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.
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 Italian Communist Party but the evanescent Democratic Party, 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 (Roberto Maroni, current Home Minister) should do what I did when I was Home Secretary.
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, 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 behavior!
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.
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 Italian Communist Party made when the troubles (the "contestazione", a widespread progressive protest movement which began in the late 1960s) 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 (Leader of the Italian Communist Party from 1972 to 1984).... But today we've got the Democratic Party, an ectoplasm led by another ectoplasm. And that's another good reason for Berlusconi to be more prudent.