Genoa: the fifteenth anniversary of the great demonstrations against the G8 and Berlusconi’s bloody repression

26 July 2016 by Eric Toussaint


From July 18 to 23 Genoa remembers the demonstrations against the G8 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, UK and USA) that took place exactly 15 years ago. On 19 July the CADTM (Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debts) [1] co-organised, along with Fondazione Palazzo ducale di Genova, ATTAC, Pax Christi and the Committee Place Carlo Giuliani, a day of meetings devoted to the abolition of illegitimate debts, that was attended by more than 200 people from all over Italy. The range of speakers was as wide as the diversity of the activists. Among the first was an Archbishop, a Bishop, radical left and anti-globalisation activists. In the audience were activists from the radical left, union organisers, representatives from the NGO Fair Trade and many more. See (in Italian):

In Genoa on 20 to 22 July 2001 more than 300 000 people gathered from all over Europe to voice their opposition to the G8 G8 Group composed of the most powerful countries of the planet: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the USA, with Russia a full member since June 2002. Their heads of state meet annually, usually in June or July. summit that was held there. At that time Berlusconi was the head of the Italian government. He closed down most of the city with barriers several metres high over a radius of several kilometres. Real civil war measures were put into place by the Berlusconi government. Thousands of carabinieri and police were psychologically and physically worked up to affront the demonstrators with violence. The President of the USA, George W. Bush, was accommodated on a US navy warship.

The demonstrations went on for three days

The morning of 20 July started with an organisers’ meeting at 9 o’clock attended by, among others, Raffaella Bollini from ARCI and the Genoa Social Forum, Christophe Aguiton, ex General Secretary of ATTAC France, Chris Nineham from Globalize Resistance (UK), Denise Comanne and myself for the CADTM. We received last-minute information from the authorities showing police installations and the authorised route for the demonstration. Perusing the information we realised that it had been deliberately chosen to provoke violent confrontation, especially since the demonstration of the militant group Tute Bianche would end in a trap. It was not possible to change the plans, no negotiations took place. That afternoon Carlo Giuliani, a young demonstrator, was killed. A police vehicle was driven over him after he had been shot twice and had fallen to the ground.

The next day 300 000 demonstrators marched in favour of the protection of the rights of migrants. The police attacked frequently with great violence and use of tear-gas.

During the night of 22-23 July the carabineri occupied a school that was being used as a dormitory by many of the demonstrators. I well remember the moment of the attack, being 80 metres away from the school in the close vicinity of the Genoa Social Forum in the company of Walden Bello, a Philippino activist organiser for ’Focus on the Global South’ based in Bangkok. We saw the carabinieri prevent ambulance staff from gaining access to the school for more than half an hour, while the carabinieri themselves attacked many of the occupants. Stretchers passed by carrying motionless victims and we were convinced there would be more dead. Fortunately that was not the case, the victims being probably knocked unconscious. The aggressions continued over the following days in a barracks where the detained were beaten and made to sing fascist songs.

As was described in Le Monde in April 2015, “We have had to wait 14 years to get a conviction. Finally, it’s the whole country that has been convicted. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemned Italy on 7 January for never having prosecuted, or even identified, those police officers who perpetrated violence against demonstrators and activists during the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001, inflicting treatment so bad that it can be considered to have been torture.” see (in French):

Delegations were present from all over Europe. A large number of Greeks including Alexis Tsipras, 27 years old at the time, were prevented from arriving when their special train was blocked by Berlusconi’s police. Pablo Iglesias, 22 years old at the time, the present leader of Podemos, was in a big delegation from Spain.

After Genoa the G8 [2] decided that henceforth demonstrations should not be allowed to approach the meeting place so closely.

The Genoa demonstrations were a part of the rising anti-globalisation movement. We can identify 1994 as being the beginning of this rise with the apparition of the neo-Zapatist movement in Mexico in January of that year and the big demonstrations against the World Bank World Bank
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

in October under the banner of “50 years is enough”. [3] Other dates such as the anti G7 rally in Paris in July 1989 calling for the abolition of Third World Debt, the ’intergalactic’ gathering in the Chiapas in Mexico around the neo-Zapatists in 1996, the Worldwide mobilisations against the WTO WTO
World Trade Organisation
The WTO, founded on 1st January 1995, replaced the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). The main innovation is that the WTO enjoys the status of an international organization. Its role is to ensure that no member States adopt any kind of protectionism whatsoever, in order to accelerate the liberalization global trading and to facilitate the strategies of the multinationals. It has an international court (the Dispute Settlement Body) which judges any alleged violations of its founding text drawn up in Marrakesh.

