The Left and the Pandemic: Luciana Castellina

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A recording from the 9th of April 2020, from the series “The Left Reflects on the Global Pandemic” by transform! Europe

To date, the deaths of over 35,000 people in Italy have been attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the third edition of our series on the Left and the Pandemic, Luciana Castellina points out, that Italy’s high number of coronavirus cases and its high fatality rate were a problem occurring mainly in the wealthiest part of the country.

The regions most affected, were those in the north: Lombardia, Piemonte and the Emilia Romagnia. And this, despite the fact, that the health system in the north was still functioning quite efficiently, despite the cuts in funding and staff over the last decades. Instead, she attributes the impact of the virus to the structure of the economy in these regions. They are characterized by thousands of small enterprises, officials who travel continuously throughout the world, and very high levels of pollution, brought on by a combination of industrialization and topography of the region. The Italian government fortunately took preventive measures rather quickly. This included a lock-down, as fought for by trade-unions, who had gone on strike demanding improved health protection at work.

Castellina goes on to criticize the position of Giorgio Agamben, who claims that the measures taken lead to a state of exemption. She believes that his views are typical of a Western obsession for individual liberty and the loss of any sense of belonging to a community. She contrasts this with China, where she believes such a sense of community remains, and where she describes citizens easily accepting the seclusion imposed on them by the government.

Amidst the tragedy of the pandemic, Castellina retains her optimism. She sees the possibility that the left and social movements can take advantage of what she considers to be the “positive” effects, at least in Italy. On the one hand, she sees a return of solidarity, which goes together with a feeling of belonging to a collective entity. On the other, she is optimistic about an increased awareness for the importance of ecology and the protection of nature.

Feeling frustrated by the fact that some EU member states failed to act in solidarity with the countries hit most heavily by the coronavirus, she appeals for the building of a European subject. According to her, this must be achieved through European movements, mobilization, strikes, and the media.

Luciana Castellina is the co-founder of the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto, as well as the Partito di Unità Proletaria, a former Member of the European Parliament, where she was president of its Culture, Education and Foreign Economic Relations committees. Moreover, she been Deputy to the Italian Chamber of Deputies, the former president of Italy’s academy of motion pictures, author of numerous books and one of the leading figures of Italy’s left since 1970s.

The Interview was conducted by Haris Golemis, who is a Scientific and Strategic Advisor of transform! Europe and the Chief Editor of transform’s Yearbook. The discussion was moderated once again, by Angelina Giannopoulou, who is a Political scientist and facilitator of Transform! Europe in the programme “Strategic Perspectives of the Radical Left and European Integration”.

The Mosaik-Blog is delighted to collaborate on this podcast with transform! Europe, a network of 34 European organizations in 22 countries, active in the fields of political education and critical scientific analysis. The transform! network is the recognized political foundation of the Party of the European Left.

After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the series “The Left Reflects on the Global Pandemic” was launched, in which various befriended intellectuals were asked to share their reflections, assessments and proposals regarding the crisis. Over the following weeks, all editions of this series will continue to appear here on Mosaik-Podcast.

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