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YaBasta: Politics Dressed in White Overalls

There has been much talk about the Italian group YaBasta--and even imitations!--in anarchist circles. And while it should be clear to anyone paying attention that YaBasta (a.k.a. "Movement in White Overalls") isnít an anarchist organization, the problems with YaBasta go much deeper. Not only does YaBasta openly dialogue and work with the state (including supporting and running candidates in elections), but they even collude with the state to suppress anarchists and anarchist projects. Yet it is not only YaBasta as a particular organization that anarchists should be wary of, but as a method of organization and a model of struggle--the focus of most anarchistsí acritical jubilation--YaBasta is highly problematic. They have explicitly moved away from self-organization and towards politics, away from conflictual action towards mediated, public spectacles (often arranged with the police in advance). Thus we include the article below to clarify where YaBasta stands in relation to the state, anarchists, and social revolution. But donít take our word for it, look at the quotes from YaBasta themselves at the end of the article.


The birth of the so-called "Movement in White Overalls" traces back to 1998, when the Social Centers referring to the "Charter of Milan" decided to break away--in their image as well--from the rest of the antagonist movement that didn't adopt the political positions expressed in that document.
The "Charter of Milan" welled up in an assembly held in that town on September 19, 1998, at the Leoncavallo Social Center. It appears to be the converging point of various paths within the area of social centers, such as Leoncavallo, the "Melting" of social centers in North-East Italy (Padua, Venice-Mestre etc.) and some in Rome (Corto Circuito, Forte Prenestino). Later on centers of Liguria and Marche also flowed in.
The paths followed weren't on the whole homogeneous, but had been growing in the former period around the tendency marked by militants seeking re-definition and a new political role; the practice was carried out through connections with the institutional "left" as well as with sectors of volunteer associations, catholic ones in particular. At the same time negotiations had been undertaken with mayors--right-wing ones as well--to obtain political recognition, and legalize squatted centers with the claim that they were offering public services and entertainment, organized through social cooperatives, tied to the "non-profit" sector.

In Mestre (Venice) in particular, negotiations resulted in the town-council purchasing the squatted center "Rivolta" --formerly a factory--at the approx. cost of 1 million US$ paid with public funds, favored by Benetton's economic group, followed by legalization. Such a political "turn"--applauded both on left-wing press and TV--was then presented as the consequence of a theoretical revision assuming that the period of class struggle and communist subversion had expired, recognizing a not well defined "civil society" as a new interlocutor, and pointing out as a strategic goal a "conflictive reform of welfare" through the claiming of universal rights, in the first place "citizen's revenue".

In order to support these views, the social centers of the Milan Charter discovered a queer federalism: municipalism and self-government were no longer seen as radical alternatives for social self organization, but rather as a "new" model of democratic participation and political representation within institutions such as local administrations. Thus Leoncavallo ended up supporting a Christian Democrat like Martinazzoli running to be elected mayor of Milan. While peeping from behind the flag of neo-zapatism, the next step was participation of members of this area in local elections in the ranks of the Green Party or Rifondazione Comunista with an attitude expressing all but opposition to the center-left governments. Luca Casarini, a spokesman (but really, leader) of the W.O. was assigned as advisor of Livia Turco, minister of Social Affairs whose name is bound to the law that introduced concentration "kamps" for paperless or non legalized immigrants, waiting for expulsion. Since 1998, as a consequence of this "new" political course, a deep rupture has taken place within the antagonist movement, with on the one side W.O. more and more involved in institutional and social-democratic context; on the other, social centers, squatts and experiences of social and syndicalist self-organization that keep their points of reference in "Autonomia di Classe" or the variegated expressions of anarchism ranging from squatters to the Anarchist Federation (FAI). During street demonstrations, one item occurred to worsen fractures--so-called "civil disobedience". On more than one occasion it appeared plainly that some clashes between W.O. and police had been agreed beforehand, as denounced in the daily-paper "il Manifesto" (Feb. 1, 2000) in an article by Livio Quagliata titled "Urban guerrilla? But please!". Moreover, on several occasions and different places (Bologna, Aviano, Treviso, Trieste, Venice, Rovigo), W.O. have been responsible of physical aggressions, threats and informer behavior against autonomous, anarchists, revolutionary communists and other sections of the movement for self organization who reject political hegemony that W.O. pretends to impose on the entire opposition movement with the complicity of the media.

---Sandra K.


"The State isn't anymore the enemy to throw down, but the counterpart with whom we had to discuss things." (Interview of Luca Casarini, leader of the W.O., supplement of the daily Il Gazzettino, 23 April 1998).

"...Excuse us, comrades, but for us your intransigence regarding principles and refusal of any mediation with the institutions are more binded to anarchist thinking and populist maximalism, like that of the former left wing organization Lotta Continua, than to our political formation of activists. There is nothing wrong with it, just clear up the question. Do allow us just to observe that the neo-anarchists propagandists of the direct action and the fundamentalist and orthodox neo-communists have in common the same extremism in pseudo-revolutionary language." (taken from the declaration "Camminiamo interrogandoci", written by Radio Sherwood in Padova, responding at the Movimento Antagonista Toscano, october 1996 ).

"In the North East part of the country in the social centres, we have produced new cadres, serious people like Luca Casarini. They are ours or aren't they!? Now some social centres are orienting themselves as an independent enterprise. They have Cacciari (the Mayor of Venice) as an intelligent interlocutor, they are thinking as a democratic lobby" (Interview of Fausto Bertinotti, secretary of Rifondazione Comunista Party, in Il Manifesto of 16 July 1998).

"The day that they won't call us anymore "autonomi" will be a feast [...] Ideology has been outrun" (Interview of Max Gallob, spokesman of the social centre Pedro in Padova in the daily Il Gazzettino of 15 march 2000).

"A Davos we have, along with Josef Bove, the leader of the French farmers, taken the megaphone inviting to isolate those who were chopping windows. We did succeed, with the help of the youngsters of the social centres of Mestre [...] I did meet the boys of the social centres of Mestre and Padova who were taken by Manconi (ex-secretary of the Green Party). I spoke with them, I told them that at the first violent action they would been chased away; after that I did listen to their reasoning. As a matter of fact in Davos they stood at our side, they didn't throw any molotovs". (Interview of Grazia Francescato, parliamentary and leader of the Green party in the daily Corriere della Sera of 25 may 2000).

"In the antique shop we find the remains of revolutionary traditions that passed by in the history of the XXth century: the communist one, the anarchist, the workerist and other ones. Let's look at them , disillusioned because of what they are: fragments of a time passed by that, with all their splendor and misery, victories and defeats, can't return anymore, can't be reconstructed" (from an statement on line by the redaction of Radio Sherwood, spring 2000).

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