Viral diary / 2. Bologna gropes in the dark of ordinances (26-28 February 2020), Wu Ming

Posted on Wu Ming

Bologna, the station at the end of the twilight, seen from the Matteotti bridge, 27 February 2020. Photo by WM1.

by Wu Ming
First episode , 23-25 ​​February 2020 – Third episode  (1-10 March 2020)]

Among the felsinei idioms , our favorite had always been: ” As vadd di can caghèr di viulén “.

In their Bolognese Dictionary , Gigi Lepri and Daniele Vitali rendered it with: “Unheard of things happen”. Literally, however, you could see “dogs shitting violins”. And in those days of viruses shit lutes, cellos, double basses, ready to play shrill melodies.

After the first episode of our viral diary , we had received dozens of stories, testimonies, anecdotes about the breakdown that Bunazén’s ordinance was causing in the world of work.

The week before there had been a building strike, with a demonstration in Milan. On February 25, a construction company from Romagna, seeing that its workers had participated in the procession, had warned them with an sms that they were all in quarantine for fourteen days, and they had to swab otherwise he would put them in layoffs.

In companies in some provinces, Confindustria wanted to require employees to fill in invasive questionnaires, to ascertain if they had come into contact with “someone who has been in China / Italian areas affected and had symptoms such as cough and / or fever” or if they had had increases of temperature “over 37.2 °”. In some call centers, fever for incoming employees was measured.

In short, the boss took the opportunity to increase corporate control over the workers. CGIL had to specify:

“It is not mandatory to fill in any questionnaires proposed by the company or other entities other than those in charge (Ausl Public Hygiene Department);
the self-certification that some companies are requesting is illegitimate as well as being a false protection for workers […] We must avoid that companies, outside the procedures defined by the competent Authorities, unilaterally take initiatives that can create alarm and panic and harm the workers ‘and workers’ rights. “

Some companies used coronavirus to impose forced holidays on employees, so that they could dispose of them all – in February! – and have them available for the rest of the year.

Vodafone had called for the national closure “with the exclusion of sales activities, sales support […] principals of the Customer Care, Security Operations Center and Network Operations”, obliging workers from other company departments – even those from areas not affected by the emergency – to use their holidays. Attempt blocked by the CGIL of Bologna.

A temporary worker had been removed from the workplace only because her husband worked in a company in the Modena area where the boss had tested positive for the virus.
– Only after the union intervention did they pull their asses back!
There were stories of such stories.

All this while the Guarantor for strikes addressed a ” firm invitation ” to the unions to avoid collective abstention from work until March 31st.

So, no strikes for more than a month, just as workers suffered one of the worst attacks in decades.

In theory, the union assemblies could not be convened, but the CGIL had made them anyway, threatening a complaint pursuant to article 28 if the bosses had tried to prevent them.

Any dispute was however blocked, as workers and trade unionists had to deal with the emergency. Also because the INPS of Emilia-Romagna had decided to close, while all the related activities – Caf and patronage – managed by the unions remained open to the public and absorbed all the extra work.

The emergency that had to be tackled was not that of the virus, but that generated by ordinances and implementing circulars, which were now making an epidemic on their own. Disconnected from one another, from region to region, and implemented to varying degrees from municipality to municipality, with application directives that followed each other after 24 hours, to mend the holes that the previous directives had produced.


In Bologna there were peaks of ridicule. “Bologna doesn’t stop,” said Mayor Merola as they closed museums, cinemas and theaters, skipped festivals and fairs …
Libraries remained open. It was in libraries that we wrote the viral diary .
In the larger one, Sala Borsa, frequented by thousands of users a day, the administration dispensed municipal employees from contacts with the public. However, this precaution did not apply to the auxiliary workers of the contractor coop, who evidently could have been exposed to the virus, provided they kept the hut ahead. [On this cf. the clarification in the comments , Editor’s note]

The application circular of the region did not provide for the closure of the sports centers, but the mayor of a municipality in the belt had decided to close them all the same. So the So.Ge.Se employees of the swimming pools of that municipality remained at home, while those of the swimming pools of other municipalities continued to work. Those people had to spend days of … what? Disease? Holidays? Redundancy fund?

