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[ITALY] SI Cobas will strike on Friday 17/11: in support of the Palestinian people, to stop the genocide in Gaza

SI Cobas will strike on Friday 17 November

in support of the Palestinian people,

to stop the genocide in Gaza

– Interview with comrade Aldo Milani,

national coordinator of SI Cobas

The national executive of SI Cobas took a decision of the utmost importance last night: to organize a strike on Friday 17 November in solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people, to help immediately stop the massacre that the Israeli army is perpetrating in Gaza with the full support of the United States and EU countries, including Meloni and Mattarella’s Italy in the front row. We ask comrade Aldo Milani, national coordinator of SI Cobas to explain the reason of their initiative.

Aldo Milani – This decision of ours does not fall from the sky. SI Cobas has always felt that it has obligations of solidarity towards the proletarians of all the countries of the world. Our union is made up of workers of more than 35 different nationalities. Many of them come from Arab and Islamic countries. Therefore I can say that SI Cobas has proletarian internationalism in its DNA.

For more than a year, then, we have been engaged, with comrades from the Revolutionary Internationalist Tendency (TIR) and others, in a series of initiatives against the war in Ukraine which led us to a large demonstration on 21 October in front of the Italian military base of Ghedi, where dozens of NATO’s atomic bombs are stored. In that demonstration we denounced the genocidal action of the state of Israel, which dates back several decades but has in recent days has reached appalling bloody violence against the population of Gaza.

We have issued statements, called meetings, participated in many demonstrations, but – given the extreme urgency of stopping this massacre – the time has come to take a qualitative leap in our action. The strike is the most effective fighting weapon at our disposal. And we decided to use it on Friday 17 November in all logistics warehouses, factories and other workplaces where we are present. We are proud to be the first union to make this decision, which answers to the appeal launched by the Palestinian trade union movement. But anyone who wants to strike on the 17 November with us, in support of the Palestinian resistance and against the state of Israel, is welcome. And anybody is welcome as well, who would like to join us in the demonstration on Saturday 18 November in Bologna (at 3pm) on these same objectives.

In fact, many people feel the need for what you call a “qualitative leap”. The government of Israel has so far seemed unconcerned by the thousands of demonstrations, some of them gigantic, that have taken place around the world. We must, therefore, raise our sights. We must take initiatives that damage as much as possible the war logistics, the production and circulation of goods conerning Israel and its allied and sponsor countries. The Young Palestinians in Italy also asked for it today.

A.M. – The international movement of support and solidarity with the struggle of the oppressed of Palestine is impressive. Tens of millions of protesters around the world. SI Cobas, and we internationalists, feel fully part of it. The squares were everywhere proletarian squares, denying all the nonsense about the decline of the class struggle and the working class. At this moment, Gaza, in its resistance to the action of the colonial, racist and genocidal state of Israel, is truly “the homeland of all the oppressed of the world“, as the comrades of the 23 September Committee stated.

All of this, however, has not yet been enough to stop the ongoing massacre. We need something more, and we are there. Tomorrow (10 November) we will be present at the port of Genoa together with the Anti-War Assembly, which launched this initiative, and with the dockworkers’ collective, to begin to intervene in owar logistics, in connection with other initiatives similar in Barcelona, Oakland, Sydney. The following Friday (November 17th) we will go on strike, from a minimum of 4 up to 8 hours.

For us, we are aware, it is a big commitment. We have been and are under uninterrupted employers’ and state attacks for years: at the moment the hardest conflict is against the French multinational Leroy Merlin, which wants to implement 500 layoffs in Piacenza to impose a leap backwards in the working conditions we have won in years and years of struggle in its warehouses. We take on this commitment with an eye to our class brothers and sisters in Palestine, in the Arab countries and throughout the world with the hope that others, many others, will take the same decision as us. We do so on the momentum of the Ghedi demonstration, which saw particular protagonism of our workers, their sons and daughters, a particular spontaneity – I repeat: especially in the younger generations – in expressing support for the struggle of the Palestinians, which they feel as their own struggle.

Can you tell us what is your approach to the “Palestinian question”?

A. M. – I will respond summing up a few concepts that we and other internationalist comrades have expounded over all these years. Our position not only expresses a feeling of indignation and anger against those who today oppress and massacre a population for their own capitalist interests closely linked to those of the imperialist states, primarily the United States, but also tends to bring out a working-class point of view against the bourgeois classes on a global scale.

