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(en) Report - "Italy: A land fit for demolishing"

From FdCA <internazionale@fdca.it>
Date Sun, 15 Dec 2002 09:46:30 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

The Italian government and Italian capital are busy demolishing
what was born from anti-fascist resistance and from the social
battles of the '60s and '70s. It is apparently as a result of
their desperation, fully conscious as it may be, to turn Italy
into a mega-corporation under the control of the new right and
its new boss, Baron Berlusconi.

During the time of the 3 centre-left governments from 1996 to
2001, it was known as the "modernization" of the country in
order to turn Italy into a "normal" country. They were to be 5
years of crazed "reforms" (sic!) of all of what was good in the
social organization of the country, not to mention the
fundamental labour rights, "reformed" with the connivance of the
traditional unions, Cgil, Cisl and Uil. Today's centre-right
governing coalition is continuing this job of dismantling and
deconstruction but with greater attention being paid, both to
the big picture of progressive privatizations of the public
aspects of social life, and in the processes of the
subordination of the Italian and migrant proletariat to the
interests of capital.


This is the slogan which the government is using in order to
affront the present situation at the limits of recession: growth
for 2002 is 0.4% and the forecast for 2003 is possibly 1.4%; the
debt is at 110.3%; wages have increased by 2.3% while official
inflation is at +2.8% (though REAL inflation is at 3.5%). Given
the situation, public-sector pay increases are fixed at just
1.4%; the government has approved a law on total labour
flexibility and is about to pass another on the freedom to
dismiss and on the pension system. This attack on wages,
employment and social security is on a vast scale.

At the same time it looks on contentedly while the whole country
is prey to devastating de-industrialization. The crisis in the
industrial sector (with Fiat at the head), the food sector
(Cirio), and telecommunications (Marconi) is affecting thousands
of workers, with repercussions also in related industries. The
Fiat crisis in particular is affecting the entire country from
north to south, and the agreement between the company and the
government of 5th December provides for unrelenting re-sizing
with the initial loss of 8,100 factory jobs and the future
prospect of turning factory workers into nurses, supermarket
check-out staff, security guards and cleaning staff for shopping
centres! The progressive withdrawal of Fiat from a strategic
sector such as the automobile sector can only have extremely
worrying effects on industrial employment in Italy. And its
partner, General Motors, does not promise much better, either.


Theories on the "light" State are interpreted just as
coherently, if not more so, by the centre-right government than
by the centre-left colleagues. The 2003 Budget provides for a
series of cuts in public spending, particulary savage in the
areas of education (all levels), research, local government
agencies (regarding the health service, social services etc.).
On the other hand, it provides for tax benefits for individual
workers who it is thought can help to slow down the increasing
costs of social services or who can obtain these services
elsewhere, on the market. Those things which were entitlements
(education, assistance, health, pensions etc.) become
opportunities available at a market price. So we get the
situation where there are cuts in the provision of teachers for
the disabled, whose families then have to turn to private
structures in order to obtain assistance (most of which
structures are in the hands of the Catholic church, naturally.
Many of the services provided by local agencies (transport,
assistance to the disabled, the old, migrants etc.) will cost
more and may be farmed out to private (Catholic) agencies ... at
market prices, of course. In the wake of the privatization of
public utilities along comes the next step in the subversive
plan, a step which is dear to the hearts of the centre-left too.
It is called subsidiarity, and provides for public institutions
to intervene in social matters only when, wait for it, the
private sector is not or cannot dealing with it! How? By
financing the private sector, of course!

The close connection between this strategy and the law on
devolution which provides for the transfer of powers in the
fields of education, health and local policing to the various
regions, definitively destroys the equality of rights, the very
concept of collective interests, the very dimension of
proletarian unity on a national level, by atomizing everything
into single needy individuals and single personal interests
rather than at a level of class.

Furthermore, the insistence with which Italian capitalists
demand an end to the days of collective national work contracts
to clear the way for separate company contracts or individual
contracts, rounds off the scene in a country which risks
collapse and the annihilating of social rights and liberties.


Following the big general strike of the "base" unions in
February 2002, the CGIL got a bit of a jolt. Its tactics
suddenly became more radical, it placed itself in firm
opposition to the government and it came out in defence of
Article 18 of the Workers' Statute (1971) which protects workers
from unfair dismissal and which the government wants to abolish.
Not one, but two general strikes made the workers once more
hopeful about the CGIL, after many years of disappointment. They
even sacrificed the unity with the CISL and UIL, who both signed
the "Pact for Italy" with the government, thereby authorizing
greater flexibility in the jobs market, with exceptions on
Article 18 in exchange for tax promises. It is above all the
FIOM (CGIL industrial workers) which is dragging Italy's biggest
union along with it, having abandoned the tactic of partnership
in industrial areas. The renewed combativity of the CGIL on a
national level can be traced to a series of political factors,

- the refusal of the centre-right government to continue with
the practice of "partnership" or "triangulation"
(government-unions-bosses) in order to substitute it with
"social dialogue" in which the government's opinion is

- the crisis of the Italian left and in particular the Left
Democrats (DS) following their election defeat in 2001;

