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The new decree issued by the chairman, dating from March 11, even more so than the last one, is explicit in its class character. While drastic measures are announced to combat the Coronavirus emergency and the closing of small commercial activities and restaurants is imposed, they are leaving factories open, even in Lombardy, a region where the percentage of infected people and deaths is very high.  They leave offices and factories, supermarkets, banks, call centers, etc open. All this while the government announces tens of thousands of layoffs in the aerial sector (see Alitalia and Air Italy).

By: Fabiana Stefanoni    03/14/2020

Capitalism throws its mask away

It is precisely in critical moments such as this that the masks fall off. Capitalism shows its true face in a striking way: a barbaric and inhumane one. The government in power, like all bourgeois governments, in a unanimous agreement between «new» parties self-proclaimed as the M5S and the «traditional» parties, slavishly executes the orders of the Confindustria: the factories and the big commerce chains will not close because, it defends the billionaire earnings of the capitalists!

For that, while the need to stay home to avoid infections is announced, the workers, contractors, transport workers, employees, bellhops, are all forced to go… to get infected in their workplaces!

Aside from being hypocritical, the declarations of the chairman of Confindustria, Boccia, that guarantee that workers can be protected on the job, are criminal. Anyone who has set foot in a factory, or has spoken to people who have worked in assembly lines, knows very well that, in the current conditions of the industry, there is no protection possible. The workers inevitably find themselves at short distances among themselves, work in closed places where the virus can spread easily. They load and unload merchandise that can be sources of infection.

The truth is another, and it’s a class truth: the billionaire capitalists, industrialists and bankers don’t want to renounce to a measly crumb of their billionaire earnings: for this reason, they don’t want to close the factories.  It is a lie of those who say that the production cannot be interrupted: the majority of the big factories in our country –from the steel mills to the metallurgical industry, from the chemical industry to the automotive– produce goods that have nothing to do with the «needs of public health». The only needs they want to defend are their earnings: the lives of millions of workers don’t matter at all!

The anarchist and irrational character of an economic system based on individual benefit also emerges clearly: capitalists don’t see beyond their own noses, they don’t consider that the Coronavirus might infect them as well. It even seems that some “Paperoni” [“the guys with the money”] are already equipped to travel with their private jets to remote islands or luxurious bunkers… and they don’t calculate that if workers are infected en masse, it’ll be necessary, by force majeure, to stop the production and close the factories.

It’s worth noting that, as always, the bourgeoisie expresses different positions on the inside. The majority of the industries that need the workers physically working in the factories (steel mills, metallurgic, automotive, etc.) don’t have the intent of closing, not even in areas of major risk (the emblematic case of the steel mill giant Arvedi de Cremona that hasn’t closed a single day, in one of the areas of main outbreaks of the virus) or close two or three days just to «make the factory more safe»(!) (like FCA). There are also businesses in sectors that need less «physical» manpower that can get away with working from home. For this reason, they offer a «generous» 15 day pause to halt productive activities: this is the position expressed, for example, by the colossal editorial RCS, that controls TV stations, like La7 (ironically, the journalists from the TV stations themselves, announce it’ll take «months» to come out of this emergency).

One thing is certain: all of the Italian bourgeoisie, after the noise from the Milan stock exchange, are panicking. This means they’ll implement or require even more severe measures… in defense of their earnings.  There are already cases of workers pressured by their employers to lie about their state of health (that is, to hide the fact they’ve been infected) to avoid shutting down their establishment. In many workplaces, the employees have been forced to take vacation days, many have been layed-off. And this is just the beginning.

Hipocrisy and firefighters

The positions of Salvini, Meloni and Fontana are embarrassing and hypocritical, and are just now demanding a greater number of industries be closed (probably based on the electoral consensus).  These loafers must be reminded that they too, like all the other main political bourgeois leaders (from Zingaretti to Berlusconi, from Bersani to Monti, from Renzi to Vendola) have actively supported – by voting in Parliament and implementing in regions they govern – all billionaire budget cuts to health, with the subsequent drastic and dramatic reduction of first aid beds and intensive therapy beds. All of them, Salvini and Meloni leading, when they were in the government with Berlusconi, approved the privatization of the health system, the closing of hospitals, the dismantling of the beds. All of the center-left representatives did the same, without exception: only we, in that moment, denounced the cuts to the beds implemented by Vendola in Puglia. It’s also worth remembering Salvini, whose right hand Zaia, in the fortress of the League, the region of Véneto, initially blocked the factories from closing, from the imminent spread of the virus: it’s too easy to switch positions at the last minute because of fear of losing an electoral consensus!

[link | Also read Coronavirus: Who is to blame?]