With schools closed, teachers still received wages, but cleaning and canteens were largely outsourced, and those workers were without pay. Ditto the workers of the private social sector, often employed in teaching support. For them the unions had asked for the wage integration fund, the old “layoff”. A subsidy known for its chronic delays and in any case reduced by 20/30% compared to the salary. In reality, the services performed by those workers were already paid, already in the budget, because the cooperatives that supplied them had won public tenders. It wouldn’t take who knows what organization to get that money straight into the workers’ pockets. Where instead there was not a baiocco who fooled with the other.

Workers in social cooperatives or home service platforms – such as accompanying the disabled and sick, training and updating in the workplace, etc. – every appointment was canceled and consequently the earnings of whole weeks.

The whole entertainment sector had been thrown into an unprecedented crisis. The companies involved could not bear the costs of closing, so they ended up asking workers to give up their wages, or their jobs. The risk of the definitive closure of small theaters and cinemas was very high.

Not only that: all workplaces with a high concentration of staff or public were at risk. Each company blocked by the ordinance found itself facing the problem without having received the slightest indication of how to behave.

The cancellations in the hotel and tourism sector came in flurry, in the newspapers there was talk of a drop of 40% nationally. All the Bologna fairs had been postponed until May. Even supplies were starting to run low and many companies had to lay off employees because they were unable to continue production.

The unions managed the emergency on a case-by-case basis, company by company, trying not to lose wages and asking the administrations and the government to activate extraordinary social safety nets, which instead baccaglia of “red areas” to be isolated. The insipidity of a ruling class selected for the worse by years of populist and technocratic rhetoric was in all its evidence.

The overlapping of administrative and governmental powers also did damage, showing that the areas were unclear to anyone.

A worker from Modena, suffering from pneumonia and coronavirus positive, had been invited by the doctors not to go to the hospital, not to risk infecting other patients, and to be assisted at home; but the prefect had intervened to impose hospitalization, despite the precedent of the “bomb” hospital in Codogno.

The governor of the Marche, although not even infected in his region ( “but we have had cases on the border, in Cattolica” ), had decreed the closure of the schools. The central government had challenged the measure , so peregrine as to illuminate the peregrinity of others. “No to autonomous initiatives by the governors,” thundered Prime Minister Conte . The TAR had proven him right .

Conte himself now spoke expressly of “risk of recession” and asked to lower his tone.

Oh yes, the tones …

Within hours, the mainstream media had changed lines. The same newspapers that until the day before had full-page headlines that “half Italy” (sic) was in quarantine, the next day published reassuring articles, which reduced the emergency. After cheering on paranoia for a week, they came out with elaborate analysis of the country “in a nervous breakdown”. Pfui, what povevacci, what cveduloni …

But after hectoliters of gasoline on the fire, putting out the fire wouldn’t have been easy.

Especially because now the administrators – who had let themselves be influenced by those media, reacting in the most irrational ways possible – found themselves in a spiral paradox, a trap with no way out: they did not know how to take back the “decisionism” and celodurism of a few days before .

Did revoking unnecessary directives while the virus was still around be tantamount to admitting that you had done everything wrong, or at least exaggerated?

The other option was to pretend to be undeterred, to maintain the directives in the name of their presumed effectiveness, at least for another week, then it would be seen.

This, however, would have made the socio-economic situation increasingly unmanageable. How many weeks of school or university classes or exams would the students miss? How many days would precarious, self-employed workers and those not covered by shock absorbers lose? How many days of sickness or accumulated vacation would have been burned? How much money would have gone into unnecessary blocks and militarization?

And above all, those measures had been taken pending … for what?
Of a vaccine?
Of the good season?
What did Madòna do to vgnéss ?

