How to Reply to the Police Killing of a Genoa Protester

Unite the Organized Working Class with the “Anti-Globalization” Movement

[Italian police on July 20 shot and killed at least one “anti-globalization” demonstrator in Genoa, one of Italy’s chief industrial and financial cities. There is a serious possibility of mass mobilization by workers in support of the protesters against the Group of Seven meeting in Genoa. This is shown by the article below, forwarded to us by John Kirkland on July 21. See also the accompanying article by Jan Malewski, “Goteborg, Prelude to Bloodier Police Action in Genoa.”

[The G-7 is the Group of Seven (the richest centers of finance capitalism, which dominate the world economy: the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and Japan). In the early 1990s, out of “politeness” — and to partly cover up the naked capitalist domination of most of the world by a few centers of financial wealth — Gorbachev’s Russia (extended to Yeltsin’s and Putin’s) was added to the G-7, making it the “Group of Eight” (or G-8). But the reality of wealth and power is centered in the G-7.]

Italian Strikers Chant “We’ll Go to Genoa!”

Last week it was not the tute bianchi (white overalls) but the tute blu (blue overalls) who made the headlines in Italy.

A wave of industrial action swept the country on July 6, when 300,000 metalworkers marched through the streets while pilots, flight attendants, and air traffic controllers caused chaos in the skies. In Milan, an estimated 60,000 members of the metalworkers' union FIOM joined the demonstrations.

In Turin, the headquarters of many of Italy's largest manufacturers, more than 30,000 workers downed tools, disrupting production at several major plants including the Fiat automobile group. Similar marches were held in Rome, Bologna, Florence, Genoa, and several southern cities, including Palermo in Sicily.

Genoa Social Forum at Strike Rallies

The marches — dominated by young workers — were incredibly lively and militant. Genoa Social Forum representatives spoke at the rallies, inviting the strikers to come to Genoa. The spontaneous response was thousands of strikers chanting "We're Going to Genoa!"

The three major unions which organize metal workers — FIOM, FIM, UILM — are demanding pay increases to make up for the decline in real wages caused by inflation over the last three years. But at the heart of the dispute is the employers’ attempt to break up national bargaining and force the unions to accept a plant-by-plant system that would immensely weaken them.

The metalworkers are the vanguard of the Italian labor movement with more than 1.5 million belonging to the three major unions. They form the largest group from among 5.5 million unionized workers who have yet to reach pay agreements this year. The latest stoppage follows strikes in May when some 50,000 workers held a half-day action over the employers’ failure to make any concessions in the current round of wage negotiations.

As city centers ground to a halt to make way for marchers, Italy was also suffering air traffic paralysis as a series of overlapping pay strikes by air traffic controllers, pilots, and flight attendants hit the country. Air traffic controllers from CILA-AV and other unions stopped work for ten hours and some Alitalia flight attendants and pilots struck for eight hours, causing the cancellation of more than 200 flights and the rescheduling of many others.

This is the first direct challenge to the new center-right government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi — whose private fortune is estimated at over $13 billion — has bragged that he is the Italian Margaret Thatcher and intends to carry out major neoliberal “reforms,” including major attacks on the public sector.

Yet Berlusconi has to be careful to avoid a head-on clash such as that which ignominiously drove him from office in 1994. Then two one-day general strikes and a huge demonstration, one and a half million strong, in Rome on November 12, 1994, helped bring him down after only seven months in office.

Global Recession — and Crisis in Argentina

In Genoa the G7 leaders will have to face the fast-developing recession in the global economy. With Argentina facing default on its enormous foreign debt—and causing other currencies and stock exchanges to tumble as far away as Poland--the vulnerability of globalized capitalism is becoming clear to millions.

The Argentine government is now trying to impose a 10 percent cut in wages for all government employees—but the unions have refused to accept this: and in fact Argentina has been wracked by militant protest by workers and the unemployed for over a year. A social explosion is likely to greet any attempt to force through the arbitrary decrees of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The G-7 leaders have plenty to discuss, if the over 100,000 demonstrators give them any peace to do so. The leaders will also be plotting to put their neoliberal “free trade” talks — derailed in Seattle two years ago — back on the tracks at the meeting of the World Trade Organization to be held in the Arabian desert autocracy of Qatar in November.

Tens of thousands of young anticapitalist demonstrators from all over Europe — including from Russia and Ukraine — will merge on the streets with tens of thousands, perhaps a hundred thousand Italian workers, like the young metal workers. Genoa promises to offer a real opportunity to merge the “anti-globalization” movement with the militant working class. If it does so, it will be a historic event indeed.

The demonstrators can make their anticapitalism and anti-imperialism concrete by expressing their militant solidarity with the Argentine workers and unemployed who are facing a savage new austerity package (the 10 percent cut in wages for all public sector workers), dictated by the IMF so that Argentina can continue to pay its external debt to international bankers and financiers.

In Genoa we must not only call on the G-7 governments to cancel the debt but encourage the workers, like those in Argentina, to demand its renunciation. Of course such calls alone will not make the G-7 vultures change their minds. The mobilization of the international working class in direct action for its own interests and needs is the force that can bring about the desired change.

The demonstrations in Genoa provide the opportunity to build organized international links of a permanent character right across the continent of Europe and to other continents too. A whole new chapter in the history of the European workers movement can begin in Genoa.