THE ITALIAN state has attempted to clamp down on the anti-capitalist movement since the success of the European Social Forum (ESF) in Florence in November. It arrested 20 activists in the south of Italy the week after the ESF. Socialist Worker spoke to Antonino Campenni, one of those arrested, about the campaign against the crackdown:
'THE FIRST 20 activists arrested are now all out of prison and house arrest. But we are all going to face trial in the next few months. We have been charged with 'subversive association'. Some 23 other people were arrested last week all across Italy. They are all charged with taking part in acts of violence during the Genoa protests last year.
We are facing an increase in repression against the movement. There is also an attempt to close the trial on the case of the killing of Carlo Giuliani, who was shot by the police in Genoa. Carlo's parents are protesting. The government is trying to force the movement to act against repression rather than the issues that came out of Florence. We are doing both these things. There has been an amazing reaction. The response of the movement in Italy and across Europe has been wonderful.
The whole university where I work has supported me. The department where I work was full of banners saying 'Free Antonino'. There was a 100,000-strong protest in support of us in my home town of Cosenza. This has had a boomerang effect against the forces that thought putting people into jail would create problems for the movement. The movement is stronger, more united and gaining sympathy.
All the different issues are linking up - the workers at Fiat fighting for their jobs joined people protesting against the repression in Palermo in Sicily last week. People can send letters to Italian embassies to protest against what's happening. It must be targeted at the embassies and consulates in Britain.'
- Demonstrate Thursday 12 December. London: Italian Embassy, Grosvenor Square, 5-7pm (Bond Street +). Manchester: 111 Piccadilly, 4-6pm. E-mail messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org
WORKERS AT the Fiat car manufacturers struck across Italy on Monday. This followed street protests and demonstrations last week. They were protesting at the company laying off 5,600 workers. They are the first of 8,100 workers to be laid off. Rank and file workers have led the struggle against the layoffs. The battle is not over yet. 'I feel like 30 years of my life just went down the drain,' said Salvatore Lo Duca, who has worked for Fiat in Sicily since 1973. 'All of us here have poured our lives into the company.'
The next European Social Forum
SOME 250 activists gathered in Paris from across Europe last weekend for the first meeting to plan the next European Social Forum (ESF) in November 2003. Everyone at the meeting agreed that the Florence ESF had been an enormous step forward for the movement.
One of the effects of Florence has been to raise the profile of the movement in France. Leading figures of the Socialist Party have been reported to be courting the ATTAC network against neo-liberalism. The French ESF coordinating committee proposed a heavily structured format for organising the next event.
Activists rejected this approach. Many argued that the Italian event was a success because the movements were part of organising it. This in turn was because preparatory meetings were open and held in different parts of Europe. The consensus was to use and expand on the open, Italian model for the preparation process.
On the second day the big debate was about the role of political parties in the movement. While there are some who see parties as a threat to the movement, many speakers argued that the Social Forum movement needs to face the reality that radical parties already play a significant role, as Florence showed. It is accepted that there will be space for at least debate and dialogue between the parties and the movement in Paris in 2003.
The meeting ended with announcements about a series of important events and mobilisations including an anti-GATS demo in Brussels on 9 February, anti-war demonstrations across Europe on 15 February, and the international protests against the G8 in Evian at the start of June.