- the questioning of the role of confederate unions in Italy as
an integral part of the governance of the country's
socio-economic matters, together with the bosses and the

The CGIL, therefore, is not shifting its strategic axis towards
a more radical, anti-capitalist approach to syndicalism - it is
standing against the present government in order to regain, to
reconquer its central role in co-determining the country's
socio-economic choices. It should be remembered that this role
of the CGIL (together with the CISL and UIL) played a large part
during the '90s in the need for the formation and the expansion
of grassroots unions in Italy, not to mention the somewhat
hurried accusation of "state union" made by certain
commentators, anarchist and otherwise. It goes without saying
that the CGIL's potential force is still impressive and goes
beyond the power of its capacity to attract sectors of the
social opposition (social centres, the "disobedient" etc.) with
the capability of overshadowing other contributions to the
struggle against the government. CGIL speak with forked tongue,
though. Its massive national opposition to the government is not
backed up with coherent action when it comes to agreeing
contracts, and it is here that it re-discovers its unity with
the CISL and UIL, signing agreements like in the days of
"partnership". Serious as they may be, they are actions which
are destined to remain in the shadows of the the social
opposition movement, except for the base unions.


The Cobas Confederation, RdB/CUB, CIB Unicobas, SLAI Cobas,
S.in.Cobas, and USI are the most important of the base unions on
the basis of the sector, company or town where they grew from.
They operate both in the public and private sectors and are
generally excluded from discussions on the creation of new
national labour contracts, although they have had some excellent
results in union elections in the workplace. Their contribution
to the union opposition movement is more global - they are
opposed to the modifications to Art.18, but also to the
decentralized agreements that the CGIL-CISL-UIL trio continue to
make. On 18th October they organized separate marches to those
of the CGIL on the occasion of the General Strike, and won
considerable support with their slogan "United on the day, but
separate in our objectives". A certain inclination for
squabbling as a result of rivalry between the various base
unions has meant that they fail to cooperate on much else than
unitary demonstrations, so even though the CGIL is criticized
for its ambiguity, the base unions, on the other hand, do not
offer a solid alternative which would have a wide, unified
presence. It should be said that life is made harder for the
base unions by the obstacles to union representation that are
put in their way by the CGIL-CISL-UIL. The base unions, however,
have by now reached the position of being real protagonists in
the union and social struggles in those places where they are
strongest. The general strike for the schools and public sectors
called by the RdB/CUB, Cobas Confederation and CIB Unicobas on
6th December was joined by 25% of the workers in those sectors
and brought 50,000 people onto the streets of Rome.


Union struggles are closely intertwined with social struggles.
>From the struggles of migrants for rights  to peace
demonstrations culminating on 9th November in Florence to
demonstrations against repression, the opposition movement is
growing both in size and in popular participation. The arrests
of activists in both Cosenza and Genoa brought a reply not only
from militants, but from the 2 towns themselves. The State is
afraid of this growth in struggle and also of the links between
the social and union struggles. Repression is being used as a
weapon of intimidation to frighten and foster insecurity, above
all in the South where discontent is high. The magistracy
apparently wishes to pin the movement down to the days in Genoa
in 2001, by forcing it to reconstruct the events and declare
that Giuliani was not killed for reasons of legitimate defence,
but was murdered and that the incidents were provoked by the
police and carabinieri. And this strange game of
arrest-release-more arrests-drop charges makes one think that
the magistracy has "gone mad" and that it needs to be reformed:
and that is exactly what the government wants and the
centre-left with it!


There are 3 opposition currents to the Berlusconi government and
the Confindustria (industrial employers confederation) which
find a meeting point in situations of largescale mobilizations.
One is the so-called "girotondini" movement (led by film
director Nanni Moretti) which view the laws approved by the
government (in favour of Berlusconi's own interests) as a
serious attack on democracy and legality. The second comes from
the struggles for social rights and liberties which tend to
concentrate more directly on the contradictions within
neo-liberalism and the creation of social spaces where a new
solidarity can be organized. The third current is that of the
labour struggles which have served to bring the question of
labour back to the centre of social conflict. We believe that,
albeit on different levels, all three serve to create a
situation of widespread opposition to the centre-right
government and to the choices of the bosses. In particular, our
role is more important with the social and union struggles where
the presence and in fact the spread of libertarian practices
provide a guarantee of coherence between the objectives and the
methods we use to reach them. In fact, the FdCA favours elements
of unity in order to federate groups and individuals which have
common interests and objectives. For this reason, in the case of
war our policy will be the creation of anti-war committees,
characterized by anti-militarism and by the rejection of all
nationalism. The fight for the creation of social spaces for the
spread of an alternative culture, of non-religious solidarity
and of self-organization is one area where anarchist communists
are active. But above all, in the struggles of the workers and
in their unions we aim for the spread of radical syndicalism
with a characteristic platform and an unmistakable practice. A
platform based on unshakable rights as regards wages, hours,
health and union freedom; a practice which is unmistakable
because it is libertarian, based on the greatest union
democracy. To work towards libertarian, class-struggle radical
syndicalism, we are establishing co-ordinated groups of workers,
 irrespective of the union they belong to and we support the
unity of all workers in the workplace and throughout the

Donato Romito 
for Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici


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