Iraq: Day X – When the war starts our world stops (Italy)

With these words workers and young people from all over Italy took to the streets in what is the biggest anti-war movement in history. Almost immediately, after news of the first bombings, action was taken on the streets.

Stop the war in Iraq. Italy.

"When the war starts our world stops"

In Florence, at four o’clock in the morning, only thirty minutes after the first bomb dropped, two hundred students protested outside the American consulate. The Cobas rank and file union held a protest first thing in the morning and by the afternoon 80,000 packed the streets of this small city in a demonstration called by the three major unions, Cgil, Cisl and Uil. (See earlier CWI online report, 22 March).

All over Italy the same thing was happening. Eighty-five major demonstrations were held as well as countless smaller ones.

Spontaneous strikes broke out all over the North of the country until the official Cgil-Cisl-Uil strike of two hours took place between three and five. According to the Italian press, many provinces saw strikes of three and four hours take place.

In Turin, the Fiat workers, currently locked in a life-and-death struggle with their bosses, led a two-hour strike between nine and eleven a.m. which saw all of the major factories in the city take part.

Transport was brought to a standstill the length and breadth of the country. Between twelve and twelve fifteen all trains were stopped by their drivers in a symbolic action against the war. But young people in Florence, Turin, Rome, Milan and Brescia occupied the tracks in the central stations.

In Rome’s main airport, workers walked out in protest at the airport being used for military purposes. Millions of workers took part in some form of action against the war. Gianni Rinaldini, the General Secretary of the metalworkers’ union Fiom, called it "a great popular mobilisation for peace against war and against the servile position of the government of our country".

One of the most impressive actions took place in Genoa where the Mediterranean’s biggest port was struck and the docks were blockaded for twenty-four hours. 40,000 youth and workers packed the city streets in a protest.

Massive protests took place elsewhere throughout the first day of war. The biggest was in Milan where 150,000 heard Coferatti (ex-leader of the Cgil trade union federation) denounce the war as a "grave irresponsibility" which will destabilise the Middle East.

In Rome, 100,000 took the streets in a candlelight procession for peace. In Turin 25,000 protested. In Padova 30,000 came out, in Savona 7,000 and in the industrial heartland of Tuscany, thousands of workers took to the streets. Pistoia alone saw 10,000 demonstrating. In the South, Naples saw 20,000 take to the streets and Palermo and Bari 10,000 each. On the island of Sardinia it is estimated that 30,000 protested in all. In Venice there were some scuffles outside the US British consulate and in Trieste ’disobedients’ tried to occupy the US consulate.

As well as the wonderful actions of the Italian workers, the youth, as always, were on the front line. Most secondary schools in the country struck or held student assemblies where the war was denounced. It is estimated that a quarter of the Rome demonstration was made up of secondary school students. Universities across the country struck and occupied faculties.

Anti-war movement backed by industrial muscle

The opposition to this war has dove-tailed with the workers’ movement who have been in constant struggle with Berlusconi since his return to power. This has given the anti war movement much more muscle as protests are backed up by industrial action.

The protests in the cities had a very working class character with workers marching out from the factories. The movement too is backed up by the growing ’no global’ anti-capitalist movement. All the Italian trade unions are united in opposition to the war and even the fractious centre-left were united for the first time in the present parliament. With even the church opposed to the war, a huge part of Berlusconi’s natural support base has gone.

The entire country is united in opposition to this war and yet Berlusconi attempts to wash his hands of the slaughter, while allowing Italian airspace and US airbases in Italy to be used and supplying logistical support to the US military. Here, no one is in any doubt about why the war is being fought – for oil power and prestige.

This report gives is only a taste of what happened in Italy on the first day of the imperialist invasion and what could happen in the future as the casualties in Iraq and the anger of the Italian people mount. (Protesters have also targeted the Sigonella Naval Airbase in Sicily -the most important US airbase in the Mediterranean – over the last few days).

Special financial appeal to all readers of

Support building alternative socialist media provides a unique analysis and perspective of world events. also plays a crucial role in building the struggle for socialism across all continents. Capitalism has failed! Assist us to build the fight-back and prepare for the stormy period of class struggles ahead.
Please make a donation to help us reach more readers and to widen our socialist campaigning work across the world.

Donate via Paypal

Liked this article? We need your support to improve our work. Please become a Patron! and support our work
Become a patron at Patreon!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


March 2003