Genoa – Fury of the Oppressed Genoa – Fury of the Oppressed
With a rapidly-expanding, militant anti-globalisation movement – which is becoming increasingly working-class in its composition, much to the despair of the powers that be – the imperialist powers were particularly paranoid about the demonstrations surrounding the G8 Summit in Genoa, prompting them to spend tens of millions of dollars on security for the G8 delegates.
The demonstrations in Genoa between the 19
and the 21
of July will be remembered by all progressive people for the despicable violence perpetrated against the assembled protestors by the Italian police with the full complicity of the Italian state and the rest of the world’s imperialist governments. In scenes evoking comparison with the treatment of Palestinian stone-throwers by the Zionist Israeli state, armed riot police at the demonstrations reacted to the mere presence of the protestors with charging; to pushing with teargas; to destruction of private property with shooting. The police used extreme force against the protestors, many of whom were beaten up even after their arrest. Three days of demonstrating by as many as 300,000 people of very broad-ranging political opinion (the Genoa Social Forum, which was responsible for co-ordinating the demonstrations, was composed of over 1,000 different organisations) saw over 500 injuries and the tragic death of Italian anarchist Carlo Guilani at the hands of the police. Even those protestors intent on pursuing a strictly non-violent (not even defensive) policy did not escape the wrath of the police. It was made quite clear that the ‘crime’ of the protestors was not violence but the very fact that they were protesting. It was clear that the police were not following a policy of targeting ‘troublemakers’, as trade unionists, anarchists, drop-the-debt campaigners and independent journalists alike were attacked.
The reactions to the brutal violence displayed by the police have been varied. Predictably, the reaction from the imperialist governments has been a blanket approval of the ‘heroic’ efforts by the Italian police, who had to deal with a ‘mob of anarchists hell-bent on destruction’. A
editorial on 22 July went as far as to say
“Any sympathy for the man shot dead by police in Genoa has to be tempered by his assault on a police land rover with the sole purpose of beating up the young carabiniere doing his national service who was cowering in the back”
(it seems the fact that Carlo was shot twice in the head and then run over by police is not enough to induce sympathy when one bears in mind that at the time of his shooting Carlo was holding above his head a small fire extinguisher that the police had thrown out of their jeep in an attack on the protestors). Tony Blair shamelessly claimed that the protestors were seriously misguided if they thought they were representing the interests of the ‘developing’ countries. He claimed that the G8 summit had been addressing the very issues that the protestors outside were interesting in solving, such as debt and poverty in Africa. Gordon Brown declared:
“we cannot hope to defeat poverty without embracing globalisation”
(‘Protestors in Genoa are no friends to the poor’,
, 21 July 2001) – and he wasn’t talking about communist globalisation! He continued:
“Cutting the poorest countries off from the global economy will not help to tackle this injustice… Our aim must be an international economic system that has at its very heart the high ideals and public purpose that inspired the creation of the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Bank and the IMF”
. The high ideals the chancellor is referring to are, of course, those of shameless exploitation and plunder – ideals which the Labour government have proudly held aloft.
The denunciation of all the protestors, the applause of the job performed by the Italian government and police, the audacious defence of the summit – these have all been echoed by the higher statesmen of imperialism across the world, as is to be expected. But what has been the reaction of the more ‘liberal’ sections of the capitalist class?
The Observer of 29 July contained a startling two-page report revealing how
“the police executed a sinister and brutal strategy”
, reporting that the violence perpetrated by police on arrested demonstrators in their police cells was worse than the
surrounding the protests.
“The police were spoiling for a fight”
. The article, entitled ‘My ribs broke and my teeth fell out’, reported that
“Scores of protestors said tear gas rounds were fired directly at them. Beatings were random and vicious. Journalists, passers-by, protestors, whether peaceful or violent, were all seen as legitimate targets by a police force gone mad”
. Other journals of the same ilk produced very similar articles displaying shock at the actions of the Italian police and sympathy with the
protestors, whose concerns about globalisation are described as being very legitimate.
