Migrations and inequalities: the incredible intuition of Enrico Berlinguer


In 1977, a famous speech by Enrico Berlinguer at the Eliseo Theater, at the end of the conference of intellectuals organized by the Italian Communist Party, was greeted with much skepticism. In the following decades it was denigrated and indicated as proof of a backward political culture, unable to interpret the great change underway, a prelude to the splendid Eighties and also to subsequent more radical developments in the economy and society. Berlinguer’s speech was entitled “Austerity: an opportunity to transform Italy”. His detractors derived from it a frugal and pauperist, self-flagellatory conception, a critique of capitalism of ethical, pre-political inspiration, incapable of understanding new needs, the desire for well-being, the positive function of mass consumption, the need to “modernize “Italy. In more recent times, there have also been those who wanted to find in Berlinguer’s words an ante litteram enunciation of the theories of happy degrowth.


Few, however, had grasped the profound foundation of Berlinguer’s analysis: the yearning for better living conditions of multitudes afflicted by misery, endemic diseases, oppression, in the wastelands, in the lost villages, in the nightmare metropolitan suburbs that were then they called the Third World or, in a more polite expression, the developing countries. Hence Berlinguer’s prediction on mass migratory phenomena, which would have increased to enormous dimensions with the liberation accomplished from colonial rule and due to the imbalances between the South and the North of the World. This was the motivation for the proposal, for policies that were then defined as austerity, aimed at promoting a different distribution of wealth and a new way of producing and consuming.


Again, in 1982, Berlinguer paid surprising attention to the theme of the future and invited the young Communists to devote themselves to those reflections with a congress of futurology. Someone thought that the PCI secretary was inspired by Stanisław Lem, author of a book with the same title. It was the year of Blade Runner, at the 22nd National Congress of the Communist Youth Federation. A year later, in an interview dedicated to “1984”, published by l’Unità with the title “Orwell was wrong, the computer opens new frontiers”, Berlinguer regretted that that invitation had not been accepted and clearly explained that it was not a literary or predictive suggestion. Instead, it was an exhortation to study, on a scientific basis, “the new contradictions of our time”, in order to disseminate the results of the most recent studies on the problems of the relationship between resources and population, between development and the environment and so on. It is not long – Berlinguer recalled – that scientists, institutions and even politicians have begun to study these issues typical of our time and which will dominate the coming decades. It only began to be talked about in the early 1970s. He was referring, in particular, to the Meadows Report on the limits of development, commissioned from the Boston MIT by the Club of Rome in 1972. “Before,” Berlinguer continued, “and still throughout the 1960s, the vacuous optimism of incessant progress prevailed. , of the well-being that would gradually spread to the whole population and to all nations.

But in recent years, during which reality has recalled the need for a more lucid vision of the future of the world, a considerable patrimony of studies has already accumulated. However, it is not yet sufficiently known and discussed ». Hence the idea of ​​a congress on various disciplines (physical, chemical, biological, anthropological, demographic, military, economic, social, IT, medical sciences), in order to offer information, evaluations and proposals for knowledge and discussion among young people . Words spoken in a context of public discourse that at the time, and even after, would never have hinted at a sensitivity to a subject so foreign to political strategies and tactics.


Today those reasons are intact, new names have been added for phenomena already in progress, globalization, climate change, and other phenomena with unpredictable traits of speed and diffusion, the technical revolution, the permanent connection at a distance between individuals. The theme remains the same: we now call it sustainable development. But sustainability is entirely internal to the peoples of the advanced industrial countries, a G7 sustainability or at most G20 sustainability, still a short-sighted form of selfishness that considers others, the wretched of the Earth, as a distant nuisance or a nearby threat.


The European recovery programs, intended for the next generations, ignore migration policies, investments in favor of the most derelict countries of Africa, the need to consider those poor not with hypocritical compassion for the dead at sea but in their dignity as persons lives and in vital connection with the Europeans of the new generations.
A few years ago a study showed that as soon as a migrant from Africa sets foot in Italy or in another European country, for this reason alone, a life expectancy is greater than many, many years. The pandemic re-proposes inequalities, the Indian case is eloquent, yet we still and always think, if all goes well, of alms for aid or, in the worst cases, of predatory business. Rereading Berlinguer leads us to understand his thoughts and actions without the prejudice that has distorted his figure in two ways: an icon of a sober and slightly angry politics but with an undisputed ethical superiority or a prophet unarmed with millenarian suggestions clinging to a past condemned by History. In those words, however, he expressed himself quite differently. Not a romantic and antiquated politician, not a regressive moralist, but a leader committed to scrutinizing the new signs of his time and exploring their root causes and future tensions, striving for long-term solutions, with a firm grip on the issue of issues. : the possible ways to bring power from the dominant to the dominated and therefore to give more consistency to democracy.

* Magistrate of the Council of State


Source: L'Espresso – News, inchieste e approfondimenti Espresso by espresso.repubblica.it.

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