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de Gondi: the demonstrations in Rome on school 'reform'

by Jerome a Paris Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 06:25:08 PM EST

Yesterday [30 October], Fran posted in the Salon a BBC article on demonstrations in Rome against a school reform:

School pupils, university students and teachers have staged demonstrations across Italy against a school reform law just passed by parliament.

In Rome's Piazza Navona, a popular tourist spot, several people were lightly injured in a clash between left- and right-wing students.

The reform package is expected to cut the education budget.

In primary schools there will be just one all-purpose teacher per class and a grade system for pupils' behaviour.

ET member de Gondi posted some on the ground accounts and analysis which are rather more descriptive and enlightening, and which I copy here in full:

The issues of a one-purpose teacher and such is a facade for TV chat.

The law is essentially a massive budget cut which will bankrupt many educational institutions, eliminate what little research still goes on in Italy and put thousands of teachers and researchers out of a job. The law also will privatize many universities.

As a scam we can expect the same thing that happened with government property which was sold off by the previous Berlusconi government, often through a post office box in Copenhagen. The Carlyle group at the time made a killing in buying up dirt cheap prestigious real estate.

There are quite a few photos of the fascist attack in Piazza Navona on internet. Some students reacted in defence while many panicked and fled into the streets. The police- as well as most of the student group leaders- did a good job of bringing back the calm. The fascist managed to devastate the Navona Bar and the newspaper kiosk near by. The police managed to isolate the fascists and detain them. As of last night two or three of them have had their arrests confirmed.

more below...


The students are organized in relatively small groups of no more than a few hundred. Each group has a "leader" or who gives instructions and is responsible for the discipline of the group. These "representatives" coordinate their actions with the other groups and negotiate with the police on what can be done or not.

After the fascist attack I witnessed a heated discussion in which one of the "representatives" was chastised for having made alarming statements to his group about the attack. A plain clothed police officer also intervened to explain how to keep the groups calm. And negotiate on where the students could proceed.

Some of the groups are very young "scuola media"- about 12-14 years old.

In Rome the police forces have been highly cooperative with the students. This is all the more so considering the tactics and general strategy of the protestors. Demonstrations within the city are touch-and-go events thanks to the net and wireless communications. This is an internet generation that uses the network to the hilt. Within a few minutes hundreds of students will suddenly appear as if out of no where anywhere within the city and demonstrate. It's not as in the past when demonstrations consisted of linear parades that march from a fixed point to another. The students converge from everywhere and often number up to ten thousand if not more. It's understandable that the law forces have a hard time keeping track of what's going on. At the same time there is a strict policy on the students' part to be non-violent and prevent any attempts by violent elements to exploit the situation- as Cossiga and many government authorities might wish. It's appropriate that the fascists in Piazza Navona were there to "defend" the Gelmini law. Fortunately, they're so damned stupid that made an eloquent point of exactly what berlusconismo is all about.

Generally the Rome population sides with the students despite the fact that they are capable of creating chaos- calm chaos, to cite Moretti's recent film- wherever they arrive. Especially with the traffic. The students have taken back the city and filled it with life. Perhaps it's the revolt against a celluloid reality that made Berlusconi's fortune. There is something "biological" about the whole movement as if it were droves of starlings that pirouette and dance in the Roman sky, descending on Roman plazas in a climax of song. It disorients the TV format and exposes how superficial and poor television is with its sets and stages and cheap newsbites. It's the web as an instrument of vitality, life. It's a new generation. Gelmini and Silvio are old. Very old.

Later de Gondi added an update:

According to a report by Curzio Maltese of la Repubblica who was in Piazza Navona, the dynamics of the clash were worse. (I was at Sant'Andrea della Valle, just off Piazza Navona and only saw the kids fleeing.)

According to him the police did not intervene for over five minutes. The fascists- approximately sixty in all- first attacked the youngest children, no more than 14 years old, with clubs. The crowd berated the police for not intervening to protect them. After several attacks militant leftists from the "occupied social forums" intervened against the fascists. An isolated group of fascists was allowed to escape through the police barrier. Maltese who was pursueing them was blocked by the police. The police finally broke up the fight and hauled the remaining fascists away.

The student movements consider the provocation and the tardiness of the police to intervene as a deliberate design to smear the movement as violent.

