Overthrow the Imperialist Butchers––For Global Workers Rule!

Blood and Bullets in Genoa

Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 762, 3 August 2001.

The following article is based on eyewitness reports by our comrades of the Lega Trotskista d’Italia (LTd’I).

MILANO, July 30—As the imperialist rulers met in palatial surroundings at the Group of 8 (G-8) summit in Genoa (Genova), the rest of the city was subjected to one of the biggest “security” buildups in Italy since the downfall of Mussolini’s fascist regime and the end of World War II. Cops killed at least one young protester in cold blood on July 20 and carried out repeated rampages against thousands of others. On Saturday, July 21, after the “anti-globalization” demonstrations in Genoa had come to an end, the police staged Gestapo-style raids in the dead of night against a number of protest headquarters, including the Genoa Social Forum (GSF), smashing into sleeping protesters with their nightsticks and leaving the floors and walls spattered with blood.

At least 49 people remain under arrest. Hundreds more were tortured by cops screaming fascist slogans, while for days political police prowled the hospitals looking to round up those who were injured. Initial reports of a second demonstrator, a young woman, killed by the cops have been utterly buried by the bourgeois media. But with dozens still reported as “missing,” there is no way of knowing how many protesters may actually be dead. Il Manifesto (25 July) reported that a doctor had told Rifondazione Comunista (RC) parliamentarians that a young woman named Lisa had been killed. It also reported that a protester in Alessandria Prison “had seen a woman being shot in the throat with a tear gas canister, fall down and get hit by a police jeep,” adding that he was “sure she was dead.” A subsequent article reported that 18 of the “disappeared” might still be held in police barracks because “evidence of beatings on their bodies was too serious and too visible” to let them be seen in public (Il Manifesto, 28 July).

The outrage provoked by the massive police repression in Genoa has created a sharp polarization within Italian society. The day after the killing of 23-year-old protester Carlo Giuliani, the son of an official in the CGIL trade-union federation, a demonstration expected by organizers to bring out 100,000 drew as many as three times that number, as workers took to the streets in outrage when they heard the news. In the days that followed, cities and towns throughout Italy were rocked by spontaneous outpourings against state repression and the right-wing government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

But the reformist leaders of the working class—the Democratic Left (DS) of Massimo D’Alema, Fausto Bertinotti’s RC and the trade-union bureaucracy—aimed their fire not at the uniformed killers of the capitalist state but at anarchist protesters in the so-called “Black Block.” DS withdrew its support for the Saturday demonstration, while Bertinotti solidarized with the “forces of order” and complained that the police had not stopped the “troublemakers” and “anarcho-insurrectionists.”

Our leaflet “Berlusconi and the G-8: Imperialist Butchers!”—produced through the night under conditions of a state of siege—was the first statement to be issued in response to the killing. Our call for massive protest strikes against the deadly police rampage went down well with the many members of the FIOM metal workers union who joined in the Saturday demonstration and with marchers in the syndicalist-influenced COBAS union contingents. “When is the strike?” one FIOM worker asked. Another said that we’re absolutely right in saying that the bullets that struck down Carlo Giuliani were directed against the working class. Workers listened attentively as one of our comrades leafletting the union contingents soapboxed, “What will we have after Berlusconi? This struggle must not end in another five years of capitalist popular-front government. We should fight for workers power and for socialist revolution!”

Genoa Draws a Blood Line

The massive and murderous police repression in Genoa was on a level usually seen in the suppression of working-class upheavals or popular insurgencies in the neocolonial “Third World.” Yet here it was directed at a protest movement which does not in any immediate and direct way threaten the material interests of the Western imperialist bourgeoisies. Behind the bloody crackdown on the streets and the hysterical uproar over “anarchist hooligans” lies the climate created by capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union and East Europe. Drunk with glee over the “death of communism,” the capitalists and their social-democratic lap dogs imagined that there would no longer be left-wing tendencies that rejected the ultimate authority of bourgeois parliamentary rule.

