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Workers, students & greens together

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Issue 1759

Genoa 2001

300,000 marched

Workers, students & greens together

By Sam Ashman and Matthew Cookson

THE BRITISH press chose to ignore it, but the 300,000-strong march through Genoa last Saturday was amazing. It was five times the size of the protest in Seattle in November 1999. The march was no “anarchist travelling circus”. It was massive, predominantly Italian and united.

The banner of the Genoa Social Forum, which organised the protests against the G8, was at the front. So too was the banner of Danone workers in France who are fighting for their jobs.

Other banners said “Reclaim our world”, “No to neo-liberalism”, “Resistance and solidarity”, “People before profit” and “Un altro mondo e possible”-“Another world is possible”. The march went past for hours.

There were people from ATTAC groups from France, Italy, Norway, Tunisia and beyond who are fighting for a tax on financial speculation. Fabien Thierry from France said, “I came here because all the social and economic struggles across the world are linked together. We want to be as numerous as possible today-that is how we will win more justice.” Anti-debt protesters carried banners saying “Cancella il debito!” Greens marched with flags. But, crucially, there were also workers.

The Genoa march showed the unity between workers, environmentalists, students and activists which can take the anti-capitalist movement forward. There was a delegation of thousands of metal workers from the FIOM union. They marched together, linking arms, with FIOM red caps and red flags. Young and not so young workers marched side by side, militants from Fiat and factories all over Italy.

“We are against neo-liberalism,” said a marching FIOM member. “We are against job cuts, we are against wage-busting and attacks on our rights as trade unionists. But we are also for peace, justice and human rights for all. We are joining today with the youth and all those who are against the system.” There were banners from the CGIL trade union federation-from Padova, Bologna, Brianza and many more. Left wing Italian unions COBAS and BAS had delegations. Flavio, a member of COBAS, said, “I’m here because I’m against capitalism and want a socialist world.

“I came on a special train of 1,000 people from Brescia. It was made up mainly of metal workers who have just been on strike against the government. “This is the beginning of a new international regeneration of the movement. The retreat is finished.”

Students Action in Italy carried their banner, which said “Students of the world united!” When students began singing the Italian “Red Flag”, “Bandiera Rossa”, FIOM workers let out a massive cheer and raised clenched fists.

They joined in the singing, and the two groups marched down the road together singing heartily. The young anti-capitalists who were staying at the Carlini stadium marched together-thousands of them, linking arms.

The Carlini stadium was used by the Genoa Social Forum to accommodate protesters. It got publicity because it was where the “White Overalls” movement stayed. But many of the Carlini people were at pains to point out, “We are not all White Overalls.” When a big delegation from the Greek Communist Party, chanting and waving red flags, marched up alongside them, the youth of Carlini whistled, clapped and cheered.

The two groups marched on together. Many marchers wore black armbands to mark the murder the previous day of 23 year old Carlo Giuliani. There were banners from social forums from all over Italy which mobilised for the protests-Rovereto, Cremona, Torino, Trieste, Parma and more. In amongst them was a delegation from Dundee Trades Council (in kilts!) and London City UNISON.

There were hundreds from Legambiente-an Italian green movement-and the Lilliput environmental movement.

There were thousands from Rifondazione-the left wing of what used to be the Italian Communist Party. And there was tremendous international unity. There were SUD trade unionists from France and telecom workers from Greece. There was the Piraeus Labour Centre in Greece, Greek municipal council workers with a banner saying “Capitalism, no-people’s struggles, yes” and hospital doctors from Athens.

The Balkan Socialist Centre carried their banner saying “Globalise revolution!” There was a delegation of World Wildlife Fund supporters, complete with flags with pandas on. Karin from Moscow said, “There are 50 of us here from Russia and the Ukraine. We are here to show another face of Russia, to show that Putin doesn’t represent us. The results of the liberalisation of our economy have been awful.” There were the hundreds who travelled on the Globalise Resistance train from Britain. The train was cancelled after pressure from the French government, but protests by French rail unions succeeded in putting it back on again. And there were thousands from the International Socialist Tendency across Europe and beyond.

Not all the march made it to the final rally because the police viciously attacked the demonstration (see page 7). But those who did saw the support they had amongst the ordinary people of Genoa. Genoese waved from their balconies and raised their fists. An old woman waved a red scarf. Others filled buckets with water to cool the hot demonstrators.

‘Real birth of a movement’

THE SECRETARY of Rifondazione, Fausto Bertinotte, summed up the events in Genoa: “The tragedy of the dead youth and the clashes on the demonstration must not conceal a giant fact-we are faced with the real birth of a movement. These 200,000 to 300,000 people, the entry of a new generation, is a political and cultural fact of enormous importance. Those in power show they cannot tolerate the movement. They try to break it up, to put the blame on it, to provoke splits within it. But today 80 percent were under 30 years old. And we saw the same spirit expressed in the metal workers’ strike of the week before last. This is the rise of a new generation, and this generation will not be broken. It will not stop challenging repression, the G8, globalisation, the government. This movement can provide the force for an alternative left.”

Thousands on marches the media ignored

THERE WERE two other days of protest and direct action in Genoa last week. On Thursday 60,000 people marched for rights for immigrants. On Friday there were seven different marches and actions against the G8. Organisers estimated 50,000 participated. Many of the actions were not violent-though you would not know this from the television coverage.

Around 15,000 people marched from the Carlini stadium and tried to get to the five metre high metal fence erected in central Genoa to protect the “Red Zone” where the G8 met.

But riot police armed with teargas stopped the protesters. Thousands of others joined the International Socialist Tendency march from the Genoa Social Forum’s convergence centre on the sea front. The march confronted the fence separating the G8 from the rest of the city. The demonstrators then marched to join with French and Italian supporters of ATTAC who were demonstrating at another part of the fence. The police then teargassed protesters as they were peacefully leaving!

AROUND 1,500 people attended a joint rally of the revolutionary left on Saturday morning. The International Socialist Tendency joined with LCR supporters from France. A big delegation from Greece marched into the rally to massive applause. They were delayed from arriving in Genoa after having been stopped by the police 11 times on the way.

The Italian riot police even stormed their ferry when it landed in Italy.

Polls back protest

AN OPINION poll in France last week found 60 percent of people say they are favourable towards the goals of the anti-globalisation movement. Another opinion poll in Greece last week also found that 54 percent of people favoured the demonstrations in Genoa and only 10 percent opposed them.

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