south­ern Ital­ians moved to Africa, where they became a bit less “black” (or a bit more white) than they were at home. On the oth­er hand, colo­nial expan­sion served to orga­nize a colo­nial labor mar­ket in Africa, espe­cial­ly begin­ning with the process of indus­tri­al­iza­tion in the last decade of the 19th cen­tu­ry. From this point on, the Ital­ian colo­nial expan­sion in Africa took on a more marked­ly cap­i­tal­ist nature. And as invest­ments became more mas­sive, colo­nial­ist rhetoric took a more aggres­sive and vio­lent drift, extolling “the supe­ri­or­i­ty of race” over native pop­u­la­tions. The pro­duc­tion of labor seg­men­ta­tion and hier­ar­chies inten­si­fied while jour­nal­ism put the con­struc­tion of racial tax­onomies to work, such as the fol­low­ing descrip­tion of the exis­tence of four races in Tripoli­ta­nia (now west­ern Libya), each one with its own pro­duc­tive loca­tion: “Arabs… seem to be cre­at­ed to with­stand long labors”; “Blacks… are the best ser­vants”; “Jews [have] a strong dis­po­si­tion to busi­ness and com­mer­cial bank­ing”; “the Turks… are sol­diers, offi­cers and offi­cials.”22

The Metamorphosis of Racism

Dur­ing the 20th cen­tu­ry, Ital­ian racism took on new char­ac­ter­is­tics, show­ing the abil­i­ty to remod­el and com­plex­i­fy itself accord­ing to the trans­for­ma­tion of the mode of pro­duc­tion and the new geopo­lit­i­cal con­text. In the after­math of the earth­quake that was the cri­sis of 1929, racism, on the entire Euro­pean lev­el, took on the task of man­ag­ing new eco­nom­ic and social inter­na­tion­al arrange­ments, espe­cial­ly in the rela­tion­ship between the moth­er coun­try and the colonies. Such new artic­u­la­tions main­ly meant a grow­ing pro­tec­tion­ism and a more strict use of colo­nial resources (raw mate­ri­als and labor-pow­er), as well as, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, the reor­ga­ni­za­tion of the inter­na­tion­al divi­sion of labor which had bro­ken down fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Amer­i­can stock mar­ket. In both cas­es, the alleged supe­ri­or­i­ty of white­ness was the ground from which the two process­es were redesigned. Italy, for its part, took a more pre­cise and aggres­sive approach, pro­duc­ing a real break­through in the race man­age­ment of the colo­nial con­text.

Between 1930 and 1933, 15 con­cen­tra­tion camps were set up in the desert region of Sir­ti­ca in the mid­dle of the Ital­ian colony in Libya. More than 100,000 Libyan civil­ians were deport­ed to Sir­ti­ca in order to break up the part­ner­ship between the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion and the insur­gents engaged in anti-colo­nial resis­tance. More specif­i­cal­ly, and what is more rel­e­vant for our pur­pos­es, this mass depor­ta­tion can be described as an incred­i­ble lab­o­ra­to­ry of race man­age­ment. The semi-nomadic farm­ers, forced to become seden­tary, were trans­formed into a large pool of free labor that pro­vid­ed for both the con­struc­tion of roads (main­ly men) and the prepa­ra­tion of fields (main­ly wom­en), both of which large­ly con­tribut­ed to the eco­nom­ic out­put of the colonies.23

How­ev­er, a stronger process of racial­iza­tion in the colonies took shape in the after­math of the procla­ma­tion of the empire dur­ing the fas­cist regime in May 1936. The new impe­ri­al iden­ti­ty aimed at eras­ing all traces of the past back­ward­ness and civil iner­tia in which the coun­try had long been placed, which required mark­ing the dif­fer­ences between Ital­ians and Africans. In sup­port of this project, start­ing in 1937, two dif­fer­ent legal cir­cuits were acti­vat­ed: the met­ro­pol­i­tan right and the colo­nial, both intend­ing to seg­ment and hier­ar­chize labor-pow­er along the col­or line. In the colonies, the seg­re­ga­tion of the African black pop­u­la­tion was orga­nized around all spheres of life: African black neigh­bor­hoods were sep­a­rat­ed from the Ital­ian white neigh­bor­hoods.24 At work, any native employ­ee could be employed in tasks equal to or greater than Ital­ians,25 but native work­ers earned only one-fifth of the dai­ly wage of an Ital­ian (7 lire vs. 33 lire);26 in the schools for natives (strict­ly sep­a­rate from those for Ital­ian whites), the only forms of teach­ing were ori­ent­ed around the train­ing of unskilled work­ers.27

