Italy: New workers’ responses

February 17, 2010

The announcement of the closure (temporary, in principle) of two plants in Italy belonging to the US aluminum company Alcoa ignited the protest by Alcoa workers while unemployment, especially affecting young people, is growing in Europe.

On January 29, 200 Alcoa workers occupied the runway of the airport of Cagliari (in Sardinia), where the factory is located, and forced the shutdown of air traffic that day. The action had begun early in the parking lot, with support from the CGIL, CISL, and UIL unions, until the workers decided to go onto the runway, where later they faced police, who tried to remove them.

In addition to this protest at the airport, the workers went on strike in the plant in the town of Fusina, where the approach roads are also blocked, to prevent merchandise from being brought in or sent out. During January, Italy witnessed different actions and protests by working men and women, who are facing the consequences of the economic crisis, that in Europe alone has meant more than 20 million people without work, especially young people. To this must be added unemployment among immigrants, who, since they are not "citizens," are not included in the official figures.

Besides the Alcoa workers, workers at the Fiat plant in Termini are facing the suspension of production, that will leave all the plant’s operators without pay. Fiat had announced that it would suspend its activities during the last week of February and the first week of March, to balance its books, and it did not matter that Fiat’s decision affected 30,000 workers and their families. Fiat’s plan even earned criticism from members of Berlusconi’s cabinet, who cannot be accused of defending workers’ rights.

These and other protests of different sizes are returning images of the class struggle to the pages of the daily press and TV newscasts, and they remind one of the first half of 2009, with the radicalized methods of the workers of 3M, Caterpillar and Continental, that included kidnapping bosses and the seizure of factory installations in France.

Unfortunately, besides these first responses to the crisis, there were also other signs, like the British strikes against immigrants, or the attacks on African workers in the Italian town of Rosarno. These desperate actions are encouraged by xenophobic campaigns and laws, like the Italian anti-immigrant laws and the recent racist comments by Berlusconi, who included the immigrants in his plan "against the Mafia and crime." With xenophobia and racism, the capitalists are again betting on splitting the workers’ ranks, by attacking those who suffer the worst conditions and get paid the least. The only way to impose a working-class solution, so that the capitalists, those who caused this crisis, pay for it, is through the unity of ranks of the working class, and that way, the victorious struggle of all the immigrants, male and female, will be a victory of all the working men and women of Europe.