Commentary. If we don’t want those ‘never again’ ghosts to reappear, a vast movement of struggles and workers’ initiatives must be built.

Italy’s unions unite against the specter of fascism

A large, combative and optimistic manifestation of will took over Rome on Saturday, with its aim that the specters of fascism may never again return. Promoted by CGIL, CISL and UIL, who have not listened to the calls for “electoral silence,” it was the first mass response to the serious assault by fascist gangs that took place on October 9—a date which must not be forgotten—which attacked and ransacked the national headquarters of CGIL, the largest union in Italian history. The strong bond of solidarity was evident in the demonstration, together with a new manner of struggle, not centered only around belonging, because this time the attack was on the whole Italian democracy and on the Constitution born from the anti-fascist Resistance.

A “demonstration of all” and one “to take democracy further,” said Landini, in elegant garb, for the first time in his life wearing a tie, solid red. Now united, the unions are waiting for Draghi to pass the test of antifascism: the government must outlaw the fascist groups such as Forza Nuova.

But the conviction that one could feel among the crowd, hanging in the air and widespread, is that defense at this point is not enough, and that it is time to get out from under the siege and the condition of division in which the whole working class, in its new and old composition, is currently living. Because the social body of workers is coming out of the pandemic more hurt and shattered than before (and are we even truly out of it?).

At the same time, the employers’ front, united behind Confindustria, is active in rebuilding the conditions of exploitation, just like, and even worse than, during the previous period.

Let us recall that the issues of safety against Covid in the workplace were raised in the darkest months of the pandemic in early 2020, with a season of strikes in the north, by the same workers who, even in the harshest period of the spread of the contagion, still went to work in their millions while the most basic rules of distancing were being disregarded by their bosses, everything being subordinated to the logic of profit, the watchword of “growth” and the employer-focused exploitation of the novelty of digitized work at a distance. The “militant” Confindustria then relaunched itself and finally secured the outrageous free rein to layoffs. The same normality must return, the capitalist one, and the only measure of humanity, the GDP—while we drift on with the criminal reality of 4 workplace deaths a day. And how can we not call the racist expulsion of migrants, destined for the mass graves of the Mediterranean, fascism?

The working class has been put into a corner, divided into a thousand rivulets, but “with the same awareness as in 2002 at the Circus Maximus,” Cofferati reminded il manifesto. The message is out: “Never again” must now that mean workers are the protagonists: only conflict guarantees democracy and the so-called “economic recovery”: in public health care, where the mad scramble is returning; in the use of new technologies; in the purpose of work itself, for a production that would no longer only respond to the market, but to collective needs, reset by the pandemic in turn; in the guarantee of a basic wage that should be a welfare institution: not the abolition of citizenship income, but its extension and improvement in the face of the new misery and inequalities that are advancing; in schools, which have been abandoned to themselves; in the new taxation, which to be equal must be wealth-based; in the environment, at the limits of the survival of the planet, on which there is a litany of international summits, always the same, and protests by the Greens, but which would demand the intervention of the only collective subject who, reproducing the material life every day and forced to bear the costs for the environmental destruction that begins in the workplace, must begin to say “No,” starting from the so-called “ecological transition” of the government, which is giving the productive apparatus back to the same ones who caused the devastation—while Draghi even announces a “rearmament” of the country.

What happened to the direct representation of the workers for the control of the supply of labor in the factories, and the mammoth investments of cash coming into the productive system with the NRP and the government budget?

But the idea coming in from many sides of the spectrum, useful for the balancing act of this omnivorous government of all, is that of a “social pact” administered by the advent of a supposedly technocratic government. Yet Draghi is not running a technocratic government: he is the engineer who, taking advantage of the objective health dirigisme during the pandemic—which he administers sometimes rightly, as necessary, and sometimes as a pure exercise of authority—is working to restore the entire system, supported by the standing ovation of the Confindustria crowd, i.e. those who have control over labor and financial power.

And it is certainly not enough that Draghi ran to Landini to demonstrate his solidarity at the debris-strewn union headquarters, worried that he might lose the support of a still-decisive interlocutor. The anomalous centrality of this government, the verticalization of the power it represents, with a parliament reduced to performativity, in an increasingly weak Europe, risks taking the Italian crisis in another direction: towards the corporatization of society. And that is how comparisons with the 1920s have begun showing up, with the images of the destroyed CGIL headquarters that recall those of the Chambers of Labor set on fire by Mussolini’s goons. But be wary, history never repeats itself in the same way: the first time is a tragedy, but the second time is a farce, as Marx recalled. If we don’t want those “never again” ghosts to reappear, a vast movement of struggles and workers’ initiatives must be built, capable of drawing to itself, to social and political unity, the widespread protest and anger that is manifested everywhere in ways that are now too often dangerously irrational.

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