Italy: Angry students take to the streets‭

Monti government will face mass opposition to austerity

The day after the formation of the new Italian government of so-called technocrats under Mario Monti, big demonstrations took place across the country in defence of the right to study. The marches of students brought home the atrocious situation in education and the conditions for young people in our country. They coincided with an important day of action and protest strikes of the Italian ’unions of the base’ – Cub and Cobas. This is just a foretaste of what is to come when the full impact of the new austerity measures is felt.

Participation was particularly significant in Rome and Naples,‭ ‬with over ten thousand participants in each city.‭ ‬Thousands of students and workers were also present in the streets of Turin,‭ ‬Milan,‭ ‬Bologna,‭ ‬Florence,‭ ‬Palermo,‭ ‬Cagliari,‭ ‬Salerno,‭ ‬Genoa,‭ ‬Bari,‭ ‬Catania,‭ ‬Pescara and,‭ ‬with smaller numbers,‭ ‬in at least fifty other provincial capitals.‭ ‬The demonstrations were entirely peaceful,‭ ‬except where,‭ ‬as in Milan,‭ ‬Turin and Palermo,‭ ‬the police charged the demonstrators,‭ ‬causing casualties.‭

In Milan,‭ ‬a reporter was injured during the demonstration there called under the slogan,‭ “‬Save our schools not banks‭”‬.‭ ‬Armed with shields of polystyrene,‭ ‬the students were brutally charged by riot police.‭ ‬They had done nothing more than launch a few‭ ‬smoke bombs‭ ‬against institutions seen as the symbols of capitalism‭ ‬-‭ ‬ the Bocconi private University‭ ‬in Milan‭ (‬where Monti was based‭)‬,‭ ‬the‭ ‬Bank of‭ ‬Italy,‭ ‬and the building of‭ ‬Unicredit Bank,‭ (‬also one of Monti’s fiefdoms‭)‬.

The banners‭ ‬at the head of demonstrations,‭ ‬clearly expressed the general mood of the students:‭ ‬"We‭ ‬will not pay for‭ ‬the crisis‭!”‬,‭ "‬What‭ ‬stability‭?‬ Reverse rthe cuts and invest in‭ ‬public education‭!”‬.‭ "‬No more money to be given to‭ ‬private schools‭ ‬and‭ ‬military spending‭!”‬,‭ “‬We don’t want a government of bankers‭!” ‬etc..

The demonstators had mobilised behind important demands for the right to study,‭ ‬the restoration and increase in funding for scholarships,‭ ‬the elimination of limits on numbers studying,‭ ‬an end to the exorbitant costs of public education,‭ ‬a national plan for school building that prevents students being killed under the rubble of collapsing schools.

Particularly targeted on Thursday’s demonstrations by students and teachers was the new Minister of Education,‭ ‬until recently rector of the Politecnico di Torino,‭ ‬Francesco Profumo.‭ ‬Other targets were the Minister of Economic Development Infrastructure‭ ‬-‭ ‬the super-banker Corrado Passera of Intesa,‭ ‬the Cultural Heritage Minister,‭ ‬Ornaghi‭ ‬-‭ ‬until recently rector of the cultural arm of the Vatican,‭ ‬or Clini,‭ ‬Minister of Environment.‭ ‬Who,‭ ‬in defiance of the will of the Italians,‭ ‬is willing to introduce nuclear power plants and TAV at all costs.

‎Never was a government condemned so quickly by a popular movement in the street‭! ‬

The success of this important day of struggle shows that the plan to silently pass austerity policies protected by a government of technocrats and‭ ’‬experts‭’‬,‭ ‬is completely unreal.‭

Less than a week ago‭!

It was only last week-end that in most Italian cities thousands of people welcomed,‭ ‬with an‭ ‬explosion‭ ‬of joyin the streets,‭ ‬the news of the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi.‭ ‬In Rome,‭ ‬the crowd that had‭ ‬gathered‭ ‬outside Palazzo‭ ‬Grazioli‭ ‬reacted to the‭ ‬prime minister’s‭ ‬resignation‭ ‬with shouts‭ ‬and songs.‭ ‬Berlusconi‭ ‬was‭ ‬also greeted with a popular band singing‭ ‬‘Bella Ciao‭’ ‬-‭ ‬a‭ ‬traditional well known song‭ ‬of the resistance.‭ ‬The‭ ‬scenes were‭ ‬reminiscent of‭ ‬the resignation‭ ‬of then‭ ‬Prime Minister‭ ‬Bettino‭ ‬Craxi‭ ‬almost‭ ‬20‭ ‬years‭ ‬ago,‭ ‬involved in widespread corruption scandals.

By the end of the week we were seeing angry mass demonstrations across the country of students fighting the already planned cuts in education.

While the resignation of the Berlusconi government is to be welcomed,‭ ‬we need to stress that the‭ ‬fall‭ ‬of the government‭ ‬is not simply the result‭ ‬of‭ ‬popular agitation and protests.‭ ‬It is rather‭ ‬the political‭ ‬and economic powers of the Italian and‭ ‬European capitalist class who could not rely anymore on the government of Berlusconi compromised with‭ ‬scandals‭ ‬of various kinds.‭ ‬They needed‭ ‬a more presentable‭ ‬option to make ordinary people pay for the crisis.‭

Never in the history of postwar Italy,‭ ‬has a government been such a direct expression of the interests of finance capital.‭ ‬The‭ ‬name‭ ‬of‭ ‬Monti‭ ‬and the putting together of‭ ‬a‭ ‬national‭ ‬unity‭ ‬goverment‭ ‬is‭ ‬meant to reassure not‭ ‬only‭ ‬to‭ ‬the‭ ‬Italian capitalist class but also‭ ‬international‭ ‬capitalism,‭ ‬and‭ ‬especially‭ ‬the European institutions which are‭ ‬greatly‭ ‬concerned about the‭ ‬effects‭ ‬of the Italian debt crisis‭ ‬on the future of the euro.