meeting in Seattle in November 1999, the great demonstrations in Bangkok in February 2000 quickly followed by Washington in April of that year and Prague in September were milestones in the movement, not forgetting the first ’World Social Forum’ in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in January 2001. This ascending phase reached its zenith with the demonstrations against the war in Iraq in February 2003. The war was finally engaged on 20 March 2003. These demonstrations were worldwide with more than 10 million participants. [4]

The World Social Forum, the European Social Forum, the Latin American Social Forum, the African Social Forum and the Asian Social Forum started to decline from 2005-2006 when some members adopted moderate positions, compromising with governments such as that of Lula in Brazil (as from 2003), the Congress Party in India (2004-2009) and the Prodi government in Italy. The WSF encountered setbacks in Belem (2009), in Dakar (2012), and in Tunis in 2013 and 2015. Its decline is ongoing whilst no other structure has appeared to replace it. This absence of a worldwide structure to bring together resistance and alternatives is a very serious problem. For more information on this period see the five articles in the series “The International Context of Global Outrage”;;;; See also

The Arab Spring and the great ’Indignados’ movement have not produced the new international basis for struggle that is so urgently needed.

My talk at the conference on the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt in Genoa on 19 July 2016 briefly presented debt repudiations that have happened over the last two centuries. I also pointed out, as did other speakers, the age-old practice of regularly cancelling private debts, starting with the abolitions that periodically occurred in Mesopotamia over 3000 years ago, [5] as well as the birth of Athenian democracy under Solon and the biblical tradition. I emphasised the importance of cancelling private illegitimate debts, whether they be illegitimate mortgages (12 million US families have had their homes repossessed by the banks since 2007 and 300 000 families in Spain have been also been evicted from their homes since 2009); illegitimate student debts (particularly in the UK and the US); the illegitimate debts of Indian smallholders; or elsewhere, in Morocco and many other countries, the debts incurred by the abusive commercialisation of micro-credit. I have stressed the need to disobey creditors when they try to impose conditions that are illegitimate or incompatible with human rights. I summarised the lessons to be learned from the capitulation of the Tsipras government in Greece in July 2015 that was caused by its refusal to suspend debt repayments, its refusal to act on the findings of the Greek Debt Truth Commission, its refusal to respect the result of the 5 July referendum despite the fact that it had been called by Alexis Tsipras himself.

Lessons for the future: future popular governments (and left-wing movements that participate in government) must resist creditors, disobey institutions and European treaties, find their strength and legitimacy in popular movements and respect the choices of the people. Those at the bottom must maintain maximum pressure on favourable governments to ensure that they do not capitulate and that they really do put an authentic alternative programme into place.

Translated by Vicki Briault and Mike Krolikowski


[1The two speakers for CADTM International on 19 July 2016 were Chiara Filoni and Eric Toussaint. Note that ATTAC Italy joined CADTM International in April 2016 at the CADTM World Assembly held in Tunis.

[2At present the G8 is again reduced to a G7 because of the tensions with Russia. The last G7 meeting was held in Japan in May 2016. See

[3The CADTM was created in 1990 in the wake of the big 1989 rally in Paris and supported the neo-Zapatist movement by going to Mexico in July 1994 and co-organising the demonstrations against the WB and the IMF in Madrid in October 1994.

[5See Eric Toussaint, "The Long Tradition of Debt Cancellation in Mesopotamia and Egypt from 3000 to 1000 BC”, 24 August 2012;

Eric Toussaint

is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège, is the spokesperson of the CADTM International, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France.
He is the author of Greece 2015: there was an alternative. London: Resistance Books / IIRE / CADTM, 2020 , Debt System (Haymarket books, Chicago, 2019), Bankocracy (2015); The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (2014); Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology From its Origins to the Present, Haymarket books, Chicago, 2012, etc.
See his bibliography:
He co-authored World debt figures 2015 with Pierre Gottiniaux, Daniel Munevar and Antonio Sanabria (2015); and with Damien Millet Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. He was the scientific coordinator of the Greek Truth Commission on Public Debt from April 2015 to November 2015.

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