A conference entitled "Do the factory workers need an indipendent organization?" took place in Milan, 9/10-2.
Both factory workers and activists of significant situations participated in the proceedings of the conference.
The following points, which sum up the present situation of the factory workers, resulted from the discussion.
It is a proposal, a preliminary project. This document, approved during the Milan convention, sets some of its features.
The document has to be verified through discussions within the factories, among those activists who think that the role of the factory workers is crucial in the social conflict.
Every criticism, every contribution will be very useful to state the project more exactly and to make it really feasible.
The organizing committee.
Milano - INNSE, Nuova Breda Fucine, Magneti Marelli,
Breda Energia, Borletti, Riva Calzoni, Siemens TLC, Tipocromo;
Bergamo - Tubi Arcore, Magnani, Imec;
Novara - Filati Novara;
Modena - FIAT Geotech, Elettromeccanica Tironi;
Udine - Maddalena, Bertoli;
Bologna - Weber.
This paper is the result of the joint work of workers of large factories and intellectual activists.
The need to work on a proposal of association has been considered during meetings and discussions with workers of diverse cities, in these last months.
The paper is made up of six parts. It is intended as an outline of some judgements on the present workers condition: their place within the society and within the production, the changes they undergo during the economic crisis and the tightening up of the international competition. The question of freedom and of the constitution of an association of the factory workers arises within this framework.
This proposal should be discussed and evaluated together with those who, in the factories, in these last years, have done a political job which falls out the cultural, political and unionist trends that justified the worsening of the working and life conditions of the workers in the name of profit and of the "holy laws of the market".
We intend to organize a few meetings in the main industrial towns, as wel as a convention (probably in September). This will be the occasion to take tock of the situation and to evaluate the possibility to pass on the constitution of the association.
A sort of silent agreement among the theoretician of any political party, left and right, has been considering the factory workers as extinct for a long time. Workers do not exist as a class, but only as individuals: citizens among citizens.
Thanks to robots, they have been freed from manual labour; thanks to the growing welfare, they have been economically guaranteed; and thanks to a stronger political democracy, they have been finally represented within the society. Yet, as individuals, they are only consumers of fashions and goods, even if second-rate. And they are certainly not considered as the class of direct prducers.
Nobody seems to suspect that a huge army of men, a substantial part of humanity, is daily urged by hunger toward the modern jail of the material production: toward the factories, the mines and the thousand streams of the illegal work.
Nobody cares that thousands of men, under such constraints, become "peculiar citizens". Citizens embodied in a machinery that imposes its own rhythms. Controlled by swarms of managers for an optimal supply of work. Working in unhealthy environments where getting ill, injured and even dying is easier than anywhere else.
Workers for years have explained this condition as an unfortunate circumstance of the fate. But, sometimes, it becomes unbearable and comes up as the consequence of definite economic and social relationships.
Crisis and its product, the reorganization,draw attention to the ruthlessness of the factory regime and to the general social uncertainty of the factory workers.
The wage is less and less able to guarantee a decent surviving.
Even being daily exploited by the factory is a privilege compared with the risk of being made redundant, unemployed or with the blackmail of poverty.
Could you adfirm these are free citizens? arent they slave of the wage labour?
They are free on a juridical level. But they are the modern slaves of the production, provided with no instruments to defend themselves, with no voice within the society of the global communication.
This conspiracy of silence has a precise intent: the life of the factory workers must be productively consumed in order to enrich their employers and the upper classes.
This slavery is all the more ruthless since its declared aim is the profit, where the profit has become a moral principle, necessary and absolute. For the employers and their ideologists, the mode of production of any society can but base itself on the capital and on the wage labour and has a consequent distribution of the wealth: capitalistic profit and workers poverty.
They have an interest in presenting this mode of production as the only possible. But the crises showed that the capitalistic system is not everlasting. The extent of its own development is in its very functioning.
The repeated crashes at Wall Street, the recession in the West and the economic crisis in the East, where things are coming to an head, are an evident signal of the problems which the world capitalism during its acuumulation process is facing up to.
Many people look at the Eastern economic and political development without understanding that, over there, the same crisis is showing up and is questioning that mode of production which exploit factory workers only for its profit.
This, regardless of the social form assumed in USA or in URSS by the capitalism.
This mode of production is only the historical and temporary form that today dominates the world market. However it is destined to be overcome.
While the pacifistic illusion grows up, the crisis produces a fierce competition among the individual capitals. It drives the different national economies one against the other. Workers are drawn in by all means, in order to support their employers.
Result of this is a race which gives rise to a stronger exploitation. In the meanwhile, the protectionist trends strengthen and the economic nationalism leaves a deeper and deeper mark: "Work harder and get lower wages than our competitors".
The same slogan, shouted by Italian, German, American, French and Russian employers, ... has tragic implications.
The increased competitivity in one country means the deterioration of the workers conditions in all the other countries, an endless spiral.
