Part 2: The student movement

The student movement in Italy, as in other Western European countries, became the archetypal movement of opposition of the late sixties. It came to represent and symbolize new forms of rebellion and discontent as it was not a residue of older historical antagonisms, and arose in a period of relative growth and prosperity. Education was widely heralded by governments and parties, especially of the social democratic Left, as the means of levelling social differences, broadening the basis of citizenship and guaranteeing future prosperity. However, it produced the bitter fruit of conflict. Youth - the generation destined to create the future utopia - turned into a social problem and the angry conscience of a divided society.

The impact of the student movement owed much to the fact that it was an aspect of an organic crisis. Students were the first social group to mobilize en masse when conflict in the workplaces and in society as a whole was at its lowest level since the mid fifties. Moreover, it was the first time that students emerged as a social subject in their own right. Previously they had acted in support of other groups in a subordinate capacity. They had taken up general political questions. Now, students were important numerically. They were part of a new social grouping - youth - that came into being with the extension of schooling. But the student movement’s novelty and its significance as a model of social action gave it a historical role out of all proportion to the students’ relatively marginal position in society. In this section, the student movement will be analysed in the period starting from its origins in the early 1960s to its eclipse by the workers’ movement in 1969. Chapter 4 deals with the educational reforms of the Centre-Left government, which created or aggravated many of the conditions that provoked the student revolt. Subsequent chapters deal with the movement in the universities, and the emergence of a specific ‘student politics’, with case studies of the movements at the Catholic and State Universities in Milan in 1968-9. In addition there is an examination of the movement in the Milanese schools. Lastly, there are chapters on the student movement’s impact on the education system, and on its more diffused effects on political and cultural life in Italy. Although student politics grew up within the institutions, the development of the theme of ‘student-worker unity’ led logically to more general political orientations. The popularization of ideas about ‘cultural revolution’ meant that the activities of radical intellectuals working not only within fields like theatre but also in the professions were rethought, with important consequences for the spread of conflicts into every sphere of Italian society.

04. From mass schooling to mass protest: failures of the education system

Defining Education
A logical starting point for an analysis of the student movement is the 1962 education reform that established mass secondary schooling in Italy, and led to an expansion of the intake of the further education sector. However, some introduction of concepts is necessary to put the reform in proper analytic and historical perspective. To begin with, as Richard Johnson insists in his important work on the history of education in Britain, ‘education’ and ‘schooling’ need to be distinguished. The two terms tend to be treated as synonymous, thereby assuming that knowledge is primarily acquired within the four walls of an institution. This idea exists not only in the definitions given by teachers and policy makers, but in the common sense notions of everyday speech. The conflation of education with schooling seems to be a ‘natural’ fact, whereas it is the result of a historical process with important consequences for how society’s conceptions of knowledge are constructed. Richard Johnson writes that it has practical effects:

it tends to naturalise existing educational arrangements, and to marginalise and devalue less formal means of learning. It constructs a sharp divide between school (where we learn/ are educated) and life outside those institutional walls (where we work/play). It tends to enhance the role of the professional teacher and the organised curriculum over other sources of wisdom and more practical knowledges. Above all, it tends to hide from view a whole history of the construction of schooling or encourages the belief in some simple history of progress, a history with no costs, no struggles, no ambiguities.

Richard Johnson goes on to develop two other categories from British historical examples to describe the political strategies involved in the social construction of education and schooling.; They are the substitutionalist strategy, which conceives of education in non-institutional terms, and the statist strategy that focuses on schooling. Historically, the pursuit of substitutionalist ideas and practices of education arose with the popular movements of the first half of the nineteenth century. In them, learning was a group activity related to class and human emancipation. Knowledge was valued for its usefulness in changing the world, and education was thought of in the broadest sense as the acquisition of skills and learning through everyday experience as well as through books.

The statist strategy emerged at a later point when ‘capital had secured a , tighter control over the conditions of labour’, reducing the margins of autonomy and the resources of time and income necessary for the earlier experience of popular self-education. It was directed towards
increasing state educational provision and access to it for the working class. By contrast with substitutionalism, the statist approach tended to identify education with schooling, and to delegate power and responsibility to others, namely the public authorities and the teaching profession. Richard Johnson remarks that:

Most forms of statist strategy . . . deepen the separations which constitute the specifically educational forms of oppression. They deepen the divisions between adult and child, between education and the rest of living, and between professional educators and their curricula and the knowledge that is produced outside the academic institutions.

However, he is careful to stress that the strategies should not simply be counter-posed or oversimplified; the statist approach has not concentrated exclusively on the question of access, but has involved struggles over the control of institutions and the nature of the curriculum and of teaching. The very creation and extension of state provision makes certain forms of substitutionalism anachronistic, and substitutionalism has tended to become compensatory. However, Johnson insists that it is not therefore defunct as a strategy. Indeed it can be said that the student movements of the sixties put these questions back on the agenda. But before looking at this movement, it is necessary to outline the previous struggles over education in Italy, and at the reforms carried out by the Centre-Left government.

In an earlier period when the mass of the population was excluded from the vote on the grounds of illiteracy, and when educational provision was minimal, not the school, but the Socialist Party and other popular organizations in Italy were the people’s ‘educators’. An account of pre-1914 struggles for knowledge stresses its political dimension:

Socialism is a school because the leaders of the party are interested in enrolling the greatest number of voters . . . then, for the workers better to absorb the principles of socialism, it is necessary they acquire the habit of reading. Already among the working class itself new personalities are arising who live the same lives as the workers and yet because of their greater intellectual achievement, they become the pioneers.

In this practice of education, learning was collective and functional to the needs of the group rather than to individual self-advancement. It also contained an idea of learning through social practice, which as the aspect elaborated by Gramsci in his factory council writings when he counter-posed the real knowledge and control of the production process by the workers, to the intellectual bankruptcy of the capitalists.

This substitutionalist strategy, which concentrated on creating alternative educational organs such as newspapers, training militants and fostering a socialist culture, was dominant within the working-class movement when it was excluded from full citizenship. With the establishment of schooling for all and universal suffrage in 1945, substitutionalism became a secondary and to a large extent residual element of the strategy of the Left in the educational field. However, it was not entirely superseded. Christian Democrat control of the educational system, the deficiencies of state schooling and the implantation of the PCI as a mass party excluded from participation in government made it both feasible and desirable to sustain some elements of an alternative educational practice. In the 1960s there was a marked decline in the PCI’s activity in this sense, but groups of dissident intellectuals to its Left were active in reviving ideas of autonomous workers’ education.

For the parties and trade unions of the Left a statist strategy prevailed over the substitutionalist. The realization of the demand for free, compulsory state education, even if inadequate and deformed, set the terms for an approach to education based on demands for its extension and reform as a public service. In the immediate postwar period, they lost the opportunity provided by extensive working class mobilization and presence in government to push through radical reforms; the primary objective was to make the existing system function. Lucio Lombardo Radice of the PCI wrote:

It is not a question of whether it is just or not that the best elements of the working classes are excluded de facto from secondary and further education, but of whether the Italian school, as it is organized today, is an efficient instrument for the reconstruction of the country.

This approach meant accepting ruthless selection and the fundamental division between training and education.

This failure to reform the educational system had long-term consequences. The tripartite division inherited from the Gentile reforms remained intact; five years of compulsory schooling for all, in which the post-elementary stage was divided into lower secondary and training. Further education was divided into the liceo and technical institutes, and then there was university for a privileged minority. The class character of the system was very marked, although it was entirely state controlled except for a few Church controlled schools and the nursery sector. In 1959-60, only 20 per cent of thirteen- to fourteen-year-old children got the lower secondary certificate, and at thirteen 49 per cent of children left school. In the fifties an estimated 18 per cent of the population used Italian rather than dialect as their main language; Italian-speakers were largely those who had passed through further education. The Idealist tradition, which drew a sharp distinction between a humanist education and technical training, and gave absolute priority of the mind over the body, had its economic rationale too. Demand was for cheap, unskilled labour, on the one hand, and for an educated minority for the liberal professions. Literary subjects (the classics, history, literature, were taught, though sociology and economics did not appear on the curriculum) were privileged over the sciences. The exercise of the body was not included within school activities; not even prestigious licei had sports facilities. There was no form of sex education, while the teaching of moral values owed much to the Church, which had reinforced its position in the postwar period. It exercised its influence through compulsory religious education, strict censorship of textbooks and interventions in policy-making in the Christian Democrat Party. This also contributed to the patriarchal regime in which the teacher stood in for the father (the vast majority of teachers in secondary schools were male), and ruled with iron discipline. The forms of control extended directly to the family, in that from elementary school onwards all marks on tests and on behaviour were taken back to the parents; this practice was inherited from the Fascist period.

The strategy of the Left parties in the early fifties was based on criticizing the ideological content at education, in particular its subjection to Church influence. In 1959 the PCI moved from a defensive position to the formulation of reform proposals for secondary schooling. It advocated a single compulsory school for all, the raising of the leaving age to fourteen, the abolition of compulsory Latin and the extension of science teaching. The idea of comprehensive education contained in the proposal, which was substantially made law in 1962, was advanced in comparison to other European school systems; Giorgio Ruffolo writes that the reform envisaged:

The introduction of a wide variety of subjects related to the lived culture of our time, the granting of a certain independence to departments, the establishment of extra schooling, and differentiated classes and special classes for pupils in difficulty.

In effect, the reform brought Italy into line with other industrial capitalist states by transforming an elitist into a mass secondary schooling system. The numbers attending secondary school increased from 1,150,000 to 1,982,000 between 1959 and 1969. Between 1966 and 1970 education moved from the fifth to the first most important item of government expenditure - 6 per cent of the Gross National Income, as compared with 5.6 per cent in Britain and 4 per cent in France, was spent on education.

The major shortcoming of the strategies of the PCI and PSI, which were the chief parties promoting educational reform, was their almost exclusive focus on ‘access’. For them the problem was to extend the benefits of secondary schooling to children who had previously been excluded from the system or restricted to training for skilled manual work. The quantitative demand for more schooling and more facilities prevailed over qualitative demands. The issue of control remained marginal, and was framed in terms of public versus private provision, which was significant only in relation to the nursery sector. The curriculum was modernized and made more relevant through the inclusion of more science teaching, but forms of pedagogy were not discussed. Under the rhetoric of egalitarianism that proclaimed education as a ‘right for all’, there was a strong current of meritocratic and technocratic thinking that clouded any perception of the emergence of new forms of discrimination and selection within the reformed secondary school. Moreover, analysis of the relation between the more qualified youth and the availability and types of work in the economy was scanty or utopian. The Project 580 government forecast, for example, projected a single education
system up to the age of sixteen for 80 per cent of youth on the assumption that there would be a massive expansion in demand for technically qualified manpower.

The limits of the reform were also manifested in the forms of action that the parties and unions adopted in campaigning for it. Mobilization tended to be external to the educational institutions themselves. The issue was raised at election times. For the unions, education was significant in that educational qualifications provided the basis for enlarging their definition of ‘skill’ as a bargaining counter with the employers. Otherwise, the unions delegated responsibility for education to the parties, which privileged parliamentary and legislative activity. It was the complex task of winning assent among the parties which shaped legislative decisions, rather than popular mobilization and debate. The strike wave of the 1960-63 period did not impinge directly on the education issue, though it provided the conditions for the formation of the Centre-Left government. The eclipse of substitutionalism as a popular form of educational practice, and hence the decline of a sense that there were alternatives, meant that critiques of the state system lost a popular and radical dimension. Reform was carried out over and above the heads of the mass of the population.

Moreover, the lack of a consistent pro reform current within the secondary schools themselves, and the weakness of unionization by the confederations in the educational institutions, meant that there was no effective alliance between progressive politicians and the profession.