Senator Cossiga was called to account as he left Palazzo Madama, "Is this what you wanted, Senator?"

As for those us who were outside the Piazza the panicking children did create tension but was calmed by the prompt and responsible response of the student "coordinators" with the collaboration of the police. Apparently the fascist had hoped that their violence would spill out and cause rioting throughout the area. The movement has been ever to conscious of this eventuality and has apparently constantly warned against it.

As for today the city has been totally invaded by one of the most imposing demonstrations I have witnessed in years, more than Veltroni's demonstration last Saturday- and a lot more creative.

It's deeply gratifying to see such a mass expression of Italian brain power in what is otherwise a cheap pornocratic freak show.

Display:
The government was asked to refer in parliament on the incidents in Piazza Navona. Unter-secretary of the interior, Francesco Nitto Palma, accused the students and the leftist factions of having started the clash in his report to parliament. The opposition and the students have categorically contested the government's version.

Photos of the dynamics of the incident now on line, as well as numerous testimonies, confirm the original reconstruction of a gratuitous attack by the fascists against youngsters as the initial cause of the fights.  

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 06:37:50 PM EST
Is this linked to other action around the country? It was taken outside Siena university a few days ago. There was a strike so the lessons were being taught outside.

Photobucket

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 07:05:36 PM EST
Student agitation has been going on since Mariastella Gelmini presented "her" reform, more aptly known as "Tremonti's School Cut." It has built in intensity since the beginning of October.

In short, each school or faculty set up its own website(s) that simply networked into a complex intercommunicative system, now known as l'Onda, the Wave. Students could join emailing lists by signing up at their faculty or school. The students- as well as teachers and deans- quickly set down basic guidelines for action that would allow the maximum of activity without unequivocally breaking the laws. Schools would allow for spaces and time lots for self-governing student activity that would not compromise classes. All loopholes and ambiguities in the law were exploited to the maximum so as foil any pretext by authorities to intervene.

This network, l'Onda, which continues to grow in vitality, is responsible for this "new way" of protesting which consists of apparently spontaneous happenings decentralized throughout the territory. It's very much like a living organism that has no head or tail, nor can be dismembered or decapitated. Excuse the crude language but the metaphor is apt. Every segment is the head and the body. So it all appears very spontaneous and improvised but to the contrary is highly organized. The movement causes disorientation because it appears to be far greater than what it is. But at the same time it is light and quick. The city of Rome has been chaotic for the past ten days because the students make themselves strongly present everywhere without totally occupying the territory. In fact, most people enjoy the chaos and goad on the students. Anti-student comments are very rare.

Most of the initiatives testify to the brilliance of the student organizers, such as public classes in major historical squares or even slums. The classes are so fascinating that many people stop what they routinely do just to listen and participate in the lessons. These educational events act as content-rich disruptive events in the average citizen's daily life. They have helped immensely in winning over much of the population to the students' protest and totally isolating the government in its boob tube castle.

All attempts by government propaganda to  smear the movement have been ineffectual since the students have been very quick at turning government snippets upside down or turning them into a counter-slogan. To this the students add recurrent taunts against government figures, a leitmotif of insults, usually associated with that age-group, but which becomes a strong tool.  

It is in this frustrating context that the government has sought to raise the level of conflict as hoped by Cossiga, the editorialists of the Berlusconi press, and sundry sycophants. In Piazza Navona and Bologna the government found grist for their attempt to criminalize the movement.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 07:48:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There was a strike so the lessons were being taught outside.

What I mean is that teaching lessons outside is one of the ways the students strike.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 07:50:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
is tremonti just a berlu-tool, or does he have anything positive to add to economical discourse?

his book selling? i see it on sale in the post office!

with that lisp, i imagine he had to work very hard to be taken seriously.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 08:49:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tremonti is very much his own man: God's gift to mankind which can be summed up as his boss. He is Berlusconi's private accountant who, as minister of finances devises complex schemes to make Berlusconi ever richer.

He states that his motto is "God, Family, Country" although it is hard to say what those words mean to him. He is very close to the Lega Nord at present. Like many of the incurable egos that Berlusconi keeps in his pin, Tremonti believes himself to hold the creative key to the grand unifying theory of human and sacred economy. The Economist dismissed him recently by remarking disparagingly that fortunately Tremonti's opinions carry little weight outside his limited sphere of influence.

