Here is a short extract about the history of The Wave:
" In September, there is an immediate response to the ‘reforms’ when the high schools and Universities re-open after holidays. A new movement begins. On October 3rd, the autonomous network of high school collectives takes to the streets of Italy. Gelmini cancels an appearance on October 13th at a symposium in Milan for fear of protests and it is by this time, with classes beginning at Universities, that the first lappings of the Wave are heard: ‘We won’t pay for your crisis’, ‘Cut resources to bankers and war missions, not school and universities’, ‘We are the coming society! We are not the problem! We are the solution’. Week by week the movement grows: in the elementary schools where teachers, parents and kids unite in denouncing the reforms; the high school collectives network their struggles, often through blogs and Facebook-type sites; in Universities, precarious faculty members and professors join student assemblies and discuss the crisis. New slogans appear: ‘We have started so that we wouldn’t stop’ and ‘We shall never go back!’.
On October 17th, the national strike called by some Italian unions against the Berlusconi government becomes the first No Gelmini day of action. 300,000 people protest in Rome. Thousands of students, break away from the main demo, outflank the police and block the Ministry of Education. Similar events happen in Milan where a break away group of students criss-cross the city blocking traffic before an assembly of pupils, students, precarious teachers and so lay siege to the Milan Education Department.
The next week, the protests escalate. On October 21st, assemblies are being held in many Universities and students once more take to the streets, blocking traffic and then beginning to block railway stations. In Milan, the police respond with baton charges at the Cadorna station. In response, the students begin a sit-in on the roads snarling up the usual movement of city traffic.
Following on from a call out from the occupied La Sapienza University in Rome, a Day of local mobilizations in taken up for November 7th, with a follow up national demonstration in Rome, one week later, on November 14th. (See Appendix 1 + 2).
One of the most important events to come out of the Wave has been the two day open assembly held at the occupied Sapienza University in November. This was a mass talking shop to debate and plan the further dynamics and activities of the Wave. Divided into 3 topics, thousands of students from all over came to discuss 1) Teaching: how the University system has been shoe-horning students into becoming mere ‘human capital’, the emphasis being on creating a final product – a streamlined and disciplined individualized worker ready to battle for his/her place in the labour market. 2) Welfare and Right to Education: how student fees and debts act as a kind of ‘privatised welfare’ ensuring servitude, the ideology of work and exclusion for many. 3) Training and Employment: a critical re-evaluation of the neo-liberal aspect of education to once more separate learning from the ‘needs’ of the economy. One demand would be a social wage for students (and beyond, of course!). What is important is to ‘eliminate the hierarchies and crystallisations of power’ in the University to enable learning and the production of knowledge to be once again autonomous, inclusive and democratic.
The Sapienza debates were clear and united. The students and researchers are not defending the University as it is. They want ‘autoriforma’: self-reform of the Universities as written by themselves. The crucial theme of the debates was that any reform must come from below, from the students themselves.
The next mass mobilizations will come on the 28th November when a national day of action will see more demos, teach-ins and blockades. A general strike has been planned for the 12th December. A radical initiative has been called for a week of actions to be held before the Strike that would focus on the struggle for a direct income through students mass practice of ‘auto-riduzione' (self-reduction) whereby only a certain percentage of prices would be paid in canteens, on public transport and for public entertainments (cinema, theatre etc). "
56a Infoshop is a long-standing social centre living and breathing in South London since 1991. We sell books, papers, t-shirts and music. We also have a massive open-access archive. But we do not spend our lives in theoretical mode – we also like to act against the pressing conditions of the world as we find it right now. In this sense, this booklet is offer support and aid to the Wave in Italy but to aid and encourage action here in support of own our desires and revolutions.
At Sapienza, "Women in the Wave" have written a call in which they explain why this demonstration is important. They emphasize that in the current movement, women have been protagonists right from the beginning. The protest against the Gelmini decree was started by female teachers and mothers. They point out that discrimination of women in the labor market is particularly strong in Italy.
The call emphasizes the need to bring discussion about gender issues to schools and universities. "We don’t believe that knowledge is neutral, we don’t believe there is equality between genders, when at the university it’s evident how women almost never get to the top positions in the power hierarchy". Female docents are a minority. In the official didactics at the university there’s no discussion about gender issues. "It is necessary to construct moments of self-education (autoformazione) through which to construct different knowledges".
