Federazione dei comunisti anarchici

Cremona, 19-20 June 2004


Motion on Union Intervention 

(approved at the 6th Congress of the FdCA - Cremona, 20 June 2004)


1. The international context

Over the past three years there has been a marked acceleration in the processes of concentration of economic and political-military power, both on an international level and on the level of single States, which has marginalised those tendencies that, even though they are compatible with capitalism, are working towards the development of a situation which would see a plurality of powers and the introduction of neo-reformist, statist policies. These then would be used to marry ever-increasing capitalist profit with increasingly lower levels of social protection.

Imperialist wars, financial crises, the de-regulation of the institutional and legislative framework of protection for the lower classes, the destruction of solidarity networks within the world of waged labour, attacks on the environment and on our health - all these are directly or indirectly felt by entire populations who ever-increasingly find themselves in a position where they are unable to organize themselves and express any form of dissent, protest or struggle by which they could hope to try to change the current situation. A situation which is the result of the economic, political and military choices made by the power which governs us more and more in the name of the regulations which it itself produces in order to... govern.

The drastic reduction and erosion of the possibilities for debate and negotiation, or their transformation into false negotiation tables designed to safeguard capitalist compatibility, has revealed the hard face of militaristic capitalism and the pathetic unwillingness of the neo-reformist tendencies to safeguard even the most basic interests of the dependant classes.

This is the situation in which we have seen the development of a large, varied international opposition movement which has become a leading player in the huge popular mobilizations. These mobilizations have been significant because of the numbers participating in them, the evident potential for self-organization and self-management and their ability to stand up to the repression unleashed against them on the streets by the various State apparata.

2. The national context

In Italy, these past three years have marked a definitive break-up of a social framework which had been established in the last decade of the 20th century but which was seen to be inadequate in order to deal with the current battles. On the one hand, the dramatic drop in the buying power of wages (-9.3% for factory workers, -11.1% for office workers, -27% for pensioners), on the other hand, the failure of incomes policy; on one hand the bosses' arrogance in industrial planning (laws on "mobility" and redundancies) and contract renewal (laws limiting wage increases in line with planned inflation, irrespective of "official" inflation, not to mention real inflation!!), while on the other hand we see the failure of partnership deals; on the one hand, continual restrictions on the rights of workers (the modification of Art.18 of the Workers' Statute, Law No.30/2003, the anti-strike Law No.83/2000, separate contracts without consultation), on the other hand, the crisis in the system of representation imposed by the self-appointed major unions.

The inevitable, consequent radicalization of conflict in the world of labour has therefore permitted the re-emergence of that capacity (which had never truly died) of the working class to re-discover its autonomy in the struggle. We have seen many recent examples: from Fiat to the struggles of temporary workers, from the metal workers to the transport workers. With the partnership system broken, power ratios are once again important, together with the ability to struggle and defend specific interests of the workers without any neo-corporative restrictions. Though the wage battle in many categories may be long and hard, the question once again arises regarding total bargaining independence and the untouchability of the right to strike, which is slowly freeing itself of the straightjacket of anti-strike laws and union codes of self-regulation. 

Labour struggles have become intertwined with other social struggles such as those for the rights of migrants, for the protection of the environment, for peace, and against prohibition. This joining of the struggles is taking place in the context of a society which has been expertly torn apart by the ignominious application of "terrorist" against anyone who dares oppose the supreme designs of the executive.

There has been no phase of the class struggle over the last three years which has not seen the social movements fall victim to repressive preventative treatment with the full force of the media behind it. This repression has also affected labour struggles in many ways: disciplinary measures against workers, dismissals, legal injunctions, police charges on the streets and so on, all of which has noticeably increased in intensity since the strikes of 2002.

3. The union response

3.1 The conflict which has developed in recent years has had the effect of greatly embarrassing the union bureaucracies who had become accustomed to an easy life following ten years of partnership deals.

It immediately became clear that they were unable to handle the situation which was created by the growing levels of contention.

