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The day police surrounded the station

Roma Termini, August 1970, a group of students are distributing flyers for a strike to take place in the hot mid August days, the peak tourist season in Italy. The time when the newly urbanised Italians would go on holiday, often by train, using the then popular service of carrying the car onboard the train. It’s the time of the Italians going back to their small towns, to the beach, to go visit their families. 1970 though was not only the peak of consumption (TV sets, cars, meat..) but also of social tension and actual fear. We meet an old school journalist and known activist, Piero Schiavello, who was introducing his book (titled “Anna”) at a squat nearby Termini, Nuovo Cinema Palazzo.

When people complain about decay and malfunction, they often quote the strikes. Always on weekends, always when there’s good weather, strikes seem to appear like in the school time, when you would strike only to avoid homework and test days. That word though – strike – comes from far away, as the right linked to it – the right to suspend the working shift, to be listened to by the employers. Strikes though once reached the pages of History, like this page of Italian history we’re going to tell you.

We take Schiavello to Termini, where he tells us how “hot autumn” (a time of social clashes in Italy, starting in 1969) started becoming a sticky summer in 1970. On December 12th, 1969, a bomb had exploded in Milan, killing 17 and wounding 88, in the so called bombing of Piazza Fontana (authored by right wing activists who were found guilty too late for them to be prosecuted.. it’s Italy after all!). The great hopes of 1968, the students dreaming of changing the world were by now stuff of the previous decade. The new one was less delusional and more cynical.

As the students were distributing flyers in those hot August days, they still felt the breeze of History pushing them through in their effort, despite the lazy Roman summer days. They thought they would make it, thanks to the support of a few genius and generous Union workers, two in particular, Alberto Spanò and Mimmo Bianchi. Schiavello also tells us one interesting story about Bianchi, who was known all the way in Japan (watch the video to find out why). These students thought they would make it especially because they felt the support of the railway workers, whom they knew well. They would visit them often in their lonely working places at the end of the train platforms, they would rest beside them in between shifts, on some camp beds located in the most secret places of Termini.

Termini though had no secrets for them, and they thought it could be the pulsating heart of a strike that would torn Italy in two: the consumers, and the workers, those asking for a salary increase, and those demanding less exploitation at work. It was particular days for a strike that annoyed precisely the workers preparing for the long waited for vacations. But it was also a strike that annoyed the official Union, the Cgil, which blamed these students’ idea as biting off more than one can chew. The jaws stayed stiff then, in front of the sight of the 4th Battalion of the Carabinieri police surrounding Roma Termini, thus ending the last strike of the “hopeful” ’60’s.

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2 comments

  1. grande categoria quella dei ferrovieri… in famiglia ne ho parecchi, e quello che mi raccontava mio nonno è esattamente l’opposto da ciò che mi racconta mio fratello.
    Gli scioperi dei ferrovieri hanno fatto la storia, vedi la settimana rossa con Malatesta e molti altri eventi.

  2. Grazie per il commento Ruben! Speriamo di intervistare anche ferrovieri che raccontino la Termini che non conosciamo

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