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

6
The Cgil: The Return to Class Politics, Defeat
and Self-Criticism

The 'Piano del Lavoro' and the Global Perspective

In the political climate of the cold war, in which virulent anti-communism held sway, the Cgil's problems were markedly different from those of the Cisl, which was associated with the forces on the offensive. But in order to offset its image as a supporter of the Dc government and as a union which was on good terms with the employers, it was imperative for the Cisl to stress its autonomy as a confederation. The rank-and-file membership of the Cgil, on the other hand, felt the need for even greater solidarity with the parties of the working class, first and foremost with the Pci, which was, after all, a pro-union party. There existed, also, the 'unity of action' pact between the Pci and the Psi which meant that there was a strong basis for political agreement between the majority communist component and the socialists within the Cgil. Thus the question of union autonomy from political parties raised completely different problems within the Cgil.

After the Cgil's liberation from the need to accommodate a Catholic component within its organization, it returned, from 1948 onwards, to a more vigorous class position. We have already remarked on some of the negative effects of the Cgil's intensification of global class politics at the expense of the more immediate problems experienced by workers at shop-floor level. The defeat at Fiat in 1955 expressed only the negative side of the Cgil's post-1948 development. It must be remembered that the results, bad as they were, could have been worse, and that the confederation might have been obliterated. Indeed, this was the objective of its opponents. But although the Cgil had little choice regarding the tactics of its opponents, it could, nevertheless, examine its own mistakes.

The literature covering the Cgil in the 1950s has tended to present it as having been, during this period, wholly subservient to

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