The following articles are translations of a statement and a leaflet issued by our sister organisation in Italy, Battaglia Comunista (Internationalist Communist Party).
Migrant workers in the TNT-FedEx warehouse in Piacenza (Emilia-Romagna) have been on strike for over a fortnight to simply win the same pay and conditions as other workers. Their picket line has been attacked by the police. As if this intimidation were not enough, the police have now resorted to dawn raids at workers’ residences, as the document here tells us. It is not the only such strike. Last week our comrades leafleted the Texprint laundry works in Prato (near Florence), where more migrant workers who work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, are fighting against the gangsters who own the firm to get national conditions applied. Here too the police attempted to remove the pickets although no arrests were made this time. However, “unknown” elements later drove a pick-up truck at high speed at some of the pickets who had to leap aside as it smashed through the line. The rank and file union SiCobas has recruited many migrant workers in precarious conditions (workers the mainstream unions don’t want to get involved with) but the viciousness of the attacks of both the state and the bosses shows that we need to have a wider and more political struggle against the entire system.
This violence in Italy will be matched by other types of attacks elsewhere. The pandemic is not yet over and the attacks on workers have begun already. In the UK all the signs are that the ruling class made up their mind that the real victims as we emerge from the lockdowns will be the working class. We have many examples of workers being fired and rehired on more precarious conditions, the public sector has a wage freeze and the award our heroes in the health service received was a 1% pay rise (which is a real wage cut). A Tory minister, Lord Bethell, said health workers should consider themselves “lucky” as they have job security – a more blatant confession of the mentality of the capitalist class we are unlikely to get. In Manchester a nurse who organised a socially distanced protest was fined £10,000 by the police, and another participant briefly arrested, as the current lockdown restrictions outlaw all protests. This arbitrary summary justice is worthy of any dictatorship. You can appeal but how many workers can afford the legal fees? This is “democracy for the moneybags” (Lenin). Crowdfunding on GoFundMe actually raised more than £10,000 (and much more) but the whole thing needed a wider challenge – the unions were just happy that it got settled. This is not the end of the story. There are more attacks on the cards which demand something more than each individual section of workers demanding “fairness” – a massive class response is needed against a system which is based precisely on extorting value from underpaid workers. This is at the heart of the class war – watch this space.
For some of our previous discussions on the base unions in Italy, see e.g.: Two Comments on Recent Events around SiCobas in Italy, Demonstration and Strike of Peroni Workers at Tor Sapienza (Rome), Class Consciousness and Working Class Emancipation
We stand with the Workers of Piacenza!
Today the workers struggling against FedEx find themselves under the hammer of judicial repression after resisting police harassment as well as the violence of their truncheons.
25 workers were carted off to the police cells, accused of “aggravated resistance” and 2 SiCobas organisers were put under house arrest.
Long experience tells us that the accusations are entirely motivated by the desire to smash workers’ resistance and to crush their forms of organisation.
We can see this through the steady stream of measures recently taken across the whole of Italy, in various forms (targeted redundancies, intimidation, wide-ranging judicial measures).
It is not a question of the bourgeoisie defending the merely local or partial interests of a single group of companies. This element exists and influences the concrete dynamic of conflicts between workers’ and bosses’ interests. But what it’s really all about is a philosophy for the management of class conflict and workers’ mobilisations to make them conform to a capitalist system in its current deep crisis.
There is no doubt: it is the bourgeois state that sets out the basis and conditions for conflicts and it enforces and guarantees the subordination of the workers in every capitalist firm.
These repressive actions are aimed at hamstringing struggles and defeating them in the short term. The increasingly detailed and all-encompassing legal devices are aimed at defining ever more minutely (which means reducing) the effective space for the expression of workers’ interests.
They are all tentacles of the same octopus with which they aim to crush and strangle workers’ struggle.
What is happening now confirms this fact.
All the more reason, in the face of the crackdown that the bourgeoisie wants to impose, to respond to what it is forced to do in the crisis.
