Update on the situation of the Atlantide social centre in Bologna, which has been there for over 15 years and has been under threat from eviction by the local council for over a year.
Atlantide is a social centre in the Santo Stefano neighbourhood in the heart of Bologna’s old town. More precisely, it is situated in the cassero, an historic building which forms part of the city’s medieval gates. Atlantide was occupied in 1997 and for over 15 years it has been home to a number of LGBT, feminist and punk music collectives.
At first glance, Giuliano Poletti, Minister of Labour and Social Policy in the Renzi government, could look like an old-fashioned left-wing politician: born into a farming family in the “red” Emilia-Romagna region, raised in the Communist Party, president of Legacoop, the main national organisation of cooperatives. He could be someone to provide a contrast to the Prime Minister’s attitude towards jobs (modelled on the inspiring figures of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair). But appearances can be deceptive.
In Italy the cooperative system is one of the main forces – together with Confindustria representing employers – pushing for even more deregulation of jobs.
The CGIL is Italy’s largest confederation of trade unions (secretary: Susanna Camusso) and includes as a member FIOM, the metalworkers’ federation (general secretary: Maurizio Landini; former president: Giorgio Cremaschi). Tension has been growing between CGIL and FIOM for some time and although there have been reassurances that all is well, it is obvious that all is far from harmonious.
What are the areas of contention?
A coal burning factory in northern Italy, which caused pollution linked to the deaths of hundreds of local residents and was owned by entrepreneurs close to the centre-left political party, has been closed down by police.
The Tirreno Power coal-burning power station in Vado Ligure, near Savona, has been shut down by police at the request of the Public Prosecutor. This comes as a result of a three-year investigation by the Public Prosecutor into the plant’s effects on the environment and public health.
It sounds like news from a distant time, way back in Italian history, but it actually happened in 2014. On 6 March, 12 activists were forced to leave Bologna – their own city, where they live and have jobs and partners – as a “precautionary measure“ during investigations into an event more than 9 months ago.
This is possible under Law 1423 (27 December 1956) which lays out prevention measures against persons threatening security and public morality, and Article 283 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
An update on on changes to higher education and student protests in Italy as well as the government's legal repression of them.
At the end of 2010, there was widespread protest by students and university precarious workers against the reform of the university system in Italy. This reform took place during Silvio Berlusconi’s government, and was drafted by minister Mariastella Gelmini.
On 5 February 2014 Ancona’s centre-left city council evicted refugees and homeless people from the Casa de Nialtri housing occupation. The Casa was a former infant school (disused for three years) which had been occupied on 22 December by people from a large network of grassroots groups and associations, together with a number of Italian and migrant homeless people.
The Casa – the first housing occupation in Ancona for more than two decades – provided a home to around 60 people.
Liguria, with its beautiful coastline and wonderful mountainous hinterland, has been a place for people from Northern Europe and the north of Italy to take holidays since the 19th century. After the Second World War the region saw a boom in tourism and in industrial development with all the attendant consequences: illegal building activity, destruction of the environment, very large numbers of migrants and urbanisation of the rural population.
Today the region is being hit by de-industrialization and a difficult rebuilding of the economy. Local government is focusing on mass tourism (particularly cruise ships) and port development, seemingly ignoring the increasingly impoverished population which pays the environmental costs of the associated pollution.
An extremely moving and heartfelt appeal from the families of four No Tav protesters, charged with terrorism and held in maximum security detention for allegedly damaging equipment on construction sites for the high speed rail link.
You’ve heard them talked about over the past few weeks. They are the people arrested on 9 December and charged (still to be proven) with attacking the TAV construction site in Chiomonte. A compressor was damaged in this attack and not a single person was injured.
A look at recent discussions amongst Italy's social centres about the balance between self-management, autonomy and legalisation.
Italy has one of the widest and strongest social centre movements in Europe. Social centres can be found all over the country in almost every medium-sized and large city, though they tend to be more concentrated in the big cities of the centre-north. They first appeared in the 1970s and since then have been the main crucible of Italian radical urban movements.
