Giorgio Agamben: Intervention before the Senate (October 7, 2021)

[On October 7, 2021, Agamben addressed the Italian Senate’s Constitutional Affairs Commission regarding Senate Act 2394, on the conversion into law of Decree-Law 127. (Original edited transcript at Quodlibet. Video here.) On November 19, Decree-Law 127 was converted into Law 165.]

I will dwell on just two points that I would like the members of parliament who have to vote on the conversion of the decree into law to pay attention to. The first is the obvious—I emphasize obvious—contradiction of the decree in question. You know that the government—with a proper decree-law, n. 44 of 2021, known as “Penal Defense,” now converted into law—has exempted itself from all responsibility for harms caused by the vaccines.
The fact that article 3 of the decree explicitly mentions articles 589 and 590 of the penal code, which refer to manslaughter and battery, reveals how serious these harms may be.
As authoritative jurists have noted, the State doesn’t feel like assuming the responsibility for a vaccine that hasn’t finished the testing phase, and still, at the same time, it tries every means to force citizens to get vaccinated, otherwise excluding them from social life and now—with the new decree on which you are called to vote—depriving them of the possibility of working.
Is it possible to imagine a situation legally and morally more abnormal? How can the State accuse of irresponsibility those who choose not to get vaccinated, when it’s the same State that first formally declines all responsibility in regard to serious consequences—remember the mention of articles 589 and 590 of the vaccine’s penal code? I would like the members of parliament to reflect on this contradiction, which constitutes—in my opinion—a true and actual legal monstrosity.

The second point to which I would like to draw your attention doesn’t concern the medical problem of the vaccine, but the political problem of the Green Pass, which should not be confused with each other (we have in the past made vaccines of all kinds without being obligated to show a certificate for our every movement). It’s been said by scientists and doctors that the Green Pass in itself has no medical significance, but has the function of obligating people to get vaccinated. I believe instead that what can and must be affirmed also is the opposite: that the vaccine is in reality a means to force people to have a Green Pass, that it is an apparatus that allows people’s movements to be controlled and tracked to an unprecedented degree.
Political scientists have long known that our society has passed from a model that used to be called “disciplinary society” to a “society of control,” a society founded on a virtually unlimited digital control of individual behaviors that thus become quantifiable in an algorithm. We are now becoming habituated to these apparatuses of control—but to what point are we willing to allow this control to push us?
Is it possible that citizens of a society that pretends to be democratic are in a worse situation than that of the citizens of Stalin’s Soviet Union? You know that Soviet citizens had to show a “registration card” in order to move from one country to another, but we must do it also to go to the movies or a restaurant—and now, a thing far more serious, in order to enter the workplace. And how is it possible to accept that, for the first time in the history of Italy since the Fascist law of 1938 regarding non-Aryan citizens, second-class citizens have been created, who endure restrictions that from a strictly legal point of view—I emphasize legal—have nothing to envy in the restrictions anticipated in those inauspicious laws?

It all makes one think that the decree-laws that follow one after the other, as if issued by a single person, should be situated in a process of transformation of institutions and paradigms of government, all the more insidious in that, as happened in Fascism, it is accomplished without altering the text of the constitution. The coming model thus progressively eroded and erased is that of democratic parliaments, with their rights and their constitutional guarantees, and in their place comes a paradigm of government in which, in the name of biosecurity and control, individual liberties are destined to undergo increasing limits.
Exclusive focus of attention on contagion and on health in effect prevents us from seeing the Great Transformation being accomplished in the political sphere and from understanding that, as the same governments never tire of reminding us, security and emergency aren’t temporary phenomena, but constitute the new form of governing.
From this perspective, it’s more urgent than ever that members of parliament consider with extreme attention the transformation underway, which in the long run is destined to empty the parliament of its power, reducing it, as is now happening, to passing—in the name of biosecurity—decrees that emanate from organizations and people that have little to do with parliament.