Against “Law 133”, to extend the struggle!

The academic world is in uproar. At last! - we say - after so many years of torpor despite the many reforms that have gradually increased the class character of that world. The protests in various forms are multiplying throughout the peninsula. While the government is trying to calm the situation, behind the facade it clearly sees the agitation for a situation that could get out of hand. If Sacconi, has spoken of a "presumptuous" few, Berlusconi said that the occupation "is violence" and would have called upon "Maroni to give guidance on how they should intervene to enforce the law." And while we can all prepare ourselves for the next instalment of Tiananmen Square (the Italian version), students in Milan, who tried to occupy the Cadorna station, have already felt the first blows. The violence, the real violence, has been used so far only by the police.

The protests are directed primarily against "Law 133", a cauldron involving several different measures, all sharing a strongly anti-proletarian character and a general cut in public expenditure, in other words, the indirect wage. Just to get an idea of its scope, Law 133 has involved, among others, parliamentary committees for treasury and finance, justice, defence, culture, environment, transportation and labour. This is a finance law; approved by the House on August 6 and passed quietly enough ... What is causing all the fuss, for the moment, is the fact that it includes measures that affect the university.

First of all, there are big budget cuts, which rise from 63.5 million for 2009 up to 455 million for 2013. This is 1441.5 million Euros worth of cuts over 5 years. If we take into account inflation and further cuts already introduced this autumn, they will lead to a reduction of approximately 30% of vital funding. A real drain of resources for a university that already floundering due to shortages of staff, classrooms and laboratories.

Another key plank of the reform is the transformation of foundation universities in order to open them up more to private funding, coupled more directly to the interests of businesses and local capital. But we must remember that the possibility of setting up chairs under the direction, and through agreements, with businesses had already been instigated due to educational laws and financial reforms introduced by Berlinguer.

Foundation universities would also be allowed to arbitrarily decide the level of fees for students beyond the current limit of fees which stands at 20% of state funding. There is therefore no longer any cap on the fees that a student may have to pay, completely excluding proletarian strata from a university education.

Law 133 also requires a drastic reduction of staff of universities, forcing them to accept massive layoffs and retirements. In the face of expulsion of staff, it sets a 20% limit on turnover which means that there can be no more than one new member of staff for every five expulsions. And in the long run this will have no other result that the cancellation of many lessons and entire courses, especially those of minor interest to the universities and businesses sponsors. For university employees, this will mean even more precarious employment, indeed they will be condemned to perpetual insecurity, subject to obtaining additional private funding and hence the needs of the production structure. The "research" fully in the service of capital will be nothing but the search for greater productivity, higher workloads, instability of employment relations and fewer qualifications.

In this regard, we must clarify the true function of education and universities in capitalist, class society, based solely on the exploitation of labour. It should be clear that for capital, the desirable "right to education and culture" in itself crucial to the realisation of the potential of each individual, does not mean a thing. The truth is that employers want the most ignorant, subservient workers, generally trained in high school or, when needed, in universities. They want workers especially ready to accept flexibility, insecurity and submission to their rule. On the other hand, its university research is used to provide businesses with "new technologies" that allow the use of less and less qualified workers.

The university movement will soon choose on which side of the fence it is. Defending the public universities as a vital cog of the country "and research as a tool of " international competitiveness " means defending the same interests that are subject to Law 133, offspring of the overall crisis of capitalism and fully in line with reforms taken in the past by governments of the right rather than the left. A movement that wants to really express effective opposition to the new reforms will need to distance myself from those university rectors and barons that if they became involved, did so only to defend their privileges and their pensions. It is no coincidence that the latter are limiting themselves to only ask for the deletion of the part of Law 133 involving universities, but that law includes widespread attacks on the world of paid employment.

The movement will thus soon have to resolve its ambiguities and must choose whether to stand up in defence of capitalism - and then accept the substance of the reforms in place - or oppose it, seeking union with the only possible real antagonism to the current system, namely that of all the working class, on whose increasingly intense exploitation the system is based. In particular we must overcome the corporate interests, the ideological subservience and real connivance with capital amongst what may be considered the most qualified fringes of the proletariat and petty bourgeoisie undergoing proletarianisation, including a good number of university workers, especially those in precarious employment.

We welcome with satisfaction and enthusiasm that movement of protest against a profoundly anti-proletarian reform, siding with those students and all those workers who intend to combat Law 133 and the capitalist interests behind it, alongside the other public employees and all employees targeted by this concerted attack by employers and government. To have a possibility of success, the movement that is growing in Italy must above all avoid the trap of isolation. Following the example of French struggle against the CPE, it needs to extend beyond schools and universities. The cuts to education are in fact, yet another product of that crisis in capitalism that attacks the wages and living conditions of the proletariat. Obviously, only the active intervention of the revolutionary party can direct the movement away from the generally “democratic” confused terrain it now occupies towards a coherent anti-capitalist struggle, and within the limits of our forces, we are working on this.

Fighting Law 133 must be a first step in a fight against capitalism which is based on an attempt to unify the struggles of the proletarians, upon which are imposed ever worsening contracts, with those of their children, who have less opportunity to study and face a future of insecurity and unemployment. We fight for truly free education that can only exist in a society of free citizens in a society geared to meet human needs and not the accumulation of capital.