Travel Diary

Back in the early April 2020, we announced news about the creation of a Solidarity and Mutual Aid project named “Colonna Solidale Autogestita”, which was founded as a response to the Covid19 outbreak and to its sanitarian and social effects.

As a consequence of that global event, we experienced an increasing social uncertainty. Furthermore, the Government broadened the difference between fully integrated members of society and marginalised groups by displaying military forces in the streets and declaring a nation-wide lockdown.

In those circumstances, vulnerable working activities were not protected and they did not receive any support, as it happened also to legally unrecognised units which were not eligible for public subsidies.

Therefore the badly organized closure of work places has been added up to decades of budget cuts in the Public Health sector, causing tremendous consequences.

“Colonna Solidale Autogestita” means “self-managed Solidarity section” and purposely cites the Durruti Column of the Spanish Revolution.

Overall, Colonna Solidale aims to form a basic solidarity organization to support the most vulnerable people in our communities with a net of local groups spread in different city quarters.

Our most effective activity has been the groceries’ distribution, from the gathering to people’s houses. While the streets were utterly empty and lockdown-related tickets were raining above us all, our network was able to safeguard both volunteers and recipients’ health and also to shield them from those tickets and fines.

Thus immediately copious requests arrived, not only for asking help but also for being actively involved: solidarity was recognised as an important practice to be carried on beyond the emergency.

This way we have met a large amount of people, approximately 40 units from 4 to 20 persons each one, which were families, extended families, strangers flatmates, migrants entered in the immigration system and forgotten during Lockdown, people depending on Social Service and entitled to social benefits. We have met people from all backgrounds (Bolognese, Afghan, Rom, Senegalese, Kosovan, Albanian, Moroccan among others), and covering all the city area from the furthest peripheries to the centre.

For some of them, problems were caused by both material and social disadvantages, and traumas such as fleeing a war zone or psychological/mental health issues were intensified by pandemic-related anxiety.

Families we encountered often have little children or infants and they are affected by severe deprivation, for instance many of them are living under eviction or in transitional shelters without any possibility to build a safer future.

Many have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, many have had huge problems also before, many have lived or live now in informal settlements. They are also victims of the restrictions imposed by Bossi-Fini’s Act, therefore they undergo residency permit issues.

Everyone we got in touch have told us about their enormous difficulties, especially paying househousehold bills and rent, in addition they have complained about Municipality Social Services’s inertia and inefficiency.

Once again, Government’s exit strategy consisted in financing only big corporations and owners: the abundance of public funds has been directed only to benefit corporations and masters, whereas most people have received nothing but the crumbs.

For example for what concerns “Bonus Spesa” (the public economic help for groceries), Bologna’s Municipality have received double the requests they have estimated, and who has come first has taken all, thus fostering competitiveness and a war-between-poor dynamic. After this, those bonuses were exclusively spendable in large-scale retail trade supermarkets, firstly Coop-Alleanza which is politically tied to the city institutions. That was beneficial only for the sector’s big players, despite small-scale producers were starved and farmers markets were closed during lockdown.

Everyone of us has activated their proximity networks in order to find marginal concrete situations of socio-economic discomfort: for instance those who attend self-managed gyms have shared their connections.

Moreover we started the practice of placing some shared boxes with the project explanation in our apartment blocks’ halls, with the intent of gathering products for free and grocery supplies. That has created a virtuous circle which has involved the neighbourhood too.

On the other hand we have noticed that people find it hard to ask for help, maybe because a common sense of guilt and the incapacity to deal with issues that affect them prevail above all.

This feeling is a direct consequence of having interiorised Neoliberal Capitalist principles: if you loose at “rich & poor game” it’s all your fault. On the contrary, we reject both those principles and that Neoliberal system.

We have as well made efforts to exit from commercial circuits, avoiding large-scale retail trade as much as possible and choosing ethic and genuine products from virtuous circuits such as Spaccio Popolare Autogestito (Self-managed Community Outlet). Moreover we prefer to have direct relationships with producers and self-organised farmers markets like “Campi aperti” network.

We give attention also towards producing and sharing ecological and sustainable practices, for instance by searching cheaper and alternative choices for face masks, diapers and female napkins.

Many comrades from different self-organised city associations have put their dedication to Colonna’s activities, and their headquarters turned into places for gathering and distributing free groceries. For example in Bolognina – the biggest and most peripherical neighbourhood of the city – there was an important social self-organised centre called Xm24, which was forcely evicted by Municipality institutions in 2019. A small part of Xm volunteers have since then decided to join Colonna Solidale and they have started a local organisation. For weeks, every Thursday they set an informative stand at “Campi aperti” farmers market which is symbolically located in front of what remains of Xm24.

In addition we have built relationships also with other associations in order to better reach marginalised contexts.

From the beginning til last July we received donations for an amount of 3.300€, as well as food and first aid donations: half of it has been invested in Spaccio Popolare circuit.

A special thanks to Casona di Ponticelli e Balotta Continua for economic support. The direct partnership with two farms and the generous donation from Camilla were also very helpful.

Come Summer, we decided to continue believing in this project and guaranteeing aids during the months of July and August, whereas since September we have restarted the meetings (safely) to organise the following months activities, because they were expected to be extremely “hot”.

First of all we appeal to join grassroots solidarity which move us, and we know that is strong and resistant also in this showcase-city: Colonna Solidale needs active energies, needs donation and needs networking. We look at city struggles and active participation because we believe that solidarity stands on with ethical production, territorial resistance and public social spaces defense. We invite you to take part in our actions to keep in movement solidarity energies in our city.