The‭ ‬Italian director‭ ‬of the‭ ‬IMF,‭ ‬Arrigo‭ ‬Sadun,‭ ‬in an interview with‭ ‬’Corriere‭ ‬della Sera‭’‬,‭ ‬stated that the Fund‭ ‬expects‭ "‬rapid action‭ ‬with‭ ‬decisive measures to ensure‭ ‬the achievement‭ ‬of fiscal targets‭ ‬set‭ ‬…‭” ‬This‭ ‬is aprogramme of tears and blood.‭ ‬It includes widespread privatisation,‭ ‬the forced transfer of public employees onto temporary layoff,‭ ‬freedom of dismissal in the public and private sector‭ (‬abolition of Article‭ ‬18‭ ‬of the constitution that protects workers‭’ ‬employment‭)‬,‭ ‬raising the retirement age,‭ ‬selling off‭ ‬land in protected areas,‭ ‬the cancellation of national collective bargaining,‭ ‬the annulment of the June referendum result against the privatisation of local public services,‭ ‬the selling off of natural and cultural resources‭ ‬and the‭ ‬construction‭ ‬of huge,‭ ‬expensive and unnecessary projects like the High Velocity Transport project in Val di Susa.

Political alternative

For ordinary workers,‭ ‬immigrants and young people,‭ ‬there is now only one possible way forward‭ ‬:‭ ‬immediate and firm opposition to this government and the building from the bottom of a mass movement needed to resist new manoeuvres against us.

‎‏Without a‭ ‬break‭ ‬with‭ ‬the‭ ‬neoliberal‭ ’‬Profound‭ ‬Economics‭’‬ policies‭ ‬of the‭ ‬past‭ ‬thirty‭ ‬years no‭ ‬recovery‭ ‬is now‭ ‬possible.‭ ‬The‭ ‬measures‭ ‬proposed in‭ ‬the‭ ‬letter‭ ‬of the‭ ‬ECB‭ ‬must be‭ ‬confronted‭ ‬with‭ ‬an‭ ‬alternative‭ ‬programme‭ ‬based‭ ‬on the‭ ‬central policy of refusal to pay the public debt and the nationalisation of the banks and finance companies on the basis of democratic workers‭’ ‬control and management.

This‭ ‬government‭ ‬must‭ ‬be‭ ‬challenged‭ ‬with‭ ‬a political‭ ‬alternative‭ ‬from the‭ ‬left and‭ ‬the‭ ‬trade union‭ ‬movement‭ ‬able‭ ‬to oppose‭ ‬any suggestion of‭ ‬cuts‭ ‬or‭ ‬attacks on‭ ‬our living conditions,‭ ‬able to fight‭ ‬relentlessly‭ ‬for the‭ ‬defence of any job,‭ ‬able to propose‭ ‬a strategy‭ ‬to break with the‭ ‬system creating the‭ ‬debt and‭ ‬to break with‭ ‬the‭ ‬political agenda‭ ‬of the ruling classes‭ ‬and their‭ ‬representatives to a greater or lesser degree‭ ‬compromised by failures and scandals in the past.

Mario‭ ‬Monti’s government can‭ ‬expect‭ ‬an implacable‭ ‬resistance in‭ ‬schools,‭ ‬neighbourhoods and‭ ‬in‭ ‬ workplaces.‭ ‬We will not accept‭ ‬to be‭ ‬the sacrificial lambs‭ ‬on the altar‭ ‬of profit‭ ‬to reassure the‭ ‬markets.We‭ ‬will work to‭ ‬organise a‭ ‬mass movement,‭ ‬deep-rooted‭ ‬and‭ ‬radical,‭ ‬to develop the social struggles with the following progeramme:‭

  • Jobs,‭ ‬training or an education for all young people
  • No to‎ ‏a‭ ‬government‭ ‬of‭ ‬unelected‭ ‬technocrats‭; ‬yes to a one day protest general strike against austerity‭
  • No to the programme of‭ ‬cuts being‭ ‬imposed on behalf‭ ‬of the‭ ‬bankers and capitalists‭
  • ‬For immediate new‭ ‬elections‭ ‬and for‭ ‬the‭ ‬development‭ ‬of a‭ ‬fighting‭ ‬alternative to‭ ‬the‭ ‬cuts‭ ‬and‭ ‬austerity.‭
  • ‬For an‭ ‬anti-capitalist‭ ‬programme‭ ‬of‭ ‬nationalisation‭ ‬under democratic‭ ‬workers‭’ ‬control‭ ‬and‭ ‬management‭ ‬of the‭ ‬banking and financial sector and of all‭ ‬major‭ ‬industries.
  • ‎For‭ ‬linking‭ ‬up‭ ‬the‭ ‬struggle‭ ‬of‭ ‬workers‭ ‬and young‭ ‬people in‭ ‬Europe‭ ‬against international capitalism and its‭ ‬institutions
  • ‎For a‭ ‬genuinely‭ ‬socialist,‭ ‬democratically planned economy‭ ‬in Italy‭ ‬and throughout the world.

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November 2011