Begins a few months earlier than the calendar and continues on past 31 December

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Italy’s 1968


Italy's Sixty-eight begins a few months earlier than the calendar and continues on past 31 December. The profound agitation that began in that year will in fact last for more than a decade, and will coincide with a radical overall modernization of the country. It is the University students that light the fuse.

In the Autumn of 1967 they occupy the universities of all the main cities of the centre-north, with the sole exclusion of Rome. In the focus of the protest are above all the class character of the teaching, also denounced by the Catholic world starting with Don Lorenzo Milani, author of the severe indictment Lettera a una professoressa (Letter to a professor), and academic authoritarianism, interpreted as training for a global consent and passivity, limited not at all to the specifics of the university.

The criticism of the student movement, the main theoretical texts of which are prepared in the universities of Pisa, Turin and Trent, is pointed as much against the capitalist system as against the organizations of the left, accused of having renounced any hypothesis of radical transformation of the existing system.

[…] The various currents of critical thinking and social protest that had studded the 1960s converge in the culture of the movement: the preparation of magazines of the non institutional left and that of the various dissenting Catholic groups; the criticism of the consumer society prepared by the School of Frankfurt and by Herbert Marcuse in his famous "One dimensional Man" and the third world stirrings sparked off by the struggles for liberation of the former colonial peoples and by the war of Vietnam; the "antipsychiatry" practised by Franco Basaglia in the hospital of Gorizia and the libertarian youth movement developed during the years of "Italian beat".

In the beginning less visible, but destined to increasingly establish itself in the following years, until it challenged the whole political set-up of the movement, is the original version of feminism defined by some Italian feminists thinkers.

The unequivocal siding with the extreme left of the student movement unleashes the neofascists. On 16 March, led by the deputies of the neo-fascist party MSI, Anderson and Caradonna, they attack the faculty of arts in Rome. Put to flight, they barricade themselves in the faculty of law throwing desks and cupboards from the windows. The leader of the student movement Oreste Scalzone is seriously injured. […]

For five years Italy has been led by a centre-left majority, based on the alliance between the Christian-Democrat party DC and the socialist party PSI, who rapidly shelved their initial reformist promises.

The left parties PSIUP and PCI offer rather a shoulder to the movement. However it is a flirt of short duration. The PCI will in fact look with growing suspicion, then with open hostility, on a movement that refuses to acknowledge its leadership. In the political elections held in May, the PCI registers a slight gain and the new-born PSIUP, that collects the majority of the votes of the movement, obtains a remarkable success.

The Socialists, on the other hand, fall, losing over five percentage points, while the DC holds its position almost unchanged.

[…] In 1969 it is the workers who prevent the student movement from declining like in the rest of Europe. Between May and June, in the Fiat factory, a series of spontaneous and sudden strikes, proclaimed outside the control of the trade unions, paralyzes production for over 50 days.

[…] The conflict starts up again on a wide scale in autumn, with the expiry dates of the contracts of work for over 5 million workers. The "hot autumn" marks the moment of maximum social clash in post-war Italy.

The workers repudiate the subdivision of the work forces into differently qualified sectors and ask that salaries be separated from productivity. These months see the birth of the main extra-parliamentary left-wing groups, while the trade unions, initially taken by surprise by the dimensions of the workers’ protest, create basic unitary structures, the factory Councils.

In a climate of unprecedented bitterness, on 12 December in Milan, a bomb placed in the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura explodes killing 12 people. This marks the beginning of the strategy of tension, a bloody chain of massacres that will continue throughout the 1970s and the perpetrators of which will never be discovered.

On the wave of the massacre of Milan, of which a group of anarchists is accused only to be later absolved, the contracts are signed before the end of the year. However the social clash is not interrupted even then. During the 1970s it will extend even further, until it will involve not only workers and students, but practically all sectors of civil society.

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