In consequence, the implementation of the 1962 reform largely escaped the control of its political advocates. It was conditioned rather by the traditionalism of the authorities within the schools, by the rightward shift in government policies, and by the changes in the labour market. Contradictions arising from the perpetuation of practices inherited from Liberal and Fascist regimes combined with new ones to produce a long drawn-out crisis in the system.

The majority of teachers resisted the changes in order to defend privileges acquired when they were the prestigious representatives of the state in a largely illiterate rural society. The autonomous professional associations concentrated on representing their corporate interests and did not participate in constructing the reforms. Their relatively light teaching load, averaging fourteen hours a week, was not increased, but the additional work was done through the use of part-time and temporary teachers. The relationship between teachers and pupils in the secondary school kept many of its authoritarian features, which headmasters jealously guarded.

Government policies did little to alleviate or improve the situation. No comprehensive programme of teachers’ training was established, and investment in infrastructures to cope with the increased intake was inadequate. There were serious shortages of textbooks, and class-rooms; by the next decade 14 per cent of elementary schools worked a double shift system or rented rooms. The burden fell particularly on the working-class children, especially those of the south; in 1966-7 failures to get the elementary certificate included 15 per cent of children from secondary schooling. In 1971 three-quarters of Italians did not have a qualification higher than an elementary certificate; 14.7 per cent had a secondary school qualification.

The restriction of reform to the secondary school put great pressure on the upper secondary school (scuola media superiore) and the university. The upper secondary school had a structure which was a century old. In the upper secondary sector, the main division was between the liceo (of which were of two types - the Iiceo classico for the humanities and the liceo scientifico for the sciences), and the technical institutes. The former tended to have a predominance of students from middle-class families, with only 10 per cent of working-class background compared with over 30 per cent in the technical institutes. It was these institutions that had to deal with the influx of students from the reformed secondary schools, who were choosing to continue their studies rather than enter the job market. In 1960, 82,000 out of a total of 311,000 left school for work, whilst in 1968 only 91,700 out of 507,000 did so. The numbers going to the upper secondary school had doubled. The structures, however, were ill-adapted for such changes; a high degree of centralization prevented flexibility: teachers had little autonomy, syllabuses were set by the ministry of education, and heads were directly responsible to the ministry. The result was a fall in educational standards measured in terms of attendance and the ‘drop-out’ rate; a report of 1969 spoke of 10 per cent of liceo classico and 24 per cent of the instituto professionale students leaving at the end of the first year.

The universities also enormously expanded their intake; the number of students increased from 268,181 in 1960-61 to 404,938 in 1965-6. Legislation opened access to science faculties to students from the institutes in 1961, and in 1965 entrance by examination and the fixed quota (numero chiuso) were abolished. The number of students from the working class thereby increased from 14 per cent in 1960-1 to 21 per cent in 1967-8. However, the privileged point of entry into the university was through the liceo. The term ‘mass university’ was misleading when only one in sixteen went to university. The number of women students doubled between 1960 and 1968, but in 1968 accounted for just under one third of the intake.

Although the social base of the university had been broadened, a social and economic selection replaced one imposed by examination structures. The institution functioned as a sort of funnel that was wide at the point of entry and narrow at the exit. The drop-out rate, length of time for course completion and examination results showed up the disadvantages suffered by students of working-class origins. An average 14 per cent of students dropped out, though many fewer did so in the faculties of law and medicine which were predominantly middle class in composition. The problem of course completion was chronic, with two-thirds not finishing in the prescribed time. Examination results and future prospects related to class origin, with a higher success rate in the courses preparing students for the liberal professions. Guido Martinotti compares the Italian and English universities of the late sixties in terms of their social function:

In 1966 about 81 per cent of those with a secondary school certificate went to university, but only 44 per cent succeeded in getting a degree. A comparison between the two systems shows how the two results are virtually identical; whether the selection happens prevalently before or after university, a large part of the student population does not reach the end of the period of study. In the English system this takes place through an evaluation of merit (since the selection largely precedes the university due to a limitation on student numbers). Meanwhile, in the Italian case, selection is left to the game of chance, or, to put it more exactly, to the social factors that intervene to regulate it.

Since only 5 per cent of students received a grant, which was in itself at insufficient to cover the costs of maintenance and study, the poorer students were forced to work in order to study. An inquiry in 1965-6 in five universities found that 14 per cent of students were in this situation, whilst 66 per cent depended entirely on their parents for maintenance. The consequences were lived out in lower educational achievement and the abandonment of further study. Private means grew in importance as the quality of public provision declined. The staff-student ratio worsened to reach 1:60 in the early 1970s, and library facilities and building did not expand to meet the increased demand.

Corrosion and Landslides in the Educational System
The reform and expansion of the education system proved a bitter disappointment to the leading reformers themselves, who had hoped it would lead to the modernization of Italian society, They made up for the shortage of skilled manpower and technicians that had been identified as a bottleneck in the economy in the early 1960s. Yet, in the process, the supply increased well in excess of the demand. Although the reformed secondary school played its part in satisfying demand for young male workers who were better qualified and more versatile, the rise in educational expectations meant that the secondary school acted as a point of departure for further education rather than as a terminal point.

Although economic considerations were important in educational policy-making, these have to be placed in the context of the political calculations and cultural orientations of the politicians themselves. Above-all, education as an issue involved the winning of consent and the forging of alliances. When education was made more widely available it created expectations and hopes of betterment that were important elements in legitimating the system. The Christian Democrats were particularly conscious of such considerations. A humanist political culture was combined in the Christian Democratic Party with a sensitivity to the requirements of patronage. Everything was done to avoid damaging vested interests. After the concession of the 1962 reform, which was one of the conditions for Socialist Party’s participation in government, further changes were piecemeal compromises designed to keep alliances intact. The expansion of state employment (which absorbed 80 per cent of graduates) and of the tertiary sector have been interpreted as an aspect of a strategy of the ruling bloc to maintain its hegemony over the educationally qualified sectors, who were a potential source of social tension. This particular concern for winning over intellectuals has a long history in Italy. A remark by Gonella, minister of education in 1946, is telling:

the social order can be destroyed not only through the revolutionary agitation of the masses, but also through the slow corrosion and the consequent landslide that undermine the moral defences represented by the intellectual classes. If those defences fail, a society can tumble into disorder.

This phenomenon of corrosion and landslide took on crisis proportions in the late sixties, and, because of the education reforms, involved a much wider section of society than that represented by the privileged intelligentsia of which Gonella was thinking. The reforms created a whole series of new problems as well as leaving old ones unresolved. Since only the secondary school was changed, leaving the further education system unreformed, imbalance and bottlenecks developed. The universities could not cope efficiently with the massive increase in intake, and then produced graduates in excess of the requirement for qualified employees.

In the 1960s, it was more the problems within education than what happened afterwards that preoccupied students. There was considerable frustration over petty inequalities and officiousness; for example, students going to university from technical institutes could only study science subjects, whilst those from a liceo could study whatever they wished. But there was also a feeling that this, like the organization of exams, was symptomatic of the irrationalities of the education system. The aura of the university was tarnished in overcrowded lecture theatres where doubts were spread as to the intellectual merits of the professors. The committed students who read the latest publications (Asor Rosa’s Scrittori e popolo, for instance) found themselves better informed than some of the lecturers. The crisis in the institutions was also a crisis of cultural legitimacy; that is to say, of their claim to be society’s depository of knowledge.

To understand how this crisis came about it would be necessary to chart the changes within intellectual fields; to see how orthodoxies were being challenged from within a discipline, or how new sorts of knowledge were being championed. Some idea of what this involved can be seen in the case of sociology. The first faculty of sociology was set up in 1962 at the University of Trento on the initiative of progressive elements within the Christian Democratic Party. They wanted to ‘help Italy catch up with the other . advanced countries, creating a new means of managing a society whose complexity was beyond the comprehension of orthodox economic liberalism’. The model was American. The sociologists at the time looked for a ‘prince’ in the form of government policy-makers, and they defined themselves as ‘experts rather than committed participants of social action’. However, by the mid to late sixties, the founders’ project went very wrong. The faculty at Trento became the epicentre of student protest. Moreover, a second generation of sociologists, sharing in the growing disillusionment with the Centre-Left government, began to look for a new role for the discipline, as a force for social change from below rather than from above. There was increasing criticism of the functionalist school of Merton and Parsons, and a re-reading of the classics, Durkheim and Weber, and a new interest in developing a Marxist sociology. The discipline promoted to help understand and solve the problems produced by the economic miracle became a seedbed of dissident opinion.

However, the 1960s was a period when orthodoxies were widely under threat, and developments within the field of sociology are only one extreme example of this process, about which some general observations can be made. Firstly, in the Italian context there was considerable criticism of how appointments were made on the grounds of political affiliation rather than of merit. It seemed that culture was being debased (losing its essential qualities of autonomy and impartiality) in the political market-place. Secondly, the courses were criticised for being out-of-date. The age of academic staff became a metaphor in a conflict in which a younger generation sought to represent modernity and the future society-in-the-making. Thirdly, there was mounting discontent over what was seen as the remoteness of universities and further education from the rest of society. Their outdatedness was related to their self-containment, and their attachment to a mandarin ethos at a time when knowledge and culture were being opened up to previously excluded groups. These conflicts concerned the education process and some of the earliest forms of ‘contestation’ (for example counter-courses) focused on this. But they also became connected with broader political and social questions; the major mobilizations centred on education as a social and political right.

Student grievances accumulated over a multitude of issues, but it took opposition to the Gui bill to bring them into focus. This bill was designed to restrict entry to the universities by fixing quotas. Students denounced the objective as a betrayal of the ideals promoted by the new government itself. They led the first major opposition to the Centre-Left government. Ironically, it was in the field where it had achieved most that the government was challenged.

Educational reform, not economic policy, provoked a storm of moral outrage from the social group to which the PSI looked for support. To explain this, it is perhaps useful to think of de Tocqueville’s observation about how the French king’s attempts to alleviate his subjects’ sufferings made them more not less aware of the injustices. Educational reforms, by improving the chances of young working-class people going to university, drew attention to the fact that very few did. Students went to university with great expectations and found a tawdry reality. Guido Martinotti summed up the contradictions at the heart of the situation:

The clash is between the expectations created by social demand for education and by the egalitarian ideology implicit in the educational system, and today’s realities of social inequalities that deeply structure the university system. The university has been turned from being the means of substituting economic conflicts, into the site of some of the most violent conflicts in society.

Writing of the French situation in the late 1960s, Pierre Bourdieu gives an analysis of the relationship between the expansion of the student intake and the crisis of the value of educational qualifications which is equally applicable to Italy;

The increase in pupils and the concomitant devaluation of educational qualifications (or the educational position to which they provide access) have affected the whole of an age group, thus constituted as a relatively unified social generation through this common experience, creating a structural hiatus between the statutory expectations inherent in the positions and diplomas which in the previous state of the system really did offer corresponding opportunities - and the opportunities actually provided by these diplomas and positions in the moment in question

The crisis in the educational system was, therefore, part of a wider crisis, indeed it formed a meeting point for a range of social, political and cultural conflicts, which will be examined in the chapters that follow.

05. The end of respectability: the student movement in the universities

Crisis of the Old Organizations
Both legislation on education and counter-proposals coming from the left failed to take into account the opinions of the students themselves. Students were treated as the objects of pedagogic practices and the passive recipients of knowledge. Students in the late sixties rebelled against this paternalistic approach to their problems and asserted their own needs and identities. This rebellion took the form of a social movement which expressed new demands, but not before the older forms of representation had proved incapable of channelling and interpreting student activism.

