Hugh Edwards reports from Milan
30 October: a one day strike by teachers from the main union — CGIL, CISL, UIL — demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the anger and militancy shown in the earlier one day strike on the 18 October by teachers from the “Base” confederation, has spread to all those in the field of education in Italy.
More than a million marched in Rome in a demonstration that saw all the workers’ unions joined by tens of thousands of university students from every part of Italy. A magnificent display of solidarity between the generations. They were also joined by thousands of parents and their children representing the parent-teacher-work committees that have been in the forefront against the new Education Bill (passed into law on 29 October) aimed at drastically carving up the whole education system, cutting resources, jobs and ruthlessly privatising large parts of the university system.
All across Italy, as part of the one-day action, hundreds of thousands of students marched in every city brining normal life to a halt with their thunderous and joyful chant “We’re not pay for your crisis”. The sheer power and scale of their protests are beginning to have effect elsewhere among the most radical unions. The students are planning a national assembly of all the universities, are calling for the syndicalist “base” unions to forge united action with the other union militants. The call is going out for another “France 2005” or “68”.
The massive turnout took by surprise the union bosses who were forced to turn up the rhetoric to avoid further embarrassment for the shameless failure to organise any action before the bill became law.
The leader of the bourgeois “Democratic Party”, Veltroni is of course “supporting” the action but like the Berlusconi government is increasingly alarmed at the direction and pace, how the movement is escaping their control. He has announced that he will organise for a referendum to repeal the law — but that is 18 months away! In this he was enthusiastically backed by Paolo Ferrero the so red revolutionary leader of Communist Refoundation. The same person whose ejection of former leader Bertinotti and his followers last July was supposed to herald “a return to the class” and damnation of Walter Veltroni and his party.
As always, when the masses begin to move the opportunists instinctively seek each other out.
The tempo of events in Italy is rapidly rising and other strikes are due. We can hope that events in Italy will dramatically alter the shape and character of the class struggle all over Europe. Bring it on!
A statement (5 November) by the student s of Rome’s La Sapienza University:
"Taking our cue from the mass mobilisations of the last week, which has seem a enormous tide of teachers students workers and their families united in demanding the right to determine both the present and future conditions of their lives we believe it is now necessary to pose the question how to transform the power of last Thursday’s general strike of the teaching unions into a widening and deepening social conflict against a government, arrogant and ruthless as it is deaf and blind to democratic dialogue. Given the other fronts of working class struggle where both the government and Confindustria (the employers federation) are equally determined to make the working class as a whole pay for he world economic crisis we believe the trade union movement as a whole must recognise and take responsibility for the opening up of a continuous series of action that will bring the country to halt — i.e. a general and ongoing generalised strike! As for the
students in universities and schools across the country it is imperative to make the mass action and strikes on the 7 and 14 of November even more extensive and successful in every city, in particular that of the 14th when the second part of the education bill will be voted on in parliament. For that reason we believe now is the moment to propose to the thousands of students marching in Rome on that date the formation of a national assembly of university students at la Sapienza as the basis for a permanent organisational force with the task of coordinating collective action, and leading debate and discussion on what kind of reforms are needed to make the education system more responsive to the needs of all who work and study there. We invite all our fellow students and faculty members to consider seriously our proposal and join us in the struggle to establish a more democratic, autonomous and representative movement".