Commentary. The workers' day falls this year in the midst of a devastating war in the middle of Europe, which could become a long war of incalculable costs.

Wars against workers

This year, May Day, which should be a day dedicated to workers, not to some abstract “labor,” came in the midst of a devastating war in the middle of Europe, which began in the form of Putin’s bloody military aggression against Ukraine, but is now coalescing into a world war with incalculable costs, a long-term war – which could ultimately also be short and end in a catastrophic moment – for the “victory” over Russia of a new coalition of the willing led by the Anglo-Americans, in which the European Union is in the role of workhorse and can already be seen as a victim.

The wanton, generalized and senseless increase in military spending is the first clear and foreboding outcome. The promise of peace on the Old Continent – which had already been compromised in the ‘90s in southeastern Europe with the war in former Yugoslavia and NATO’s intervention – has been canceled without accountability or explanation, and the chasm that has opened is swallowing up first of all those who are in a subaltern position: the lower classes, the workers. And not only in Italy.

Because this extra military spending – at this point it’s tending towards doubling, to the tune of tens of trillions – puts the squeeze and exerts a crushing weight on social spending, which is decisive for the recovery of life and work after almost three years of a tough global pandemic.

During this time, it’s worth recalling that 23 million employees in Italy kept working and supported the health measures, in conditions that were unfavorable to say the least, and allowed the entire production process to continue.

The workers are bearing the brunt of the increase in the cost of energy and the lack of raw materials, a direct reflection of the war and the sanctions that followed. The dishonest tactic by European governments, Draghi first and foremost, involves claiming that everything is fine: “The funds from the NRP are coming, don’t worry.” But according to which redistributive principle these will be disbursed remains a mystery relegated to the halls of power – while on the other hand they are announcing cuts in gas and oil supplies, conveying the harsh and menacing message of a “war economy” which will lead to the necessity of “rationing.” Guess who are the ones who will have to pay for it?

The goal is purely ideological, namely “growth” – but the growth of what kind of economy? That of financial capitalism, which has shown its bankrupt nature and which is converting the living labor of the workers, of the community, into more and more private profit for a world oligarchy that is hoarding the wealth of the planet, while material production is subsidized starting from the energy costs at the source, which means Confindustria is subsidized twice over. And the regulatory state is certainly coming into operation, but the principle it applies is that of supporting those who have the power to command it.

But the truth is that poverty is increasing – over 5 million families now – that the number of poor workers is growing even if they are employed, and that wages are stuck and are losing purchasing power with every day that passes. And when it is a matter for living work to be temporarily supported, threatened as it is with layoffs, such attempts are criticized and then shut down: we are at a point where Confindustria ridiculously complains that the proposal to tie salary increases to current inflation amounts to blackmail.

We are still at the stage in which we produce goods that are always private, while collective services are minimized, if not privatized. The recent cut in healthcare spending to increase investment in military spending has been symptomatic, despite the disaster of the healthcare system that became visible during the pandemic in some “inspiring models” such as Lombardy.

Also in the name of growth, there is yet another war being waged on the backs of the workers – an asymmetrical war, for which Putin is not to blame for once: namely, workplace deaths. As of the end of April, 220 workers have lost their lives in Italy since the beginning of the year, sacrificed to the promise of petty profit. An Italian tragedy, compounded by the tragedy of harmful conditions in the workplace and the environment, which generates even more victims, and which continues every year with impunity, accompanied by rivers of rhetoric and nothing more.

Finally, there is the issue of democracy, which is in danger during this time of war. We seem to be heading towards a scenario of an institutional state of exception, confirmed by the current conflict, which will perpetuate the Draghi system indefinitely: a useless Parliament and governability at any cost for stability and, of course, for “growth.” Who is doing the growing, for what purpose and whom does it benefit?

Now we can see clearly that the opposite is the case: only conflict-driven democracy, based on the values of the Constitution, can save us from disaster. That is, starting with the rights of workers – while the crisis of political representation is also questioning and attacking the role of the union, the only institution that is addressing the current social issues, which have now become explosive.

A democracy of control, starting with the production process here and now, its goals, the places of material and immaterial production.

And starting from the bottom to build a new model of development, which would immediately identify the real energy alternatives and opportunities for saving, and would enact them, rejecting any steps backward (nuclear, coal). A real ecological transition that would choose the path of peace and not that of weapons – because disarmament is not just idle talk from “unthinking” pacifists, but a real possibility for a new, converted form of labor.

This would be built on the principle of equitable exchange and solidarity between peoples, not the current principle of pillage and squandering.

At this point, peace represents the number one trade union dispute, the first contract to be torn up.

Happy May Day.

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