From A World to Win News Service

D-Day in Europe: Demonstration Day

Revolutionary Worker #1244, June 20, 2004, posted at

The following article is from A World to Win News]ervice:

June 7, 2004. A World to Win News Service. As most European leaders were about to gather for an orgy of reconciliation with U.S. President George Bush at the June 6 ceremonies commemorating the Allied landing in Europe during World War 2, a massive demonstration during Bush's visit to Rome on June 4--half a million according to some estimates--marked a refreshing sign of continuing opposition to the U.S.-led war and occupation that these men have come to grudgingly support.

The political importance of mobilizing such an outpouring of mass antiwar sentiment at this particular moment was increased all the more by Italian official (including media) attempts to call for national unity (which can only mean unity around the war at this time) in the face of the kidnapping of several Italian civilians in Iraq. Those taking part in the demonstration also faced Italian President Berlusconi's efforts to frighten the middle classes away with the specter of "another Genoa"--in which a frenzy of police violence led to the murder of demonstrator Carlo Giuliano. More than 10,000 security forces wielding automatic weapons were concentrated around the planned march routes. They set up checkpoints at city intersections to install a climate of fear. Nevertheless, trainloads of all sorts of people poured into the capital from all over Italy.

The opposing political trends at work within this movement need to be analyzed, but that takes away nothing of its importance. This can be seen in a comparison to the June 6 demonstrations in France, or, for that matter, a contrast with the lack of more opposition in the streets of more European countries.

France's ruling classes have united around a policy of appeasing the U.S. for now, which doesn't mean that the basic conflicts of imperialist interests that motivated the clash between Paris and Washington have been settled by any means. The same is true for Germany, whose Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder successfully argued last week at the European Union-Latin America summit in Guadalajara, Mexico, against an attempt to include a condemnation of U.S. torture chambers in Iraq in the meeting's joint statement. That summit was met by massive and very militant protests in Guadalajara, including street fighting.

As a result of today's temporary unity among the rapacious powers big and small, France's major "left" parties opposed the planned June 5 Paris demonstration against the war in Iraq. The Socialist Party openly refused to support it. The French Communist Party (PCF) hypocritically lent its name to the list of sponsors but counterposed another, earlier demonstration the same day against cutbacks in national health insurance coverage. (The role of France's influential Trotskyist groups could be analyzed in its own right, but it is enough to say that they remain an appendage of the revisionist PCF. In deeds, all this reflected a kind of united front in support of France's own national-imperialist interests, which stand out particularly nakedly when they happen to coincide with those of the U.S.)

It's no surprise that Italians found it easier to recognize their government's crimes, considering that Berlusconi reportedly intends to double the Italian contingent in Iraq. But it is striking that at the time of the Paris demonstration the French government was giving in to U.S. demands to grant the Bush administration the cover of a UN resolution it has so desperately sought. Further, this came precisely at a moment when the consequences of the U.S. war in Iraq have left the U.S. more weakened, isolated and vulnerable in some ways than at any time since it launched its worldwide rampage in pursuit of a consolidated global empire in the name of a phony "war on terrorism" after September 11, 2001.

In a sense, it could be said that despite its intentions the Italian government has drawn broad Italian masses into political struggle, while the French government, for now at least, has been able to do the opposite, to some extent. This reflects the different roles Italy and France are playing in the world right now, with Italy aggressively joining in the U.S.-led "coalition" and France able to sit somewhat outside of it at the moment.

Nevertheless, a highly spirited demonstration of perhaps 15,000 people did take place in Paris that day. Although it was not the kind of undeniable "the people are in the streets" event that Rome was and that France has often known as well, including against this war, it was an important sign that the war will continue to operate at the center of French political life no matter how much anyone tries to ignore that or cover it up. That objective fact and the will of many people to go up against the dictatorship of passivity that all of France's political parties are trying to impose are both indicators that major political battles loom ahead as the U.S.'s drive to redraw the map of the world brings heightened dangers and instability for all the world's ruling classes and reactionaries.