ROME, ITALY — The massive transportation strike that shut down most of this country on Nov. 30 again shows the power of the working class. It was the first strike in 25 years uniting all transportation workers. Ninety percent of public transport was closed in Rome, Turin, Bologna and other cities. Flights were cancelled in the main airports. No trains were running anywhere. Even funeral hearses were halted. Sea transport between Sicily, Sardinia and the rest of Italy was blocked. These actions occurred amid mass strikes by railroad machinists in Germany and rail workers throughout France, including Paris bus and Metro workers. Unfortunately, the nationalism and reformism of the union leaderships in all three countries prevented a united internationalist strike.
Conservative rulers like Sarkozy (France), Merkel (Germany) and “center-left” Prodi in Italy are enacting massive cutbacks in workers’ wages and pension benefits and privatizing the transport systems.
In Italy itself, the law bars transport strikes during rush hours and limits these walkouts to eight hours, and they can’t strike for weeks after any previous 8-hour strike.
But the hacks of the leading transport unions are too tied to capitalism to break that ban. These mis-leaders fear workers might wildcat, as rank-and-filers did in the winter of 2003-04. The union hacks in all industries here are trying to divert the anger of the workers with these limited walkouts, while simultaneously signing on to the government’s social reform and budget law instituting major cutbacks in services and jobs.
Workers must break with the union leadership and link their struggles to other actions, like the massive Dec. 15 protest scheduled for Vicencia. It will oppose the plan to enlarge the U.S. military base there, used for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Workers must also join the fight against racism suffered by immigrant workers through the Security Law, which is being used to deport 5,000 immigrants for “crimes” like begging and washing car windows. The 150,000-strong Nov. 24 march in Rome saying no to violence against women rejected this racist law. It is being justified by the recent murder of an Italian woman by a Rumanian immigrant, but as the marchers pointed out, Italian men influenced by capitalist ideas perpetrate most of the violence against women.
The massive transport strikes throughout Europe belie the post-modernist dream that “there is no more working class.” Workers are demonstrating that they still have the power to shut down any capitalist country. They now need to turn those struggles into schools for communism, to forge a red leadership that can unite all workers against their common enemy: capitalism.