Between July 18 and 22, 2001, in the Ligurian port city of Genoa, one of the last great young people’s dream of democracy was ruined. At the 27th summit meeting of the self-proclaimed “big eight” among the governments that shared world wealth among themselves without democratic legitimation, the Italian police were incited into peaceful protests, overnight camps and individual demonstrators. To put it in the words of eyewitnesses: there was an undisguised will to frighten, to hurt, even to kill. Genoa 2001 became a symptom of an internal fascization of the European executive organs, of which we now only register marginal phenomena such as neo-Nazi chats, racism in action and anti-democratic corps spirit. War had been declared on the Social Forum as a democratic counter-event; Injustice, torture and assault were not, however, the failure of a desolate, unauthorized, over-motivated and under-controlled police, but the politically produced climax of a campaign to create an enemy image.
300,000 mostly young people had gathered in the city not only to protest against the neoliberal division of the world, but also to work in discussions, workshops and artistic interventions on an alternative world, on a new form of solidarity in diversity. And that, although for many activists the trip already ended at the national borders. Only, for example, had Gerhard Schröder called for a travel ban for “violent demonstrators” in Germany, which Otto Schily tried to put into practice. This was preceded by a rather unprecedented smear campaign in which German politicians as well as the usual media of meanness took part. You wanted violence. And this provocation of violence has a history.
The triumphant advance of neoliberalism is determined not least by a new, performative type of state violence. The bloody crackdowns on the strikes in Great Britain by the Thatcher administration and in Ronald Reagan’s America were mediaized as the triumphs of the tough dogs of the new economy. The violence in the social cuts of the Schröderfischers needed images like the “parasite” to be followed. The police operations against the protests at the WTO summit in Seattle in 1999 are also part of a chain of events: a new economy and a new hardship. A month before Genoa, Sweden’s police under the social democratic government allowed live ammunition to be used against demonstrators for the first time at the EU summit in Gothenburg. The willingness of governments to use violence in the construction of an anti-democratic, hybrid world neoliberalism was much more pronounced than that of the opponents. In Gothenburg a person almost died, in Genoa there had to be the dead.
At first it seemed an easy game to produce the desired images and messages. But then the number of participants in the counter-events not only exceeded all expectations, they also offered the image of friendlier, more committed, more willing to communicate and evidently anything but a terrorist culture. But it was precisely this image of a powerful and peaceful countervailing power that had to be prevented. Not in spite of the fact that they were so peaceful, but because they were so peaceful, the reaction must have been so brutal. You could see it in Genoa: There was sympathy despite the media hate speech. The participants in the Social Forum, who, despite the infiltration of agents provocateurs, did not want to submit to the pre-drawn image of violence, had to be attacked. The neoliberalization project needs the predicted image of violence. Prime Minister Berlusconi and his neo-fascist deputy Fini were the right people to produce this picture, at any cost.
This violence was then through and through over-lusconist. It began with a glamorous over-presence, especially of the carabinieri, who tried to conjure up violence with heavy equipment and armored vehicles. It then frayed into illegal, disproportionate and partly fake-fueled street missions and culminated in the sadistic attack on the Diaz school. The murder of Carlo Giuliani also followed the pattern: A young military service member shot him, one of many who had been incited and “let off the leash”. A tragedy of Italianitá: the people, cheated of consciousness by the unity of entertainment and fascism, against the undesirable enlightenment modernity. But immediately a web of lies was laid about this murder, first Carlo was said to have been killed by a stone from his own ranks, then in self-defense, and finally, at the acquittal of Mario Placanica, it was claimed that a stone thrown had the shot he was called Warning in the sky, distracted. The insolence of the web of lies was part of the show of force by a post-democratic government and its organs.
The spirit of solidarity
In the aftermath, a web of intrigues, veils, and grotesque displays of the ability to defy whatever rule of law and democracy had been achieved. Anyone who was held accountable could be said with some certainty that he was a thorn in the side of certain circles anyway. Behind the scenes, the Genoa case, there is no end to cynicism, was used to get rid of some lawyers and police officers who had excelled in the fight against the mafia. The adversary was a youth that was not yet permeated by the spirit of neoliberalism and demanded something other than consumption and a career from the world. Alexis Tsipras remembers: “We had the belief that we would do something really meaningful, no longer individually and in our own country, but together, and for the first time we felt that our presence could be sufficient, the power of this undemocratic association. ”So it was a matter of breaking this spirit of self-empowerment, the search for meaning and solidarity. It was important to prevent a positive image of this new beginning at all costs. It worked so well in Genoa that the post-democratic, neoliberal societies were almost terrified of themselves. It was just too obvious. This berlusconist-arbitrary violence also contained the systematic-eliminatory violence of the fascists of the then Alleanza Nazionale, whose chairman was Gianfranco Fini. Had there still been democratic politicians on the world stage at that time, they should have been warned. Instead, it is precisely the “new social democrats” who support the path of violence. The extent to which the Italian police were infiltrated by fascists at that time was shown by the behavior of the Carabinieri towards the prisoners in the Bolzaneto barracks, where they shouted fascist slogans and songs. It seemed as if the 2001 police officers were inspired by the portrayal of the fascists in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film Saló. They saw – for the most part, because we can only guess what happened to dissidents – in their attacks the triumph of a coming system in which there would be no more room for foreign chaos.
But the apparent victory had a social consequence. Genoa was raised to the rank of “shame” and “trauma”. Because the three picture narratives had developed a life of their own: the injured, the traces of blood, the fear and horror in the eyes of the victims, the martial, laughing-sadistic demeanor of the uniformed perpetrators. The active solidarity of the people of Genoa, who gave shelter to the hunted, who brought water to wash away blood and tears. And a crowd on the beach, indifferent to their pleasure, indifferent to the smoke and the noise, the different future of neoliberalism.
One can only surmise that the global shock of the events in Genoa was drowned out by the greater shock of 9/11. The civil war scenario has been replaced by a new “world war” scenario. “Memory,” the motto of the Italian department of Indymedia, “is a collective force.” A wound is breaking open in Italy: the film In Campo nemico, collections of articles, comic reports by Zerocalcare and Francesco Barilli, events. In the Palazzo Ducale, the former meeting place of the politicians and today’s cultural center of the city, there is a round table for a “productive processing”, but in the mourning there is also resignation. Instead of the image of the utopian counterculture, the ambivalent images of violence remain. Instead of hope, there is trauma.