In the home­land, the new impe­ri­al iden­ti­ty was struc­tured as a “defense of race,” tak­ing the form of Aryanism, which in 1938 pro­mot­ed the so-called “racial laws” and the per­se­cu­tion of Jews. On the one hand, the­se laws – ful­ly in accor­dance with the func­tion­ing of race man­age­ment and at the very core of the “inven­tion of the white race”28 – were respond­ing to the need to break the bonds of sol­i­dar­i­ty among work­ers, fac­ing the real pos­si­bil­i­ty of an explo­sion of dis­sent amid­st grow­ing uncer­tain­ties in the geopo­lit­i­cal con­text on the eve of the out­break of the World War II. On the oth­er hand the sys­tem­at­ic exclu­sion of “cit­i­zens from the Jew­ish race” by many work­ing envi­ron­ments, which was a pre­lude to fur­ther per­se­cu­tion such as search­es and con­cen­tra­tion camps, man­aged the reor­ga­ni­za­tion of the inter­nal labor mar­ket after the 1929 cri­sis. Start­ing in the late 1930s, vio­lent pro­pa­gan­da mar­gin­al­ized shops run by Jews; Jews were expelled from the Fas­cist par­ty, caus­ing a large rise in unem­ploy­ment.29 As a result of the process of  “Aryaniza­tion” of the Ital­ian cul­ture, all Jew­ish schol­ars and teach­ers were expelled from schools and uni­ver­si­ties. Nev­er­the­less, as evi­dence of the mate­ri­al (rather then psy­cho­log­i­cal) basis of racism, and of race as an actu­al change­able dis­posi­tif for labor hier­ar­chiza­tion and social con­trol, in Novem­ber 1938 an excep­tion was made to the pro­vi­sion pre­vent­ing Jews from hav­ing Ital­ian cit­i­zens of the “Aryan race” as ser­vants, allow­ing for “spe­cial rea­sons of expe­di­en­cy.”30 More than 2,500 “Aryan” work­ers, main­ly wom­en work­ing as ser­vants, were able to return to work.

In the after­math of World War II and as result of the hor­rors pro­duced by Nazi and Fas­cist eugen­ics, the word “race” become a taboo, dis­ap­pear­ing from both the sci­en­tific vocab­u­lary and every­day dis­course in Europe. Nev­er­the­less, it remained an actu­al dis­posi­tif of seg­men­ta­tion and hier­ar­chiza­tion of social rela­tions. Although racism was rad­i­cal­ly rein­ter­pret­ed through what has been called the “epis­te­mo­log­i­cal turn,” put into motion through UNESCO’s state­ments ​​on the racial issue in 1950 and 1951,  which erased the mate­ri­al and struc­tur­ing nature of racism, no longer regard­ing it as sys­tem of inequal­i­ties (an objec­tive phe­nom­e­non), but rather as orig­i­nal “vice” or “injury” (sub­jec­tive phe­nom­e­non),31 race would con­tin­ue to orga­nize the labor mar­ket at the nation­al and con­ti­nen­tal lev­els.

The racial­iza­tion of Ital­ian work­ers who immi­grat­ed to Ger­many, France, Switzer­land, or Bel­gium ran along very sim­i­lar lines as the life and work expe­ri­ence of oth­er Ital­ians at the begin­ning of the cen­tu­ry in Unit­ed States, where they came to be “clas­si­fied” as “Col­or: White/Complexion: Dark,”32 and down­grad­ed in labor and wage hier­ar­chies. Sim­i­lar­ly, dur­ing the after­math of World War II in Europe, Ital­ian racial­ized work­ers were pushed to the low ranks of labor hier­ar­chies, find­ing very inse­cure jobs, which result­ed in trag­ic events such as the explo­sion at the coal mine in Marcinelle, Bel­gium, in 1956, when over a hun­dred Ital­ian work­ers died.

With­in the Ital­ian bor­ders the process of rein­ter­pret­ing racism was trans­lat­ed as the removal of one of the most revolt­ing pages in the his­to­ry of the coun­try from col­lec­tive dis­cours­es and imag­i­nar­ies. The new nation­al iden­ti­ty put forth by the par­ti­sans of resis­tance again­st fas­cism left no room for such a detestable sto­ry, and quick­ly tried to rid itself of the uncom­fort­able lega­cy of racism at home and in the colonies, togeth­er with mass mur­ders and atroc­i­ties. Nev­er­the­less, race sur­vived, and the Ital­ian post-war recon­struc­tion, and espe­cial­ly the eco­nom­ic boom that fol­lowed, could once again ben­e­fit from the process­es of racial­iza­tion and race man­age­ment.

In Italy, the post-war tran­si­tion high­light­ed the shift from a still pre­dom­i­nant­ly agri­cul­tur­al econ­o­my to a more dis­tinct­ly indus­tri­al one, and showed the revival of myths and rep­re­sen­ta­tions from the post-uni­fi­ca­tion peri­od, which re-pro­posed the dis­tinc­tion between ​​a “back­ward” South assim­i­lat­ed to Africa and a “mod­ern” and “civ­i­lized” North hold­ing its place with­in the Euro­pean matrix. Through gov­ern­ment deci­sions, all pro­duc­tive activ­i­ties of the emerg­ing indus­tri­al cap­i­tal­ism were placed in the North­west of the coun­try; in the South, the few indus­tri­al com­plex­es were dis­man­tled, while the dras­tic reduc­tion of arable land pro­duced a surge in unem­ploy­ment. In the fol­low­ing two decades, the South “offered” more than two mil­lion peo­ple to the North, who were employed in var­i­ous capac­i­ties of indus­tri­al pro­duc­tion.

