Italy: November 14 day of action

Cgil reluctantly mobilize, but workers and students fill the squares

On November 14, in 30 Italian cities, hundreds of thousands of workers and students demonstrated against the government, against the policies of cuts and austerity, answering the call of the European Confederation of Trade Unions.

Here in Italy, the main union confederation of the country, the Cgil, took part in the day of action, calling a ’ 4 hours general strike’. The decision to take part in 14N is positive, but does not erase the strong responsibility of the Cgil and its leading bodies in this particular stage.

Indeed four hours are very few given the scale of the crisis and of the attacks. However, some sectors, such as trade, telecommunications, schools and public employment have extended the strike to 8 hours.

The weak adherence to the strike is linked to several factors, first of all the weakness of the mobilisation. The Cgil decided little more than 10 days ago in response to the call of the ETUC to launch a symbolic strike, leaving little time for delegates to explain to the workers the reasons for this protest. They didn’t organize meetings in the workplaces in order to explain the platform and to prepare workers’ mobilisation. Moreover, the watchwords used to prepare the 14N were vague and very general.

In the platform for the strike, the Cgil declared : “The Cgil is against the dismantling of the welfare state, against the privatization of public services, and against the attack on collective bargaining. And is in favour of economic governance for growth, for a redistributive policy that taxes the riches, for an ambitious industrial policy, the share of debt through Eurobonds and the respect for collective bargaining.”

The workers of the Cgil demonstrated not to ask Eurobonds, but to affirm their will to defend pensions and wages, education, health and public transport!

The timidity of the Cgil in carrying out demonstrations, strikes and protests against a government that from the point of view of the attacks on the living conditions and rights has gone much further than the previous Berlusconi government has not been forgotten. Many workers did not forget the criminal absence of the Cgil’s leadership in this year of social butchery carried out by the Monti’s Government. They quite rightly wonder where the Cgil was when the government attacked pensions, when the government dismantled the status of workers or left hopeless tens of thousands of ’esodati’, workers who were simultaneously left without salary or pensions.

To be noted was the presence of the Fiom, the militant metal workers’ section of the Cgil, which actively participated in strikes and demonstrations in nearly one hundred cities. At Pomigliano (Naples), home to one of the most important factories of Fiat, where members of the Fiom have suffered severe discrimination and rights violations related to their trade union membership, Fiom organised a major event which was attended by the General Secretary of the Organisation, Maurizio Landini.

Apart from the generalised attack on the conditions of life and labour of the workers, there is also the opposition to the national contract that Federmeccanica (the engineering employers’ association) is about to sign with the Cisl and Uil trade union confederations, against the opposition of Fiom.

As far as the various ‘Unions of the Base’ are concerned, to be noted is the total absence of the USB who chose to boycott the day of action in order “not to collaborate with the yellow unions”; this decision was no use to the development of a radical movement of the working class in Italy.

However COBAS (The Confederation of Committees of the Base) for its part, took an active part in bringing the majority of its members in the streets, especially in the education sector.

The participation in the demonstrations was particularly high in the field of education, as deep cuts are being carried out in this particular sector, and had already been the background for mass student walk outs and protests in early October and a big protest in Rome on Saturday November 10th. In Rome, about 50 000 people, mostly students and many public sector workers have blocked the whole city, and tried to reach the parliament building.

Brutal police repression

Despite the relatively peaceful character of the demonstration, police received orders to charge and disperse the protesters. Large amounts of tear gas was fired at eye level on unarmed and peaceful protesters. Police charges left many dozens on the ground, demonstrators were surrounded by police agents and cowardly beaten in the face before being dragged away to be identified. Many young demonstrators reported multiple injuries, swollen faces, broken teeth and broken bones.

The violence expressed by the police is not the result of some isolated fanatics, the cops acted under specific orders, the tear gas was fired into the crowd fleeing even from the headquarters of the Ministry of Justice. That violence, shown on hundreds of videos, is not only unjustified, but a confirmation of the political will to scare the young protesters at their first demonstrations who crowded the squares.

ControCorrente expresses full solidarity with the protesters hit by violent charges by the police. Among the wounded are many middle-school students.

In Milan, the strike has created major disruption to the circulation, the event brought together workers of the Cgil, students and fighting workers of the San Raffaele Hospital; transport workers, including train workers also took part in the strike.

Noteworthy was the participation in protests in other cities. In Turin a demonstration of 20,000 people marched through the city. In Naples, a massive demonstration went through the old town, before occupying the central station in Piazza Garibaldi. Big marches were also organized in Bologna, Genoa, Cagliari, Florence, Bari and Catania.

Students, mainly middle-school, and their teachers have expressed their will to defend government schools, against the education policy of the government, the attempt to increase working hours, the dismantling of the contracts, etc.

Despite the timidity of the union bureaucracies, November 14 was a relative political success, it demonstrated the will to fight and resist that is spreading in the base of society, at Alcoa, at Sulcis, at Ikea, at Coop, among metal workers, teachers, precarious and temporary workers, as well as among young people and students.

Now it is important to close ranks and to prepare immediately a mobilization strategy for the next day of struggle. We have to prepare for a mass, 24 hours general strike in order to begin to reverse the balance of power in society, and to bring to the forefront the real force capable of stopping the attacks on our rights, the dismantling of public education, health and transport, etc. Only a full and well-prepared mobilisation of the working class will be capable of reversing the present recessionary policies, that will continue to be pursued by the new government -technical or political- than is going to come out of the elections next spring.

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