Ten years ago huge anti-capitalist protests in the Italian city of Genoa shook the world’s leaders.
Despite a crackdown and the police shooting a protester, 300,000 people took to the streets against the meeting of the G8—the leaders of global capitalism.
The defiance of the protesters inspired millions of people across the world.
The events were one of the highpoints of the anti-capitalist movement.
This new movement emerged in the US at the end of 1999, after protests wrecked the World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle.
A new generation started to question the consensus that capitalism was the only possible way to run the world.
Many began to believe that “Another world is possible”.
People travelled to Genoa from across Europe, including a large contingent from the International Socialist Tendency, which the Socialist Workers Party is part of.
The demonstrations against the G8 began on Thursday 18 July with a protest in support of refugees.
Some believed this would be a small “scene-setter” for larger protests over the following days.
“But there were 50,000 people on this demonstration,” said Jonathan Neale, one of the organisers of the Genoa protests. “That’s when we realised the rest of the protests were going to be enormous.
“The G8 and the Italian government knew that too—and decided that they were going to try and break the anti-capitalist movement with terror.”
The next day, different groups marched separately towards the “Red Zone”—the fenced-off centre of the city where the G8 was meeting.
“On Friday the Globalise Resistance section from Britain and people from the International Socialist Tendency marched to the fence,” said Jonathan.
“The police set out to crush the Italian Tute Bianche—‘White Overalls’—contingent elsewhere in the city. Italian deputy prime minister Gianfranco Fini instructed the police to go for the demonstrators.”
The police did exactly that.
In the ensuing onslaught, a police officer shot dead Carlo Giuliani, a young protester from the city.
But the violence had the opposite effect to what the Italian government expected.
“They escalated, so we escalated,” said Jonathan. “And we escalated with the only thing we’ve got—solidarity.”
More than 300,000 people converged on Genoa on Saturday to protest against the G8 and Carlo’s murder.
The police attacked this protest too. But the movement refused to be cowed and continued to take to the streets in the aftermath of Genoa.
Many in the young movement had seen multinational corporations as the main force destroying the planet and people’s lives.
They believed the power of the market had overcome that of governments.
But the force shown by the Italian state in Genoa revealed that was not the case.
It became clear that state and the multinationals are interconnected aspects of capitalist power.
Governments would use the military and police forces at their disposal to defend and extend the power of the multinationals.
In its battles, though, the anti-capitalist movement had a profound effect on the ideas of millions of people.