In North­ern cities, migrant work­ers from the South found an uncom­fort­able social cli­mate marked by mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion and mis­trust, with bla­tant dis­crim­i­na­tion that made ​​it dif­fi­cult to even to find a home or access ade­quate edu­ca­tion. Mean­while, the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a south­ern Oth­er­ness, large­ly cir­cu­lat­ed through the media, had been main­ly artic­u­lat­ed around the con­cepts of pover­ty, back­ward­ness, and vio­lence.33 Mar­gin­al­ized and sub­ject­ed to process­es of sub­or­di­na­tion, work­ers from the South were dri­ven to unskilled jobs, often with irreg­u­lar admin­is­tra­tive posi­tions, and forced to accept short­er labor con­tracts and very low wages.34 Many of them worked by either piece­work or sub­con­tract­ing in the build­ing indus­try. Oth­ers, espe­cial­ly wom­en, were “ille­gal­ly” employed in sort of renewed “craft” jobs with­in the satel­lite indus­tries.35 And, until 1961, when the law that con­trolled the inter­nal mobil­i­ty of labor was repealed, only work­ers hold­ing the sta­tus of “res­i­dent” could find work in the indus­tri­al plants.

In sum, the racial­iza­tion of work­ers from the South had the task of man­ag­ing the par­tic­u­lar phase of cap­i­tal­ist tran­si­tion, intro­duc­ing the mech­a­niza­tion of pro­duc­tion into Italy. The­se trans­for­ma­tions were increas­ing­ly ren­der­ing obso­lete the fig­ure of the “craft work­ers,” pre­dom­i­nant­ly from the North, in favor of the intro­duc­tion of the sys­tem of new, gener­ic, and low-skilled labor-pow­er that was the young work­ers from the South (which we will even­tu­al­ly call “mass work­er”).36 There­fore, the con­struc­tion of race hier­ar­chies aimed both at devalu­ing the new labor-pow­er that was enter­ing the labor mar­ket, and under­min­ing the forms of sol­i­dar­i­ty among work­ers that could chal­lenge the recov­ery of Ital­ian indus­try. The racial­iza­tion of south­ern work­ers in the after­math of World War II allowed the cre­ation of a large pool of cheap and docile labor-pow­er that enabled the so-called “Ital­ian mir­a­cle.” How­ev­er, here it should be also not­ed that at the end of the 1960s, young and low-skilled racial­ized work­ers from the South were the main actors of an extra­or­di­nary sea­son of labor strug­gles in Italy, which start­ed a pro­found process of social trans­for­ma­tion, call­ing into ques­tion both labor hier­ar­chies and hier­ar­chies con­struct­ed around the Oth­er­ness of the South. The­se strug­gles demon­strate how the process­es of racial­iza­tion – and there­fore racism under­stood as mate­ri­al and struc­tur­ing phe­nom­e­non – con­sti­tute a bat­tle­ground in which racial hier­ar­chies can be reversed.

Nev­er­the­less, the abil­i­ty of work­ers’ strug­gles in the 1960s and 1970s to chal­lenge racial hier­ar­chies did not mean, of course, the end of racism in Italy. With­in the process­es of glob­al­iza­tion, as the coun­try dealt for the first time with inter­na­tion­al immi­gra­tion, racism devel­oped new roots, con­tribut­ing to the con­struc­tion of what, fol­low­ing Eti­en­ne Bal­ibar, one could define as a “migrant race.”37 In a man­ner dif­fer­ent from oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries such as Eng­land and France, which had expe­ri­enced a steady stream of migrants from for­mer colonies since the time of decol­o­niza­tion, Italy met its colo­nial Oth­er at home for the first time only in the late 1980s. Then, the aggres­sive racism already seen in the African colonies was quick­ly set ablaze, affect­ing new­com­ers espe­cial­ly from North Africa and East­ern Europe (main­ly from the for­mer Sovi­et States after 1989).38

Start­ing from the end of the 1990s, leg­isla­tive mea­sures to con­trol and gov­ern glob­al labor mobil­i­ty were large­ly respon­si­ble for the man­age­ment of glob­al­iza­tion and the increas­ing mass phe­nom­e­non of immi­gra­tion. Sim­i­lar to oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries, the man­age­ment of labor mobil­i­ty in Italy has priv­i­leged process­es of dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion and selec­tion of migrant work­ers, “includ­ing” rather than “exclud­ing”  them, although in a sub­or­di­nate posi­tion. Sta­tus with respect to cit­i­zen­ship, the non-recog­ni­tion of edu­ca­tion and degrees, and the often stereo­typ­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of signs of recog­ni­tion, such as cloth­ing or lan­guage, work as dis­posi­tifs of “dif­fer­en­tial inclu­sion,”39 con­tin­u­ing to ensure a large sup­ply of low-cost labor. All Ital­ian immi­gra­tion laws have been shaped and con­tin­ue to be shaped in this direc­tion, such as the afore­men­tioned Bossi-Fini law that is now fun­da­men­tal in reg­u­lat­ing labor mobil­i­ty.