The re-emergence of anarchism as a militant and growing current among young radicals was an unexpected as well as repellent development for West European ruling circles, especially for the social democrats, who regarded their political/ ideological victory over Communism as final and irrevocable. In their eyes, the very existence of a militant anarchist movement is a crime against the natural (i.e., bourgeois) order. Internationally, the most bloodthirsty defense of the repression in Genoa came from social-democratic rulers like British Labour prime minister Tony Blair. Echoing the imperialist butchers were the reformist organizers of the mainstream “anti-globalization” protests, who denounced the cops for not being hard enough against “violent” protesters or smeared the anarchist youth as “provocateurs.”

In the wake of Genoa, there is now a clear left-right division—written in blood—within the “anti-globalization” movement. That division is not primarily over protest tactics, or “violence” versus “nonviolence.” Rather, at root what is at issue is the question of the “democratic” legitimacy of the existing parliamentary capitalist governments. On that question, we stand with the anarchists against the left social democrats, including those who occasionally masquerade as Marxists or Trotskyists. Having capitulated to their own bourgeoisies from the Cold War against the Soviet Union in the 1980s to the 1999 U.S./NATO war against Serbia, these pseudo-Marxists take their stand with the capitalist state.

The question before the huge numbers of young radicals who have been drawn to the “anti-globalization” protests of recent years is: how do you change the world? While the protests have succeeded in forcing the imperialists to schedule future meetings in isolated backwaters, this does nothing to impede the workings of the capitalist system. To do away with imperialist exploitation requires a political mobilization of the proletariat in a thoroughgoing socialist revolution. The large workers contingents on the streets of Genoa in solidarity with the anarchist youth against the state, and also in defense of immigrant rights, point to the potential for realizing this revolutionary perspective. But it is necessary to combat the obstacles that stand in the way: the trade-union bureaucracies and the reformist political parties, which currently govern many of the capitalist states in West Europe, as well as the false, anti-proletarian consciousness of the anarchist youth.

The International Communist League fights for the authentic communism of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks. Our perspective is proletarian, revolutionary and internationalist. We recognize that the fundamental conflict in society is the struggle between labor and capital. Because of its central role in production, the proletariat has the social power to bring down the capitalist exploiters and their whole system of racism, sexism, class exploitation, national oppression and imperialist war. The proletariat has the power and the class interest to create a society based on collectivized property and a rational, planned international economy, a workers state leading to a classless, communist society and the withering away of the state. To achieve this goal requires the construction of an international Leninist-Trotskyist egalitarian party. We struggle to become the party fit to lead socialist revolutions internationally.

Integral to our fight is holding on to proletarian conquests already wrested from the capitalist class. That is why we Trotskyists fought for the unconditional military defense of the Soviet Union and the deformed workers states of East Europe against imperialist attack and capitalist restoration. In East Germany in 1989-90 and then in the Soviet Union, we fought to rouse the workers in a political revolution to defend the collectivized property forms and replace the Stalinist misleaders with the rule of workers councils. This perspective is urgently posed in China today in the face of renewed imperialist military machinations and economic encroachments promoted by the Stalinist bureaucracy’s “market reforms.”

Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. Today the basic premises of authentic Marxism must be motivated against the false and prevalent misidentification of the collapse of Stalinism with a failure of communism. Stalinist rule was not communism but its grotesque perversion. The Stalinist bureaucracy, a parasitic caste resting atop the workers state much like a labor bureaucracy sits atop a trade union, arose in the Soviet workers state under conditions of economic backwardness and isolation due to the failure to extend the revolution to any of the advanced capitalist countries. The Stalinists claimed they were going to build “socialism in one country,” an impossibility, as Leon Trotsky (and before him Marx and Engels) explained, since socialism is necessarily international in scope. “Socialism in one country” was a justification for selling out revolutions internationally in order to appease world imperialism.

