Cinzia Arruzza, co-author of Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto, spoke on 26 March about Covid-19 and workers’ struggles in Italy.
It was an online meeting organised by the “Workforce Coronavirus Support Group”, Manchester Trades Council, and Reel News.
For Arruzza's full speech, on YouTube, see here. Extracts below.
To keep things short, the Italian government didn’t take measures to suppress the virus in the way that China and South Korea did.
When they were finally forced to call for a lockdown, first of Lombardy and two days later the whole of Italy, it stopped shops, schools and public offices and so on, but all industrial production was still going on.
The first reaction against this came from some spontaneous wildcat strikes organised by Fiat workers in a couple of plants, especially in the south, where basically workers said they were not willing to go to work because they weren’t very conscious of measures in place to make sure contagion didn’t spread in the plants. Then there were legal strikes, also at Fiat, organised by their union.
This probably did have an influence on the decision on Fiat-Chrysler to shut down their plants. These were the
only plants that were actually closed in Italy.
With spontaneous pressure from rank-and-file workers, and the threat by the main unions to force a strike, the government issued a first stop of non-essential production on Monday [24 March]. This stop of non-essential production was a mockery, in that production was still going on, say of wallpaper or weapons.
There was a wave of strikes yesterday [Tuesday 25 March], organised by the main unions in Lombardy. All industrial sectors went on strike, and there was a general strike organised by the radical union USB. This did have an effect. It forced the government to revise the first order and to exclude a much greater range of production from the list of essential production. It did work, though still not enough.
None of this would have happened without the pressure from workers, without wildcat strikes, without calling in sick, all possible forms of spontaneous refusal of work, and also finally, especially in the last days, the pressure from and strikes organised by the unions.