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Socialism Today 154 - December/January 2011/12

Italy: already there is opposition to Monti

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 10,000 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 50 other provincial capitals.‭ ‬The demonstrations were entirely peaceful,‭ ‬except where‭ ‬the police charged in‭ ‬causing casualties, as in Milan,‭ ‬Turin and Palermo.‭

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

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

The demonstrators 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 to prevent students being killed under the rubble of collapsing schools.

Particularly targeted on Thursday’s demonstrations by students and teachers was the new education minister,‬ Francesco Profumo, until recently rector of the Politecnico di Torino‬.‭ ‬Other targets were infrastructure development minister, ‬the super-banker Corrado Passera of Intesa,‭ cultural heritage minister,‭ ‬Ornaghi‭ (‬until recently rector of the cultural arm of the Vatican),‭ ‬and Clini,‭ environment minister, who,‭ ‬in defiance of the will of the Italians as expressed in the recent referendum, wants to push ahead with nuclear power plants and a high-speed train plan 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.‭ It was only a week earlier that in most Italian cities thousands of people welcomed,‭ ‬with an‭ ‬explosion‭ ‬of joy in 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 prime minister‭ ‬Bettino‭ ‬Craxi‭ ‬almost‭ ‬20‭ ‬years‭ ‬ago,‭ ‬involved in widespread corruption scandals.

But 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 a government compromised by numerous‭ ‬scandals‭.‭ ‬They needed‭ ‬a more presentable‭ ‬option to make ordinary people pay for the crisis.‭

Never in the history of post-war Italy,‭ ‬has a government been such a direct expression of the interests of finance capital.‭ ‬The‭ ‬name‭ ‬of‭ ‬Monti‭ ‬and putting together ‬a‭ ‬national‭ ‬unity‭ ‬government‭ ‬is‭ ‬meant to reassure not‭ ‬only‭ ‬‭ ‬the‭ ‬Italian capitalist class but also‭ ‬international‭ ‬capitalism. This is‭ ‬especially‭ true for ‬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 IMF‭ ‬expects‭ "‬rapid action‭ ‬with‭ ‬decisive measures to ensure‭ ‬the achievement‭ ‬of fiscal targets‭". ‬This‭ ‬is a programme of blood and tears.‭ ‬It includes widespread privatisation,‭ ‬the forced transfer of public employees onto temporary lay-off,‭ ‬freedom of dismissal in the public and private sector‭ – abolition of Article‭ ‬18‭ ‬of the constitution that protects workers‭’ ‬employment‭ – and raising the retirement age. It also includes‭ ‬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,‭ ‬selling-off natural and cultural resources‭, ‬and the‭ ‬construction‭ ‬of huge,‭ ‬expensive and unnecessary projects like the high-speed transport project in Val di Susa.

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

‎‏Without a‭ ‬break‭ ‬with‭ ‬the‭ ‬neoliberal‭ ‘profound‭ economics‭’‬ policies‭ ‬of the‭ ‬past‭ ‬30‭ ‬years no‭ ‬recovery‭ ‬is now‭ ‬possible.‭ ‬The‭ ‬measures‭ ‬proposed by the‭ ‬ECB‭ ‬must be‭ ‬confronted‭ ‬with‭ ‬an‭ ‬alternative‭ ‬programme‭ ‬based‭ ‬on the‭ ‬central policy of refusing to pay the public debt, along with 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. The‭ ‬trade union‭ ‬movement‭ ‬must oppose‭ ‬any suggestion of‭ ‬cuts‭ ‬or‭ ‬attacks on‭ ‬our living conditions,‭ ‬and be prepared to fight‭ ‬relentlessly‭ ‬for the‭ ‬defence of every job. We must 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 who are all, to a greater or lesser degree,‭ ‬compromised by failures and scandals in the past.

‬Monti’s government can‭ ‬expect‭ ‬ implacable‭ ‬resistance in‭ ‬schools,‭ ‬neighbourhoods and‭ ‬in‭ ‬workplaces.‭ ‬We will not allow ourselves‭ ‬to be‭ ‬ 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 programme:‭

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

Giuliano Brunetti - ‬ControCorrente‭ (‬CWI Italy‭)


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