Maoists report on 20 March Rome antiwar demo
29 March 2004. A World to Win News Service. The following was based on a report by the Proletari Comunisti (Proletarian Communists) of Italy.
More than a million people took part in the Rome demonstration whose basic slogan was “Withdraw Italian troops from Iraq”. It was the biggest protest among the hundreds around the world that mobilised millions that day. On the anniversary of the Iraq invasion, the people of the world have not changed their position against this war and the US’s “war without end” it is a part of. In fact, they have consolidated it.
This particular march was noteworthy for several reasons. Hundreds of thousands of youth found the ways and money to come to Rome. Some political forces linked to the Catholic Church and the Olive Tree Coalition (the “centre-left” parliamentary opposition parties) did not mobilise much for the demonstration or even opposed it. Most importantly, political forces linked to the government and other Olive Tree parties tried to organise a counter-demonstration several days earlier and isolate those who were determined to protest on the 20th. Their attempts failed completely – only about a thousand people showed up for their “march against terrorism” meant to legitimise the Berlusconi government’s support for the war and the presence of Italian soldiers among the occupation forces, as well as Italy’s current participation in the NATO occupation of Kosovo.
The people took to the streets 20 March to reject these manoeuvres. Many of them loudly and clearly expressed their opposition to the presence in this demonstration of politicians who had tried to organize the earlier counter-demonstration. Above all, this meant Piero Fassino, the leader of the Left Democrats party (DS), a descendent of the defunct counter-revolutionary pro-Soviet Communist Party. The DS took an ambiguous position in a recent vote in parliament on the Italian troops in Iraq. When Fassino provocatively tried to enter into the ranks of the marchers, he was met with whistles, chants and other forms of rejection. His goons struck out wildly but soon found themselves helpless to do anything about it, since this opposition was supported by the bulk of demonstrators, even many who vote for parliamentary parties. Later the other main descendent of the old pro-Soviet party, Rifondazione Comunista, criticized the “violence” of the reception people gave Fassino, but this opinion didn’t make itself much felt in the demonstration. While there were clashing opinions among the crowd about important issues such as the DS’s call to oppose “war and terrorism” equally, there was great agreement on the demand to withdraw all Italian troops without the slightest delay.
The isolation of the DS in this march represented a big step forward in the mass movement against the occupation of Iraq. The understanding that this is an imperialist war and that the world’s people should support the Iraqi resistance was strengthened in the course of it. One important contingent was made up of Italian Maoists and other revolutionaries, including rank and file workers, youth and women. Their united slogan was “Down with the government of imperialist war, repression against the people, high cost of living, unemployment and attacks on retirement!”