The bourgeois press, hypocritically expressing the point of view of the ruling class, mystifies the reality of the ongoing conflict. In the few cases in which it is not totally aligned with the Zionist or ultra-Zionist positions, it suggests the thesis that in Palestine two equal and opposing rights are confronting one another, and that on each side there is a reasonable wing willing to compromise and to peace (among the Palestinians, Abu Mazen and the PNA), and an extremist and intolerant wing aiming at conflict. In short, the enemies are supposed to be the “hawks” of both camps, even if so far the government of the super-hawk Netanyahu has been allowed to carry out the most heinous crimes without any consequences whatsoever. This way of framing the ongoing war unfortunately also belongs to sectors of the movement that are present in the pro-Palestine demonstrations, which tend to focus all their attention only on the role of Hamas, seen as an expression of the Arab bourgeoisie, financed by openly dictatorial and reactionary regimes on the political level.

It’s a shame, however, that in this openly bourgeois alignment into which even some “left” elements are sucked in, they forget that the very foundation of Israel as a colonialist state is dripping blood from all sides. The birth and continual territorial expansion of Israel was possible thanks to the massacre of the Palestinian Arab population, the destruction of hundreds of villages, the expulsion of their inhabitants and the confiscation of their lands, the creation of an enormous mass of refugees, the systematic repression of the population, to the arrest and often killing of thousands and thousands of children, young people and women.

How can we equate the reactionary radicalism of the Israeli settlers who demand an even more massive and brutal use of the army from their government, to expel the Palestinians at all costs from every corner of their land, and the resistance of the Palestinian masses in Gaza and the West Bank against the oppression by the state of Israel and the unrelenting aggression by the military and settlers? How can we put on the same level those who oppress, torture, kill in an attempt to carry out their project of settler colonialism, and the most lively part of the Palestinian population who, rather than a slow death at the hands of the enemy, prefer to fight and make it clear that their condition is unbearable? And even if they act so, as it has been and as it is, under an opportunist leadership with interests that conflict with the needs of the exploited Palestinian masses, this does not mean that our solidarity should be denied.

Indeed! It is a question of grasping the class substance of the war that has been ongoing for almost a century in Palestine.

A. M. – Despite many contradictions and illusions of various kinds, the current conflict reflects the will of the mass of oppressed Palestinians not to be definitively closed in an open-air prison ghetto of misery and desperation, controlled by the armed forces of the Zionist state and from those of the “Palestinian Authority”. If the current condition were to continue, it would mean the elimination of the hope of redemption of the poor and the exploited, even if a Palestinian “mini-state” were to come into being, under strict surveillance by Israel and kept alive through the shady help of some Arab state or even by US funding.

Since the infamous “peace plan” between Israel and the PLO, all the existing contradictions emerged – see the ongoing military confrontation throughout the whole territory. Forget peace! And the capitulationism of the PLO has become evident, which however cannot be adequately fought and defeated from a nationalist and confessional perspective, such as Hamas’s. But all this must not obscure the indispensable duty of any truly internationalist communist force, and of a working class union like SI Cobas, to support the Palestinian struggle regardless of its political and military direction. In any case, even the alignment of many to the criticism of the “renunciatory right” of the PLO and of the current direction of the resistance movement by Hamas, which is in some ways reactionary, does not resolve the problem because it does not affect the theoretical foundations and basic political evaluations that underlie the positions of the communists and the militants of the trade union organization SI Cobas – that is: when a war is underway, like the current one, which sees a colonialist state like Israel, protected by all the Western imperialists countries, and a population like the Palestinian one that is fighting for its own national liberation, it is not possible to discuss which side to take.

You know, of course, the objection: for you, then, Israeli society is a single bloc in which everyone, even the workers, are just as many Netanyahus…

A. M. – Let’s be clear: we internationalists have always considered with the utmost attention any sign of criticism, opposition, de-solidarization with respect to their own government and state coming from within Israeli society. We are convinced, in fact, that the solution to the Palestinian question requires the splitting of Israeli society to continue, and the conditions to be created (which at the moment do not yet exist) for the exploited of Israel to cooperate and fight together with the mass of the oppressed Palestinians, so as to be able to attack and destroy the Zionist machine from without and from within. But we return to the senders as opportunist nonsense the complaints of those who think that Palestinian resistance should be postponed until the Israeli proletariat shows itself capable of breaking its complicity with the Zionist regime.

