On 12 April, about 300 people took part in a ‘people’s march’ against the war and occupation of Iraq, in Catania, Sicily.
The local committee against the war and the Iqbal Masih centre called the demo. The march began in Librino – a poor working class district on the outskirts of the city long abandoned by the authorities – where the Iqbal Masih centre is based. Although with a population of tens of thousands, the district lacks even basic facilities and has high unemployment with all the social problems that brings. The centre is named after a twelve year-old trade unionist from Pakistan who was murdered by organised criminals who control the textile industry there. The centre tries to provide some of the services neglected by the city authorities.
The march wound its way around some of Catania’s working class districts finishing in the city centre. The six-kilometre march took about three hours and was made up mainly by people from the districts. Along the way, one street was renamed "Via Rachel Corrie" after the American activist murdered by the Israeli Defence Force last month. Children put up home made street signs and paintings in her memory. At the beginning and end of the demonstration, a city theatre group put on a performance showing the ‘dehumanisation’ of military life.
In the speeches, the abandonment of the districts was compared to the government’s undying loyalty to Bush and Blair. In a satirical piece, Berlusconi and his governing coalition partners were attacked, in particular, the Catania city mayor, Scapagnini, who also happens to be Berlusconi’s personal doctor.
The march was important for a number of reasons. Firstly it went from the popular districts themselves and showed Catania’s continuing opposition to the war and secondly because the Librinio district and the districts around it are being targeted by the Nazi ‘Forza Nuova’ hoping to profit from the social problems. A left alternative is needed to prevent the Nazis getting a foothold here. Already they have a permanent office in the centre of one district.
Recently fascists have started violent attacks against left wing activists in Catania. Last week the Auro social centre was attacked by a group of skinheads and, in a separate incident, a teenager was hospitalised simply for being a punk. Although vastly outnumbered by left wing activists, experience has shown incidents like this can often be just a beginning. And as groups like Forza Nuova continue to grow they create the environment for attacks on immigrants and left wing activists.
The growth of FN can only be prevented by a fighting left alternative. If this alternative is not created, FN will continue to divide workers, unemployed youth and immigrants against each other and create the atmosphere for continued violence.