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

12
The Consolidation of Representation in the
Workplace

The Formation of the Factory Councils

The structure and organization of the early factory councils (consigli di fabbrica) varied considerably from one establishment to another, so that the relationship between these new bodies and the official unions did not conform to a single pattern. By late 1969 the latter had regained the initiative in the factories, but in a completely changed environment. According to one study carried out at the time, 90 per cent of the delegates of the new workers' committees were members of official unions. Well over half of them were close to parliamentary parties of the left, a sizeable number had links with the Dc left, and about 12 per cent were sympathetic to extra-parliamentary groups. 1 At first glance such figures seem to indicate a close assimilation to traditional forms of leadership, but such a conclusion would be highly misleading.

After regaining the initiative in the disputes of the 'autunno caldo', the sindacato had to decide how to relate to the new rank-and-file bodies which had emerged in the factories. The debates within the movement suggested a range of options. Should the official unions create their own parallel organizations alongside the new committees, or should they accept the new committees in some agreed form as the factory negotiating bodies? If the latter option were chosen, how would the new organs relate to the official unions outside the factory? The final settlement, in which the factory councils were accepted by the sindacato as its official voice, was in fact strongly conditioned by the events of the 'Hot Autumn'. During this period, in spite of the problems to which such a settlement gave rise, its advantages had become clear to all concerned. About sixty national contracts had come up for renewal.

____________________
1
See R. Aglieta, G. Bianchi and P. Merli-Brandini, I delegati operai, pp. 86ff.

-156-

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