International Communist Party The Union Question

The Post‑War Refoundation of Italian Trade Unions on a National Patriotic Corporatist Spirit

from Il Partito Comunista nos. 64 (1979), 66, 68, 70, 73, 76 (1980), 80‑82 (1981)

  1. - Mussolini – Di Vittorio – Lama
  2. - The Pact of Rome
  3. - The Reorganization of the CGIL Against the Strikes of 1943
  4. - The Generous Proletarian Struggles in the South and the "Red CGL" in Naples Against the Strikes of 1943
  5. - The Strikes in the Large Factories in the North
  6. - The Liquidation of Naples’ Red CGL
  7. - The Policy of Sacrifice, 1945
  8. - The Constitution and the Legal Definition of the Trade Union‑State Relationship
  9. - The 1949 Split
 10. - The Bourgeoisie and Stalinism Force the Working Class into the Sacrifice of National Reconstruction
 11. - The Wage Scale Agreement – Masterpiece of Patriotic Trade Unionism

1. Mussolini – Di Vittorio – Lama

In recent years the “tricolor” trade union (the “Tricolore” is the Italian national flag) has taken decisive steps toward its final incorporation into the State machinery: the Euro line and the policy of sacrifices, the explicit commitment to the “reduction of labor costs” and the full utilization of plants, the expulsion of communists and rebellious workers and the demand of loyalty to the State for all members, the sabotage of spontaneous class struggles, the self‑disciplining of strikes, etc. However, these steps don’t represent a turning point, a change of course, but, as our party has always maintained, are the logical conclusion of a long process that began after World War II.

In the years of economic recovery, the trade unions led the struggles for wage adjustment because this not only did not put the bourgeois economy in crisis but could even match the interests of big capital, as it forced companies to modernize plants and lower production costs. It’s today, at the beginning of the great economic and political crisis of capitalism, that the trade union apparatuses that arose after World War II are manifesting themselves for what they are, that is, regime unions, an organ meant to discipline the labor force on behalf of the capitalist State.

However, this policy of supporting the State, of controlling labor on behalf of capital, was already contained in the Italian General Confederation of Labor founded in 1944 with the Pact of Rome. In this the signatories, the PCI (Partito Comunista Italiano), the Christian Democrats and the PSI (Partitio Socialista Italiano) all declared themselves “convinced that the trade union unity of all workers without distinction of political beliefs or religious faith is the most effective instrument for the immense work of reconstruction of the country (work that will necessarily hinge on the labor force)”. Factories, construction sites and the whole machinery of the economy had to be restarted for the capitalists to get rich again. But doing this required strict discipline of the working class, which had to bear, and bore with starvation wages and the misery of unemployment, the full burden of reconstruction.

That’s why the false workers’ parties and the Christian Democrats decided by mutual agreement to revive a single national center on the remains of the former fascist trade union: to prevent the rise of real class organizations, to prevent strong strikes and sporadic riots from endangering the survival of the regime and the profits of capital.

In this sense, the CGIL (Confederazione Generale Italiano del Lavoro) that arose “from above” at the initiative of the bourgeois government inherited in full the functions of the single fascist trade union. Produce more for national industry, this was the watchword of the fascist trade union and the CGIL kept it after World War II. From Mussolini to Di Vittorio to Lama, there’s no break of continuity; there’s a single line of subordination of the proletarians to the demands of the bourgeois economy. We read this in their own statements:

Mussolini (speech at the headquarters of the Industrial and Commercial Alliance in Milan on February 5, 1920): “We’ve maintained ourselves on productivist ground because if we kill production, if today we sterilize the raw cores of economic activity, tomorrow there’ll be universal misery…If we can kickstart our trade with the East, if the workers get it into their heads that we can’t bring our currency but must send our locomotives, our machines, our automobiles, our manufactured products to the East, and that only then will we see a decrease in the cost of living, because only from the East can we get the raw materials we lack, the industrial workers will repudiate the strike, that most destructive weapon, and will get really down to work.”

Di Vittorio (in Il Lavoro, June 6, 1946): “The historic victory of the people and of the CGIL [is in] having eliminated the traditional rift between the State and the popular masses, [but this achievement] increases the responsibility of the people and of the workers as a whole… To rebuild Italy, we must produce more, lower production costs and the selling prices of products, apart from fighting with the capitalists so that company profits don’t go to multiply their wealth, but are largely destined to improve the conditions of the workers and the general situation of the country.”

Lama (1979): “We agree to make the best use of all factors of production and thus also of labor power”.

This is what the working class has gained after “producing more” in over fifty years of national solidarity: redundancies and dismissals.

2. The Pact of Rome

In June 1944 then, with the so‑called Pact of Rome between the PCI, PSI, Christian Democrats, a single trade union center was being rebuilt in Italy. It was about the need for capitalism to replace the old fascist centers, which were obviously no longer fit to control the proletariat, with a single center that would equally guarantee the control and submission of the workers to the State, now ruled by the anti‑fascist parties.

Already in 1943, at the height of the fascist regime, the working class in the industrial North had given ominous signs with strong economic strikes. These had nothing to do with the democratic-resistance claims of the CLN (Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale) parties, but were a spontaneous movement in defense of economic conditions: everything suggested that the workers’ struggle would also develop under the future democratic government.

The PCI, foreseeing this situation, with the “Salerno turn” launched the infamous watchword “first rebuild, then make demands”.

Even before the Nazi‑Fascists were definitively defeated, according to the opportunist parties’ line, workers “in the areas liberated from the enemy undertook to work on the material reconstruction of the destroyed cities, gratuitously in their free hours”, and “in exchange, the ownership of the rebuilt properties would pass to workers’ organizations and would be administered according to cooperative criteria” (Sergio Turone, Storia del sindacato in Italia 1943‑1968). So there was already an agreement to transfer the headquarters of the old fascist unions to the new CGIL.

The decisive element in arriving at trade union unity was the unity program launched by the PCI in October 1944. Togliatti then stated:

At the moment when we see that it’s up to the working class and its party to gather around itself all the productive forces of the country and direct them to the reconstruction and rebirth of Italy, we must have the profound consciousness that it’s not possible for our party to fulfill these tasks if it remains a more or less numerous association of propagandists who devote themselves only to the propaganda of our general and ideological objectives. We must succeed in establishing that if we are to fulfill our function we must have a definite program with regard to all the problems of national life; we must make this program known to all the people and we must immediately begin the work for its realization.

The “progressive, democratic, anti‑fascist” Italy that the PCI wanted would be “an Italy in which those groups of privileged people who gave birth to fascism and enriched themselves with fascism, of those national groups that today rule and misrule in the Mezzogiorno will be trampled underfoot, it will be an Italy where the people will have a place made for them, in which a government of the people for the people will be organized, and in which all the youth and all the progressive forces of the country will have their place, will be able to assert themselves and advance in a great united front of liberal and progressive forces”.

We have seen how the PCI put this program into practice: pronouncement in favor of maintaining the Monarchy, releasing fascists from jails and establishment of the “Celere Units" by the Minister of Grace and Justice (Togliatti himself), approval of Article 7 of the Constitution, unleashing layoffs, wage freezes, returning the factories to the old bosses who “enriched themselves with fascism”, etc. (the list could go on and on).

The “reactionary forces” represented by the Christian Democrats immediately fully adhered to the idea of the single trade union: in the minutes of the Trade Union Commission of Catholic anti‑fascism (early 1944), we find adherence to the principle of trade union unity formulated as follows: “(a) A single union better protects the interests of the category represented; (b) it makes the stipulation of the collective agreement, which is an effective instrument for the implementation of the class struggle, more secure; (c) it makes it possible to contain the activity of the union within the limits of action for the protection of union interests, greatly reducing the danger of the union going back to being an instrument of political struggle”.

Contained here are the basic principles of fascist trade unionism, which we will find punctually in the new Confederation, which will not‑coincidentally call itself “Italian”. Unity yes, but to better control the working class, to keep it subservient to the State. Only under these conditions did the bourgeois forces agree to form a single trade union center. These conditions were immediately accepted by the PCI, now transformed into a nationalist party.

Also in the same minutes we read that “it seemed to all present that it responds to the demands of freedom to recognize the right to strike as an instrument for the discussion of the labor contract; on the other hand, there’s also a need that the strike shouldn’t be used for purposes unrelated to union action, and it’s believed by all that this can be achieved: (a) by fixing that strikes must be decided by the national federation; (b) by establishing that strikes are permissible only in the preparation or renewal of the national contract with the clear exclusion of strikes over disputes of application or interpretation of the contract”.

The bosses therefore demanded discipline in the factories, binding contracts, a free hand in the exploitation of labor. They’d get it all, and only the spontaneous rebellions of the workers, immediately put in check by the CGIL, could push them to make some concessions.

By the admission of the opportunists themselves, the bosses, the bourgeoisie, and the State were then “weak”. The PCI took care to strengthen them. In the Rinascita issue of October 1949 we read “It seemed then (1944) that it was not necessary to create a strong and differentiated organization; the spontaneous impetus of the masses, the bosses’ demoralization resulting from the fall of fascism meant that the mere threat of a strike and the beginning of an agitation bent the employers to accept our demands”.

This other admission is also interesting: “The union leaders of the new CGIL were thus chosen more in view of their politics than by elections of the workers. These leaders were proposed first on an equal basis, then according to a proportional basis that was always extremely attenuated with respect to the real power relations”. The PCI accepted that the leadership of the CGIL would be on an equal footing with the PSI and Christian Democrats, which is to say, the direct control of the avowedly bourgeois forces over the trade union organization, voluntarily giving up part of the executive positions. These leaders, Rinascita continues, “completely disinterested in the concrete activities of the unions, were concerned only with the organization of their own current for exclusive party purposes”.

The CGIL was thus born from above, at the initiative of opportunist parties and bourgeois forces, with the express purpose of keeping the Italian proletariat under State control, of preventing its struggle from endangering the interests of the capitalists and their nation‑State, of organizing it first for the continuation of the war, then for reconstruction. This purpose will be achieved in full: the establishment of the CGIL – to which the State as we have seen provided its full support, including financial support – prevented the formation of real class organizations, which would certainly have arisen if the bourgeois forces had not immediately organized the workers’ in such an apparatus.

This isn’t inconsistent with the fact that the CGIL itself conducted or at least didn’t repudiate resolute strikes, both in the immediate postwar period and in the economic boom years. There will also be episodes of violent worker action, but without ever getting out of the control of the union centers, and strikes to the bitter end for months at a time, in vital sectors. The workers also managed to wrest significant economic improvements when the economy was booming. Indeed, the unions couldn’t deny these strikes because then they’d occur anyway and they might have taken the form of revolts against the general capitalist order if they didn’t control them. Their task was not to lose control of them, to limit them as much as possible, in short to make them harmless to the regime’s order in a phase of economic recovery. In all the episodes in which the Italian proletariat showed magnificent combativeness one saw the leaders of the PCI and CGIL rushing in to disarm, divide and sabotage the struggles.

But if then, in a developing economy, it was possible and even necessary, for industry itself, for the trade union to take on the essential workers’ needs as a “manager of the labor force”, for capital, today, on the threshold of a major world economic and political crisis, the same union must deny, must oppose even the most basic steps, the most paltry demands, the most timid and peaceful strikes.

Nothing has changed in trade union politics: regime henchmen were then as they are now. It’s business that no longer works, and the capitalists no longer have but a few crumbs to throw to bribe certain layers of workers. The regime must therefore resort to the hard line: prevent the formation of “free” workers’ organizations, that is, outside the control of the regime unions. That is why the resurgence of class bodies will be their end, for this can only happen by breaking their police control, only outside of and against them.

3. The Reorganization of the CGIL Against the Strikes of 1943

The Pact of Rome, of June 1944 was arrived at, as we have written in previous articles, as a result of top‑level agreements between the three parties PCI, Christian Democrats, PSI, under the patronage of the monarchy and the Badoglio government, which guaranteed the new CGIL the headquarters, funding, even membership, inherited directly from the fascist corporations.

The now imminent victory of the Allies had convinced the Italian bourgeoisie that it could continue its lavish business, at the expense of workers and peasants, only by dumping the old Fascist tools and putting new men in place to protect its interests. The strikes of 1943‑44 in the industrial centers of the North constituted an alarm not only for the bosses but also for the parties reporting to the CLN and the Anglo-American military authorities themselves. Everything suggested that the exploited classes would be on the move when the fascist government collapsed. Thus, the first concern of the bourgeoisie, the Allies, and the opportunist parties was to set up a trade union center under State control that would be the only legal representative of the wage‑workers and to arrive at the replacement of the Fascist government without abrupt shocks: this is the reason that prompted the PCI to support the monarchy, opposing its immediate abolition, and the Badoglio and Bonomi governments.