The first protests against government educational policies emerged from within the student organizations connected to the main political parties. The most radical organization was the Unione Goliardica Italiana (UGI) which grouped together adherents of the PCI and PSI; the Intesa represented the Catholic students and had links with the Christian Democrats. From 1948 to 1968 these organizations took part in the Unione Nazionale Rappresentativa Italiana (UNURI), which was an officially recognized body within the universities and spoke for student interests. In 1963 it negotiated grants with the government. The ethos of these organizations derived from the world of the political and cultural elite; the preamble of UGI’s charter read:

The university spirit is composed of culture and intelligence. It is love of liberty and consciousness of one’s responsibilities .... And lastly it is the veneration of the ancient traditions handed down by our free universities.

The politics of the active university students reflected those of the national parliament. UGI and Intesa stood for election to the Organismi Rappresentativi (OORR), which acted as forums of debate. The elections to the OORR in 1964-5 still showed the predominance of conservative opinions among students; UGI received an average 17 per cent of the vote, which was little more than the fascists and just under half that of Intesa.

However, there were signs of change in student politics. During the strikes of 1960-63 large contingents of students participated in the mass demonstrations, and in 1963 all the architecture faculties of Italian universities were occupied. Above all, mobilization against the Gui bill had national dimensions and a high level of participation, culminating in a march in April 1965. This bill for university reform proposed to limit student intake to the universities and to establish three types of course from one year diplomas to the full degree course. It was attacked by UNURI as unjust, and a committee for the ‘reform and democratization of the university’ was set up in cooperation with lecturers to oppose the bill.

The architecture faculties were especially lively centres of student politics in the mid sixties. This seems to have been due to their keen and critical interest in the Centre-Left experiment, for which planning and building programmes were touchstones. At the Polytechnic’s faculty in Milan, study groups analysed the political functions of architecture and criticized courses and learning methods. In particular, students demanded the coordination of subjects into coherent programmes of study, the integration of research and teaching, and the introduction of collective . study. The emphasis was on education as process rather than product. Radical students connected the role of the institution to national politics. Thus, the Centre-Left was increasingly criticized for its failures to ` introduce urban planning and to improve working-class housing, and the Gui bill was criticized for the way it threatened to separate research from teaching and ‘technicize’ the study of architecture. In 1967 opposition to the government turned into a fifty-five day occupation at the Milan faculty. This in many ways anticipated future student actions. An environment was created which was ‘functional to collective living, debate and shared work’; all major decisions were taken by the general meetings rather than by UNURI; commissions were set up to examine political and .. educational issues with the participation of some lecturers. The authorities ended by conceding to demands for seminars and for greater choice of courses.

Events in Milan, however, were eclipsed by student actions in Pisa which brought the crisis of UGI to a head, and radicalized opposition to the government. The Pisan students put themselves on the political map by stepping up the campaign against the government’s reform proposals. In February 1967 they disrupted a conference of university heads, who were meeting in Pisa, occupied some buildings and clashed with police. Throughout the events the official student bodies were bypassed by the activists, and decisions on action were taken at open general meetings. But what made the Pisan students’ initiatives especially important for the development of the movement was their theorization of a new approach to student politics. The ‘Pisan Theses’ became one of its most influential manifestos.

The Theses applied an ‘operaist’ analysis inspired by the Quaderni Rossi to the student situation. They maintained that the transformation of a free market into a planned capitalism required more highly qualified labour power to meet the needs of advanced technological production, as outlined in the government’s Pieraccini plan. Therefore students, who were now defined as the future qualified workers, were no longer a privileged elite, but were ‘objectively’ members of the working class. The political problem, according to the Pisan argument, was to create awareness among students of their real class position, and that this could best be achieved by fighting for student wages. The struggle would bring students and workers together against the common enemy - capitalism and the state.

Although the demand for student wages was not widely taken up, the Pisan approach had a strong appeal, especially among dissident Communist and Socialist aligned students. Like the Marxist heresies of the mid sixties from which they originated, the Pisan Theses promised a certain ideological purity in their militant refusal of parliamentarianism and reformism. At the Rimini conference of UGI in May 1967 the Pisan Theses formed the basis of a current of opposition to the leadership coming from the PSIUP and the left wing of the PCI. The narrow victory of the leadership in the voting of the motions turned out to be pyrhhic; the failure to respond positively to the growing radicalization among students sealed the fate of UGI, Intesa and UNURI. Attempts to provide new organizational solutions fell on deaf ears; the idea of a student’s union in 1967 of a constituent assembly in early 1968 and finally of an ‘organiza- tion of Communist university students’ in March 1968 all remained a dead letter. By the end of 1968 all the organizations had formally dissolved themselves.

The fate of the para-party student organizations, however, served to conceal the degree to which the new generation of activists was formed within them. Like many of the reviews and political groupings, to which it was closely related, the new wave of student opposition to parliamentary reformism took the form of Communist heresies. This is very evident in the case of the Pisan student movement, which was dominated by the operaist theories which emanated from the Quaderni Rossi grouping at nearby Massa, and which was among the first to get actively involved in industrial disputes, making links directly with workers rather than through the unions. This early association of student politics with workers’ struggles and the popularity of the proletarianization thesis gave the Italian movement its most distinctive character, and had lasting effects on its orientations. However, this approach also tended to obscure the problems faced by students themselves, and it was not until these were addressed that the movement was able to take mass forms.

Student Identity and the Politics of Violence
In the winter of 1967 and the first quarter of 1968, student agitation in the universities grew to national proportions. In November the universities of Trento, Turin and Genoa and the Cattolica of Milan were occupied, and in December the movement spread to the south with the occupation of Naples university. In January 1968 thirty-six universities were occupied. The common denominator of the movement was opposition to the Gui bill under discussion in parliament, but, as Rossana Rossanda writes: ‘the students were first of all against the logic that had produced the bill, the political, academic and social mechanisms that generated it.’ At a student movement conference in Milan in March 1968, Mauro Rostagno outlined the nature of the conflict in progress:

The new type of mass social struggle reveals the nature of the new type of social system; it is a social system that tends to destroy independent areas of activity, subjecting them to a centralized, rigid and planned control. Distinctions between the superstructures and structures, between economy and politics, between the public and private no longer make sense .... Study, work, consumption, free time, personal relations . . . all of them enter into a scheme of inputs and outputs that allow conflict but will not tolerate antagonism.

The new conflict involved all spheres of life and helped forge a student identity and politics. This process will be examined in this chapter in relation to the themes of political violence, and fashion, which provide important insights into the movement’s image of itself in its formative period. (Analyses of the movement at the Catholic and State universities of Milan in the following sections will give a more concrete and detailed picture of its development.)

The student movement’s antagonism to the state had been a major source of its unity ever since the Centre-Left government had tried to reform the universities. Anti-reformism was almost an article of faith. However, it became more vivid, immediate and impelling when students and police joined battle in Rome on 20 March, 1968. Student defiance of a ban on demonstrations was met with tear-gas and truncheon charges. That was no novelty; the difference on this occasion was that the students fought back and drove the police off the streets. La Sinistra wrote:

The fight against ‘academic’ and ‘societal’ authoritarianism is now visibly unified; the whole state apparatus is behind the academic structures not only culturally but physically. The truncheon reinforces professorial concepts, the water-cannon speaks for parliamentary majorities, and the old-style exam stands behind the blanket of tear-gas.

The battle of Valle Giulia was a turning point for the student movement. Guido Viale writes:

The government and the movement, from this moment, found themselves face to face as protagonists of a conflict with national dimensions .... The government did not miss another opportunity to force showdowns with students and workers. And the students responded by forming ‘defence organizations’ (servizi d’ordine) to keep control of the streets. At Pisa, a few weeks later, a student demonstration, which ended by occupying the railway station, was organized and well-equipped; everyone wore the same crash helmets as the Japanese and German students.

On 25 March 1968 Milan had its ‘Valle Giulia’. Students at the Catholic University, who had been locked out by the authorities following their eviction from the premises, decided to reoccupy the buildings near Sant’Ambrogio. Previously conflict had always been non-violent; on the one hand, the police treated students with the respect they traditionally paid to the middle classes and the commissar of police maintained an understanding with student leaders. On the other hand, the students themselves used passive resistance and tried to win public sympathy for their cause. However, on this occasion, these rules of the game were broken as both sides resorted to violent means. Although the majority of the six thousand student demonstrators came to protest peacefully, the politicized activists were determined to reoccupy even if this meant a battle. Mario Capanna, one of the leaders, delivered a dramatic speech and ultimatum to serried ranks of police guarding the university gates, saying: ‘We are giving you ten minutes to leave the premises that you are illegally occupying, or we will have to evict you’ (‘Vi diamo dieci minuti per sgomberare’). The students, in other words, were assuming the role of the police and claiming the right to restore order. The police replied to the provocation with violent charges. The kid gloves were taken off, and the peaceful demonstrators, along with the more militant ones, were severely beaten and terrorized. Sixty students were imprisoned, and forty-eight were charged with serious offences. So, in the wake of Valle Giulia, the terms of student-police conflict changed dramatically. For students, the police became a hated enemy, against whom it was legitimate to use force; whilst the police lost all respect for people they regarded as figli di papa (the spoilt children of the privileged), and willingly taught them a lesson.

Guido Viale’s analysis, according to which the government went out of its way to provoke confrontations, needs, however, to be given more precision. Distinctions have to be made between and within the different state apparatuses which were neither uniformly conservative nor completely controlled from above by the executive. It seems that the Centre-Left government had little to gain from violent showdowns with the student movement, and preferred compromises; following the Valle Giulia events it ordered the release of all those arrested and encouraged the university rector to negotiate with the movement. However, within the state’s repressive apparatuses, conservative and right-wing opinion favoured the use of force to put down disorders. In the heat of events, the latter were able de facto to impose their policies of strong policing, and then to oblige the minister of the interior to defend their actions. The toll of deaths and injuries due to police charges, tear-gas canisters and use of firearms escalated as a consequence, especially from the beginning of 1969. At the same time, it should be noted that the student movement as a whole did not make distinctions between the good intentions of ministers and the actions of the police in Italy. Rather, the bloodshed appeared to confirm analyses of the state, according to which it was an instrument of class rule which was fundamentally repressive. The words of one of the movement’s most popular slogans, ‘Smash the state, don’t change it’ (‘Lo Stato si abbatte non si cambia’), reflected this view. The logical consequence of such thinking about the state was the evolution of theories and strategies within the student movement which made political violence a central problem. Pacificism was pronounced dead by common consent; as graffiti put it ‘revolutionary pacificist is like a vegetarian lion.’ Student activists learnt how to make Molotov cocktails as part of their trade, and readers of La Sinistra could find diagrams and instructions to help them. The idea of violent and armed struggle appeared in the movement’s songs and slogans. A list ofthe most popular slogans in the movement, compiled by the magazine L’Espresso’, shows how dominant the theme of violence had become by the end of 1968.

Revolution, yes - revisionism, no (Rivoluzione si - revisionismo no)

Workers’ power - arms to the workers (Potere operaio - armi agli operai)

Power comes out of the barrel of the gun (Il potere sta sulla canna del fucile)

The Vietcong win because they shoot (Vietcong vince perche’ spara)

Violence in return for violence (Violenza alla violenza)

Two, three, lots of Vietnams two, three, lots of Valle Giulias (Due, tre, molti Vietnam due, tre, molte Valle Giulia)

War, no - guerrilla action, yes (Guerra no - guerriglia si)

Furthermore, the most popular song of the student movement was La Violenza. A verse celebrates clashes with the police: ‘Today I have seen a demonstration - smiling faces, fifteen-year-old girls and workers along- side the students’, then ‘l saw armoured cars overturned and burning, and many, many, policemen with broken heads’ (tanti e tanti baschi neri con le teste fracassate). The chorus-line makes clear that ‘whoever wasn’t there this time, won’t be with us tomorrow’. La violenza, la violenza, la violenza e la rivolta; chi non c’era questa volta non sara con noi domani).

