What is SI Cobas? How was it created?
SI Cobas is an Italian militant workers’ union. It was established in 2010, by about a hundred workers who left SLAI Cobas, another union.
Now it has about 20,000 members in most of Italy’s regions, and it is still growing. It organises mainly immigrant workers, in the logistics sector, where it has become the strongest union, but also increasingly in other sectors: transport, food and meatpacking, engineering, hotels, cleaners, carers and others.
It is organising most of the strikes occurring in Italy, winning better wages and conditions for workers, respect for immigrants, previously treated like slaves. Most times workers have to face police repression.
Gains won become the advertisement that spreads through different communities bringing new workers to ask to join the union.
What groups were represented at the meeting on 29 September?
At the 29 September meeting in Naples many different groups were represented, from several cities: from two associations of the unemployed from Naples to organisations of homeless squatters in Rome, environmental associations – including Fridays For Future – and feminist groups, students, and a few left political organisations.
What were the goals for the meeting on September 29th?
The goal of the meeting was to work for the formation of an anti-capitalist front, with the participation of all organisations and associations, which stand for working-class struggle against capitalism, and carry on mobilisations and struggles against the government’s policies and the bosses, from a working-class perspective.
The meeting decided to participate in a general strike called for 25 October by SI Cobas and other alternative unions (CUB, SGB, USI-CIT, ADL Cobas), and organise a demonstration of on 26 October in Rome. It was also agreed to follow up with initiatives in the different cities.
Participants at the 29 September anticapitalist assembly in Milan
How many workers and sectors joined the general strike on October 25? What are the demands of the strike?
Strikers were only in the tens of thousands, as expected, but SI Cobas, with ADL Cobas, blocked the transport of goods at the big logistic companies like GLS, FedEx-TNT, DHL, SDA, BRT, Fercam and others. Local and railway transport and public service were also affected in several cities and regions.
Our demands are:
- wage increases after many years of diminishing purchasing power, and the introduction of a decent minimum wage, also for the unemployed, as there is no minimum wage in Italy
- working time reduction to fight unemployment and face new labour saving technologies
- shifting taxation from workers to the rich, through a wealth tax for the richest 10 percent
- equal rights for immigrants
- cancellation of the law giving employers freedom to use temporary employment and to dismiss workers of the previous PD [Democratic Party] governments
- cancellation of the “security decrees” of the previous government (against immigrants and social struggles)
- plus environmental measures, cutting military expenditure, and withdrawing Italy’s military from abroad.
What are the prospects for the Italian revolutionary left after the change of government?
The Italian revolutionary Left is very weak and fragmented, with small groups having no actual influence in society. Some of the self-proclaimed revolutionaries are actually nationalists. (The new name used in Italy is “sovereignism”, something like left-wing Brexiteers in Britain, i.e. saying that Italy should leave the euro and the EU, this way they replace class struggle with the bourgeois struggle between nations, and shift from international working-class unity to national collaboration, i.e. submission, of workers to the bourgeoisie).
The change of government, with the ousting of the far-right League and the entrance of the Democratic Party and of the Free and Equal (LEU) party, has not brought about any substantial change in policies (Giuseppe Conte remains as prime minister!). This change has caused a narrowing of the opposition area, with the exit of most reformists.
This helps political clarification, as we can tell everybody that the problem is not just Salvini, it is the whole bourgeois establishment and capitalism. I hope that the initiative launched in Naples will help to bring revolutionaries together on the basis of a common platform of struggle and favour their putting roots in society.
Myself, I am part of a collective editing the journal Pagine Marxiste, and we are working with other groups to form an internationalist revolutionary tendency, in order to start reversing the extreme fragmentation of revolutionaries in Italy.
We want to work for the formation of a revolutionary party in Italy, but there are already too many organisations that misuse both the term “communist” and “party”. Only those who practise the motto “Proletarians of all countries, unite!” can call themselves communist.
And only an organisation with a real mass influence in the working class can be called a party. The task is huge, and to be carried out in close contact with the masses and their struggles.
•Roberto Luzzi, an activist in the SI Cobas union movement in Italy, talked to Justine Canady from Solidarity at a 29 September “anticapitalist assembly” in Naples.
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