Giuseppe Di Vittorio

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Giuseppe Di Vittorio in 1950

Giuseppe Di Vittorio, also known under the pseudonym Nicoletti (August 11, 1892 – November 3, 1957), was an Italian syndicalist trade unionist and communist politician, one of the most influential leaders of the labor movement after World War I.[1]

Early activities[edit]

He was born at Cerignola, Apulia, into a family of poor agricultural day laborers. As an autodidact, Di Vittorio became active in the socialist movement from adolescence: at fifteen, he was a member of the Socialist Youth Circle in Cerignola, and, in 1911, moved to lead the Camera del Lavoro in Minervino Murge, and then the one in Bari. Giuseppe Di Vittorio was among the most influential union leaders in the history of the labor movement, leading the Confederazione Generate Italiana dei Lavoratori (CGIL) in its refounding after Fascism and the powerful World Federation of Trade Unions(FSM) after World War II. After his father's death Di Vittorio was forced to leave school and work as a day laborer. He joined the May 1904 general strike, an event during which five workers were killed by troops in Cerignola. Di Vittorio was strongly influenced by the growth of peasants' organizations and the spread of socialist ideas, giving rise to his participation in the local young socialist organization in Cerignola. He was radicalized by affiliating with the national Federazione Giovanile Socialista (Federation of Young Socialists), an organization led by syndicalists in opposition to the official Socialist Party Youth Federation.

As a native of the Mezzogiorno, Di Vittorio became involved in the syndicalist plans for solving the region's acute problems (in the manner illustrated by the Fasci Siciliani in final decade of the 19th century). A partisan of insurgence, Di Vittorio became a leader of the anarcho-syndicalist trade union Unione Sindacale Italiana after its formation in 1912. Unlike the majority of the group (which opposed militarism and Italy's entry into World War I), Di Vittorio, Alceste De Ambris, and Filippo Corridoni advocated irredentism. He subsequently fought in the conflict, and was discharged after being gravely wounded.

Opposition to Fascism[edit]

In 1921, after the Italian Socialist Party's split at its Congress in Livorno, he joined the Communist Party of Italy (PCd'I). Di Vittorio joined the militant anti-fascist organization Arditi del Popolo, and was then elected to the Italian Chamber of Deputies on the PCI list in 1924. The new situation after the rise of Fascism and the March on Rome made him an enemy of Benito Mussolini's regime. Sentenced to twelve years in prison by a fascist special tribunal in 1925, he managed to flee to France, where he refounded the dissolved Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL) and led it into the Soviet-managed Profintern. Di Vittorio lived in the Soviet state from 1928 to 1930, representing Italy to the Red Peasant International. He then returned to Paris, where he entered the Politburo of the PCI.

He joined the Republican side fighting Francisco Franco's forces during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. He was Political Commissar of the XI International Brigade. After the fall of the Republic, he headed the board of a Paris-based newspaper with an anti-fascist message. After the World War II Fall of France to Nazi Germany, Di Vittorio was arrested by Nazis, taken in custody by the Italian police, and detained on Ventotene. In 1943, as the Fascist regime fell in most of Italy, he was set free by partisans, and subsequently joined the Resistance in fighting against Mussolini's Italian Social Republic in Northern Italy.

Later years[edit]

When war ended in 1945, he was elected secretary of the CGIL - which he had helped bring back into politics through a pact signed the previous year with Achille Grandi and Oreste Lizzardi in Rome. The pact recreated CGIL as a representative of all currents of trade unionism in Italy communist, socialist, Christian-democrats, and anarcho-syndicalists. In 1948, the organisation split after a general strike protesting the assassination attempt on PCI-leader Palmiro Togliatti. The Christian Democrats left to form the Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori. On March 5, 1950, the social-democrats (who would become supporters of the Italian Democratic Socialist Party) left to form the Unione Italiana del Lavoro.

Giuseppe Di Vittorio led the CGIL, as a group favoured by the PCI and the Italian Socialist Party, until his death at Lecco in 1957. He was also a long-time leader of the World Federation of Trade Unions. His strong charisma made him the most popular myth of the Italian workers. His funeral was attended by more than three million people coming to Rome from all over Italy.

He was followed in his position at the CGIL by Agostino Novella.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Biography of Di Vittorio". Retrieved 3 January 2013.