Racism and the Crisis

In recent years, the dou­ble path of Ital­ian (and Euro­pean) racism, and their simul­ta­ne­ous oper­a­tion, has tak­en on a renewed exis­tence with­in the eco­nom­ic cri­sis. On the one hand, the cri­sis exac­er­bat­ed the afore­men­tioned racism again­st inter­na­tion­al immi­grants, which finds its roots in the inven­tion of the colo­nial Oth­er. On the oth­er hand, it marked an updat­ing of the racism again­st South­ern­ers that refers to the his­tor­i­cal frac­ture between North and South of Europe. From this lat­ter per­spec­tive, one could read the vio­lent rhetoric again­st “lazi­ness” and “cor­rup­tion” of south­ern Euro­pean coun­tries that is tak­ing form today. Such rhetoric large­ly con­tributes to images of mar­gin­al­iza­tion and infe­ri­or­iza­tion, and dis­cours­es about the so-called PIGS, the nasty acronym used to dub Por­tu­gal, Italy, Greece, and Spain the “swine” of Europe, iden­ti­fied as the cause of the Euro­zone cri­sis.40 In this respect, the inter­na­tion­al press and the gray lit­er­a­ture that flanks the Euro­pean “Troika” insist on iden­ti­fy­ing the orig­in of the cri­sis in some forms of pol­i­tics and in the func­tion­ing of the econ­o­my in the coun­tries of the Mediter­ranean. In this way, a pro­duc­tive North, which is rig­or­ous and sober, is con­trast­ed to the lazy South, which is waste­ful and cor­rupt, exact­ly as at the begin­ning of Euro­pean moder­ni­ty. In an explic­it way, Hans-Jur­gen Schlamp wrote in Der Spiegel Inter­na­tion­al: “The true prob­lem of the south isn’t the eco­nom­ic and finan­cial cri­sis – it’s cor­rup­tion, waste and nepo­tism,”41 there­by estab­lish­ing a lin­ear rela­tion­ship between the Euro­zone cri­sis and some of the worst fea­tures of the func­tion­ing of pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics in south­ern Europe. Alongside this pro­duc­tion of imag­i­nar­ies and dis­cours­es con­firm­ing the myth of white suprema­cy at the orig­in of the mod­ern, cap­i­tal­ist, and colo­nial Europe emerges the idea that the South is always a kind of reverse of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion, show­ing, today as in the past, a dis­tinc­tion between a North inclined to cap­i­tal­ist ethic and devel­op­ment, and a South undis­ci­plined by this ethic and there­fore under­de­vel­oped.

As Luciano Fer­rari Bravo use­ful­ly point­ed out in his analy­sis of South­ern Italy in the 1950s and 1960s, when inter­nal migra­tion was redraw­ing the social and pro­duc­tive struc­tures, the whole gam­ble of cap­i­tal­ism has his­tor­i­cal­ly run between the con­cept of devel­op­ment and under­de­vel­op­ment. Accord­ing­ly, in the cap­i­tal­ist nar­ra­tive, so-called “under­de­vel­op­ment” does not rep­re­sent the not yet of devel­op­ment; it is rather a speci­fic func­tion of cap­i­tal­ism itself, “a mate­ri­al and polit­i­cal func­tion of cap­i­tal­ism which, while it is deter­min­ing itself, gives mean­ing to the process of cap­i­tal­ist social­iza­tion,42 allow­ing the repro­duc­tion of cap­i­tal­ism itself. From this per­spec­tive, the social, eco­nom­ic, and polit­i­cal under­de­vel­op­ment that is today attrib­ut­ed to Mediter­ranean Europe, is what makes pos­si­ble the very exis­tence of the neolib­er­al Euro­pean cap­i­tal­ism in cri­sis. In oth­er words, such under­de­vel­op­ment rep­re­sents the space of the cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion (just as in Fer­rari Bravo’s analy­sis south­ern Italy sup­ports the very exis­tence of the grow­ing Ital­ian cap­i­tal­ism dur­ing the 1950s and 1960s). The dis­tinc­tion between vir­tu­ous economies in north­ern Europe and weak economies in south­ern Europe has a speci­fic func­tion in con­tem­po­rary cap­i­tal­ist val­oriza­tion: trans­fer­ring the mate­ri­al and sym­bol­ic costs of the cri­sis to the South, by way of the aus­ter­i­ty pro­grams that the Euro­pean “Troika” have, most­ly uni­lat­er­al­ly, imposed on the Mediter­ranean coun­tries.

