This year, May 1 is the 132th anniversary of the day when workers in Chicago were severely hit by police, causing dead and injured, because of their claim for better work conditions. International trade union organizations decided that every year on this date, the memory of those events was to symbolize social justice and democracy to be affirmed in every corner of the earth.
Times were different, but even at present the International Worker’s Day makes workers and employees go out in the street everywhere in the free world. In oppressed countries where no open commemorations can take place, workers still find ways to keep this tradition alive to show their committed and protesting presence.
For some years now, in countries with a democratic tradition, on the first day of May, the workers’ unions highlight the change that have occurred in the balance of power between labor and financial powers, which has magnified its strength in the context of globalization by reducing democratic political power. Finance is organized on a global level, and the States – even the most powerful – cannot resist to it. But we must react in Europe and worldwide.
Organizational and contractual spaces, along with a weakened political context have undermined the role hitherto played by the workers’ associations in society. In this context, intermediate bodies are pushed towards impotence because of the verticalization of political power backed by the spread of populism that has effectively caused the crumbling of the tools and places of participation. Thus, people’s interests are less regarded.
The Italian experience of the last twenty years well describes what happens in other European countries too: Once the historical phase of the parties belonging to the first building of the Republic was over, large confederations could only weaken. Intermediary organizations, born from the need to give immediate answers to social issues, were in fact the sow field for the production of ruling classes of the main historic mass parties.
Today the situation has changed; the selection of political elites does not come from a background of social commitment, but from plebiscite solutions or even through co-optative systems. That is why the discrepancy between the political and organized social contexts can only widen in the near future.
The very nature of the deep economic crisis derives from this loss of meaning in the political and social fields. Without a plan supported by leaders who bear instances filtered through participatory processes able to dominate difficult choices, it will be impossible to put priorities in the proper order and guarantee control to decision-making processes for the sake of general interests.
In the current scenario, it is also impossible to justify the acronyms of the numerous trade unions and business associations. Their reorganization affects not only the efficiency of the labor relations, but also the political dimension of the institutions. A single trade union confederation that organizes all the categories currently affiliated to the large power centers and autonomous ones will only help enhance the social representatives and benefits will be general. For the same reasons entrepreneurial representatives will have to overcome their fragmentation, enriching thus their representation.
A more powerful and reorganized social sector shakes the suffocating party system and it will certainly curb the spread of the strong powers that generate the feeling of powerlessness among people, making the terrain of populism more fertile and frightening. To find the root of our history in what history asks today is the best service we can do today to the Italian labor market and to the general interests of the country.