Alitalia Strike - Long Live the "Wildcat" Struggle of Alitalia Workers

We want only the best human capital at the lowest possible cost.

So Sabelli, the Alitalia manager, succinctly but clearly expressed the firm’s point of view to a large union delegation a few days ago. The bosses have the unique merit of saying little but saying it clearly. The so-called representatives of the workers instead indulge in endless chatter on the company’s terms. “Excess workers”, “decoupling” “good and bad company”, “quotas of temporary workers”, “part-time working” etc and in so doing they lose sight of the views of the mass of workers on the key issue. Specifically this is job losses (if only to spread them out over time as it is a redundancy money issue in a time like this) for about half the workforce (12,000 out of 24,000 including subsidiary companies like Airone).

So the workers decided to take things into their own hands and organised a mass meeting of 300-400 workers which produced a Strike and Struggle Committee to move the struggle on even at this late hour. Despite the ridiculous military call up notice - as the workers scrupulously worked to rule thus slowing down all Alitalia’s operations - they even set up pickets (a typical tactic of the workers ‘ movement although now nearly forgotten).

And obviously all the hate and anger of the class enemy was unleashed against all this. The Transport Minister Matteoli put on his black shirt (which was never far away) despite the family conflict of interest (his son is a pilot...). Home Secretary Maroni threatened penal sanctions and the Welfare Minister Sacconi took his chance to re-propose the need to restrict the right to strike, with Treu, the Democratic Party senator, deputy President of the Labour Commission at the Palazzo Madama, lining up solidly and enthusiastically behind him. Add to this obviously the papers and TV channels arraigned in a campaign of disinformation, worthy of the Twenty Year fascist period between the wars, which presented the struggling workers as privileged people (and why not? - idlers and loafers to boot) who were never happy with what they had.

Even the rank and file unions (COBAS) in the form of the SdL denounced the workers who had organised their own struggle committee. “A mistaken and untimely move. We need to unite all the workers”, said their leader who, before the breakdown of talks, had proposed the use of part-time working and some redundancy money in the usual union and reformist logic that” A proposal needless to say which was rejected out of hand by the other side for the obvious budgetary reason that the redundancy scheme is charged to the state! Although the truth is that the workers really pay for it through their National Insurance contributions. And it is not just about this strike. If the Alitalia workers yield today it will hand another blackmail weapon over to the state against teachers, rail workers, engineering workers etc. On the other hand their continued resistance sets a very dangerous precedent for the bosses who are getting ready to distort wage contracts for the worse.

So when trade unionists talk of the unity of the workers they don’t mean in struggles or mobilisations but in the framework of acquiescence of capitalism, that mother of disappointment and resignation. It is not even the ideal basis for presenting an agreement as “the best on offer” according to their well-known and trivial way of posing the question “Is it better to cut off an arm or a leg - or something else?”.

Also standing in the way of workers in struggle is the accursed fetish of democracy: from unions to the government and “the man in the street” consciously stupified by the media, everyone chatters that

a handful of workers (the famous 300 in the mass meeting) perhaps even fewer and not even all these are agreed on the strike or anything else, without any legal recognition cannot blackmail the bosses, the citizens, their colleagues, the country etc.

What stupidities! The management of any firm even a single boss can decide to up sticks and lay off thousands of people; a bank can tighten the credit noose around the necks of indebted workers; and a minister can cut the jobs of thousands of teachers etc. The law allows them to do it de facto and de jure. The only way in which workers can defend themselves effectively is to struggle. Those who don’t want to bow their heads can see the ever-growing evidence that this Law, personified in the State, is an obstacle and not a something we can use for our purposes.

Lorry drivers brought the country to a halt for days, chemists have shut up shop, taxi drivers jammed the whole of Rome, animal producers have showered the forces of law and order with shit, all extremely like wildcat actions and without prior warning - yet all these mobilisations of the petty bourgeoisie are considered legitimate. Now that the workers are instead on the march the bosses, union leaders, politicians, the press all condemn their behaviour.

We internationalists warmly salute this genuine affirmation of class anger and instincts whatever the outcome (notwithstanding the usual reformists of all types from fascists to Trotskyists who hope and speak of nationalisations on the model of the banks) as the latest confirmation that organising our own struggles is way all workers are forced to take if they don’t want to go down to defeat without a struggle. At the same time it also confirms the depth of the capitalist crisis and its reflection in the attacks on the work force. It further confirms that in the absence of a class party, that is an organisation solidly anchored on the terrain of the most coherent anti-capitalism for the building of a new economy no longer based on profit but on the needs of the collectivity, even this most courageous struggle is destined to remain a victim of the delusions of reformists ad their sterile defeats.