The violence practised by the student movement in its formative stages can be referred to as ‘expressive behaviour as defined by Pizzorno, in that the conflicts with the authorities tended to be ends in themselves and often did not rely on processes of negotiation because their true objective was the constitution of a new identity. But violence was exalted within the political culture of the student movement for several reasons. Firstly, violence, real and symbolic, made it easy to distinguish friends and foes. It drew lines of battle, and enforced alignments. It was a litmus test showing the difference between revolutionaries and reformists. Violence, it was thought, showed the state’s apparatus in its true colours (in La Sinistra’s words, it exposed the ‘truncheon behind the professorial concept’). Secondly, violence had a shock effect that was conceived by the movement to be therapeutic. It not only distanced the students from the bourgeois values of their families, but served to root them out from the inside. Notions of legality, it was thought, had to be overcome, otherwise nothing would change. Thirdly, violence created solidarity: ‘Whoever wasn’t there this time, won’t be with us tomorrow.’ It was a test that required people to prove themselves. Che Guevara’s ‘new man’ had to be created in the heat of battle, and to be like Guevara meant following him down the violent road for, in the words of a ‘68 slogan: ‘Guevara non parla, spara’, (Guevara doesn’t talk, he shoots). Violence meant ‘putting yourself on the line’, and so ‘being taken at your word’. It was a test of trustworthiness ‘now’, in a moment of crisis, and the anticipation of ‘tomorrow’s’ society of fraternity. Moreover, the act of collective violence was an intense physical and emotional experience that summoned up total commitment to the group on the part of the individual. Lastly, violence was group power in action, and the means of its extension. The broken heads of the police showed what could be done if only the oppressed fought back. It was only the beginning, but it was also the prefiguration of future revolt and insurrection. Violence was conceived of as a detonator that multiplied itself and generalized struggles, starting with ‘two or three’ and growing into ‘many’ revolts.

The theme of political violence was crucial to the student movement’s development, but it would be misleading to take it literally by removing it from its proper context. It was by no means the only or predominant political focus, and was more verbal and symbolic than physical and organized. It was, above all, a means of self-differentiation in its extremest form. In this respect it can be compared to the use made of fashion by the student movement, which served to epater le bourgeois, and to assert a common identity.

The Politics of Student Dress
The first shock waves to pass through il Milano perbene (well-heeled Milan) were generated by Italian ‘beatniks’. Their tent-village New Barbonia (New Bumsville) on via Ripamonte provoked hysteria at the Corriere della Sera, whose headlines on the Milan pages played on the fears of the readers for the safety of their children: ‘The Longhairs of New Barbonia Even Celebrate Sacrilegious Weddings’; ‘Provos and Longhairs Threaten A "March on Milan" Tomorrow’. A description of their eviction stresses the danger they represent to public health: ‘Police, waste-disposal services and health officers finally managed to clean up, spraying some .. , 500 litres of disinfectant over the area’. The beatniks’ long hair, in particular, was used to conjure up images of dirt, primitivism, and sexual depravity.

The beatniks were part of a bohemian world which, in Milan, found its centre of gravity in the Brera district and its headquarters in the Bar Giamaica. For them, lifestyle and appearance were at one with their anti- bourgeois, anti-institutional ideas. However, their brand of shock tactics was an extreme form of a more generalized use of clothing and appear- ance for expressive purposes. There was an extraordinary coincidence between the rise of the movement and the mass purchase of new items of clothing. The rapidity of the changes in appearance can be seen by looking at photographs taken in 1967 and in 1968. Photographs of the Architecture Faculty occupation in Milan in early 1967 show clean-shaven male students dressed in jackets and ties. Their dress is of sombre hue - browns and dark greens - and little that is sartorial distinguishes them from the rest of the city’s middle class. Pictures taken a year later show a very different image of the student. This time the Cuban-style beard is in fashion, many men and women students are wearing blu-jeans (as they are known in Italian), men are not wearing jackets, unless they have a military look with cap to match. Some have red handkerchiefs tied around their neck, but the tie has been dispensed with. The colours are brighter. A similar comparison of ‘before’ and ‘after’ can be made with the class photographs of a city liceo; that of 1967 is formal and everyone has a neat appearance, whilst in the 1968 picture the young students look scruffy and wave their clenched fists at the camera.

For demonstrations the movement developed its own sort of uniform. In winter, everyone wore khaki Eskimo jackets, trousers and long scarves. The common rationale given for wearing this clothing was that it was practical; the Eskimo had lots of pockets and was tough, warm and water- proof, and the scarves were useful for masking the face and for protecting the eyes against teargas. However, this does not explain how a certain wardrobe and repertoire of hairstyles and gestures developed within the movement. To do so, it is necessary to look at the emergence of its image of itself, and its attempt to define itself in the eyes of the world. The dress of the Italian student movement was marked by the desire to project a political self-image. Style took on political connotations, in that the activists often wore their clothes as if they were carrying a banner. Commitment was worn on the sleeve for all to see. Politics was no longer invisible to the eye, a private matter of conscience to be guessed at by the curious stranger; it was made public for all to see. Whilst in previous political movements people had worn emblems, carnations for instance, usually the class connotations of appearance were already sufficiently identifiable; workers, for example, frequently attended demonstrations in their overalls. For students, however, it was vital to dress differently in order to distinguish themselves from the middle classes from which most of them came. In fact, it was almost obligatory not to dress in a traditional manner in the student ambience to avoid being taken for a Fascist.

The new appearance cultivated by the student movement was experienced as an immense release from the constraints of dull respectability. Young men experimented by wearing bright colours, which had long been denied them. For women, the new fashion of the natural appearance released them from the pressures to use make-up and wear high heels (many wore trousers and did not wear a dress again for several years). For the men it led to the cultivation of the wild and unkempt look, especially on the more libertarian fringes. The movement, in addition, encouraged a certain theatrical imagination, which perhaps explains the temporary vogue for Carbonaro-style mantles that evoked romantic images of revolt. However, the movement also created models of what a comrade should look like, and implicitly invested them with moral values. In fact, this will to set up new standards, as well as the willingness to criticize the dominant codes, differentiates the relation of fashion to a social move- ment from other forms of fashion. Thus, it was not like those fashions described by Alberoni in which: ‘every individual, although behaving in the same way as the others, is, in reality, concerned only about himself’ because the style for the student movement was a means of ‘participating in a wider solidarity’. Then, unlike deviancy, there was not only a conscious breaking of the hidden rules governing appearance, but an alter- native set of norms. Interestingly, in Milan a strange man known as Sacha took particular pleasure in attending student demonstrations and occupations dressed in the height of elegance in a blue suit with shirt and cravat, or wearing a smoking jacket. His deviant imagination could be satisfied only against the backdrop of a student generation that had turned its back on middle-class fashions. Although there were some who delighted in cutting a fine figure, the moment for doing so had largely passed (such a moment was Feltrinelli’s return to Italy from Bolivia at the beginning of the previous year dressed with Cuban flourishes); now it was more important to share a common identity.

The student movement dealt with the question of fashion in largely negative terms. Appearance and clothes became issues in as far as they represented the consumerism, wealth and ostentation that the movement opposed. Thus, before the Christmas of 1968, students picketed the department store Rinascente, not only in support of the striking shop- workers, but to oppose Christmas consumerism. Earlier in the month they attacked the opening night of La Scala in protest at the luxury and finery exhibited by the Milanese bourgeoisie. A strong streak of puritanism ran through the movement, which also reflected a masculine ethos according to which expenditure on clothes and appearance was fundamentally wasteful. It was basically thought that clothes should be practical and economical, and that appearance should be natural. The utopian idea informing the new fashion was that in an ideal society there would be a rough-and-ready equality; dress would really be of little importance in judging and distinguishing people. It was an artifice that had to be minimized in order to achieve a collective identity. The movement’s idea of clothing and appearance, in other words, was an aspect of a naturalistic aesthetic which aspired to make the relationships between people trans- parent. Ultimately, the movement condemned the very idea of fashion, and would have liked to have abolished it as seemed to have been done in China.

A Moral Panic
By the first months of 1968 the student movement in Italy had radically transformed the student image and identity. Students looked and behaved differently from the sons and daughters of the middle class who had gone to the liceo and the university before them. Over the period 1968-9 students became both hate-figures and fashion-setters in the eyes of the media-consuming public. Liberal progressive opinion, represented by the weeklies L’Espresso and Panorama, was given pictures of an exotic and exciting world and of struggles against the conservative establishment. L’Espresso specialized in guides and maps designed to help the reader decode the movement’s signs (the insignia of different political organizations, their origins, and so on). By contrast, Il Corriere della Sera, the Milan-based daily, thrilled and shocked its readers in turn with stories about student outrages. Whilst L’Espresso tried to make the phenomenon comprehensible, the Corriere dwelt on its incomprehensible features. The campaign of the Corriere della Sera had all the characteristics of what Stan Cohen has called the ‘moral panic’:

Societies appear to be subject, every now and then, to periods of moral panic. A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests; its nature is presented in a stylized and stereo-typical fashion by the mass media; the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people; socially accredited experts pronounce diagnoses and solutions; ways of coping are evolved or (more often) resorted to; the condition then disappears, submerges or deteri- orates and becomes more visible. Sometimes the object of panic is quite novel and at other times it is something which has been in existence long enough, but suddenly appears in the limelight. Sometimes the panic is passed over and is forgotten, except in folklore and collective memory; at other times it has more serious and long-lasting repercussions and might produce such changes as those in legal and social policy or even in a way society conceives itself. In England the ‘folk devils’ studied by Cohen in the late sixties were mods and rockers; in Italy, the reds were traditionally the devils, but in 1968 students assumed the role, provoked a panic about the infiltration of Communism and permissiveness into Italian institutions. The Corriere della Sera usually referred to movement activists as ‘the Chinese’ (i cinesi) a term which conjured up the red menace and the yellow peril in one. Its coverage of student politics gained a certain notoriety for its sheer vituper- ation. However, it was not only the right which condemned the movement. The moral panic was mainly felt by the political and religious establish- ment and traditionalist middle class, but it also cut across political cultures. One of the most notable statements directed against the move ment came from Pier Paolo Pasolini, who was a Communist Party sympathizer. In June 1968 he wrote a poem expressing his loathing for the figli di papa:
Now all the journalists in the world are licking your arses… but not me, my dears. You have the faces of spoilt brats, and I hate you, like I hate your fathers .... When yesterday at Valle Giulia you beat up the police, I sympathized with the police because they are the sons of the poor.

In the same month Giorgio Amendola, a leading member of the PCI, described the student movement as a re-edited version of irrationalism and infantilist, anarchist extremism. He called for a fight on ‘two fronts’, which meant counterposing the patrimony ‘accumulated by us over tens of years of hard struggles’ to dangerous student extremism.

In 1968 it is possible to speak of a moral panic of which the students were the principal protagonists. They aimed to shock and disgust sections of public opinion and they succeeded. But unlike the folk devils studied by Cohen who delighted in infamy without pretending to destroy society, the student movement was a movement and not a set of deviant activities. It aimed to subvert the existing institutions, and, if possible, to bring about revolutionary changes. By themselves students were powerless, and their actions provoked a moral panic of limited proportions. But when they joined forces with the workers’ movement that panic became more general; it became a ‘crisis of hegemony’.

