Italian Workers: No to Bush, no to war!
by Leslie Feinberg
When George W. Bush, the emperor of the current imperial empire, visited the capital of the ancient Roman Empire on 4 June, about 200,000 anti-war activists protested in the streets.
The imposing march was opened by the banner of the “Committee Stop the War”, the umbrella coalition that organized the event, which read: “No war, no Bush”.
Secondly, the “US Citizens Against the War” contingent was deployed, US citizens against the war.
The entire event attracted applause and approval throughout the march both by Italians and international tourists who crowded the sidewalks and squares packed.
US activists said they were pleasantly surprised to be applauded by so many tourists from the United States. Some of them even reached them to widen the ranks of the march.
Two of these people, who were in Italy for their honeymoon and found themselves watching the demonstration from the sidewalk, reached the march and helped bring the banner of US Citizen Against the War.
The event filled the wide Roman avenues with its crowd and its resistance songs. And the numbers were high in spite of the warnings of the government and the media to stay away from the event because it could lead to “violence”.
Everywhere there was the rainbow flag of peace, which became an official symbol of the Italian pacifist movement. And the flags fluttered from balconies and windows, shop windows and newsagents along the march and across the capital.
A false parallel
Bush’s visit was scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of the landing of American troops on Normandy beaches during World War II.
The US president attempted a false historical parallel, depicting the Pentagon war and the occupation of Iraq as a war of liberation and comparing it to the support that the US military gave to Italy against fascism.
On 4 June the pacifist demonstrators protested against this offensive comparison.
The organizers deliberately planned the route of the event. The protest march has passed in front of the monuments that have been adopted as symbols of the nationalism of the right. The police massively sided in three lines before the flame of eternal freedom and in front of the tomb of the unknown soldier, to prevent pacifists from planting the flag of peace.
From the side of the square, in front of this monument used by neo-fascists to propagate nationalism, is the balcony from which Benito Mussolini spoke to his kingdom.
John Gilbert, an American citizen living in Florence, told “Workers World” that Bush’s claim to have worked to free Iraq is a forgery. “The majority of Italians want all the troops to retire immediately,” including the 2,700 Italian troops sent by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
“The Italians think that Bush is a threat to world peace, they feel a lot about the role that America has had in the past for the liberation from Nazism and they think that Bush is not appropriate to play the same kind of role today.”
Gilbert, syndicalist and pacifist organizer, concluded: “On the contrary, there is more than one parallel to the Nuremberg trials, the accusation of war crime by instigation to a war of aggression.”
The June 4 protest united the Italian movements: communists and social democrats, anti-imperialists and pacifists, trade unionists and environmentalists.
North African immigrants also took part in the march to unite the struggle of immigrant workers to the anti-war movement.
The metalworkers of the CGIL confederation who recently won a battle against their leaders at Fiat, marched with their flags.
Another group marched with a big red sign saying: “Let’s defend Cuba! With Fidel and with Cuba; Freedom for the Five! “The Five Cubans are political prisoners held in the United States because of their role in trying to control right-wing terrorism, backed by Washington against their nation.
The flags of Palestine, Iraq and Cuba also waved in this march.
The demonstration ended in the Piazza di San Paolo, where the anti-Fascist partisans – with their communist leadership – embarked on their most bloody battle against German Nazi occupation.
At the end of the demonstration, some Kurdish and Palestinian spokesmen spoke, and the Women in Black, Women in Black, a group that opposes Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
An elderly partisan and an American soldier who fought alongside the partisans also spoke.
An American spokeswoman: Resistance grows
Minnie Bruce Pratt, writer and American activist visiting Italy, spoke passionately about the assembled crowd. Pratt is an organizer of the International Action Center, one of the 11 organizations of the ANSWER coalition committee (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism).
Pratt’s words were greeted by applause. “The US government is trying to tighten its iron fist on the Middle and Near East … for big business interests,” he said, and added: “We in the United States are with you to defend the rights of immigrants, oppressed nationalities, to build unity against the terror of transnational corporations.
“Your opposition to the war – you, the Italian people – inspires us in the United States. Always more people in the United States realize that it has been lied to you, and that this war is wrong, but also the Resistance is growing. Soldiers refuse to serve, supported by groups like the SNAFU, (support network for the armed forces) As a lesbian, I am proud to say that the first resistant soldier was Stephen Funk, a reservist from the Philippine and gay navy. ”
“The people of an occupied and colonized nation must have the right to resist and the right to defend themselves, like the Vietnamese, the Palestinians, the Iraqis, like the Italian partisans who fought against the Nazis right here in Saint Paul’s Square” concluded Pratt.
“We draw our strength to fight even from their resistance.”
In Milan on June 2, about 5,000 people protested against militarism and the war in Iraq. The demonstrators burned the hated US flag. Twelve people were arrested.
Roberto Taddeo of Redlink told Workers World that on 2 June the anti-war demonstration recalled many members of the unions and many unemployed workers to Naples. SNAFU’s appeal to troops for resistance to war was distributed in Italian. This is particularly significant as Naples is home to the US military command in the Mediterranean.
The week before, again in Naples, activists protested from source to the banks that finance the companies that exploit Iraq.
During Bush’s visit, numerous other smaller events took place in many cities and towns. In Venice, professors and university students lined up along the banks of the Grand Canal wearing hoods like those that Iraqi prisoners are forced to wear. They were holding signs saying: “Out of Iraq! Everyone in Rome against Bush! ”
The anti-war organization in this country continues.
In Florence, three or four times a week, anti-war events were held in the form of discussions on tactics and strategic meetings, marches and educational forums.
John Gilbert reports an estimate that more than 80 percent of Italians are against the war and the occupation of Iraq
This estimate is based on the flags of peace visible in Italian cities and towns. The desire for war to end up flies even in the countryside, from the roofs and windows of farms.
Italian translation by Davide Tolu
Reprinted from the June 17, 2004 issue of the Workers World newspaper. Copyright Workers World Service.
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