The seemingly opposite responses of the liberal and not-so-liberal sections of the bourgeoisie should be seen in terms of a ‘good cop bad cop’ approach by capitalism as a whole to the anti-globalisation movement. The sympathy of the liberal bourgeoisie with the anti-globalisation protestors does not represent their sympathy with the aim of getting rid of imperialism; rather they see ‘anti-globalisation’ as a healthy ‘alternative’ to communism. The ideology they laud is the ‘third way’ (or no-way!) ideology of the likes of Naomi Klein, whose book
has rapidly turned into an international bestseller, receiving rave reviews in such notable publications of liberal capitalism as
“convincing and necessary, clear and fresh”
is marketed as an earth-shattering and thought-provoking exposé of ‘globalisation’, but further investigation leaves the revolutionary reader wondering what all the fuss is about. As an interesting account of the outrageous activities of monopoly capital it is not bad, but there are plenty of such books.
has received such acclaim because its essence, its call to action, is not for revolution but for reform; the call is not for overthrow of the system but improvement of the system. Such ideas are nothing new – reformism (or economism as it was called in Lenin’s day) has been with us for a very long time and has been thoroughly exposed as a useless and middle class doctrine. From the beginning of the anti-globalisation movement, the capitalist class has adopted a dual tactic to render the movement impotent – on the one hand they use extreme force to protect their private property; on the other hand they pose as radicals in order to imbue the movement with reformist ideology.
The reaction of the likes of the Socialist Worker has been to pin the blame for the events in Genoa almost exclusively on the Italian police, making statements to the effect that the Italian police are just simply more brutal than the police forces in other countries. Such an explanation is not satisfactory, and does not take into account the rapidly changing balance of forces in the anti-globalisation movement and the reaction that this is provoking in the ruling class. The fact is that Genoa was much more a workers’ protest than any of the big anti-globalisation rallies that have taken place so far, even more so than Gothenburg, which itself was much more a workers’ protest than Seattle, Prague and so on. Workers, in continental Europe more so than in Britain, are starting to identify increasingly with the anti-globalisation movement, are coming more and more to the conclusion that their struggle for improved conditions is inextricably linked with the struggle against ‘the system’. This is shown by the fact that the vast majority of the protestors in Genoa were Italians, rather than various campaign groups shipped in from around the world, and that trade union delegations formed a massive part of the marches. Although this process is a very long way from completion, although the ideology of the majority of workers is still confined by the imperialist press and education system, the increasingly working class composition of the anti-globalisation makes it a huge threat in the eyes of imperialism. The imperialists, through their subtle tactics of pushing a reformist ideology in the anti-globalisation movement, have been desperately trying to keep the movement strictly petty-bourgeois; to keep it as far away from communism as possible; as far away from workers’ struggle as possible; as far away from genuine anti-imperialist and anti-war policy as possible. But their tactics have not worked, and what this has led to is a state of panic in the imperialist camps across the world. As long as the anti-globalisation continues to orient itself increasingly towards the working class, the imperialist states will react violently, and those in the ‘first world’ who are fighting against imperialism will see the same treatment meted out to them as is meted out to those who are fighting against imperialism in the ‘third world’ (where protestors are regularly killed for daring to speak out against the actions of the corporations and the Bretton Woods institutions).
To fight or not to fight?
This brings up the question of self-defence. We are at a stage where it is becoming necessary to organise ourselves extremely effectively on demonstrations and other such events. The violence of the state against protestors is only going to become harsher (as long as the movement becomes more class-conscious) and we should be ready for that. We should be ready to defend ourselves and others from police attacks, which may sometimes involve avoiding direct confrontation with a superior force; we should have strategies for when we are attacked with tear-gas, CS-gas, water-cannons, truncheons, riot gear and so on. If we are not able to give a decent and organised account of ourselves then there will be a lot more Carlo Guilanis, there will be a lot more beatings and there will be a lot more attacks. Leaderships of demonstrations should makes sure that demonstrators are sufficiently prepared, and should be ready to act quickly.
