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The toiler. (Cleveland, Ohio) 1919-1922, November 06, 1920, Image 6

Image and text provided by Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, OH

Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88078683/1920-11-06/ed-1/seq-6/

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SATURDAY, NOV. 6, 1020
The Italian Metal Workers' Struggle
By ( Nemo.
The struggle of the Italian metal workers, on
which the expectant eyes of the working classes
of Europe were ri vetted, has come to a sudden
and sad end. For this the present leaders of the
Italian working class are to blame. As it is known,
in August last, the Metal Workers' Federation
claimed an increase of wages on account of the
high cost of living. The masters, on the pretext
of the precarious condition of the metal industry
caused by the cost of raw material and the high
foreign exchange, refused the workers' claim.
Under the circumstances no other means was
left to the Federation but to use strike weapons to
enforce their demand, the justice of which was
proved by figures and data that the employers
could not refute.
In Italy, however, strikes have not been lately
so favourably looked upon as in the past, as they
entail sacrifices on the side only of the working
classes. The metal workers, therefore, decided for
"obstructionism," as it is called in England, the
"go slow" method.
The Workers Seize The Industries.
Milan, the greatest industrial city of Italy, set
the example, but the movement soon changed its
character and aim because of a blunder made by
one of the leading firms-the Romeo which, in
order to defeat the workers, conceived the foolish
idea of closing its factory.
The workers, fearing that the lock-out would
be extended, decided to occupy, by an energetic
and sudden move the factories all over the country.
Before a move if such magnitude the Govern
ment felt itself powerless. As the Prime Minister
stated a few days ago in the Senate, in answer
to the critics of his lukewarm policy, the Govern
ment could only have prevented the Workers' seiz
ure of the factories by filling the factories with
all the police and soldiers at its disposal, thus
leaving itself without forces to maintain order out
side I
The occupation of the factories, therefore,
proceeded in the country quite regularly and with
out much trouble. Once inside, the workers im
mediately entrenched themselves, puting barbed
wires all round, placing machine guns on the roofs,
constituting an armed Red guard. They hoisted
the Red Flag, and created Soviets and committees
to maintain discipline amongst themselves, and
cheerfully started to work on their own account.
It is easy to imagine what kind of feeling and
hopes two weeks of undisputed possession of the
factories aroused amongst the other sections of
the working classes. Engineers, seamen and others
began to give proof of their solidarity with the
metal workers by occupying the factories of other
industries, by supplying and transporting raw
materials. The peasants in severaV parts of the
country, especially in the Siuth, in squads of 20,
50 and 100,000 men, marched with bands and Red
Flags to seize large landed properties.
One felt ull over the country that revolution,
the end of capitalism, and the dawn of a new era
were drawing near. But other forces were also
at work, those of the pusillanimous leaders of the
General Confederation of Labour and the reform
ist section of the Socialist Party. Because of these
the movement crumbled down A meeting was held
in Milan between the General Confederation of
Labour and the officials of the Socialist Party to
decide whether the struggle of the metal workers
should be extended to all the other industries of
the country, and beepme a political movement to
enable the proletariat to take power. To this
meeting the Syndicalist Unions and the Anarchist
groups were not invited. The moderate elements
were in the majority, and the direction of the
movement was confided to the reformist General
Confederation of Labour.
The Confederation of Labour Compromises.
In such hands, the movement could not go
beyond a Syndicalist conception. The first thing
that the Confederation of Labour did was to ap
proach the employers and the local authorities,
and come to a compromise. Finally they met Gio
litti, the Prime Minister, a man who in point of
nise and shrewdness is only second to Lloyd
George. Giolitti seized the position at a glance, and
did not miss the opportunity of mystifying both
the leaders and the workers by adopting as his
own a scheme of the Confederation of Labour for
joint control by the workers and employers. This,

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