Today, the proletariat has been hurled back worldwide. Unhindered by Soviet military might, the U.S. imperialists ride roughshod over the planet. America’s imperialist rivals, especially Germany and Japan, no longer constrained by Cold War anti-Soviet unity, are pursuing apace their own appetites for control of world markets and concomitantly projecting their military power. These interimperialist rivalries outline future wars; with nuclear weapons, this threatens to extinguish life on the planet. The task of wresting power from the capitalist exploiters is more urgent than ever.

State of Siege in Genoa

When our comrades arrived in Genoa on July 18, they found a ghost town. An inner “red zone” four kilometers (nearly three miles) long was completely encircled by a 12-foot-high metal barrier. Police within the red zone carried out continuous searches of apartments and harassment of the heavily immigrant population. Reports of letter bombs and attempted bombings were wielded to fuel a huge anti-terrorist campaign by the bourgeois media. In preparation for the arrests, an anonymous police official told La Repubblica, “The Bolzaneto barracks were transformed into a ‘lager’ [concentration camp]” by the Mobile Operational Group (GOM), an elite unit formed under the popular-front government in 1997 and headed by a former chief of the military secret service. He reported that arrested protesters “had their heads smashed against the wall” and were “beaten when they refused to sing ‘Faccetta Ner’ [a fascist hymn].” Protesters were also forced to shout “Viva il Duce!”

On July 19, the first of three days of protests, there was a large anti-racist demonstration of some 50,000 people. Though immigrant contingents were largely lacking due to the fear of repression, there were some contingents from the CGIL and COBAS trade unions. The next day, police gunned down Carlo Giuliani as he, along with many others, stood up to a cop rampage against a demonstration called by the COBAS to coincide with a general strike. Many workers now consider this government to be composed of murderers. A number of workers telephoned Radio Popolare, a leftist radio station in Milano, objecting to “nonviolence.” One said, “I am nonviolent. I was in Genoa and got shot with a tear gas canister from a police helicopter. My family was attacked. Next time, I will defend myself.”

On July 21, workers poured into the streets in defiance of the reformist misleaders and the DS-dominated union officialdom, as did many RC members. Thousands of metal workers, not only from the CGIL-affiliated FIOM but also from the more “moderate” CISL and UIL union federations, joined hands with the protesters against the police. There was a lot of anger, and whenever a police helicopter circled overhead there were chants of “Assassini, assassini!”

The police attacked the middle of the demonstration, cutting off the RC and trade-union contingents, which came under heavy attack and a constant barrage of tear gas. Demonstrators seeking refuge or trying to find their way back to their buses were hunted down by police squads whose orders were clearly to injure as many as possible. In one case, a youth was seized by police, dragged away and beaten. He then fell ten feet into the riverbed. When he managed to scramble up, the police shot him with a tear gas canister at pointblank range; he was saved only by the intervention of other protesters.

That night, police went on a massive rampage. Mounted police entered the Convergence Centre in Piazzale Kennedy while cops smashed their way into the Media Center, headquarters of the Genoa Social Forum and the Indymedia Internet news service, destroying computers and equipment and seizing film and evidence of police brutality. At the same time, hundreds of police surrounded and smashed into the Diaz school and the Casa dei Popoli, bloodying the GSF demonstrators sleeping there. People were dragged along the ground. Il Manifesto compared it with Chile under Pinochet’s reign of terror. Of the 92 people arrested, fully 62 had to be hospitalized. The “Digos” (political police) also searched the homes of many protesters to seize photos and other evidence of police violence. Even the Genoa offices of La Repubblica, a leading bourgeois daily, were searched.

Tuesday, July 24, saw huge mobilizations with FIOM and CGIL banners prominent everywhere: 40,000 in Venice, 30,000 in Bologna, thousands more in towns and cities from north to south. In Rome, 30,000 marched screaming “Assassini!” In Milano, as many as 50,000 or more chanted, “Berlusconi resign!” In Genoa, 10,000 marched with a big banner reading “You Believe That You Killed Him, but Carletto Lives Through Us.” In Brescia, workers at the Stefana steel plant struck for two hours to protest the arrest of a FIOM shop steward at the march in Genoa on Saturday.