With the Pact of Rome there was concern on the one hand to reconstitute a center independent in name‑only – otherwise the workers would not join it – but whose central organs were firmly in the hands of the “three currents”, that is, the three parties PCI, Christian Democrats, PSI. The Pact of Rome reads:

The exponents of the main trade union currents of the Italian workers, Communist, Christian Democrat, and Socialist… convinced that the trade union unity of all workers without distinction of political beliefs or religious faith is the most effective instrument for the immense work of reconstruction of the country (work that will necessarily hinge on the forces of labor), in unanimous agreement declare: 1) to achieve trade union unity through the establishment by common initiative of a single confederal body for the entire national territory…; 3) The trade union currents appointed form the provisional leadership of the organization, which is composed as follows: a steering committee of fifteen members for each of the three currents, a provisional general secretariat with executive powers, of three members, one for each of the three currents… The provisional leaderships of the national federations and the provincial confederal chambers of labor will be formed according to the same criteria… The following are appointed as general secretaries: the Hon. Giuseppe Di Vittorio, the Hon. Achille Grandi, and the Hon. Emilio Canevari, who return to office immediately.

The provisional leadership of the CGIL sets itself the following immediate objectives: 1) To promote the organization and integration of the trade union movement in all liberated regions in a single union with the rigorous defense of the urgent interests of the workers; 2) To support with all its forces the war of national liberation in order to hasten the total liberation of the country, which is a prerequisite for the realization of workers’ postulates; 3) To ensure the maximum connection with the working masses of the occupied regions in order to help them with adequate means for the struggle; 4) To study all initiatives to prepare and carry out the reconstruction of the country in full recognition of the right to work; 5) Elaborate a plan for the reconstruction of the cooperative movement inspired by the new demands posed by the situation; 6) Prepare a plan for the transformation of the social security system and institutions by demanding that their direction be taken by the CGIL; 7) Claim from the outset the ownership of all property formerly belonging to the dissolved fascist organizations; 8) Demand from the State compensation for the funds taken away by the fascists from the free organizations to be taken from the proceeds of the confiscation of the illicit assets of the former fascist leaders.

Although formally the statute referred to eligibility for office, in fact the division of offices among the “three currents” extended down to the lowest factory structures, and in every workplace there was an attempt to impose on the workers leaders appointed from above. From the “Communiqué of the Rome Chamber of Labor” of June 14, 1944: “The Internal Commissions are for now constituted by the Quadripartite Committees of the company, composed of the trustees of the four parties [PCI, PSI, Christian Democrats, Partito d’Azione]; the Quadripartite Committees may be joined by other collaborators chosen from among the exponents of the currents excluded from the quadripartite, without prejudice to the principle that only the Quadripartite Committees have the official and provisional representation of the workers”.

The “for now” referred to the Partito d’Azione because only a month later, on July 12, 1944, a communiqué from the CGIL National Secretariat made it known that “only representatives of the three traditional workers’ currents” could be elected to the Internal Committees.

When we say that after World War II the trade unions came from above, at the initiative of the bourgeois State, “based on the Mussolini model”, direct successors of the fascist corporations, we don’t just refer to their national, social appeasement, anti‑class struggle policy, which can easily be read in the statements of the trade union leaders and the PCI. The leaders of the new CGIL were imposed on the class by the same Badoglio government that placed Di Vittorio and company at the head of the old corporations, whose forced membership they inherited. The leaders of the newly minted CGIL will always boast this appointment, this authorization to represent the labor force, these members, and, as we shall see, even in the face of spontaneous and free organizations resurrected in the South at the behest of the workers, but, alas, not “authorized”.

Let us read the – non‑biased in our favor – testimony of Minister of Corporations Leopoldo Piccardi:

My task as minister in the Badoglio government was greatly facilitated by cooperating with those who were striving to start the July 26 experiment toward a democratic solution. I found myself to be the last Minister of Corporations, and my first thought was naturally to change the name into the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor…

But the opportunity for useful action for the purposes that the situation dictated was the trade union organization that depended on that Ministry. If one could not think for the moment of restoring electoral systems that the workers found impeccable, one had to think as quickly as possible of replacing the men who were placed at the head of the union organization with others chosen on the basis of an effort to interpret the organized masses.

One of the first names that presented itself to me was naturally that of Bruno Buozzi, who, because of his very old background in the FIOM and his whole past as a trade unionist, was more suitable than anyone else to head the Confederation of Industrial Workers… Bruno Buozzi came to my study in Via Veneto accompanied by the same police who had kept him in confinement for some years; he came to listen to what this unknown minister of an enigmatic new government was telling him.

Buozzi declared himself fully cooperative, asking, however, that communists also be called upon to participate in the union organization. This request was granted. Thus a Commissioner in the person of Bruno Buozzi was placed at the head of the Confederation of Industrial Workers, and two deputy commissioners, Roveda, a Communist, and Quarello, a Christian Democrat. Again on the basis of an effort to interpret what might have been the mood of the masses, was put Achille Grandi, a Christian Democrat organizer, formerly of the People’s Party, at the head of the Confederation of Agriculture with deputy commissioners Giuseppe Di Vittorio and Oreste Lizzadri; he put Vanoni at the Trade Workers; Storoni at the Merchants, De Ruggero at the Confederation of Professionals and Artists.

After doing this work I found myself the proper instrument to keep in touch with the whole antifascist world and to offer in my turn to the antifascist world a chance to influence the course of things… It came to the conclusion of a trade union pact… in which the antifascist parties declared that they were willing to cooperate with the government, which was understood as a political responsibility of their own…

I leave out other things that there would be to say in order to speak of the August strikes, which constituted for me and for those who collaborated with the Badoglio government another problem of conscience and responsibility… It happened to me to come to Turin to try to put an end to them. On that occasion I had comrades and collaborators in full unity of purpose Bruno Buozzi and Giovanni Roveda… The strikes ceased because I gave the assurance that Italy was on its way to take its place alongside the Allies against Germany.

(Leopoldo Piccardi, I 45 giorni del governo Badoglio in Trent’anni di Storia Italiana, Einaudi, 1961)

On September 19, 1943, tired of the war and bombings, workers in the main cities of the North had in fact gone on strike without any need for “authorization”, demanding:

  1. Immediate and effective release of all political prisoners.
  2. Release of all arrested workers.
  3. Removal of troops from factories.
  4. Immediate establishment of Internal Commissions.
  5. End of the war.

In a statement given to Sergio Turone in Storia del Sindacato in Italia 1943‑1969, Piccardi stated:

The danger we feared was that a declared uprising in the North would divide Italy into three sectors: the fascists, who were still strong, the antifascists, and in‑between the government, which was neither fascist nor antifascist. I went to the North to see if it was possible to get the workers to end the strike, which they intended to continue to the bitter end… There were about 20 people there. It was immediately clear that wage demands didn’t carry fundamental weight at that time. What was most important was that the government end the war… They were convinced to end the strikes.

The meeting between Piccardi and the workers’ spokesmen was held in the prefecture of Turin. Buozzi and Roveda attended it without taking the floor

The work of the union commissioners appointed by the Badoglio government on behalf of HM the King was immediately directed at crushing all workers’ attempts at autonomous organization outside State control.

In Genoa, during the 45 days, union organization had prevailed over political parties. The Genoese workers (Ansaldo, Eridania, San Giorgio, Allestimento Navi…) had elected and imposed their own Internal Commissions on the bosses. On July 31, a decree of the Badoglio government ordered the passage of the trade unions at the prefects’ orders. The workers were not allowed to choose their own representatives.

To the workers’ representatives the government opposed its own Trade Union Commissioner.

“During the police repression”, writes Arturo Dellepiane, “some Genoese citizens lost their lives. Finally the Prefectural Commissioner, faced with the decisive action of the workers, withdrew in good order. The Genoese industrialists recognized the Internal Commissions and the union representatives”.

Deputy Commissioner to the Confederation of Industry Roveda, of the PCI, rebuked the Genoese workers’ spokesmen, “urging them not to engage in negotiations at the local level and to leave it to the national organization to review any form of contract” (Pietro Bianconi, 1943: La CGL sconosciuta)

Another significant testimony to the connivance of the opportunist union leaders and the PCI with the Fascists is that of the former director of Lavoro Fascista Luigi Fontanelli who, in October 1943, in a report to the secretary of the reconstituted Fascist Party, Pavolini, stated:

In the union organizations entrusted to leftist elements it was possible to observe: 1) The extremist elements, who also had on their shoulders years and years of confinement, imprisonment, exile, showed themselves to be extraordinarily objective. They declared that the union on the practical ground did not exist because no assemblies were held and no governing bodies of the categories were made to function, but that much good work had been done especially on the legal ground during these years and that undoubtedly, in the great majority, the fascist union organizers were, besides being honest people in a period which one would like to see as one of general corruption, sincere supporters of the revolutionary function of the union and the working masses. This was the attitude of Buozzi, Roveda, etc., expressed not only in private conversations but in the very action they took.

The agreement on the recognition of the Internal Commissions was signed between the union commissioners and the General Confederation of Italian Industry on September 2, 1943, “under the auspices of H.E. the Minister of Corporations, Dr. Leopoldo Piccardi”.

A few days later, the king and his generals would slip away brilliantly, making fools of the Trade Union Commissioners who had also so diligently cooperated to save the continuity of the monarchy.

German troops took over that police repression operation against the workers that the Italian State had been unable to do: on September 12, an order from Marshal Kesselring warned that all the territory controlled by his troops was subject to “the German laws of war” for which “strike promoters and organizers” would be shot.

This didn’t end the collaboration between the opportunist leaders of the PCI and PSI and the more cunning henchmen of fascism and the monarchy. At the chairmanship of the Central Committee of National Liberation was placed Ivanoe Bonomi, the same one who, Minister of War in 1920, ordered in a circular that all demobilizing army officers (about 60,000) be sent to the most important towns with the order to join the fasci di combattimento. The same one who “had armed the fascists in the fall of 1920, as Minister of War, had campaigned arm in arm with Farinacci in the spring of 1921. He let the fascists and generals allied with the fascists run free during his ministry from July 1921 to February 1922… The fascists made demonstrations to him wherever he went and shouted, ‘long live the military dictatorship’, and he thanked them” (Gaetano Salvemini, Lettera a Bauer, Lussu, Comandini). In addition to being the official representative of the anti‑fascist forces, Bonomi himself was head of the government from June 1944 to June 1945, again with the cooperation of union leaders, the PCI, and the PSI.

The duty of the bourgeois and opportunist forces was then a single matter: ensure the change of government, replace the most compromised and despised fascists, but save the continuity of the State and thus the interests of banks, industry, and land ownership. The danger was that the working class would take advantage of the momentary weakness of the State to impose its own demands, to exact its revenge against the exploiters and parasites. Hence the need to keep it firmly under control, to prevent it from giving itself its own organization. From these premises came the new Italian General Confederation of Labor (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, CGIL), a direct subsidiary of the Fascist Corporations.

4. The Generous Proletarian Struggles in the South and the "Red CGL" in Naples Against the Strikes of 1943

After 4 days of fighting, on Sept. 28, in Naples, a spontaneous popular insurrection drove the German troops out even before the Anglo-American arrival. The Neapolitan proletariat, on the wave of enthusiasm, immediately reconstituted its leagues and its own Chamber of Labor. Within a few days, 26 leagues, with a total of 15,000 members, were resurrected. The following year, members increased to 40,000 in the city alone. The same was done in the other smaller towns, and on December 29, 1943, the first General Council of Leagues was convened on behalf of the old General Confederation of Labor (CGL). At the same time, the organ of the old Confederation, Battaglie Sindacali, was being reissued, writing on the February 20, 1944 issue: “The working class harbors no illusions; it knows that fascism festers under the ashes of the ruins it has brought about and lurks in the monarchy that refuses to leave, in the police State refusing to disappear, in the thousands of forms of immorality surviving.”

This situation obviously worried the so‑called anti‑fascist parties and especially the PCI. It therefore immediately began to work, in concert with the royal police and allied commands, to crush this attempt at independent class reorganization of the southern proletariat. Already at the Congress of the Liberation Committees in Bari, on Jan. 28, 1944, another CGL – one formed from above by the trustees of the CLN parties – opposing the CGL that was revived from below thanks to the push of the proletariat.

In Salerno, from Feb. 18 to 20, 1944, the congress of the Chambers of Labor, Leagues and factory organizations that had freely resurrected under the push of the proletariat, was held. Here speaker Enrico Russo, an old communist leader expelled in 1928 for opposing Stalinism, declared:

July 25 was nothing but the rescue of the bourgeoisie. The label was changed, but fascism remained, and the proletariat understood this very well. From the trade union point of view, serious questions arose after July 25: whether it was more appropriate to use the old fascist apparatus or to create the union "ex novo", also, whether the single State-recognized union or free union was preferable. Attempts were made by comrades Buozzi and Roveda, who were appointed union commissioners, to use the fascist apparatus. In those circumstances, that attempt had to be made. Not today. Today we must take the trade union away from State control because we may find ourselves in the need to engage in a struggle precisely against the State… With the government of the bourgeoisie we cannot come to any agreement… The working masses are resolutely against the Badoglio government which, by covering up the responsibilities of the fascists, renews and strengthens fascism.

