Six Days of Struggle at Pomigliano

Dossier on the Strike at FIAT Pomigliano d'Arco - Campania, Italy

CWO Introduction

We are presenting here some of the documents issued by the Naples section of our Italian sister organisation, Battaglia Comunista who were involved with the strike of workers who were fighting their transfer to a new facility at Nola. The fact that FIAT had just invested massively (via structural money from the EU regional fund) in new plant at Pomigliano meant that they had to increase productivity by cutting the workforce. The trick the management came up with was to send 316 (among them many known to be either politically active or for their class militancy) for "re-training" on a course at the FIAT transport (logistics) centre at Nola under the auspices of "World Class Logistics". The course was all about security and discipline in the factory but its aim became clear. It was to get them out of the plant and subsequently to lay them off.

Fighting the Bosses... and the Unions

For a few days the workers turned up at the factory gates to be bussed to Nola, but gradually realisation dawned as to what was happening. The rank and file union organisation (COBAS) called a strike for Friday April 4th but the real resistance began between the 7th and 9th of April when a workers committee outside all union allegiance was set up on the car park whilst the workers waited for the bus to Nola. The committee organised a mass meeting on Wednesday 9th April to discuss how to picket the factory. At first, they decided on a total blockade of the whole factory against both scabs and the entry of goods but, in the Saturday mass meeting, though the need to struggle was confirmed, they decided to limit the pickets to preventing the movement of goods. This made sense as Pomigliano makes the part for FIAT vehicles which are built at other factories in Cassino, Melfi and Mirafiori. The aim was to deprive the factory of materials forcing them to lay off workers.

At this same mass meeting the unions were also organised - to sabotage the class unity of the workers. The main engineering union, the FIOM, insisted that union flags should decorate the stage at the mass meetings and their representatives argued that the mass meeting should be postponed until the Monday. This nearly succeeded, as this Saturday meeting was not so well attended as previously, and the union could argue that a degree of demoralisation had already set in. This paved the way for other unions to argue that the workers were losing money by picketing. They proposed that the workers should go back to the training courses in order to pick up their pay and leave the picketing to shop stewards (delegates (delegati) in Italian) and union officials. One union (UGL) even suggested dividing the pickets up between each of the five unions involved with each one having its own gate to picket. In this way any one union could have undermined the strike at a stroke. The workers did not fall for any of this as can be seen from our comrades leaflet (A First Wave of Working Class Struggle) against any idea that the unions be allowed to take control of the struggle.

Facing the Forces of the State

On Sunday April 13th the mass meeting was much better attended and this decided that from Monday April 14th, an all-out blockade of goods arriving at Pomigliano was to be implemented with the aim of reducing the factory to paralysis by the following Thursday. The same meeting also agreed on a shift system for picketing so that the factory was blockaded 24 hours a day. As no lorries were getting into the plant by Tuesday the FIAT management were getting desperate and called upon the forces of the state to break the blockade. By now, FIAT was using four helicopters from dawn to dusk to move material in and out of the factory. Two lorryloads of police arrived at the factory gates but seeing the numbers of pickets they went away again. Instead the unions now proposed discussing with the management. Some workers were confused by this and were unsure whether the struggle could continue. The discussion in the mass meeting decided that the pickets would only be withdrawn when the management sent word that serious negotiations were to be started. However the most combative workers realised that this was simply a trick to disband the picket and decided that there would be no letting up. They took up their positions in front of the factory gates. The union doubters moved to about 100 metres from the gates and stood watching. All this was under the noses of the secret police (the Digos). Two more lorries full of 20 flying squad troops in full riot gear turned up. The workers quickly improvised a barricade with burning tyres at each end behind them. The police chief demanded they disperse but the group remained. The other workers then rejoined the picket (as did some trades unionists even if not at the same spot) as the riot police charged. Immediately, one worker fell under the truncheons but the workers remained defiant and even ironically applauded the forces of order. The fire brigade arrived to put out the burning tyres. But, when the next lorry destined for the factory arrived, the pickets (who also included comrades of Battaglia) once again prevented its entry, although a second series of baton charges led to a further three injured and the police tried to round up others and put them in vehicles. They succeeded in grabbing one and the pickets were forced to retreat allowing the wagon to enter the plant. About 40 or 50 followed ... but the next day they were back.

