Notes on the Union Demonstration of 3 December in Rome

This demonstration was supposed to unite the various rank and file trade unions, but turned instead into a competition as to who would "win" the battle to lead the procession. Specifically, that between its most numerous and significant animators: the SI Cobas and the USB.(1)

In the minds of the organisers the joint strike on Friday(2) and the national demonstration on Saturday were aimed at rebuilding the class unity of a frightened and divided proletariat, through a new unity of purpose and initiative from a trade union point of view, or through an agreement between the various union acronyms and their leaders. This was an agreement from above that did not take into account the real interests of the working class, but exclusively the aims of the existing union structures to represent them. It is no coincidence that the premises, albeit worthy (it is mindblowing, even from a purely trade union point of view, to want to divide the class into a thousand acronyms), clashed with the very different interests of our class, i.e. those of the section, of representatives talking to the bosses (the true goal of every union that wants to weigh in at the negotiating stage), of the sectarianism that has been dividing our class for years, disarming it of its only weapon (class unity) and therefore weakening it in the clash with our enemy employer.

Rank and file or combative trade unionism, whichever you prefer, is not only unable to see beyond its own reformist nose (after all, how could we ever expect it to, given that this is its nature?), but with its sectional logic of dividing the class has proved it is an inadequate tool even for confronting the bosses on the level of the capital-wage labour relationship.

Once again, but perhaps even more obviously here, the rank and file trade unions are proving to be a real barrier to the unity of the working class in terms of its economic defence. On Saturday they openly demonstrated that they are only interested in their own image, to the detriment of the interests of the class that is suffering the effects of the war, the crisis and the related bosses' offensive.

From a political point of view, their reference to internationalism is entirely self-serving and just a label rather than a real political perspective here and now against the war and its anti-working class economic consequences. If there is one thing – among many, it has to be said – we have learned from the Bolshevik revolution it is precisely that war can only be stopped by proletarian revolution, but nobody talks about this perspective and the necessary steps to bring it about in the working class and probably they do not even want to, since their recipes are very different. From a purely formal internationalism to a not too veiled support for one side or another, there's no denying that this was no march against war.

For our part, we can only be saddened by a procession confined only to the political/trade union class, which gives an idea of their inability to attract new proletarian forces, even if only on the level of their immediate interests. It was a ritual procession that, though crowded with political activists, demonstrated union divisions.

It was thus the umpteenth demonstration of how today’s rank and file union is a blunt instrument for conducting real struggles and is a barrier to a renewed class unity even at the level of the economic struggle.

To summarise and reiterate our point of view, the behaviour of the "rank and file" unions, which put their ambitions for leadership in the field of "alternative" trade unionism before all else, end up breaking up even that small combative segment of the class which manages to act together, contributing to the fragmentation of struggles and the impossibility of political growth, despite their "internationalist" camouflage against the war. Empty slogans against the war and the war economy are just words in the wind, if they are not accompanied by outlining the revolutionary alternative to capitalism, which is the root cause of wars, and of the sacrifices to which the proletarians are called to make via cuts to healthcare, education, pensions, not to mention environmental disasters.

To the many comrades who were offended by this disgusting spectacle, we renew the call to relaunch real self-organisation between workers, of the connection from below of the realities in struggle and of the construction of truly decision-making assembly moments that can grow the experience and the awareness of those who animate them, against all bureaucratisation and professionalism, that is, against those who understand the defence of the economic interests of the class as their trade.

Today it is more than ever necessary to get out of the union cages and relaunch a real class initiative that has the purpose of defending us from the attacks of the war economy.

In relation to this we also repeat our invitation to build with us committees "against the imperialist war for the class war",(3) as weapons to revive within existing workers’ struggles the class perspective for emancipation from wage slavery and from this system of war and oppression.

Bastian Contrario
Battaglia Comunista
7 December 2022


Image: adverts from the rival base unions for the 3 December demonstration.

(1) SI Cobas is the acronym of the Sindacato Intercategoriale Comitato di Base, USB is Unione Sindacale di Base.

(2) The demonstration of Saturday 3 December followed a strike by all the rank and file unions. Our comment on that is at:

(3) Or “No War but the Class War” as it is in English. For Italy see:

Saturday, December 17, 2022