06. Religion and student politics: the catholic university

Conflicts within the Catholic World
The occupation of the Catholic University (the ‘Cattolica’) on 18 November 1967 sent shock waves through Italian Catholic society. Until then the university had not been touched by the political ferment of the state-controlled institutions. It was set up by the Church in 1921, as a crucial part of its strategy to create a nucleus of Catholic intellectuals to intervene in lay culture and politics. Secondary education was largely in the hands of the state, so the Church attached particular importance to control over its own university. It had always remained under the close supervision of the bishop, and many of the leading members of the Christian Democrat party were its former students. The authorities reacted to the prospect of ‘subversion’ and the infiltration of Marxist ideas into the cloisters of Sant’Ambrogio by calling in the police. The ‘ringleaders’ were expelled.

However, what was seen by the authorities as an alien intrusion was the product of conflicts within the Catholic world in the 1960s. The student movement at the Cattolica is of particular interest for understanding the change of conscience into political consciousness, and tracing the development of Catholic radicalism.

In the immediate postwar period the Catholic Church in Italy had to defend itself from three chief threats - Marxism, demands for the ending of the Concordat, and the secularisation of society (what Pius XII referred to as lo spirito del secolo). This it did with remarkable success through a full-scale mobilization of the faithful in the parishes - a success which was crowned by the Christian Democrat electoral victory of 1948. The PCI was isolated (Communist voters were threatened with excommunication), the Concordat renewed, and sections of the middle classes previously aligned with the secular Liberal and Republican parties shifted their allegiances, and educated their children according to Catholic principles.

It was not until the thaw in the Cold War and the more liberal policies of Pope John XXIII, who lifted the veto on the Communist vote, that Catholics were able to speak more freely about their tasks in society.

Within the Church the most important developments occurred in Latin America, where some priests were active among peasant movements and theorized convergences between the teachings of the Gospel and of Marxism. Given the especially strong links with Italian missionaries, and the sympathy aroused for Latin American struggles against imperialism they became a point of reference. Exhibitions mounted at the Cattolica in

1967 publicized the suffering and oppression of the Third World, and appealed strongly to themes of social commitment. Dissent within the Church in Italy, however, was marginal and heavily dealt with by the hierarchy. It was only able to come into the open when the ‘ice’ of conformity had already been broken by the social movements. One of the most celebrated cases of dissent was the rebellion of don Mazzi, a young priest at Isolotto, a working-class parish in Florence. When the bishop sent him a letter warning him against the use of the Church for political purposes, radical Catholics occupied Parma Cathedral in protest.

However, the major source of dissent was not within the Church, but among lay Catholics. On the one hand, there were shifts in middle-class opinion away from subordination to clerical influence expressed by the spread of ideas of ‘modernism’ (especially those of the ‘permissive society’), on the other hand, the very success of the Church intervention in politics had had a secularizing effect on its own conduct and image because of its involvement with the Christian Democrat party and big business. The ‘revolt’ among sections of the laity can be seen as part of an older cycle of disenchantment based on the discrepancy between the morality of the Gospels and the activities of the Church. What gave it political significance in the late sixties was the tendency towards independent action by lay bodies with close affiliations with the Church, and towards the setting up of new lay groupings. An inquiry of 1968 into the formation of groups and associations spontaneously set up on direct democratic lines and with left-wing political projects showed that 36 per cent were of Catholic origin.

The CISL, which did not recruit on the basis of religious beliefs, but which had the mass of its support among Catholic workers, had already committed itself to joint action with the Communist-dominated CGIL in response to pressures from its membership. What was more serious for the Church was the radicalization of the Associazione Cristiana Lavoratori Italiani (ACLI) which was the Catholic pressure group within the world of organized labour. In 1968 it broke its links with the Christian Democrat Party. The emergence of ‘class’ and ‘exploitation’ as terms within Catholic denunciations of capitalist society, showed how Marxist ideas were being taken up, sometimes with even greater enthusiasm than within the historic organizations of the Left.

Within the Catholic student organization, Intesa, there had been a tradition of cooperation with the Left, which became closer with the increasing disappointment in the government. The Gioventu Studentesca (GS), a Catholic association of students which had no official political orientation, became a cauldron of open debate and discussion at the Cattolica. The return of sponsored missionaries from Brazil, the summer work camps in the poverty-stricken areas of Calabria and the initiation of play projects among the children of the Milanese hinterland - all these experiences, which had been promoted out of a spirit of caritas, excited ‘Communist sympathies’ among students in the context of the growing dissent among Catholic intellectuals and organizations. Humanist and populist ideas linked up with Marxist theories, and evangelism took on the form of overtly political activism.

Mobilizing Moral Outrage
The flashpoint at the Cattolica was the issue of a 50 per cent increase in student fees. The university already had higher fees than the average, and the cost seemed greater because an unusual number of the 20,000 students were from outside the province, and there were 8,500 ‘worker-students’. However, it was not so much the sum of money involved by the autumn rise in fees as the principle at stake which concerned most students. There was widespread anger at what was seen as hypocritical behaviour by authorities who prided themselves on providing an educational ladder down to the poorest parishioners. It was described as an attack on the right to education (diritto allo studio). The student representative body organized an extraordinary general meeting of all student organizations, the publication of a report (libro bianco), a public debate and a demonstration of protest. It won the backing of the youth federation of the Christian Democratic Party as well as that of the PSIUP.

The first protests, in the shape of strikes during lectures and examinations, were not popular because they were identified as ‘left-wing’, and education was not yet seen as political. But. when the rector refused to enter into dialogue with the students, a call for an occupation won the support of two-thirds of the students. When police arrived on the scene, there was outrage at the authorities’ readiness to use force, break the rights of sanctuary, and to involve the state despite the university’s continuous reiteration of its free and independent status. The use of passive resistance, following the example of the US movement, under-scored the legalism and the peaceful intentions of the Cattolica students, and highlighted the hypocrisy of the rectorate. A motion approved by the general meeting of the students in occupation expressed: ‘indignation, suffering and deeply troubled human, civil and Christian feelings in response to the authorities’ behaviour towards the occupation. It went on to say that police intervention ‘is particularly offensive to our university, which likes to regard itself as free and Catholic’. The degree of support for the action, which split the teaching staff, reflected the injured sensibilities of middle-class adults, who resented being treated like children. Had the police not been called, it seems likely that the mobilization would have fizzled out, especially in the absence in mid November of a wider national movement.

The occupation was the form of action that served most to group together the dissident students. The first occupation in November 1967 involved from 100 to 200 activists, who were prepared to defy not only the authorities, but their own families by staying overnight in the university. With the closure of the Cattolica for a week after the eviction of the occupiers, they carried out an information picket (picchettaggio di informazione), and distributed a daily bulletin. The main decisions were taken at the general assemblies of all the students, whilst a committee of agitation ran the everyday activity. ‘Commissions’ were formed to hold seminars and organize specific activities. The movement began a protest guided by the belief that the authorities would see reason, and act according to their educational and moral ideals. However, through the occupation it developed its own structures and independence based on direct democracy and self-managed learning.

A motion put to the general meeting of the Cattolica by students representing the student movement (movimento studentesco) slate in the university elections shows a particular concern for the issues of selection and authoritarianism. It was passed. It lists the demands of the movement as follows:

On Autonomy

1. The recognition of the autonomy and self-government of the student movement.

2. The withdrawal of disciplinary proceedings against activists.

3. Freedom of speech.

4. Provision of facilities and timetabling for student movement activities.


1. The recognition of experimental courses promoted by the student movement.

2. The generalized use of seminars.

3. Free debate within courses.

4. The establishment of inter-disciplinary and experimental courses open to all.

5. The democratization of all controls (over attendance and examinations).

Political Relations

1. The recognition of the power of the student general meeting over all important decisions concerning administration, teaching, etc.

2. The publication of all official documents.

The Right to Study

1. The progressive reduction of all fees

The ideas of anti-authoritarianism and democratic self-management were particularly central to the student movement at the Catholic University. The whole political style was very different to that of the movement at the other institutions. There was no left-wing tradition; no Marxist intellectuals like Stefano Levi, a leader in the architecture faculty of the Polytechnic who was called in to advise during the first occupation; no experience in political organizing. But these deficiencies were made up for in other ways; the politics were less orthodox and more experimental. This can be seen in the charismatic leadership of Mario Capanna. He spoke in a way that everyone could understand and yet his speech was full of irony and vivid imagery. He made people laugh, and made them feel they had something to say. His flair for invention contrasted with the monotonous rhetoric of a Left which aped a humanist model da foro (based on the forum ideal). Capanna succeeded in interpreting an untutored enthusiasm for politics, which expressed itself in a movement and not in a party political form.

Anti-authoritarian politics was especially important at the Cattolica because it related directly to the students’ resistance to surveillance and control by the authorities, who were concerned about the souls of their pupils as well as about their education in a narrower sense. Much of the student movement’s stress on free speech and debate within courses was informed by a struggle against religious dogma. This concern with the religious question was peculiar to the movement at the Cattolica. It is worth considering not only as a special issue, but in relation to how politics itself was invested with ‘religious’ meanings.

The challenge to Catholicism by the students was aimed against the Church as an institution rather than against religion. Students occupied churches and interrupted masses with iconoclastic enthusiasm. Censorship and the sterility of cultural conformity were attacked in Dialoghi,a student paper; one issue protested against interference by consisting entirely of blank copy. Demands were made for the end of Church juridical control over the university, and for the abolition of the requirement that entrants should be Catholics. A student leaflet pointed out that, in the Gospels, it was the poor and oppressed who were the chosen ones. Students demanded the right to control Gioventu Studentesca, the student organization, without interference from the bishop. Proposals were also put for seminars on the Faith to replace the theology lectures. Demands focused on the accountability of the hierarchy, and on the need for the Church to fight oppression in the world. However, it is notable that the movement made no mention of the Church’s crucial role in the regulation of sexuality in the university and in society generally. Rigorous moral codes were applied within the institution; lecturers and students found to be ‘living in sin’ were expelled, and women students living away from home were placed with families to prevent them falling into sin. Although women participated in the movement (a fact which shocked the authorities), there is little sign that feminism played any part in the demands or actions of the movement.

The simplest course open to dissident Catholic students was to resolve or relegate the religious question as a priority by ceasing to attend Mass. Thereby, belief was either made personal and withdrawn from the Church’s tutelage, or it was discarded. This step was one taken by many young Italians in the 1960s, and was one aspect of the secularization of the society. However, in the late sixties, energies and enthusiasms that had previously been channelled through the Church’s organizations took political forms. This development has already been mentioned in relation to the radicalization of the Catholic-based lay bodies such as ACLI, the CISL and various community ventures, but it was also a more general phenomenon that affected secular politics. This can be shown by looking at ‘Letter to a School-teacher’, which was possibly the single most influential text in the student movement, and by showing how radical Catholic and Marxist ideas converged in this period.

Letter to a School-teacher denounced the selective and discriminatory nature of education, using the experiences of the small Tuscan village school at Barbiana. The themes being dealt with had a direct relevance to a movement which was fighting for everyone’s right to education, and which had made teaching into a political issue. Indeed the book anticipated the movement. lt was easily translatable into Marxist terminology, and was adapted and selectively used by its extensive readership.

However, much of its appeal derived from its difference from standard Marxist accounts, which spoke of the objective mechanisms whereby capitalism reproduced its labour power (for example, the Pisan Theses).The Barbiana letters focused on the individual experience of education and spoke through the voices of children excluded not only by economic but by cultural processes. Tullio de Mauro has suggested that don Milani’s discovery of the politics of grammar, and of the knowledge and use of words resulted from his critical appropriation of his priestly functions. Firstly, the Church taught don Milani ‘intimately to adhere to linguistic obedience’; the Church’s language, which served to bring individual consciences into conformity with etiquette and principles of belief and to free its own functionaries from the ties of social and geographical origin, taught don Milani about the power of words. He rebelled against that use of language, but with the power of having mastered it.

