By Angelo Simioli
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Courage of our Convictions

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I've just read the discussion between Luca Casarini and Alex Callinicos on war and state repression (December SR).
Issue 259

There are a few points I’d like to focus on. First of all, the issue of leadership. In Italy we’re seeing the rise of a big movement against capitalism. Even after 11 September we have been able to organise massive demonstrations against the war and for labour rights. The problem is that the desire for change will be tragically dispersed and lost if it is not directed at challenging the system. So at the moment it’s not a question of showing the way to others, which is the logic of the masses and the vanguard. But at the same time we are facing the risk that any movement has to face – of being dispersed and ultimately losing its way.

Capitalism is learning something new every day about how to increase its psychological influence on people, so it’s suicide to just trust spontaneity when your enemy is trying to divide you. Although political differences inside the movement are important and comrades can learn a lot from the experience of new activists, we must have the courage to do all we can to bring this knowledge into the movement. Without a democratic organisation there is no hope of going beyond massive demonstrations to create any lasting fightback.

In Italy one of the lessons that we learnt in the 1970s was that a movement which expresses conflict but does not reach its goals ends in tragic political disillusionment and destruction. It’s evident that without conflict we cannot fight for another world. But conflict itself must never be separated from the reasons for the conflict and the strategy to carry the struggle forward. Big demonstrations are important for organising and focusing the anger against capitalism, but they are not enough. We have to identify who we are fighting against. The only way to gain rights or justice is to fight in our own cities or states where, if we are organised, we can still have some influence. We say, ‘Think globally, act locally,’ but the problem we’ve seen on recent demonstrations is that we tend to think globally and act vaguely. We all agree on the destructive nature of the G8, the WTO and the other institutions, but we won’t go far until we can fight local institutions who make the decisions of those global monsters legitimate.

The experience of the Tute Bianche has been important in Italy, due to its innovative way of dealing with the mass media and its contact with civil society. It is important to pass from the concept of mass to the concept of multitudes, to realise the complexity of society today and its political movements, and to learn to stand together. If repression comes from your state then it is your state you have to deal with. The state is organised and we have to be organised. Mass demonstrations and organisations are making a difference but risk going down into nothing unless we can build a real challenge and an alternative to the capitalist state.

Angelo Simioli
Rome

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