03. The Real Bologna

Submitted by Ex-temp on August 12, 2009

This speech was made at a public reception to launch a book called Bologna - a Different City. The book contains an interview with Communist mayor Zangheri. Present at the reception were the literary critics, members of the public, and all the intellectual "high society" of Bologna.

The speaker is a member of one of the proletarian youth collectives involved in organising in Bologna in the recent period.


This reception is an attempt to make Bologna look like an idyllic sort of place. As if this town is quite untouched by social tension and class struggle. A place where everything can be resolved with a cosy chat over a good meal. The previous speakers see Bologna as a town that's "different", a happy island, uncontaminated by the "ghettoisation" of marginal sections of the population etc.

The reality is very different. The ghettoised minority groups, the homeless, the unemployed and those condemned to work as precarious, casual labour - these people not only exist in Bologna, but they are also organising and fighting back.

I want to explain to you what is wrong in Bologna.
For a start, the housing problem. For example, for the last 6 months a group of unemployed workers, Sardinian immigrants, and out-of-town students who usually sleep in the Via Sabbatucci hostel or in the waiting room at the main railway station, has been getting organised in the COSC (Homeless People Organising Committee). This group also includes families who are forced to live in the inhuman bad conditions that exist in parts of Bologna.

COSC started its struggle by occupying the Hotel Bologna, which had been bought up by a multinational company to demolish it and build a five- star hotel on the site. COSC demanded that the Prefect and the city council take over the building, which was still perfectly fit for habitation, and turn it into a hostel for out-of-town students, for unemployed and immigrant workers. A bed to sleep in costs up to £10 a week in Bologna these days. We are demanding housing at a price people con afford ­a 'political price'. We put this demand to the author­ities, but they gave us no answer. They just sent in the carabinieri to clear everyone out.

After the Hotal Bologna episode, the fight for housing continued with other occupations. A building in Via Galliera was occupied - 20 flats for sale at £1,000 per square metre. A worker said: "If I scrimped for a lifetime, I could only just about afford to buy the bathroom!" Once again the authorities' only reply to the need for housing was repression. The police went in and the (Communist Party-controlled) Local Authorities didn't say a word.

They did say something, however, when the building in Viale Vicini was occupied. This time the Provincial Council went so far as to ask the police to intervene against the occupiers, who, according to them, were not just demanding a basic right like housing, but were "setting up a centre of active provocation".

They've always tried to hush up all the autonomous struggles of the Bolognese workers and young people - or to bury them under a heap of lies. For example the only way they react to the problem of so-called drug­ addiction is to slam home with public order and repression.

The shop-keepers and the business community carry out hate campaigns against young people with long hair, who, they say, infest the City centre and besmirch the artistic scenery (and, above all, annoy the customers). Zangheri (mayor of Bologna, CP) supports them; the Flying Squad does its duty, and all those resident outside Bologna are repatriated to their own towns, on police orders (“We shall not allow the underpass in Via Rizzoli to become a bivouac for layabouts".)

Then, in December 1976, parents and workers from three Day Nurseries in San Vitale started a struggle, because the service has been getting worse, the opening-hours have been reduced, and the child-care workers were faced with longer working hours and up to 20 children apiece to look after (the best ratio, from .m educational point of view, is one to five). The response of the Council and the Communist Party was not to take on more staff and increase the workforce, but on the contrary, to increase the amount of work in each job and to worsen the service provided.

The (Communist) Council has adopted lock stock and barrel the logic of the public spending cuts, the “sacrifices” that have been decided by the (Christian Democrat) government.

The same treatment has been given to the struggles of young people. The young people want to fight against the ghettoisation that leads to individualism, to seeking refuge in heroin etc. They want to struggle against the wastage perpetrated by the rich bourgeois who eat in luxury restaurants while out-of-town students and casual workers have to line up in hour-long queues that cross Piazza Verdi and reach as far as the Municipal Theatre like some sort of unauthorised street demonstration. But all these struggles are also met with slanderous accusations, and the attempt to turn political protest into something criminal.

Our intention has been to bring the voice of dissent here into this gathering. We have no intention of being suffocated with hypocrisy. If there are sincere democrats here, we want them to know the truth about Bologna. Besides the Bologna that has been talked about, there is another one - the Bologna made up of ghettoised people who have been squeezed out' to the fringes of society."