On Saturday 25 October, up to a million protesters marched to Rome's Piazza San Giovanni in response to the call from CGIL trade union leader Susanna Camusso to support her union's opposition to the coalition goverment of Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi.
It was largest mass demonstration in Italy for over a decade.
His goverment is in the final stages of introducing legislation to drastically worsen job-security conditions won 40 years ago in mass struggles.
It is the latest and most ruthless gamble by Italy's rulers to comprehensively deregulate the workplace and try to prove that Renzi can arrest the country's decline in the world market.
The millions on the streets may indicate that the relatively easy ride so far for both Renzi and his two immediate predecessors, Mario Monte and Enrico Letta, may be over.
As well as the CGIL's usual base, the demo brought out hundreds of thousands of other workers, unemployed, "precariat", students, and people from hundreds of progressive campaigns all over the country.
There were thousands of migrant workers from a radical union, USB, whose members had struck nationally the day before; metalworkers from the threatened steelworks at Terni; and workers from the threatened Meridana airline.
Camusso and her fellow bureaucrats must have hoped that the turnout and their radical rhetoric about the "possibility" of a one-day general strike might be enough to give Renzi pause before a scheduled meeting on Monday 27th.
The little aspiring Bonaparte didn't even bother to show, sending a message via his minions that "elected governments , on matters of legal reform, only negotiate with elected representatives".
Renzi is the leader of the Democratic Party, whose strength as an agency of Italy's rulers has so far depended on the compliant attitude to it of the major trade-union confederations, especially the apparatus of CGIL, historically tied to Italy's Stalinist and post-Stalinist nomenklatura who still make up a key part of the Party.
The "social stability" which they have boasted of is but a cynical euphemism for the state of abject misery, despair and sense of political prostration that conniving bureaucratic inertia has inflicted on the workers and their families.
The success of the crackpot populism of Grillo, the collapse of the membership of the Democratic Party itself, and the slow but relentless reemergence of the racist Northern League, are symptoms.
When Renzi arrived in a populist "coup", as a self -trumpeting "moderniser", Fiat boss Marchionne said: "Now we can begin to get rid of the rubbish. That's why we have put him there".
This time the "rubbish" includes the trade-union apparatus, denounced by the prime minister in his propaganda to workers in the 95% of businesses not covered by Article 18's job-security provisions as "a conservative, corporative elite" indulging a "privileged minorirty of skilled workers who believe that they have the right to a fixed, permanent, secure job". "No one has that right", he declared at a party convention on the Sunday following the march.
His scornful retort to Camusso has put the ball back in the court of the union leaders.
They continue to talk about a general strike, but say a decision will have to wait until the mid-November meeting of the executive.
Events came to something of a head on Wednesday 29th, when a further demonstration by the steelworkers of Terni was set upon by the riot squads.
Metalworkers' leader Landini, on the march but unscathed, announced two days of eight-hour strikes and regional demonstrations across the country. Camusso announced that she would be proposing similar action to her executive, but on different days.
Apart from the all-out action at Terni and Meridiana, there are now 150 disputes involving 150,000 workers in defence of jobs and imminent closures.
The occupation of the steelworks at Terni and the call for support and similar action from other plants can be the basis for creating a new balance of forces in the workers' movement, capable of challenging and defeating the Renzi regime and posing the conditions for the birth of a movement capable of setting its sights on a class-wide battle for working-class political power.