But the hypocrisy doesn’t just come from the right. The bureaucracies of the main syndical organizations, CGIL, CISL and UIL, Landini in the lead, have taken on an unequivocal position in defense of the earnings, putting the lives of millions of workers at risk. They immediately requested to «increase the security parameters and health protection», thus backing the employer ideology that it is not possible to halt production.  The truth is another: currently there are few production sectors where it is necessary they remain active, and they’re related to emergencies. Therefore, those who produce tools, machinery and medicine necessary to face the Coronavirus, and some food chain businesses (those who produce first need nourishment). All the other industries could be closed: it would suffice to commandeer the goods already produced and destined to market (goods that many industries have left on the shelf and maintain them there waiting for better times to sell them) and use them for the requirements of the popular masses in this critical period.

With no shame, Landini, la Furlan, and Barbagallo call for «concord and responsibility». Their pretense is that it is possible to work in a safe manner in delivery, claiming the «disinfection» of the establishments is impossible. Thus taking on a huge responsibility: sending the workers and their families to die, in accordance with Confindustria and the government! (1)

The working class marks its presence!

Immediately after Conte’s TV announcement on March 11, that all of Italy would become a «red zone», but that millions of workers would still have to continue working, the workers’ protests exploded, of course in all possible ways in a moment which demonstrating publicly can in fact be dangerous. The fighting front of No Austerity, in which our militants also participate in its construction, after publishing numerous posts about the class character of the measures taken by the government and its organisms (think about the attack on the right to strike in transport), launched a calling to all labor unions to call for an indefinite and immediate strike in the private sector (that is, in all sectors where it is possible to strike indefinitely without risking sanctions to the workers).

That same day, blockades and strikes were announced throughout the country (some base unions have also proclaimed turmoil and indefinite strikes at a national level).

Here we share a list, that is constantly updated of the main workers and organizations of workers on strike (or that have announced striking): Pasotti and other big factories in Brescia; in Asti, Vercelli e Cuneo, the MTM, the IKK, the Dierre, Trivium; Corneliani, Iveco, Relevi in the province of Mantova; Whirlpool in the province of Varese, the great steel mill Ast in Terni; Briton in the milanese district of Cormano; Electrolux and Marghera in the province of Treviso; Fincantieri in Liguria; in Liguria, dockers and ship maintenance workers also declared a strike; telecommunications workers (System House Srl, System Data Center and Out Spa) as well as Riders are on strike, just as the delivery people are at risk of infection with home deliveries; in Tuscany, strikes are ongoing in the Piaggio of Pontedera, the Gkn of Florence, Hitachi in Pistoia, in Esselunga (where a national strike has been announced); the workers of Almaviva are on indefinite strike and a ten day strike has begun in the Ilva of Taranto; the workers of Alitalia of several manipulation sectors in the airport of Fiumicino, though they cannot strike due to laws against striking, have introduced blocking of activities; there are already other strikes programmed in factories that were previously closed for just a few days and are now re-opening: from Ferrari in Maranello to many other companies in the rubber-plastic and chemical industries, from commerce to telecommunications. In the last few days, workers of the FCA of Pomigliano and Termoli were on strike.

[link | Also read Argentina | For the lives of women workers, everyone to the streets on the 9th]

These are very important strikes, mostly because, aside from the demands, the workers have organized themselves. In contrast to the grand national bureaucracies that wanted to muffle any protest, to guarantee their role of the only spokesmen for the workers (and with that, protect the interests of their own bureaucratic apparatus, in accordance with Confindustria). However, the workers will not become «cannon fodder» («we are not cannon fodder» is one of the mottos of the labor protest). They pressured their union representatives in the companies to call to strike: for this reason, we are experiencing production halts, called for by the most disparate union acronyms, from those based on FIOM, to CISL and UIL. Even in an emergency situation, in which we’re not sure if we’ll all survive, the working class is giving us a great lesson in determination and struggle, that is proving it has the capacity to take destiny into its own hands.

With the workers on strike for a different system!

The Alternative Communist Party backs the workers who have gone to strike. While we are writing this, also thanks to the pressure exerted by these strikes, the government just convened the union leaders «of trust» to evaluate what to do. The bureaucracies of CGIL, CISL and UIL have asked for a temporary interruption of functional industries for the «disinfection» (sic!), with the use of social security networks (that is to say, new indirect public finances for the businesses: the State pays for the salaries instead of the employers). Fiom’s leadership and that of other metallurgic unions (Fim and Uilm), in spite of themselves, have been forced to cover ongoing strikes and the upcoming ones, claiming «a strike for all the time needed».