The question of
violence is something different, about which we should also make our position clear. We are not about to denounce any person or organisation, driven by their passion against capitalism (a violent system which is responsible for sacrificing the lives of millions across the world every year in the name of profit), that initiates violence against the state and against the corporations. However a revolutionary knows that it makes very little sense to initiate violence against the system when you haven’t got the slightest chance of success. The forces of imperialism are, at the present moment in time, hundreds of times stronger than the anti-globalisation movement, and this will continue to be the case until the anti-globalisation movement embraces, and is embraced by, the working class and oppressed people of the world. Imperialism is not going to be defeated by a putsch of a few hundred anarchists, imperialism is going to be defeated by the organised working class in alliance with the other oppressed classes and progressive elements. At the moment, all that the initiation of violence does is give the state more ‘justification’ and more resolve in its violence against us. The initiation of violence at demonstrations by such organisations as the Black Bloc really represents weakness and frustration. Any movement against capitalism which does not place its confidence in the working class is bound to suffer from frustration, and this frustration will manifest itself in outbursts which only serve to alienate it further from the working class. These outbursts easily lead to Narodnik tactics of assassination and individual terrorism against the state – the tactics of ‘heroes’ as opposed to the tactics of the organised masses.
The History of the CPSU(B)
gives an important analysis of the tactics and class basis of the Narodniks:
“The method of combating tsardom chosen by the Narodniks, namely, by the assassination of individuals, by individual terrorism, was wrong and detrimental to the revolution. The policy of individual terrorism was based on the erroneous Narodnik theory of active ‘heroes’ and a passive ‘mob’, which awaited exploits from the ‘heroes’. This false theory maintained that it is only outstanding individuals who make history, while the masses, the people, the class, the ‘mob’, as the Narodnik writers contemptuously called them, are incapable of conscious, organised activity and can only blindly follow the ‘heroes’. For this reason the Narodniks abandoned mass revolutionary work among the peasantry and the working class and changed to individual terrorism…
“By these assassinations of individual representatives of the class of exploiters, assassinations that were of no benefit to the revolution, the Narodniks diverted the attention of the working people from the struggle against that class as a whole. They hampered the development of the revolutionary initiative and activity of the working class and the peasantry.
prevented the working class from understanding its leading role in the revolution and retarded the creation of an independent party of the working class
So it is clear to us that while it is necessary to verse ourselves in tactics of self-defence, the tactics of deliberate violence are detrimental to our cause at this moment in time. Of course such a statement cannot be applied to the whole world. We are talking here of the anti-globalisation movement of the imperialist countries, where we are relatively weak and where revolutionaries have yet to ground themselves in the mass of the people. In countries where the revolutionary movement is strong and has a genuine popular base (such as Colombia, Peru, Nepal, the Philippines) we stand in steadfast support for the revolutionary movements, who are using violence to defeat a violent and decadent system, and to establish peace for once and for all.
The Future of the Anti-Globalisation Movement
The movement in the imperialist countries against globalisation represents an exciting development for all progressive people. The outrageous actions of monopoly capital and the end of the short-lived post-Soviet expansionist ‘glory days’ have produced a quite spontaneous movement against this phenomenon known as globalisation (what is more scientifically called imperialism), comparable to the student movement of the late 1960s. This movement started as a movement of angry, predominantly middle class youngsters, but such is the appeal of struggle against imperialism that socialist organisations, trade unions, workers’ organisations, immigrants’ organisations, peace campaigners and others have joined in, resulting in a movement which has an increasingly working-class perspective. In order for the anti-globalisation movement to survive, it must be adapted much
to this working-class perspective. If it is to continue it has to emancipate itself
“from the illusions of anarchism and Narodnik socialism, from contempt for politics, … from the conviction that the people are ready for revolution, and from the theory of the seizure of power and the duel-like combat between the autocracy and the heroic intelligentsia.”
