The Campaigner

The Campaigner

and March two factories in the Turin area were occupied swinishness of the FIOM, expressed in its refusal to unite

by workers after capitalist bosses, frightened by the with other unions in negotiations, was surpassed only by

rapid growth of the councils, had made good their threat the ignorance it showed regarding the general economic

to lock out workers. In March, capitalists Olivetti and situation. Agricultural production and mining had

Agnelli repeated the threat and, after a strike of Fiat plummeted in the post-war period as monetary

workers on the 28th, the AMMA factory closed its gates, speculation and inflation drove the prices of imports sky

This signalled the beginning of a month of ferment in the high and decimated working class buying power. [10]

entire Piedmont area, which saw a ten-day general strike Nonetheless, the FIOM appears to have believed that

involving a half a million workers with the participation crisis-wracked capitalism was healthy enough to make

of fati_-_laborers. Isolated, the strike collapsed. PCI wage concessions and to keep running the economy.

historian Paolo Spriano writes:

As the crisis steadily worsened throughout the summer

months, industrialist spokesmen flatly refused pay raises the beginning of the Turin showdown with

business and state "the city was flooded with an armyof and negotiations broke off in mid-August. On August 16

police; all around the city cannons and machine guns and 17 the FIOM called a special conference inviting

were placed in strategic positions" -- wrote Gramsci, CGL and PSI delegates to attend. Their unanimous

the Turinese movement had no support elsewhere, nor decision was to initiate obstructionism in all factories

did it possess a networkof "council" institutions outside and shipyards employing metalworkers, beginning on

the circle of Turin shops. Nor was it organized as a

political faction on a national or regional scale.(8) the 21st of the month. The motivation for this kind of

struggle was that it would allow workers to lower

In mid-April the industrialists made clear that they production while still guaranteeing them their base pay.

would re-open the factories only on condition that the In the event that the industrialists were to lock out

noriiis governing Internal Commission elections be workers, the conference voted that the workers would

abrogated. In response, a general strike was called occupy the factories.

affecting 20,000 workers in Turin. Lacking outside The significance of the obstructionist tactic for both

support and facing armed opposition, the strike union and party officials lay in the show of force posed in

collapsed on the 24th, thanks also to the refusal of both the threat to occupy the factories. It is clear in the

CGL and PSI to support it. [9] determination to go just so far, angrily threatening to go

Thus, instead of representing an organizing thrust to farther, that no one in FIOM, CGL or PSI leading

vaster strata, the April events, though they involved large positions actually thought they would have to make good

numbers of workers, furthered the factional drift the threat. CGL leader D'Aragona, trying to blame the

between the Turin FIOM local and the CGL on the one occupation on the FIOM, later said, "I didn't ever think

hand and the Ordine Nuovo group and the PSI on the we'd actually arrive at the point of really taking over the

other. Both the FIOM and the Ordine Nuovo group, factories."[ll] As for the PSI, its reformist Turati

which had organized the councils within the FIOM, faction had for some time been revising its revolutionary

found themselves in a minority position in the midst of rhetoric to lay the literary bases for backing out of

the most explosive ferment modern Italy had known, revolutionary organizing; the Serrati maximalist faction,

Terrified, alone, and totally disarmed theoretically and represented at the second congress of the Third

psychologically, they could only utter long 'low wails of International in Moscow that summer, was spewing out

bitter lamentagainstthe hegemonic institutions (the PSI revolutionary slogans and talking up soviets while

and CGL), begging, in effect, that they come to their aid. simultaneously resisting Lenin's demand that Turati &

Co. be shown the door; and the militant Ordine Nuovo

The capitalists, smelling trouble, united in a faction at home in the midst of the frenzy was

confederation of industry, the Confindustria, in March "skeptical" and uncertain of the future.J12]

1920. In August, two months after the Nitti government The industrialists and the government had no such

had fallen and Giolitti had returned to power, the fears. Giolitti made clear from the beginning that he

agricultural bosses formed a similar organization, the would follow a non-intervention policy [13] and

Confagricoltura. Both moves were designed to proceeded to enjoy his vacation in the mountains while

consolidate the national organization necessary to block his Labor Minister Labriola met with each side

working-class demands for wage increases in a period of separately. The industrialists stubbornly refused to pick

rising prices, up negotiations even when FIOM leader Bruno Buozzi

For the duration of the summer, the industrial unions was ready at the end of August. [14] Clearly, the

haggled separately with industrialists in fruitless industrialists were preparing for a lockout. Although

negotiations over cost-of-living demands. The industrial representatives had promised they would wait


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