Italy and Sweden: The masses are on the streets

Despite the propaganda of the mass media, millions of workers and youth have flooded onto the streets of cities all around the world to protest against the attack on Iraq. On Friday Greece was brought to a standstill by a massive 4 hour general strike. More than 150,000 people demonstrated in Athens, in addition to tens of thousands around Greece, while airports, banks, public services, public transport, ferry boats and passenger ships, supermarkets and stores were shut down as a result of the strike.

In London hundreds of thousands of people marched to Hyde Park on Saturday. Although this was far smaller than the February 15 demonstration in London, we have to remember that once that the war has started many cannot see how they can stop it now. The fact remains that this was the biggest antiwar demonstration in wartime in Britain. There were also many smaller demonstrations all over Britain on the same day.

Unlike February 15, when protests were not so big in the Arab world (apart from Syria), this time the Arab peoples did not stay quiet, and over the last few days, they have been demonstrating massively on the streets, violently venting their anger against the American attack on Iraq.

On Friday 21, about 10,000 Egyptians gathered in Cairo chanting, "With our heart and our soul, we sacrifice ourselves for Iraq." In Yemen, three demonstrators and one security member were killed, and 18 demonstrators and other 7 Yemeni police members were wounded in violent confrontations outside the US embassy in Sanaa. Also, 200,000 demonstrate yesterday in Lahore, Pakistan.

In Spain throughout the weekend there were mass demonstrations and a violent reaction on the part of the police that used rubber bullets, provoking tens of injured. In these hours the trade unions are raising the idea of a 4 hour general strike against both the war and the right-wing government for April 10.

We will keep you informed about these developments in the next few days.

Italy: antiwar movement spreading very quickly

In Italy the movement against the war is developing very fast. On Thursday, March 20, at least a million people took to the streets during the general strike. There were 100,000 in Milan, 50,000 in Bologna and Rome and other tens of thousands in Turin, Florence, Naples, Palermo, Venice, etc.

There is good news from the school students, that until recently had not been in the front line. Thursday morning in their tens of thousands they flooded the streets every where. In Milan at the end of the demo 5000 school students occupied the main railway station. Over the next few days a whole series of school occupations will take place. The pacifist (non-violent) illusions are vanishing like snow under the sun.

In Parma, 90 km from Bologna, the Committee against the imperialist war (built, amongst others, by the Young Communists, led in this area by the supporters of FalceMartello) called a student demo that gathered around 1200 students, the biggest in Parma in the last five years.

Naples was brought to a standstill for the whole day. When the movement was mobilised every section of society got involved in the protest. At the university the student committee set up by FalceMartello supporters organised a public meeting with more than 250 students. We replied to the pro-UN propaganda put forward by the leaders of the ‘University Left’ (linked to the DS - Democratic Left) with our class position against the war. On the demonstration organised by the trade unions, our section was the biggest amongst the students and also the most militant. We chanted slogans against imperialism and called for a 24 hour general strike and for the class struggle. On Saturday 50,000 workers and youth participated in a demo in front of the Bagnoli NATO base near Naples. In Aversa, a town near Naples, the Committee in Defence of Public Education organised a student strike with more than a thousand students on the demo.

There is a thirst for genuine Marxist ideas in this movement. Proof of this is the fact that the latest edition of FalceMartello has already been sold out, and yesterday (Sunday, March 23) we had to produce a new 12-page issue.

During the weekend the antiwar activists surrounded the NATO bases in Italy: 20,000 people marched to Sigonella, in Sicily and a similar number protested in fronts of the gates of the Aviano base in Friuli, in the north-east. In Rome last Saturday 50,000 marched against the US aggression.

The demand for a 24 hour general strike is growing among the workers, but Epifani, the CGIL general secretary, spoke clearly against it: "We've already had one two hour strike, as well as a European-wide strike for peace. We don't need to strike every second to confirm the state of Italy's soul, and that of the majority of its citizens."

Once again the reformist trade union leaders reveal their real face. If a 24 hour general strike were called, this could lead to the fall of the Berlusconi government. But the trade unions and the reformist leaders are very afraid of such a perspective.

The task is now, more than ever, to build a mass alternative inside the mass organisations of the workers’ movement armed with a Marxist programme and perspectives.

By Alessandro Giardiello,

Falce Martello Editorial Board,

Milan, March 24, 2003

Sweden: massive school strike in Gothenburg against the war

The outbreak of war in Iraq was met by mass protests around Sweden. In the second largest city, Gothenburg, thousands of school students went on strike on Thursday and 4000 gathered in the city centre for a protest meeting. The strike was organized by the "Antikrigsgruppen", an antiwar committee for school students set up by members of the Young Left (youth wing of the former Communist Party) together with supporters of the Marxist journal Socialisten. The committee has been an outstanding success with about 100 activists in 40 schools. On Thursday alone SEK 3500 (400 euros) were collected for the campaign and 1000 stickers worth SEK 10,000 (1100 euros) were sold.

This latest mass protest, together with the wave of protests on February 15, when up to 80,000 people protested all over Sweden, and the lack of UN support for the war, has resulted in the Social Democratic government coming out with verbal criticism against the war. The unions and the Social Democratic party have also recommended that their members take part in antiwar demonstrations.On Thursday evening 6000 gathered for a general demonstration and on Saturday up to 20,000 took to the streets. The protests in Stockholm on Thursday and Saturday reached approximately the same numbers. There were also demonstrations in 20-25 other towns: 4000 in Malmö, 2000 in Lund and 2000 in Umeå and so on.

These actions on the part of the government however will not satisfy the antiwar movement. The war has radicalised the youth in particular and many understand that the government is against the war not because it is an imperialist aggression, but because it is done without an agreement between the imperialist powers. In reality the resistance of the French bourgeoisie saved Persson’s skin, because he could make concessions to public opinion without becoming a black sheep in the European club of gentlemen in which he feels so comfortable. Therefore the movement against the war will continue, grow and deepen. The pressure will grow on the government to take a clear stand against US imperialism, and on the labour movement leaders to fully support and take part in the struggle against the war

Martin Oscarsson,

Editor of Socialisten and co-organizer of the antiwar committee in Gothenburg.