The Persecutors of the Zemstvo and the Hannibals of Liberalism
, 1901; talking about how the communists had advanced the revolutionary movement in Russia). Lenin further shows the danger that such ‘revolutionary’ movements as the anarchists can easily be led into an alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie (this is exactly the type of alliance that the bourgeoisie has been trying to effect):
“The clear socialist approach to the question was even overshadowed when the waning faith in the socialist nature of our communes began to be renewed with theories in the spirit of V. V. about the non-class, non-bourgeois nature of the Russian democratic intelligentsia.
“The result was that Narodism, which in the past had positively rejected bourgeois liberalism, began gradually to merge with the latter in a single liberal-Narodist trend. The bourgeois-democratic nature of the movement among the Russian intellectuals, beginning with the most moderate, the uplift movement, and ending with the most extreme, the revolutionary terrorist movement, became more and more obvious with the rise and development of a proletarian ideology (Social-Democracy) and a mass working-class movement.” (Lenin,
Working-class and Bourgeois Democracy
In order for the anti-globalisation movement to grow rather than fade away, it must rid itself of ‘classless’ and ‘theory-less’ thinking or it will become an irrelevant club, controlled by the liberal bourgeoisie, gradually waning until it is a thing of the past, occasionally to be remembered by the imperialists as a threatening fire which they managed by cunning to extinguish.
The anti-globalisation movement needs to rid itself also of the thousand bourgeois prejudices which try to eat away at it. It must take a clear anti-imperialist position on such questions as Yugoslavia, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Tibet, Palestine, Cuba and North Korea – questions that the imperialists do their best to confuse with their ‘concerns’ over ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’. It must take a clear anti-imperialist position on such questions as Palestine and Ireland – it must offer its support to those who are daily fighting imperialism with whatever weapons they can.
If it is to become genuinely anti-imperialist, the anti-globalisation movement must also come to realise that, for all the talk of ‘globalisation’, there is not actually one ‘globalised’ imperialism – that the imperialist powers are in fact highly regionalist when it comes to their own activities (although they go to great lengths to oppose regionalism in the oppressed countries). If you do not understand that North America, Europe and Japan represent three fundamentally antagonistic blocs which are viciously competing with each other for control of the world’s markets and resources, you open yourself up to being easily hoodwinked by one imperialist camp or the other.
Finally, the anti-globalisation movement needs to ground itself in the communities and in the workplaces. We have to prove to the working class the link between the selling off of council housing in Britain and liberalisation of the economies in Africa; we have to prove to the working class the link between workers’ rights at home and workers’ rights abroad; we have to show people the link between the fight for better conditions and the fight of the oppressed peoples of the world for freedom from imperialism. Otherwise we encourage an opportunist, social-democratic ideology of improving our own conditions at the expense of the ‘third world’. It is only by extending the anti-globalisation struggle to our own back yard and to the everyday struggles of working class people that the anti-globalisation movement will gain strength and purpose.
Building the anti-globalisation movement
The anti-globalisation movement is in an excellent position to turn into a powerful, world-wide anti-imperialist front which can oppose monopoly capital, give practical support to struggling people the world over and inspire people everywhere to fight against their oppressors. But for this to happen, we must provide much-need ideological training and leadership.
We should all be in some way involved in the anti-globalisation movement. We have to build a front that will operate at the summits and in the workplaces and communities, something that can be identified by all oppressed and progressive people as a movement that will fight for their rights.
We have to bring ideology to the anti-globalisation movement. We must prove incorrect the popular prejudices of the anti-globalisation movement about socialism and communism; we have to disprove the ‘third way’ ideology; we have to defeat liberal bourgeois, individualist and anarchist ideology; we have to prove the correctness of Marxism-Leninism.
We have nothing to lose but our outmoded methods of work! We have a socialist world to win!