Secondly, don Milani, according to De Mauro, was above all a preacher, who wanted to change things. In this respect too, the ‘linguistic school of the Evangelists’ prepared him in that it insisted on the power of ‘the word’, and on the need to emancipate the oppressed from the burdens of cultural deprivation. For don Milani it was vital that the poor should rely on their own powers to speak and write, and should free themselves from the oppressive notion of ‘correct Italian’;

We need anyway to understand what is correct language. The poor create languages and then continue to renew them. The rich crystallize them so that they can take advantage of whoever doesn’t talk like they do. Or they fail them in exams.

In his work at Barbiana, he attempted to overcome these inequalities by encouraging collective authorship and linking learning to a participatory notion of democracy.

Although not exclusive to a Catholic culture, don Milani’s sensitivity to certain forms of oppression was perhaps best represented by radical Catholic currents. It was characterized by attention to culture as a political problem which required specific forms of action and analysis and by its focus on experience and the personal dimensions of oppression. More-over, don Milani’s example stood out for its moral commitment and appealed to feelings among students that the culturally privileged should ‘go to the people’. Rossanda wrote that the letters from Barbiana were perceived as evidence of the need for an Italian version of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Yet, by contrast with appropriations of Chinese slogans and sloganizing style, don Milani offered a vivid insight into the lived experience of injustice. The book touched a generation’s sense of moral outrage and had echoes far beyond the world of the university activists. It showed the power of a religious culture to generate and activate moral standards of condemnation.

There were specific reasons for the popularity of the Letter to a School-teacher, but these need to be placed in the broader context of the convergence of radical Catholicism and Marxism in the late sixties. This relationship has not received much critical attention; Catholic intellectuals have perhaps shown more interest in the interaction of religion and politics (or in the similarities of political and religious militancy) than Marxists, who have been anxious to defend ‘science’ from ‘contamination’. Whilst it is true that many of the overtly religious elements that appeared in the movements of opposition were of tangential significance, the ‘religious structure of feeling’ was of considerable importance in the making of 1968. This structure of feeling had been a part of Marxist and Socialist movements from early in their history, but it had been contained and marginalized by parliamentary parties that feared uncontrolled enthusiasms. In 1968 it was recreated and reactivated in the student movement.

In this light it is possible to understand how the radicalization in the Catholic world could lead to a rapprochement with Marxism, without requiring the total abandonment of a structure of feeling based on faith and commitment to an ideal. Indeed, it could be argued that politics offered even greater possibilities for self-sacrifice, the service of others and for apostolic militancy and, therefore, for being a more genuine Christian. However, the majority of new adherents to revolutionary politics experienced their conversion as a break with Catholicism and with their own pasts. They turned religion on its head, and dismissed it with Marx’s peremptoriness as an opiate. This had serious consequences for the student movement, and generally for the relations between Catholic and Marxist cultures in the subsequent period. The moment of rapprochement was succeeded by one of division and mutual animosity.

The crisis and decline of the student movement at the Cattolica was bound up with this breakdown in dialogue between Marxists and practising Catholics among the students. In the early stages of mobilization in 1967-8 the militant and politicized minority had been sensitive to religious feelings and beliefs. Thus, after the clashes with the police in March 1968, meetings were held of the Assemblea Ecclesiastica, and care was taken to elaborate biblical justifications for rebellion and for the use of violence. However, splits developed among activists on whether to continue to organize around religious issues, and between the politicized minority and the mass of students at the university. By the end of 1969 religion was no longer a terrain of struggle between dissident students and the authorities, largely because radicals directed their attention to other problems without linking them up to Catholicism. Above all, they abandoned the university and student struggles in favour of political agitation around the factories, which became the centres of social conflict from the autumn of 1968. Thus, the movement evacuated its own stronghold and left a free hand to the authorities to restore the status quo.

The rector at the Cattolica had consistently opposed the student movement, and had frequently resorted to repression in attempts to root out dissent. Over two years tens of students were expelled from the university. The police barracks, which conveniently faced the main entrance to the university, acted as a constant pillar of strength to the authorities. There was no question of giving way to the student movement and allowing the university to be subverted from within. There was too much at stake. The importance of the university to the Catholic Church was evidenced by the national annual Giornata della Cattolica, a day given over to collecting funds from the faithful to support their institution, and by its function in educating its lay political elite. The weakening of the students’ movement was therefore seized on by the authorities to drive it from Sant’Ambrogio as Christ had driven the money-lenders from the temple. Over a two year period it disappeared from the Cattolica and Catholic dissent irremediably lost a crucial stronghold. Instead the university became a springboard for the launching of Comunione e Liberazione. This was the Catholic Church’s successful youth organization, which showed a skilful adoption of themes and structures developed by the student movement for the purposes of re-establishing the role of religion in daily activities. Although Catholic dissent continued to grow in the wake of the social movements, and gave rise to organizations such as Christians for Socialism, the cruel irony of the dramatic echoes of the student rebellion at the Cattolica was that the Church learnt more from it than did its opponents.

07. The spread of student protest: the state university, schools and institutes

Politics as Entertainment

The student movement at the State University (‘La Statale’) formed in the wake of the occupations at the Catholic University. It did not play a leading role nationally, nor did events at the Statale have a resonance within a specific cultural orbit equivalent to the mondo cattolico.

However, this section of the movement rapidly dominated student politics within Milan. Its influence grew when the national movement was in crisis in the summer of 1968. The particular interest of this case lies in examining how the Statale became so central to the social life of the student movement.

The medical students were the first to occupy their faculty when, in mid February 1968, they took action in protest over overcrowding and the high examination failure rate. A few days later science, arts and law faculties were occupied. During March, April and May student occupations and police evictions produced a ding-dong battle. At the Cattolica there were seven occupations in 1968-9, and the students at the Statale took action with equal regularity. Moreover, as will be seen below, schools too were swept into the fray. There was no let-up in hostilities in 1968 until the June examinations, which at the Cattolica were presided over by the police. Each confrontation led to an escalation. Fascist attacks and the arrival of students at the gates with police escorts demanding the ‘right to study’ led to a militarization of conflict, especially following the battle of Valle Giulia. On 25 March 1968 street battles broke out involving over a thousand students, when police evicted the occupiers from both the Catholic and State universities. Repression, expulsions and legal action against students provoked campaigns against victimization, and hardened feelings towards the authorities. Students responded by locking up the rectors of the two universities, and by putting ‘reactionary’ lecturers on trial. Writing on the walls pointed the accusing finger. For example, a certain Bonicalzi was addressed: ‘Bonicalzi, you who love prefabrication, tell us about building speculation.’ Graffiti also contained ironic advice to workers on how to go to university: ‘Workers, you too can go to university - join the police.'

Whilst the struggle for the control of space was lost at the Cattolica, the students at the Statale managed to assert their hold over their territory. The Cattolica activists were relatively isolated from the bulk of the student body by the time confrontation took a more violent turn. Their most effective and popular methods of struggle involved passive resistance, and they were not sufficiently prepared to do battle for a political autonomy which required the free use of institutional space. Moreover, the authorities at the Cattolica held firm. At the Statale the student movement could count on a broader area of support, and had fewer scruples about violent action. It was already more politicized in the early stages, due to a history of organization and activism that was lacking at the Cattolica. Then, the authorities of the Statale were more ready to accept incursions on their prerogatives rather than have more conflict. The students at the Statale effectively made the university into a base for the movement, but their success needs also to be related to their exploitation of its topographical centrality. The Ospedale Maggiore site, which has formed the core of the university since its foundation in 1924, is in the centre of Milan. It is a five-minute walk from Piazza Duomo, where political and trade-union rallies historically follow on from marches through the city streets. The student movement quickly transformed the nearby Piazza San Stefano into its place for meetings and rallies. Students from all the educational institutions came to the Piazza, and to the university for city-wide demonstrations, debates or to coordinate strikes and protest action. When the Statale students occupied the buildings others joined them and helped repel attacks.

However, the attractions of the State University were not only political in narrow sense. Occupations provided excellent opportunities for an exciting social life including free rock and jazz concerts. A Corriere della Sera report entitled the ‘Nights of Mao’ gave a voyeuristic insight into the carnival atmosphere which reigned during an occupation of the Statale:

this is how the pro-Chinese (filo-cinesi) elements pass the hours of the cultural revolution - they play poker, dress up in lecturers’ robes, use crucifixes as weapons, listen to Bach and make toasts with wine from Puglia.

Indeed, an important part of the new politics was precisely these sorts of taboo-breaking acts. Hardly a statue escaped mockery - white marble was desecrated by colourful daubs, heads acquired hats and inscriptions were ‘corrected’. And, unfortunately, students also left their mark on their surroundings by destroying and vandalizing them. The fine Renaissance courtyards and Della Robbia sculptures suffered considerable damage.

The State University, at the height of the student movement, afforded numerous opportunities for entertainment, and drew crowds of young people looking for excitement and wanting to see for themselves what the press had made so notorious. The buildings and courtyards, which had been taken over for educational purposes, once again teemed with a sort of life they had known in previous centuries. The university took on some of the features of a market-place and hostel. Student control over the entrance halls, combined with the free flow of persons in and out of the buildings, made them ideal spots for trading and illicit dealing. Most of the goods on sale consisted of books, newspapers and other political paraphernalia, but itinerant street-vendors, mostly Southerners, also came to sell their contraband cigarettes, watches and other things, whilst students themselves made and sold jewellery and leather articles. Sometimes the vendors showed a rare eye for a captive market; before each clash with the police, a small cart would suddenly appear loaded with lemons, which students would use to diminish the effects of the tear-gas. Students turned the university into a hostel for the poor and needy, who spontaneously gravitated to a place where they would not only get free meals at the canteen and a roof for the night, but where they would be humoured by their hosts. Well-known city drunks and even patients escaping from mental asylums drifted around the university.

For students the cobbled streets adjoining the university contained good-quality cheap restaurants and several bars, which they continuously frequented. One of the favourite student places was the ‘Strippoli’ in Piazza San Stefano, which had excellent food and wine from Puglia. But it was the atmosphere that gave it life, and made it like one of the old fashioned osterie, which had all but disappeared from Milan. In fact, the whole area around the university was transformed by the presence of the student movement. Expectation hung in the air. News concerning the movement travelled down the wires of bush-telegraph run by networks of activists. Bits of information would be exchanged in the entrance hall to the university, whilst posters on the walls just outside announced the next demonstration or meeting. At the ‘Strippoli’ there would perhaps be discussion of recent events. All in all, there was a feeling that to be at the Statale was to be at the centre of action, even when the air was clear of tear-gas and the scream of sirens.

Changing Social Relations

The State University in Milan became a centre of a new form of sociality. The idea of fraternity was no doubt idealized within the movement, but it nonetheless pointed to an aspiration which tended to broaden the possibilities for social exchange. This has already been suggested in relation to the changes in dress and appearance - changes which facilitated social and political identification. It was also indexed by changes in linguistic usage. The familiar tu form of address was widely adopted within the movement for all exchanges, whereas previously it would not have been used except when addressing a friend, close acquaintance or member of family. This deliberate informality, which was associated with popular traditions, served to dispense with what were regarded as bourgeois distinctions between people, while the withdrawal of courteous forms of address such as the use of titles (Dottore, etc.) was a way of snubbing figures of authority. The movement, moreover, created its own peculiar slang (gergo), a strange mixture of swear-words and political jargon, which was later dubbed sinistrese (left-talk). It had none of the richness of an argot, and it bore the imprint of educational institutions in which it was formed, especially in its more verbose and sententious manifestations. However, like the slogan shouted on the demonstration, this slang gave a sense of group identity, but was not exclusive in that it was easily picked up. Thus, joining the movement was made easy even for outsiders; it was sufficient that they learnt a smattering of its terminology for them to be able to engage others in conversation. Above all, it was a sociality based in political activity and discussion, and relied on the most public of vocabularies.

