Friday 10 October saw the first mass national protest against the latest reactionary reform of the Italian educational system introduced by the goverment of Matteo Renzi.
This version of the article is longer than in the printed paper.
80,000 university and school students, together with teachers, assistants, cleaners, were joined by thousands of others.
The largest single turnout was in Rome, where 20,000 marched behind a banner reading "They Fear Us United!" and called for a free, secular public system; an end to public susidy to the schools of the Catholic Church; and massive increase in investment for a comprehensive democratic reconstruction of the system.
Over the last two decades, hundreds if not thousands of decree and circulars from "manager /principals" have drowned teachers in a Babel of "creative recommendations", and sought to impose "business values" at the expense of the quality of education and the freedom to teach.
Renzi's education minister, Stefanina Gianini, a member of the neo-liberal "Civic Choice" party of the former "technocrat" prime minister, Mario Monti, offers more of the same, plus an increase in working hours, the abolition of automatic salary scale increases, and a system of reward "for excellence". "Teachers only work 18 hours a week", opined Renzi as he announced the plan.
Gianini has promised to absorb 150,000 of the 300,000 precari - teachers hired on the cheap, with neither salary nor security to cover the annual vacation periods. The other 150,000 will be left to rot.
It would be foolish to believe, as many of the radical left already do, that the much-heralded "hot autumn" is about to arrive. The leaders of 10 October made it clear that for them it was only the beginning. But neither they, nor the established tradeunion leaders like Piero Bernocchi of the radical base union, COBAS, who joined the action, outlined any perspective other than more protests.
The last 10 years or so have seen periodic waves of student protest which have then gradually dissipated. Still too many live on the hope that somehow, somewhere, a gigantic explosion of mass spontaneous outburst must come, and with it the base for a left-wing political force.
In the meantime Italian workers are left with a politically timid and opportunist radicalism, unwilling and unable to forge and put onto the field of battle a truly democratic movement armed with a bold revolutionary declarative politics
Renzi has recently seen his Job Act -a measure for even more massive precarisation of the labour force and the almost certain abolition of Article 18, won by the great working-class struggles of the early 70s to copper-fasten defence against arbitrary layoffs, voted through by the Senate.
He is still at 62% in the opinion polls. The confederal union centres started by courting the little would-be Bonaparte as his prospective interlocutors with the masses. When rebuffed they responded with farcical threats of a general strike.
Now CISL and UIL have called off their putative protests. CGIL and the metalworkers of FIOM remain on course for a day of action by FIOM and a march in Rome on 25 October by CGIL.
FIOM leader Maurizio Landini has somersaulted from assuring his members a few weeks ago that Renzi was a man to trust to now threatening to call for the occupation of the factories.