A tale of two protests
George W Bush’s visit to Italy after the G8 summit in Germany, generated a huge protest by the country’s anti-war and anti-globalisation movement. Around 150,000 people, mostly young, invaded the streets of Rome on Saturday, 9 June to demonstrate their opposition to war and Bush’s politics. But the protesters were also raging against the Prodi government and its neo-liberal, pro-US imperialist policies. With slogans like, ‘Stop financing the war but finance our pensions!’ or ‘It is not enough to have a left-wing government to justify the war!’ thousands of workers and youth clearly showed that they no longer share the illusion of having a ’friendly’ government.
With the budget attacks, the refinancing of the mission in Afghanistan, the decision to build the Dal Molin US base in Vincenza, and the future attacks on pensions, the Prodi government has faced important opposition and internal crisis. In the last month there have been many strikes and social movements, but because of the failure of political representation these protests have remained isolated. A large section of Italian workers and youth have lost all confidence in politicians.
Police on route before march moves off. Over 10,000 state personnel mobilised to protect Bush!
The main anti-Bush demonstration on Saturday was lively and combative. It was led by the ‘No Dal Molin’ contingent and the unions of the base, particularly Cobas. There were other anti-US base groups and young people from Italy’s social centres who sang and danced their way along the streets of Rome. There was a determined group from ‘No TAV’ – the campaign against a railway project in Val di Susa that would cause big environmental damage in the area.
However, there was a big difference between this anti-war demonstration and previous ones. In the past, such demonstrations were led by the radical left parties such as Rifondazione Comunista (Rc) and the main trade unions. But that is no longer the case.
On Saturday the Rc did not support the main demonstration but organised a separate event away from the march in Piazza del Popolo. This protest, organised by the ’left’ parties which are participating in the government – Rc, Greens, Pdci (Party of Italian communists) and the DS (Democratic Left) – was a complete flop. Only a few hundred at most bothered to turn up. A Rome free sheet reported "Just a few families in the square" to listen to the music! Many of the rank-and-file members of Rifondazione, especially the youth, were participating in the big demonstration chanting, "The ’good’ left is in government and the ’bad’ one is on the streets!".
Following on from their disastrous local election results, when their votes almost halved, this is symbolic of the turning point for Rifondazione; it was a clear public demonstration of the fracture between the party leaders and the anti-war, anti-capitalist movement – the people they are supposed to represent.
The paper of the CWI in Italy – ‘Lotta’ (struggle) – sold well on the demonstration. We are calling for the building of a mass, fighting, anti-capitalist party of workers and the social movements which could begin to fill the political vacuum that exists in Italy today. There is an urgent need to unite together those involved in the industrial, social and community struggles and appeal to the remaining honest, combative activists within Rifondazione and the other left parties in Italy.