This time it was outside the building where the unions and management were in discussion. Two or three workers from the mass meeting were allowed in to listen. At 3.30 p.m. (i.e., after only half an hour), the workers chosen by the mass meeting came out. They stated that the workers' demand to remain at Pomigliano was rejected and the FIAT management said it was not prepared to deal with a delegation not chosen by them (i.e. by the union officials). The meeting carried on for three more hours and the workers began to fear that the union was signing away their jobs. They began to press around the building and started to denounce the talks through a megaphone whilst the 20 riot police began to put on helmets and pick up shields. As it appeared that the union representatives were about to come out, another lorry containing a further 20 riot police arrived. They lined up blocking the exit to the square so that the workers were trapped between the two group of riot police.

The delegation came out of the meeting and one of the trades union officials tried to explain that the talks had broken down, the bosses would not talk and that it was a difficult situation. He then basically told the workers to go home until the day after when they would decide what to do. But the workers had not forgotten that the plan was that, if there was no agreement, then the blockade would be renewed. They were really angry and the secret police had to spirit away the union official. One worker tried to follow but was held back by others. This did not prevent another baton charge and he was beaten so badly by the riot police that he was rendered unconscious and after more than half an hour an ambulance arrived to take him to hospital. It was later reported he had a fractured skull in three places. The police tried to find him in hospital to arrest him but without success.

Meanwhile, the workers called a new mass meeting where they decided to try to involve the other workers who were still working at the plant by telling them what had happened so far and how the struggle would affect all of their futures.

The bosses may have won this round but the smouldering resentment has not gone away and a new episode of struggle cannot be ruled out by any means.

What follows are three leaflets given out by our comrades in the course of the struggle which relate to each of the points of the tale narrated here. A fourth communiqué (which was also the text of a poster put up at the factory and around the Naples region) already appeared on our website in several languages whilst the struggle was going on, so we have not reprinted it with the other three leaflets. The documents are rounded off with the reflections of our young comrades on the significance of the struggle. This makes further comment by us superfluous.

The text of this introduction is based on a special edition of Luna Ribelle, a "journal of internationalist propaganda" which is a supplement to Battaglia Comunista and interviews with the comrades who participated in the events.

Proletarian Heroism!

Leaflet given out on the picket lines 11th April 2008

The workers of Fiat in Pomigliano have provided us with a great moment of class struggle. The mobilisation against the transfer of 316 workers, mainly considered "awkward customers" by the firm has led to a total blockade of the buildings. Since 11th April the strike has paralysed the plant completely and has been carried out by all the workers united together whatever unions they belonged to.

This was the first point of strength: the organisation at the rank and file level of the struggle - through a mass meeting - against, and beyond, a trade unionist mentality.

The workers have provided the entire working class with a great example.

They have taken the right path. To concede anything now would mean complete capitulation. Let's not fall into the union trap. The transfer of one worker today would mean creating the conditions where everyone in FIAT can be laid off.

The union is the organisation which bourgeois law calls upon to control the conditions of the labour force. This is why the most conscious workers have to unite to rebuild a proletarian party which is internationalist and anti-capitalist In the end we cannot really improve our living and working conditions by wresting a single victory, from a capitalism in crisis, but only by radically questioning the existence of the whole system.

Let's not allow the struggle to be isolated, being isolated in a single dispute or category is just playing the bosses game.

We must rebuild our class strength, link up our struggle with those of the Atitech workers who are struggling against 700 layoffs, and with all the workers who are rebelling against exploitation, the rubbish problem incinerators, pollution, and all the products of the capitalist system.

Let's relaunch everywhere a united perspective with demands which unite the entire class the lynchpin of the struggle against capitalism.

Against capitalism: for proletarian power!