Labor struggle is likely to grow as the Berlusconi government moves to carry through attacks on pensions, public education, health care and workers’ living standards. And there is enormous turmoil within the left as many radicalized youth are looking around, and not necessarily to the traditional reformist parties like RC. One young woman was seen on the subway in Milano distributing a leaflet she had written giving her eyewitness account of the cop rampage. The leaflet concluded: “I am starting to think that maybe we live in a society that is only apparently democratic and that showed itself on this occasion for what it really is.”

Sections of the bourgeoisie are worried that there is no effective reformist force with the influence to restrain and control the working class. Reflecting this, RC has simultaneously rallied to defense of bourgeois “law and order” while making an appeal to the youthful protesters, writing in Liberazione that “a new generation is building itself an alternative political identity: it refuses the existing order of things and dreams of another kind of world. This is the reason they attack it with savage violence.”

Many demonstrators tend to see the brutality of the cops as evidence of a turn toward a police state and call for the resignation of the Berlusconi government. The presence of Gianfranco Fini’s fascist National Alliance and Umberto Bossi’s racist Northern League in the government has surely galvanized the cops, many of whom are genuine fascists. But the reformist misleaders’ denunciations of this right-wing parliamentary government as fascist are in the service of building support for a new popular front to “fight the right.” In fact, the kind of brutal repression seen in Genoa is part of the normal functioning of capitalist “democracy.” In the years following the revolutionary upheavals of the “Hot Autumn” of 1969, the cops assassinated a number of leftist students. Just as DS and RC now rail against “anarchists,” their Communist Party predecessor at the time sought to isolate a “violent fringe,” thus helping to restabilize the bourgeois order.

The reformist misleaders used the upsurge of workers struggles that brought down the previous Berlusconi government in 1994 to usher in a series of popular-front governments, bringing together D’Alema’s DS and openly bourgeois forces, generally propped up by RC. This bloody cabal of fake “socialists” and ex-“communists” presided over Italian imperialism’s participation in the U.S.-led 1999 Balkans War. And it was the former DS-dominated government that organized the arrangements for the G-8 summit.

Support for RC in particular as a “lesser evil” is evident within the syndicalist-influenced COBAS unions as well. This is not surprising. COBAS leader Pietro Falanga echoed the reformists in insinuating that the Black Block anarchists are a tool of the cops. While RC lauds “progressive” cops who denounce the government’s actions in Genoa, one of the COBAS unions itself has a base among municipal cops and also organizes prison guards. In welcoming the hired thugs of the class enemy into the ranks of labor, the COBAS leaders demonstrate their own confidence in the capitalist state.

What’s needed is a new, revolutionary leadership of the working class, a tribune of the people and fighter on behalf of all the oppressed. It is necessary to break with the class-collaborationist politics pushed by those who, in the name of a “lesser evil,” subordinate the vital interests of the proletariat to those of its capitalist exploiters and oppressors. It’s necessary to forge a revolutionary workers party that fights to set up a workers government through socialist revolution against the entire capitalist system.

“Left” Fingermen for the World Bourgeoisie

In the wake of the Genoa events, there has been a furious outcry internationally—not against the evident, widespread, murderous violence perpetrated by the cops but against the “violence” of anarchist and other leftist protesters. Going into Genoa, Britain’s Blair urged Berlusconi and other capitalist rulers “to be a lot more robust” in cracking down on protesters, while German Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder screamed for responding to “violent” protest “decisively and with full force.” Positively dancing on the grave of Carlo Giuliani, Blair admonished any who criticized “the Italian authorities for working to make sure the security of the summit is right,” while his cabinet member Peter Hain, a former “peace” campaigner, railed against “balaclava-clad demonstrators out there to basically trash the place and bust a skull.”

