Anti-G20 mobilizations in Italy: Strengthening environmental struggles and remembering Genoa 2001

Social movements are organizing street mobilizations and counter-summits during the meeting of G20 environment ministers from July 20-23. This G20 meeting takes place exactly 20 years after the killing of Carlo Giuliani during the G8 summit in Genova.

July 21, 2021 by European Secretariat of the International Peoples’ Assembly
Italian movements are back on the streets against G20 and to call for an anti-capitalist solution to the environmental crisis. It is taking place 20 years after the anti-G8 protests in Genoa, Italy. Photo: Potere al Popolo

The Environment Ministers of the G20 countries are gathered in Naples, in Southern Italy for the
“G20 Environment, Climate and Energy” Summit. The summit, which began on July 20 and will conclude on July 23, is focused on climate, environment and energy policies, as well as strategies for recovery one and a half years after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the downturn of the global economy. The fact that the summit takes place in Naples is worth making note of: Naples in particular and Southern Italy in general is battered by environmental destruction with documented sea and river pollution, illegal disposal of garbage, and the presence of highly polluting industries.

For the summit, a “red zone” was introduced around the buildings hosting the meetings and the political leaders of the G20. Over 2,000 police officers will control the red zone every day, bars and restaurants will not be allowed to place tables and chairs outside, construction sites will be closed and special controls at Capodichino airport will be carried out. In other words: Naples will be fully militarized.

The G20, which represents the states with the most developed economies in the world, is the emblem of neoliberal governance, based on the ruthless pursuit of profit for a few through the exploitation of human and environmental resources, and the repression and oppression of the majority of people all over the world. This system is responsible for recurring economic crises, environmental devastation that increasingly endangers the health of the people, the degradation of land and labor, the multiplication of geostrategic conflicts and wars over resources, and growing social and economic inequalities.

In this scenario, the “ecological transition” has acquired an unprecedented centrality in the context of global and European institutional politics, becoming the new field of economic recovery, guided by the rhetoric of growth and development.

The struggle on “ecological transition”

In recent years there has been a paradigm shift within discussions on ecology. In previous years, ecological measures were seen as additional costs that attack profits of private corporations fighting every single ecological intervention in the name of “freedom of business”. However, it is in the nature of capital and its political institutions to integrate ever-increasing areas of society into the law of capital and profitability.

In this way, “ecology” and “ecological transition” have been conquered by capital and transformed in new fields of investment. We have seen the emergence of “green capitalism,” a concept that says we can use the levers of the “free market” to fix the broken environment. This has become a way for capitalism to rejuvenate itself. In this process, ecology is no longer a limit to the accumulation of capital, but becomes both an opportunity for new investments and profits and an instrument of political legitimization for a capitalist system unable to respond to the concrete needs of a large part of the population.

However, the ecological struggle is not only about the environment, it is about a new vision of the relationship between human beings and between human beings and nature. People’s movements from across the world insist that capital’s quest for profit puts in danger the survival of humanity and nature and leads to destruction. Their struggles to liberate territories from private corporations, change social systems of production and consumption, and many others, highlight that the global changes needed to save the planet cannot be carried out under an economic system dominated by the laws of profit maximization, also known as capitalism. The mobilizations against the G20 and the counter-summit will take place in this spirit.

20 years after Genoa

The ongoing G20 summit in Naples coincides with the 20th anniversary of the anti-globalization mobilizations in 2001 in Genoa, wherein Italian activist Carlo Giuliani was killed during a demonstration on July 20, 2021. For the younger generation of social activists, the demonstrations against the G8 in Genoa in 2001, which saw the violent torture of journalists and political activists in the Diaz school and the shooting and killing of Carlo Giuliani by a police officer, are an important part of their political DNA.

Above all in Italy, it marked a political turning point in different directions: After Genoa 2001, a part of the social movement began to integrate itself, step by step, into the Italian dominant political system. Many in this upwards ascent even abandoned genuine left positions and became part of the ruling class. Another part of the social movement, however, fell into a deep crisis. The violence experienced in Genoa was followed by the US-invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which all culminated into a collective feeling of loss and defeat, and materially produced a retirement from political activity for many.

Another section of movements refused to interpret Genoa 2001 as a simple “event” that produced a “defeat” and the end of the No Global movement. They interpret Genoa not as a “psychological trauma”, but a “political, historical event” which still poses political and organizational problems and challenges that need to be answered.

Looking at Genoa 2001 from an international perspective, it constitutes a moment in a long-term social and political process including the Zapatista Uprising in 1994, mass demonstrations and public sector strikes against labor market and social security reforms* in France in 1994-1995, the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution with the election of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 1998, the No Global movement from Seattle 1999 to Genoa 2001, the global anti-war movement in 2003, anti-austerity movements in Europe, different waves of the so called “Arab spring” from 2010/2011, and on through to the movement against racism and feminist movements in recent times. 1989 was not at all the proclaimed “End of History” but rather that the beginning of a new era of expanding global capitalism that heralded a new era of social struggles.

By consequence, the deepening of the global crisis of capitalism continues to produce objective conditions which favor the protagonist of workers and youth. Despite the overwhelming process of precarization and fragmentation of our lives, the systemic crisis of capitalism paradoxically unites the exploited and the oppressed on a global level. This opens important opportunities for radical change.


The anti-G20 program of those days in Napoli:

* Contrat d’insertion professionnelle CIP and Plan Juppé