A Small Contribution

15th April 2008

We are a small group of communists who many of you have discussed with during the last few days. We are not FIAT workers but we are proletarians and for this reason we have fought alongside you in this struggle. We believe that solidarity amongst workers is the indispensable weapon to react against the attacks which the bourgeoisie (the bosses) are carrying out now and pushing us gradually into working and living conditions which are becoming unbearable. We are communists, we are proletarians, we feel this struggle is our struggle.

This said we feel compelled to put forward a series of thoughts hoping that our observations can make a small contribution to the discussion and lead to a positive outcome to the dispute.

  1. Friday's strike was an outstanding initiative: roads blocked, pickets everywhere, perfect organisation, the firm brought to its knees (bosses on their knees). The best thing would have been to carry on this type of struggle to the bitter end. We need to be realistic and to make a serious evaluation of forces.
  2. It was therefore an intelligent (and inevitable) move to concentrate "solely" on pickets aiming to block the passage of goods allowing the rest of the workforce to enter freely (exhorting them, if only then, to show solidarity with the pickets).
  3. There was no sense in telling the 316 to return to the re-training courses. It would have been a defeat.
    * This struggle is against the transfer of the 316 (the first step towards their possible future redundancy). The training course is aimed at taking them out of the factory and to participate in it would be illogical and mean that the policy of the bosses was accepted.
    * A serious evaluation of forces is needed. Some have maintained that a return to the courses would have increased the numbers on the ground. This is not true. In fact it is exactly the opposite of the truth. According to them the workers would have had to cover three shifts of picketing and attend the courses at the same time. It would have been an impossible situation.
    * By not going to the courses the workers would lose money but let's not forget that what is at stake is a real job. Therefore the issue is a few days loss of pay against the total loss of a job. This time at least even the bosses (finally!) have had to rethink, a rewarding step forward.
  4. The best point of Friday's initiative was the setting up of a committee: The workers decided to put aside their various union allegiances to have a really united rank and file initiative based on the power of the mass meeting. We need to take this further. We should carry on not waving union banners - it would be a step backwards from the initial victory. The worker trades unionists (RSU) must stand with us as workers. Union banners are useless, as picketing is done with our own bodies. Do the union officials want to join us? They should come in person (to picket!).

Comrades, don't weaken. Those who struggle can lose,

But those who don't struggle... have already lost.

Though our forces are small we are always alongside you with both our ideas and our bodies.

Comrades of the Internationalist Communist Party (Battaglia Comunista), Naples Section

A First Wave of Working Class Struggle

You can check a wave but you cannot halt a rising tide!

Leaflet given out at the factory gates 23rd April 2008

A story of our time: Atitech of Naples make 700 workers redundant, Electrolux of Florence and Treviso, 800 job cuts, Teksid, Carmagnola (FIAT subsidiary) 950 jobs threatened, Bluterma 100 workers go one month without wages; Officine Franzi of Lugano 112 jobs threatened; Granarolo, 359 layoffs...

The global crisis of the capitalist mode of production is showing which class will pay.

First they cut the sliding scale of wages, then the pension system, then they made the labour market more flexible, then they made cuts in the health system, then lowered taxes on business ... but the crisis still irresistibly advances.

With every day that passes oil and gold prices reach new highs and the revolts against the drastic rise in the cost of basic food prices has set the world's South on fire (the latest is Egypt) even the Italian bourgeois state is preparing for the hard times to come.

The Third Republic (of bipolarism), the simplification of Parliament (where only 5 parties are left), the collapse of the Rainbow Coalition and its disappearance from the stage, cannot be seen as accidents.1

We are dealing with an epochal shift, the response of Italian capitalism in order to get a strong and solid executive capable of preventing, controlling, and repressing the predictable social tensions for which they are inevitably primed: job insecurity, redundancies, a higher cost of living, evictions, pollution, wars. The idea that there is no more room for compromise has never been more true.