Sections of the ICL around the world participated in or initiated protests against the bloody repression in Genoa and in solidarity with the anarchist youth under attack. Much of the “left,” taking their cue from the social democrats they helped install in power, spat on even the most elementary expression of solidarity with the leftist youth against the capitalist state and joined in the crescendo of attacks against the anarchist Black Block. In Britain, the Cliffite Socialist Workers Party (SWP) attacked the Black Block’s actions as “very different from people who defend themselves against police attacks” (Socialist Worker, 28 July). In another article in the same issue, SWP honcho Chris Harman favorably quoted a Genoa protester saying, “The police could have chosen to deal with the penetration of the anarchists.”

This despicable line was echoed by the French group ATTAC, which includes Cliffites and members of Alain Krivine’s Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR), French affiliate of the United Secretariat (USec). A 20 July ATTAC statement criticized the Italian police because “they deliberately closed their eyes to the preparation and arming of several hundred provocateur elements of the so-called Black Block.” In Germany, Angela Klein, a leading member of the Editorial Board of the USec-connected paper SoZ favorably quoted the following rant in her article in Junge Welt (23 July): “The black of this Black Block was the black of the fascists, not the black of the anarchists.”

As organizers of the “anti-globalization” movement that is being attacked by the governments they support, these groups try to walk both sides of the street. But even when they denounce the police violence, it is from the standpoint of bolstering the “democratic” credentials of the imperialist rulers. In a 20 July statement on its Web site, the Cliffite-dominated Globalise Resistance in Britain pleaded, “We call on Tony Blair, and other political leaders, to condemn this killing.” The French LCR even appealed to Berlusconi, Fini & Co., declaring in a leaflet co-signed with the anarchist Alternatives Libertaires and others: “We call on the Italian government to publicly condemn the methods employed by the forces of order”!

The conflicting opportunist appetites buffeting the USec and Cliffites were most evident in the right-centrist British Workers Power (WP) and its League for a Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI). A statement posted on the WP/LRCI Web site on July 23 was headlined, “After Genoa Repression Turn to the Working Class.” In the mouth of WP, this means suckering militant anarchist youth back into the social-democratic fold and “left” Labourite parliamentarist lash-ups like the Socialist Alliance, which WP helped build in the recent British elections. Thus, the WP/LRCI statement calls for a revolutionary party “free of all the filth of Stalinism”—but has not a word about the Labourite “filth” in which WP wallows.

Safeguarding its standing in the eyes of the social democrats, WP made clear that “we organised for non-violent civil disobedience” and attacked the Black Block for “the futile activity of smashing up property.” Nonetheless, the statement explicitly denounced “those in the movement who have focused condemnation on the ‘black bloc’.” But in a new version of the statement distributed at a July 28 London protest, WP expunged even this tepid expression of solidarity with the militant anarchists under attack by the whole of the international capitalist order. Falling into line behind the rest of the Blairite “anti-globalization” crowd, WP now joins in the cop-baiting denunciations of the Black Block as “infiltrated by police who use them to provide an excuse for police repression.”

That the police insinuate provocateurs into the workers movement and left-wing protests is a given for anyone at all familiar with the workings of the capitalist state, and there is certainly evidence that undercover cops, and the fascists, engaged in provocations in Genoa. But for the pseudo-Marxists, any affront to the legitimacy of parliamentary “democracy” is deemed a provocation. As Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin noted in The State and Revolution:

“The opportunists of modern Social-Democracy accepted the bourgeois political forms of a parliamentary, democratic state as the limit which cannot be overstepped; they broke their foreheads praying before this idol, denouncing as Anarchism every attempt to destroy these forms.”

For our forthright statement in defense of the anarchists against state repression, our comrades in Genoa were likewise denounced as “provocateurs” by the social-democratic trade-union bureaucrats. And one of our comrades was attacked as a “provocateur” at a July 28 protest in Berlin for denouncing a platform speaker from Schröder’s Green coalition partners as a representative of the German imperialist state.

Anarchism vs. Bolshevism

A 21 July statement by “Black Block activists” stands in refreshing contrast to the fake Marxists’ kowtowing to “democratic” imperialism. The statement proclaims:

“Day by day, the capitalist world order produces a diversity of violence. Poverty, hunger, expulsion, exclusion, the death of millions of people and the destruction of living spaces is part of their policy.

