Gerri Creegan, a member of the CWI and ’Lotta per il socialismo’, reports from Naples on the big response to the October 18 general strike call, the lively demonstrations in the port city, and the general response in the south of Italy.
CWI online, 29 October 2002
How Naples responded to the general strike call
It brought 85,000 people out on the streets in Naples and on average saw a higher level of support in areas such as transport and banking than for the April 16th strike when all three major federations made a joint call. Support among teachers was higher than for the teachers’ own strike organised by Cisl-Uil-Gilda the previous Monday! At Seda di Napoli, the company belonging to the Confindustria head, Antonio D’Amato, only three people turned up for work!
High moral support for strike
The Cgil strike also had even more moral support than the numbers might indicate due to several factors that have increased social tensions since the last strike. The first, and common to all Italy, is the recent crisis in Fiat, which affects not only Turin and places in the North but factories servicing the Fiat car industry in the south. Workers from these factories rightly condemned the Berlusconi government for its indifference to their plight. Many express bitterness at the fact that while their livelihoods hang in the balance, the Agnelli family, who own Fiat, will not notice any change to their lifestyle.
Another reason, at least in poverty-stricken southern Italy, that support for this strike was not confined to those on the street was the fear that, following the recent budget, the government is going to renege on promises made as part of the ’Pact for Italy’. In particular they believe that the Mezzogiorno (the South) is going to be abandoned politically and economically by the Berlusconi-Bossi government.
’Pact for Italy’ over?
This theme was particularly taken up by the President of the Democrats of the Left (ex-Communist Party) and former prime minister, Massimo D’Alema. He appeared on the platform in Naples with the local mayor, Iervolino, and regional head, Bassolino. D’Alema was unusually supportive of the Cgil and launched from Naples a call for a united trade union demonstration for the Mezzogiorno, beginning with the metal mechanics’ national strike. "The ’Pact for Italy’ is over," he said.
Two other issues that brought people onto the streets in Naples, as elsewhere, were the impending war against Iraq and the Bossi-Fini anti-immigration law. The result was a higher than usual presence of ’No Global’ and Peace movements, especially considering it was a trade union strike.
The flags and banners of the Cgil, the party of Communist Refoundation (Rc), the unemployed and anti-war groups took the usual demonstration route to Piazza Matteotti where they met up with another march of the ’self-organised’ from Piazza Dante and those representing the Cobas and ’No Global’ movements. A large part of both demonstrations then marched on the port of Naples to protest against the presence in the dock of a US aircraft carrier. They marched under the slogan: "Naples city of peace says no to the US war!" More workers and students, anti-war groups, ’Officina 99’, Rtb and anti-globalisation groups joined the protesters.
Big opportunities for socialist Left
It remains to be seen to what extent Rc and others will take advantage of increased political unrest on these issues to present a clear socialist programme, rather than leaving it to people like D’Alema. His ’unity of the left’ is only a smokescreen for ’concertation’ (compromise) and betrayal of the interests of working class interests.
The upcoming metal mechanics’ strike will be a new opportunity for the socialist left to take a lead in the fight against the Berlusconi government that every day becomes more and more unpopular.
Previous reports on Italian general strike