For internationalist communists and for a classist trade union organization such as SI Cobas, the international character of the “Palestinian question”, and not only of it, translates into the commitment to draw up an action plan with coordinates that serve to give unity to the proletarian struggle against capitalist domination both on the metropolitan side (Italy, etc.) and in the “peripheral” countries. The precondition for moving in this direction is to give all possible support to the struggle of the Palestinian masses, regardless of who currently dominates their political leadership. This means making a clear choice of field: opposing imperialist oppression in Palestine and the Middle Eastern area, in the awareness that this oppression also serves to foster the subjugation of the proletariat in the metropolises. And it means denouncing the total complicity of the Meloni government and the Italian state in the oppression and genocide of the Palestinian people.

This strategic choice of open and full solidarity does not, however, equate to considering as irrelevant who and how is leading this struggle. We are convinced that the proletariat and the poor Palestinian masses can take upon themselves the tasks of a consequent democratic revolution. And we want to help make this happen. We give our contribution to this perspective by clearly drawing here a “principled” watershed through which the proletariat of Western countries begins to separate from their bourgeoisies and reformist forces. Otherwise the only two paths that remain are the opposite but complementary ones: “nullism”, the wordy indifferentism which limits itself to recording the distance of the current direction of the Palestinian resistance from the program of communism (when, moreover, the communist revolution is certainly not on the agenda in the Middle Eastern area); or the opportunism of those who subordinate themselves to the liquidationist and inconsequential nationalism of the bourgeois or petty-bourgeois Palestinian leaderships, often ending up in supporting the false solutions advanced by the USA, the EU, the UN, all aimed at perpetuating imperialist domination.

The terrible worsening of the war in Palestine, with the possibility that it will spread to the entire Middle East, the war in Ukraine that continues, other wars and outbreaks of war almost everywhere, the arms race, the European economy one step away from recession, the climate “emergencies” one after the other, the impoverishment of millions of workers, unlimited precariousness…

A.M. – In fact we are in the midst of an enormous global disorder, a great systemic crisis that the capitalists will inevitably unleash with even greater violence on the working classes. SI Cobas is dealing with this process on a daily basis in logistics, where it is most rooted, but also in other production sectors, first and foremost the metalworking sector, in which it is expanding. As a union, we negotiate the value of labor power in the daily struggle of attrition between wage workers and capitalists; but we feel with particular intensity the tasks of the fight against war and the war economy which imposes slavery-like discipline in workplaces, spreads nationalist and racist poisons against immigrants, demands increasing sacrifices “for the homeland”.

The deepening of the systemic crisis is thinning the boundaries between trade union and political issues, both for the bourgeoisie and for the proletarian class. I thus return to the starting point: together with the comrades of the Revolutionary Internationalist Tendency, of the Polo Obrero and the Partido Obrero of Argentina, and of many other trade union and political organisations from different countries and continents, we are working to weave the first threads of a new international proletarian movement founded on strictly internationalist principles and strategy. We have set ourselves as our first objective the organization of a day of inter-continental struggle against the wars of capital, among which the war between NATO and Russia in Ukraine remains in the foreground. The strike on November 17th will be a step along this path.

The demonstration in Ghedi on 21 October,

and the political work that remains to be done

– Internationalist Revolutionary Tendency / SI Cobas

25th of October

SI Cobas and the Revolutionary Internationalist Tendency (TIR) have worked hard for weeks, in the closest coordination, to organise the Ghedi demonstration in the best possible way: dozens and dozens of assemblies in the logistics warehouses, and not only that, many city initiatives from Turin to Milan, from Genoa to Marghera and Verona, from Bologna to Naples, an active presence at demonstrations in support of the Palestinian resistance. And after this commitment, there is no reason to hide our satisfaction at its success.

We won’t quibble about the numbers: 4,000 according to the newspapers that reported on it (a figure circulated by the police, who were present with an impressive line-up along with carabinieri, financial police, local police and even a helicopter flying over the marchers along the fence of the base), 5,000 according to SI Cobas and Brescia anticapitalista. Let’s stick to these numbers, which still make it the largest demonstration among those called last Saturday against the war also in Palermo, Pisa, Vicenza, Naples, Taranto. This figure has its weight, of course, but the essential thing is something else.

First of all, the internationalist, class-based clarity of its approach and of the agitation against the war, the war economy and the Meloni government that prepared it, and which was carried out throughout the march and in the final rally. Initially (in the assembly of 11 June in Milan, when it was launched) we had thought of it as a demonstration to denounce the war between NATO and Russia in Ukraine as an inter-imperialist war directed first of all against the Ukrainian and Russian proletarians, and then against those all over the world. The dramatic developments in Palestine in recent times have also made it a demonstration against the endless, bloody colonialist war that the state of Israel has been waging for almost a century to expel the Palestinian people from their land. And so on Saturday, a cry of rebellion was raised from Ghedi too, among the many that have risen around the world, against the massacre that Israel’s government and army are carrying out against the people of Gaza with the unanimous support of their gangster protectors in Washington, Brussels and Rome.

