When Will We Really Begin to Struggle?

Leaflet for the general strike of May 6

CWO Introduction. We have been asked by some English-speaking readers of our site to translate the following leaflet from our comrades of Battaglia Comunista (Italian affiliate of the Internationalist Communist Tendency). We originally thought that some of the issues raised were too specifically Italian but given the interest we have decided to make it available to a wider international audience. Hopefully the addition of some explanatory footnotes will make its context clear.

A general strike for 4 hours with nearly two months warning! Its like taking an aspirin or a glass of orange juice to cure cancer ... You would die laughing if it were not for for the fact that in the middle of all this are the lives of millions of workering class families, squeezed by employers who have been made more vicious by the capitalist world crisis. The crisis is continuing, despite the modest signs of recovery based on the intensification of exploitation and job insecurity.

Since 2008 - the first and, until now, the last, general strike against the crisis - we have not seen an all out general strike, nor solidarity strikes with workers who lose their jobs, or have seen their wages cut etc. Only partial struggles (often admirable) related to individual local issues, disconnected from each other and almost always started on the initiative of the workers involved.

"You can not do anything!" thunder union officials. The continuous collaboration of the unions with capital has certainly weakened our ability to respond to the bosses, and has contributed enormously to break up the unity and the collective strength of workers through the various counter-reforms of the labor market in the last 20 years (at least). All of them agreed by the union! And with governments of every type!

Of them all the CGIL was and is the undisputed leader. Last March, its General Secretary demonstrated his “responsibility” (to whom? certainly not the workers ...) when he said:

The national agreement has been largely accepted in the private sector - 83 out of 89 local units have accepted the CCNL (1) - , almost all of the enterprises and conglomerates (with the exception of the Fiat Group), accept completely the widespread social contract with the regions and municipalities.

In other words: apart from some minor disagreements, we are where we have always been! And the union is still in favour of ...

a reduction in the number of CCNL and a review of their general role to bring in less prescriptive ways of protecting working conditions by encouraging more local individual bargaining.

The desire, often expressed by Confindustria (2), to "getting rid of collective agreements" to divide, and thus weaken workers' solidarity is now being taken up in practice up by the unions. CGIL (3) has demonstrated that its real partners are the CISL and UIL who already started on this road some time ago, but its not certain that workers are prepared to suffer forever, or indeed much further ...

Its the same with FIOM (4) - with a few other categories – which could not have demonstrated much clearer how all they can do is tag along with the CGIL, by raising the duration of the strike to eight hours. For the rest, it’s as above.

We internationalist communists are instead strongly convinced that it is possible to fight back. In every industry or category, if there is unity among the workers this is possible ... Strikes, in the private sector, can be called with 5 minutes notice, there is no need for two months of advance warning! But even in the "public sector", where the anti-strike laws - signed by CGIL-CISL-UIL - and where we have a big problem, it is not true that we can not react. The bottom line is always only the force that workers are able to put in the field, their willingness to fight. Our weapons are unity, the strike, the strength of opposition to the bosses (private or state). When we have them, we are no longer nobodies...

We must reject the notion of the symbolic strike, to state clearly the need for real all out struggles, in ways and forms that from time to time experience and insight show us are more productive. The unions are, at best, an obstacle to all this. Workers must organize themselves in the workplace, in struggle committees outside union control. In this way we can begin to recover that sense of class community that sees beyond the shrinking horizon of capitalism towards a society without classes or borders.

(1) Or “Contratto collettivo nazionale di lavoro” (national collective work contract). These allow the unions a major role in the management of the price of wage labour. As the leaflet later makes clear the bosses now want to break these up into more local agreements in order to force down labour costs.

(2) Confindustria is the Italian bosses union, the equivalent of the CBI in the UK.

(3) There are three Italian major union confederations. In 1945 there was only the CGIL (the General Confederation of Italian Labour), a front founded to suppress real class struggle agreed by Togliatti’s Communist Party of Italy with the Christian Democrats and Socialist Party. With the Cold War kicking in this anti-worker bourgeois alliance of the early years of the Republic split in 1950 along lines linked to the main political parties. The CISL (Union Confederation of Italian workers) was formed linked to the Christian Democrats whilst the UIL was the Socialist Party’s Italian Labour Union.

(4) Federation of Italian Metal Workers (or as we used to say in the UK the engineering union) it is part of the CGIL but has a greater reputation for militancy.


I'm pleased that a decision was taken to publish the Italian leaflet online as it shows to workers in the UK that the role of trade unions are the same in Italy as it is in the UK one of partnership with the bosses as well as the capitalist state. The attempt to break up national agreements in Italy by employers will and is designed to break the sense of solidarity between workers. After all if employers and the capitalist state can encourage a sense of localism and regionalism then it inn their eyes makes it more difficult for workers to mount a serious challenge to their class rule. Yep this is what the unions do as long as they can keep their negotiating rights annd in some cases the stronger unions will encourage such a situation if they belleive that they can maintain a strong market position vis a vis other unions.

While in Italy the unions are making gestures in the UK the GMB has gone a step further and the leadership actually favours privatisaation. So Italian workers prepare for such a move in Italy or the alternative can be as the leaflet says build independennt organisations that can pursue the class struggle. That is the lesson for all workers Italian, British and globally.

Are we so alienated now that we always have to wait for someone else - the unions-to tell us what to do, and when to do it? And what hope is there for the revolution if we can't even organize a meeting and decide for a strike, without union help and permission? We're like kids in school waiting for teacher to give us the go-ahead. We're so browbeaten that we prefer symbolic actions that disturb nothing and nobody. Are we scared to interrupt the calm of the status quo, with it's creeping job losses and deteriorating wages? Or do we still think that we've got so much to loose that it's better just to keep quiet. If the union officials tell us that we can't do anything - well, at the moment they're right, aren't they? We could do something if we wanted to though. We can talk to each other, leave our isolationism behind, and start to fight. No wonder the bosses always look so happy and smiling, and Obama, Cameron (getting fatter!) Berlusconi and Sarkozy always smirking, they treat us like zombies and get away with it. Let's show them our muscle! Unite and fight!

Excellent sentiments Kinglear. It seems that in Italy and Spain there are signs of a younger generation willing to take action against the capitalist system even if they are in a minority. But thats how revolutionary situations develop with the minority starting to find their voice and then the next step is to find an organisational form for their voice. Thats where small minorities of militants can begin to make a difference. Of course lets not get to carried away these minorities are just that and the majority for a whole series of reasons are still lagging behind whats necessary. Yes they possibly feel and think in the way that Kinglear describes but I also think they feel more than this and that they are becoming aware of what is needed.

It may take a while for this process to develop but when it does then what we are seeing however spoaradically the students in the UK the youth in Spain and Italy will take of when that does all the work that the minorities have done in the working class will pay of. It's this is what is needed today building up small networks of militants and not beleiving that we are bigger than we are and more powerful. The problem with a lot of leftist groups is that they remind me of Lenins example of the horsefly who thought it was driving the coach when in fact it was the driver.