Even the crumbs, which the unions are always fed so they can pass off their sell-outs as great victories (and in this the bourgeois Left has been a master ever since it succeeded in passing off the brutal state capitalism of Stalinism as the building of socialism), even these crumbs have disappeared.

In the dispute against the 316 expulsions of Pomigliano FIAT clearly showed this. "These are our conditions, either accept them or we'll liquidate all your jobs". And this has happened.

A flexing of muscles which momentarily succeeded in suppressing the workers but which showed with blinding clarity what is hiding behind this so-called "democracy", the dictatorship of the boss class, a society torn apart by opposing and irreconcilable class interests. Bosses, bourgeois, and capitalists with their bureaucrats and arselickers on one side, workers, temps with no job security and the unemployed, and their families on the other. One has to increasingly exploit and oppress to remain competitive on the international market, the other has to defend itself from a rapid and violent deterioration in working and living conditions. The contradictions which characterise capitalist society are reaching a climax and choosing sides is a class question.

In this framework the six days of struggle at Pomigliano have given us some precious lessons:

  1. The workers' strength lies in their unity, where they organise themselves in a mass meeting to reject all the divisions which trades union logic tends to constantly impose on them.
  2. The principle of delegation to others is useful only for the bosses to defeat us. We cannot delegate to anyone, other than ourselves, the real defence of our interests.
  3. Determination, solidarity and class unity are our decisive weapons: trades union tactics, isolation and fragmentation lead only to defeat.
  4. The struggle never goes in a straight line. There are advances and retreats. The main thing is to hold firm to the objectives which we started with.
  5. As there is no room for compromise the question is just one about who is strongest in the class struggle. We must work to increase our class strength from dispute to dispute. Even if we lose in a one dispute our greater victory is in the growth - in the experience - of building an alternative organisation to the unions: which workers join on an anti-capitalist programme to reinforce and root this organisation amongst the most combative workers who animate and organise these struggles.

These militant workers who emerge in this hard struggle must take on from today the task of giving shape and substance to the proletarian party of tomorrow - the necessary and indispensable instrument to make this barbaric and prehistoric society called "capitalism" collapse.

Six Days of Struggle at Pomigliano

First Thoughts on the Strikes at the Fiat Factory of Pomigliano d'Arco

Throughout April Fiat (formerly Alfa Romeo) workers set in motion a new wave of struggle. It went through a period of incubation before exploding, reaching a climax and then ebbing. This was nothing less than an all out battle - a moment in the war waged by bosses on workers and vice versa. As far as the wave of struggle is concerned we cannot assess it in terms of victory or defeat (we all know that until capital is overcome we are in fact defeated). The greatest victory is the growth in working class organisation. The importance of the struggle lies in the lessons we draw from it, so that our forces grow in readiness for future conflicts, in order to contribute to the consciousness of those that took part, in their political growth, their formation as political militants, the future leaders of a revolutionary process.

The first thought is related to the way the struggle was carried out. The strikes were called by rank and file trades unions who organised two mass meetings where a new attitude which we had no hesitation in calling "proletarian assertiveness" emerged. Young workers sized up the situation and reached the only conclusion possible "if we really want to strike and if Fiat stands against us we need to have a massive struggle conducted with the maximum of force. We must therefore blockade the factory and we must organise as a workers' committee without union banners: all together for the reintegration of the 316, all the boys united until the end!". This line of thought broke one of the pillars which preserve the capitalist social order, that of delegation of our fight to others.

They didn't delegate the defence of their interests to the union representatives but not out of desire or skill. Not used to speaking in public, a little shy, unskilled, still unsure of themselves they gave a great lesson in direct democracy and in the self-organisation of rank and file struggle.

They did everything themselves. The blockades appeared as if by magic on 5 entrances all manned 24 hours a day. They took the first step on the right road but these new working class heroes have still lot to learn and were not able to do a lot - for now - to fight an enemy which has not yet tired of picking on them.

Second thought. Division is the first weapon that the ruling class utilizes to dominate and exploit us, divide and rule!