On the question of participation in the war on the side of the Allies, the Red CGL leader specified that the Confederation would “urge proletarians to enlist on the condition of a truly working-class volunteerism, with officers chosen by working-class militants themselves… Voluntarism will not be possible unless the absolute certainty is established that the volunteer fighters will not become the instrument of any reaction tomorrow. No worker, no peasant is willing to go and face death except for freedom and a better future for the proletarian class.”

Torre Annunziata’s Chamber of Labor delegate Di Bartolomeo attacked the economic policy of the Badoglio government “based on handouts of large sums to industrialists… such sums of money are taken away from the workers who in this way are forced to finance those who starved them yesterday, today and tomorrow”. A few days before the congress, the Naples Chamber of Labor had promoted the agitation of the 5,000 civil servants and the occupation of the "Ferriere del Vesuvio" where the workers had driven out the fascist leaders. Similar events had occurred at Navalmeccanica, Volturno and other plants.

The Apulian delegates carried the voice of the workers in Taranto where, on February 8, twelve thousand workers from the Tosi and San Giorgio shipyards had taken to the streets and occupied the prefecture; soldiers and sailors promptly called by the authorities refused, however, to fire on the crowd.

On the land question, of fundamental importance in the South, this was the Confederation’s position:

The problem has only one possibility of solution: “land to those who work it!" on this central innovation fit the others that allow such an integral solution to the problem: reclamation, abolition of hunting rights and residual medieval privileges, finally application of all those technical achievements that serve to enhance the land… The only drawback is the necessary tampering with the bourgeois institution of private property. But this is an inconvenience only for those who enjoy private property, not for that vast majority of Southerners who suffer its disastrous consequences.

(Battaglie Sindicali, 18‑6‑1944)

There are first of all day‑laborers. Their economic position even today, does not differ much from that of workers in city industries: starvation wages, extremely strenuous work, and in addition, a constant threat of unemployment… Meanwhile, the organization can do much for the day‑laborers, for the small tenant farmers, and for the poorest peasants; it can – and must – defend them against landlord exploitation, against the exorbitant loan sharking of the Agricultural Consortiums and Inspectorates, against the absurd and unjust demands of the government… One thing seems absolutely certain to us: if we have the good will to do it, and if we know how to do it, the day‑laborers, the small tenant farmers, the poor peasants will be the most vigorous support of the proletarian class, in the struggle for the total and definitive emancipation of all workers…

(Battaglie Sindicali, February 20, 1944) This position was diametrically opposed to the opportunist position that instead supported the subordination of the claims of the laborers to those of the peasants.

In the early months of 1944 proletarian riots broke out throughout the South and especially in Sicily. For the continuation of the war effort, Minister of Agriculture Gullo (PCI) had decreed a grain requisitioning for stockpiling: “The peasant who lets go of his grain, all his grain, performs a patriotic act. Every quantity, however small, of grain taken from the people’s granaries means a new debt of the Italian State, which will be forced to buy flour abroad” (PCI leadership, party bulletin, August 1944).

These “people’s granaries” were controlled by a commission composed of the mayor and representatives of the landowners or people they liked. The minister had also called on prefects to establish “watchdog teams” in each municipality. It soon became clear that the commissions were nothing more than Mafia consortiums and the watchdog squads just squads at their service who blackmailed peasants and terrorized laborers.

In every city, in every small town on the island, trucks escorted by carabinieri and troops could be seen smuggling out grain from the granaries of large landowners to clandestine disposal centers… If we take Palermo as an example, we see that the chairman of the People’s Granaries Control Commission was named Lucio Tasca. As well as mayor of Palermo, separatist leader, acknowledged duce of the landowners and landed gentry, president of the agricultural consortium, he was also the author of a booklet entitled In Praise of the Latifundium, and in his capacity as mayor, he had provided for the opening of the Palermo Chamber of Labor, appointing two responsible secretaries in the persons of one Vincenzo La Manna and a Giovanni Patrizio, providing them with a subsidy for their expenses. The two secretaries of the Chamber of Labor then appointed the workers’ representatives to the control commission.

(Pietro Bianconi, La CGL sconosciuta).

Thus poor peasants and laborers were forced to buy back the grain the State was taking from them on the black market. On March 31, 1944, in Partinico (Palermo), peasants and laborers took to the streets against the hoarders; carabinieri fired into the crowd, killing a 16-year-old boy.

In Enna, May 27, carabinieri fire on crowd protesting a separatist leader’s rally: 2 killed and 2 wounded.

In Licata (Agrigento), carabinieri and policemen fire on a procession of laborers: 3 dead and 15 wounded.

In Palermo, in early October, municipal clerks go on strike demanding wage increases; the Chamber of Labor (controlled, as we have seen, by the Mafia) calls these struggles “incompetent, chaotic, unregulated by responsible bodies”. The Chamber of Labor is echoed by the PCI and PSI, which deem the strike irresponsible and led by “improvised leaders”. On the 18th postal workers, construction workers, bank workers and railway workers join the strike, which becomes general; a procession makes its way to the prefecture – soldiers fire machine guns and throw hand grenades at the unarmed crowd: 90 dead and more than 100 wounded.

In the meantime, the fortunes of the war are rapidly turning in favor of the Anglo-Americans, and the Italian bourgeoisie is anxious to regain its virginity; it wants to present itself at the peace negotiations on the right side: that of the victors. Therefore, it tries in every way to reconstitute its own army to participate in operations against yesterday’s allies. The collaboration of the PCI is also decisive here because it is workers and peasants who have to go “die for the fatherland”:

“It’s good to remember that the working class isn’t against all wars. It struggles resolutely against unjust wars… but it supports just wars”.

(Togliatti, Rinascita, June 1944)

Large mass demonstrations, meetings and rallies must be organized during which the example of those departing for combat must be extolled. Parades of volunteers must be organized through the streets of cities and towns, with placards, marching bands, songs, so as to arouse enthusiasm and interest in all strata of the population…

(PCI party bulletin, January-February 1944)

Comrades recalled to arms should be recommended by the Federations to comply with the recall. If the comrades object to the still reactionary character of the Italian military bodies, the continuing presence of cadres linked to fascism in them, still in force, it must be answered that the party through its representatives in the government strives to improve this situation…

(PCI party bulletin, October 1944)

But the proletarians and peasants were tired of the war and didn’t want to go and fight for the government of the bourgeoisie and landowners, didn’t want to go back to the orders of the King’s generals, the same ones who had led them to slaughter in 4 years of war on the side of Germany, the same ones who ordered to shoot at the starving crowds:

“Pink postcards” arrived by the hundreds every day, particularly in the provinces of Ragusa, Palermo, Caltanissetta: "In the name of H.R.H. Umberto di Savoia Lieutenant of the Kingdom, within 10 days you will report to the Military District of _____… bring with you bib, spoon, blankets”. Numerous veterans who returned to their homes "filthy and hungry, were stopped and sent to the Military Tribunals as deserters, or as recruits in the old barracks, where they did not know how to feed and make use of them". Women went to burn pink cards in front of Military Districts. Long columns of demonstrators came from the countryside carrying signs on which was written "we aren’t cannon fodder”, “land, not war”.
(Pietro Bianconi, La CGL sconosciuta)

On December 14, riots and protests began in Ragusa. To women protesting the non‑payment of the subsidy to military families, the city secretary had replied, “Go whore yourselves out to the Americans!” (Maria Occhipinti, Una donna di Ragusa). On the morning of January 4 the authorities decided on a roundup: “the soldiers would take all the young men they could find in the barbers’, shoemakers’, and cartwrights’ stores”, and as they were found they would load them onto trucks. Thus proceeded the recruitment under the watchful eye of the PCI, with real summary executions at every sign of resistance: a young member of the PCI is machine-gunned as he tries to flee, the S. Giovanni sacristan tries to protect a young man from capture: “an officer threw a hand grenade at him, blowing his head away from his torso” – thus begins the insurrection in Ragusa: the popular neighborhood known as “Ia Russia” is occupied; soldiers and carabinieri flee in terror:

On Jan. 5, a group of young men from Comiso, after going around the province distributing looted provisions, arrived in a truck in Ragusa and occupied the upper part of the city… a large group of insurrectionaries stormed the checkpoint at Beddio (Jan. 5) and Annunziata, killed a finance guard and captured 9 others armed… In the afternoon all the people marched to the Prefecture.

(Avanti!, Feb. 21, 1945).

On the morning of the 7th a company of soldiers attempted to storm the La Russia neighborhood, but after a hard battle they ended up surrendering. “An artillery unit from Caltanissetta was attacked three kilometers from Ragusa, disarmed and taken hostage, after the lieutenant was killed”.

(Avanti!, Feb. 21, 1945)

At last some units under the command of General Ronco and a column of soldiers under the command of General Brisotto arrived in Ragusa. The rebels were routed, went into hiding, whence they were snatched away and sent to concentration camps.

(Avanti!, Feb. 21, 1945)

“The terror lasted more than a week. While hundreds of working families suffered for their children captured or killed, the fascists continued to walk the city streets undisturbed. Those arrested were almost all communists and socialists”.

(Maria Occhipinti, Una donna di Ragusa)

The anti‑war agitation spread throughout the South and was intertwined with the demands of rural wage‑earners, sharecroppers, and the protests of poor peasants against grain requisitioning; everywhere carabinieri and police intervened in defense of the landowners by killing, arresting, and delivering beatings. Seminara, Laureana di Borrello, Messina, Caltanissetta, Bari, Minervino Murge, Andria, Cerignola.

In Lecce, carabinieri fired on a crowd protesting in front of the Prefecture: 4 dead and 40 wounded.

Proletarians responded by arming themselves, raising barricades and attacking police forces.

The government sent the PCI minister Scoccimarro to Apulia to “calm down moods”. Let us listen to his report:

The objectives I set out to achieve can be summarized as follows: 1) to put an immediate end to all resistance by armed squads… 2) to pose the question of disarmament… 3) to re‑establish the authority and prestige of the government authorities… I arranged for the party leaders to make contact at the local Carabinieri command in order to ensure the closest cooperation among all the forces engaged in the return of normalcy… I was meanwhile warned that the population of Andria wanted me to speak in the square… I wanted at my side, while I spoke to the crowd the colonel commander of the Carabinieri and the deputy police chief Severini.

(L’Azione, July 4, 1945)

Thus, after changing its label from fascist to democratic, the State again shown its true nature: protection for the rich classes, for landowners, mafiosi, exploiters; beatings, jail and bullets for proletarians and poor peasants.

The generous proletariat of the South, crushed by the infamous alliance of the bosses, priests, generals, former Fascist thugs, false communists and socialists, would also bear the greatest burden of National Reconstruction with emigration, unemployment, starvation wages and then more beatings, jail and bullets which not even the “democratic republic that came out of the resistance” would fail to deliver to its exploited classes.

5. The Strikes in the Large Factories in the North

March 1943

Already in the first half of 1942, the first strikes occurred in factories in the North. At Alfa Romeo in Milan and Tedeschi in Turin they were relatively successful; they were crushed at Fiat Mirafiori and Ilva in Milan.

The October 1942 issue of L’Unità wrote: “The last few months have been characterized by a growing wave of movements by workers in the major industrial cities of Italy. These movements, for the most part due to rationing, wages inadequate to the cost of living, and attempts to lower wages, often result in strikes.”

In March 1943, the start came from Fiat Mirafiori in Turin. It was scheduled for March 1st, but management prevented the strike by announcing a wage increase of 50 liras as a down payment on future improvements. The strike was then postponed to day 5 and succeeded only in some factories. The starting signal should have been the alarm test siren that sounded throughout Italy at 10 a.m. As this news leaked out, the authorities decided to silence the siren. The strike, however, also took place in other factories, such as at Lingotto where, says Ruffa, one of the organizers, “it didn’t take much discussion: five or six of us moved, no more, and the factory within a few minutes was blocked”.

On March 8 and 12, participation became massive. Magno Barale, one of the protagonists, later arrested and referred to the Tribunale Speciale, recalls, “In my life as a worker I have participated in many strikes, but I have never seen such total participation. Everyone stopped and I must point out that at Fiat Ricambi there were only three of us who did not have Fascist Party cards.”

The Turin police headquarters resorted to the trick of summoning the workers’ representatives “to examine their demands” and, of course, arrested them. Nevertheless, the strike continued:

Lively and harsh was also the participation of women workers in the Turin days. It was in many cases the impetuosity of the women that disconcerted the policemen and made their intimidation work fail. Among those arrested were four women workers.

(Sergio Turone, Storia del Sindacato in Italia)

On the 17th, the deputy secretary of the Fascist Party, Carlo Scorza, arrived in Turin and ordered all registered workers to wear black shirts “even in the workplace”. No one obeyed.

On the 24th, the strike spread to Milan at Pirelli, Falk, and Magneti Marelli; then to other parts of Lombardy and even Liguria.

A leaflet circulated in Piedmont said, “Workers, clerks! Mussolini’s government, responsible for dragging our country into an unjust and ruinous war, wants to starve us to death, giving us derisory wages, paying us with checks instead of currency and extending the workday to 12 hours. Let’s stop working, let’s prepare the strike. Let’s protest in every way to demand that our wages be paid in currency.”

