Our slogans must be insurgency and convergence
There should not be too many illusions about the situation in our country. We have entered a frightening year in which we are heading for a new health and social disaster. The Draghi government, presented by the media as the government of the "best and brightist", is entirely responsible. For some months now, the ruling class and its political managers have accepted the idea of "living with the virus", in other words, they have given up on making the fight against the pandemic the main objective. They should have led that fight not only with the vaccination campaign, which is certainly essential, but also with a vast intervention and investment in various sectors, starting of course with health but including schools and transport. The government has not prioritised the health protection of the population, but followed the capitalist logic of production and profit. Their choice is a liberal management of the pandemic reduced to individual responsibility and decisions.
It is in this depressing situation that the thirteenth President of the Republic [was] elected.1
More than 200,000 infections per day indicate a situation out of control, in which any possibility of tracking the spread has been lost, all health facilities are on the verge of collapse, there is a lack of local assistance and the number of victims has been rising dramatically and unacceptably for days.
We have now exceeded the appalling figure of 140,000 victims which, compared to other comparable European nations like France, Spain and Germany, represents the worst ratio between the number of infections and deaths. Many other thousands of deaths were caused by various diseases that could not be treated due to the crisis of a health system placed under such stress.
We now have more than 2,300,000 people tested positive, an exponential growth that was completely predictable. The government did not want to develop any timely radical initiative , limiting itself to partial, ineffective and contradictory measures. Indeed it is clear with the latest decisions of the government and the CTS (Scientific Technical Committee - Ministry of Health) a real reversal of the trend. The increase in cases has not been matched with decisions to tighten containment measures. The campaign of vaccination and the booster dose, proclaimed every day by the government and newspapers, was not as fast as it should have been, both due to the availability of vaccines, and because many vaccination centers, closed too early, were reopened late, and because many staff recruited in the previous period were not permanent, but temporary.
"Living with the virus" - sweeping the dust under the carpet
Faced with the dramatic daily infection figures , the irresponsible and hypocritical response given by the authorities is unbelievable. They try to deny the evidence of the facts and try to sweep the dust under the carpet by proposing to stop providing the daily figures of infections, hospitalisation and deaths. According to an "illustrious head physician" and various government representatives they have rolled out, they "make people anxious". It is just as well they "make people anxious"; information is an elementary form of democracy that allows the entire population to be aware of the situation and to exercise control and influence over government and institutions.
But there is more: the regions, which bear a heavy responsibility for how they have managed the pandemic, have proposed that we "live with the virus", i.e. reduce quarantines, eliminate testing and exclude from the official figures asymptomatic positives and those hospitalized for other diseases who are positive when entering. They want to avoid exceeding the threshold that determines the requirement to go into the orange zone with the consequent greater restrictions of activities. These are proposals that the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS Higher Health Institute) has logically defined as absurd, but which are accompanied and supported by an ideological propaganda campaign on a national and international scale aimed at presenting this epidemic as a normal flu.
Behind it all is the neo-liberal option of Draghi and associates, that is, the amount of resources they want to invest in health care. The 6.5% health spending share of GDP in 2019, already among the lowest in Europe, will drop in 2024 to 6.3%.
Many were under the illusion that in the wake of the tragedy of 2020, there would be a rethink, a radical change of pace in the economic and social policies of the bourgeoisie of the various countries. They were totally mistaken: the so-called return to "normality" of the capitalist system comes with a further attack on the working and living conditions of the working and popular classes. I remain amazed by the "astonishment" of many good militants at these choices , still considered as "mistakes" and not an inevitable and lucid class choice of the bosses determined by the logic of the capitalist system. Certainly these choices are completely unjust and also irrational with respect to the immediate and future interests of society as a whole. The desire to revive the profits of the ruling class is shameless, so much so that military spending is still increasing, nuclear power is proposed again, despite being rejected by two popular referendums. Even the project of the bridge over the Strait of Messina is revived and every day, in the newspapers, the ideological gurus of capitalism, from Fornero to Cottarelli, spout their far-fetched recipes on every economic and social matter.
But there is still a problem with the pandemic. You can pretend that it does not exist or falsify the incidence rates in order to keep all activities operational, both manufacturing,commercial and even sports activities and all the consequent gatherings. However the result can also be the much-feared lockdown comes about anyway, at least in part, but in the utmost confusion. There will be no sensible management for the number of workers, both employees and self-employed, starting with store managers, who end up infected. The result being a drastic reduction in services. The situation presents itself in a dramatic forms in health care (20 thousand workers are off sick) , in transportation and of course in education. Schools wanted to reopen after the end of the year vacations despite not having implemented the necessary measures (which could have been done in recent months) to ensure adequate health safety.
Economic recovery and the fragmentation of work
The objective of the government in all these months has been to exploit and benefit fully from the strong economic recovery underway (the rebound after the collapse of production in 2020). It does not want to place any obstacles in the way of production, business, trade, catering, sports, etc., thus guaranteeing maximum freedom for companies and substantial profits. The year closed with a GDP growth of over 6%. Guaranteeing the dynamism of businesses also means putting an end to the freeze on layoffs, thus allowing for restructuring and company closures, collective redundancies and the production relocations carried out by multinationals and financial funds that own many businesses. Exactly what Draghi had anticipated when he said that European money would go to high performing private companies and that unproductive and unprofitable companies would be closed. Job done.
