Mobilisations of farm workers, from yesterday to today

The Italian social movement of the 20th century is characterized by duality. While northern Italy, urban and industrialized, was shaken by the challenge of labor organizations, southern, rural Italy, lived to the rhythm of the mobilizations of agricultural workers. Since the 50s, this rural underclass was mobilized in favor of agrarian reform by occupying the land of large landowners. Over the following decades, mobilizations broke out to denounce constant exploitation and to call for increasing the daily wage, contracting, improved working and transport conditions or the abolition of the “caporalato” [1] . At the time, these labourer, mostly women from the nearby mountain villages, can count on the support of a network of political and trade union communists militant, rooted in local struggles.

From the 80s, the Italian labor is gradually replaced in the countryside by migrant workers from the Maghreb, sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe. These “new workers” in addition to the historical precariousness that characterizes the agricultural work in the region are faced with barriers to their status as migrants. Inserted in a social world which they ignore the codes and sometimes the language, without economic resources, they must face legislation that tends to criminalize them and exclude them from the common rights. In addition, the high mobility induced by circular organization of agricultural seasonal work tends to make this silent mass and laborious “ideal type” of the modern worker: flexible, mobile and precarious.

Yet if this mutation profile of workers has undermined the historic solidarity, mobilization continues between recomposition of movement and legacy of the collective struggles of the past.