Divisions come about through promises of small gains at work where the arse licker tries to distinguish himself and is ready to sell out others in exchange for a pat on the back from the foreman. Division also insinuates itself when workers think above all of their own private interests and their own individual consumption, such as the car, the disco. Divisions break class unity when those worse off are attacked instead of those whose ownership has put the desperate in the position of having to commit crime. Division flourishes when the workers allow the unions to divide them by section, each union claiming to represent the best interests of the workers.

Every parochial trade unionist has one aim, to sit down with the bosses, to eat with them, to discuss with them as equals, to participate in the management of power, all on the backs of the workers. This is why no union form can ever defend our interests because we ourselves, the new generation which is in the prime of life and is living through the daily devastating and destructive crisis of global capitalism, we alone can defend our own interests for ourselves. All the other politicians, trades unionists, arselickers, professional rebels, are tainted, they are so far within the mechanism and the logic of power to be part of the problem and no longer part of its solution also because...

Third Thought. The crisis is knocking at the door with its gnarled fingers and the sickening stench of desperation. The bread riots from Haiti to Egypt, and in all the other places that have appeared on the international news tells of a crisis that is unprecedented in the last 60 years. There is no room left for compromise!

Capital demands and we are forced to give in. Even the few crumbs thanks to which the unions, the greatest gatekeepers in history, succeed to pass off as workers' victories, have dried up. This means that the bosses impose their will (or rather our misery) with ever greater hatred and ferocity, intimidation and repression. We are coming to a very difficult period in which we will be called upon to give the last drop of effort and all our determination if we want to hope for a better future (and under capitalism a better future is impossible). Even if the enemy ferociously lashes out at us, it does not mean that it is invincible. The outcome of a war depends on how much is learned from each battle, and this depends solely on we who write, read, struggle; who daily make history.

Fourth Thought. The political period is a new one. The old nostalgic pseudo-radical alternative rubbish, the old ideologies (meaning those of the 60s and 70s) stink of age and are no longer useful. They are only an unsustainable dead weight in a situation which is today dynamic and complicated. We have no need of Bibles, saints nor of psalms to memorise and recite.

We do need a critical understanding of reality, we need a deeper understanding of the roots of the injustice and destructive power of this society in order to overcome it.

We need analytical texts and above all we need to respond! What is to be done? These are questions we have to answer. What are our perspectives? How can we build concretely?

What must we do and what can we do in practice to respond to the compelling problems of today? These are questions we have to answer. Those who reject this, in the mass meetings, in the demonstrations, in debates and in leaflets are simply on the other side of the barricades.

To give one example: In Italy four workers a day die at work. Those who talk of a redistribution of wealth, of a citizen's income, rights, controls etc without clearly stating that capitalism is the cause of the deaths, that capital feeds off our lives, that the only real way of stopping this massacre is to overturn capitalism, are its accomplices. Those who don't agree with this have nothing to say other than a load of balls and this makes them an accomplice of capital! They only know how to talk better than us, perhaps, in order to give an illusory form to their empty positions but it is we who are the bearers of concrete and essential positions who have to learn to argue for them and sustain them. Trades unionists, autonomists, bureaucrats, politicos, reformists etc are just a load of inflated balloons, the needle of criticism soon bursts their illusions.

Fifth and final thought. During the struggle at Pomigliano we stated the hope of being present at the birth of a new generation of worker militants. In returning to this we maintain that unions in all their forms are useless for the defence of our class interests but also the struggle committees, indispensable for organising a real struggle, become exhausted with the end of the struggle itself. What organisational form then remains? The most conscious workers, the workers groups must get together with the class militants who are already working today to rebuild the proletarian party. This is in fact the only weapon which can break the deafening isolation under which we operate, which can translate the demands and the anger of the entire working class into practical political perspectives.


(1) "Bipolarism" is a reference to this year's Italian General Election in which the right-wing alliance headed by Berlusconi defeated the electoral Left coalition headed by Veltroni. The Italian bourgeoisie has hailed it as the beginning of "more stable" two party politics as in Britain. A commentary on this will soon appear on our website .

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