The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

October 18, and after?

Oct 28, 2002

The following article is a translation of an article appearing in the October 25 issue of Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper edited by our comrades in France.

On October 18, a general strike and demonstrations hit Italy. In response to a call by the CGIL (Italian General Confederation of Labor), workers in 120 cities participated, with massive participation in the biggest cities. It was incontestably a success.

The processions were particularly numerous in Milan, Rome, Naples and Turin. In Palermo, the workers at a Fiat factory led the march. They came from one of the few big factories of Sicily, which is today threatened with closure.

This day of action came after the national demonstration last March 23 in Rome, at the call of the CGIL alone; and after the general strike of April 16 called for by three unions, the CGIL, the CISL (Italian Confederation of Workers' Unions) and the UIL (Italian Union of Labor), against a proposed bill to abolish Article 18 of the Labor Law which prohibits layoffs or firings except for cause. But at the beginning of July, the two unions UIL and CISL signed a "pact for Italy" with the Bertusconi government, which agreed to give up part of Article 18.

This October 18, the workers of the entire Italian peninsula responded to the call of the CGIL alone. This was a disavowal of the two unions which were ready to make an agreement with Berlusconi. It remains to be seen what the leaders of the CGIL will do with this success.

"A strike for Italy," "No to the budget, Yes to rights and development" – which includes the defense of Article 18 – it was under these vague slogans that the leadership of the CGIL called the strike. In other words, while it tried to make this day of action show the influence of the confederation, it also refrained from giving the workers objectives which could have become aims for a real struggle.

The strong participation in the strikes and demonstrations for the defense of Article 18 nevertheless shows how many workers are conscious of the necessity of defending their rights. At a moment when the bosses and the government put in question all the workers' conquests while spreading job insecurity everywhere, when Fiat announces more than 8,000 layoffs and the bosses clearly announce their intention to make the workers pay the costs of a deteriorating economic situation, the workers feel the need to respond.

In fact, after years of attacks, low wages, layoffs and growing job insecurity, while the bosses' profits establish new records, it is time for a counter-offensive. And it's not only a question of the defense of Article 18, which only prohibits layoffs for workers who have permanent full-time jobs. It's necessary to impose the guarantee of employment for all workers who aren't in this situation: temporary workers, workers employed in pretended "cooperatives," part-time workers and others – of whom the number has multiplied these part years. It's necessary to end the scandalously low wages which have been imposed, most often with the aid of the unions. It's necessary to take on Fiat's profits and those of other companies, rather than have the workers pay for the crisis.

On March 23, April 16 and now October 18, the Italian workers have shown their awareness, their readiness to struggle for their general objectives. Now the Italian working class needs clear objectives and a plan of struggle, and not general phrases about the necessity of "industrial plans" or "alternative models of development" which the union leaders – including those of the CGIL – speak so much about.