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An interview with Francesco Cossiga

category italy / switzerland | repression / prisoners | non-anarchist press author Friday October 24, 2008 17:35author by Andrea Cangini Report this post to the editors

Former Italian Home Secretary, Prime Minister and President

The proposed education reform (known as the Gelmini Law, after the current Education Minister) is provoking enormous reaction from students, parents and teachers and many schools and universities have been occupied by protesters in recent days. Two days ago, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi threatened to restore order by sending in the police (which he subsequently denied, despite documentary evidence). The following interview from yesterday's "Quotidiano nazionale" with former Italian President, Francesco Cossiga, is a good indicator of the current mood in the country. (Introduction by

An interview with Francesco Cossiga

by Andrea Cangini for "Quotidiano nazionale" (Il Giorno/Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazione), 23.10.2008

President Cossiga, do you think that Berlusconi has gone too far in threatening the use of State force against the students?

That depends, if he believes he is the Prime Minister of a strong State then no, he was right. But as Italy is a weak State, as the opposition is no longer the rock-like PCI [1] but the evanescent PD [2], I'm afraid that his words will not be followed by action and that Berlusconi will just end up with egg on his face.

What should happen now?

At this point, Maroni [3] should do what I did when I was Home Secretary.

What's that?

Firstly, forget the high-school students... can you imagine what would happen if a 10-year-old kid got killed or seriously injured...

Instead, the university students?

Let them get on with it. Withdraw the police from the streets and the universities, infiltrate the movement with agents provocateurs ready for anything, and allow the demonstrators to run loose for a week or so, devastating shops, setting cars on fire and causing havoc in the streets.

Then what? Then, with public opinion on your side, the sound of ambulance sirens should drown out the sirens of police and carabinieri cars.

In the sense that...

In the sense that the forces of law and order should massacre the demonstrators without pity and send them all to hospital. Not arrest them - the magistrates would set them free straight away in any event... beat them bloody and beat the teachers storring them up bloody too.

The teachers, too?

The teacher above all. Not the older ones, of course... the young girls. Have you any idea of the seriousness of what's happening? There are teachers indoctrinating children and encouraging them to demonstrate - that's criminal behaviour!

But you realise what they would say in Europe after something like you suggest? "Fascism returns to Italy", they'd say.

Rubbish, it's the democratic way - put out the flame before the fire spreads.

What fire?

I'm not exaggerating when I say I truly believe that terrorism will return to bloody the streets of this country. And I wouldn't want people to forget that the Red Brigades (BR) were not born in the factories but in the universities. And that the slogans they used were used before them by the Student Movement and the trade union left.

So you think it is possible that history will repeat itself?

It's not possible, it's probable. That's why I'm saying: let's not forget that the BR were born because the flame was not put out in time.

Veltroni's PD is on the side of the demonstrators.

Look, I can't in all honesty see Veltroni taking to the streets and risk getting a cracked skull. You're more likely to see him in some exclusive club in Chicago, applauding Obama.

He won't take to the streets with a stick in his hands, sure, but politically...

Politically, he's making the same mistake that the PCI made when the troubles [4] started: it backed the movement, deluding itself that it could control it, but when it too became a target, as was bound to happen, it soon changed its mind. The so-called hard-line adopted by Andreotti, Zaccagnini and me was suggested by Berlinguer [5]... But today we've got the PD, an ectoplasm led by another ectoplasm. And that's another good reason for Berlusconi to be more prudent.

Translated by nmcn

Translator notes:
1. Italian Communist Party, which changed name and broke up in 1991.
2. Democratic Party, led by Walter Veltroni, formed in 2007 from the remains of the old PCI together with other centre-left forces.
3. Roberto Maroni (Lega Nord), current Home Minister.
4. The "contestazione", a widespread progressive protest movement which began in the late 1960s.
5. Leader of the PCI from 1972 to 1984.

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