|SocialismToday Socialist Party magazine|
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)