The other distinctive datum of the Ghedi procession was its very large working-class and proletarian composition, which was prepared by the day of national strike called by a large part of grassroots unionism against the war, the war economy, the high cost of living, for substantial wage increases. But this is not just a quantitative fact, visible to the naked eye. There was also the active participation of many, really many, proletarians of the SI Cobas in chanting and relaying the political watchwords that characterised the procession: Meloni government, bosses’ government; against the wars of capital, strike, general strike; free Palestine / Free, free Palestine; disband NATO. One has to go back to the October 2018 demonstration in Rome against the Salvini decrees for a similar level of active political involvement. In this case, however [the demonstration in Ghedi, 21 October], the issues were far more general, and the targets far bigger and more impersonal than one individual servant of the bosses. The Palestine theme was also strongly present throughout the march (many workers, many boys and girls, sons and daughters of immigrants, just so many, had carried Palestine flags); and when comrade Zadra raised the slogan ‘Free Palestine, Red Palestine’, not exactly the Hamas perspective, the slogan was echoed well beyond the head of the procession.

The third relevant aspect was the adhesion to it, and the participation, of a plurality of organisations from the Brescia area, trade union and political groups, and sectors of the movement that adhered to the unequivocally internationalist, working-class, and at the same time unitary message of the march: ‘Let’s unite our forces against their wars’. It was opened by a small group of citizens of Ghedi with a clearly pacifist orientation with their rainbow flags, although the march was not a pacifist one – we explained it clearly: against the wars of capital, but certainly not against the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist war of liberation of the oppressed Palestinians. A march that evoked the prospect of class war against capitalism to get to the bottom of the apocalyptic, systemic crisis and the monstrous barbarism that is advancing. Particularly significant, among the others (Young Palestinians in Italy, Sgb, Fgc, Slai Cobas p.s.c., etc.), was the presence of a delegation from the 7 November Movement for Work from Naples, constantly present in all the anti-militarist initiatives, exemplary in its agitation about the link between war spending and cuts in social spending, and that of a large anarchist section active in propagating the boycott of war operations where they are concretely carried out.

We called for this demonstration in front of the Ghedi base because this base is the historic attack base of the Italian Air Force, and coincidentally, just a few days ago, the base was put on atomic alert due to the unpredictable developments in Israel’s war against the Palestinian people. This political choice was and is consistent with the fact that, unlike the entire campist archipelago, in our view Italy is not a US colony to be taken away from the clutches of Uncle Sam to make it the peace factor envisaged, in hollow words, by the ‘world’s most beautiful constitution’ [the Italian Constitution of 1948]; it is, on the contrary, an imperialist country in every respect, a founder and pivot of NATO, the predator of natural resources in the four corners of the earth and the universal exploiter of the world’s wage labourers and poor peasants. And so our first and main enemy is here, in Italy, namely the Italian state and government, operational machines at the service of Italian capitalism; the Meloni government today, as the Draghi government and the centre-left governments were yesterday, entirely involved in the preparation of the war in Ukraine and the war on the Palestinians. Not to mention the dozens of military missions in the five continents, which were repeatedly recalled and denounced during the procession – ‘withdrawal of all Italian military missions abroad’! -, just as NATO state terrorism was recalled and denounced.

Last Saturday, in other marches, exponents of that ‘institutional left’ or para-institutional ‘left’, ready for any kind of agreement with the most Atlanticist, warmongering and pro-Zionist centre-left in post-war history, were free to roam; in Ghedi it could not happen. And we are proud of that. Without this having, in any way, meant winking at campist positions. As we have always said, and we will not tire of repeating: the only real prospect of liberation is that of anti-capitalist social revolution on an international scale – there is no capitalism to be saved, whether in Russian, Chinese or Iranian sauce, no multipolar capitalist world to be preferred to the horrible US- and Western-led one. It is no coincidence that the banner signed unitedly by the TIR and the Iskra Political Laboratory read: “contro le guerre del capitale, lotta di classe internazionale” [against the wars of capital, international class struggle]. That the war in Ukraine is also being fought by Russia and its open and covert allies for domination and exploitation purposes, can only be denied by the rabble of social-nationalist charlatans and rascals that make up the ‘red’-brown world. Even the distracted journalists of the press and local TV stations had to record (with surprising fidelity) that the demonstration in Ghedi was ‘internationalist, anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist’, expressed in the sense of ‘declaring war on wars’, siding against the war in Ukraine and against all the wars of capital, for the closure of the atomic base in Ghedi, for the dissolution of NATO, against the Meloni government…i (listen and read to believe).