With­in the cri­sis of Euro­zone,43 while a grow­ing share of migrant labor-pow­er has been moved into the most dereg­u­lat­ed sec­tors of pro­duc­tion (espe­cial­ly the build­ing indus­try and agri­cul­tur­al work) and mech­a­nisms of “dif­fer­en­tial inclu­sion” – such as the mea­sures for reg­u­lar­iz­ing the res­i­den­cy sta­tus of work­ers, espe­cial­ly wom­en, employed in care and domes­tic labor, in 2009 – aim to pro­duce new inter­nal frac­tures, the racial­iza­tion of south­ern Europe (and in a micro­cos­mic way, south­ern Italy) pro­vides the means for inter­pret­ing the eco­nom­ic cri­sis, sup­port­ing the reor­ga­ni­za­tion of Euro­pean (and Ital­ian) gov­er­nance, and the imple­men­ta­tion of aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies. In this sense, the renewed rhetoric of “lazi­ness and cor­rup­tion” used to char­ac­ter­ize peo­ple liv­ing in the South is deployed on the one hand to sup­port and jus­ti­fy the impo­si­tion of aus­ter­i­ty pro­grams in coun­tries such as  Por­tu­gal, Italy, Greece, and Spain, the so-called PIGS, and on the oth­er hand to estab­lish new labor hier­ar­chies for man­ag­ing the reor­ga­ni­za­tion of the labor mar­ket on the nation­al and Euro­pean lev­el.

From this per­spec­tive, and as part of the his­tor­i­cal trend of race man­age­ment that goes hand in hand with the devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal­ism, the South, both in Italy and at the con­ti­nen­tal Euro­pean lev­el, emerges once again as a sup­ply of cheap labor. Low-skilled wage labor, such as call cen­ters, are relo­cat­ing to south­ern Italy, count­ing on a two-thirds reduc­tion of wages. At the same time, the South is still feed­ing impor­tant flows of young work­ers, often high­ly edu­cat­ed, both towards the North of the coun­try and out­side the nation­al bor­der, the pre­dictable out­come of the sys­tem­at­ic neglect of uni­ver­si­ties and research, dis­in­vest­ment in cul­ture and inno­va­tion, and the dra­co­ni­an cuts imposed by the aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures.44 In 2012, res­i­dents in the Ital­ian South work­ing in the cen­ter-North count­ed almost 140,000 (+4.3%). They were most­ly young peo­ple under 40, with a medi­um-high lev­el of edu­ca­tion, employed main­ly in pre­car­i­ous con­di­tions.45 Fifty thou­sand have left the coun­try, revers­ing for the first time in recent years the bal­ance between emi­gra­tion and immi­gra­tion in Italy. Again, a large part of them are “qual­i­fied youth” who move away, often spon­sored by pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties.46 In 2012, Ger­many, as a real mag­net of labor mobil­i­ty in Europe, accept­ed 42,000 Ital­ians, with an increase of 40% over the pre­vi­ous year, espe­cial­ly work­ers in cre­ative and cog­ni­tive indus­tries.47

Nev­er­the­less, north­ern Europe, far from being a hap­py island, offers new­com­ers a high­ly dereg­u­lat­ed labor mar­ket (char­ac­ter­ized by short-term work and very high flex­i­bil­i­ty) that is crossed by process­es of racial­iza­tion that trans­late the his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive of the intra-Euro­pean frac­ture into the present. In this sense, young  pre­car­i­ous cog­ni­tive work­ers who leave Italy or oth­er coun­tries in the South and move North live the deskilling and devalu­ing of their work, not only in terms of a penal­ty in the pos­si­bil­i­ty of nego­ti­at­ing wages and labor guar­an­tees (as was the case in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry or in the 1950s and 1960s, although in a dif­fer­ent par­a­digm of pro­duc­tion), but espe­cial­ly by deal­ing direct­ly with pre­car­i­ty, the ris­ing of social inse­cu­ri­ty, and the black­mail of the dis­con­ti­nu­ity of income in an high­ly dereg­u­lat­ed labor-mar­ket. There­fore, it would not be wrong to say that the­se young skilled and spe­cial­ized work­ers, sub­ject to dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion and down­grad­ing in wages, pro­tec­tions, and guar­an­tees, are today, togeth­er with inter­na­tion­al migrants, the cen­tral tar­get of race man­age­ment with­in intra-Euro­pean labor mobil­i­ty.

What is at Stake?

With the his­tor­i­cal foun­da­tion of race man­age­ment in mind, it fol­lows that strug­gling again­st racism can­not be dis­en­gaged from the strug­gle again­st the cap­i­tal­ist con­di­tions of dom­i­na­tion and exploita­tion. There­in espe­cial­ly lies the impor­tance of under­stand­ing racism in its inher­ent­ly mate­ri­al and struc­tural nature, in order to approach it as a device of social con­trol, seg­men­ta­tion, and hier­ar­chiza­tion, instead of an ide­o­log­i­cal-cul­tur­al-onto­log­i­cal-psy­cho­log­i­cal need, or a social pathol­o­gy. It is only by accept­ing racism as inti­mate­ly linked with the sys­tem of pro­duc­tion and cap­i­tal­ist exploita­tion that one can imag­ine and prac­tice an actu­al way to chal­lenge the social seg­men­ta­tion and hier­ar­chies built around race. If we assume, instead, as the major­i­ty of the Ital­ian and Euro­pean debate does, that racism is a pure­ly psy­cho­log­i­cal prac­tice, the only way to fight it would be through an edu­ca­tion­al project that has, how­ev­er, revealed few pos­si­bil­i­ties for suc­cess, given that fact that the least fifty years (start­ing from the after­math of World War II and the already men­tioned “epis­te­mo­log­i­cal turn” of UNESCO) of good inten­tions and dis­cours­es of social jus­tice that actu­al­ly allowed racism, in its con­tin­u­ous and dif­fer­ent forms, to con­tin­ue to spread.