What they want to build is an economic and productive order based on social relations which support the bourgeois recipe for meeting this crisis, i.e. greater exploitation of workers.
This means they have no alternative but to implement and deepen all the measures that the working class knows only too well from its own experience, leading to worse living and working conditions.
And these measures also directly strike at any expression of workers’ resistance.
Today, the bosses certainly exploit the current balance of forces and the proletarian class’s state of extreme weakness for their own benefit.
Up to now, it is the fringes of the petit bourgeoisie (restaurateurs, hoteliers, shopkeepers, etc.) plus a few workers who have mobilised, but this crisis is not over and it will become even more serious. So the streets may soon fill with workers enraged by a mixture of unemployment, low wages, infection risks and endless precarious conditions.
The arrests and violence in Piacenza are intended as a form of preventative repression which acts as a warning to workers that the post-Covid recovery will be one of blood and tears, where we have to keep our heads down, as the alternative will not be tolerated.
This has been said loudly and clearly by President Draghi, Confindustria’s Bonomi and [Pirelli’s] Tronchetti Provera in the name of Italian capitalism: “there will only be a recovery if the world of labour is aware of the seriousness of the situation and acts accordingly”.
Thus, if the struggles in Piacenza are not repressed, a possible revival of class struggle could begin. As the above threat from the bosses shows – it is something they fear.
Therefore, overcoming the weakness of our class is not simply something to be measured by the number of class responses. Even if it is the most important currently.
But faced with the character of this system’s crisis, in its exploitative and predatory policies on all levels, the need to introduce into workers’ struggle a questioning of the ruling order becomes more and more pressing.
Anti-capitalism as the starting point for an effective programme, and not just a declared yearning, is the focal point of the perspective.
For this reason we say that the current events in Piacenza also expose more fundamental problems. Solidarity and political and material support for the workers of Piacenza is fundamental.
But the current framework repeatedly tells us that there cannot be a struggle against repression which risks reducing itself to a partial vision, even given the urgency of immediate problems. Such a partial vision is already inherent in the idea that workers’ action should comply with the current order.
While responding to immediate problems, we can and should, starting from these practical experiences themselves, put alongside the questions of wages and employment, the question of building an alternative to this system which guarantees nothing, and will take back with interest what we win today.
We stand with the workers of Piacenza.
Against the repression.
For the construction of an anti-capitalist alternative.
Class Solidarity with Prato Texprint Workers
The Internationalist Communist Party offers total solidarity to the workers of the Texprint dry cleaners in Prato, who have been carrying out an indefinite strike for more than a month with the aim of forcing the firm to comply with the national contract for the sector and put an end to the hyper-exploitation they suffer from.
Dry cleaning workers are paid less than €1,000 per month for 12-hour shifts, and have to work seven days a week.
The bourgeois repressive machine got straight to work, through its tried and tested tool of police violence, in attempting to remove the mass picket and make the workers give up the struggle.
It is obvious that the bourgeoisie, in every faction, is ready to intimidate and repress anyone who tries to raise their heads even if only to hold back, on the trade union level, the global attack against the working class.
The capitalist crisis is so deep that even simple compliance with national contracts is considered by the employers (whether Italian or Chinese) an intolerable limitation on the kind of slavery that they can impose on a workforce which can be easily blackmailed, like immigrant workers.
Our class solidarity therefore goes to the workers in struggle but, at the same time, we have to stress, once again, how the path of trade unionism, even of a more radical kind, is a road that leads nowhere especially when the capitalist system is in deep crisis so that the chances of reforms or doing deals shrink every day. This does not at all mean that the class should not fight for its immediate needs. On the contrary, the struggle has to go beyond trade union ritual and adopt the perspective that only a revolutionary party can pose that this exploitative society has to be overthrown.
We need the revolutionary and internationalist communist programme to circulate once more in the class, to strengthen the work of building the party the only real weapon with which we can counter, once and for all, the bosses’ violence and scrap the capitalist system.