One of the major demands was that of 192 hours, i.e., the end-of-year compensation or 13th month (but how “corporatist” these 1943 workers were!). Mussolini in one of his last ramblings said, “I declare in the most explicit way that I won’t give a single cent. We aren’t the liberal State that can be blackmailed by a one‑hour work stoppage in some workshop” (Giuseppe Bottai, Vent’anni e un giorno).

There had been an attempt to end the strike with some concessions at the Riv of Villar Perosa when Agnelli himself proposed to the strikers an increase that was deemed acceptable; but the strike went on and the workers refused.

Other episodes:

On March 27, at Bianchi in Milan the strike had been going on for half an hour when, in gray‑green uniforms, a group of amputees arrived in front of the factory. The lieutenant leading them spoke from a loudspeaker, illustrating the sacrifices being made by the soldiers at the front. A worker answered on behalf of the strikers, illustrating the miserable conditions of the workers’ families, amidst misery, hardships of war, danger of bombing, and displacement. The amputees walked away in silence. The emotional trick was tried on other factories as well. On March 29, at Caproni in Milan, the amputees were greeted by the applause of the strikers and it was a worker who apostrophized them: We were not waiting for you, you people are poor like us. It’s the bosses and the fascist hierarchs who must come, it’s they who hoard money on your blood and our sweat.

(Segio Turone, Storia del Sindacato in Italia)

Meanwhile, the newspapers reported on the visit of undersecretary Tullio Cianetti to Milan, who had gone “to some industrial plants, where he addressed words of incitement and faith to the workers that provoked in the masses a profound echo of will and work”. In fact, where he showed up, Cianetti was soundly booed. “Even those groups of workers who passed for fascists, and probably believed they were, participated united in the strike. The fact was reported by Tullio Cianetti in his deposition at the Verona trial in 1944.”

Carmine Senise, chief of police in Turin, writes in his memoirs that at Fiat there was a special Fascist militia legion, the “18th of November”, “made up entirely of workers from those factories, created by an agreement between the Party and the managers of that industry for the purpose of controlling the political behavior of the masses: well, the militiamen took part in the strike like all the other workers" (Carmine Senise, Quando ero capo della Polizia).

The workers on that occasion showed composure and irresistible strength; the Fascist government was too weak to resist their pressure. In fact, "il Duce" had to go back on his word: most of the demands were accepted, and only then did the strike end.

August 1943

But the war continued. On August 19, 1943, after the massive bombings of Milan, Turin, and Bologna, workers in the major centers of the North went on strike demanding recognition of the Internal Commissions (which had been abolished in 1925), the release of arrested workers and political prisoners, the removal of troops and squadristi from the factories, and an end to the war. It was on that occasion that Piccardi, the last Minister of Corporations, went to Turin to persuade the workers to end the strike. On that occasion he was accompanied by Buozzi (PSI) and Roveda (PCI), Union Commissioners of the Corporations appointed by the Badoglio government.

The presence of the two social-communist regime bureaucrats induced the workers to trust their promises and cease the strike. What they gained by trusting these traitors was seen a few days later with the September 8 flight of Badoglio, the King, and his generals, the descent of Marshal Kesselring’s troops, the formation of the republic of Salò, the continuation of the war, the death penalty and deportation for the strikers.

But neither pressure nor the fascists’ extreme attempt to ingratiate themselves with the laboring classes by establishing the “social” republic succeeded in stopping the workers.

One of the first acts of the Salò government was to declare that the Internal Commissions would be maintained because they represented “an organizational necessity, as well as a guarantee, and perhaps the greatest, that the rights of the workers, recognized in the freely established pacts, would not be tampered with in their application in the companies” (Corriere della Sera, Nov. 15, 1943).

But these attempts by the fascist government had no effect: for example at Innocenti in Milan, for the renewal of the Internal Commissions, out of 5,000 eligible to vote, the fascists could collect only 297 ballots of which only 14 were valid, the others were canceled with phrases of derision or demands for wage increases.

November 1943

On November 2, the workers of Breda in Milan went on strike: they demanded wage revaluation and payment for the hours in which the company suspended production. On the 18th, Fiat workers in Turin went on strike against orders to continue working during the bombing, and in protest against food rationing. The workers’ representatives met for rationing negotiations with the German authorities, the demands were largely accepted, and the strike ended on December 1, 1943, after a show of force by German troops around Mirafiori.

At the very same time in Milan the agitation was spreading; these were the demands of the Milanese workers: “1) increase of the bread ration to 500 grams for all workers and clerks and 100% increase of foodstuffs in general; 2) increase of wages and salaries by 100%; 3) payment of 192 hours to the workers of the Christmas bonus; 4) immediate payment of the 500 lira bonus; 5) absolute control of the company cafeteria; 6) abolition of income tax, union dues and leisure activities payments; 7) absolute end to layoffs: suspended workers to be paid 75% from the Supplementary Fund and 25% from the company itself of the minimum of 40 hours; 8) minimum hours so that everyone enjoys 6 days of attendance a week”. As we can see, it’s precisely those “shallow and vulgar” material claims against which today’s regime union bureaucrats rage and which are so despised by intellectualoid groups.

Sesto San Giovanni was the workers’ stronghold. After four days the Germans intervened: some were arrested, then released. The German consul, standing on a tank, spoke to the strikers: if work resumed immediately they would get the same improvements the Turin workers had; if not, the factories, canteens, food stores would be closed and pay suspended. “At 11:30 General Zimmerman arrives who threatens: those who do not resume work are to leave the plant; those who leave are declared enemies of Germany. All workers leave the plant” (Il grande sciopero di Milano in Nostra lotta, January 1944).

Here is another episode reported by our own newspaper, Prometeo, in its December 1943 issue:

Falk (Sesto San Giovanni): when the strike broke out on Monday, the manager of our plant spoke to us making promises and at the same time threatening us that the Germans would intervene if we didn’t go back to work. His words were met with resounding whistles, and the strike continued. When lo and behold a German tank enters the yard, an officer comes out of it and throws cigarettes at the workers; but we all protest and there are those who tell him to point the cannons at management… On Wednesday evening, at 8 p.m., Chief Engineer Maino comes among us and announces the imminent arrival of the Germans. Shortly afterwards a platoon of Carabinieri enters the plant and arrests 10 workers. Three of these are picked up by the marshal who, led by engineer Maino, turns them over to the Germans, while we free the other seven. The next morning we await the arrival of Engineer Maino; in fact, as soon as he arrives, he tries to exculpate himself, but we hit him with stones and take him as a hostage until the other comrades are freed. And so it happens: however, the request for the release of three other comrades arrested a few weeks earlier is rejected because they were (the thugs say) arrested for “political” reasons. The irritation of our comrades is at a maximum. On Saturday the strike persists and everyone is firmly resolved to continue to Monday until the requested increases are obtained.

Also from Prometeo here is the text of a leaflet then launched by our party to the Milanese workers:

Milanese workers! You have crossed your arms. Whether your demands today are met or not, you are inevitably moving down a blind alley, and will soon be forced to cross your arms again. Because the capitalists and the Nazi‑fascist government, who are responsible for the war, are incapable not only of solving the tremendous crisis that has pulverized the national economy, but even of feeding you and your families, while still forcing you to make cannons for the war.

Workers! You have one single means to get out of the crisis: make your class strength a conscious revolutionary force. Only by tightly uniting against war, against capitalism, against the exploiters of all colors who use your arms and your lives for their criminal struggle for domination, only by shifting your action from economic to political ground, will you succeed in breaking the chains that still imprison you.

Workers! To capitalism, stricken to death by its own war, counterpose now your capacity and strength as a new ruling class. Against fascism, which wants the continuation of the German war, and against the six‑party National Front, which wants the continuation of the democratic war, organize yourselves in the workplace, cement in a proletarian United Front your common interests, your own class destiny which shows you that the decisive struggle for the conquest of power has already begun.

The Internationalist Communist Party is at your side. Down with the fascist war! Down with the democratic war! Long live the proletarian revolution!

In Genoa, the strikes began later, on December 16, but were marked by much harsher clashes.

The day before, on the 15th, Minister Ribbentrop telegraphed the German ambassador in Rome: “I agree that you bring the strikers before courts-martial and arrest here and there, to set an example, a thousand people, sending them as military internees to Germany. The Führer also gives you powers to arrest the ringleaders and immediately shoot them as communists.”

On the 17th, three workers in Pontedecimo and Bolzaneto were arrested and shot. On the 20th all of Genoa was on strike. In the days around Christmas in Genoa and other centers such as Savona there were armed clashes with casualties on both sides. Clashes, strikes, bombings, and executions continued into January.

At this very beginning of 1944, the fascist regime, hoping to bind the workers to itself, played the card of “socialization”, along, of course, with the traditional card of repression. The legislative Decree on the socialization of companies of February 12, 1944 established that organs of the socialized enterprise were: the head of the company, the assembly, the board of directors, and the board of auditors. The assembly “shall be attended by representatives of the workers with a number of votes equal to the number of votes of the capital”. The board would be made up of “half of the shareholders’ representatives and half of the workers’ representatives”.

Here again we have a nice show of how the current regime union bureaucrats are good students of Mussolini; it was fascism that invented co‑management, “worker participation” in the company, the entry of unions into the boards of directors, in short, what is now called “responsible trade unionism”. It’s no coincidence that Sergio Turone, the author of the text we use extensively, a PSI member, calls this decree “not without a potential innovative will”.

But this attempt to involve workers in the management of their own exploitation could not succeed for the Fascists; Democrats would later have better luck. In a report dated June 20, 1944, the head of the Fascist Federation of Clerical Workers Anselmo Vaccari wrote “The workers consider socialization a decoy and keep away from it and from us”.

March 1944

Lack of basic necessities and the resulting price hikes soon nullified the wage increases achieved. The war and bombing continued and discontent grew among the workers. On Feb. 10, 1944, the Secret Committee of Agitation of Piedmont, Lombardy, and Liguria circulated a manifesto in which, in addition to economic demands, a general strike was announced. The call to strike was discussed and accepted by representatives of the largest factories. The CLNAI (Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale Alta Italia) joined in the action. The CLN parties sought in this way to take the workers’ agitations under their control and on the one hand use them to assist the Anglo-American armies, and on the other gain the necessary influence to get the workers to go on working hard even after the collapse of the fascists. Only the revolutionary communists had the courage to say that the working class should be on neither the side of the Germans nor the Americans, but fight only for itself, for its class war.

The strike was successful, with talk of a million strikers in German-occupied Italy. Neither threats nor deportations could stem the tide. Under the circumstances, given that underlying the strike were also political claims such as the refusal to continue manufacturing for the war, given that this agitation came after two previous strikes which, though victorious, had practically demonstrated that the central issue lay in the overthrow of the fascist regime, the continuation of the strike would have without a doubt meant the outbreak of an armed insurrection. But this would have been too dangerous; the workers, having overthrown the fascists, would not have stopped and would not have submitted easily to the national front comprising the monarchy, the clergy, former fascist officials converted at the last moment and insurrection; it would have been extremely dangerous for them and the bourgeoisie, which they represented, to have a workers’ insurrection break out before the arrival of the Allied troops. The Italian bourgeoisie State did not have the strength to “maintain order”, that is, to safeguard the property and interests of the bourgeoisie. The most dangerous thing from this point of view would have been the establishment of workers’ militias, which, even if one could not think of a revolutionary outlet, would have posed a serious danger to the safety of the classes that had grown rich protected by fascism.

Thus, the CLN parties truncated the strike after a week by giving Badoglian generals.

That is why the CLNAI parties did not launch the slogan of the workers orders to demobilize. On March 8 they circulated a manifesto saying “The agitation committees that called you to strike, now call you to the preparation of this decisive struggle. Return to your factories and offices, resume your work, but return not to capitulate in the face of opposing bullying, but to prepare to respond to force with force.” It was to be the Anglo-American troops, with whom the Italian bourgeoisie was now allied, and not the workers who controlled the square. Class warfare was not to upset the plans for war between States.

In a PCI publication, commenting on this strike taken over and crushed by the CLN, we read “Already eight or ten days before the strike we had noticed that confused ideas about its character were coming to the fore, and our organizations tried to specify the character of political-demands of the movement. It was made clear that this could not yet be the insurrectionary strike. But this work of clarification was not long enough or sufficient enough” (La nostra lotta, March 1944).

The Northern workers had amply demonstrated that they were also ready to challenge the German troops now not only for wage demands, but to force an end to the war. The false workers’ parties, on the other hand, wanted to make them fight on the front of Anglo-American imperialism to enable the Italian bourgeoisie to present itself, at the end of the war, on the side of the victors; therefore, they crushed any independent class attempts by the proletariat.

The transition from the fascist to the post-fascist regime had to be as gradual and smooth as possible. After the shameful flight of the king and the Badoglio government to maintain order in the factories came the German troops; and seamlessly the retreat of the German troops was to be immediately succeeded by the Allied troops, to safeguard the lives and property of the bosses who had done good business in the shadow of the Fascist regime and who will do just as good business in the shadow of the democratic one.

