On the 30th of November in Italy there was the fifth general strike against the Berlusconi government. It stopped the country.
The general strike was called by the three confederations – Cgil, Cisl and Uil – the three biggest trade unions of Italy, and by the Cobas unions of the base, who usually call their strikes on a different day. A lot of anger had grown amongst workers, pushing the leaders together. Although the original Cgil plan of eight hours of strike was reduced to four as a concession to the more moderate unions – Cisl and Uil – in the public sector and in the South, the strike lasted for the full 8 hours!
In 76 cities there were protest demonstrations, involving more than one million people. According to the unions, on average nearly 80% of workers took strike action. University and secondary school students also joined the demonstrations.
The strike was a big success; the vast majority of the public sector was on strike. All the post offices and universities were closed, most city public transport did not run. Also markets and banks were closed. Trenitalia, the railway company, stopped half of the trains and Alitalia, the airways company, cancelled 160 flights.
The leader of the Cisl, Pezzotta, spoke at the Venice rally saying that the tax cuts made by the government in the last days is only in favour of the rich. (Research commissioned by the government itself said that the lower 60% of the population won’t benefit from the cuts!)
Epifani, leader of the Cgil, spoke in front of 200,000 people in Milan, underlining that the tax cuts of €6billion are balanced in the "finanziaria" by cuts in public services, like health care and schools.
The "finanziaria" means the budget – the law relating to the economic programme for the next year. In it, investment and research will also be cut, and this is why even the bosses’ union, Confindustria, was against the "finanziaria" and in favour of the strike!
The measures pushed through by Berlusconi, just days before, probably increased the strength of the strike. The big question is what alternative do the union and left leaders propose for the economy.
Members of "Lotta per il socialismo", the Italian branch of the CWI, participated in the strike, and on the demonstrations, arguing for more prolonged and better prepared strike action to bring down the government and for a real alternative to ‘concertazione’ (collaboration) in terms of a socialist change in society. This is the only change that can give protection through the years of all the rights of the workers – rights that under capitalism are always under threat.