The Campaigner

The Campaigner


and employment levels, the marked upturn in themselves be weakened unless dominated by union

radicalization signified massive growth for existing members. Nor was the PSI leadership happy about the

working-class institutions. Within two years after the councils which were sprouting in Turin factories by

war, the ranks of organized labor jumped to five times its August 1919. Serrati, then editor of the PSI daily A vanti,

pre-war dimensions[2]; the CGL grew from 250,000 at called non-unionized workers' participation in the

the end of the war to 1,930,000 in 1920 (of which 50 per councils an "aberration"J4] because those unorganized

cent represented industrial workers and 160,000 be- masses, in the party's view, needed an organized

longed to the militant metalworkers union, the FIOM). movement in order to become revolutionary -- and that

The Catholic union CIL counted 1,823,491 (80 per cent organized movement was, of course, the party.

of whom were agricultural workers), the anarchist USI Despite opposition from both the PSI and the CGL

had 300,000 and the newly-formed nationalist UIL leaderships, enormous numbers of Italian workers took

attracted 200,000 members. The same tendency emerged up Gramsci's call and gave rise to factory councils. From

at the polls where the PSI made a killing in the 1919 the first councils elected in Turin's Fiat plants in August

general elections, spreading its influence in Parliament and September 1919, an executive committee was

and at the local administration level, formed at an October conference where workers coming

The same process of radicalization manifest in the from 15 factories represented more than 30,000

luxuriant growthofthe PSI and trade unions produced a metalworkers. Soon the number rose to 30 factories

core of young "revolutionary" intellectuals within the representing 50,000 workers. [S]

ranks of the PSI who felt it was high time for the PSI, by The council organizing thrust reflected the general

then verbally a member of the Third International, to tendency towards worker radicalization (and therefore

turn its revolutionary rhetoric into actual organizing increased recruitment in the unions) and at the same

practice. The Ordine Nuovo (New Order) faction thus time indicated the restless impatience felt by more

formed was composed initially of four individuals -- enraged workers with the increasingly apparent inability

Antonio Gramsci, Angelo Tasca, Umberto Terracini of the union (the FIOM) to guarantee that concessions

and Palmiro Togliatti who led the battle against the won would be respected by the industrialists. As the

party's centrist practice and, after having failed economic crisis worsened in the summer of 1919, the

miserably in the attempt, were to contribute to the FIOM was forced to lead strikes lasting two months in

formation of the Communist Party (PCI) in 1921. Lombardy, Emilia and Liguria to win cost-of-living

It is through examining the content and quality of the increases and minimum wages, only to find the bosses

bungling debate carried on by Ordine Nuovo, both in its blithely ignoring the costly agreement.

publication of the same name and in its actual So the "success" of union organizing actually

organizing activity, that one can begin to document the constituted a danger to the unions themselves, both in

failure of the revolution and at the same time measure the form of "excessive" [6] numerical growth and in the

both the political bankruptcy of even the early PCI and emergence of militant caucuses which were the councils.

the sheer idiocy of those impotent left formations in Italy The CGL and the PSI, both suffering from internal

today who are seeking out some figure of pre-PCI purity growth, hedged the threat posed by the militant councils:

(i.e. Gramsci) to imitate, the union tried to co-opt council militancy by advancing

proposals for workers' control of the shop, and the party

Ordine Nuovo's gimmick was the factory council[3], undermined the councils by calling them economistic.

the bastard offspring of the Internal Commissions. This official view of the councils rested on a union-party

Within the FIOM metalworkers union, base groups pact stipulated in September 1918 which had given the

called Internal Commissions had grown up in 1906 and CGL power to call and direct strikes of an "economic"

became recognized in 1919: they were made up of five nature and had given the PSI leadership over struggles of

union members elected by fellow union members of the a national and political character[7]; the union

same shop to defend the workers in factory grievances, confederation could thus call any militant council ac-

The Ordine Nuovo group under the leadership of tions anarchosyndicalist while the party, reiterating its

Gramsci, who theorized the councils, saw in the Internal firm intentions to make the revolution, could condemn

Commission the "germ of a Soviet," which they the councils for their purely economic demands.

transformed into the Factory Council by fighting for

voting rights for the non-unionized workers. Predictably The union confederation showed its willingness to

the unions themselves opposed the inclusion of sabotage council activity in the late winter of 1919-20

unorganized workers, fearing that the Factory Councils when isolated cases of factory occupations promoted by

would undermine the union's authority or would the councils led to miserable failure. Between February

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