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The Workers of Italy and the Revolt of Reggio Calabria

Italian Section of the SI

Milan, October 1970

Translated by Ducasse

IN ITALY TODAY any excuse is enough to set a revolt on the path of social revolution: at Caserta it was a football match; at Reggio Calabria, a regional assembly. It's not the state which chooses to give up, as the right-wing press says; on the contrary, the revolutionary struggles of the proletariat force it more and more to give up. In this new period of crisis, Reggio Calabria is the first example of a town in the midst of capitalist exploitation, which mutinied for more than three months, and organized itself. Cut off by a general wildcat strike and state of siege, the town bravely defended the freedom it had won, firing without restraint on the police forces, and setting up strong barricades.

Even if this uprising was confused at the start, its duration and the violence with which it affirmed itself show the amount of real strength and clarity it achieved. A really radical practice, in all its variations, is the guarantee of every freedom. But in Italy all is compromised, even counter-revolution! As if further proof were needed to show how ridiculous the Italian political class is, Colombo, the Prime Minister, could do no better than try to pass off the weakness of the state as its strength: "No one should confuse the moderation and stability which the state has shown — and which is its strength — with weakness." The truth is that at the time the authorities were powerless to restore order to the streets.

As for the Stalinists of the so-called "Communist Party," they never stopped slandering the revolt right from the beginning, and "with a strong appeal to the more responsible forces of the majority," calling the Government to its "responsibilities" and "sense of duty" in the face of the uprising's continuation. Just as they were the most ruthless in sabotaging the railworkers' strike, which was ridiculing the directives of the Italian Trade Union Organization (CGIL) and making a qualitative step toward the revolution, so the "Communists" were the most ruthless in asking for the murderous intervention of the police and the army against the "fascist revolt." As if the facts were not enough in themselves, the lies of the Stalinist mob were shown up by a fascist newspaper: "THIS IS A REVOLT OF AN ENTIRE POPULATION AGAINST THE STATE."

At the beginning of the revolt, the direct interests of the whole local Cabal (Mayor, archbishop, lawyers and leading figures) were much in evidence, but they immediately changed into direct opposition to the uprising, and began to negotiate with their colleagues in Rome for the surrender of the city, in exchange for the satisfaction of their miserable demands. The original spectacular problem of the capital of the region didn't trick anyone any more.

The police authorities could no longer hope that a strategy such as that of December 12th [1969] would stop the revolt, and they were already prepared to take the risk of open war. The provocateur and police explosions of December 12th only momentarily stopped the inevitable movement that was making a mockery of all the efforts of the Communist Party (PCI) for social peace. In the months following the repression, there were many trials, but the real trial had already taken place, and was celebrated in the streets of Reggio for more than threee months. Sentence was passed in the third month, when the proletariat of Reggio repeatedly opened fire on the police. The Government and the Stalinists will pay dearly for their victory over Reggio.

Stalinists, Gentlemen of the Government, notables: You may swallow Reggio, but you cannot digest it!

In short, the Reggio revolt was the first real uprising of the Italian revolution. Inadequate, unfulfilled, often muddled, and, above all, slandered, it has the merit of bringing to a close the stage of easily repressed straight-foward revolts, like Battipaglia, Caserta and the prisons, and has finally opened the period of armed revolt. At Reggio, for the first time in Italy, the state saw itself scandalously and enduringly ignored, and in that moment, directly attacked. So there's no need to wonder at the many and real weaknesses of this uprising, but rather to marvel at its strength. The best thing that this uprising produced is its example, which is destined to catch on and reoccur.

Having said this, we don't know how else the proletariat of Reggio can be analyzed.

Now the issue is in the hands of the wildcat strikers of the north. The revolutionary crisis of Italy will continue to become more complicated, until its opens the door to a radical simplification.

If the revolt of Battipaglia showed up the farce of Platonic solidarity between all the left political groups, from the PSI to the Maoists, so far no politically conscious group dares to identify itself with the Reggio uprising, for none would dare to admit its own contradiction: that they all abuse and actively oppose the movement that unmasks them. Never before did the Chinese clowns of "Lotta Continua" so cover themselves with ridicule as when they arrived, with the army and police reinforcements, to recuperate the revolt for the sake of their movement. There is no worse insult to the inventors of lies than to tell the truth.

While there were no more abusive fascist provocateurs in Reggio during the revolt than in the rest of the region, they were insufficiently guarded against, and they made things very easy for the PCI Stalinists, who, instead of denouncing the fascists as such, took the opportunity to call the revolt "reactionary and fascist." But telling the truth is the privilege and the right of the revolutionary press. We say firmly that the intervention of the army and the state of siege are the real victories of the long uprising at Reggio. Why in fact was the state of siege declared? Because a city had risen and taken up arms. So, long live sieges in every city!

The other victory of the Reggio revolt was to show clearly to workers of both North and South the really repressive police role of the so-called Communist Party and the union bureaucracies in this revolutionary epoch. Having acknowledged the overwhelming defeat of the union police, the Minister of Labour suggested, on October 18th [1969], the formation of an actual corps of "work-police." Once that is done, Italy will have nothing left to envy in Maoist China, where the army forces the workers to work.

The government is at times ready to break the laws of its own state because, in a moment of revolutionary crisis, when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy, the Government has one sole and inviolable law: the survival of the state. We have never denied it: "Ours is not the domain of law, but that of the revolution." The Government, for its part, has abandoned its legal hypocrisy; it stands in the revolutionary arena, for the domain of the counter-revolution is also that of the revolution.

The real movement of the Italian proletariat is heading towards the point of no return, both for the movement and its enemies. The illusions about the possibility of establishing "normalcy" are dissolving one by one, and so it becomes necessary for both sides to risk their own present in order to win their own future. Inspite of the methodical recovery of the unions, and Old and New Left bureaucrats, the revolutionary movement is gaining in strength. Confronted with this, power has to resume the old comedy of "law and order," playing this time the divisive card of terrorism, in an attempt to remove the situation that will force it to expose its whole game in the face of revolutionary evidence. The anarchists' attempts of 1921, the hopeless acts of the survivors of the revolutionary movement's breakdown of that time, gave the Italian bourgeoisie a useful pretext to establish, with fascism, martial law on the whole society. The bourgeoisie today doesn't need the old anarchists' mistakes to find an excuse for the political realization of its own totalitarian reality; it is trying to make such a pretext on its own account, fitting the new anarchists into a police frame-up, or manipulating the most gullible among them in a crude provocation. The anarchists, indeed, offer the best qualifications for the power structure's requirements: a detached and ideological image of the real movement. Their spectacular "extremism" allows power to hit, through them, the real extremism of the movement.

The practical problem which Reggio, and all other battles of the last four years in which blood has been split, has clearly been posed to the workers isn't the problem of disarming the police, but that of arming the proletariat.

The power which exists could have been taken only from us, and therefore only by us can it be re-taken and ABOLISHED. We owe nothing, because we own nothing. But just because of this, we are more dangerous than any creditors!


Our target isn't only the police: its also the PCI Stalinists, the union bureaucrats and the Maoists. Where revolutionary violence begins, reformism begins to end.


In such circumstances, we don't ask you to disobey; you are bound to do so by the logic and honesty of the proletariat whom you will be summoned to repress!

Long Live the Revolutionary Proletariat of Reggio Calabria!

Long Live the Railworkers' Wildcat Strike!

Long Live the Comrades who in every factory in Italy are tearing down the webs woven by the PCI and other bureaucrats!

Long Live the Absolute Power of the Workers' Councils!