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Norah Carlin

Italian shootings mark growing crisis of regime

(19 April 1969)

From Socialist Worker, No. 118, 19 April 1969, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THE SHOOTING OF two people – one a bystander – during a battle between police and workers at Battipaglia in southern Italy last week underlines once again the violence of the class struggle in Italy.

Workers’ and students’ demonstrations are frequently turned into pitched battles by the brutality of police and carabinieri. When deaths occur, as at Avola in Sicily last December, it is the demonstrators who are accused of homicide – this ludicrous charge was actually brought against 150 striking labourers at Avola.

Deaths hit the news, but there have been several battles and a number of political arrests in Italy since December. ‘Law and order’ is the excuse of the ruling class for their repressive use of the state machinery, and they point to the threat of direct action by fascist groups if the state fails in its ‘duty’.

This is a real threat in Italy, but the police in fact failed to save Naples University from serious damage by fascists in January.


Last Friday, workers all over Italy responded to the unions’ call for a three-hour general strike in protest at the Battipaglia events. Many – such as the Venice watermen – stayed out for longer than this brief period thought suitable by the leaders of unions such as the General Confederation of Labour (CGIL), which is dominated by the Communist Party.

In Milan, Rome and Florence, protest rallies developed into more street fighting. In Bologna, the Communist mayor pleaded with demonstrators to go home when they sat down on the railway line.

Clearly, the Communist Party and the union leadership wish to keep the anger of Italian workers and students within the limits they set. such as the campaign for legislation to disarm the police.

The role of the Communist Party is similar to that played by its French counterpart last summer – except that the Italian party probably enjoys even less control over militant workers and has its sights more firmly set on parliamentary power.

Disarming the police would not solve Italy’s problems. High unemployment and wide-spread redundancies (like those the Battipaglia workers were protesting against) are made worse by weak government which has lost the respect of sections of the ruling class.

While the Communist. Party works for its parliamentary solution, the workers as well as the students seem to have another answer: to take their politics out into the streets, no matter what brutality awaits them there.

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Last updated: 15 January 2021