The new sociality produced through the student movement was more extensive than that which preceded it. The activist was at the centre of an intricate web of social relations. A student who was at the State University in 1969 recalls that her diary contained the numbers and addresses of some three hundred people she had met through the movement, the great majority of whom she thought of as her friends. For her it was a period of happiness because ‘you were at home everywhere in the city’. Moreover, activists travelled frequently from city to city to attend conferences and demonstrations, and went to Paris, Berlin and other centres of the student movement. Telephone calls through the interfaculty information centres maintained regular contacts. It was a sociality that was made possible by the time and freedoms enjoyed by students, but in turn that time was organized into a relentless timetable of commitments. The interests of the collectivity were made to prevail over those of individual. Above all there was an idea of ‘solidarity’ informing social relations. This meant that demonstrations could be organized with lightning speed. A series of telephone calls, a roneoed leaflet and a crowd of several thousand could be gathered to protest outside the San Vittorio prison against arrests which had occurred a couple of hours previously.

The student movement made sociality more public by channelling it through political activity, and in the process deeply affected the private and personal lives of its protagonists. Its ideal of how a comrade should aspire to live was represented in the oft-quoted words of Che Guevara:

Marxists must be the most courageous and the most complete human beings, but always, and above all, they . .. must live and pulsate with the masses ....

They must be tireless workers, who give themselves utterly to the people, and sacrifice their hours of rest, their families and even their lives for the revolution, yet who are never indifferent to the warmth of human contact.

This heroic model, which closely resembles Christ’s conception of the apostolic mission, had a considerable resonance in the student movement. There was a streak of fanaticism about the militant’s lifestyle. People were judged according to their political identities or their degree of commitment to the movement. A person was either a comrade or not; and if not, was excluded or marginalized from the activist’s social circles, which were constructed largely on the basis of political activity. Thus, during

1968-9 many friendships which antedated the movement, and many family relationships, went into crisis. It was an embarrassment to have a relationship with a revisionist (a member of the Communist Party), and there was a reaction against parents, especially when they were wealthy or held conservative views. Although there was a variety of factors involved, such as teenage rebellion against fathers, it is notable that these conflicts were thought of in a political framework.

The student movement not only rejected certain traditional forms of sociality (mostly those premised on hierarchy and authority), but it gave rise to alternative models and experiments, which liberally interpreted Che Guevara’s injunctions. The examples of the commune and of attitudes to sexual liberation offer some insights into these developments.

The most celebrated commune to be established in Milan came out of the occupation of the State University’s student hostel (Casa dello Studente) in May 1969. A meeting called for free beds, the extension of services for women students, the evaluation of requests for lodging on the basis of need rather than merit, and job security for all staff. The action led to almost total student control over the premises. However, most students lived with their parents in Milan, so communal living was a marginal experience, especially for those attending the Cattolica. There was no equivalent to the US or British campuses. Moreover, by contrast with the North American movements, the few communal houses shared by activists served mainly as bases for other activities. Little time was spent at home, little space was left for private, personal relationships. The prevalent idea was that everything had to be shared.

Sex too was thought to be something to be shared among comrades. Free love and sexual liberation were facets of the student movement in Italy as in other countries. It was, likewise, a contradictory freedom. A leaflet written by education students at the Statale gives a slightly confused picture of this:

talking about freedom and revolution without living them in our everyday lives leads to fascism .... That means to say, that for women, if they don't 'masculinize’ themselves along authoritarian lines, nothing remains but the task of duplicating, of being the ‘duplicating angel’ (angelo del ciclostile). . . . The system wants us not to make love. . . . The bourgeoisie is not interested in the creation of a new relationship between men and women because it would lead to its self-immolation.

Criticism was also directed against the authoritarian and repressive aspects of the Chinese Revolution such as ‘the repeated invitations to marriage, maternity and chastity, that is to the prohibition on the rational self-management of one’s life’. The leaflet celebrates love-making as anti-authoritarian and anti-bourgeois, but it also suggests that women were being squeezed between older and newer forms of oppression. The vogue for Reichian ideas reinforced those tendencies within a student way of life

which exalted self-expressivity.

The idea of sexual liberation was spoken of positively by both men and women in the student movement, but it was often experienced at the time as unpleasant, especially by the women. They were obliged by social pressures to give freely of themselves. During occupations sexual intercourse was actively canvassed, and the women, who were always in a minority, found it difficult to say ‘no’ for fear of appearing ‘repressed’. Within the movement, masculine values, such as the courage and daring of a Mario Capanna in the face of the police, and the masculine image, exemplified by the virile, bearded look, were hegemonic among men. It was the men who were the leaders, and women students were required to dress and behave like them in order to win respect; otherwise they tended to be glamorous appendages of the male leaders (la donna del leader). The women activists continued to do the humbler tasks of duplicating and preparing meals. Their role in the movement was subordinate and invisible. The specific nature of women’s oppression remained unrecognized; so whilst students were intensely aware of class discrimination and inequalities in education, they were largely oblivious to both the public and private humiliations endured by women as a social group.

The new sociality brought into existence by the student movement was, therefore, a contradictory mixture of freedoms and oppressions. Participation involved extending circles of friendship and breaking down the barriers between people of different ages and classes; at the same time, friendships were circumscribed by political definitions and confused with the category ‘comrade’. Public life became more intense, but at the expense of personal concerns. Interpretations of freedom, fraternity and equality claimed to be in the interests of all, but they reaffirmed male powers to define social relations. The repressive and moralistic elements of the new sociality came to the fore when the movement went into decline.

At the Statale the student movement succeeded in maintaining its grip on the institution, which functioned as the headquarters for the movement as a whole. However, at the end of 1969, the movement was subordinated to the newly founded political organizations of the extra-parliamentary Left, which replaced the loose structures of grassroots democracy with their versions of Leninist democratic centralism. The most regressive and which the outlook repressive elements of the new sociality were formalized and institutionalized by the political sects. At the Statale the Movimento Studentesco (now a party) fought tooth and nail to drive out rivals, and to establish the supremacy of Marxist-Leninist dogma and organization; the statalini even resurrected Stalin as ‘the symbol of intransigent struggle against the bourgeoisie and fascism, as the rejection of the line of the Western Communist parties, and as part of the fight against Trotskyism’.

Although the Movimento Studentesco was perhaps an extreme example of political puritanism, it nonetheless represented wider tendencies that developed out of the movements of 1968-9. Above all, it entailed the construction of a closed political subculture in which narrow political definitions governed the social existence of its members. A Movimento Studentesco document makes this clear, by posing an alternative for school students between a life of militancy and the escapism of bohemianism:

it is not surprising that the bourgeoisie favours a false anti-conformism . . . comics, detective stories, television, the guitar and long hair are for many young people the only form of social and cultural existence. Through these instruments, the bourgeois ideology of violence . . . pansexualism and escapism is transmitted.

However, in the wake of the movements there was also a reaction to this new conformism, especially among women and youth, who struggled to assert identities which the Left and student politics had repressed or refused to recognize. Tiny minorities anticipated these developments in a confused way in 1968-9, but they were isolated and marginalized. As will be shown in part IV, it was not until the development of the new social movements in the 1970s that the themes of personal and sexual identities were explored and used to redefine politics itself.

Revolt in the Upper Secondary Schools

On 26 January 1968 the students of the Liceo Berchet occupied their school with the help of city-wide support from university and secondary school students. A month later the Liceo Parini was occupied and the structures were set up, through meetings at the Statale, of a Milanese ‘coordination’ for the Movimento delle Scuole Medie. The movement spread to all the main upper secondary schools, firstly to the liceo classico and liceo scientifico, and subsequently to the technical institutes and vocational training schools. The movement started in Milan, but quickly assumed national proportions with a wave of occupations, demonstrations, strikes in the spring and then in the autumn. It was very much an offshoot involving teenagers who quickly learnt the political language of their elder brothers and sisters, but while the student movement in the universities went into eclipse, it put down its roots in the schools.

Unlike in the universities, where students were recognized to be citizens with the right to speak, meet and organize politically, in the secondary schools there were heavy restrictions on such activities. Some student associations and publications existed, but under close supervision. An authoritarian regime prevailed in the majority of schools. One of the movement’s central objectives was precisely the recognition of school students’ adulthood and citizenship. This was true not only in the earlier stages of mobilization, but throughout the struggle with the rigid and intransigent authorities.

Even before the student movement gathered momentum in the universities, a major scandal blew up in a Milanese Iiceo over the issue of freedom of speech, and provoked a national debate. Students at the Liceo Parini published an article in their paper, La Zanzara, on changing attitudes towards sex among their fellow pupils which provoked protests from some parents. A police inquiry resulted in arrests. The article itself was in the form of a report on the findings of a questionnaire asking about sex before marriage, contraception and divorce. It reflected tendencies in favour of women’s equality in sexual relations and careers. It criticized the Church’s role in defining social relations in terms of the ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’, and for causing a sense of guilt about sex. One reply called for ‘total sexual freedom and a total change of attitudes’, but the overall perspective was one of bringing Italian education in line with the ‘majority of civilized countries’ and forwarding ‘democratic development’. The reaction it provoked was one of moral panic, especially in the Catholic establishment and in the public prosecutor’s office; the prosecution evoked the spectre of an Americanization of Italian youth:

The sexual problem must be scientifically dealt with or we will reach a situation in which the girls will go around with contraceptives in their pockets and a sleeping bag under their arms . . . I am speaking on the behalf of the sane society, the healthy society.

In response to the threat, the article in the Fascist penal code on crimes of opinion (reato d’opinione) was used against the editors of La Zanzara. Camilla Cederna, writing in the enlightened middle-class weekly L’Espresso, observed how in Italian society ‘the mechanisms of repression are unloosed when the taboo areas - sex and family, hierarchy and army - are touched.

What emerges clearly from the Zanzara case is the rigidity of the institutions when faced with criticism. The authorities did their best to keep schools free of what they saw as the dangerous influences at large in society. For them, the school was a bastion of civilized values against the onslaught of a new barbarism. When there were strikes by students at the Liceo Galvani in 1966, the headmaster issued a statement:

Absenteeism from lessons is a painful business which is neither justified not acceptable. In school there must be a relationship of trust, respect and confidence, a dialogue between pupils and teachers. These conditions enable the young freely to inform their superiors of the wants, hopes, doubts and difficulties which they come across in their school life.

But it was just this paternalism which the students found repugnant. Attempts to punish and repress in cases where dialogue broke down only provoked further disaffection. The Zanzara incident, for example, led to petitions, demonstrations and mass attendance at the trial. The school was made into a political battleground. Students demanded that:

the school be thought of and organized not as preparation for society, but as part of society. The school should not be a place for listening but for active participation.

The language of a student report denouncing censorship in schools published in 1967 is full of words and phrases like ‘growth’, ‘maturity’, ‘democracy’, ‘participation in civil life’; these indicate a commitment to rights and responsibilities, showing the extent to which students were influenced by the political culture from which this vocabulary derived. But the cultural life inside the upper secondary schools was not always so respectable.

During the mid to late 1960s Iiceo students were reading existentialist literature (Sartre, Camus) and Pavese novels. There was a cultural climate in which the rebel, the outsider, and the loner were the heroes who rejected respectable and bourgeois society. Well before 1968, radicals and anarchists organized meetings against the Concordat and the Vietnam War. Anti-authoritarian ideas and behaviour, stimulated by the youth culture imported from Britain and the United States, were fashionable before they became aspects of the student movement. Students wore long hair and baited the authorities with disrespectful behaviour.