The call also criticizes the way women’s body has been instrumentalized to support securitarian politics: criminalization of prostitution, militarization of streets, criminalization of migrants. The call presents some concrete demands too. "We want a welfare that enables women’s independence. We want counselling in all the schools and universities, and education which speaks about sexuality starting from the elementary schools."
November 20, 2008
REPORT BACK from the OCCUPIED SAPIENZA UNIVERSITY in ROME:
TWO DAY MASS ASSEMBLY ON THE WAVE AND THE EDUCATION SYSTEM
I thought I’ll throw in some personal experiences and observations from last weekend. It was a weekend when hundreds of thousands of Italian students and universitarians came together in Rome, constituted probably the biggest student demonstration since I don’t know when, and held the first national assembly of the faculties and universities that have been in mobilization for many weeks already.
On Friday morning there were a few different parades that later joined together. I went to see the one that departed from the main campus of Sapienza. Piazza della Minerva was already crowded, and different universities and faculties had their own sections, banners, megaphones. Hardly any flags or any traditional political symbols. People do sing "Bella Ciao" though, and do emphasize the antifascist tradition, and there are good reasons for this, because neofascist groups have tried to gain some ground in some schools. In demonstrations like this however, it’s made clear that there’s no space for any kind of fascists or racists.
This parade was lead by a truck of Sapienza students, with people giving speeches, and in front of the truck there were some eight organized lines of Sapienza students. The first lines carried symbolical "shields" which were made to look like books and had all kinds of book names written on them, from Das Kapital to Kama Sutra. Our word is our weapon, our books are our shields. There were of course lots of other trucks, lots of different banners, lots of creative things inside the huge demo. A lot of symbolism around the theme of the wave, of course. For example, people carrying a huge blue tarpaulin, representing "the wave that reforms the university autonomously".
We met a friend from Padova who told about how they managed to get their special train. It was a bit different story than the Milanese one. They for example had collected a "baron tax": they made professors pay a certain amount of money to finance the trip. Saw some group of Livornese students holding a banner with a variation of the popular slogan about not paying for crisis: "La crisi la paghino i padroni", the ones to pay for the crisis are the rich folks themselves.
The demonstrations are always very very long, it seems. People walk walk walk, for hours and hours. The good thing is that in Rome there are so many cafeterias and pizzerias on the way. The demonstration goes so slowly it’s possible to grab a piece of margherita or drink a cup of coffee and get back to the demo.
After the demo it was time to lay back and relax. Later in the evening went to Sapienza, where folks from other cities had put up their camps in the classrooms of the occupied faculties. Matresses, sleeping bags, food and wine, all that stuff here and there, some people playing football outside. Some people were painting a huge mural inside a classroom at Political Sciences. Good idea to leave some trace of the historical weekend, so there’s something that reminds also future students that there’s been struggles like this. Later in the evening I got to know there were some other foreigners besides me and my friend, someone from Paris and someone from N.Y. Met also some homeless migrant dudes who had come to Political Sciences to hang out and sleep.
Slept the Friday night at Sapienza, not too comfy obviously, but in the morning everything was better after getting some coffee and a fresh cornetto. Good service, they brought big boxes of cornetti and gave them out for free. The first plenary was supposed to start at 10.30 but it was more than an hour late. The plenary was held in the open, outside Rettorato, the administration building. Lots of people sitting, chatting, reading, listening. The plenary was opened and facilitated by Sapienza students. First, there were two female students who read two documents prepared collectively at Sapienza faculties. Both addressed the situation of the movement and some future prospects. I got the impression that these two more or less represented the two main tendencies inside the Roman movement: the viewpoint of Uniriot, and the viewpoint of Collettivi. I might be wrong. However, even if there are differing tendencies and viewpoints, I don’t think anyone has great interest in creating political dividing lines inside the movement, or engage in ideological debate. It’s not about ideologies, it’s about the wave.
The third speaker was a guy from a group of precarious researchers, saying that the researchers are taking part in the assembly too, discussing not only research, but also other topics in other workshops. He also stated that this movement is giving inspiration and courage to many others, and in a way, contributed to the decision of CGIL to call a general strike for 12 November. The fourth speaker was a guy from Germany who told people about the on-going student protests at German universities. Around this time it was time to take a lunch break. Pizza al taglio in San Lorenzo of course. To be continued…
November 18th 2008