Opportunist parties have some difficulty in recalling these significant events and generally prefer to ignore them. In fact these waves of strikes, which are part of our red tradition and disprove all their theses, prove that:

6. The Liquidation of Naples’ Red CGL

We have seen in previous parts how in Naples, when the Allied troops arrived, the proletarians had immediately revived the Chamber of Labor and how they soon arrived at the establishment of the Red CGL, which brought together numerous leagues and Chambers of Labor in the South.

This organization, born on the wave of workers’ momentum, had immediately claimed a proletarian and class character and maintained a hostile attitude toward the Badoglio government, of which the PCI and PSI were members. At the Salerno Congress of Feb. 18‑20, 1944, a motion had been voted in which it declared that it “does not recognize any program of national reconstruction aiming at reasserting private property and at revaluing the privilege of capital over labor”.

One can well understand how this organization was to arouse the PCI’s hatred. As soon as he arrived in Italy at the end of March, Togliatti declared that the PCI had no intention of being inspired by “a self‑styled narrow class interest" (L’Unità, April 2, 1944 issue). The PCI member Pesenti, undersecretary of Finance in the Badoglio government, declared that the government’s lines of action were: “The defense of State property, the reconstruction of national resources, the strengthening of productive forces to give bread and work to the people and to increase the quantity of products" (L’Unità, May 1944 issue). Giorgio Amendola, commenting on this period in Il comunismo italiano nella seconda guerra mondiale, stated “Our leading comrades were forced to fight against extremist elements who spoke of nothing less than declaring the monarchy deposed”.

The rise of the CGL in Naples was a dangerous precedent because it clashed against the project of establishing the tricolor trade union enshrined in the Pact of Rome, which, as we have seen, with the agreement of the PCI, PSI, Christian Democrats and with the Vatican’s approval, prefigured union unity from above, under State control. Therefore against the CGL immediately began an offensive mainly animated by the Stalinists of the PCI: smear campaign, personal pressure, attempts to bribe with the offer of posts, demanding the appointments to “union commissioners” received from the Badoglio government.

The first issue of Bollettino di Partito, a monthly publication of the PCI leadership, from August 1944 thus expresses itself about the leaders of the Red CGL: “These are some renegades expelled from our party, led by an element alien to the working class recently rained in from across the sea… These people in a vain attempt to preserve their personal positions grabbed in an early moment of confusion, immediately sided against the Pact of Rome.”

Not bad, if you think that this denunciation came from people who supported the monarchy and collaborated with a government made up of the same generals who shortly before, with the imperial eagle on their hats, had led the Italian proletarians to massacre. Prominent among them was War Minister Taddeo Orlando, denounced by the Slovenes as a war criminal. Also notable was the presence of Councilor Pippo Naldi, financier of Mussolini’s Popolo d’Italia, and Minister Renato Prunas, former Fascist ambassador to Madrid.

To those socialists and Partito d’Azione members who didn’t want to join the government of the military Togliatti had replied “There are good Italians even outside our six parties, if we want a policy of national unity we have to take them into consideration” (Aurelio Lepre, La svolta di Salerno). Sure, these who were the “good Italians”, while the “renegades” the PCI spoke of were mostly old communist militants who had known fascist jails.

The May 21 issue of L’Unità stated that the CGL leaders elected at the Salerno congress should be disavowed and a free election of leaders should be held as soon as possible “on the basis of the membership”. Of course, the membership to which L’Unità referred was the forced membership of the fascist corporations whose “legitimate representation” the PCI men had inherited through their appointment as union commissioners.

Learning from the newspapers of the Pact of Rome, the CGL leaders naively expressed their disappointment that they had not been consulted, and their conviction that workers’ representation had been divided among the political currents. However, they affirmed their willingness “1) to establish contacts as soon as possible with workers in Rome and beyond Rome, from all over Italy, and thus extend the work to all of liberated Italy; 2) to prepare, in agreement with comrades in liberated Italy, the consultation of the peripheral organs through regional congresses to be convened if possible within a month, which would discuss union and organizational problems and designate one representative from each province to serve on the National Council”.

On June 26, a group of trade unionists, who had already organized in Bari, switched en bloc to the CGIL in Rome, claiming the appointment they had received from Badoglio and the representation of 150,000 union members, the number of members of the old fascist corporation. They declared the CGL leaders “unauthorized and usurpers of the title of leaders”. The PCI’s weekly Azione Proletaria, in its June 15, 1944 issue, read, “It’s brought to the attention of the peasants, clerks and workers that the Naples CGL is a body that proposes to erode the unity and concord of the working classes. The Bari Confederation, on the other hand, represents and protects the interests of the working class.”

Meanwhile, while on the one hand mock negotiations were opened with CGL leader Dino Gentili to discuss the criteria for representing southern workers and hinting at the possibility of recognition of the leaders of the Neapolitan CGL, on the other hand the CGIL in Rome, unbeknownst to them, announced the convening of a southern union congress.

This is how the Battaglie Sindacali issue of August 20 commented: “The CGIL representatives are announcing a congress that should be held at the end of October, without prior consultation with us. Evidently, they prefer to maneuver the congress unchecked and organize it in a totalitarian way from Rome. In the meantime, they continue the disruptive work of the organization, through pressure and threats on organizer comrades to join Rome and have their respective organizations join. Deliberations determined by fear, ignorance of the facts, mimicry, resting in a word on sad residues that fascism has left in the fiber of Italians, are thus forced.”

At the same time, as is easy to imagine, individual pressures were being exerted on CGL leaders and in particular on former PCI militants who were threatened with expulsion. There were therefore the resignations of Vincenzo Iorio, secretary of the Naples Chamber of Labor, Vincenzo Bosso, secretary of the telegraph workers, and Confederation executive member Vincenzo Gallo forced by the PCI to write no less than two letters of abjuration.

The CGL thus decided to convene a convention of representatives of the leagues and territorial organizations in Naples on August 27 to discuss what to do. Shortly before the convention, in a letter to Enrico Rosso, Di Vittorio, Lizzadri, and Grandi, after stating that the Naples Confederation, after the resignation of some of its leaders and the vote to join the CGIL in Rome by others, “no longer has any reason to exist”, continued: “We inform you – and please inform the other members of the confederation’s executive council who were still formally in office – that in the coming days a representation of our confederal secretariat will travel to Naples and will naturally demand the handing over of material belonging to the former Naples Confederation. At the same time please cease publication of Battaglie Sindacali whose masthead rightfully belongs to the only labor confederation existing in Italy today.”

Present at the Naples Convention on the 27th were more than 100 delegates from the Leagues and the secretaries of numerous Chambers of Labor. Opening the proceedings on behalf of the executive, Dino Gentili stated, “We have only two ways left, either to remain as the CGL or to join the CGIL. The first way is impossible not only because of the enormous difficulties, especially financial, but also and above all because the existence of two General Confederations of Labor would in time create a real split in the labor movement. That leaves the second way: it’s necessary for all our organizations to join the CGIL… This is the invitation of the Executive Committee of our Confederation”. In the end, the convention made the following decision: “The convention elects a Liaison Committee for the defense of the principles of unity, democracy and the class nature of the trade union movement within the CGIL, and to represent within it the minority groups of liberated Italy that will enter it for the purpose of realizing the unity of all workers in a single apparatus. It takes the name of the Committee of the Trade Union Left.”

The CGL leaders, while submitting to the dissolution injunction that came from Rome, expressed their willingness to continue the battle as a class-based fraction within the CGIL. But even the Committee of the Trade Union Left was not recognized by the Roman hierarchs. In this regard, Di Vittorio declared, “The motion voted on at the Naples convention of August 27 is still a motion of a secessionist character because with the affirmation of the postulate of class struggle it accentuates in this sense the positions of a part of the proletarian forces and aims to provoke a split with the Christian Democrats who cannot follow unionism on this level" (Battaglie Sindacali, Sept. 17, 1944 issue).

Thus, having liquidated the weak but selfless attempt to rebuild the red CGL, the legitimate heirs of the fascist corporations could confidently prepare the tools to contain and cage proletarian struggles.

7. The Policy of Sacrifice, 1945

1945: The Management Councils

After the retreat of German troops from Northern Italy, the first problem facing the CLN parties was to restore the productive efficiency of the factories and labor discipline. The bosses had prudently stood aside for fear of revenge from the workers who had seen them get rich protected by the fascist squads. Significant is the episode of May 12, 1945 at Fiat in Turin where the old manager Valletta dared to attend the funerals of two workers killed by the Germans and was narrowly saved by immobilizing a worker who was about to machine‑gun him to death.

The CLN parties were far from wanting to strike a blow against the propertied classes and had amply demonstrated this by collaborating to save the monarchy, i.e., the continuity of the State, with the Badoglio and Bonomi governments, former Fascist apparatchiks. Handing back the factories to the old masters, however, would’ve meant unleashing the wrath of the workers who were already on the move in a situation of extreme weakness of the State. This would certainly have meant not revolution, but a situation of continuous unrest and armed riots that would have endangered not only property but the very physical safety of the bourgeoisie and landowners.

Therefore, during this period, the factory owners were careful not to claim their property and holed themselves up, leaving it to the PCI, PSI, and CGIL who would hand it back to them three years later with the plants intact, often renovated and expanded, with the workers well‑disciplined and ready to be exploited for starvation wages once more.

In this area, too, the solution adopted was nothing original, carrying on the initiative of the Fascist government. On April 17, 1945, a CLNAI decree established company management councils using the technical outline and structures provided by the legislative Decree on the socialization of companies issued by the Salò government on February 12, 1944. In fact, the new decree provided for the following management bodies: head of company, assembly, board of auditors, and board of directors. The assembly was attended by workers’ representatives with the same number of votes as capital. The board of directors consisted of half of the shareholders and half of the workers’ representatives. In case of a tie, the vote of the head of the company would be decisive. Even from a strictly arithmetical point of view, leaving aside all other considerations, the workers would always be in the minority.

To show with what intent the opportunist parties reconstituted the management councils we quote from a report by Giovanni Battista Santhià, PCI representative on the Fiat Council, given on December 18, 1945:

The imbalance between overhead and production is significant. The number of workers exceeds requirements; of the employees 40% is too much. Fiat has not demobilized, and it must be kept in mind that demobilizing would be necessary to reorganize production on the peace plan. Even after the other war in the transition from war production to peace production demobilization had been necessary. It’s clear that all those who should and aren’t demobilized affect the budget. In addition, more than 7,000 partisans, POWs and veterans were hired each year. You know that non‑productive labor is dead weight for Fiat.

A document of the CGIL executive dated September 23, 1945 says:

Only through the direct participation of the workers in the management of the company, achievable through the work of the management councils, is it possible to arouse the ’labor fever’, the enthusiasm of the working masses in the productive effort. Management councils, already in place in the most important workshops of Northern Italy, have yielded fully positive results, judged as such even by the employers.

And the “employers” should very well be satisfied: in many companies, workers worked for free for months to restore the plants back to efficiency; through the management councils, piecework and incentives in general were reintroduced, and labor discipline and the submission of workers to company management were re‑established. Never would the bosses have achieved such results if they had run their companies directly. After three years, the repressive force of the State having been reconstituted, the wave of proletarian struggles having ebbed, they could safely take over the management of the companies themselves and liquidate the management boards by kicking out their servants, perhaps accusing them, with mocking irony, of “Bolshevism”.

1946: The CGIL gives the green light to layoffs

In his report to the 1st National Congress of the CGIL in 1947, Di Vittorio clearly enunciated the goal of the regime union: “To hold the popular masses in a composure that must be envied by countries richer than ourselves”.

But this Mussolinian aspiration couldn’t be implemented by Mussolini’s methods. The class pressure was too strong, and in many cases the tricolor union had to endure it. Only a careful and skillful dosage of relief valves and repression could enable it not to lose control of the situation.

In November 1945 the workers imposed a freeze on layoffs and the CGIL, despite itself, had to make it its own. A document of the executive approved on September 23, 1945, accepted the opposition to the unfreezing on layoffs, but made it clear that “the working masses are ready to take on other sacrifices in order to alleviate the conditions of companies with redundant personnel. For Italy to be reborn, for the Italian people to emerge from the present shambles and misery, we must develop production, increase labor, which is the only way to salvation.”

In his report to the 1st Congress Di Vittorio will say that this freeze “has for a considerable time constituted a serious burden”. The leaders of the PCI and CGIL endured this freeze out of fear of an uprising of the masses, waiting for the most opportune moment to give the green light for layoffs. As early as April 1945 the Bollettino di Partito, organ of the PCI leadership, stated:

The reasons of human solidarity that led the trade unions to oppose layoffs of personnel in companies where the work of one person is done by three or four, were understandable during the war of liberation; but this cannot be the right criterion that must inspire the work of rebirth of the country… To heal our economy we must raise the working performance.

In July 1945, however, the CGIL had to sign an agreement to grant the unemployed in the North 75% of wages. To Neapolitan trade unionists protesting the exclusion of the South from this agreement, Di Vittorio explained, “The industrialists made billions, the workers saved their workshops. It was right that at the time of the reduction of work the industrialists helped their workers. The CGIL, before the ministers concerned, declared precisely that the burden must be borne exclusively by the employers and not by the State.”

