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by de Gondi
Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 06:59:19 PM EST
May 2, 1968 Paris
At the Sorbonne right wing militants ransack and destroy the classrooms occupied by the student movement.
May 3, 1968 Paris
A student demonstration against the rightwing incursion at the Sorbonne degenerates into a four-hour pitched battle in the Quartier Latin against police forces. The students tear up cobblestones and improvise barricades.
These are but two small news items, perhaps crucial, that triggered what was to be known as May 1968. But May 68 began long before, throughout the world. Berkeley `64. Trento `66. Germany, Spain, Poland, Algeria, Mexico, student movements most often were countered with state violence.
On November 14th Rome will once again host a massive demonstration by students, teachers, professors and deans against the government's massive budget cuts for education, as well as a slipshod "reform" that does not seriously address the many grave problems within the Italian educational system. The government has simply ignored any attempt for a constructive confrontation on the issues. It resorts to cosmetic acts such as appropriating some features of the movement's proposals without recognizing them as a concession. The Minister of Public Instruction, Mariastella Gelmini, comes off as not having the physique du role as she cancels public appointments in continuation, bans reporters from her rare appearances, dismisses the students as a "few thousand" and asserts that Obama is her inspiration- a remark loudly protested to in parliament by the Lega Nord. Evidently she is a busy person.
The most disquieting aspect of the student movement and Berlusconi's exercise of power in these times is the possibility of violence. The student movement does all that is possible to avoid provocation just as the police forces have generally shown restraint. On the contrary the government and its sympathizers would like to polarize the situation. In the past weeks verbal and physical violence, especially by the extreme right wing militants, has heavily conditioned the atmosphere. Recently a squad of fascists invaded and occupied the state television studios of a popular program that had broadcasted damning footage of the fascist assault against children in Piazza Navona. Several days later a reporter for the left state channel RAI 3 was menaced. All this occurred after repeated smears and menaces against state television by Berlusconi and his prominent mouthpieces which culminated today (November 13) in the unprecedented action by the majority to vote their own TV Authority, a position that always goes to the opposition for the obvious reason of conflicts of interest.
It is perhaps of minor importance the letter written by the ex-president of the Republic, Francesco Cossiga, to the chief of police, Antonio Manganelli last November 7th. Cossiga is well known for his lunatic behaviour and outrageous opinions, his venerable old age as a cocktail of Lady Macbeth and the Mad Hatter. It hardly overshadows his past as one of the murkier characters of the first republic. His letter can be seen as a deliberate provocation or simply a tongue-in-cheek warning of events to come which unconfessed he may sorely wish:
] un'efficace politica dell'ordine pubblico deve basarsi su un vasto consenso popolare, e il consenso si forma sulla paura, non verso le forze di polizia, ma verso i manifestanti. A mio avviso, dato che un lancio di bottiglie contro le forze di polizia, insulti rivolti a poliziotti e carabinieri, a loro madri, figlie e sorelle, l'occupazione di stazioni ferroviarie, qualche automobile bruciata non è cosa poi tanto grave, il mio consiglio è che in attesa di tempi peggiori, che certamente verranno, Lei disponga che al minimo cenno di violenze di questo tipo, le forze di polizia si ritirino, in modo che qualche commerciante, qualche proprietario di automobili, e anche qualche passante, meglio se donna, vecchio o bambino, siano danneggiati, [
] an efficacious policy of public order must be based on mass popular consent, and consent is formed with fear, not towards the police forces, but towards the demonstrators. Given that throwing a bottle against the police or insults against the police, the /carabinieri/, their mothers, daughters and sister or the occupation of a train station or a car set on fire is not in my opinion all that critical, my advice to you [Chief of Police]- as we await darker days which will certainly come- would be to withdraw forces at the first signs of violence so that some shop owner, car owner and even a passer-by, better if woman, old or child, be damaged [
] during these demonstrations, and fear of demonstrators grows in the common man, and with fear, hate for them and those behind them [
| L'ideale sarebbe che di queste manifestazioni fosse vittima un passante, meglio come ho già detto un vecchio, una donna o un bambino, rimanendo ferito da qualche colpo di arma da fuoco sparato dai dimostranti: basterebbe una ferita lieve, ma meglio sarebbe se fosse grave, ma senza pericolo per la vita. [
] io aspetterei ancora un po adottando straordinarie misure di protezione nei confronti delle sedi di organizzazioni di sinistra. E solo dopo che la situazione si aggravasse e colonne di studenti con militanti dei centri sociali, al canto di Bella ciao, devastassero strade, negozi, infrastrutture pubbliche e aggredissero forze di polizia in tenuta ordinaria e non antisommossa e ferissero qualcuno di loro, anche uccidendolo, farei intervenire massicciamente e pesantemente le forze dell'ordine contro i manifestanti, ma senza arrestare nessuno.|| The ideal would be that there be a victim of these demonstrations, someone passing by, as I said better if old, woman, or child, wounded by a firearm used by a demonstrator: it need only be a light wound, but better yet if it were grave without being life-threatening. [
] I would then wait a little longer, adopting exceptional measures of protection for the headquarters of leftwing organizations. And only after the situation precipitates and columns of students together with militants from the social centers to the tune of /Bella Ciao/ devastate streets, shops, public infrastructures and attack cops on routine duty, wounding one of them, even killing one, then I would intervene massively and heavily with the forces of order against the demonstrators, but without arresting anyone. |
Cossiga's letter may be read in light of the sentences handed down this evening (November 13) against the police for their conduct in the Diaz School in Genova on July 21st, 2001, during the G8 meeting. Human rights were suspended in Europe that evening as the police illegally detained, brutalized and tortured the demonstrators who had gathered there to rest and socialize. The BBC aired footage the other day of police officers in the act of planting Molotov cocktails within the building so as to fabricate just cause for their assault.
The judges did not recognize the responsibility of the commanding officers and only punished individual unlawful acts of single policemen. Despite the fact that Italy has signed protocols against torture, there is as of now no law against it. Aggravated assault makes do where torture should be the crime. Thanks to Prodi's execrable indulgence law, the guilty verdicts will carry no prison time nor hardly a mark on careers. Many of these policemen have since been promoted- democratically by either the left or the right, whichever in power.
The sentences were greeted with disappointment. Italy has once again missed a chance of public reconciliation, as is its habit. That perhaps is the force of many a state that derives its power from a common man, a common man who lives in fear, then hate, without shame or praise, just as Cossiga and the many like him so sorely wish.
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