“This is exactly what we reject.

“Smashed windows of banks and multinational companies are symbolic actions. Nevertheless we do not agree with the destruction and looting of small shops and cars. This is not our policy....

“We are angry and sad about the murder of Carlo Giuliani. Let us turn our grief and anger into resistance.”

Such militants are motivated by rage against the capitalist murder machine. But trashing the symbols of imperialist power does not constitute a strategy for resistance, much less revolutionary struggle, against the bourgeois order. The point is to seize the means of production from the bourgeoisie, to overthrow capitalism and replace it with global workers rule. Personal outrage is no substitute for a mass movement centered on the power of the working class, which alone has the social power to lead all the oppressed in a revolutionary assault on the capitalist order. Many young radicals do not see the proletariat as an agency for social revolution because they equate the workers organizations with the misleaders who have a stake in preserving the capitalist system. We seek to exacerbate the contradictions between the aspirations of the workers at the base and the pro-capitalist politics of the tops in order to break the workers from reformism and win them to a revolutionary perspective.

Those who call themselves “anarchist” run the gamut from subjective revolutionists who solidarize with the proletariat to right-wing petty-bourgeois thugs who hate the working class and attack communists. At bottom, anarchism is a form of radical-democratic idealism that combines militancy and adventurism with bourgeois liberalism. Rejecting the state in general—and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat by the revolutionary working class in particular—the anarchists are led to genuflect before the existing, bourgeois state. During the Spanish Civil War, anarchists became ministers in the popular-front government which disarmed and repressed the armed workers struggle against capitalism, opening the road to decades of Franco’s dictatorship. Today in Italy, the “official” anarchists of A magazine rushed to assure the bourgeoisie of their hostility to the “violent” protesters in Genoa: “We believe that indiscriminate violence and terrorism (even psychological) are tools of the power, not of those who want to effect without coercion a deep social transformation of a libertarian nature.... Those who send bombs, who devastate a town with the help and complicity of the police...have nothing to do with us.”

For those who genuinely seek the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, anarchism’s appeal is a healthy rejection of the parliamentary reformism of the social democrats, the ex-Stalinists and the fake leftists who prop up and maintain the capitalist order. In “Left-Wing” Communism —An Infantile Disorder, which aimed at winning the best of the anarchists and syndicalists of his day to Bolshevism, Lenin remarked: “Anarchism was not infrequently a kind of penalty for the opportunist sins of the working-class movement.” The Russian Revolution redefined the left internationally, and its final undoing is having a similar impact in reverse.

The murderous state of siege in Genoa was the mark of an economic system which has become a barrier to technological and social advance. The leaders of international capitalism gathered there preside over an anarchic mode of production which is now rapidly spiraling into a global recession. Behind their scripted statements of agreement lie backstabbing intrigues aimed at furthering the interests of their respective bourgeoisies in the face of declining profits and increasing competition. In a leaflet addressed to the COBAS call for a general strike on the eve of the Genoa protests, the LTd’I declared:

“Many in the anti-globalization movement see the enemy in the ‘transnationals’ or in the international financial institutions like the IMF, World Bank, WTO, etc. As revolutionary Marxists, we understand that the main enemy is at home! For the Italian workers and oppressed, it’s the Italian capitalists, their state, cops and army, courts and prisons. They must be disarmed, overthrown and expropriated. We fight for a system where those who labor rule, not based on bourgeois parliamentarism but on forms of proletarian power, like the Russian soviets in 1917, and where the means of production will be used in the interests of everybody to build a socialist egalitarian society on an international scale....

“In order for the workers struggling at the head of all the oppressed to win and to uproot the rotten capitalist system, we need a revolutionary leadership that fights irreconcilably against class collaboration with the bourgeoisie and their governments. The ICL fights to build such a multiethnic, revolutionary workers party, struggling for workers power worldwide. Join us!”

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