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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’automne chaud des étudiants italiens

by Bernard Duraud

Italian Students’ Hot Autumn

Translated Monday 27 October 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

Italy. Berlusconi’s austerity budget has provoked a vast mobilization in education. General strikes in primary and university education are coming.

More and more student demonstrations against the educational reform are being held in cities across Italy. The Union of Italian Students (UDU) announced yesterday that it would continue holding rallies against reductions in the education budget, despite threats by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to send the police to clear the universities.

Tens of thousands of university and high school students, primary and university teachers, researchers and parents are now organizing daily demonstrations and sit-ins throughout the country, from Milan to Rome to Naples, to protest against the budget cuts in education programmed for the coming years.

“Not only is the mobilization continuing, it is also growing. We are absolutely not intimidated by Silvio Berlusconi’s words because this is not just a student mobilization. In addition to academia, it is now the whole of society that is realizing that the government is endangering the economic development of the country in addition to the right to higher education,” a UDU communiqué states.

Silvio Berlusconi has threatened the use of force against the dissidents, whether they be high school students, university students, or teachers, who are occupying school buildings and classrooms. “I shall not allow the schools and the universities to be occupied, (...) order must be respected. The government must do its job by guaranteeing the rights of the students who want to study,” Berlusconi said, unleashing a clamor of indignation among the opposition, which accused him of increasing tensions. The drastic cuts contained in the budget will eliminate thousands of jobs in the years to come and will eliminate some eight billion euros from education as a whole. The cuts have just been approved by the government in the form of a decree-cum-law which has yet to be voted by Parliament. The cuts are part of a vast set of measures aimed at cutting government expenses. The three main trade union confederations have called for a general strike in the public schools on October 30 to denounce the return to a single course of studies in primary school, and a general strike in higher education on November 14. Hot, hot, the Italian Autumn is hot!

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