Page 5, 4th March 1949

4th March 1949
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Page 5, 4th March 1949 — New Free Unions One Hope Of Saving Italy For West
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New Free Unions One Hope Of Saving Italy For West

A CRISIS IMMINENT From Our Own Correspondent Thorez, in France, and Togliatti in Italy, have challenged their Governments with their statement that their Communist parties will welcome the Red Army. In Italy this brings one step nearer the crisis which all observers feel to be well on the way.

The Communists are dead set on preventing Italy joining with the West; or at least making sure she will be a crushing liability if She does.

The promise they made at the beginning of February to disrupt Italian economy is being kept.

Iii the past week there have been nation-wide strikes of the workers in paper manufacture, the chemical industries, municipalities and in bus, tram and light railway companies.

in addition the policy of noncollaboration, the tactics of which range from go-slow in the factories to outright sabotage, has been intensified in nearly every industry and already there has been an alarming increase in the number of factories forced to close down.

The fact that the first sufferers are bound to be the workers who are thrown out of a job and into the hopeless task of trying to maintain a family on less than 350 lire a day, is of course a recommendation of it for the Communist Party which seeks to make the fighters of its battles out of hungry, confused and desperate men.

UNEMPLOYMENT The official unemployment figure, given this week, is 2,161,271. But Cappi, secretary of the Christian Democrat party, recently brought into focus the full facts of the situation when he pointed out that during the last six months more than 8,000,000 employable persons had bad less than one month's work.

There are few responsible people who believe that the rapidly developing economic and political crisis will be overcome without violence.

On one side there are the professed supporters of the Government, very much divided among themselves and relying on the police rather than a policy to carry them through.

On the other side are the Communists, fewer in number than a year ago, but ruthlessly organised under men who are agreed exactly on what they want and are ready to kill in order to got it.

They want first the economic ruin of Italy and they have discovered in the tactics of non-collaboration a formidable means of attaining it. If they still had the control over the

Italian Trade Union Movement that they had a year ago the prospect of their success would be much less doubtful.

But since October 12, 1948, there has been the anti-Communist Free Trade Union Movement (Libere Confederazione Generale Italians del Luvoratori) to challenge their monopoly hold on organised labour; and in spite of a vicious opposition campaign that has not stopped short of murder, the Free Trade Unionists have made steady progress throughout Italy, and have even established a firm footing in the Communist stronghold of Emilia.

In Bologna. a two-hour general strike of industrial workers, called on Monday by the Communists as a protest against the Government, was a fiasco. Three or four hundred bored strikers attended some speech making in the Piazza. Republican and Saragal Socialist workers, still officially associated with the Communist-dominated trade union movement, stayed away.

The Free Trade Union Movement is handicapped by a serious lack of funds and by the timidity of employers who fear to engage its members lest by doing so they provoke the violence of the Red Trade Unionists.

AN EXAMPLE

In San Giovanni in Persiceto, a market town 20 miles from Bologna, already notorious for the beating to death by Communists last November of Farlin, an organiser of the Free Trade Unions, there has been a sequence of riots against farms and factories employing Free Trade Unionists, culminating in the attempted murder a fortnight ago of a policeman.

The three young Communists under 20) who set upon the policeman with iron bars one night along a deserted road, staled after their arrest, that they had no personal grudge against the man they had attacked — though one of them thought he recognised the policeman as one who had given him a " hard push" during one of the riots—but wanted to intimidate the rest of the police in the area by an " example." The Free Trade Union Movement is strongest, according to its Bologna secretary, in the textile and light metal industries; also among shop assistants, and agricultural workers.

Bank clerks. schoolteachers and municipal workers have their own anti-Red Trade Union Movement which though not organised under Christian Democrat—inspired Free Trade Union Movement, works in close collaboration. Out of some 2,000 Bologna bank clerks who were members of the Red Trade Union Movement a year ago, less than 700 are still members.

NEW LABOUR EXCHANGES A peculiarity of Italian labour conditions has been that until recently the work of liaison between employers seeking labour, and workers seekingjobs, has been exclusively in the hands of the trade unions, which meant that with the Communist domination of these unions, a worker without Party membership did not stand much chance of a job.

Now the Stale has set up an institution known as the Ufficio Coltercement°. which corresponds to the English Labour exchange and is of course non-political, enrolling its members from either of the Trade Union Movements, Red or White.

There are 20,000 people inscribed in the Bologna Ufficio Collacarnento, most of whom are members of the White Trade Unions, or of none

The Free Trade Union Movement has not made the mistake of servility. Where there is an injustice to be righted, it has shown that it can strike as hard and as effectively as the Red Unions.

It has several times lately, in the bank clerks' strike in Bologna, and in the cement workers' strike in Pontremoli, a small town in Spezia province, effectively captured work. mg class initiative from the Red Unions.

Upon this new, still rather shaky, very poor, but very courageous Free trade Union depends the successful breaking of the Communist noncollaboration policy, depends the immediate averting of ruin in Italy. depends even whether Italy shall go with the West or with the East.




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