It was with some surprise that I found myself accused of a “too sweeping attack” on the the Italian trade union leadership, specifically that of CGIL (Solidarity 231). According to Toby Abse it was only due to the latter that the united action with the CISL and UIL leadership took place.
Even if it were true, the point of the article was to underline the covert agreement between them that there would be no more action if Monti made the right gestures — which he promptly did! And the ensuing “social peace” has delighted the markets, with spreads on Italian bonds diminishing considerably. A case, I think, of Toby not seeing the woods for the trees.
While he correctly, if far, far too weakly, reproaches the CGIL leadership for its far from principled support for the metalworkers of FIOM in the most crucial and critical battle for the future of the workers’ movement in Italy against the FIAT bosses, he states that the same leadership’s resistance against labour reform should not be so “cavalierly dismissed”. But the point I wanted to make was that workers should put little trust in the rhetoric of leaders like Sussanna Camusso. On 28 June with the other federation leaders, Camusso signed a pact with Confindustria — “a pact for Italy” to “save” the country from economic collapse!
Serious opposition to labour law reform should begin from a principled rejection of negotiations premised on class collaborationist assumptions. That is just saying what is.
This not “dismissing” the CGIL members and their capacity to mobilise, to pressurise and force the leadership to fight. It represents much of what is progressive in Italian working-class history but, nevertheless, it has been led in the past mainly by bureaucrats associated with the former Communist Party, and today the ex-Stalinists of the Democratic Party.
Toby is correct to say that to counterpose “abstract rank and filism” in the present situation is useless. But to propose a tactic of the United Front of the trade unions and workers’ movement against the government and bosses attacks is absolutely central now.
Such a perspective fought for with, and within unions, communities, the radical left etc; the key political issues and programmatic demands of revolutionary strategy — this is increasingly more and more meaningful in a context of deepening and sharpening class struggle.