It is simply impossible to estimate the real size of the demonstration which flooded the whole centre of Rome on Saturday March 23, but it is likely that the figure was close to three million people. There were six different sections marching from different points and converging on the centre of Rome, in the Circus Maximus. This day will not be easily forgotten.

The Italian general strike of April 16, the first in 20 years, was a milestone in the class struggle taking place. More than 10 million workers went on strike and over 2 million participated in demonstrations up and down the country. Prime Minister Berlusconi's ambition is to emulate Margaret Thatcher by inflicting a significant blow on the labour movement, and the CGIL trade union federation in particular. By doing so he wants to bring the other two federations, the CISL and UIL to heel, opening the way for the bosses to make an onslaught on workers' rights.

We are publishing this first immediate report on today's general strike in Italy. (A more detailed report will follow in the next few days.) 13 million workers came out on strike, which is more than the total trade union membership of CGIL, CISL and UIL combined. 2 million workers came out on demonstrations in 21 cities all over Italy. After many years of defeat and compromise the Italian working class is back on the offensive.

Recently we received this report of the 2002 national congress of the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista (PRC, Party of Communist Refoundation). It is written by a comrade who was in the thick of the battle for ideas that took place at the congress, which came at an extremely interesting moment. The Italian workers have come out in force in opposition to the present Berlusconi government, with 3 million demonstrating in Rome, and a general strike of over 13 million workers. The next period will put to the test all tendencies within the labour movement, and we are confident that the genuine ideas of Marxism will, in the end, win the day.

Right-wing premier Berlusconi has announced his plans to modify article 18 of the workers' statute (law protecting workers' rights) so that it does not cover workplaces with less than 15 workers. CGIL leader Sergio Cofferati declared that his union would reject all modifications and would do all in its power to stop such changes being implemented. Strikes have already taken place, and it is clear that the Italian working class will be in an even more combative mood by the autumn. Berlusconi's anti-working class measures combined with the effects of the current economic downturn are an explosive mixture.

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