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THE BATTLE OF GENOA - "A new milestone for our movement"

AHMED SHAWKI, editor of the International Socialist Review, gave an eyewitness account of the Genoa demonstrations at a meeting in Chicago. Here, we reprint a brief excerpt.
THE BATTLE OF GENOA

August 3, 2001 | Socialist Worker

"A new milestone for our movement"

AHMED SHAWKI, editor of the International Socialist Review, gave an eyewitness account of the Genoa demonstrations at a meeting in Chicago. Here, we reprint a brief excerpt.

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GENOA WAS a milestone for the global justice movement--in its size, in its enthusiasm and in the clarity of what many hundreds and thousands of people were out demonstrating against.

Whether it was an individual question that they addressed or a host of questions, there was an understanding of the need for solidarity and common work.

It was also a milestone in representing the crystallization of a policy of criminalizing protest. The killing of Carlo Giuliani exemplified the violence of the weekend--violence that was orchestrated and organized by Silvio Berlusconi, but which was approved of by all the G8 leaders.

What happened in Genoa reflects an international phenomenon--the decision by those who rule this system that they won’t tolerate dissent.

But another dynamic occurred--as some people pulled out of the demonstrations, many more poured in. I think the spark was the deliberate decision to criminalize protests. People were, indeed, worried about what would happen to them in Genoa. But they nevertheless arrived in large numbers.

I think the closest equivalent for us is for anybody who went through the 1960s--who watched the fire hosing and the brutality, but said, "It is right to protest, and I will find a way to make my views clear."

It’s undoubtedly the case that the Italian police used systematic provocation--and that at least some of the people who were involved in the trashing of shops or assaults on other protesters were in fact police provocateurs.

But there were others who, I would say, behaved as unconscious agents--who believe that their anger, individually expressed, can lead the movement forward, but whose tactics gave police an excuse to crack down.

When individuals try to impose their tactics on the movement as a whole, the movement has to discuss that question of how we can collectively achieve our aim. But we’ll deal with the issue ourselves.

We’re now faced with a decision on the part of those who run the system that they’ll respond violently against our movement. We can’t go around blindly talking about doing our own thing and expect that there won’t be a price to pay.

They’ve set the price--and we have to come up with an answer. We’re for building a movement that determines its own future, builds its own organization and imposes its own democracy.

Genoa isn’t the end of the road. The organizing--in particular in Italy, but internationally--since Genoa is extremely important. This is a live question, and we have to hold each and every one of the G8 leaders responsible.

One of the things that was impressive about Genoa was the size. But it also has to be said that the trade unions failed to mobilize. The movement needs to try to win over ordinary working-class men and women to its ranks--people who aren’t immediately organized in activist circles, but whose lives are affected by the decisions that the G8 leaders make.

In the demonstrations that we build in the future, the linking of the antiglobalization movement and the daily concerns of ordinary working-class men and women becomes increasingly important. It not only gives us bigger numbers, but it raises the question of social change--which, at the end of the day, is what’s really been put on the agenda.
 
 

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