'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dubstep Rome 

UPDATE: Assange is released on bail in London, as US Attorney General Eric Holder prepares a conspiracy case against him. It looks like the expectation is that Bradley Manning can be abused badly enough in solitary confinement to say whatever is necessary to convict him.

INITIAL POST: As you may have heard, violent clashes erupted on the streets of Rome yesterday after Berlusconi survived a no-confidence vote:

Meanwhile, the electoral opposition to Berlusconi is engaging in the predictable search for police provocateurs as a partial explanation for the eruption of violence in Rome:

Anna Finocchiaro, leader in the Senate of Italy's biggest opposition group, the Democratic party, said: There were evidently people who had been infiltrated [among the rioters] and who put at risk the demonstrators and the police. Who commanded them? Who paid them? What were they meant to cause?

Photographs taken during the disturbances have prompted not only suspicions but bitter memories of the 1970s when rogue members of the police and intelligence services lent themselves to a so-called strategy of tension aimed at raising the level of violence to the point at which it could be used to justify draconian repression or even a coup d'état.

Yesterday, groups of masked and hooded demonstrators rampaged through the capital attacking police, smashing windows, setting fire to vehicles and throwing up barricades. The mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, said first indications were that they had caused damage of about €20m. The disturbances were thought to be the most violent in Rome since 1977.

One of the participants in this week's rioting was photographed hurling a dustbin at members of the revenue guard and wielding a long shovel. But in other shots, he appears to be standing with the guards raising a truncheon in one hand and holding a pair of handcuffs in the other.

I have no trouble believing that there were, in fact, police provocateurs on the streets of Rome yesterday instigating some acts of property destruction, just as there were in London last week. And people in Italy have good cause to be concerned about it because of the 1970s strategy of tension mentioned in the article, a covert program that involved bombings and assassinations carried out by neo-fascists, with the apparent assistance of the Central Intelligence Agency, that were falsely attributed to radical left groups.

But the attacks upon the police, the burning of cars and the smashing of store windows in Rome cannot be entirely attributed to government manipulation. First off, people on the street were already angry, and rightly so. Hence, if provoked, they directed their anger towards whatever symbols of privilege were immediately at hand. Second, it strikes me as implausible to believe that the eruption of conflict was limited to situations exploited by the police. There was an independent agency, and that agency was, again, young people rebelling against the bleak future that the European Union and the European Central Bank have planned for them.

Apparently, the government has confidence that it can benefit from instigating them into more and more acts of property destruction and conflict with the police. But the rebellion is increasingly showing signs of spreading across the entire continent. Greece, then France, then the UK, then Italy and now, Greece, again today. Intensifying social unrest in one place as a means of generating local support for repressive measures may have the unintended consequence of inciting unrest elsewhere on a larger scale.

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