The attack on the CGIL in Italy is an assault on democracy

Education International condemns the assault by neo-fascist groups on the CGIL union headquarters.

published 12 October 2021 updated 21 October 2021

David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International, the global federation of teachers and education workers, expressed his outrage after the headquarters of the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL), the largest union confederation in Italy, was ransacked by neo-fascists.

The violence broke out on Saturday, October 9, during demonstrations opposing a “green pass” which requires employees to show proof of COVID vaccination, negative test, or recent recovery from the virus.

“As educators and unionists, we condemn the assault on the CGIL, and express our continued solidarity with our union sisters and brothers in Italy. This act of violence by avowed neo-fascists is a clear attack on democratic institutions, and an effort to intimidate those who stand in the way of extremism and authoritarianism,” stated David Edwards, Secretary General of Education International.

“We stand with our affiliate FLC-CGIL, and with all our member organisations in Italy and trade unions in the country as they continue to represent the voice of workers and work for an inclusive democracy,” Edwards added.

Following the incident, twelve individuals, including top leaders of Forza Nuova, a small political party that describes itself as neo-fascist, were arrested in connection to the violence.

"The assault on CGIL's national headquarters is an act of fascist thuggery, an attack on democracy and on the world of work. No-one should think that they can return our country to its fascist past," stated Maurizio Landini, General Secretary of the CGIL.

Press reports based on information from official sources indicate that those who perpetrated the violence in Rome are part of an extreme right group whose strategy and actions were inspired by the January 6 assault on the US Capitol in Washington DC. In both cases, there is evidence that social media driven by extremist groups was used to manipulate anger and dissatisfaction based on lies and distortions.

“When facts are debatable, then you don’t have facts, you don’t have truth and you can’t have trust. Without all of these things then you don’t have a shared reality, you can’t have democracy.” This quote by Maria Ressa, a friend of Education International and recipient of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, illustrates the key role established, representative organizations such as unions have in safeguarding healthy democracies.

Just as journalists and a free press have a vital role in supporting democracy when it is fragile and under attack, so do teachers. The role of teachers is fundamental in cementing the values of democracy, developing competences such as listening, observation, critical thinking, free discussion, and active citizenship. These skills help young people separate facts from propaganda and serve as guiding principles for their actions as adults.

“The value of trade unions in building and maintaining democracy, as well as the irreplaceable role of journalists and educators must be understood and supported in order to prevent the type of violence and extremism which led to the attack on the union hall in Rome.” Edwards concluded.

Education International will join the national antifascist demonstration organised on Saturday 16 October in Rome by all three major trade union confederations, the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL), the Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori (CISL), and the Unione Italiana del Lavoro (UIL).

Abbasso il fascismo. Viva la democrazia.