VENICE, Italy, October 16, 2011 - After years of protests against a corrupt and bungling Italian political system
(whose Prime Minister makes laws for his own benefit) some of the protesters in Rome last Saturday
apparently felt that walking through the capital with banners and slogans was a waste of time and energy.
The word went around about the necessity to resort to far tougher methods than the usual and
endless ranting against financial greed, political ineptitude, the steady curtailing of peoplesâ€™
livelihoods and the sick plans to make the young and casually employed rather than the rich pay
for the bank deficits and State debts.
In the aftermath of Saturdayâ€™s â€˜violenceâ€™ the Italian media, traditional serfs of any politics,
defined the torching of four motor cars, a police vehicle and the smashing of a row of bank and shop windows
as â€˜a barbaric riot.â€™ In reality the Rome incident - part of a world-wide anti-Wall street protest against
bail-outs for debt-riddled banks and financial speculators â€“ was barely a hiccup, at worst a belch.
The storm is still in the making. Rome, like New York, is a warning.
What all the protests, whether in New York, Madrid, Athens or Rome had in common was the
belief that politicians and their political parties no longer represent peoples interests but instead
the interests of the banks and the creditors. As political philosophers Michael Hardt and Antonio
Negri wrote this week: â€˜Politics have become subservient to economic and financial interestsâ
€¦â€¦then is now perhaps the moment to consider that form of democracy obsolete?â€™
Our current democratic systems insist all protesters, and there were 150,000 in the streets of Rome
alone, must remain â€˜pacific.â€™ This way couples can wheel prams along, clowns can frolic along the
phalanxes of demonstrators and â€˜leadersâ€™ of various groups and political parties can address the
crowd with their usual diatribe at the end of the day, not to placate peoplesâ€™ resentment but fan (false)
hopes that permits those who marched all day to go home with a sense of achievement.
The stratagem is always the same. So are the results. Thatâ€™s how democracy and liberal capitalism
operates and survives.
But the system is faltering, not the greedy corporate tycoons and political heavyweights who see the
rest of the world as their gold mine, the rest of humanity as the fools that can be hoodwinked, but the wall
standing between the great mass of people and the few manipulating and exploiting them.
Suddenly, both in New York and in Rome, there were still those policemen and special forces who
waded in with raised batons and hammered viciously away â€“ but there was also a growing number of
security forces who held back, who must have felt their fate too was on this side of the street and not with the
mega-rich of the financial and political oligarchy.
Protesters in New York said some police officers helped them, talked to them kindly, even sympathized
with their aims. Other officers remained as brutal as ever. In Rome where police have rarely shown
compassion for protesters Saturday was different too. No bad clashes. Withdrawal often, rather then attack.
So much caution in fact politicians who see police as a vital barrier between their physical integrity and the
angry mobs excessively praised the restraint of the security forces.
Of course the system fought back swiftly. In international diplomatic jargon those people fighting allied
forces and their friends (the good guys) are labeled â€˜terroristsâ€™ (bad guys). Now on domestic issues
politicians and their spin-masters in Italy have also coined a catch phrase to marginalize violent
demonstrators. These â€˜violatorsâ€™ are called â€˜black blockâ€™ a reference to an outdated group of
young people who wore black clothing and black shawls over their faces years ago during demonstrations
and often aggressively confronted police.
The black block has faded away to a few copycats but is superseded by equally minded â€˜terroristsâ
€™ who see in bursts of violence against the material icons of capitalism the only means to achieve what
peaceful negotiations and â€˜bilateral dialogueâ€™ has never managed to obtain.
Surely they too will be labeled â€˜terrorists,â€™ hauled before courts, perhaps special courts, after
being made to confess their plots to overthrow democratically elected governments who, so the bureaucrats
insist, labor for the good of the people in the difficult time of a recession (which the system produced itself).
Bianca Berlinguer, the daughter of the late leader of the disbanded Communist Party of Italy and now a
State-TV anchor woman illustrated just how much left and right have blended in this common vilification of
trouble-makers against a democracy now longer democratic. At the end of her riot report she quipped: â
€œThe worst part was: It deprived people of their right to peacefully demonstrate.â€�
So it did. It also deprived our crooked governments of the right to perpetuate their nefarious
activities by tolerating â€˜peacefulâ€™ protests as sacrosanct democratic rights. Trouble is:
These peaceful protests - hundreds, thousands of them in the past - have never brought about
Uli Schmetzer was foreign correspondent for 43 years. He is the author of â€˜Times of Terrorâ€™ â€˜Gazaâ
€™ and â€˜The Chinese Juggernautâ€™ all available on