In the early afternoon of Tuesday, January 30, the police charged and drove a group of workers away from the gates of GDN Logistics of San Cipriano Po (Pavia). They were demonstrating in front of the company's gates to ask for an end to dismissals and suspensions (therefore for reinstatement) carried out by the company against some of their colleagues for the simple fact they were "registered with Sicobas". The strike began in the early morning, and the police charge took place after more than 10 hours of blockade in which protesting workers prevented the entry of trucks to the warehouse units.
The union explicitly speaks of “the repressive policies of the bosses’ reaction" with "the complicity of the Prefecture of Pavia" (in this case), something that has been repeated throughout Italy "against the most combative workers". Three workers were injured, helped by the emergency services and treated in the emergency room of the city hospital, among them a 29 year old woman. Half an hour later, one hundred workers demonstrated in a march on the town hall in the centre of Stradella in solidarity with the attacked colleagues.
We do not want to just give an expression of formal solidarity.
We don’t want our solidarity to be a mere testimony of support in words, that would do nothing to tackle the seriousness of such episodes. This event is nothing new and no less ferocious than others that have previously happened: just remember the tragic death - which took place at GLS in Piacenza during a union demand struggle - of the Egyptian worker Abd Elsalam Ahmed Eldanf (53 years old, father of five children), knocked down and crushed by a company lorry in front of which he was demonstrating with his comrades on the night of September 14, 2016.
What happened on 30 January is not the first, nor unfortunately the last, such episode, but only the latest in a long series which will only increase in number and intensity in the near future.
It thus seems to us much more opportune and useful to make a couple of points and add a few thoughts.
The crisis is aggravating competition (both internally but, above all, internationally), forcing the bosses to take savage and remorseless measures to keep costs down, in order to prevent even the slightest demand for some economic improvement or any conflict that "upsets" the speed and timing of production and distribution. All this leads to increased precariousness, flexibility and, for those who remain in the workplace, increasingly harder work to increase productivity to the maximum in competition with international rivals.
In this context, the bosses who sit in front of us at the negotiating table have nothing left to give, not even the crumbs that they could offer in the past. And when they pretend to make an offer, it is because they already have taken steps to immediately neutralise their fake concessions.
So does this mean we cannot and mustn’t struggle to improve our economic conditions? Not at all: we must struggle all the same, and in a determined, resolute way, organising ourselves and uniting together, but always maintaining, or acquiring, the understanding that, in the context of this global crisis, the bosses are not ready to grant anything lasting or concretely helpful. “Mors tua, vita mea",1 your salary against my profit margin, the cost that you, worker, constitute for me against my profit”: these are the terms of a confrontation that the crisis is sharpening and making increasingly fierce.
The awareness, therefore, that any formal concession will be neutralised by the bosses (directly or through their instrument of domination: the State), means that the practice of merely putting in demands cannot produce any real and lasting improvement in our conditions as wage labourers.
And therefore, we have to go beyond the level of demands to look at the issue politically: that is, to understand that we need to overthrow this profit system based on wage labour, which exploits us, makes us precarious, kills us with work, and which cannot give us even a minimum of well-being and security for our future. The only way to do this is to struggle to conquer political power, but not by using the elections to the parliamentary institutions of the bosses’ state.
How can we still consider the State and its bodies to be guardians of so-called public order, a neutral body standing above all classes that can in some way be compelled and used to protect those who work? For decades, the State has been giving contracts, bonuses, tax breaks, grants for hundreds of billions, to the bosses on the one hand, and on the other hand it provides workers with laws which make their jobs more precarious (Treu law2 , "Biagi" law3 , Jobs Act4 , vouchers, etc.), alongside drastic cuts in indirect wages (the welfare state) and deferred wages (pensions).
This seems to us the best way to express real solidarity and concrete support, not just in this case but in many others; by indicating to workers the only viable course, that of the class struggle and of unity and solidarity beyond the respective physical places of work so that we reach other workers who find themselves isolated in their job insecurity and their increasingly bestial exploitation.
This path demands all out strikes to the bitter end to foul up capitalist productive rhythms, but above all involves the setting up of our own autonomous decision-making bodies to conduct the struggle. This means a fight, outside and against the trade unions because trade union logic is all about “reaching agreements” and doing deals, sending others to represent us around a table with the bosses to make a deal which suits the needs of the bosses but on which we are only asked to vote to accept or not.
The road, therefore, of unity against any attempt at division and opposition is perpetrated not only by both the bosses and the trade unions (whether traditional or rank and file) but also by the State. They aim to weaken the only weapons workers have, our our solidarity and unity: by making false distinctions between young and old, Italians and foreigners, public and private, privileged and marginalised, from the north and the south, permanent and temporary, etc.
Fragmented and sectional struggles are the best gifts the bosses can have, because they are the best ways to divide us. This is the policy adopted so far by the myriad of small and large trade unions, from more or less institutionalised, centralised ones to the self-styled radical and ‘rank and file’ unions (cobas), whose real management is not controlled through any workers’ direct decision-making, and whose real practice remains that of doing deals, accepting in fact the capitalist economic and social framework.
We say to the workers: if we are forced to deal with those who exploit and oppress us, we must do so only after we have taken the path of authentic class struggle, outside and against any practice of negotiation with the enemy (the boss) or union demands which have the same aim. We have to set up non-union delegated bodies really representing the rank and file workers in struggle. It will be the workers’ mandate which will decide on any eventual negotiation. This will rule out by default any measures aimed at dividing the class (partial layoffs, selective wage increases, measures to "save" other jobs etc.).
Capitalism maintains, and will always maintain, its dominion over workers as long as it is able to convince them that the organisation of work based on the system of wage labour can’t be changed.
We know that this is not the case. Another world is possible and necessary.
Those who work, those who support and run everything in society must direct it politically. Its infernal operating mechanism exclusively aimed at the profit of the few produced on the backs of many has to go. Capitalism everywhere has to be destroyed politically in order to build true communist society.
All power to the working class!
Il Partito Comunista Internazionalista (Battaglia Comunista)
1 February 2018
Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work!", workers should write on their banners the revolutionary slogan: "Abolition of the wages system!".
Marx, Wages, Prices and Profit, 1865
For related articles on rank and file unions see leftcom.org
10 February 2018
- 1Latin for “your death, my life”.
- 2Introduced in 1997 to make it easier for employers to sack workers.
- 3Named after Marco Biagi, labour adviser to the right wing Government of Berlusconi. He was gunned down by the “new Red Brigades” in Bologna in 2002. The law which bears his name made it easier to sack workers, and passed the task of matching workers to jobs from the state to private agencies. It was passed in 2003. All in the name of the “flexibility” of the labour market.
- 4Adopted in 2014 by the Democratic Party’s Matteo Renzi to the universal applause of the IMF and Italian capital. It also promotes “labour flexibility” by making it easier to change workers’ contracts and sack people as well as reduce the old system for helping those laid off.