Interview with Guido Viale

An 1973 interview with a member of Lotta Continua, an Italian anticapitalist organization linked to the operaismo and autonomia movements.

Guido Viale, one of the founders and a national leader of Lotta Continua, was arrested on January 28, 1973 with nine other comrades and charged with attempted murder in connection with clashes the night before in the streets of Turin between revolutionaries and neo-fascists. The police fired at the militants, seriously wounding five, and arrested many others. The arrest of Viale was clearly a police frame-up and was part of a wider repressive design to strike at Lotta Continua and other revolutionary organizations. It came in fact at the end of one of the most intense weeks of workers' and students’ struggles, after the metal workers' contract negotiations had reached an impasse and a new wave of strikes and factory occupations had shaken Turin. The police intention was to curb the influence of the revolutionary movement in these struggles.

Viale and other comrades were released on May 10 for lack of evidence. His release followed a major international campaign of solidarity with the targets of Italian state repression. The voices of the revolutionary Left in Italy cannot be stifled. The following material is excerpted from an interview with Viale conducted immediately prior to his arrest in January.

What are some of the key developments since the 1968-69 workers’ struggles which may have the effect of altering the political organization of the Italian working class?

First of all, there has been a widespread circulation, among various sectors of the working class, of the “struggle against labor" — meaning a radical negation of the capitalist organization of work and life. You may recall that this was one of the main components which characterized the workers’ struggles in 1968-69. At that time its impact was shown primarily among the immigrant, mass production workers in the large plants, and was often much opposed by the specialized workers, upon whom the bosses counted to break the unity of the working class. In the course of the last three years this component of workers' struggle has spread not only in the smaller plants, but also among specialized workers, and is therefore contributing enormously to bridging the gap which has traditionally existed between these two sectors of the working class. It is important to emphasize that such a circulation has also encompassed the South and has contributed to altering drastically the traditional relationship between North and South. Today we cannot talk any more of a highly politicized Northern working class and a depoliticized Southern working class. The politicization of mass-production workers in the Northern industrial centers has been paralleled by the growth of a subversive potential among the proletarian masses who populate the numerous urban centers in the South. It is still difficult to sociologically characterize these masses. But the political contradictions which these people are living is having the effect of unifying the various components of the Southern working class among themselves, and in turn of unifying the latter with the Northern working class, even if the fascists are trying at all costs to keep them divided.

Judging from these new developments of the last three years, would you maintain that the balance of class forces is changing in favor of the working class?

Undoubtedly. We feel that those who draw their conclusions by looking only at the capitalist class end up with a limited and distorted view. It is definitely true that today the bosses are armed, while three years ago they were not. But it is also true that the links of unity within the proletariat have made great leaps ahead and are bringing together more than ever before the Northern and Southern proletariat, old CP workers and new workers, student masses and masses of workers. We therefore maintain that at the present stage the workers' struggle is stronger than during the “Hot Autumn” of 1969.

What role does the Italian Communist Party (CPI) play in this context of changing relations of force among classes?

The place the CPI has in the political alignment of the country has been, and remains, very important, not only on account of its close relationship with the labor unions, but also because the CPI is the party that officially represents the workers’ struggle: it receives most of the working class votes, it exercises an enormous influence on the masses of workers, it has a formidable power of mobilization. (Think of the CPI rally called last September by the Party’s daily paper 'Uniga’, which saw the participation of about half a million people) In the current process of politicization occurring among the masses (and their ensuing move toward the Left) the CPI occupies a crucial role; hence the steady increase in new members during the past months. Now, what matters most for the revolutionary Left is that as the crisis deepens, as the fascistization of the Italian state consolidates itself, the ambiguous and contradictory position of the CPI becomes increasingly apparent. For, if on one hand the CPI aligns itself against the present government and against the capitalist forces, on the other hand it is committed to joining those forces in “control1ing the crisis" in favor of a climate of social peace, and thereby chokes the autonomous thrust of the mass of workers. This difficulty in which the CPI is caught vis-a-vis the ` working class opens many spaces among the CPI ranks. It makes its workers live the contradictions of the revisionist line and increasingly opens space for direction by the revolutionary vanguards. The massive demonstrations of last December 12 commemorating the Piazza Fontana victims of fascist terrorism of 1969 in all major cities of Italy, which was called by the revolutionary Left and which saw a large participation of CPI members, shows how a division has begun to develop within the CPI.

How does the current round of labor negotiations affect the ongoing process of class struggle which you have discussed thus far? What is really at stake in these negotiations?

In our view, what matters is not so much what the workers could gain on a merely contractual plane. What matters is our ability to anticipate the capitalist project, which wants to use this occasion in order to contain the development of the workers' autonomy, and to launch a process of capitalist restructuration which would fall entirely on the working class, not only in material terms (reduction of the level of employment, reduction of real wages) but also politically, since it would have the effect of breaking the unity that the working class has achieved in these last years. The contract recently ratified in the chemical sector has been a clear example of this strategy, which the bosses could impose on the workers thanks to the collaboration of the unions. What therefore becomes a priority for us is to wage a struggle against the power of the State and against its fascistization against the political use of the crisis which—as the past months have shown—manifests itself in the bosses’ attempt to eliminate the workers' vanguards. These objectives require a harsh class struggle, a struggle which is not waged by signing a new contract. This is why for us it is crucial to strengthen the workers' autonomy so that the working class does not allow itself to be sucked in- to the bosses’ system and logic. Massive wage increases, guaranteed wages, total parity between industrial workers and white-collar employees-these are the decisive slogans of workers’ autonomy against the crisis, of workers' ability to direct the struggles of the unemployed, the underemployed, the students, the proletarians in the community against the cost of living. These are not contractual demands, but they use the contracts for the circulation, the organization, the practice of struggle. The generalization of these demands is a basic necessity if we do not want the workers’ struggles to fall into isolation and corporatism, and moreover if the social struggles against the crisis, the unemployment, the cost of living are to grow around a center. This is the ground for our action. (Rome, January 2, 1973)