Unfortunately we happen to be in that sphere.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 10:39:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then again, he ony gets The Economist's ire for dissing its model of economic globalisation...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 06:37:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what do you think, dodo? is he a neolib friedmanite?

he seems to be a little more intelligent than the average, in a geeky way, i wish i had the patience to read his book, i would if it were in inglese.

his history as b's fixer doesn't bode well, but does he have any clue about macro-financial policy?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 04:50:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My impression, which is based on not much, is that he is a classic national corporatist, as opposed to the modern globalised corporatists.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 02:04:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i guess that means protectionism...

good luck with that!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 07:49:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is he standard-issue rightwing economist, if not, what makes him unique? is he italy's paulson, or just a babyfaced mafioso?

he's reputed to have something of his own take on globalism and keeping italy competitive...is that confindustria propaganda?

does he have a lefty past?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 04:54:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He states that his motto is "God, Family, Country" although it is hard to say what those words mean to him.

Isn't that obvious? God wants him to use the country to do well by his family :-P

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 09:03:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am so impressed. That is an incredibly clever way to protest and to gather support.  It puts the unoriginal actions of the UK student movement to shame.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 04:33:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Shouldn't most of the story be moved below the fold ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 08:05:05 PM EST
October 23rd, 17:22 Largo Argentina suddenly fills with students that converge there from everywhere.

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The growing crowd turns right into Corso Vittorio Emanuele blocking all traffic. There are no police to be seen.

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12 minutes have passed.

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by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 08:06:37 PM EST
great description, de G.

will the unions join, as in paris 68?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 08:13:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The left CGIL is already on its own course. The government intends to break the agreement between the various unions by seeking seperate accords with the conservative unions. In that the conservative CISL and UIL have accepted. Both the industrialists and the government are seeking a conflict by deliberately cutting out the largest and most militant union.

So the leftist unions will be a source of agitation in the coming months. Unlike the students we can expect violence and a radicalization of the situation.

It's exactly what this government wants. But they behave more like apprentice sorcerers which leaves the outcome wide open.  

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 08:36:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The key to success is an alliance between students and workers.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 06:41:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It didn't fair well in 68.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 08:44:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It wasn't enough, but it made it much more effective. Similarly, such an alliance made 1980 and 1989 such big events in Poland, vs. the half a dozen previous events.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 11:38:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, before I forget, it also made 1956 in Hungary a big event; other that that, there have been only spontaneous workers' strikes and some students' protests police clubs easily dealt with.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 02:06:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An actual alliance between students and workers didn't really happen in '68, if I understand correctly.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 08:13:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even today, unions are built as hierarchical representation organizations, suspicious of academic framing. Solidarity in Poland was a special case - but its power should be an indication of where unions should be heading.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 08:23:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
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The students confront a police barrier at Sant'Andrea della Valle, just down the street from the Senate. They hold their hands up and chant, "Go ahead, arrest all of us!"

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"Police: We're defending the rights of your children!"

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by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 08:24:55 PM EST
(October, I take)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 06:45:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Effectively, the demonstrations arrive in waves. Ebb tide and high tide. None of the demonstrations are authorized, they just happen. This morning it's the high school students that take to the streets. For most of them it's their first time and you can feel the freshness.

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The goddess of victory, Nike, looms in the background.

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Children

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"Ignorance is Gelmini's child. We rebel against this band of cretins!!!!"

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by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 09:16:30 PM EST
Does Italy have a similar tradition to France, where pretty much every generation of high school pupils gets a round of demonstration at one point of their studies ? The French governments are kind enough to put forward some education/youth job market "reform" every three years or so, so that high schoolers get the chance to demonstrate...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 08:17:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just about every government has sought to make a ridiculous reform, completely ignoring the propositions put forth by faculty and student representatives. This however is not so much a reform as a massive budget cut with iritating garnish such as one teacher in grade school. At present each grade school class has minimum two if not three teachers.

But actual mass demonstrations occured in the 60's, 1977, the panther movement in the 90's. All other reforms did not see this mass mobilization.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 04:19:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting diary...remind me of Serbian students rebelling against Milosevic...
Hopefully these kids in Italy can make a change...at least in atmosphere against Berlusconi (anyway I am amazed that he managed to come to power again)...Young people have that power to turn their parents after all ...all though it takes some time.