It is in this light that the employment data should be considered, which, after the slump of 2020, saw 700,000 new jobs in 2021, approaching the employment levels of 2019. However, 115,000 jobs are still missing compared to the pre-pandemic year, when employment was still among the lowest in Europe with 3 million unemployed and as many people who had given up looking for a job. But it is the nature of these 700,000 hires and, more generally, of employment that must be considered; 91% of these jobs were short-term, precarious contracts and there is nothing to suggest that they could be transformed into permanent contracts. We are inside that infernal process, repeatedly denounced, of an ever deeper neo-liberal restructuring and greater exploitation of the workforce.
In addition, further factors must be considered in the upturn in production; the greatest growth, over 17%, occurred in construction, a real boom guaranteed by public bonuses for the renovation of houses. This boom was accompanied by lots of precarious contracts, very low wagesand a big increase in the injuries and fatal 'accidents' at work. - something we have seen in other sectors too. The industrial geography of the country was also redrawn, with Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna experiencing the greatest dynamism. It is no coincidence that these three regions are leading the project of the so-called differentiated regional autonomy. At the same time a historically industrial region like Piedmont is in decline and the South remains as before at the bottom of the pile.
Therefore, while in Lombardy and in the two other regions mentioned above, many companies are operating at full capacity, other companies and entire sectors are in decline, starting with the productive and occupational structure that had been the pivot of Italian industry, i.e. the automotive sector. This sector has been experiencing great difficulties for many years, but today it is facing the very delicate phase of the transition to electric cars. There has been a strong reduction in production and the multinational Stellantis (which still employs 66 thousand people) seems to be looking away from Italy. Fiom, the trade union, has denounced that in 2021 there has been a doubling of the redundancy fund compared to the 2019 figures and another union, Cisl, speaks of about 60 thousand jobs that are at risk throughout the automotive sector. Research by the Ministry of Infrastructure quantifies in 2200 the number of companies in this area employing as many as 163 thousand employees and producing a turnover of 45 billion;. However, the research specifies that as many as 101 companies (26 thousand employees) among these are at risk.
But today there are already t striking cases of mass redundancies, involving thousands of workers such as the one that occurred with the closure of Alitalia and the transition to the new public company ITA (so it is the state that fires) and that of Air Italy, formerly Meridiana (1320 employees). The brutality of the management of Altavilla, boss of ITA and formerly Marchionne's man at FCA, as well as his aversion to the workers of Alitalia, considered too unionised and combative, were confirmed in a recent interview: "I don't care what happens to those people, it's not my problem, otherwise we would no longer become a company that has to stay in the market, but a Red Cross agency for the employees of the old Alitalia".
But the restructuring processes affects many other companies, so much so that today there are hundreds of trade union disputes to block layoffs, closures and relocations. The government's law on outsourcing production to other countries is also pitiful. Public opinion has been aroused on this issue thanks to the struggle and the bill proposed by the GKN workers in Florence. Draghi and his associates have passed a law that provides a convenient, legitimate and inexpensive way for bosses and multinationals who want to transfer their companies elsewhere. This is one of the essential aspects of capitalist globalization.
In this regard, we can only refer to the joint communiqué of the workers of GKN and Caterpillar that denounce the fraudulent operation of the government. More and more there is the need to fight for nationalization and public intervention under workers' control to defend employment and the productive fabric of the country.
The picture of the condition of the working classes would not be complete if we did not remember the huge rise in energy prices, which also determines the increase in the cost of many basic foodstuffs, cutting salaries and pensions . the government has intervened by making available only 3 billion, a totally derisory amount to deal with this emergency.
In the second half of 2021, there have been significant struggles that have highlighted the will of sectors of workers to resist the neo-liberal employers' meat grinder offensive in the logistics sectors, in the many factories that defend their jobs, but also in services . There have been some struggles to try to unite the different movements: the big demonstration in Florence promoted by the GKN, then the general strike of the rank and file unions and finally the strike of CGIL and UIL. Certainly the latter was declared late and the union leaderships, subordinate and passive throughout the autumn, are responsible for where we are but we saw still quite large sectors of workers take to the streets demanding a more consistent struggle against the government and bossses' attack. At tthe same time there were mobilizations against global warming, women's demonstrations against violence and a first attempt in Rome on October 30 that tried to bring together the different social movements.
Insurgency and convergence are the two words that indicate this process of building unity. The GKN Collective is in the vanguard of this process along with other groups...
It is clear that the sharp resumption of the pandemic makes it even more difficult to build demonstrations, assemblies and struggles that are indispensable to respond to the governmental and Confindustrial offensive.
The unity of initiative and the content of the claims of the workers fighting to defend their jobs becomes a strong and immediate priority, and the relationship built between GKN and Caterpillar indicates the way forward.
At the same time, other social and political subjects, including the Society of Care and the Genoa 2021 Network, in which the GKN Collective participates, have been engaged for months in a process of convergence on programme and actions to take. At the end of February there will be a three-day forum in Rome for all the movements, associations and trade unions that want to build an alternative program but also organize concrete mobilizations against the bosses. There is the project of a large national demonstration at the end of March that the GKN proposes to hold in Florence.
Work, Health, Environment, Rights are the key words for insurgence and convergence.
14 January 2022
Translation by fourth.international from: Sinistra Anticapitalista
- 1The presidential election was held in Rome between 24 and 29 January 2022. Outgoing president Sergio Mattarella, supported by a centre-left coalition, was re-elected by a joint assembly composed of the Italian Parliament and regional representatives.