(Note: This article is based on reports received from comrades in Genoa, who witnessed the events we describe. We will be publishing more detailed reports over the next few days.)
A young Italian anti-capitalist demonstrator has been shot by police during the anti-G8 demonstration in Genoa today. It has been confirmed that the police fired into the crowd, not into the air. A further fifty or so demonstrators were wounded, one of them critically.
This is the first time a demonstrator has been shot dead on a demonstration in Italy since 1977, when Francesco Lo Russo was killed in Bologna, again by the police firing into the crowd.
In spite of all the words of the government about "defending public order" we can state quite clearly that the responsibility for this death lies on the shoulders of the Berlusconi government.
The government has been preparing for some time for this scenario. They have mobilised thousands of policemen and have cordoned off Genoa in an unprecedented fashion. The cost of the whole operation was reported to be around £55 million. Thus the same government which is preparing a massive programme of privatisations and huge cuts in the welfare state does not think twice before spending such a huge amount on protecting the representatives of the world's major capitalist powers!
The movement that started in Seattle has spread across the whole globe. In every country that the major institutions of world capital have met they have had to suffer the annoying spectacle of young people and workers demonstrating against their policies and their very system.
However, we have to underline the fact that the greatest conflict has erupted in Italy. Although we have seen similar developments in Gothenburg, Sweden, in Salzburg, Austria and in Barcelona, Spain, what has happened in Italy marks a qualitative change in the situation.
The reason for this is to be found in the situation that has developed in Italy over the past few years. In May the right-wing coalition around Berlusconi won the elections. This was due to the policies adopted by the centre-left Olive Tree coalition. The centre-left systematically applied the policies demanded by the Italian ruling class. They attacked pensions, education, working conditions, etc. They privatised and introduced greater "flexibility" of labour. They did in just a few years (1996-2001) what Thatcher did in 18 years.
Thus, Berlusconi came to power promising tax cuts, a bit like Thatcher back in 1979. The fact is that Berlusconi will not be able to maintain these promises. The national debt of Italy is too big, and Berlusconi will be forced to renege on his promises. Once that becomes clear to the workers of Italy then a huge mobilisation will take place. The Italian ruling class is fully aware of this, but it has no alternative. The period of compromise is over. The new period that opens up is one of immense class conflict.
The measures being used at this moment, as we write this article, are measures which the Italian state apparatus is preparing to use against the workers. This is a return to the methods of the 1960s and 1970s. Let us not forget that the Italian state apparatus invented the so-called "strategy of tension". This involved planting bombs, such as in Piazza Fontana in Milan in 1969, in order to justify greater state repression.
We have seen this in the last few days. Just before the anti-G8 demonstrations began in Genoa a bomb went off in a station of the Carabinieri (the military wing of the Italian police force). One Carabiniere was wounded. This had the clear aim of preparing the Carabinieri and the police. The idea was to whip up their anger against the demonstrators and to get them prepared for any kind of brutality. Again, this is reminiscent of the 1970s. Then the tactic they used was to keep the Carabinieri or the police on permanent alert for periods of 24 or 36 hours. They would occasionally unleash them and then call them back to barracks. In this way they brutalised them and prepared them for attacks on the workers and students.
Throughout the day they have allowed a small group of so-called anarchists to smash up shops, attack banks, burn cars and throw Molotov cocktails. All day the main TV channels in Italy broadcast these scenes of violence and mayhem. The police did nothing to stop any of this. In fact, reports have been coming in that some of the "anarchists" dressed in black were seen chatting to a Carabinieri Marshall. This would indicate that agents provocateurs were at work. The police want to be able to portray the demonstrators as being violent. This is so that they can then justify police repression of the movement as a whole. Thus a combination of ultra-leftism on the part of a handful of these "anarchists", helped by a few police agents, is used to try to intimidate the movement as a whole.
The media then show pictures of this violence to present the movement as "violent", "extremist", etc. At the same time they ignore what is really going on. For instance, they show the water cannons being used, but they do not report that in some cases acid was added to the water, thus causing many youths to suffer skin burns!
The violence we have seen today was clearly orchestrated by the police. It is true that a tiny handful of so-called "anarchists" were intent on provoking a violent confrontation. But if these "anarchists" had not been there the police would have had to invent them! The last thing the police, the state apparatus and the Berlusconi government want is a successful mass demonstration tomorrow! They need to show that it is "only a minority of extremists". But that is not going to be.
In reality the movement in Italy is made up tens and hundreds of thousands of ordinary workers and young people, who are totally opposed to the capitalist system. Tomorrow's demonstration will prove this. Tomorrow we will see hundreds of thousands of workers and youth on the streets of Genoa. Today's violent scenes have been orchestrated in an attempt to frighten people away tomorrow. That must not be allowed to happen.
The leaders of the PDS (the right-wing of the former Communist Party) have used today's violence as an excuse to withdraw from tomorrow's demonstration. They have cancelled many buses which were to take their supporters to Genoa. This should be condemned; the Labour Movement should be mobilising all its forces for tomorrow's demonstration.
The Marxists in Italy, gathered around the journal FalceMartello, are calling on all the unions, Rifondazione Comunista and the PDS, to be present at the demonstration. They must be there and they must take upon themselves the task of organising serious stewarding. Tomorrow's demonstration must be protected. If necessary provocateurs should be removed from the demonstration
But our demands cannot stop there. The Left in Italy must now call for the resignation of the Berlusconi government. And to achieve that the call must go out for a general strike to bring down the government. The PDS leaders have limited themselves to calling on the Minister of the Interior to come to Parliament and explain himself. We have no need to listen to Berlusconi's chief police officer. We know who they are, they are our class enemies. No dialogue is possible with these gentlemen!
The next period in Italy will be one of heightened class tensions. What is happening in Genoa is merely an expression of class contradictions which have been building up over years. Now these have come to the surface. We are entering a new epoch in class relations in Italy and throughout the world. In previous articles on this question we pointed out that the anti-capitalist movement that began in Seattle could play the role of catalyst in reviving the class struggle. Undoubtedly the events unfolding in Genoa confirm this analysis.
Now the task before us is to understand the processes and prepare for the battles ahead. We are passing from the previous period of relative class peace to one of renewed class war. Over the coming years it will become increasingly evident to millions of workers and youth around the world that the capitalist system cannot be reformed or modified. It must be overthrown. We invite you to join us in the struggle to put an end to this unjust system. This is the best tribute we can make to the young demonstrator killed today.