Another example of the CGIL’s “southern policy” were the agreements of December 1945 and May 1946 by which the sliding scale was introduced in industry, but also fixed what were later called “wage cages (gabbie salariali)”, that is, 4 zones with different wages and treatment, one of the finest gifts ever given to industrialists.

In January 1946, the freeze on layoffs expired, and opportunist leaders thought the time was ripe to give the bosses a free hand. With the agreement of Jan. 19, the CGIL recognized “the necessity of being unable to prolong a pure and simple freeze without irreparably jeopardizing the economic foundations of a large number of industrial companies and without undermining the national economy”.

Opportunist leaders, who had received their appointment as union commissioners from the last head of the corporations and saved the monarchy by working hand in hand with former clerical and fascist hierarchs, tried to deflect the wrath of workers threatened with layoffs by launching a hunt for the former fascist. Not in the upper echelons but within the workers themselves, establishing a climate of suspicion and division, inciting them to strike, at best, at the former fascist laborers, the small fry, while the former high hierarchs and bosses stood quietly and well protected. “The character of the agreement is clear from the commitment, in favor of veterans and partisans, to dismiss the most compromised fascists, that is, those who have been suspended from service while continuing to receive pay, and to dismiss those who have other livelihood assets. These dismissals must be matched by the hiring of veterans and partisans.”

The purge was just a smokescreen; in reality it was about throwing millions of workers out on the street:

During the month of February, 5% of the workers employed on December 31, 1945 may be laid off; from March 1 to 15 another 4% and from March 16 to 31 another 4%. The percentage of layoffs to be made in April will be fixed in a new agreement to be concluded on March 10, 1946. Workers hired after June 10, 1940 who are in the following conditions may be laid off: a) who have been suspended from work for more than two months; b) who have other subsistence assets in the family; c) if for every 4 members of the family there is a worker with a continuous income; d) who come from other economic sectors.

In addition, workers who fail to comply with the duties of discipline and normal activity and those coming from the leave of absence provided for in the July 8, 1945 agreement or otherwise suspended for more than two months must be dismissed. It is mandatory to dismiss first of all workers affected by purge measures. These layoffs will take place under the supervision of the Internal Commissions. Workers laid off under the agreement will have the severance pay provided for in the contracts with a supplement charged to the fund of 66% of total pay for 60 days. Those suspended or working short hours will have 50% of their global pay for hours not worked between 0 and 24 and 66% for hours not worked from over 24 to 40.

(Il Lavoro, Jan. 22, 1946)

No need to wait for the “EUR line” and the “policy of sacrifice”! On that occasion the regime union bureaucrats agreed to lay off in the space of three months 13% of employed workers and to agree on more layoffs in April, while there are already millions of unemployed. “On the other hand”, comments the Il Lavoro issue of Jan. 19, “the laid‑off workers, in addition to their normal severance pay, will be assured a substantial portion of their pay for a fairly significant period of time”: two months!

The proletariat imposes a freeze on layoffs

But even then the Italian proletariat did not allow itself to be trampled on without reacting: strikes and riots broke out all over the country, especially in the South where the conditions of the proletariat were particularly desperate. In Apulia, where farm workers were numerous, the situation reached the brink of civil war. Here is an account of the events in Andria from the newspaper Il Lavoro:

Friday, March 8, 1946:

There is in Andria and throughout Apulia a huge mass of unemployed and veterans living in the darkest misery and desperately seeking work. To alleviate the conditions of these workers, it had already been agreed between the Chamber of Labor and the farmers’ associations to impose a quota of farm hands, which would also help to increase agricultural production. The landowners refused and are refusing to have grain weeding carried out. The spark was provided by the landowner Spagnoletti who aimed his shotgun at a group of veterans who had come to him to ask for work. Numerous workers then began to walk the city streets demanding bread and work.

The landowners, intimidated by such a demonstration, entrenched themselves in their homes and began from their terraces to fire at these groups of unemployed demonstrating along the streets. A group of carabinieri who had intervened to protect the landowners clashed with a group of workers: a scuffle ensued and shots were fired, reaching a carabiniere and killing him. Reinforcements were called to the carabinieri command; carabinieri trucks escorted by two tanks left from the provincial capital. Meanwhile, the veterans and unemployed workers had blocked all access roads to the town, and when they saw the tanks protecting the entrance of the carabinieri into the town, they surrounded a tank that opened fire at them, killing four.

Saturday, March 9:

Normalcy returns to Andria thanks to Di Vittorio’s intervention… The chronicle must unfortunately lament three more deaths; a woman of the people who went to draw water at a public fountain and two other women belonging to landowner families who, lurking behind the chimneys of their terraces fired on the peasants who were in the street: the two were by the fury of the people dragged out of their homes and lynched. The nature of the events is in no way of a political character, but of exclusively economic origin as there are at present in Andria over 5,000 unemployed of whom about 2,000 are veterans… Late yesterday afternoon the Honorable Di Vittorio arrived here from Rome. He immediately made contact with the local authorities and with the commander of the Carabinieri barracks, Major Fiaschetti [the one who commanded the reinforcements with the tanks, ed.] from whom he obtained that in the course of the night no arrests would be made, nor would a single shot be fired by the militia. At the same time, Hon. Di Vittorio assured Major Fiaschetti that there would be no incentive on the part of the population to disturbances of any kind, and he also promised that the weapons that had been taken away from 14 disarmed carabinieri the previous day would be returned today. In the morning, Hon. Di Vittorio will preside over a meeting of all political parties in the CLN and, later, another meeting between representatives of the Confederation of Industry, veterans and representatives of local landowners. At 11 a.m., he will then hold a large rally that – as he told us – should sanction "the return to normality".

Apulia was but a major manifestation of a spontaneous movement of revolt that developed throughout Italy. The PCI minister Scoccimarro, who visited the region at that time, denounced “the spontaneous rise of armed formations”.

The PCI is in government. The CGIL agrees with the bosses to initiate massive layoffs while there were already millions of unemployed living in misery. The working class revolts. The armed forces of the State are mobilized in defense of the bosses and use war armament against the masses. But this isn’t enough; on the contrary, ruthless repression makes the revolt of the proletarians even more determined, and they soon learn to be ruthless themselves. Here then is the function of the Di Vittorios who succeed where the carabinieri could never: they soothe the spirits, they promise, they extinguish the revolt, they disarm the subjugated proletarians and hand them back to their executioners. This is the “return to normality”, to that normality that sees the bosses getting fat and the proletarians resigned to suffering exploitation, misery, hunger.

Also looming in March is the agitation of the State workers, who have been excluded from the sliding scale and live off starvation wages, but who are the only category that in the immediate postwar period has immediately reorganized as a result of the reorganization of the administrative services.

At the end of April Di Vittorio denounced the gravity of the situation: “the situation is such that if it were allowed to develop on its own it would lead, in a few weeks, to a real outbreak of civil war” (Il Lavoro, April 30, 1946).

On April 17, 1946, after only three months, the CGIL is forced to backtrack and again call for a freeze on layoffs:

The Confederal Secretariat has examined the general situation of Italian workers and has taken a series of decisions tending to integrate the most serious consequences. In a letter directed yesterday to the General Confederation of Italian Industry, the CGIL requests that as an exception to the interconfederal agreement of January 18, 1946, the additional quota of layoffs scheduled for the current month be suspended. This request is motivated by the fact that the agreement on the release of layoffs presupposed that in the spring there would be a recovery in the general economic activities of the country such that at least part of the laid‑off workers could be absorbed into other activities. This eventuality has unhappily not occurred. Therefore, there has been an alarming increase in unemployment, especially in large industrial centers. Under such conditions to proceed with further layoffs would mean provoking irrepressible exasperation in the working masses, the consequences of which could be very serious for the nation.

(Il Lavoro, April 18, 1946)

Thus workers’ pressure still succeeded in forcing the bosses, the State, and the regime union bureaucrats to reinstate the layoff freeze. In January the CGIL leaders had said that the continuation of the freeze would “irreparably” compromise companies and “undermine” the national economy. Now a far more serious danger is making them change their minds: the revolt for the lives of the proletarians threatens to make them lose control of the situation. Therefore, whereas before they had asked for sacrifices from the workers to save the bosses, they are now forced to ask the bosses to take some pocket change out of their purse so as not to jeopardize their heads.

8. The Constitution and the Legal Definition of the Trade Union - State Relationship

To the leaders of the CGIL, born, as we have seen above, with the direct support of the State and through an agreement between the major parties that supported it, the problem of the legal framing of the union immediately arose. They obviously don’t want to retrace the path of the workers’ organizations of the post‑WWI period, which had set themselves up in open antagonism with the State and the bosses; on the contrary, their work is aimed precisely at preventing the resurgence of organizations that move on the ground of class struggle.

They credit Fascism with having first attempted a solution to the problem of integrating workers’ struggles in bourgeois legislation, but the Fascist solution – a single, State‑run trade union, compulsory membership – is judged to be no longer suitable for the changed situation, because it would provoke a reaction out of the proletariat. The solution lies in what we have called tricolor trade unionism: an organization whose lower ranks of leadership are chosen through a democratic method, but which in its policy is rigidly subject to the State and class collaboration.

Di Vittorio, in a long article in Rinascita, addresses the issue by clearly laying out the terms of the problem, from the standpoint of controlling workers and maintaining social stability. After stating that the “right of association is the surest safeguard of the freedom of the human person”, he calls for the Constitution to “enshrine it in the clearest way”, of course “within the limits set by the laws”. He then admits the inevitable clash of interests, not between classes, but between “the working citizen and the capitalist citizen” who “are by no means on equal terms”.

Turning then to the role of trade unions in the democratic State, Di Vittorio makes the following points:

  1. The interests that workers’ unions represent and defend… in principle coincide with the general interests of the nation. The generalized welfare of the workers in fact can only come from a greater development of the national economy, from an unceasing increase in production, from a greater enrichment of the country, as well as from a more just distribution of the goods produced. It has never happened and cannot happen, to independent workers’ unions, to have interests contrary to those of the national community.
  2. Workers’ unions represent the fundamental productive force of society… this is all the more just and necessary in Italy, where the greatest and most valuable capital at the disposal of the nation is represented precisely by its immense labor force, that is, by the large number of workers that our country has.
  3. The workers, by reason of their social condition, have the greatest interest in the consolidation and orderly development of freedom and democratic institutions… Workers’ unions therefore objectively constitute one of the basic pillars of the democratic and republican State and a safe and strong garrison of the civic liberties which are a supreme good of the entire nation.
  4. Workers’ unions, as the unitary bodies of millions of citizens in all the provinces of Italy and the guardians of their collective and united interests, objectively represent the most solid connective tissue of the nation and of its very unity.
  5. The economic interests represented respectively by workers’ unions and employers’ unions are both legitimate, but their scope is not equal, and this is because the former represent an “incomparably greater number of citizens” and moreover represent vast and vital interests of the great mass of the disenfranchised citizens that the State has a duty to defend and protect.

"It follows that the concept of parity between the interests represented by workers’ unions and those represented by employers’ unions does not correspond to reality and is therefore to be considered unfounded and unjust". Di Vittorio therefore calls on the State to assign a role of “pre‑eminence to workers’ unions over employers’ unions… Workers’ unions therefore must have a separate place in the democratic State. We are thinking particularly of the establishment of a National Labor Council with the power to promote social legislation appropriate to our times.” This council, Di Vittorio proposes, should be formed by the government and all “professional organizations… But in such proportions that the number of those organized in them is taken into account.”

Regarding the “right to strike”, Di Vittorio disagrees with those who would like to prohibit it by law in public services and proposes the alternative solution of “free and spontaneous restraints”, by which the same result would be achieved without openly coercive means. “The CGIL has spontaneously sanctioned in its social statutes – which were unanimously approved by its first national congress – the principle that strikes in public services are to be avoided to the fullest extent possible and that in any case they may be resorted to only after all attempts at conciliation have been exhausted in vain and after authorization by the confederal steering committee… This restraint, besides being the only one possible in a democratic regime, is also the only effective one.”

There was then sharp disagreement also with those in favor of compulsory arbitration by the State in labor disputes: “Compulsory arbitration is incompatible with the principle of freedom and is also of very questionable efficacy, since under a democratic regime no one could prevent the working masses in question from rejecting the solution imposed by the arbitrator and carrying out the strike anyway. Arbitration can be effective and binding on the parties only when they voluntarily accede to it”. Di Vittorio, an old stager, is basically saying that this arbitration card should be played well, at the right time and not burned through stupidly. Better is optional arbitration, “a means to which it’s desirable that recourse be had as much as possible, in order to prevent agitations and strikes which, in general, are never desirable events”. The concept is the same: to arrive at the same result without open imposition, while maintaining a formal freedom.

Turning then to an examination of the crux of the matter, that of the legal relationship between the State and the trade union, Di Vittorio laments that “Italy does not have a legally defined trade union system”, the Fascist one (fixed by Law No. 563 of April 3, 1926) no longer being suitable, even though it “from a formal point of view seems to be still in force”. “As a matter of fact, the independent trade unions now existing are recognized by the State, but there is no legally defined relationship between State and trade union. The discipline of labor relations, which can exert a decisive influence in the economic and social reconstruction of the country, demands with all urgency a new trade union regime”.

