Italian GKN workers’ resistance shows the way

Submitted by AWL on 5 October, 2021 - 11:52 Author: Hugh Edwards
GKN workers in Italy protest

Forty thousand or so workers and others marched in Florence on Saturday 18 September behind the banner, reading “Insorgiamo” (“We are in revolt”), of the 400 GKN workers sacked via email two months ago.

The hastily-convened decision the day after of the local industrial tribunal to uphold their claim of unlawful dismissal by the British-based multinational confirmed the effectiveness of the workers’ resistance.

This was a crucial first success for their struggle, their determination, and their ability to galvanise and sweep up a growing army of workers and others in an inspiring triumph for collective solidarity.

It reflected no merit of any kind on their union leaders, regionally or nationally, who passively went along with the workers’ independent actions without ever committing themselves on the terrain of action of any kind. Those trade union bureaucrats have been complicit with employers and with the government of Mario Draghi, which in July had given the green light to the bosses “right” to cut workforces, suspended during the Covid emergency periods.

The GKN workforce are only one of a veritable rash of workforces summarily locked out or in the pipeline for it.

The success of the GKN workers raises sharply the need to unite all of those fronts of struggle and resistance, posing concretely the demand for a united all-out action against the employers and the government.

Italy currently has a coalition government embracing the full profile of bourgeois parties, from centre-left to centre-right, minus only the neo-fascist Brothers of Italy

The bosses of GKN have acknowledged the tribunal decision against them, but have reserved their right to contest it, signalling that they have no intention to revoke the closure of their operation in Florence. The bosses’ federation Confindustria has warned the government not to “validate” what they termed the “atmosphere of mounting anti-business culture surfacing among the workers”.

Draghi hastily sought to reassure them that the hastily passed anti-delocalisation bill was only a regularisation to prevent any further “accidental” decisions such as happened with GKN.

The government’s eventual and cynical declaration of “solidarity” with the GKN workforce is hypocritical and opportunist. A ruthless restructuring is underway in industry, transport, public services etc, underlining a bloody-minded offensive in the pursuit of a capitalist recovery programme. The billions already handed to the bosses, with more on the way, will boost it.

Against that, the workers’ movement urgently needs to forge in struggle and resistance the widest and most militant unity. The crucial lesson of the GKN success the need for more than single, isolated, factory-by-factory responses.

The battle now is more critical than ever to render the living, burning disputes of the moment into one collective and general declaration of battle against the employers and the government, crowned by the demand: “Workers of Italy, Unite! Forward to the general strike!”

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