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International Socialism, Spring 1964

A. Gigante

Honest Radical

From International Socialism, No.16, Spring 1964, p.31.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The Italian Labour Movement
Daniel L. Horowitz
Harvard University Press/Oxford University Press, 60s.

Reading this book requires a tremendous amount of concentration as it is a very precise account of the history of the trade union movement in Italy. In the preface the author says that this book is ‘an analysis of the evolution of the Italian trade union movement in its relations to Italy’s social, political and economic institutions.’ At times it is like reading a dictionary. The author never allows himself a bit of warmth for the fight of the lower classes for a better living: he is cold and impersonal like a surgeon during a lesson with a corpse in front of him.

Notwithstanding these remarks, I must appreciate the work of Mr Horowitz in so far as he has recorded every little detail of a period that covers nearly 150 years.

This history – in Mr Horowitz’s own words – explains the efforts of the several and subsequent Labour Directions to change the revolutionary impulse of the workers into the legal patterns of modern neo-capitalism, that is, the story of Italian reformism. He concludes,

‘Congruence among a society’s social and economic structure, its political forces and the trade union movement can be achieved in various ways in different societies. It has been achieved, in distinct fashion, in a number of Western democratic countries, including the United States, Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries. It has not been achieved in Italy ... But ... the democratic trade union forces have developed sufficient potential dynamism to offer the possibility that they, also, may contribute to a political, economic and social congruence which would give Italy the democratic stability its people have so richly earned.’

This explains clearly the ideological preparation of Mr Horowitz: he is an honest radical; the class struggle exists only to perfect capitalism. Now, with the ‘Left opening’ and with Nenni in the government ‘there are growing signs of fundamental changes’ and Italy will ‘have the stability which the people have earned.’ So much for Mr Horowitz; we, who do not follow only surface movements, but search deeper, know that never has Italy lost so many hours in strikes as in the last year. Neither Nenni nor the ‘left opening’ will stop this trend.

Anyhow, the extreme carefulness and precision of the facts, the honesty of the research make this book a necessary one in the library of every student of workers’ problems.

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