A sensational example was the curfew imposed on Milan’s bars and clubs. What was the meaning of the withdrawal of that provision, only four days after its entry into force? Two o’clock: either the measure had been bullshit from the beginning, or it had been a good idea but it was revoked due to pressure from Confcommercio and the dané ( it went of the “Milan model”! ), Sacrificing to economy the health of weaker citizens.

In both cases, the mayor Sala did not make a good impression, as did Cirio , the governor of Piedmont, who wanted to “return to normal” and tried to justify this desire with various superbrushes, having no medical data that justified it, but only for economic reasons.

As always, the toughest face, of those ch’as i amacarév i nûṡ (that would wallow the walnuts), had the Venetian Zaia : while his Marche counterpart, very sbertucciatissimo, closed the schools, he handsome handsome reopened them declaring : «The situation is under control» .


At least elsewhere one backed down, or tried to do it, albeit clumsily or paraculally, at least on some of the measures. In Emilia-Romagna no, brisa , no hint of self-criticism, administrators aligned, covered and even annoyed by “arguing”. Bonaccini had even stated that the closure of the schools had been “requested by over 90% of the parents” (!), A beautiful round and smooth figure, ready-to-wear .

Less than a month after the «extravictory» (sic) to the regional ones, at the first significant test of the alleged «new course» the golden régaz Bonaccini and the PD from Emilia showed a bewildered amateurism, and the workers of the cultural sector were alienating themselves and shows, people who had their noses massed to defeat the League.

But nothing, our administrators went straight like trains and you would never have heard them say “I was wrong”.
– Bonaccini seems the one who thinks he can piss in bed and say: « And alåura? Ai ò sudé! »

Aside from tightening the ganassa, however, they didn’t know what else to do. They had one foot soaking and the other in the water. They could not even blame the ministry of health, because it was the ministry of a friendly government, and above all because the most absurd absurdities present in the ordinances were local sack flour.

This had happened everywhere: the regions had given the worst. The regionalization of healthcare had proven to be an obstacle in managing the crisis, fueling a chaos repeatedly criticized by the heads of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità and even pushing Conte to threaten Lombardy to take away its prerogatives. There was no consensus even on the true number of people infected: according to the ISS, the regions communicated uncontrolled numbers.

The emergency – national and planetary – was breaking down important sectors of the economy, while others aimed to seize opportunities, to exploit it for their own benefit.

The measures taken were contrary to the interests of a part of the bourgeoisie, who in fact was pulling the ears of politicians, claiming the opposite. Not for this they would have damaged capitalism as a system, because at a higher level it would have integrated and used that precedent, making profits from it. In all probability, he was already doing it. But if you said that the emergency was not all dysfunctional to capital, in fact, in some ways it was very functional, they gave you a “dietrologist” or a “conspiracy theorist”.


In reality there was nothing new or abstruse, much less it was a “conspiracy”: it was only the classic contradiction, to put it with the Marx of the Grundrisse , “between [the] general social power to which capital and private capitalist power over the social conditions of production. ” A crisis, a catastrophe or a ruinous series of bullshit could damage the private power of one or more capitalists – that is, to ruin companies or certain sectors of the economy, to cause tumbling on the stock exchange, etc. – and at the same time strengthen capital as a general social power , as a system as a whole.

Non sarebbero stati gli errori del ceto politico, non sarebbe stata la «recessione da coronavirus» a fermare il capitalismo. Il capitalismo usava la distruzione – «creatrice», diceva quel tale – di alcuni suoi settori e si ristrutturava per raggiungere un livello superiore. Non si fermava nemmeno davanti al baratro ecologico e climatico, anzi, cercava modi di mercificare il baratro. Trovava limiti solo nei conflitti sociali che si opponevano all’estrazione di valore, cioè nelle lotte contro lo sfruttamento. Nessuna crisi lo aveva mai fermato, perché non poteva fermarsi da sé. Come ogni modo di produzione precedente, sarebbe finito solo quando una rivoluzione ne avesse imposto un altro già maturo.

