150,000 Say “No To War” In Rome

“A three-one win to us!” were the words of one happy anti-war demonstrator in Rome last week-end. Some estimates make the score between the rival demonstrations on 10 November even higher. 30,000 at the pro-war show in Piazza di Popolo and 150,000 on the anti-war march.

Clare Doyle, Committee for a Workers’ International

The anti-war march had been called by the Rome Social Forum with no facilities for organising a mass turnout. Nevertheless tens of thousands of predominantly young people involved in social forums and social centres around the country made their way to the capital.

There were large groups of peaceful ‘disobedients’ alongside pacifists and Christian organisations. There was, once again – as in Genoa in July and on the Perugia to Assisi march in October when up to 500,000 demonstrated against the war – a mass of red on the banners, flags and scarves of the Communist Re-foundation (PRC) and the left trade unions Cobas and Cub.

There was participation from the CGIL trade union federation and representatives of the Greens and the Democratic Communist Party who had voted in parliament against the war measures, along with the PRC.

“A flop”, is how commentators described the attempt by the governing parties and the Prime Minister Berlusconi himself to show that the whole of Italy was behind the war effort. They had been pushing their demo in a massive media and poster campaign featuring a stars and stripes merged into the Italian tricolour. They had laid on 540 special coaches and put on their platform famous stars like Pavarotti and Boccelli.

Italy’s far right, the National Alliance and the Northern League, did little or nothing to mobilise for Berlusconi’s patriotic demonstration.

The Democratic Left (DS) – the main opposition party that evolved in the 1990s from what was once the largest Communist party in Europe (PCI) – is fracturing over the issue of support for the war. Violante, the parliamentary leader, went on the pro-war demo whereas Salvi, the DS vice-president in the Senate, was on the march against the war. Fassino, the newly elected party leader who had voted for participation in the war, shunned Berlusconi’s event and instead flew to the coast to visit the troops leaving for Afghanistan.

Dissident members of the Democratic Left attended the anti-war demo. “A vast sea of people”, according to journalists of Il Manifesto and Liberazione, “Youthful, colourful and festive”, danced, sang and shouted their message through the streets of Rome: “No to war. No to terrorism and no to the (neo)liberal budget which means cuts, deregulation and privatisation.”

These are also the slogans taken up in a wave of strikes spreading throughout Italy. Growing numbers of young people and workers in Italy are telling the Prime Minister he’s got it wrong – on the war, on his anti-working class policies at home and on the kind of support he can expect in the future.