Here the great dilemma is proclaimed: State union, legally recognized and subject to direct control, or independent union, having no legal relationship with the State? No to the State union, says Di Vittorio, because “the State union automatically means a single, compulsory union, with compulsory tributes, and more or less tightly controlled by the State… A single, compulsory, State union can only be a bureaucratic body, lacking its own vitality, heavy, costly, inefficient, detested by the great working masses”. No to the “pre‑fascist independent trade union having no legal status” too, as they’d be “relegated to the margins of the State and in a position of preconditioned hostility against it”.

Get out of this alternative, which sees the working classes “either enslaved to the State or driven out of it; either neutralized by offices, regulations, officials or watched by the carabinieri”. There’s a third way, which Di Vittorio formulates by admitting that he was inspired by the French trade union system “defined by the laws of March 21, 1884, March 12, 1920, June 4, 1936 and May 2, 1938”. It’s the democratic solution: independent trade unions, free right to strike and association – within the framework of the laws – freedoms that are guaranteed, protected, regulated by the State. Independent trade unions that, freely and spontaneously, without any open compulsion, submit themselves to the State and constitute one of its fundamental pillars of support: “A new type of trade union with its own, original characteristics, reconciling the need for freedom, autonomy and the independence of the trade union (which are its peculiar characteristics, without which the trade union ceases to be such and becomes an office), with the need to obtain from it those guarantees necessary to be able to legally entrust it with certain functions of a public nature”.

This new type of trade union “should translate into political and legal terms, on the specific ground of the trade union regime, the new and salutary fact, in the history of Italy, of the full adherence of the great popular masses to the democratic State”.

What public functions should be entrusted to trade unions? The same ones that were entrusted to fascist corporations, namely:

  1. Drawing up “labor contracts that have compulsory validity for all members of the class and, thus, legal effectiveness”.
  2. "Exercising the placement of workers"

What formal guarantees can the State demand:

  1. "The legal registration in the appropriate register kept by the National Labor Council and its peripheral bodies, with the corresponding filing of the social statute and the reporting of the number of its members".
  2. "That the social statute of the union clearly sanctions a democratic internal ordering of the organization".

Thus Di Vittorio outlined with extreme precision the Italian way to tricolor trade unionism. What he called for then, “a legally defined union system”, will never be realized and the famous Articles 39 and 40 of the Constitution will remain a dead letter. We should thus today still repeat his words of that time: “From the formal point of view, the fascist trade union order seems to be still in force”.

The leaders of the tricolor CGIL, the opportunist parties, wanted a union that was subservient to the State, but that appeared to the workers as their own independent organization, that wasn’t a continuation of the fascist compulsory union. For the “new” Italian trade unionism they intended to adopt the old democratic solution, which had already yielded excellent results, for the bourgeoisie, in America, France and England. But they, anti‑fascists in name, had to bow before fascism, from which they inherited the conception of the organic State above classes, that fascism which alone had advanced a practical solution to the problem, which they considered necessary, of integrating the proletarian struggle within bourgeois legality. The fascist solution of the State union, which they verbally abhorred, was their inevitable model.

9. The 1949 Split

In 1947, the economic and social situation in Italy was explosive. With the first moment of settling of the economy after the end of the war having passed, having passed the fear to the landowning classes, they regained control of the productive apparatus and went on the attack on workers’ living conditions with massive layoffs and bloody repression of struggles.

This situation is set in an international picture that sees the beginning of the Cold War and American action to secure control of the governments of strategically vital areas, such as exactly Italy. Precisely in 1947, there is the full assumption by the U.S. of the role of the imperialist gendarme of the world that finds a possibility of counterbalance only in the Soviet bloc and that imposes on the States under its control a decidedly anti‑Russian position. This is enshrined in the “Truman Doctrine”, which provides economic aid to “freedom-loving peoples…against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes”, i.e., explicitly calls for the formation of decidedly pro‑American governments in return for funding. In Italy the U.S. fiduciary party is the Christian Democrats (the repeated trips to America by De Gasperi and Pastore to ask for money and take orders are well known). The PCI from this point of view does not offer sufficient guarantees; on the contrary, it is notoriously linked to the Soviet Union.

Therefore, on May 13, 1947, the PCI is excluded from the government, although the social situation is very serious. Now the Italian bourgeoisie, with U.S. support, feels strong enough to deal with proletarian unrest even with the PCI in opposition. A long list of police massacres marks the end of this year: Nov. 15 in Cerignola two farmworkers are killed during a strike; Nov. 16 in Corato a trade unionist, a farmworker and a peasant woman are killed during a farmworkers’ demonstration; Nov. 20 in Capo Salentina (Lecce) two killed during a peasant demonstration; Nov. 22 in Gravina (Bari) a farmworker is killed during a land demonstration; Dec. 2 in Basignano (Cosenza) a peasant is killed; Dec. 6 in Rome police shoot at a procession: one dead; on Dec. 22 in Canicattì (Agrigento) police fire on a procession: 3 dead; also on Dec. 22 in Campobello di Licata (Catanzaro) one dead during a laborers’ strike.

This isn’t to say that the PCI, from the opposition, ceases its work of class collaboration and democratic inebriation of the proletariat. On the one hand, the bosses lay off or give starvation wages and their police shoot and beat; on the other hand, it’s the PCI that convinces the workers that they must stay calm and take it without fighting back.

With 1948, there’s a recovery of production; in June the dollars provided for in the Marshall Plan start flowing into Italy: $100 million granted by the Export-Import Bank. This is but the beginning, but the allocation of further funding is conditional on “the stability and consolidation of the Italian democratic regime”. What this formula meant will soon be seen. The Americans, as they wanted their trusted men in government, considered the existence of a single trade union center dangerous, effectively placing the entire Italian proletariat under the control of the PCI. Pressure had long begun from the American side for the breakup of “national solidarity”, by excluding the PCI from the government, to be followed by the breakup of trade union unity with the creation of centers controlled by pro‑American parties. This design was part of a strategy clearly enunciated by General Marshall on March 20, 1948: “The day has come when we can count on strong friends, capable of containing the first attack of the enemy while we are busy making the final preparations for war”.

Already in 1946, agent Irving Krown had landed in France with a million dollars to finance the creation of pro‑American union centers in Western Europe. In December 1947, Léon Jouhaux received 40 million francs to create the splitter organization Force Ouvrière. By mid‑December 1947, a meeting had been held at the State Department with the participation of the AFL‑CIO leadership and a representative of the Foreign Office. Here the plan of attack on the FSM and unions influenced by parties sympathetic to the Soviet Union was outlined.

In Italy, the situation was more complex because of the presence of a proletariat in conditions of extreme poverty, fierce, which on several occasions had shown that it was not intimidated by repression and which instinctively reconnected with the Red tradition.

On July 14, 1948, the assassination attempt on Togliatti was the spark that set off the workers’ revolt with real insurrectional outbreaks, especially in the major industrial centers. If the proletarian actions in the South almost always took on the appearance of uncontrolled riots that exploded like a sudden blaze and then quickly died down, in the industrial North the workers showed that they instinctively knew how to move in a modern civil war: they pulled out their concealed weapons, turned buses into improvised armored cars, surrounded barracks, and put themselves under the orders of the PCI federations. But the PCI’s response is naturally, as always, a call for calm.

On this occasion the CGIL found itself in the need to call a general strike in order to regain control of the masses at a time when they were going far beyond a simple demonstration of protest. The strike order was given simply to be able then, two days later, on July 16, to give the order to resume work.

Di Vittorio explained this clearly in a meeting at the Steering Committee held a few days later, “On this occasion we had the most complete and most extensive general strike that has ever taken place in Italy. What was the CGIL to do? It could not but put itself at the head of the movement in order to avoid a rupture between the organization and the masses and to make sure that the movement itself ended at the right time”. Di Vittorio thus justified himself in the face of the Christian Democrat current, which accused the Stalinists of proclaiming a political strike, contrary to what was established in the Rome pact.

The Rinascita issue of June 1949, returning to the subject, would write “That strike was spontaneous. Pastore knows this since he was among those who approved it on the same day… Moreover, Prime Minister De Gasperi himself acknowledged this a few days later in parliament, declaring in the Senate on July 23 that, in his opinion, ’the CGIL had at least had a sense of its responsibilities in a second period’”

But that affair was taken as a pretext by Christian Democrat trade unionists to carry out the American plan of union splits. They dictated on their own the order to end the strike a few hours before it ended and deemed the union unity pact broken by accusing the Socialist‑PCI current of violating the CGIL’s bylaws.

In the aforementioned issue of Rinascita one reads “However objectively one searches with scrupulous analysis and documentation what reason might have determined the Christian Democrat split, one is only able, on the level of the Italian trade union reality alone, to accumulate a series of reasons which however are not sufficient even when added together to explain it… More difficult still, if not impossible to understand, is the split made coldly by some leaders of the PRI and PSLI trade union current”.

Indeed, out of the blue the PRI’s “National Direction of the Social Action Movement” announces the holding of a referendum by April 30, 1949 to decide whether or not the Republican current should remain in the CGIL. At the same time, using an incident at the Molinella Chamber of Labor as a pretext, Saragat’s PSLI convenes a union convention to decide whether or not to remain in the CGIL. On May 24 and 26, the PRI and PSLI currents announced their exit from the CGIL. A few days later, on June 4, the “Italian Labor Federation (Federazione Italiana del Lavoro, FIL)” is born, which, of course, proclaims itself “apolitical” and “independent”.

What’s the reason for these splits, Rinascita continues? “It’s to be sought in a broader order than the purely national one… The Americans are in a hurry. After the Marshall Plan and the Atlantic Pact, the goal of the State Department is now to organize as soon as possible the world anti‑communist coalition also on the trade union level… Antonini, in a statement published recently in the organ of the PSLI, does not deny that he financed Saragat’s socialists with another $200,000”.

A telegram sent to Giulio Pastore from AFL President Matthew Woll reads, “Irving Brown reported the Italian trade union situation to the AFL International Trade Union Committee. This committee warmly approves of your action and intends to cooperate with you”. It was later officially learned that Irving Brown was a CIA agent.

This was the dispatch from U.S. Ambassador Jeames Dunn to Secretary of State Marshall about an interview with Christian Democrat union leader Giulio Pastore:

Pastore pointed out that the financial aspect of his new union concerns him considerably. He has also received offers of financing from industrial groups but it’s his firm intention to reject them since they would jeopardize the future of his organization when it faces the employers in the upcoming union demands… Pastore said that from an initial study he believes that the total amount needed by the new organization is 900 million lire (about one and a half million dollars) for nine months before it can become self‑sufficient [detailed list of expenses follows]… We trust that the State Department will explore all possibilities to obtain financial assistance for the group… The new organization, of course, is fully in favor of the Marshall Plan and would lend itself to its propaganda through its own press and other media.

(R.Faenza, M.Fini, Gli Americani in Italia, Feltrinelli, Milan, 1966)

This split, made coldly, at a time of ruthless employers’ attack, appeared to the Italian proletariat as a stab in the back, an attempt to dismember its forces. The organizations born out of this American-financed split appeared as an attempt to reconstitute the white and yellow organizations of the post‑WWI period, where they opposed the red unions.

Actually, just as the patriotic CGIL of 1948 had nothing to do with the class-based CGL of 1919, likewise the CISL and UIL were but a rough copy of the white organizations of the early postwar period. As we wrote then, the split, the creation of openly, self‑professed pro‑boss union centers, didn’t change the nature of the CGIL, which was and remained the tricolor union heir to the fascist corporations.

But, given the peculiar international situation of the Cold War, given the ostracism that the Americans were imposing on the PCI, which actually declared itself and indeed was sincerely national and patriotic, the CGIL appeared to the most combative part of the Italian proletariat as the red organization, as opposed to the other centers linked to the bosses and the State. To be a member of the CGIL in those years meant exposing oneself to bosses’ harassment, dismissals, repression, while having nothing to gain personally. With the selflessness and courage that has always distinguished it, the most combative nucleus of the Italian proletariat rallied around this banner, filling the goons of the CISL and UIL with hatred and contempt.

All the way that the Di Vittorios and the Lamas eventually went toward the open State control of the CGIL, from unity with the CISL and UIL, to the establishment of the dues checkoff, to the abolition of the Chambers of Labor, to the use of scabs on spontaneous strikes, they did so against these proletarians.

10. The Bourgeoisie and Stalinism Force the Working Class into the Sacrifice of National Reconstruction

After the first phase of adjustment following the war and the fall of Fascism, the Italian bourgeoisie, having reconstituted and strengthened its State apparatus, integrated and disciplined the working class in organs dominated by a policy of class collaboration, was preparing to re‑enter the world business circle; as it had made huge profits under Fascism and with the war, so it would do golden business with democracy and reconstruction. The same industrialists, finance barons, merchants, and landowners who had grown rich in the shadow of the fascist regime found in the democratic State an equally benevolent and undoubtedly more refined protector.

