What happened at Genoa?

3 articles in Socialist Voice August 2001 by several members of the Socialist Party.

300,000 turned out on the streets of Genoa in the biggest anti-capitalist demonstration to date. Marchers were opposing the neo-liberal, anti-working class agenda of the G8 and the newly elected Berlusconi government in Italy. Genoa was a turning point for the anti-capitalist movement and politics generally. The use of live ammunition in Gothenburg warned us of the attitude of the ruling class: they want to break this opposition that questions their entire system, at any cost. The killing of two people and the injuring of many more on the Friday before the main march in Genoa confirmed that they would stop at nothing. But rather than acting as a brake on the movement, it made more people see the democracy of the G8 leaders for what it is 'democracy' is replaced by baton sticks and bullets if you don't agree. More people than ever turned up to demonstrate on the Saturday following the killing. As with the protests in Gothenburg, the international media showed very little of this mighty movement and concentrated instead on the violence that surrounded the summit. The real face of this violence is one of police provocation, police infiltration, random harassment, arrests and beatings.

Police provocation

Only an independent inquiry can bring out the full truth of what happened in Genoa. But our own experiences give a taste of the scale of the police operations. The whole week before the summit the 20,000+ army and police force turned the city into a police state with blockades on all main roads, constant identity checks and strip searches, nightly intimidation in the camp sites where people were sleeping... All activities of the Genoa Social Forum (GSF), the umbrella group uniting more than 800 organisations at the protests, were very aggressively policed. Tear gas and CS gas were used in massive amounts to create havoc in peaceful mass demonstrations and even at times and places where absolutely nothing was happening. Protesters on their way back from demonstrations were tear gassed, batoned, attacked and driven miles out of town. Shooting protesters in the head and chest can only be described as a shoot-to-kill policy.

The horrific Saturday-night attack on the headquarters of the GSF, where the lawyers and the medics were sleeping, is another example of police brutality. The police went in to destroy all evidence of police provocations and infiltration that had been assembled in the school, beat up everybody present and arrested over 60 people.


There was an even darker side to the police activities. People dressed up as protesters were seen chatting with police, only to take off again to create havoc in another part of town. There is increasing evidence of massive police infiltration and provocation, especially in the so-called 'Black Bloc'. Facts are now emerging that parts of the 'Black Bloc' were not just made up of police infiltrators but also fascist groups. This explains why members of the 'Black Bloc' at various stages of the protests viciously attacked marchers.

In the face of this orchestrated violence, it is understandable that a small section of the protesters reacted by rioting. The CWI went to Genoa with a clear goal to protest against capitalism and its insane logic and to raise the alternative of socialism. We don't want to destroy property, we want to take it out of the hands of the super rich and put it into the hands of ordinary people. While saying to the protesters that rioting is only handing our opponents a means to discredit the entire anti-capitalist movement, we also place the responsibility for violence firmly at the door of those who are responsible: the Italian police and government and the G8 leaders with their violent policies. Putin, the man who destroyed Groszny, a city of 250,000 people, is only one example of a G8 hypocrite when it comes to violence.

A rich man's club

And what was it all for? The G8 summit was one big show without content. Any claim that it tried to 'do something about Aids in Africa' is ridiculous in the light of the facts.

The total cost of the weekend wining and dining of our eight 'world leaders' was more than three times the total annual health budget of a country like Tanzania!

'Liberalisation of world trade' is nothing more than a nice term for more privatisation, cuts in services, attacks on unions and workers' rights, lower wages and job cuts. All in an effort to save profits in the face of a developing global economic recession.

The real importance of Genoa

The other side of Genoa is the massive turn out of working class people from all over Europe and the sympathy and support they got from the local population. The March in Solidarity with Immigrants on the Thursday attracted over 50,000 people, much more than even the organisers had hoped for. Big lively delegations of mainly young people, singing and chanting, with banners and flags made their disgust of the racist policies of the European governments clear in a very organised manner. The day of direct action on the Friday saw more than 70,000 people expressing their opposition to the G8 in their own varied ways. The massive demonstration on Saturday, overwhelmingly Italian, young and working class, was greeted by solidarity banners in the windows and local people clapping and singing.

It showed that a new era is opening up, where the cynicism of the 90s about the possibility for change has given way to an anger on the streets that involves significant sections of youth and workers. There is massive anger against a fundamentally unjust system that has to be fought on an international level. If the anti-capitalist movement manages to point a way forward and engage in day-to-day struggles of ordinary people, while at the same time keeping the need for international action high on its agenda, then this movement is bound to grow stronger.

Article 2:

On the march against capitalism

ONE CLEAR achievement of the anti-globalisation movement that emerged from the G8 summit was that world capitalist leaders are now ideologically on the back foot when it comes to defending their rotten system. Ever since Seattle in 1999 meetings of 'world leaders' have been besieged by a growing movement of protesters. Although the anti-capitalist movement has no leadership as such, a number of writers and philosophers have risen to prominence. They include Susan George, Walden Bello, Pierre Bordieau and Naomi Klien.

All have provided searing indictments of contemporary capitalism and how it has affected the lives of workers and poor around the world. In this sense, their presence is an asset to the movement. However, their common weakness lies in their lack of a real alternative to the system.

What alternative?

Understandably, there is a wide range of competing ideas in terms of the way forward for the movement in particular and for society in general. It is important that socialists engage fully in this debate in a fraternal manner. To leave the various ideas raised by others unchallenged for the sake of adapting to the prevailing mood would be a dishonest approach. Unfortunately, this is exactly the approach adopted by some on the left.

Many illusions exist within the movement that third world representation on IMF, consumer boycotts and the promotion of fair trade produce offer a way out for the worlds oppressed. Others believe that simply scaling down economic development can save the environment. Socialists must address these mistaken ideas in a firm and sensitive manner.

Although socialists should support progressive reforms like the Tobin Tax on financial dealings and the abolition of third world debt, we must point to the certain resistance with which these measures would be met by the capitalists. We should also stress that the enforcement of these reforms would require taking the banks and financial institutions into public ownership.

The very root of the problem lies in the ownership and organisation of the world's resources. If we want an economy that meets human need as opposed to market demand, then we are talking about the necessity for a socialist transformation based on public ownership and planning of the commanding sectors of the economy under workers' democratic control and management.

What force can bring change?

The other issue that needs to be raised in the anti-globalisation movement is the key role of the organised working class in changing society given their numbers, their role in production and their ability to act collectively through strikes.

It is a key lesson from France in 1968 to Serbia in more recent years that when workers move, the oppressive apparatus of the capitalist state is severely impaired.

Had the demonstrators in Genoa been in a position to threaten a one-day general strike if there was any police provocation, the march would have been better protected. If the anti-capitalist movement is to progress onto a higher plane, then it will be on the basis of adopting socialist demands and linking ever more closely to the workers' movement.


Article 3:

Socialist Representative's Rage at police violence

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins was the only TD (member of parliament) in the South who came out in protest of the killing in Genoa. He stated the following on the day after the killing:

'Despite the extensive efforts of the protest organisers to keep the demonstration peaceful, the police, as in Gothenburg and Barcelona, initiated the most extreme and brutal violence. 'Inevitably a small minority of the protesters reacted violently to the actions of the police and this was used as an excuse for the shoot-to-kill tactics of the police. Our international organisation, the CWI, has received a very strong reaction to the call for a 24-hour general strike in Italy in protest at the killings. Throughout Europe young socialists will protest at Italian Embassies in protest against this barbarism.'

Socialist Youth and the Socialist Party got a very good response at the street rallies and meetings that we organised North and South to protest against police violence and to highlight what really happened in Genoa.

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