A very useful national seminar of ControCorrente was held over the third weekend in September in Genoa.
Workers, activists and union leaders from many of the areas where ControCorrente is active were present – from Turin, Bologna, Reggio Emilia, Conegliano, Treviso, San Remo and of course the largest contingent was from Genoa. Also present were youth attending their first national meeting of the association.
Marco Veruggio, main spokesperson for the association, gave a picture of how the crisis in Europe is felt in Italy. The euro was an attempt by sections of the European bourgeoisie to go beyond the limits of the nation state and to create a common market in competition with the US and China. The current economic crisis has brought out all the contradictions and the single currency has never been as weak as it is today.
In many countries, maintaining the euro is now associated with the policies of austerity and recession that the Troika is imposing on the southern European ’PIIGS’ countries. In some cases this has led to a growth in the support for left-wing organisations, though not unfortunately, as yet, in Italy. Even in the most affected countries such as Greece, the majority of the population fears that returning to the old national currency would be a leap into the unknown. However, for Greece or Italy, it would not be a catastrophe on the scale described in the media but nor would it solve the crisis. It is the level of struggle between the classes which will determine the fate of the euro. A country that says ’no’ to austerity, privatisation and cuts, would be expelled. For Germany, the exit from the Euro would be at a high cost and according to the newspaper, Der Spiegel, Germany’s exit from the euro zone could lead to a decrease of 10% in the country’s GDP.
The world after the crisis will be very different
Prospects for the trade unions was an important part of the week-end’s discussion. Piero Acquilino, from the ship-yard, Fincantieri, emphasised the unprecedented character of this crisis. "The world we will know after the crisis will be very different from what we know today".
Many present spoke on tactics and a strategy for continuing the battles within the unions. Maurizio Rimassa, who is on the national leadership of the Union of the Trade unions of the Base (USB), felt that the rank- and-file unions outside the main federations had not taken advantage of the failure of the Cgil to overcome its internal difficulties and lead a fight back. Public sector workers pointed to the urgent need for a battle against the cuts and a worker at the Carlo Felice Theatre in Genoa, described how a fight against the liquidation of the pension fund had been victorious
Fiom Secretary in Genoa, Bruno Manganaro, explained the vital role that Marxist militants could play in the union. The struggle carried out by Fiom against the privatisation of Fincantieri, has shown the most determined resistance to the bosses’ offensive in Italy. Antongiulio Mannoni, Secretary of the Labour Council of Genoa, demonstrated how moving risky production towards so- called developing countries in no way solves the problems of environmental degradation or of safety at work, giving the example of the recent terrible fire at a textile factory in Karachi, Pakistan which killed 289 workers. This underlined the need for an internationalist policy and international coordination of workers’ struggles.
Piero Acquilino stressed the need for Marxists to create social and political blocks around the struggles and disputes that develop in the country as was successfully done in the case of Fincantieri and is being done around the struggle to save the jobs of the Alcoa steel-works in the south of the country.
Immigration and anti-fascism
Another discussion at the seminar covered the phenomenon of the advance of the far right and fascism. Giuliano Brunetti explained how the crisis affects the working class but also sectors of the middle class oppressed by big capital. They can be attracted by the ’anti-capitalist’ demagogy of the right. ControCorrente wants to develop a programme to reach some of the petty bourgeois who are crushed by big business and have been temporarily seduced by the far right.
A number of participants in the discussion, including Clare Doyle from the International Secretariat of the CWI, dealt with the way in which immigration is used as a tool by capitalism for the depression of wages and workers’ rights. Socialists fight for political parties and trade unions to organise immigrant workers and uphold the principle of the same rights and wages being applied for all workers who do the same work, whatever their nationality. On the other hand, in the context of scarcity and crisis, a slogan of ’open borders’ will arouse the fears of many workers and Marxists have to devise a programme that is principled and involves workers’ representatives in all major decisions.
Laura Guidetti, a feminist activist, explained that Islamic fundamentalism is politically reactionary. Often the far left erroneously gives support to Islamist regimes in the name of ’anti- imperialism’. Others spoke of the class character of fascism – past and present, of the growth in support on the electoral fields for the National Front in France and Golden Dawn in Greece. The English Defence League is a small but ugly force in Britain; it has been defeated on the streets but will not disappear.
The far right grows either on the political vacuum created by the absence of major left forces, or on disappointment with left forces who have failed to adopt policies to really change things. ControCorrente believes it is wrong, to refuse, as some lefts do, to cooperate with anti-fascists who are not convinced of the need to get rid of capitalism; when students in Italy have mobilised against the neo-fascist ’Casa Pound’ and against the ’Student Block’, ControCorrente has participated precisely in order to discuss with the best young anti-fascists on those mobilisations and bring forward a socialist programme.
A further discussion at the seminar was on the struggle to defend local public transport services. Simone Solari spoke about the battle in Genoa against the privatisation of his company and for the defence of working conditions and the quality of service offered to users. He described how the workers have been forced to build a committee of mobilisation and coordination independent of the union officials.
An assembly had been organised in Turin which saw a strong participation of transport workers. It is vital to build links in the fight against the privatisation of local public transport, not only between Genoa and Turin but more generally between public transport workers of the main Italian cities – a coordination which the main trade unions are not promoting.
Donato di Taranto, a worker in Turin GTT, explained the practical implications of privatisation, the increase in the cost of the tickets, the degradation of the service, the reduction of the number of lines and kilometres covered. There is not a single example of privatisation that has led to an improvement of the service. In Turin comrades of ControCorrente have participated in the establishment of a committee ’No to the privatisation of the GTT’, and the coordination of workers from all the companies of the municipality.
Stefano Radaelli from Bologna spoke of the campaign against the costly and useless ’People Mover’ and the need to strengthen the already existing metropolitan rail service. There was great uncertainty and hardship facing workers in the ATC public transport company in Bologna. Linking these workers with transport workers in other cities is an important task.
As Marco Verruggio emphasised at the end of an extremely useful day’s discussion: "From Fincantieri, to Val di Susa, from the fight against the third tunnel (in Genoa) to that against the ’People Mover’ in Bologna, ControCorrente struggles against privatisation, against the sell-off of public assets and against useless and harmful projects of big business, for free and quality public transport under the control of the workers and the users. Our task is to tie together the struggles of workers in the same sector and, in the course of our work explain to thousands of workers the type of society we are fighting for.
National Assembly on ControCorrente members
The next day – Sunday 16 September – the National Assembly of the members of ControCorrente discussed perspectives and tasks. The extent and seriousness of the economic crisis was highlighted by Marco Veruggio and the inability of the Monti government to fulfil the targets that his own ’technicians’ had indicated. Fabrizio Nigro, pointed out that the opportunity for ControCorrente to ’weigh’ on the discussions in the left around a new workers’ political force is conditioned by its ability to grow. Clare Doyle described the rise and fall a number of left forces in Europe and the struggle to build a new mass workers’ party in Britain.
A proposal for the consolidation and strengthening of ControCorrente was presented and thoroughly discussed, including contributions from Mara Armellin and Christel Dicembre.
In her concluding remarks, Christine Thomas stressed the important strides made recently by the Association and underlined the importance of strengthening the coordination among the comrades from different areas. A new National Committee and Executive Committee were elected. After this successful weekend of in-depth discussion, the task is to translate the conclusions into practice with renewed energy.