Violence of a few used to try and curb growing opposition
On October 15 we saw in Rome one of the largest demonstrations in recent years. Estimates of the participants are still very different, however, it would seem that the event brought together between 300,000 and 500,000 people.
A widespread though amorphous anti-capitalist mood dominated the massive demonstration. The protest was against the European Central Bank (ECB), the austerity measures, the payment of the debt and the dictatorship of the banks. This mood was expressed by the very widespread idea of returning Draghi and Trichet’s ’letter to Italy’ to the sender. This was the very same day that Draghi – the man of Goldman Sachs in Italy, president of the Italian Central Bank and future president of the ECB – declared that he sympathised with the motives of the demonstrators!
As ControCorrente, we intervened in the event and marched with the contingent initiated by Giorgio Cremaschi, president of the FIOM metalworkers’ union, under the slogans, "We must stop them! We will not pay your debt!". On the demonstration were very large numbers of young people along with trade unionists and left political forces.
The front page headlines of our paper, Resistenze, were: "Enraged, but against whom and for what?”, “The problem is not only Berlusconi” and “In Italy we need a REVOLUTION". This, as demonstrated by the excellent sales of the paper, clearly expressed the feelings of many of the workers and young people present who were searching not only for words but for a political strategy to overcome the crisis.
As was predictable, the media are now deliberately obfuscating the meaning and scope of the demonstration by focusing on the acts of violence of a minority. They do this to try to discredit this great protest in the eyes of ordinary people and to discourage future protests. They shamefully try to reduce a very important day of struggle to the actions of a few hooded youngsters with no prospects. They do this rather than talking about the character of the event – the anger of ordinary people against the system, against banks, against the debt – and they ‘forget’ to mention that many of those who were intent on violence were turned away in the demonstration by the delegations of workers and unions, including the FIOM.
We understand that young people are enraged and some will be attracted to violent, direct action, especially when they see no force representing them politically. But breaking the windows of banks or setting fire to cars are not actions that will take the struggle forward. On the contrary they can alienate ordinary people as well as serving as a pretext for repression. On the Rome demonstration, peaceful protesters were placed in danger, with one losing three fingers trying to remove a Molotov cocktail from the march. Groups like the Black Block, often infiltrated by ’agents provocateurs’, feed on the anger of youth, creating tension and giving the government an excuse to introduce more draconian repressive measures.
Following the demonstration, the police have carried out indiscriminate searches of the homes of activists and social centres, attempting to find a scapegoat for what happened on the demonstration. The mayor of Rome has banned all demonstrations in the centre of the capital. This could restrict the right of FIOM to protest on 21 October, when it has called for an 8-hour strike of the FIAT car plants and the Fincantieri shipbuilders and a mass demonstration in central Rome.
The violence of last Saturday has been used by the authorities to try and deter activists from travelling to Val di Susa next Sunday for a day of solidarity with the ’No TAV’ movement. It has also been used by the French president, Sarkozy, to ’forbid’ Italians from crossing the border into France to join the protests against the Cannes G20 summit at the beginning of November.
We totally oppose these anti-democratic and repressive measures. We are also totally against other proposals being raised, such as resurrecting the defunct ’Reale’ law, passed in 1975, which allows police to carry out preventative arrests and use live ammunition to maintain ‘law and order’ and to keep people in detention without charge for up to four days. Scandalously, this was initially proposed not by the right wing Lega Nord but by Antonio Di Pietro, leader of the ’Italy of Values’ party – a party which is likely to be in coalition at the next election with the ‘left’ parties – of Nichi Vendola and the PRC (Party of Communist Refoundation).
There are many lessons to be learned. The protest of last Saturday was virtually a spontaneous demonstration with the potential turnout growing exponentially in the weeks leading up to the 15th. This is a sign that opposition to the Berlusconi government and the bosses’ and bankers’ system is mounting.
Future mass protests and demonstrations must be adequately organised, stewarded and defended against infiltrators, provocateurs and those whose actions seek to damage the movement. This stewarding needs to be organised by the protesters themselves, involving in particular the organised workers’ movement.
We cannot put any faith in the state forces which indiscriminately launch brutal attacks against protesters and increase tension. The memories have still not been erased of the killing of Carlo Giuliani, the brutal attacks on demonstrators and the potential massacre at the Diaz School by the notorious Carabinieri police during the anti-G8 protests in Genoa 10 years ago.
For the movement to grow and go forward, it must be able to link the legitimate and widespread anger against the current state of affairs with an anti-capitalist programme and the construction of an organised, political force that can challenge the capitalist system itself.