The essential features of the Ghedi demonstration were also well understood outside Italy. Messages of full support and solidarity reached us from the Partido Obrero and Polo Obrero from Argentina, the International United Front against Imperialism and Fascism with its centre in Germany, Marxist Tutum from Turkey, from California, the British Angry Workers, Japan, South Africa, while – due to last-minute logistical difficulties – a comrade from the Workers’ Front of Ukraine, a small militant anti-war organisation in Ukraine, could not be present. Present with their own flag, and enthused by the demonstration, were some comrades from the Zurich anti-war movement belonging to Icor.

That said, we are certainly not satisfied with the thematic and organisational fragmentation of the day on 21 October. We tried until the very end to give this day at least a unitary political framework, but we did not succeed due to the rejection by other components who went so far, in their anti-unity attitude, as to delete the Ghedi demonstration from their social networks (the reality, however, is somewhat more solid than the messages on the web). In retrospect, we note that the demonstration in Palermo was closest to our sensibility and our orientations, because it was most strongly marked in an anti-militarist, anti-war perspective (no one can claim that ‘war on war’ is the same thing as ‘no to escalation’ or ‘Italy out of the war’); and also because – as was done in Ghedi and neighbouring towns, in particular by the comrades of Brescia anticapitalista – its organisers were able to prepare the ground with propaganda in the working-class neighbourhoods of the city, confident that they would be heard by the ‘common people’, and at least in part, both in the Brescia area and in Palermo, this happened. However, we do not feel as alien any of the many instances present in Pisa – except for their strong localist aftertaste. That’s why as soon as possible we are going to re-launch new mobilisation proposals to all those who mobilised on 21 October – excluding, however, the electoralist and campist options, both of which we feel are extraneous, if not opposed, to the interests of the working class.

As stated by the TIR comrade who opened the concluding rally in Ghedi and comrade Roberto Luzzi, international responsible of SI Cobas, our ambition goes far beyond the marchers of 21 October and the Italian framework, within which all those remain captive, whose reference is the impossible search for a different role for Italy, i.e. capitalist Italy.

Our ambition – strengthened by the political growth of a vanguard of immigrant proletarians organised in the SI Cobas – is to reach the broad mass of Italian proletarians, explaining to them that wars that seem far away are in reality closer and closer. And that the attitude of passivity, silence, of wait and see does them great harm, both in the short term (inflation, cutting social spending, military discipline in workplaces that increases deaths at work, etc.) and in the long term. We need to mobilise against the ongoing wars, and against the trend towards rearmament and the precipitation towards a new world conflict, before it is too late.

Our ambition is to reach out to the young people who have taken action against the devastation of the environment in recent years, calling them to realise that it is time for them to take a step forward and fight against the primary cause of the devastation of the natural environment and human life, that is the wars of capital. The figurehead of many of them, Greta Thunberg, did this by siding with the Palestinians: when is there going to be a healthy shake-up among the Italian Fridays for Future, or Next Generation?

Our ambition is to reach out to all the unprivileged women who in the past few years have taken up the rallying cry against violence against women and capitalist patriarchalism from South America, “ni una de menos”, so that they may embrace the explicit and fundamental commitment of the fight against the wars of capital, which have a particularly hard impact on women’s lives, and together with the comrades of the 23 September Committee, present in Ghedi, oppose the Dr. Strangelove of the West and the East who are planning those wars: “no more children for your wars! “.

Our ambition – we are working hard on it – is to promote the coordination on an international scale of all the political, trade union and social forces with whom we share, at least in its essential lines, our firm class, internationalist approach, where the working class of all countries is the only force, the only social power capable of standing in the way of the slope towards a new apocalyptic world war for the redivision of the world market. The massive solidarity that the oppressed in Palestine are receiving from the oppressed in so many countries of the world encourages us to consider this very ambitious goal as feasible. Ghedi was a step forward on this path, and we will certainly not stop halfway.

Today more than ever: proletarians men and women, oppressed people of the world, let us unite our forces in one irresistible anti-capitalist alignment. We have nothing to lose. We have a world to conquer, without exploitation of labour, without colonial, racial or gender oppression, without wars for profit and domination!