Over the past weekend (31 January – 2 February), a large number of North African and European associations, movements and networks concerned with migrants’ issues met on the Italian island of Lampedusa. The aim was to put together a charter stating the rights of migrants and, in the long-term, to change European policies about migration.
The island was chosen for the meeting after the refugee tragedies of October 2013, underlining the Charter’s new ideas and the political decision to engage actively with the island’s population.
Swedish company Electrolux proposes to workers at its four Italy plants to take a 50% pay cut so as to keep them competitive with their counterparts in Poland and Hungary.
It is certainly not a coincidence that Electrolux’s proposal came just after the signing of the new agreement on union representation, when in the eyes of big business the Italian unions look friendlier than ever.
Bologna saw 1,000 people marching on February 1st, to bring the claims of Granarolo workers to the attention of local and national authorities.
There were logistics workers not only from Granarolo’s own warehouse but also from other warehouses across Northern Italy, where strikes and protests have been taking place almost every day for months.
In Ferrara last week, on 22 January, a Department of Security disciplinary commission reinstated the four police officers responsible for the death of Federico Aldrovandi. Aldrovandi was a teenager when he was murdered on 25 September 2005 by being brutally beaten by the three men and a woman.
All four can now resume their old jobs because, thanks to various cover-ups which slowed the case down, they have not been dismissed from the police force.
On January 23, after four days of picketing, around a hundred of them organized by the base union SI COBAS together with other logistics workers, activists from local radical organizations and social centers, blockaded the road connecting the warehouse to the city and the national highway network.
On Tuesday 14th January, in northern Milan, trade unionist Fabio Zerbini was brutally beaten by two men suspected to be connected with Italian organised crime.
Fabio Zerbini is a co-ordinator for the SI Cobas, a base union that is active in the logistics and warehouse sector. A few days before he had found his car’s side-view mirror broken. A note had been left on his windscreen with an apology and a phone number to call to arrange a meeting to refund the damage.
It should have been just the implementation decree for the 31 May agreement but it has turned into a new agreement, with an even harsher level of repression against workers’ struggles.
The agreement regulates relations between Confindustria (the major employers’ organization in Italy) and the three confederal unions CGIL, CISL and UIL, and limits workers’ trade union rights severely. It sets out that only those unions which signed the 31 May agreement can take part in negotiations about workers’ future. What’s more, it has introduced a system of ‘certification’ for members.
The crisis is grinding on, day after day. People are struggling and then they struggle some more. Health suffers. Food can be a difficult subject. Where is the money for the rent coming from? Celebrations are cut back. Household appliances break. In times of crisis, people often turn to one another for help: to neighbours, friends, colleagues. It’s mutual aid.
The Left has a long history of setting up mutual aid associations, particularly in times of economic crisis. Mutualism was, for example, undoubtedly the most important Italian mass movement in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The passing of the Albertino Statute on 4 March 1848 gave permission for freedom of association.
The new “pitchfork” protest – nationwide this time – was announced weeks ago but it still seems to have taken the whole country by surprise. It began on 9 December and is still going on today, the organizers declaring that they won’t stop until the Letta government collapses.
Even though it’s highly unlikely that the government would collapse as a result of a protest like this, and even if the numbers of participants are low, there are many features that look a bit unusual and that are being discussed both in the mainstream media and in left-wing and radical circles.
Where does the protest come from?
Giovanni Monti, president of Legacoop Emilia-Romagna, was reported by the Bologna edition of La Repubblica as saying that “these manipulative kind of events which are on the increase among political extremists, as we’ve seen in Bologna, and which target cooperatives and unions, are as worrying as mafia-related events”.
He was referring obliquely to migrant logistics workers’ struggle during the past few months.
Monti went on to talk about “illegal acts in the logistics sector” and made a point of underlining that “cooperatives associated to Legacoop aim to guarantee decent, qualified jobs and security”.