Iraq: Day X – Italy, two

After the signing up of Italy by Bush onto the list of nations supporting the war, the Italian parliament yesterday officially conceded to the USA the use of bases and air space. Nevertheless demonstrations against this have gone ahead, even at the time the agreement was being discussed. The parliamentary vote saw defections from the majority and an opposition resolution was presented by the Olive Tree coalition and the Rc together.

Day X. Italy.

Italy at war

From the morning, news of the attack carried out provoked a wave of demonstrations, blockades and strikes. At the moment, given the brief space of time that has elapsed and that many protests are still taking place, it is difficult to give a complete picture.

The trade union federations together called and carried out a general strike of two hours. In some places, this was extended to four or more hours and also to demonstrations of all kinds in the whole of Italy. It was generally carried out in the last two hours of work. The unions of the base – Cobas, rdb, usi, slaicobas, sincobas – called a general strike of 8 hours (even if, at least in the Florence area, this was sometimes reduced to just the two hours declared by the union federations).

Blockades of roadways and railways have been carried out in various places (for example in Siena). Many student groups have called and carried out strikes, demonstrations and occupations.

In Florence, demonstrations started taking place from the morning. The main one took place at 16.30 with a march from the Rai TV station to S.Croce Square. The demonstrators at the beginning were not very numerous but they were continually joined by other contingents all along its route while a large number waited at the end of the route in S.Croce Square where there was a succession of various speakers.

A national demonstration in Rome has been called for Saturday by Cobas and supported by other organisations. But other initiatives will undoubtedtly be already under way before tomorrow, not counting the protests already happening. Also in Florence a demonstration is being planned for Saturday.

It is worth mentioning briefly the actions that have immediately preceded today’s events. From 21 February semi-spontaneous rail blockades considerably held up the transfer of military material for the present war from an American base near Vicenza to the American base of Camp Darby, near to Pisa. These actions have been supported by Orsa – the union of the base for railway-workers who have been at the same time involved in a struggle over their labour contract. And up to a certain point by the Cgil itself, under pressure of its own members.

These actions culminated in the day of national mobilisation on 26 February, with a demonstration of around 15,000 people in Pisa followed by the demonstration of 8 March in front of Camp Darby which saw, as well as more than ten thousand demonstrators, also actions of civil disobedience (the cutting at certain points the perimeter fence of the camp and the symbolic invasion by some protesters of a short stretch of the base). Other rail blockades have been carried out in the South against Italian army convoys

In the end, only a night raid, on the edge of legality (given the regulations of the docks) allowed the loading (at Livorno) of the material carried on the above-mentioned trains, in spite of the open opposition of the dock workers who did not agree to the use, for loading, of military personnel. The Cgil was forced by its members to support the dockers. The operation was carried out under the protection of powerful contingents of police who had no hesitaion in using force against the protesters.

It is also necessary to mention the historic demonstration of last Saturday in Milan, called by the Cgil, which saw well over the expected 500,000 demonstrators.

The present protests in Italy are certainly of a size unique in history. Striking coherently against the war means fighting against the present capitalist system.

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March 2003