Italy Fighting the Education Cuts

We are reproducing here for readers of English three contributions made by our Italian comrades of Battaglia Comunista to the current fight against the so-called “reforms” of the right-wing Berlusconi Government. Readers in Britain, and elsewhere, will recognise the nature of the cuts in a state school and university system which has served its purpose for the ruling class. The difference is that the British system was slowly destroyed over twenty years of so-called “reforms” under Thatcher and Blair. As the texts make clear, similar things have been going on in Italy under governments of both left and right, but it is a sign of the new desperation of the ruling class that they have just gone for the cheapest option in an attempt to balance the state budget. The cuts hit every sector of the system from primary schools to universities. The resistance by parents, teachers, pupils and students has certainly caught the state and the unions on the hop. A small education workers’ demonstration organised only by the COBAS (the rank and file unions which split from the big union federations like CISL and CGIL1 in the 1980s) on 17 October was supported by masses of workers (both parents and all categries of education workers). This sparked off demonstrations all over the country and the state responded with violence. Indeed, the attacks on the student demonstration in Rome by Fascist thugs, whilst the police (who seemed to know them!) stood idly by, was a familiar scene for those who knew of the beginnings of the twenty-year Fascist rule between the wars.

Our comrades have worked both within their workplaces, or their education establishments, to widen the struggle both in its aims and in its organisation but, as one of the leaflets says, the movement has never achieved the same level of self-organisation as the French students did against the first job contract (CPE) in 2006.2 At the time of going to press the students continue to demonstrate, whilst the schools’ struggle is currently continuing but at a lower level, and in a more localised fashion. In some Northern Italian cities parents, pupils and education workers continue to organise well-supported demonstrations and the university students are still demonstrating all over the country. The next national demonstrations called by the CGIL and the COBAS is fixed for 12th December and the support it receives will show how strong the movement remains. One thing is clear - this is more than just a struggle over the social wage. It is also about the kind of society in which we want to live as the contributions of our comrades make clear.

(1) CISL = Confederation of Italian Workers’ Unions, CIGL = General Confederation of Italian Workers.

(2) See "Reflections on the Student Movement in France" in Revolutionary Perspectives 39.

Revolutionary Perspectives

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