One million members of seven different ‘unions of the base’ in Italy went on strike for eight hours last Wednesday, 2 April, to say no to war.
Stop the war in Iraq. Italy.
2 April – one million workers struck against war
300,000 marched on the streets of nearly 30 different cities voicing their anger at the US-led attack on Iraq. There were 20,000 on the Rome demonstration, which went past the British and US embassies. Demonstrators put up a banner at each of the buildings with the message to the ‘coalition’ troops in English: "Do the right thing; come back home!"
In Milan, between 15,000 and 20,000 strikers made their way from Piazza Cairoli to the US embassy. Among them were engineers, teachers, fire fighters, postal-workers and employees of the "TV of the regime", as one of them put it.
"This will also be a war against workers," declared one of the speakers from SinCobas. "Military spending is going up and social spending going down".
The organisers of Wednesday’s action had waited a number of days after the war started to call the general strike action, hoping to get the major trade union confederations to join with them. Getting no response, except from the engineers of the Cgil (Fiom) and some rank and file activists, they went ahead with their action in the hope that it would still push the leaders of the big three to take up the call for a general strike, spreading to a European level.
The Cobas spokesperson, Piero Bernocchi, addressing the demonstration in Rome, said the strike was, "Relaunching the proposal of a European general strike to get a total cease-fire in Iraq". And an Rdb leader demanded, "Italy out of the war and the war out of history!"
Since the full-scale attack on Iraq began, the school and university students have been involved in "permanent protest" – variously occupying or walking out, holding ‘die-ins’, joining and initiating demonstrations and in many cases, holding daily assemblies in school time to discuss the war and the anti-war movement, often with the full support of the teachers.
Five hundred protests in eleven days
The officially reported 516 demonstrations in Italy in the first 11 days of the war included marches, sit-ins, torchlight processions, rallies and assemblies. The most dramatic have been the blocking of the "trains of death" carrying supplies to the major US base at Camp Darby and the strikes of the dock-workers and their refusal to handle military cargo. Blockades continue and demonstrators in Palermo during the strike last Wednesday demanded the demilitarisation of the island of Sicily, which is also used as a staging post by the US war machine.
Even if the war appears to be over, the young people and workers involved in the protests throughout Italy will neither forgive nor forget the imperialist behaviour of the Bush junta nor the pro-US stance taken by the Italian prime minister, Berlusconi. Apparently fearful of the fate that seems to await his Spanish counter-part, Aznar, for flying in the face of overwhelming popular opposition to the Iraqi invasion, he has gone quiet on the issue. But, as the unions of the base have underlined, there are many other scores to settle with Berlusconi on the social and economic plane and his recent defeats in parliament and the courts mean the net is tightening around him anyway.
Now that the bombardment of Iraq has ushered in a new form of colonial occupation, the most thinking workers and youth in Italy will still be demonstrating and demanding that the US and British troops get out of the Middle East (and out of the military bases in Italy). It is also clear, as the unions of the base have brought home, that the war on the home front -over pensions, cut backs in public spending, labour rights and jobs – is by no means over.