Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Labor Day

On May 1st, the rest of the world celebrates the Labor Day holyday. In Rome, for example, there is always a big concert in Piazza San Giovanni. This year, the hundreds of thousands of people were in a particular jolly mood. Just a couple of days ago, the new speakers of the House and of the Senate were elected. Fausto Bertinotti, leader of Rifondazione Comunista, is the new speaker of the House. Woo hoo!

A leftist coalition won elections in Italy for the first time in 1996. In 1998, Rifondazione Comunista, already led by Bertinotti, made the government fall in a vote of confidence. Another government was sort of put together, but then the coalition lost the 2001 elections, as expected. At the time, I resolved I would never, ever vote for that party (I had not, in 1996, and did not in 2001) until Bertinotti would step down. I am not, however, good with resolutions. Lately, Rifondazione has been the only party in Italy to say something leftist about women, civil rights, immigrants, foreign policy, respecting the Constitution, and so on, and I would have voted for them if I had not lost my absentee ballot.

Anyway, here in the US we do not celebrate communist holydays, so yesterday was a day like any other Monday in Berkeley: faculty lunch, teaching about PCP, attending the theory seminar, and so on.

There was, however, something special going on. New immigration regulations are being proposed that, among other things, would make it a felony to assist or shelter an illegal immigrant. This means, for example, that if your boyfriend/girlfriend is an illegal immigrant, and you live together and share the rent etc., then you are liable to a five years sentence in a federal prison. Unless, that is, you report your boyfriend/girlfriend and have him/her deported. Now, what a movie about longing you could get from this story ...

May 1st was a day of strike and protests against these new regulations. The main event in Berkeley was due to start at noon in Sproul plaza. I hanged out there around 11:30. There was a group performing a traditional native central-American dance, and a big crowd all around.

Inevitably, an older white man with a long beard (the type we affectionately call "aging hippie") came with a Palestinian flag. This mixing of messages is very Bay Area. During Critical Mass, the event on the last Friday of each month when large groups of bicyclists take over the streets, many people used to bike with signs that read "No blood for oil," which kind of makes sense, but also "End racism now." Biking against racism? Driving is so white?

12 Comments:

  1. Anonymous Anonymous
    5/02/2006 07:03:00 PM

    May 1st is a holiday in most of the rest of the world, but not in the USA. On this day, in 1886 some workers from Chicago had the gall to ask for an eight hour work day (back then 60 to 72 hours a week was the norm). The police promptly killed two of the striking workers and wounded several others.

    On May 1st, the entire world celebrates these courageous American workers but us, who think it is a "commie" holiday. Oh the irony!

     
  2. Anonymous Anonymous
    5/03/2006 01:14:00 AM

    Why should someone be ashamed to wave the Palestinian flag, based on the actions of the Hamas government? Just because the Palestinians voted for Hamas does not mean they approve of everything Hamas does. It is not the "Hamas Flag"; the flag stands for Palestine, not Hamas. I thought it interesting, because ever since the invasion of Iraq, the waving of the American flag often has a particularly imperialist meaning and I would be ashamed to wave it, given how it stands for the "freedom" and "democracy" we are enforcing on Iraq. But then I saw thousands waving the American flag during the immigrant protests and during those protests, it didn't seem to stand for the bloody invastion and imperialistic agenda at all; when all the protesters waved it, it seemed to stand for their hopes for freedom and their right to have rights. It reminded me that no political party can appropriate the meaning of a national flag.

     
  3. Blogger Scott
    5/03/2006 02:26:00 PM

    Speaking of mixed messages, my all-time favorite Berkeley protest was when "Queers for Palestine" took over a Starbucks. (If they ever go on a field trip to Palestine, I hope they make it back safely.)

     
  4. Blogger Luca
    5/03/2006 02:45:00 PM

    Very well said, May 3 Anonymous. I was trying to convey very conflicting feelings, while also making a joke and all in one paragraph. It was not possible.

     
  5. Anonymous Anonymous
    5/03/2006 03:02:00 PM

    Talking about flags: the emblem of Rifondazione Comunista consists of a red flag with a hammer and a sicle. It is symbol of a Soviet version of communism, a system responsible for millions of deaths in the Central and Eastern Europe. Shouldn't it be a sufficient reason not to vote for Bertinotti? Would you vote for someone with swastika even if he says right things about women's rights?