How­ev­er, under­stand­ing racism with­in a mate­ri­al­ist the­o­ry gives us the pos­si­bil­i­ty of chal­leng­ing it by start­ing exact­ly from a ques­tion­ing of the dis­posi­tifs of exploita­tion and con­trol that are built on the ground of race, that is to say, to chal­lenge the race man­age­ment that has his­tor­i­cal­ly accom­pa­nied the cap­i­tal­ist tran­si­tion and accu­mu­la­tion. It is, in oth­er words, to bring togeth­er strug­gles again­st racism in the work­place with labor strug­gles at the lev­el of antiracism.

Today, in Italy, the strug­gles in the retail logis­tics indus­try, in which the work­force is large­ly com­posed of migrants, are a nascent way of touch­ing on this.48 In mov­ing the main focus of anti-racist strug­gle from cit­i­zen­ship to racial­ized labor, the­se logis­tics strug­gles are pro­duc­ing effec­tive trans­for­ma­tions of the labor and life con­di­tions for work­ers (main­ly racial­ized migrants) in the indus­try. There­fore, to chal­lenge race hier­ar­chies in the man­age­ment of retail logis­tics in Italy has meant a con­sid­er­able improve­ment in work­ing con­di­tions, as well as an end to racial black­mail and abuse. At the same time, the­se strug­gles, devel­oped with­in large social net­works and involv­ing oth­er fig­ures such as stu­dents and pre­car­i­ous work­ers, polit­i­cal col­lec­tives and social cen­ters, are pro­duc­ing forms of coop­er­a­tion that are delin­eat­ing new kinds of rela­tion­ships between native and for­eign work­ers. What is tak­ing shape in the block­ades at the retail logis­tics ware­hous­es is a com­mon plan of strug­gle, which, by bring­ing stu­dents and tem­po­rary work­ers togeth­er with ware­house work­ers to block the flow of goods, con­nects the­se dif­fer­ent sec­tors of strug­gle. Thus, what is at stake in Italy and Europe with­in the cri­sis is this com­mon ground of strug­gle. The weld­ing togeth­er of dif­fer­ent fig­ures of labor and the social is lit­er­al­ly ter­ror­iz­ing gov­ern­ment and cap­i­tal – it aims to reshape social rela­tion­ships and chal­lenge the process­es of impov­er­ish­ment and déclasse­ment imposed by the neolib­er­al cap­i­tal in cri­sis.


  1. The first actu­al racist immi­gra­tion law, the Tur­co-Napoli­tano law from 1998 – which estab­lished deten­tion for “ille­gal” migrants – was signed by left­ists from the for­mer PCI. 

  2. For com­men­tary on this event, see Anna Cur­cio, Italy is a racist coun­try,” Uni­no­made, 2011. 

  3. Unlike oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries that expe­ri­enced big migra­tion flows from the for­mer colonies dur­ing the peri­od of decol­o­niza­tion, in Italy mass migra­tion began dur­ing the 1980s. 

  4. More pre­cise­ly, accord­ing to Ital­ian immi­gra­tion laws, the immi­grant who does not hold a res­i­dence per­mit is sub­ject to expul­sion from the coun­try after a peri­od of deten­tion in spe­cial cen­ters called CIE (Cen­ters for Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and Expul­sion) – effec­tive­ly pris­ons in which immi­grants can be detained for years. 

  5. I would like to empha­size that although I con­sid­er the dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal shapes of Ital­ian and Euro­pean racism, I do not have in mind any sim­ple and lin­ear con­ti­nu­ity between one and the oth­er, nor a harsh break between them. The diverse shapes of racism are always over­lap­ping each oth­er, and the lines between them con­tin­u­al­ly blurred. 

  6. Franz Fanon, Towards the African Rev­o­lu­tion, trans. Haakon Cheva­lier (New York: Month­ly Review, 1967), 37, 51. 

  7. See among oth­ers Pier­re-André Taguieff, The Force of Prej­u­dice: On Racism and its Dou­bles (Min­neapolis: Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press, 2001); Michel Wiev­iorka, The Are­na of Racism (Lon­don: Sage, 1995). 

  8. David R. Roedi­ger, How Race Sur­vived U. S: His­to­ry. From Set­tle­ment and slav­ery to the Oba­ma Phe­nom­e­non (Lon­don – New York: Ver­so, 2008). 

  9. Richard Del­gado and Jean Ste­fan­cic, Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry. An Intro­duc­tion, (New York and Lon­don: New York Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2001), 7. 

  10. See W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Recon­struc­tion in Amer­i­ca (New York: The Free Press, 1935); David Roedi­ger, The Wages of White­ness: Race and the Mak­ing of the Amer­i­can Work­ing Class (Lon­don and New York: Ver­so Books, 1996). 