Erano tanti i modi in cui il capitale come potenza generale sociale poteva trarre profitto dall’emergenza.

For example, thanks to big data . Extracting value from people’s behavior, from their surveillance, from tracking every action taken online – and now, with the ” Internet of things ” and smart homes , “online” meant a lot of things – was the most profitable business of that historical phase. The big data produced to gigabite fantastiliardi in those weeks of emergency and fear would have been precious material, indeed, they were already precious material to be sold on the market, and to be used to propel micro-personalized advertising, sell safety, sharpen algorithms to produce new apps more and more pervasive and addictive , better disciplining and monitoring etc.

In addition, yet another precedent had been established, useful for perfecting the capitalist command over the territories. The government decree-law provided for lockdowns of large territorial dimensions even in the presence of a single positive buffer that cannot be connected to known outbreaks.

Illustration out of text.

That such a formulation was there out of Orwellian control or simply because the decree was written in haste, like its implementing provisions , without anyone pondering the consequences, it mattered little. The consequences did count, not the intentions. It was the umpteenth “security decree” that would remain in our system, resting on those already in place and made of pure propaganda.

It was probable that when the Covid19 – which had become a seasonal illness, as several experts predicted – had returned, the reactions would not have been as disproportionate as the first time, but in the meantime the possibility had been introduced of transforming large portions of territory into red areas. Italian, within which elementary rights could be suspended, in fact due to the presence of only one patient.

Controversial procedure, that of the lckdown , even under the strictly health aspect. In one of the scientific texts we had read we studied the effect of a quarantine on two contiguous territories, one with better medical services and therefore at a lower risk of an epidemic (let’s call it “rich”) and one with worse medical services and therefore at greater risk of an epidemic (let’s call it “poor”).

In the case of outbreaks in the poor territory, by closing the latter, the infections in the rich territory decreased, but increased and worsened in the quarantine area, and to such an extent that the whole situation worsened: “the lower the relative mobility of people of the high-risk community, the larger the overall size of the epidemic. “

On the contrary, the paper continued,

“If the low-risk community has a strong enough response to infections, then not restricting travel between the two communities can reduce or even break the chains of transmission in the high-risk community. By exporting secondary cases of infection to the low-risk community, the overall production of secondary cases can be reduced. “

It was not necessary to think of Africa to imagine a situation similar to that studied in that text. In Italy there were many areas that were poor in health, bordering on other much better crops.

Idea: write a story about a lockdown somewhere along the Apennine ridge, or in an alpine valley, or in the area of ​​the Po Delta, where you could happen to live eighty kilometers from the first hospital and in the absence of territorial health facilities.

C’era continuità tra i «decreti sicurezza» degli ultimi anni – «Minniti-Orlando», «Salvini» e «Salvini bis», che il governo Pd-M5S si guardava bene dell’abrogare – e quello sull’emergenza coronavirus, perché c’era una continuità tra retoriche. La fobia del contagio si era incanalata nel solco già tracciato dalle pseudo-emergenze legate all’immigrazione, e dalle campagne securitarie e sul «decoro». Ancora una volta il libro di Wolf si dimostrava prezioso.

Al virus si era data una risposta in chiave di militarizzazione del territorio, la stessa che si era sempre data a povertà, esclusione, disuguaglianze. Si era ricorso alla logica della «zona rossa», ma spingendola ben oltre i confini della zona da circoscrivere per contenere il focolaio. Si era data la caccia a presunti «untori» – il «Paziente Zero», sfuggente come Igor il Russo!  – alzando di diverse tacche il livello di paranoia.