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 10:02:34 PM EST
The next day the Gelmini decree would be voted into law. As the evening passed Rome was devastated by torrential rains. It seemed a monsoon. According to a report the next day, one student spent the entire night under the rain with his placard. He said he had nothing to lose and would never forgive himself had he given up for the weather.

Often the students used film titles for their protest, films ironically distributed by the Berlusconi monopoly such as "Io non ho paura" by Gabriele Salvatores. "I'm not scared." A Roman student adopted it as his present idea of what life in Italy offered him.

With high disoccupation levels and dim prospects for his future, he simply couldn't care to be afraid about it. It was an interesting comment on present Italian society which has been bombarded by fear messages for years. A recent international study found that the Romans are the most afraid in absolute of citizens of 30 cities throughout the world including Capetown and San Paolo. Berlusconi's televisions has turned Italy into a nation of sissies. And now he complains about it.

Another apt slogan was "Non è un paese per giovani", a twist on the Coen film "No Country for Old Men": "No Country for the Young."

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In front of the Senate.

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Overworked cops.

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by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 10:10:19 PM EST
This is the power of self-organization to overcome hierarchy - the 'disenfranchised' many against the 'privileged' few. As long as the Intertube remains accessible to all, change will come. Democracy may fail if access to all or any is denied - which is why the Intertube is a right.

Historically, latent mass popular movements have been suppressed by the relative speeds at which organization takes place in the self-organizing versus the hierarchic system. Organization requires communication. The process of communication (pre-Intertube) for latent mass movements was always slow enough and public enough that the controlling hierarchy could use a faster system of communication to a) discover what, where and how the protest was going to be and b) plan to confront, reduce, or remove its power.

Post-Intertube, the hierarchic system is too slow to be effective. Finally, numbers count.

This Italian school protest fills me with optimism. But we should remain intensely aware that the threat to our 'rulers', of the speed at which we can organize, will force them to deny access. Networks can be selectively shut down.

 

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 06:30:28 AM EST
According to student accounts the attacks launched by the rightwing student began shortly after the "Gelmini" decree was voted into law. As the situation degenerated in Piazza Navona the youngest demonstrators panicked and began to run out of the Piazza into the side streets. I found groups of them crying and trembling in the side streets where shop owners and artisans gathered round to help and comfort them. A mechanic put chairs in the street and a bar offered bottles of water. I saw no signs of violence on these children although they were deeply shaken. Out of a sense of respect I did not photograph them. I felt it would violate their right to privacy in a moment like this. However, it was difficult to make sense of what had happened.

Back on Vittorio Emanuele the mood had changed decisively. There was a visible sense of unrest as everyone sought to understand what had happened. In this situation the police outside the Piazza exchanged information, offered advice and negotiated with the student "coordinators" on what could be done or not. At one point a "coordinator" dressed down another one for having used a too inflammatory language to communicate what had happened in the Piazza. Shortly after the police opened up a corridor to let demonstrators leave the Piazza by passing near the Senate through police barriers.

My impression was that for whatever had occurred or was still going on in the Piazza, both the demonstrators and the police authorities outside the piazza collaborated in the best possible way to reduce tension.

The mood has changed.

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An officer negotiates with student group coordinators on what actions by the students will be allowed.

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A student group coordinator upbraids another for having used excessive language in describing what has been going on in the piazza.

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Waiting...

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by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 08:40:36 AM EST
Thanks for this account and all the photos, it brings an really important piece of social change and action to life for those of us who are not there.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 09:31:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've decided to put up a second part since my comment on the general strike of October 30th along with the photos would likely make this diary too heavy.

I suspect it is already too heavy. As for photos I've reduced them to 72 dpi, 600 pixel width. I guess that's all right.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 04:28:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds fine.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 05:32:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Cross post to the other thread:

Thrilled to find this site.  At last some explanations of what I saw last month as a tourist in Italy.

A link to my pictures is here.

Perhaps after our interminable election ends, this will start to get some more coverage.  I think it's the shape of things to come in more than just Italy and people need to know about it.

by sTiVo on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 05:38:57 PM EST


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