Wave of dissent in Italy

Eruption at Aula Magna.
Eruption at Aula Magna.

Italians continue to react to neoliberal reforms as students and workers unite in a joint effort to combat attacks on education.

Submitted by elios on November 29, 2008

500 students in Rome, members of the movement which has dubbed itself " The Wave", broke in the lecture theatre during the inauguration of the academic year at the La Sapienza public university. Rector Luigi Frati, accused by the students of condemning the protests and mostly supporting the recent education reforms based on cuts of public education and research funds, was targeted by the eruption of “shame on you!”, “resign!” chants, which ultimately forced him to leave the hall. Mr Frati said that whoever was involved in this blitz is a fascist, because, he says, “a fascist is anyone who doesn’t let others speak”, as if he is the one who usually does not have the chance to speak (did he call himself fascist?).

The students hanged on a sign on which the following was written “Not any more deaths because of public expenditure cuts: shame on you!”. The sign refers to what happened last week in a high school near Turin where the roof a class felt down and the 17 years-old guy Vito Scafidi died. The event immediately arose the public debate on how unsafe are most of the public schools in the country. Situation which surely will not improve after the expenditure cuts planned by the Gelmini reform will be introduced. Berlusconi claims the event to be a fatality; he neglected any claims related to the cuts in the budget dedicated to the education system.

In the meantime, the Senate has approved the reform and now it will be the turn of Camera to vote (Senate and Camera are the two institutions which forms the Italian parliament). The reform has been approved by the ruling parties (Lega Nord and Pdl) while Pd and Idv voted against its introduction.

The reforms include, apart from the ridiculous emphasis on trivial aspects of education as compulsory student uniforms and behavior evaluation (coincidently in use during fascism in Italy) also the assigning of foreign students, such as the discriminated against Roma Gypsy community, to special classes separated from native Italian students.

These policies are in line with other implementations issued by the government to reduce crime such as the fingerprinting of Roma children, while the highly privileged (and corrupt) political class aims to restore the country by generating laws to immunise themselves from any legal persecution.

Since early October, and even after the November 15th national strike, the Wave kept organizing sit-ins and occupation of public schools and universities without showing any sign of giving up. On November 16th a national assembly of undergraduates, held in Rome at La Sapienza (in which thousands took part) aimed to overturn Minister Gelmini's education reforms and rewrite them from scratch in order to be handed to the ministry itself as evidence of student awareness of the reform and that no political party is masterminding the protests. Their so called “self-reform” firmly underlines the principle of independent research, free from the logic of the market also in respect of the evaluation methods. They also claim, among many other things, the abolishment of caps on the number of enrollments and of the compulsory attendance of classes.

On November 21st, the Wave announced a series of activities scheduled towards an ambitious goal: unifying the student struggle together with the labor one, since both categories are closely linked and interdependent.

On November 10th the economic ministers of labor, the Secretary-generals of the unions CISL and UIL and Confindustria president were secretly meeting to arrange a new deal for Italy. This is worse than the 2002 one, weighted by “guidelines” on the new contractual model and by a reactionary law proposal limiting the right to strike. On November 11th, the CGIL’s Secretary-general called for a national strike to take place on December 12th, to which students are expected to take part and join the workers in manifesting a general dissent and disgust against Berlusconi right-wing, deceptive and brutal policies.

However since the strike was announced it has been subjected to union bureaucracy scrutiny so there’s a possibility that it will be turned from national strike into a “little strike”, constrained within certain hours of the day. Let us hope that the “complexities” afflicting the dialogue between the Italian workers unions won’t stop the students and workers struggle and initiatives from being remarkable and effective (as they've been so far) in their combined objectives, sweeping away this reactionary government that lowers salaries, employment, education, increases the gap between the rich and the poor and brings a new wind of explicit racism.