     
  6. Blogger Luca
    5/03/2006 03:31:00 PM

    May 3 3:02pm Anonymous, I can tell you what that flag means to an Italian.

    The Italian communists fought Fascism in Italy from day one, and the communist brigades were a very significant part of the Italian resistance guerilla against the German occupation during WW2.

    After the war, the Italian communist party was one the major parties in the Assembly that wrote the constitution, and many communist leaders are among the founding fathers of our Republic.

    During the 1970s, a number of Maoist terrorist groups, must notably the Red Brigades arose and conducted a number of killings and abductions. The communist party was among the firmest in the fight against this domestic terrorism, and they paid with the life of some of their members. In 1980s, it was the only party to fight corruption in the public administration, and to raise the "moral issue" in politics (not the way "moral" is used in contemporary American politics, but referring to "ethics").

    Through its history within Italy, the communist party, that always had the red flag and the sickle and hammer, stood for democracy, anti-fascism, good governance, and social justice.

    I have no problem with their use of the flag, just like I don't have problems with Hindus using the swastika as a religious simbol.

    p.s. Dear immigration officer who is processing my green card application, I know you are reading this, what I said in the form is true. I was never a member of the communist party.

     
  7. Anonymous Anonymous
    5/03/2006 03:50:00 PM

    Luca,

    I understand your argument, but I cannot agree with one of your points:

    I have no problem with their use of the flag, just like I don't have problems with Hindus using the swastika as a religious simbol.

    I don't think that this is the same.

    Swastika was a hindu symbol several centuries before Nazis adpoted it as their symbol.

    Hammer and sicle was invented by Soviets (see e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_symbolism ), and later used by communists in other countries.

    I can understand that many Italians used this symbol with good intensions, because they were unaware of a criminal nature of the Soviet Communism. I so not understand however why they still keep on using it now...

    PS Sorry if I sound like Berlusconi. Just to make things clear: I do not like this guy either.

     
  8. Anonymous Anonymous
    5/04/2006 12:37:00 AM

    Hammer and sicle was invented by Soviets (see e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_symbolism ), and later used by communists in other countries.

    Most of nuclear fusion technology was invented by the people who bombed Hiroshima for the purpose of bombing Hiroshima and killing a hundred thousand people in an instant. Should we stop using electricity that is generated using the same technology?

     
  9. Anonymous Anonymous
    5/04/2006 01:30:00 AM

    I can tell you what that flag means to an Italian.

    I think it's only fair to say that this is what means to some Italians. I don't want to take a side (doing it anonymously would be inelegant, to say the least), but I think that what you said is debatable. Plus, even agreeng with your position, who says that most of the "good Communists" are now with RC and not, say, with the larger party Democratici di Sinistra?

     
  10. Anonymous Anonymous
    5/04/2006 03:11:00 AM

    Most of nuclear fusion technology was invented by the people who bombed Hiroshima for the purpose of bombing Hiroshima and killing a hundred thousand people in an instant. Should we stop using electricity that is generated using the same technology?

    I do not see any analogy here. There is a fundamental difference between reusing the symbols (connected to some ideology) and reusing the technology (which is ideology-independent).

     
  11. Anonymous Anonymous
    5/04/2006 03:17:00 AM

    1) the hindu svastika circles the opposite way of the nazi svastika. very easy to tell them apart.

    2) the reason I would have voted for Bertinotti is that he had the balls to put Vladimir Luxuria (the first trans member of parliament in Italy) on the ballot! However, I could not vote specifically for his party, as the left coalition presented an united list in the foreign districts, so I voted for the whole left-coalition which unfortunately includes parties like Udeur (Mastella's crooks) and Margherita which are against civil unions for gays and are the old relics of the Democrazia Cristiana. But that was anyway a good political choice as it allowed the left coalition to win the foreign seats.

    BTW Luca, shame on you for losing your ballot! :)

     
  12. Blogger Luca
    5/04/2006 09:23:00 AM

    Shame on me, indeed.

     

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