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Monday, October 28, 2013

Lotta Studentesca, Blocco Studentesco: the young right wing tackles education

As you walk the streets of Rome--and if you "read" its walls--you'll find evidence of two similarly-sounding organizations: the Lotta Studentesca (literally Student Struggle) and Blocco Studentesco (Student Block).  Both are student organizations, and both are actively--perhaps sometimes too actively--involved in changing Italian schools, including secondary schools and universities. 

Posted outside a school on via Taranto

Although its name dates to the 1970s, the current Lotta Studentesca began as the youth arm of Forza Nuova, a militant, anti-immigrant, homophobic far-right political party founded in 1997.  The LS wants more investment in the public schools, opposes costly textbooks (costly, they say, because of corruption), is anti-drugs, and advocates more emphasis on school sports. 

Reprediamoci Tutto: We'll Take it all Back

The Blocco Studentesco emerged in 2006 from CasaPound, a neo-fascist organization named after the American poet Ezra Pound, who in the 1940s, while living in Italy, was an ardent supporter of the Mussolini regime.  It currently has affiliates in some 40 Italian cities, including Rome, Verona, Parma, and Palermo. 

The Rome affiliate has carried out occupations of several schools in Rome and, on October 29, 2008, occupied the tourist mecca Piazza Navona, where its supporters participated in a bloody clash with opponents on the left.  The clash was precipitated by the Gelmini Decree, named after Mariastella Gelmini, the
A Rome school occupied by Blocco Studentesco
Minister of Education, and passed by the Italian parliament.  The Gelmini Decree was composed of a series of proposed actions, most of which were opposed by the Blocco Studentesco.  The group was especially angry about cuts to the education budget (response: "we won't pay for your crisis") and a new course offering in "civic education" that was likely understood as an exercise in thought control. 

Despite the militant protests, the BS program seems less than revolutionary:  improved services, reduced bureaucracy, more student representation in decision-making, opposition to public money being spent on private schools.  A Roman friend offers a different perspective.  He describes both movements as "violent and dangerous," "anti-Semitic and homophobic."  "The difference [between them]," he adds, "is minimal and linked to personal opposition and dislike between their leaders." 


For more on "reading" Rome's walls, see our December 2011 post.

Opposition to government spending on private schools. 

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