It is not therefore surprising that when the leadership of Confindustria [1] changed, changing also its political line, the leaders of the confederal unions [2], with one exception, allowed themselves to fall under the spell of neo-partnership. The proof of the pudding being the recent agreement on distance work.

We can presumably hypothesize the re-introduction of a policy of wage moderation with the excuse this time of saving the country from industrial decline, naturally at the expense, once again, of the workers.

In the recent past, wage policy has been accompanied by a policy of casualization of work (see, for example, the "Treu Packet" and the "Biagi Law") and the abolition of rights.

For employers, however, this has been matched by a net drop in the cost of labour for businesses, greater profits together with a less permanent and less qualified workforce (a situation which is also due to having chosen the "low" road to industrial development, choosing competition over the cost of labour and giving up on policies of technological innovation) which is consequently more easily changed and more controllable, thanks also to the erosion of contracts. 

It is also foreseeable that job precariousness will be joined by a further attack on the state pensions system, doing away with the TFR [3] and creating a system of private pension funds.

This operation will go to further increasing the mass of capital which feeds the financial circuit, congruent with the tendency towards an ever-greater importance of financial capital with respect to productive capital as we already discussed in our document on the current economic phase:

"The latter in particular links finance to quick profit, limiting long-term investment (such as education), which alone can hope to create a stable system."

In line with all this is probably also the forthcoming pension reform, with a further rise in the pensionable age. This reform will increase the number of those yet to receive their pensions who will not even be guaranteed an amount which is sufficient to survive on.

3.2 At present, the lone odd-man-out among the confederal unions is the FIOM [4]. Within the FIOM there has developed deep debate regarding incomes policy which resulted in the success of the "left" during the 23rd congress (which had been called early) which easily succeeded in passing a motion which serves to impose a strong veto on the re-proposal of a new incomes policy and a new form of partnership.

It remains to be seen how this "anomaly" will be dealt with by the confederal unions, where a new incomes policy is mostly looked on approvingly.

3.3 In these last three years, the new combative approach by the CGIL (with all its organizational strengths and its 5 million members) has obviously made life harder for the grassroots unions.

These grassroots unions seem to be forcing themselves into acting in such a way that places more emphasis on distinguishing themselves from the CGIL than seeking to build a large mass movement against the government. This has been dramatically repeated on more than one occasion during recent strikes last autumn against the destruction of state pensions, and was made even worse by the divisions which appeared amongst the various grassroots unions.

This progressive collapse of those alliances which took much time and effort to build is leading to a reduction in the ability of the grassroots unions to co-ordinate on a national level and is threatening even the whole principle of grassroots unions. An example are the repeated, distinct and contradictory strikes which have been called by the leaderships of some of these unions.

3.4 On a local and category level, grassroots syndicalism is succeeding in carrying out three functions which are fundamental to its spread around the country in a decentralised fashion, which could be considered to be the future nerve centre of the class struggle:

3.5 To this general situation must be added the recent exemplary struggle of the local transport workers. Exemplary because it is an example of mass self-organization, and has succeeded in involving ever greater sectors of the population, unmasking the unions and the centre-left scene (made up not only of a multitude of parties, but also many of the larger consumers' associations), which supports the privatization of public services and which pays more attention to the success of "Italy Inc." than it does to the needs of the workers and citizens.

3.6 It is necessary to have the greatest possible solidarity between the various categories of workers in order to fight off the attempts to criminalize any attempt to promote self-organization against the establish order and "national security". It is necessary to have the largest-possible mass mobilizations in order to protect the workers in struggle from repression. It will be necessary for all anti-bureaucratic and anti-authoritarian social and political forces to work towards transforming social unease and exasperation into a libertarian programme of struggle and autonomy. 

4. Our general attitude

Recent struggles have revealed a new connection between wage demands and demands for the freedom to strike on the one hand and demonstrations of class autonomy other other, something which had not been seen for quite some time.

On a general level, we need to react against the current privatization process; therefore forthcoming National Contract renewals need to concentrate on wages and on slowing down the privatizations, while at the same time putting a halt to wage limits in order to protect National Contracts.

