Extracts from Carbonia (We Were All Communists)

Selections from Carbonia (We Were All Communists), Balestrini's novel of class struggle in a mining town

[…]

we were all Communists all that great mass of miners we also immediately convinced the new arrivals that we should all get more for the work that we did that we needed to fight against the bourgeois owners and all you needed to do was look at the elections in Carbonia the mayor always won with 97 or 98 percent of Communist votes there were some secondary schools and training colleges with teachers who came from outside and those were the votes that were missing they only tried to open a local MSI party office once but it immediately disappeared with a little dynamite it immediately disappeared

[…]

in Red Square between the market and the Centrale Hotel there was a great clash we had organized ourselves into teams with all sorts of weapons with bombs rifles knives and gelatin et cetera and so they had to retreat because they saw that the whole town was involved in the battle everyone fought with the miners shoulder to shoulder and so they realized that it would be impossible for them to win against the whole town unless they destroyed it like the Germans did but it wasn’t worth their while they realized that there was nothing they could do with the miners and so they had to retreat because they realized that there was nothing they could do

they wanted to break this great mass of politicized miners but they couldn’t just sack this mass whenever they felt like it now that it had been able to impose its will and the guards couldn’t use the stick anymore if they did they wouldn’t be able to tell how it would end because there are cave-ins that just happen in the mine and then there are those that you can make happen and then nobody says anything and so they had to be very careful now that they could no longer dictate things saying do this otherwise I’ll sack you because there was this mass that had now succeeded in imposing how work should be done and in putting an end to the orders all those orders and with working more and more it had succeeded in putting an end to all that

[…]

in fact what did the workers do when they needed money they went to this Martineddu who gave them a loan for example he gave them 50 thousands lira cash 100 thousand lira or whatever they wanted but this money because of an agreement with the management was then deducted from their wages but these loans never ended because on top of the money they had borrowed they had to pay extortionate interest that the miners had no chance of understanding the whys and hows of and after a while the interest rates went through the roof and if you didn’t pay it was all over and so one night the building where Buoni Fidus and Martineddu had their offices was blown up thanks to four sticks of gelatin one for each corner with all the papers and receipts and the scams that were inside everything was blown up

I learned a lot from the struggle in Carbonia for example I learned we could only count on our own strength in fact who had helped us with our struggle in Carbonia nobody absolutely nobody the people who solved the struggle were the miners the women their children all the people in Carbonia and how did they solve it they solved it against the police against the carabinieri against the police vans against the armored cars using every type of struggle and every type of weapon they could from knives to gelatin there were some arrests there were some people who ended up in prison or in the hospital some died but we always got what we wanted because we took what we wanted

[…]

but with the new automated systems with all this mechanization that has spread everywhere now and that creates so much unemployment because instead of allowing people to work half as much it serves to sack half of the people and the other half works more than before and so the mine yields more and the profits double as they indeed did actually the profits tripled and so they decided that they could run the mine with 1,500 workers instead of 4,000 and so all this mechanization all this whole automation is only good for sacking people and increasing the bourgeois owners’ profits so what do we care about progress it’s better for us to keep using wheelbarrows we can’t do anything with progress

it’s not that I don’t care about progress it’s not that I want to use a wheelbarrow but wheelbarrows give me a job and let me stay here I do want progress though and I want more and more of it because I don’t want to break my back with a wheelbarrow anymore progress for man should mean you don’t have to do shit jobs anymore and letting you work less but if this progress only means putting more money in the bourgeois owners’ pockets and taking it from me then I’ll oppose it because I should be paid the same to work less because progress has to benefit those who work letting them do less laborious work and making their life better this is why there has to be progress

[…]

there’s an economic slump at the moment the bourgeois masters sometimes cause them to recover the money we’ve managed to get with our struggles there was a hot autumn bitter struggles and we’d managed to extract a little money a small wage increase but that hasn’t lasted they took advantage of the war between Egypt and Israel the oil crisis and there’s also Berlinguer who’s taking advantage of the coup in Chile to make the Historic Compromise and preach austerity but prices are rising people are angry they don’t see why it should always only be the workers who have to pay and so the struggle is spreading outside the factories a struggle for rent for bills for everything the struggle’s spreading

there’s revolt in the air everywhere young people have realized things have to change that we can no longer trust the old windbags on the Left who only want to make deals with the bourgeois masters so they too can finally get a bit of power and in the meanwhile give the powers that be a hand who use terrorism against the young people who are rebelling against them using bombs shooting them in marches and demonstrations but strikes and sit-ins are breaking out everywhere anyway people have realized we can’t go on like this that the time has come to change that we have put up with it for too long and nobody believes that the parties the institutions can improve their lives anymore we have to do it ourselves all together everywhere to improve life

[…]

because there’s no two ways about it this is the only method it has always been like this this is what I’ve learned from experience in all the struggles I have fought in my life over all these years because they’re hardly willing to hand back what they’ve been stealing from us every day for so long they’re hardly willing to hand it all back to us just like that because we’ve got nice smiles and there’s no way you can think about making a deal here it’s a matter of us or them and so it’s about who wins and who loses it’s like in all wars the side that wins is the one that fights the hardest that goes all the way that uses everything it has got we’ve lost many struggles and we’ll lose others but we’ve also won some and we will keep fighting on and on because it’s us we have to win in the end

Translated by Mike Harakis
Carbonia

people have realized we can’t go on like this that the time has come to change that we have put up with it for too long and nobody believes that the parties the institutions can improve their lives anymore we have to do it ourselves all together everywhere to improve life
Nanni Balestrini