Genoa bridge collapse: where the search for profit leads

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
August 20, 2018

The collapse of a key bridge in Genoa, Italy, killed dozens of people and forced hundreds more to leave their homes at a moment’s notice. This was a catastrophe waiting to happen. Several reports had pointed out the weaknesses of the bridge. One of them even concluded that a new bridge should be built. But the private company which owns the toll bridge-and-highway in question—and is as such in charge of its maintenance—had other priorities.

This is a company that was privatized in the 1990s and is now controlled by a financial group belonging to the Benetton family. Over the last few years, they have spent hundreds of millions of euros buying up highway and airport operators in Europe and the rest of the world. The leaders of this multinational were of course more concerned about guaranteeing the profits expected by a handful of stockholders than they were about the security of millions of travelers crossing the bridge!

Public officials did nothing to compel this private company to meet their obligations. In fact, for years, each successive Italian government has cut the budget devoted to the maintenance of the country’s roads and bridges.

The Genoa catastrophe is another example of the dramatic consequences of the parasitic nature of big capitalist conglomerates. The state cuts the budgets that go to useful services and infrastructures and uses public money to pay outrageous interest rates to the financial sector. This is the case not only in Italy but also in other developed countries in Europe and in the United States.

In France, according to a report that came out a month ago, one third of the 12,000 bridges of the state-run road network need repair and over 800 are likely to collapse. Just as in Italy, the state financed the construction of toll highways and then sold them to capitalist groups like Vinci or Bouygues who make huge profits by permanently increasing their toll rates.

The road system is not the only target of state cuts. In France and in other rich countries, all public services are hit by the state’s decisions. Money is taken away from the health system, from education, transport or housing. The more profitable state-run activities are privatized. This is how the financial sharks lay their hands on the huge sums that should go towards improving the hospital system or home constructions.

Today, people have to wait on stretchers in emergency room corridors because there are no beds. Hospitals and schools are undermanned and lack premises and material. Millions of people are in sub-standard housing. This is the result of the policies carried out yesterday by Sarkozy and Hollande--and today by Macron--to satisfy the demands of the bourgeoisie.

The economy is dominated by a small number of capital-owners who are only interested in making as much money as they can as fast as they can. The crisis of their system means that they will readily speculate on stocks, currencies or wheat to achieve their goal. They end up buying out other companies, firing people and aggravating exploitation. This tiny minority of super rich happy few--the Benettons in Italy or the Arnaults, Mulliez and Bouygues in France--are richer than ever at the expense of the rest of society.

The crisis of capitalism is destroying society. Unemployment and poverty are on the rise and public services are crumbling, all for the sake of profit. In poor countries, underdevelopment is aggravated by genuine wars fueled by the competition between industrial and financial groups.

Another future is possible if the millions upon millions of working people give themselves the means to overthrow capitalism through their struggles and organization, and start running the economy in the interest of all. The future of working people and society as a whole depends on this.