We must emphasize the central nature of the wage struggle in the re-building of class unity, as was indicated in our current Programme (adopted during the December 1997 Congress of the FdCA). However, the wage struggle must be part of an all-embracing social platform in which the question of wages must considered to include direct, indirect and deferred wages. This struggle for global salary must be founded on a renewed central role for wage bargaining, which is a part of the struggle based on listening to the needs of the working class and the transformation of these needs into demands. These demands must be inclusive and must allow the level of consciousness and class unity to rise. This is the ideal and material dimension in which grassroots union organization and union representation from below can be built.

The crisis in the contractual system produced under the agreements of 1992-93, must make us reflect on the one hand on the necessary defence of the double contracting level and, on the other hand, on the process of federalization and regionalization which is also taking place in the world of labour, with the consequent shifting of decisive union struggles and contractual struggle to a local level and even to the sub-local level (single factories).

5. Our role in the workplace, in the community and in the unions

We choose the worker over the union, we choose the unity of the workers over the union, we support the struggles of the workers for the defence of their interests independently of the form or the union or of any type of syndicalism as long as it brings about an improvement in the proletariat's living conditions and leads to the introduction of more freedom within society. And if, in these struggles and/or unions, we succeed in having some effect and our ideas serve as a "guide", we will have served to strengthen the autonomy of the workers and promote the role of class-struggle anarchism. We will, in other words, have engaged in real revolutionary syndicalism, real anarcho-syndicalism, real libertarian syndicalism, real... syndicalism.

Every different work situation determines the choice of one union organizational form over another, and not just our revolutionary desires. It is the nature of the strengths involved which increase the possibilities of combative syndicalism with a libertarian praxis, and not just the fact that we are anarchists.

The existence of more advanced militants and class-struggle sectors within the internal opposition of the CGIL or in various alternative unions must be considered an objective fact. Whether we like it or not. A strategy can only be built on what is possible, not only on what is right. However, combative syndicalism with a libertarian praxis cannot exist without 3 factors:

6. Labour Platform

7. Labour strategy of the Anarchist Communists 

It is in the workplace that the greatest levels of exploitation and discord are encountered, and it is there that the unity of interests between workers with different forms of contract must be re-built. It is essential to take back into our own hands the right to bargain in a decentralized manner, to safeguard our right to health, to manage our working hours in order to better manage our lives, to eliminate the link between wages and productivity and the blackmail of overtime. Co-ordinating groups of representative delegates from the various sectors and various other types of workers such as temporary workers and migrants, could represent forms of co-operation, unity and struggle.

In the community, it is the task of Anarchist Communists to develop places and situations where workers can meet and discuss strategy irrespective of which union they belong to. Richness can be provided by differing union experiences, from the self-managed to the syndicated and to those activists who pursue struggle objectives (partial or more general), all of which can go towards federating the workers who are members of different union organizations. Inter-union "Chambers of Labour", citizens' labour forums, regional coalitions of grassroots unions - these can all be places where the united defence of the class interests of workers, temporary workers and migrants can be developed.

On a national level, it should be anarchist union activists who ensure that it is possible to federate sectors of the class with union activists and grassroots unions, on a platform with firm objectives and principles regarding wages, working hours, rights, services and union democracy.

All this in order to...

"(...) that general union action can be made more efficient in the wide-scale struggle, re-build the unity of the workers, re-establish class solidarity, give back to the world of labour (and not only labour) the necessary union democracy and programmatic autonomy for a more equal and more libertarian society" (from the "Appeal to anarchist and libertarian union activists", FdCA, 2001).

Unanimously approved by the 6th Congress

Cremona, 20th June 2004



Translator's Notes:

[1] The industrial employers' federation.
[2] The so-called "confederal unions" are the three major union federations in Italy, the CGIL, CISL and UIL.
[3] "Trattamento di fine rapporto", money deducted from employees' wages and paid to them on leaving their jobs.
[4] The metalworkers union, federated to the CGIL.