The results that have been obtained (the temporary closing of some productive sites) are fruit of the struggle, but we must not let our guard down: it is necessary to maintain a state of turmoil until every factory is closed (except for the very few necessary factories needed for health emergencies). So that the protest is effective, labor blockades must be generalized and expand.

We make ours, the already advanced platform made by some struggle realities (for example, the call to go into quarantine), but we also believe that we should immediately prepare ourselves for a long term of class confrontations (we’ll see in what ways we can make that happen, moving ahead with a situation of infection risk). The time is up for wearing masks, of the double-dealing and having it both ways.  The time has come to decide which side you’re on: either the unscrupulous capitalists’ side, or on the workers’ side.

The Communist Alternative Party calls for:

  • Immediate shutdown of all productive sites, every factory and every company until the Coronavirus emergency is lifted, with the exception of the few essential factories that produce hospital machinery, masks, pharmaceutical products and the businesses that provide basic needs food (in these cases, it’s necessary to radically redefine the methods of production and the organization of internal labor, with the hiring of permanent personnel and the reduction of the work schedule with the same pay for the workers).
  • Reopening of all the hospitals that were shutdown due to budget cuts and requisitions by the State of all the private clinics to strengthen the national public health system; immediate duplication of hospital beds in first aids and intensive care.
  • Permanent hiring of a large contingency of doctors and nurses in hospitals and public infrastructure, from those in waiting lists; real protection and salary increases for health workers.
  • In big companies, 100% remuneration by the employer, without recurring to vacations or payroll cuts; in small businesses, 100% pay, with retribution from the State for what the company cannot afford to pay.
  • Immediate closing of all offices and call centers, with the change to work from home only where strictly necessary to avoid harming the community.
  • Immediate interruption of all transport (railway, airway, buses), providing minimal contingency (and protected), only for emergencies; calling for 100% of the salary for personnel without recurring to vacations or payroll cuts.

[link | Also read Petrol Strike: Advancing in the fight to defeat Bolsonaro, impeding privatization, and guaranteeing employment and rights!]

  • Immediate halt to lay off procedures in the aviation sector. Nationalization without compensation and under the control of the workers of Alitalia, Air Italy and Ernst.
  • Immediate closing of all superstores, with direct and free distribution of nourishment by the State until the emergency ceases.
  • 100% remuneration (even including the citizenship salary, to be equal to the full salary, the so called «quarantine income») of all education personnel, services and cooperatives that had to leave their jobs due to the emergency.
  • Permanent recruitment of all school personnel (teachers and ATA) with 36 months of service to strengthen online teaching; total closure of schools with no work obligations for administrative personnel and janitors.
  • Immediate citizenship income («quarantine income») equal to the average salary of a worker for all those who do not have a job or who can no longer work, including self-employed workers, from trade to crafts to catering. Public support for small family-run businesses that have no income during this period due to forced closure.
  • Abolition of Salvini’s Decrees; opening of centers of public assistance for immigrants, to also guarantee real health protection; immediate citizenship status for all immigrants, so that they can have easier use of the health services they require.
  • Cancel the pay of the external debt, with the goal of having more resources to combat the sanitary emergency.
  • Expropriation by the State, of all big factories, starting with those that refuse to halt production, with the objective to use the goods destined to market or shelved in warehouses to satisfy the needs of the community.
  • Nationalization of all big banks, with the creation of a one and only grand state bank without private capital that can guarantee unconditional and subsidiary loans to workers and the unemployed in this state of emergency.

If these measures were taken, the health crisis could be approached with no risk to workers who are currently living under the threat of being fired en masse: the bankers, capitalists and billionaires must pay for the coronavirus crisis, not the workers!

Never like today, have Trotsky’s words been more up to date, than that of the «Transition Program» in which he wrote that in capitalism «a catastrophe threatens all of human civilization». In 1938, when Trotsky wrote these words, a new world war was expected, and would come soon after. Today, another catastrophe is upon us. Yesterday, like today, salvation «is in the hands of the proletariate, that is, especially, in the hands of its revolutionary vanguard». And in these days of generalized fears, but also of class confrontations, we have proof of this with the ongoing strikes. It is true, as Trotsky said, that «the historical crisis of humanity is the crisis of the revolutionary leadership», today more than ever it is imperative and urgent to build the international revolutionary party.

(1) It must be clarified that, unfortunately, even the combative syndical sectors and representatives of the «revolutionary» left are backing these positions, in fact capitulating to Confindustria’s positions that believe it is possible to have employees go to work under «safe conditions». At the end of this experience, there will come a time of ruthless balances also in organizations of labor and class movements.

Article published in: www.alternativacomunista.it

The illustration says: “Stop capitalism to stop the virus”. – #closethefactories.

Translation: Anastasia Ransewak