Italy: After the massive Rome demonstration — build the general strike!

October 17, 2023
Rome demonstration Oct 10
More than 100,000 people mobilised in Italy's capital Rome on October 10. Photo: @lilasart/Twitter/X

The following article by Italian Anti-Capitalist Left leader Franco Turigliatto is a comment on the importance of the October 7 Rome demonstration organised by the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) and 100 other trade union and civil society organisations.

Called “The Main Road — Together with the Constitution”, the demonstration mobilised more than 100,000 people in support of workers’ rights, social justice, health, education, peace, the environment and equality among Italy’s regions.

Publicity for the demonstration projected defence of these values and social gains — under threat from Prime Minster Georgia Meloni's far-right government — as a reaffirmation on the 75th anniversary of the Italian constitution’s first article: “Italy is a democratic republic, founded on labour”.

Born of the anti-fascist resistance’s victory in World War II, the country’s constitution has long been the target of right-wing assault because of the social rights it enshrines, seen by its opponents as mainly a set of bottlenecks constraining economic efficiency.

Over the past year, the Meloni administration has sped up the war on what remains of these rights after 30 years of more-or-less neoliberal government. Meloni has been driving a faster rundown in spending on public health and education, deeper cuts in private and public sector wages and bigger reductions in tax rates on profit.

Her government’s most recent move has been to introduce a bill to accede to the request for “differentiated autonomy” from the richer northern regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna. This measure would transfer to these jurisdictions legislative powers and administrative functions previously exercised by the central government, including those over education and health.

The impact would be to allow Italy’s rich North to manage an increasing share of total state revenue without the “solidarity constraints” that presently redistribute income to the poorer South. Progressive Italian analysts have called the arrangement “secession for the rich” and "an authentic institutional shopping spree”.

Translated and introduced by Dick Nichols, Green Left's European correspondent. Subheadings added.

* * *


Rome demonstration Oct 10
Demonstration in Rome on October 10. Photo: @EFAT_gs/Twitter/X

Last Saturday's (October 10) demonstration by the CGIL and the 100 associations that also promoted it was a success, indeed a big success, the likes of which had not been seen for many years.

It was not, therefore, a demonstration only of activists and even less of institutional apparatuses, but one that involved broad sectors of public and private sector workers, men and women, with many pensioners, groups of friends and family members.

In the feeder march that started from [the Rome neighbourhood of] Ostiense there were many young people, who had also mobilised the day before with Fridays for Future. However, the presence of migrant workers, increasingly necessary to ensure full representation of the working class in our country, was perhaps weaker.

It must be said that the policy choices and reactionary nationalist propaganda of the far-right government and its supporters, with their attacks on different social sectors starting with young people, provide motives every day for taking to the streets.

It is good that there was a mass response and that the desire to mobilise has re-emerged in a drive to get beyond the period of passive waiting. This is the strongly positive aspect of October 7, a possible change of phase that points to potential for mobilisation and struggle.

The day also showed that the CGIL still possesses the political and organisational tools that can promote and give form to a mobilisation of this scale.


However, all these positive elements only highlight the gulf that exists between the large turnout and the readiness to return to the streets, and the orientation of the CGIL leadership and its social and political allies.

This was expressed in the extreme vagueness of the demonstration’s content and its proposed platform of action, and in the political slant of the speeches given from the stage (of all of them, I would say).

The platform put forward was that of defence of the constitution along with some very generic formulas that amounted to a vague democratic aspiration, almost a state of mind, rather than to definite concrete goals, and all managed with the rhetoric about “we won't be divided”.

Carefully avoided was any indication of the need for a thorough fight against the social and political enemies of the working class, even less of any appeal to class consciousness — the words “bosses” and “capitalism” never made an appearance in the speech and summary of the CGIL secretary [Maurizio Landini].

Above all, the large audience of workers who packed the square received no concrete indication for mobilisation and struggle, the first task of a trade union leadership worthy of the name.

Towards general strike?

Landini even dodged any mention of the word “strike”, which much of the crowd was expecting. He dismissed the cruel and anti-social decisions of the government and the capitalists as mistakes, rather than a clear plan to attack the working classes and guarantee profit and rents.

Instead of pointing to the class struggle that is actually under way and heightening workers’ self-consciousness, Landini performed so as to dilute it: disastrous from a political and trade union viewpoint.

Hence the great gap between the size of the demonstration and the orientation of the leadership group, which left tens of thousands of people without any indication of what to do in their workplace.

To be clear: the average consciousness of those that took part is still quite low. It corresponds to the democratic and social generalities of the speakers, who lack a real alternative project. Nonetheless, if so many workers decided to leave home and take a train or bus to demonstrate against this government, it is also true that we are dealing with pressure for a change of pace in the struggle.

Moreover, even if not predominant in the demonstration, the call for a general strike was well present, and at the end of the event there was some dissatisfaction with its feeble conclusion.

Road forward

So, we start again from scratch: the stakes are in the workplace, where more than ever we must work to promote the demand for the general strike and the determination to build it. And after October 7 we have a few more ingredients that make it a believable goal.

At the same time, it is also clear that the strike can only be built and made attractive by identifying some precise and concrete objectives, and certainly not by re-proposing the vague platform of defence of the constitution, perhaps spiced up with the vague and weak institutional opposition of the Democratic Party, now in a phase of rapprochement with the CGIL, and the Five Star Movement.

To build an immediate platform of struggle for the general strike we list four issues for discussion:

• Withdrawal of the differentiated autonomy bill
• Proper funding of public health and education
• Proper funding of public employment contracts combined with an overall increase in public and private wages, including through the introduction of the legal minimum wage
• All of this to be funded by taxing profits, rents and assets, and by cutting military spending.

Within this framework, the projected October 20 strike of rank-and-file unions, whose platform we share, has our support and commitment to participate, albeit in the knowledge that it will mainly involve limited advanced sectors.

It will also be important for its initiators to know how to build the strike in an open way, working in the perspective of being available to take part in any initiatives and strikes that broader sections of the working class might undertake in the autumn.

The silence about a general strike on the speakers’ platform in Rome does not automatically mean that the CGIL — and the Italian Labour Union (UIL) too — may not eventually be pushed to declare it in some form or other, given the government's actions.

The risk is the one that has already been shown in the past two years, namely that a strike will be called in December, that is, at the death, and in relation to delays in adopting the budget and the clash with the government over this — a strike that would be purely propagandistic and aimed only at safeguarding the union as an apparatus and its leadership group.

It is the task of the most militant and conscious union sectors to work so that the strike comes off earlier, making use of the impetus — not enormous but genuine — expressed on October 7.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.