Foto e racconti sui giornali descrivevano città vuote, piazze deserte. Spesso si trattava di luoghi scelti ad hoc: non i quartieri dove la gente viveva davvero, ma le strade del turismo e dello shopping. Zone in realtà già morte, al cui cadavere l’emergenza Covid veniva soltanto a togliere un dito di belletto. E lo stesso poteva dirsi per l’agorafobia da coronavirus, che ci pareva strettamente collegata all’ideologia del decoro. Laddove già si era diffusa una certa paura per i luoghi pubblici, magari velata di nostalgia, perché considerati «non più sicuri come un tempo», proprio là colpiva più duro il vuoto. Ma come per il razzismo contro i cinesi, non era il virus a indurre nuovi atteggiamenti: l’emergenza portava a galla verità nascoste dal tran tran quotidiano o rivestite da strati di retorica. Come scrivevamo ai tempi del terremoto in Emilia: a uccidere non è il sisma, ma la realtà su cui il sisma getta luce.

The emergency was like a switch, which suddenly increases the intensity of the light and makes visible contours and gestures that otherwise would have remained in the shadows. Quarantine, red areas, impassable borders, checkpoints, restrictions on mobility, closures: the terms and issues were identical to those of another “emergency”, the one that concerned refugees, migrants, asylum seekers . In one case as in the other, the borders were the answer to a panic attack, due to being lost, in the midst of an unknown crowd, bombarded with insecurity, disoriented by space. The boundaries were the walls to which those who find themselves surrounded by their fellow humans cling and are afraid of it: because they are foreigners or because they are infected. Because they are others.


It was clear from certain reactions, such as that of the governor of Friuli-Venezia Fedriga , who had immediately combined the two emergencies, asking for anti-Covid19 quarantine for migrants arriving from Slovenia . Except then find themselves with Slovenia that wanted to close the borders, of course, but not to let the Italians enter. And the same, around the world, from Mauritius to the Caribbean to Brenner, for trains, planes and ships with Italians on board.

Wastes that made the indignation mount for the defeat immediately: a bloody wound, especially for those sovereigns who usually invoked closed ports and slammed the borders in the face of those who fled the war.

From farce, the “containment” had become dismal carnival in that of Taranto, where ArcelorMittal, the steel giant owned by Ilva, had prepared nothing less than a task force to ” better protect the staff considering the evolution of the new Coronavirus 2019-nCoV » , And disposed:« employees who come into contact with external personnel (carriers, suppliers, vigilantes) are required to wear a special mask with filter » .

It was the same company that every day poured into the air – and on the homes of those same employees – hydrogen sulphide and sulfur dioxide beyond the threshold values . So much to receive an ultimatum from the mayor .

A mocking smoke skull rises from the Ilva / AlcelorMittal. Photo by Maria Rosaria Suma .

It had come to that point, to that hypocrisy, because the containment had become a show, a diversion.

Rational containment measures could not fail to adequately inform citizens, especially those most at risk, to avoid certain behaviors and circumstances. It was clear – or should have been – that this could not be achieved with terror, or with the energumenics in camouflage. Only the correct information, combined with the capillarity of the assistance and elementary prophylaxis measures in the daily routine of all and all of us could have prevented the dangerous conduct.

Instead, the opposite had been done: massive, pounding, contradictory disinformation had been spilled on the weaker subjects, and they had been pushed to keep the most risky behaviors. Crowding supermarkets in search of amuchina, for example. Instead of intervening on the needs of the most vulnerable – mainly the elderly and immunosuppressed – and strengthening the hospital structures that could accommodate them, it was decided to promulgate absurd and inconsistent ordinances, which probably had protected very little, but in return they had sent half the world of the world in tilt work.

From the Matteotti bridge we watched the sunset descend on Bulåggna and, all around, on Emilia-Romagna, on the Po valley, on Italy.

The media had described scenes from Romero’s films, such as The City Will Be Destroyed at Dawn (1973). Instead, we thought of a twilight western scenario.

The feeling was that the country was at the mercy of anyone and anything. A wild frontier where many aspiring sheriffs swelled their muscles and raised their voices, mimicking a decisionism as harmful in the ways and in the implications as it is jokes and clowns.

Covid 19 wouldn’t have wiped us out.

The problem was all the rest.

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