On 9 October thousands of right-wing anti-vaccine demonstrators protested in Rome, and fascists from the Forza Nuova party smashed their way into the offices of the CGIL, Italy’s biggest union federation.
On 16 October, trade unionists and left-wingers responded by demonstrating in Rome to say “Mai più fascismi” (“Never again fascisms”). The organisers, Italy’s three biggest union federations, claimed 200,000, while the media said 50,000.
Many report that demonstrators carried pro-vaccination slogans as well as anti-fascist and pro-union ones.
The Italian labour movement’s fight against the far right seems far from adequate, as we will explain. Nonetheless, the demonstration was impressive. It’s a long time since our unions organised a protest that big at a week’s notice.
As Riccardo la Torre from our Fire Brigades Union put it: “Full solidarity to our brothers and sisters in the CGIL. The events on the 9 October have shown we must resist far-right violence. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in the Italian trade union movement in resisting these attacks on organised workers and democracy.”
We are far from being able to advocate detailed tactics for Italy. However, some problems seem clear.
On 16 October the leaders of the big unions called for Forza Nuova to be banned. That seems to be almost their main emphasis. Obviously we want action against those committing violent acts against the labour movement. But calling for or relying on generalised state repression is short-sighted. It is likely to rebound on the left.
Moreover, it evades the bigger problem. Forza Nuova is gaining confidence in a wider right-wing political climate. A string of opinion polls since June have the “post-fascist”, extreme-right Brothers of Italy party in first place (before that it was mostly the Lega party, also on the far right).
The labour movement will turn things around only through aggressive struggle for workers’ interests, again a disastrous status quo. The battle of sacked Italian GKN workers shows what is needed, on a much bigger scale and with political generalisation.
Italian prime minister Mario Draghi visited the CGIL headquarters after the fascist attack on 9 October and warmly embraced the federation’s general secretary, Maurizio Landini, in front of the cameras. But Draghi is overseeing the attacks on workers and the authoritarian, nationalistic policies which are driving the growth of the far right. Fascism, and the far right more broadly, cannot be defeated without a struggle against the capitalist class.