Half a million Italians demonstrated in Rome last Saturday against the right wing government of millionaire businessman Silvio Berlusconi. The demonstration was organised by the Democratic Left party and its allies in the Olive Tree coalition. The Democratic Left is a part of the old Communist Party that adopted policies similar to the British Labour Party.
Berlusconi defeated the Olive Tree government in May last year after it pushed free market policies for five years in government. Last Saturday's demonstration was an attempt to come into contact with the new movement that has grown massively since the Genoa G8 protests last year. It was called mainly to protest against Berlusconi's interference with magistrates' investigations into his business dealings.
Berlusconi is attempting to portray these investigations as a 'left wing plot' against him. His government, which includes the fascist National Alliance, has legalised false accounting and made it harder to collect information on overseas financial activities.
But the 500,000 protesters were also marching against the government's anti-immigrant bill and its scrapping of Article 18, which offered workers protection against being sacked.
The demonstration comes a week after 40,000 people attended a meeting in Milan to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Clean Hands inquiry. This was the investigation that uncovered the corruption at the heart of Italian politics and led to the collapse of the major parties, the Christian Democrats and Socialist Party.
The main trade union federation, the CGIL, has, after massive pressure from its rank and file, called a general strike against the scrapping of Article 18 for Friday 5 April.
It has also called a demonstration in Rome for Saturday 23 March. As soon as the CGIL called the general strike thousands of workers spontaneously walked out of work. Some 80 percent of the workers in the giant Fiat car plant in Turin struck, and 1,500 of them marched through the city.
Workers in the other trade union federations, the UIL and the CISL, which have entered into talks with the government, joined the walkouts, and many of them will join the general strike.
The CGIL is calling on all the rank and file trade union organisations, the grassroots groups and the anti-capitalist movement to join the struggle. Despite calling last week's demonstration, the Democratic Left is still struggling to keep up with the movement.
At a public meeting of 4,000 people in Florence last week Massimo D'Alema, the former centre-left prime minister, was booed and heckled by the whole audience.