  11. See among oth­ers Renate Siebert, “Racism – His­toric Mem­o­ry – Indi­vid­u­al Respon­si­bil­i­ty,” Dark­mat­ter Jour­nal: Chal­leng­ing Ital­ian Racism, Anna Cur­cio and Miguel Melli­no (eds), no. 6 (2010). 

  12. Stu­art Hall, “Race, artic­u­la­tion and soci­eties struc­tured in dom­i­nance”, in Soci­o­log­i­cal The­o­ries: Race and Colo­nial­ism, (Paris: Unesco, 1980), 305-45. 

  13. Anna Cur­cio, “Trans­lat­ing Dif­fer­ence and the Com­mon,” Rethink­ing Marx­ism – Spe­cial Issue: The Com­mon and The Forms of the Com­mune eds. Anna Cur­cio and Ceren Özselçuk, 22 no.3 (2010), 468-480. 

  14. My ref­er­ence on this top­ic is: Atana­sio Mozzil­lo ed., Viag­gia­tori stranieri nel sud (Milano: Edi­zioni di Comu­nità, 1964) a vol­ume which col­lects trav­el reports from the XVIII and XIX cen­tu­ry by authors includ­ing Max­im Du Camp, Wolf­gang Goethe, Alex­is de Toc­queville and oth­ers. 

  15. Nel­son Moe, The View from Vesu­vius. Ital­ian Cul­ture and the South­ern Ques­tion (Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Press, 2002). 

  16. Please note here the use of “race” inter­nal to pos­i­tivism. 

  17. Alfre­do Niceforo’s work on the so-called “Two Ital­ies” is col­lect­ed in a tril­o­gy which includes: Alfre­do Nice­foro, La delin­quen­za in Sardeg­na (1897); Alfre­do Nice­foro, L’Italia bar­bara con­tem­po­ranea (studi e appun­ti) (1898); Alfre­do Nice­foro, Ital­iani del nord e ital­iani del sud (1901). 

  18. Cedric Robin­son, Black Marx­ism. The Mak­ing of the Black Rad­i­cal Tra­di­tion (Chapel Hill: Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na Press, 1993). 

  19. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, in the con­text of the cor­re­spon­dence drawn between south­ern Ital­ians and Africans by the pos­i­tivist anthro­po­log­i­cal school, South­ern work­ers were often called “Africa,” in a deroga­to­ry sense. See, among oth­er sources, the movie I com­pag­ni by Mar­io Mon­i­cel­li (Lux Film, 1963). 

  20. David R. Roedi­ger, How Race Sur­vived US His­to­ry. From Set­tle­ment and Slav­ery to the Oba­ma Phe­nom­e­non (Lon­don – New York: Ver­so, 2008), 95. 

  21. Nico­la Laban­ca, Oltremare. Sto­ria dell’espansione colo­niale ital­iana, (Bolog­na: il Muli­no, 2002), 49. 

  22. Giuseppe Bevione, “Le quat­tro razze, La Stam­pa, (domeni­ca 23 aprile, 1911). 

  23. Cen­tro Furio Jesi (ed.), La men­zog­na del­la raz­za. Doc­u­men­ti e immag­ini del razz­is­mo e dell’antisemitismo fascis­ta (Bolog­na: Grafis, 1994), 277. 

  24. Angelo Del Boca, “Le leg­gi razz­iali nell’impero di Mus­solini”, in Il regime fascis­ta. Sto­ria e sto­ri­ografia, Angelo del Boca, Mas­si­mo Leg­nani e Mar­io  G. Rossi (eds.), (Roma-Bari: Lat­erza, 1995),  336. 

  25. Cen­tro Furio Jesi (ed), La men­zog­na del­la raz­za. Doc­u­men­ti e immag­ini del razz­is­mo e dell’antisemitismo fascis­ta (Bolog­na: Grafis, 1994) 288-289. 

  26. Angelo Del Boca, Gli ital­iani in Africa ori­en­tale, Vol. 3, (Roma-Bari: Lat­erza, 1992), 184 and 186. 

  27. Del Boca, Gli ital­iani, 240. 

  28. Theodor W. Allen, The Inven­tion of White Race, Vol. 2 (Lon­don-New York: Ver­so, 1997). 

  29. In this regard it should be noticed that in Italy since the late ‘20s enroll­ment in the Fas­cist Par­ty had become an indis­pens­able pre­req­ui­site to enter the labor mar­ket. On 29 March 1929, the Grand Coun­cil of Fas­cism (the supre­me organ of gov­ern­ment dur­ing the fas­cist regime) had decreed that mem­bers of the Fas­cist Par­ty would take prece­dence for employ­ment, which led many work­ers, includ­ing those of the Jew­ish faith, to take the par­ty card, often beyond their polit­i­cal beliefs.  

  30. Cen­tro Furio Jesi (ed), La men­zog­na del­la raz­za. Doc­u­men­ti e immag­ini del razz­is­mo e dell’antisemitismo fascis­ta (Bolog­na: Grafis, 1994). 277. 

