Italy: retreat and resistance

Submitted by cathy n on 10 March, 2015 - 3:49 Author: Hugh Edwards

Reports of an economic revival in Italy produced the predictable whoop of euphoria and triumph from the political and cultural establishment, only too happy to laud the passing of the (anti-worker) Jobs Act as the miracle to put the country on the yellow-brick road to full recovery.

The news that employers like Fiat are taking on hundreds of workers, that unemployment is falling, investment rising and the public finances getting the nod of approval from Brussels are all true. Why wouldn't they be? The Jobs Act alone has pulverised the conditions of protection workers won 40 or so years ago,; now in return for hiring new staff bosses get €24,000 per head, plus the right to impose any conditions they fancy. They can fire one or all of the workforce if the spirit moves them.

Why wouldn't employers be exultant. At the opening of the 55 billion Expo Italian food exhibition in Milan in six weeks time just 1,000 of the 18,000 workers hired for a six month contract will be paid. The rest will get nothing but their food. At three of Fiat's major plants across the country, after a call for strike action by the FIOM metalworkers union to demand the abolition of overtime to guarantee more jobs, only 10 out of a 3,000 workforce downed tools. And in the shop floor elections for the factory committees the scab unions - CISL and UIL - who effectively supported the Jobs Act, got huge majorities.

These facts speak eloquently of a profoundly dark and deep mood of defeat, demoralisation and bewilderment suffocating the working masses of Italy, of a condition where, as with the Roman Empire, the bourgeoisie have “made a wilderness and call it peace”.

Two weeks ago the town of Cervia saw the launching of a "new" campaign of "Social Coalition" by the metalworkers union and its leader Maurizio Landini. Left-talking Landini was, along with his fellow CGIL Confederation union leader Susanna Camussa, the architect of the humiliating political campaign against the Jobs Act. Underneath a mountain of militant rhetoric they delivered three separate and diminishing days of protests and action in a three month period, culminating in abject defeat. Renzi contemptuously ignored the amendments the toothless parliamentary commission proffered to him several weeks ago.

One might have hoped that Landini might have claimed to have learned some lessons? Well, he had, premising his announcement by stating that "the epoch has changed, requiring a change of direction, that the Democratic Party under its new leader is now the instrument of the industrialists. To challenge it demands going beyond the idea of a single union or confederation strike action perspective".

Echoing vaguely the thesis of the Negri/Hardt post-worker analysis he called for a "social coalition" of his union with forces of the networks of the many separate social and political campaigns active across the country, opining, incredibly, that this would overcome the inevitable isolation and fragmentation of the contemporary trade union and radical political scene in Italy today.

And the instrument to politically focus, guide and achieve victory over Renzi and his government? Yes strike action would be part of it, as he announced details for this month of half day protest strikes plus other unspecified stunts  typical of the union under his leadership. But these and all the concerted mobilisations of the coalition would be aimed at mounting support for a petition for a "popular" legal alternative Statute of Labour to the Jobs Act, and, if Camussa agrees, for a referendum on the issue.

All that labour for such a mouse of a proposal, whose chances of  materialising into permanent existence, beyond the flush of illusion and fantasy too typical, alas, of so much  of Italy's left, is the same as all the similar ones of  the last decade, most memorably and most recently, the rainbow coalition, as substantial and as fleeting as the real thing.

Landini, then, intimated that as the party of Renzi was no longer (sic) that of the popular masses the question of political representation might have to be at some future unspecified point addressed by the coalition.

The last thing he has in mind is the call for the creation and building of a new workers party in Italy however. His interests are elsewhere; it is common knowledge that he has his sights on replacing Camussa as head of CGIL, from where his supporters fantasise he will reveal the true colours of his radicalism.

Away from this Wizard of Oz illusionist, in Piazza del Popolo recently another consequence of the unending  social massacre and retreat manifested itself in the Roman baptism of Matteo Salvini and the forces of his Northern League, one time fomentor of racist hatred of all things Roman, but now reborn as ally of the fascist Casa Pound  and Le Pen. All are  united in odium against immigrants and the EU and its currency. The turnout was nowhere near as large as four months ago in Milan, but still large enough to prove the point that the reactionary filth of all gathered there — including Alba D'ora — continues to seep its poison into wider and wider sections of the popular masses. As in everything else before the malignant tide of reaction  the major  trade union confederations  and its leaders are in their criminal silence  before  the mounting racist attacks. They bear full responsibility directly and indirectly  for what is unfolding as the party of Salvini rises unchallenged.
But from  the same city came  proof that the foul racists will not go unchallenged. More than 30,000 of mainly Rome's young, alongside thousands of immigrants and their families marched as one in an inspiring block of militant solidarity against the filth contaminating Palazzo del Popolo.

Despite the many differences among the network of social centres who spearheaded the protest no ranks were broken in futile ultra left gestures against the huge army of cops. Everyone there knew instinctively that the principle of “march separately fight together" was the surest and most powerful weapon of retort to the racists, a graphic, unambiguous signal to them that in Rome "they shall not pass”.

This must be the model to inspire every serious class fighter to believe that the retreat can be halted, the demoralised can be roused by the struggle, and a politics of resistance that challenges at every point of conflict the cowardly, confusion-peddling leaders to unite the Italian working masses in the battles with Renzi and the system over which he and his ilk preside.

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