Politics and Ideology in the Italian Workers' Movement: Union Development and the Changing Role of the Catholic and Communist Subcultures in Postwar Italy

By Gino Bedani | Go to book overview

5
The Cisl in Search of a Distinctive Identity

In June 1951 the Cisl set up a special school, the Centro studi in Florence, to train its future leaders. It was the first of the confederations to found such an establishment, but it was also the organization most urgently in need of one. Unlike the communists, the Cisl did not have a body of cadres with experience in industrial struggles. And it had to overcome the traditional ambiguities and lacunae in Catholic thinking about the problems of labour. 1 It could not remain rooted in the paternalism of traditional Catholic social teaching, nor in the corporatist tendencies of this tradition. Finally, in the words of one of the theoreticians of the new Catholic confederation, Mario Romani, the Cisl had to leave behind it the nineteenth-century Catholic 'rejection of industrialisation as the key element in the country's future'. 2 It started by looking at the trade unions in industrially advanced countries, particularly North America, in the hope that they could provide a model for the creation of a modern, independent organization capable of rivalling or even replacing the Cgil as the major representative of Italian labour. Although its attention to foreign models proved more problematic than initially suspected, it was an important starting point.


Workplace Bargaining and 'Productivism'

The North American model was important as a support for some initial ideological reorientations within the Cisl. It is undoubtedly 'against the background of its profound ideological and political confrontation [with the Cgil] that the relevance of the North

____________________
1
See S. Costantini, 'La formazione del gruppo dirigente della Cisl (1950-1968)', pp. 121ff.
2
Cited in Baglioni, Il sindacato dell'autonomia, p. 16.

-69-

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