The Anti-War Movement in Italy

The following is an interview given in March 2003 by the Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici to the French organization Alternative Libertaire.

How important is the anti-war movement in Italian society (among youth, workers, artists, etc.)?

The anti-war movement in Italy is becoming more important as the social consensus against the war grows. Peace flags are flying in their tens of thousands from the windows and balconies of every town. Every day, demos are being organized, concerts, sit-ins, marches, and it is ordinary people, not only activists, who are taking part, including a great many workers and kids. The labour movement is also very much involved, as are catholics (right down to parish level) and the world of show business and the arts. From the demo in Florence on 9th November right up to the one on 16th March in Milan, millions of people have come onto the streets to give life to a real mass movement against the war, where the variety of views and backgrounds come together in an impressive capacity for mobilization. The government has banned the display of peace flags outside public offices, but even so there are many to be seen on the building of many institutions such as local government offices, school and so on.

Are the unions, and in particular the CGIL and the grassroots unions, involved in workplace activities to fight against the war and the position of the Berlusconi government which is supporting Bush?

The union movement is mobilizing in all workplaces. The CGIL called the strike at the ports where military vessels are being loaded and is participating in all demonstrations and also organizing some (700,000 in Milan on 16th March). Railway workers from various unions have organized conscientious objection to rail transport of military goods and arms. The CGIL is ready to declare a General Strike as soon as the bombing begins. The grassroots unions have already called a General Strike against the war to be held within 48 hours of the start of the bombing and notwithstanding a ban on it by the government, the strike has been confirmed! Already, rail, port and education workers have mobilized against the war. The USI-AIT has also organized a permanent committee against the war, which has been in existence since autumn 2002.

How exactly is the anti-war movement in Italy organized?

The movement is self-organized on a minute level by dozens and dozens of groups, collectives, committees, political and union organizations, and religious and social volunteer groups. Everyone does what they have to do and, in the towns, are building networks and wide corordinations which are organizing all sorts of initiatives. The libertarian anti-militarist proposal is growing: after the first demonstration at La Spezia at the end of January, there is another planned for 5th April near the infamous base at Aviano in north-eastern Italy. These demonstrations organized by the anti-militarist movement are attracting the participation of other political and social sectors and are contributing to the spread of critical ideas about the war and militarism which transcend sentiment.

Can you tell us about the actions against NATO bases or those designed to impede the transport of military goods towards Iraq?

Apart from filling the streets during demonstrations, the movement was immediately able to understand that it was necessry to bring the opposition to the war to those places which host NATO's military machine. There are many demonstrations at or around American and NATO military bases. As during the Kosovo war in 1999, the movement has chosen strongly symbolic places to protest against the war, to denounce the military occupation of large parts of Italy. It is denouncing war preparations which are taking place behind closed doors in our back yards. During the month of March several trains carrying American military material heading for Iraq were blocked. The ports where this material was being loaded were blocked. Action was also extended to include the blocking of trains carrying Italian military material from one base to another. At first, these actions were being carried out above all by the "Disobbedienti", but their action soon acquired mass participation with a consequent increase in press coverage and further expansion.

How do you explain the mass nature of the demonstrations in Italy?

The large-scale popular participation in the anti-war movement and its geographical spread make it a real mass movement where the unity of political objectives which need to be pursued is clear for all to see - NO WAR, without IFS or BUTS! It is an ideal dimension for anarchist activity, as long as certain things are kept in mind:

  1. This movement got its wings in Florence during the ESF in November 2002 taking advantage of the political and social drives of previous months, that is to say the no-global movement, the movement of the unions in defence of labour rights and the movement of the "girotondini".
  2. There is great involvement in the movement of Catholic-inspired associations. The choice made by the Vatican legitimised a stance that was by no means to be taken for granted after the polemics raised between the Catholc associations and the no-global movement in the aftermath of Genoa. It is however a strongly ETHICAL stance, much more so than a political one.
  3. The institutional left (which went to war in Kosovo) has been forced to declare itself as being against the war in order to maintain contact with the masses and regain its lost credibility, however it is simply trying to use this movement in its institutional battle against Berlusconi.
  4. The social left seems to have accepted the mass nature of the movement, one where is little room for leaders or bosses.
  5. There is a growing feeling of social opposition to the Berlusconi government, but we must not illude ourselves...

How do you analyse the representation crisis in Italy? Do you think that the anti-war protests can lead to a political crisis and that it will be be possible to transform an imperialist war into an anti-capitalist social offensive?

The Italian government has a strong parliamentary position and is proceeding with its job of destrucuring and dismantling Italian society. While the anti-war movement has been busy protesting, the government has been getting on with passing a law which introduces a counter-reformation in the school system, a law on the total flexibility of the labour market and is preparing a law on pensions and another on dismissals from employment. There are tough social battles in the country, but there do not seem to be the required conditions for a possible political crisis which could topple the present government's majority. The anti-war movement is composed of a combination of many different elements - ethical and ideological, non-violent and combative, pacifist and anti-militarist. The way to radicalize the movement lies in the realization of the idea that there is a strict connection between capitalism and militarism, between the fight for peace and the fight against capitalism. This is the job which anarchists and libertarians have to do.