Just as today the bourgeoisie unloads the economic crisis on the shoulders of the proletariat, so then the proletariat paid with misery, starvation, and relentless exploitation, first for the reconstruction and recovery of production, then, in the 1960s, for that reconversion of the industrial apparatus that enabled the so‑called “economic miracle”.

In 1950, two years after the union split, a CGIL study described the situation thus. There are 2 million totally unemployed and 2 million partially unemployed who work on average every other day: three million unemployed out of about 7.8 million employed: two unemployed for every 5 employed.

The average monthly wage is 23,501 lire, with considerable differences between categories as these figures show: Industry: electrical workers 35,575; metallurgists 27,251; extraction industries 24,772; textiles 19,191; food workers 18,191. In Industry therefore the lowest wage is half of the highest. Agriculture (farm laborers and wage earners): Lombardy 13,346; Emilia 9,726; Tuscany 9,429; Apulia 5,800; Sardinia 5,380; Abruzzo 5,957; Sicily 5,414; Calabria 3,868. The highest wage in agriculture is one‑third of the highest in industry; the lowest is one‑fifth of the lowest in industry.

The CGIL calculated that the cost of living for a typical family of four – parents and two children – was 54,640 lire per month, of which 33,648 lire was for food and 11,860 lire for clothing. Therefore, it can be deduced that only the wages of the electrical workers can enable them to cover feeding expenses. These figures agree with those of the Ministry of Labor, which in 1951 calculated 26,790 lire per month as the average wage and 50,000 lire per month as the cost of living per typical family.

But these averages are calculated on the official and contractual wages, daily violated by industrialists and landowners to the detriment of the weakest categories: women, the youth, day laborers, agricultural laborers. Rates are halved, working hours are lengthened without compensation, and benefits are refused, thus creating large areas of unpaid wages. Female workers are often dismissed at the onset of pregnancy or even marriage. A medical survey from the winter of 1949‑50 shows that pregnant factory workers consume an average of 2,115 calories per day compared to 3,006 for the well-to-do. According to an OEEC survey, 3% fewer calories and 17% less fat were consumed in Italy in the years 1945‑50 than in the period 1934‑38. According to a 1952 government survey, 2.8 million families lived in overcrowded houses; of these, 870,000 lived in dwellings with more than 4 people per room.

But in the 1950s, production recovery also begins in Italy, in parallel with the process of restructuring and concentration of companies. Incentives and production bonuses are introduced, on the American model, but all this on an old and obsolete industrial apparatus whose plants are only 50% utilized. However, by squeezing the workers, the bosses manage to achieve a significant increase in productivity through the classical method, that is, through layoffs, extension of the working day and intensification of work.

Some indicative examples. Snia Viscosa: in 1949, 9,799,088 fewer hours were worked than in 1948, and there was an increase in product production of 8,352,877 kg by lowering the unit production time from 0.52 hours to 0.32 hours. Pirelli: in 1949, 5,934,552 fewer hours were worked than in 1948, lowering the unit production time from 0.56 hours to 0.39 hours. Fiat: in 8 months increased production by 46% and employment by only 14%. Cotton industry: from 1948 to 1949, increases production by 20% and employment by 0.6%. Chemical industry: from 1948 to 1949, production increases by 10% and employment decreases by 10%. It is estimated that, for each worker, the company earns 5‑6 times the wages paid.

Despite the recovery phase, an unfavorable situation remains for Italian goods on the international market. The balance of power resulting from the war puts Italian capitalism in a state of subordination to American capitalism, which churns out goods at extremely lower production costs. Productive recovery in Italy is therefore achieved not so much by modernizing plants (which will happen later), but by extending the working day, shortening unit production times, and starvation wages. In many cases, the working week is up to 76 hours.

Thus there’s no immediate possibility of reabsorbing the 3 million unemployed. This reserve army is necessary for the bourgeoisie to lower the price of labor-power below subsistence limits. The conditions of misery and hunger are particularly felt in the countryside by fostering a massive exodus of day laborers, agricultural wage earners, sharecroppers and poor small peasants who, when the general resumption of production requires an increase in labor power, will be forced to offer themselves at low cost while keeping wages low and at the same time curbing or making it impossible for them any action for their demands.

In this situation the CGIL, which then called itself a “class union”, but in policy was no different from today, not only refused to lead a general struggle against the capitalist offensive, but posed since 1951, (6 years after the end of the war) the question of wages with different increases from area to area and the reestablishment of wage differentials between qualifications. This corresponded precisely to the needs of the recovering capitalist economy. The wage policy of the CGIL, not unlike today, was moving on a double track: on the one hand keeping the overall cost of labor as low as possible, consistent with the need to keep moves for workers’ demands in check, and on the other hand recreating a professional hierarchy by raising the wages of technicians and clerks.

Still in 1952, ordinary workers and manual laborers accounted for 64% of the workforce (about 8.5 million), skilled laborers 12% (400,000), agricultural workers 24% (about 1 million, of course at the lowest qualifications). Thus, in practice, the wages of 10 million blue-collar workers were frozen, while the wages of skilled and white-collar workers, especially at the higher end, increased. The division into wage zones then constituted a real gift to the bosses. “This agreement”, said the CGIL, “is of great importance for an immediate détente in labor relations and the return to a situation of normality in the companies.

Then as now, regime union bureaucrats feared what they called “flattening”, that is, equal wages for all, as a factor in the unification of the proletariat. Here’s a statement from the CGIL then, not unlike those of today: “Wage increases are not equal in figure for workers and clerks or even for the various categories of workers and clerks. A wage increase in a fixed figure would lead to a flattening of wages, a percentage increase, on the other hand, keeps the proportions the same. The united labor organization does not want flattening even though it realizes that the lower categories, that is, those currently worst paid will be the ones receiving the smallest increase in liras. The CGIL does not want flattening because the Italian working class, even though it is in opposition and subject to all sorts of aggressive pressure from power groups, already has a consciousness as a ruling class. It is with the same consciousness that the class unions refuse to fight for the reduction of prices when this is understood to mean a fight against small business owners and shopkeepers, against small and medium-sized industrialists”.

This systematic work of division proceeds even within union structures. The piecards complain that the union is still too centralized and point out the situation, which in their opinion is serious, in the large cities such as Milan, Turin, Naples, where the chemical, textile and metal workers are all represented in a single municipal section, which forces them to keep the 100,000 organized metallurgists in Milan or with the 70,000 in Turin connected through rallies and vast assemblies. Here began the long march of dismantling those structures that were usable by the proletariat and through which it could make its weight felt even at the top of the tricolor union, a march that has now reached the abolition of the Chambers of Labor and the establishment of the Area Councils.

At the Second Congress of the CGIL in 1952, the piecards would affirm that the great new thing was the fact that “the demands for wage increases have been definitively included in a direct way in the solution of the fundamental problems of the economic and social development of the country, and that the workers have an increasingly clear consciousness that the improvement of their living conditions is intimately linked to the fate of the whole nation”. We have seen how workers’ interests were bonded to those of the “whole nation”, and we will see this better further on when the Italian bourgeoisie realized its economic “boom” on the skin of the proletariat.

And here is how the nation thanked the workers who, according to the CGIL, had tied and subordinated their interests to it: from 1949 to 1952 136,000 workers were fired for economic reasons, including 5,000 union militants. In the countryside 57,000 layoffs including 3,150 union militants. During the same period, retaliatory layoffs number 11,000 of which 1,600 are against union militants. Put on trial for labor conflicts 53,000 workers of whom 24,000 are sentenced to terms totaling 74,000 months in prison. 38 killed by police in clashes in Melissa, Modena, Torremaggiore, etc. These are what benefits the proletariat derived from the CGIL’s treasonous policy: misery, extreme exploitation, beatings, arrests, massacres, division, powerlessness, ideological, political and organizational disarmament.

It’s useful to remember these facts that everyone has forgotten, just today (1979), while a new employers’ offensive is underway that will soon throw the proletariat back into the miserable conditions of the 1950s. The economic, political, social situation is radically different but the crux of the problem is still the same: the proletariat will only be able to defend itself if it can forge its own struggle organization again. This, if yesterday it meant struggle within the CGIL to defend its class characteristics, to drive out its sellout leaders, today it means emptying the tricolor unions and establishing a proletarian class organization free from the control of the State and its union police.

11. The Wage Scale Agreement – Masterpiece of Patriotic Trade Unionism

The establishment of the wage scale can be considered the masterpiece of tricolor trade union policy. It has been one of the basic factors in maintaining social peace and discipline in labor from the postwar period to the present.

We’ve seen the conditions of misery in which the masses lived in the immediate postwar period. The staggering increase in prices in those years (+67% in 1943, +344% in 1944, +96% in 1945) dramatically posed the problem of adjusting wages to the cost of living.

On the other hand, the General Confederation of Italian Industry was demanding a free hand to lay off redundant workers and a wage system that minimized the possibility of action for workers’ demands. We also saw how, in January 1946, the CGIL had agreed to a total release of layoffs, but also forced to backtrack after a few months because of pressure from the masses.

With the interconfederal contracts of Dec. 6, 1945 in Northern Italy and May 23, 1946 in Central and Southern Italy, single wage scales were adopted for the whole industry, not modifiable by local or company agreements, and piecework and production incentives were introduced.

At the time, the mechanism wasn’t deemed “perverse”, as it is today, so much so that General Confederation of Italian Industry President Andrea Costa commented on it as follows, “The sacrifice that industrialists take on is undoubtedly heavy and can only be compensated for by an increase in productivity in relation to a better performance of labor. If interpreted and applied in good faith, and there’s nothing to leave us in doubt that this shouldn’t be the case, the agreement should bring about a suspension of all agitation, even peripherally, returning at last to tranquility and increasing the pace of work in the fields and factories” (Corriere della Sera). The political significance of this agreement was clear: industrialists were paying a bribe to buy themselves tranquility in the companies and social peace.

The demands of the industrialists were widely echoed in the upper echelons of the CGIL, then already, in its politics, a regime union. At the Florence congress in August 1947, Di Vittorio said:

It’s not possible to raise the standard of living of the Italian working class masses if we do not increase production, if we do not use all the productive possibilities of our country, if we don’t lower the production costs, if we don’t improve the labor output.

The wage scale mechanism, however, had the major flaw of producing the famous “flattening”, that is, the leveling of wages, a fact as unwelcome then as now to the bosses and the regime’s unions. The new jump in prices that occurred in 1947 (+62%) made this phenomenon evident and accentuated. Since – precisely as a result of social peace – the basic wage remained virtually unchanged, it decreased its share with respect to the scale, the cost-of-living allowance, which from 1946 to 1947 went from 60 to 70% of the wage. Therefore, on June 1, 1947, a new agreement tweaked the wage scale mechanism to transfer a part of the scale into the basic pay so as to bring back the difference between the categories according to the indices: manual unskilled laborer 100, skilled manual laborer 108.5, qualified worker 115, specialized manual laborer 127.5. However, the 1947 change didn’t have the hoped‑for effects so much so that a series of subsequent transfers into basic pay were necessary.

On March 21, 1951, there was a substantial revision of the mechanism with an agreement that provided for: 1) Calculation of the cost of living at the national level based on the average of data for 16 provincial capitals; 2) Introduction of diversification by major geographical areas: the value of the cost-of-living allowance point was set 20% lower in southern Italy than in central-northern Italy; 3) Difference of the base point by qualifications according to indices: 100 manual unskilled laborer, 112.6 skilled, 125.4 qualified worker, 111.8 clerk of III, 134.3 clerk of III‑A, 180.4 clerk of II, 239.4 clerk of I; 4) Modification of the basket to take into account changes in consumption: food, electricity and fuel. The basket that was established in 1951 has not undergone substantial changes and is still the basis for calculating the cost-of-living allowance; 5) Wage adjustment is was brought from bimonthly to semi‑annual.

A new agreement in 1957 established the zeroing of the basis for calculating cost-of-living changes to 1956 (May‑June 1956 = 100), and brought the adjustments from semiannual to bimonthly.

It wasn’t until May 1959 that the wage scale mechanism was extended to the Civil Service but with substantial differences from industry: 1) The allowance was calculated only on a part of the base salary (40,000 lire); this resulted in a point worth 400 lire while in industry it was 948 lire; 2) Survey of increases annually instead of quarterly and bonus payment only from January 1 of the following year; thus, a delay of 18 months.

The January 1975 agreement established the gradual unification of the point to the values of the highest parameter and the granting to all workers of 12,000 lire monthly as partial compensation for the malfunctioning of the old mechanism. The value of the point was also raised to the current level, that is, 2,389 lire.

With the June ’75 agreement, the scale point in the Civil Service as well was gradually aligned with that of industry until parity was achieved in July 1978. Detection and payment of the bonus became semi‑annual. The quarterly allowance reached the Civil Service only in 1979.

This is the tormented history of the wage scale mechanism that bosses and unions together wanted to build with the precise aim of obtaining labor peace: a few crumbs were granted to the proletarians to prevent strikes by the most concentrated and most dangerous part of the Italian proletariat: those employed in industry.