  31. Éti­en­ne Bal­ibar,La con­struc­tion du racis­me,” Actuel Marx, 2, no. 38 (2005). 

  32. Luise De Salvo,” Col­or: White/Complexion: Dark” in Jen­nifer Gugliel­mo e Sal­va­tore Saler­no, Are Ital­ians White?: How Race is Made in Amer­i­ca (New York: Rut­ledge, 2003). 

  33. Enri­ca Capus­sot­ti, “Nordis­ti con­tro Sud­is­ti: Inter­nal Migra­tion and Racism in Tur­in, Europe: 1950s and 1960s,” Ital­ian Cul­ture 28, no. 2 (2010), 121-138. 

  34. Gof­fre­do Fofi, L’immigrazione merid­ionale a Tori­no (Milano: Fel­trinel­li, 1976). 

  35. Danilo Mon­taldi, “Inchi­es­ta sug­li immi­grati” in Milano, Corea. Inchi­es­ta sug­li immi­grati negli anni del «mira­colo», Fran­co Alasia e Danilo Mon­taldi (Roma: Donzel­li, 2010), 67 – first edi­tion (Roma: Fel­trinel­li 1960). 

  36. On the con­cept of the “mass work­er” see Romano Alquati, Sul­la Fiat e altri scrit­ti (Roma: Fel­trinel­li, 1975). For Eng­lish excerpts of the­se works, includ­ing the con­cept of the “mass work­er” see View­point Mag­a­zine 3 (2013). 

  37. Éti­en­ne Bal­ibar has not­ed that in con­tem­po­rary times, the word “migrant” has become syn­ony­mous with race. See Éti­en­ne Bal­ibar and Immanuel Waller­stein, Race, Nation, Class: Ambigu­ous Iden­ti­ties (Lon­don: Ver­so 1991).  

  38. It should be not­ed that migrants from East­ern Europe, despite their white skin, were not exclud­ed from racial­iza­tion. Rather, they were imme­di­ate­ly sub­ject­ed to mar­gin­al­iza­tion and crim­i­nal­iza­tion, and thanks to the press, were quick­ly rep­re­sent­ed as dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals to iso­late and expel. Exact­ly because they are white-skinned migrants, they have been per­ceived by Ital­ian racism as even more dan­ger­ous, because – as a ven­dor from Bolog­na put it – they are not imme­di­ate­ly “rec­og­niz­able” as migrants. 

  39. Michael Hardt and Anto­nio Negri, Empire (Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2000). 

  40. It should be noticed that the acronym PIGS also appears as PIIGS or PI(I)GS, refer­ring, in some cas­es at least, even to Ire­land. Ire­land, while not part of Mediter­ranean area, brings with it the weight of a long process of racial­iza­tion (and even hier­ar­chi­cal dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion on the ground of reli­gion in its rela­tion­ship with UK), root­ed in the already men­tioned need to empha­size the pri­ma­cy of Protes­tant Great Britain at the dawn of cap­i­tal­ism. For an use­ful dis­cus­sion of the racial­iza­tion of Ire­land dur­ing the 19th cen­tu­ry, see, among oth­ers, Kev­in B. Ander­son, Marx at the Mar­gins (Lon­don: Uni­ver­si­ty of Chicago Press, 2010). 

  41. Hans-Jur­gen Schlamp, “The Ori­gins of Cri­sis: Cor­rup­tion and Nepo­tism Haunt South­ern Europe” (Der Spiegel Inter­na­tion­al, 30.07.2012). 

  42. Luciano Fer­rari Bravo, “For­ma del­lo sta­to e sot­tosvilup­po”, in Luciano Fer­rari Bravo e Alessan­dro Ser­afini, Sta­to e sot­tosvilup­po. Il caso del Mez­zo­giorno ital­iano, ombre corte, Verona, 2007, p. 29.  

  43. For some account on labor and mode of pro­duc­tion with­in the cri­sis, see Andrea Fuma­gal­li and San­dro Mez­zadra (eds.), Cri­sis in the Glob­al Econ­o­my (Los Ange­les: Semiotext(e), 2010). 

  44. See the 2013 report of the Orga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nom­ic Coop­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment (OECD). 

  45. Dati Svimez 2013 (11/13). 

  46. Fon­dazione ISMU, XVIII Rap­por­to sulle migrazioni 2012, Fran­co Angeli, Milano, 2013. 

  47. Dati Svimez 2013 (11/13). 

  48. For some accounts of the retail logis­tics work­ers strug­gles in Italy, see Anna Cur­cio, “Prac­tic­ing mil­i­tant inquiry: Com­po­si­tion, strike and bet­ting in the logis­tics work­ers strug­gles in Italy,” ephemera, 14 no. 3 (2014), 375-390; Anna Cur­cio, “The Rev­o­lu­tion in Logis­tics,” in New Forms of Work­er Orga­ni­za­tion and Strug­gles, Autonomous Labor Respons­es in Times of Cri­sis, Dar­io Azzellini, Michale G. Kraft (eds.) (Brill, forth­com­ing). 

Author of the article

is a militant scholar in the field of autonomous marxism, and part of the Commonware project.