Trade unions themselves, in all countries, urge workers to submit to nationalistic interests and ideologies: to save your job, you must beat your rivals and conquer new market shares; you must do this even if it will create unemployment and poverty among the workers of other countries.
Whats in this "paupers war" for the factory workers?
Their interests are, on the contrary, international struggle and solidarity.
In different parts of the world market, the workers struggle to defend themselves and to put up with the crisis takes a value that overcomes the narrow local scope.
Such struggles have an international content and must be widely supported and propagate. Solidarity among the workers of all countries must be opposed to the nationalist competition.
While the workers conditions in the factory are getting worse, and the repression is getting harder and the real wages are decreasing. While the capital is standing out as an absolute despot, at the same time everybody turns to the East to show that, in the West, we live in the best possible social organization.
This argument is based on a historical mistification: In the failure of the Eastern powers they want to see the failure of the societies organized in the name of workers and of communism.
They have to eradicate from the workers consciousness the possibility of thinking and fighting for a different society where exploitation is to be abolished.
Actual facts are far different. In the East, social and political forms are collapsing. These forms were in origin the attempts of the factory workers to free themselves from the capital but they had turned into their opposite. They actually had been a system of exploitation and of capitalistic accumulation that has nothing to do with the power of the working class, even the less with its emancipation.
The changings that are taking place in the East are generated by the crisis of the capitalistic accumulation and by the response given by the different classes to this process. Middle classes, technicians, managers of statal industry, they all ascribe the dissolution of the economy to the particular political systems in the East countries. They assert that only an open market, and private enterprises will improve their life conditions. They ask for more productivity and for wider means of capital accumulation and circulation. They ask factory workers to support these claims. They propose to the workers the chance of an economic improvement and of more freedom.
They talk about market deregulation when in the West countries the protectionism is imposing itself. They say so exactly when in the West the employers, getting richer, are producing new and deep social crises: the number of redundancies is increasing, the exploitation in the factories has reached outstanding levels (work accidents are a significative signal), housing shortage, poverty, racial conflicts and emigration are steadily growing up.
The militant relationship among Eastern and Western factory will be of use to clarify the actual state of things.
Once the market is deregulated, once the private enterprise has been introduced, workers in the East will have to reckon again with a material condition of greater explotation and of deterioration of the social guarantees.
The freedom, that nowadays is so often talked about, is but the employers' freedom to exploit workers more intensely. And for Eastern workers this is nothing but the freedom to sell their own manpower in order to produce a profit for their employer, exchanging it with a survival wage (when this is the case).
The capitalistic freedom assumes the slavery of the worker. The liberation of workers begins where the wage labor is abolished. This is also the objective of the workers in the East.
The crisis emphasizes the slavery of the workers and, in the meanwhile, gives rise to the need for their liberation.
The first step is to realize that in the twentieth century a class still needs its own liberation movement. In order to give a contribution to this process, we propose to set up the "Association for the liberation of the factory workers".
Since the beginning, the Association places itself on an international prospect. Relations with factory workers of other countries, exchange of experiences and solidarity initiatives, will be characteristics of this Association and must be among its goals.
Now more than ever, we realize the lack of a center of coordination, of an organization able to represent, socially, workers as an indipendent class.
This gap is so wide since the workers' condition has been getting worse under the strokes of the economic crisis and neither trade unions nor political parties seem interested in withstanding it.
This proposal of Association is just a little step to fill this gap, to raise the workers' issue together with all its historical and social significance.
The Association supports every movement and struggle where the need for the liberation of workers from the slavery of the wage labour comes up, even if on a limited extent.
Articles of association - Proposal
1. The task of the Association is to promote, foster and support every movement aimed at the liberation of the factory workers from the slavery of the wage labour.
2. We realize that this slavery is hidden under a pile of theoretical and political deceptions. The task of the Association is to use any means to point out the actual condition of the workers all over the world.
3. We acknowledge that our general aim cannot be possible without the solidarity of the workers all over the world. The duty of the Association is to fight any attempt to set workers one against the other, aimed at supporting their employers in the competition struggle that the crisis is embittering.
4. We are aware that today factory workers are neglected. The Association undertakes, within the extents of its forces, to set up the most elementary defensive means (legal activities, solidarity fund, etc. )
5. Anyone who intends to support its general purposes, intends to take part in its initiatives, and will pay regularly membership fees, can join the Association.
6. The name of the association is "Association for the Liberation of the Workingmen".
Sesto S. Giovanni, 9 febbraio 1991
Workingmen and activists of
Breda Fucine, Breda Energia,
Borletti, Falck Unione,
Magneti Marelli, Tubi Arcore, Riva Calzoni,
Siemens TLC - Milano.
Fiat Geotech, Elettromeccanica Tironi -Modena.
Bertoli - Udine.
Filati - Novara.
FF.SS. - Genova.
A net of workers
can and must join itself
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Operai Contro - AsLO Via Falck 44 - 20099 Sesto S. Giovanni (MI)