In January 1968 students of Milan’s upper secondary schools and institutes occupied their buildings and carried on a struggle against authoritarianism just as did the university students. Often strikes were coordinated throughout the city’s educational institutions. Formal structures to organize the movement’s activities were created in the wake of spontaneous sympathetic action. When on 7 March 1968 police evicted students occupying six schools, the next day 10,000 students struck in protest. However, it was not until the autumn that the movement spread from the most active schools to involve the majority of institutions. On 28 November 10,000 school students demonstrated for political rights, and every day brought news of an occupation or picket.

The movement’s objectives were summed up in a leaflet of the action committee of the Liceo Berchet as follows:

the control and eventual elimination of marks and failures, and therefore the abolition of selection in school; the right of everyone to education and to a guaranteed student grant; freedom to hold meetings; a general meeting in the morning; accountability of teachers to students; removal of all reactionary and authoritarian teachers; setting of the curriculum from below.

To gain these objectives, the leaflet concluded that it was necessary to unite with the working class, since to ‘change the school, society must be changed’. The demands that were felt to be the most important, and around which students mobilized, concerned political rights and the autonomy of the movement within the institutions. They were also the questions which could be acted on directly; thus meetings were held in school hours, papers were produced and students came and went from school and class when they wanted to - all without prior permission.

Mass disobedience unhinged the normal methods of exercising authority in the classroom and school. In the celebrated case of the Liceo Parini, the head, Mattalia, tried to open a dialogue with the students who had occupied the school in March 1968. For his pains, he was suspended by the minister of education, who ordered the police to repossess the premises. The resort to police intervention in response to ‘illegaI’ student meetings, the suspension and expulsion of activists and attempts to evoke parental support for the restoration of order - all these measures intensified the students’ campaign for political rights. When in October 1968 students at the Liceo Einstein were suspended, 1,300 out of the 1,700 students went on protest strike.

The movement in the schools rapidly developed its own organization, which started in the class and extended to the city-wide coordinating body. As in the universities, the key unit was the general meeting. A statute of the Cattaneo technical institute sets out the standard organizational structure; the general meeting was the sovereign body, and from it were elected commissions and study groups with special functions. Thus, there was a press commission, an administrative commission and so on, and study groups on subjects decided by the general meeting. Each class had a monthly meeting to plan and decide on teaching questions. There was also a paper, which was directly accountable to the general meeting. So, far from being an echo of the university movement or a temporary revolt, the school students’ movement established a permanent presence in its own right. The tasks of holding meetings and demonstrations, and of producing leaflets and distributing them, entailed a whole process of political education that pushed formal education to the margins of many teenage lives. At the same time, the ostensible seriousness of the political literature hid the theatrical and entertainment aspects of student politics. A rare report from a study group admonishes fellow students for their very lack of seriousness about themselves:

it is a paradoxical fact affecting all students that they know how to talk about Dante and Cicero, about Milan and lnter, but they don’t know how to talk about their own situation and work. The proof of this is that in certain moments meetings are made into a hell-hole. People shout and clap as if in a stadium.

The ideas of anti-authoritarianism and student power gave legitimacy and new meaning to a whole traditional repertoire of informal resistances in the classroom. Thus absenteeism or the playing up of teachers took political forms and came to signify the refusal of bourgeois ideas.

Although the school student movement privileged the fight for political rights, and was obliged to by the recalcitrance of the authorities, it also thought in terms of alternative methods of learning. A report to the general meeting of the Giorgi technical institute, for example, made four proposals. It called for group work, greater student-teacher cooperation, joint meetings and group meetings with teachers to decide the assessment of marks. As in the case of the universities, great importance was attached to collective work as opposed to individual competitiveness, and cooperation was seen as an end, and not just as a means. Marks were therefore regarded as a divisive instrument of social control from above that had to be neutralized by collective pressure, and then dispensed with. In part, this strategy complemented the fight for political rights because it sought to protect the individual and the group from discrimination in the classroom, and to prevent reprisals against those dedicating time to the movement instead of to their own studies. But it also sprang from a desire to put useful knowledge and real learning before institutional requirements. There was widespread opposition to compulsory Latin and religious studies, and interest in making other subjects ‘relevant’.

The idea of alternative learning was especially significant in the liceo and technical institutes in 1968-9, because education was regarded as potentially positive and liberating. Hence students campaigned to make the institutions accessible and relevant to everyone. These relatively privileged students looked ahead to further study in the university and could expect to get work without too much difficulty. In other words, there was not yet that pessimism about the point of studying because of lack of job prospects.

The late sixties was a prosperous period. However, attempts to develop alternative educational practices foundered in difficult institutional circumstances. Apart from the hostility of the authorities, students lacked the support of sympathetic teachers, who were indispensable to any viable strategy for transforming the educational process within schools. Such teachers were usually isolated individuals. There was little unionization (not counting the professional associations), and no strong network of radical teachers. In fact, it took the student movement to create a generation of teachers committed to more democratic and egalitarian methods. As a consequence, alternative study proved delusory and students adopted a cynical, instrumental approach to their studies; activists channelled their energies into political mobilization outside the classroom. These tendencies were aggravated by the university movement’s decline in late 1968, and the domination of the movement by the organizations of the New Left.

08. A lost opportunity? the education system after '68

The student movement’s impact on Italian society was considerable. It ‘showed the country a different image of itself and socialized knowledge of how that society worked’. But the effects were most deeply felt in the social groups and institutions with which students were in closest contact.It was not factory workers so much as teachers, the liberal professions, publishers and researchers who were directly challenged by the movement, and whose ranks were subsequently joined by ex-student activists. But first of all it was the education system which felt the impact of the student movement.

The student movement’s effects on the educational system can be judged by asking the questions: ‘Did it make education more democratic and egalitarian?’; ‘did the movement change who entered further educational institutions, what students did inside them, and what qualifi- cations they got on completing their studies?’. Finally, it will be asked whether the movement changed how the very concepts of education and schooling were understood. The effects will be considered, in other words, in relation to access to further education, the nature and control of the learning process, and to the forms of qualification obtained in the insti- tutions. The more general question about changing conceptions of intellectuality will be examined in chapter 10 in terms of the student movement’s impact on intellectual and cultural roles in society.

The student movement’s first important campaign was over access to the universities. It proclaimed everyone’s right to study and symbolically opened the gates of the faculties to all-comers, and welcomed workers to participate in seminars, discussions and meetings. Students demanded the establishment of the ‘mass university’, meaning a university open to the ‘masses’. In their campaign they won the propaganda war against a government which held out the promise of education as a right, but then reneged on it. The PCI and the unions were persuaded to oppose the Gui reforms, but ultimately the wave of student occupations made it impossible for the government to limit the numbers entering the univer- sities. However, the student victory was limited. Students exercised a veto in the name of a general principle, but they did not address some of the immediate and resolvable social and economic problems behind inequalities of access. Firstly, although the movement resisted increases in fees, it did not campaign systematically for student grants. The winning of a living grant would have allowed poorer students to study full-time without having to do other jobs, and would have allowed access to those whose families could not afford to support their children’s further education. In addition, financial independence could have released students from dependency on the family. However, the movement did not take up the issue seriously because, in its eyes, the demand smacked of a narrow economic corporativism (perhaps because the leading activists were mainly drawn from middle-class families they were less concerned about financial difficulties).

Secondly, the movement did not propose legislative reforms that would facilitate access to the universities. Its anti-reformism and anti- parliamentary politics precluded such a strategy. In other words, the movement rejected a statist orientation that was a necessary part of any moves to make what were state institutions more accessible. This rejection also had negative effects on the attempt to democratize the upper secondary school. A reform bill of 1967 which proposed to open these schools to everyone and to raise the school-leaving age to sixteen was brushed aside by the student movement.

The movement therefore managed to win tactical victories, but not to open up further education to the working class. Although the elite university was transformed into a mass university in that student numbers increased fivefold from 1965 to 1979, to reach nearly a million, the percentage of students from working-class backgrounds increased by only a small amount, and remained lower than in other industrialized countries with quota systems. Moreover, the privileged route to the university via the upper secondary school remained intact.

The impact of the student movement was more dramatic in relation to life inside the educational institutions. There was no return to a pre-1968 situation, either in the teaching and studying methods, or in the political relations between the students and authorities. Not that there were no attempts to put the clock back. A right-wing government in 1972 carried out a harsh law and order campaign; in an interview Giovanni Gozzer estimated that in a period of three months, 1,200 schools, institutes and universities had been occupied, and that the conflict resulted in ten thousand disciplinary proceedings, three hundred arrests and the resig- nation of thirty-eight headmasters. However, most of the demands for a new pedagogy made by the movement in the universities were conceded. Examinations were adapted to student needs rather than vice versa; written (as opposed to oral) examinations and certain subjects were no longer compulsory; attendance was no longer checked; seminars and collective study were introduced. The education process was liberalized to allow greater student participation. Similarly, students in the upper secondary schools as well as in the universities were conceded political rights. At first these were informal, but in 1974 they were written into a charter of rights, which created elected representative bodies in the schools.

The students’ successes in undermining traditional authority structures and in establishing grassroots democracy within the institutions were remarkable. They showed the power of a substitutionalist strategy in action. Students set up counter-courses involving collective and inter- disciplinary study, and then called for them to be recognized. They held meetings and opened the doors to outsiders without requesting permission from above. ln doing so they questioned the whole nature of the educational process as it was constituted within the institutions. The movement challenged divisions created or sanctioned by past statist educational practices, such as those which induced competitive relationships between students or those which separated schooling from other social and political activities. However, the movement`s substi- tutionalism also carried severe limitations.

Firstly, the enormous energy expended by the movement in encourag- ing educational ‘self-activity’ by students could not last indefinitely. It could not make up for the structural problems arising from overcrowding, lack of investment and absence of postgraduate research possibilities. If anything, these difficulties were aggravated by the increase of student numbers and the resistance to change on the pan of powerful vested interests. Secondly, the movement’s substitutionalism rapidly led to a narrow and instrumental politicization of educational processes. This was evident in the movement’s fascination with the ideas of the Chinese Cultural Revolution which drew sharp distinctions between bourgeois and proletarian culture. Luciano Aguzzi cites a case when subjects were divided into three categories according to political criteria. Greek and Latin were classed as ‘pre-bourgeois remnants’; History was ‘purely Ideological’; physics, chemistry, mathematics and philosophy were ‘indirectly ideological’. The abolition of history was proposed as it was of less importance than the study of the present. This is an example of especially crude thinking, but most analyses assumed that the educational institutions were functional to the capitalist system in some simple sense. Ideological certainties substituted empirical inquiry. Students fought a propaganda battle in which slogans substituted for study, or they left further education in search of ‘real knowledge’ learnt in general political struggles.

The liberalization of studies within the universities and schools produced interesting experiments, especially where genuine cooperation was developed between students and teachers. In Milan, the architecture faculty of the Polytechnic was a good example of this, as was the political science faculty of the State University.7 However, the potential of alter- native courses and methods of study remained largely unrealized. An account by a teacher in Milan gives a dismal picture of developments in upper secondary schools:

the slogan we all shouted in ‘68 ‘Smash, don’t change the bourgeois school’ has done the student movement more harm than even the Christian Democrat Ministers of Education themselves.

Too often student demands concerning education served short-term laziness rather than radical objectives. Or rather, a refusal to be educated was interpreted simplistically as a radical political act in itself. An account from a student journal, Le Formiche Rosse (The Red Ants), celebrates this form of insubordination:

It’s when you prefer to go out and smoke a cigarette and talk about your problems that you discover that all the other students are there too .... Occasionally the headmaster passes and sends everyone back into the class- room .... Do you then have to follow the lesson? No. You only need to enter the room to see that only a few arse-lickers are paying attention and . . . that the rest are reading the paper or talking about sport.

The effect of this sort of action, according to Aguzzi, was to make the school an ‘empty box’ which served only to waste time in. Far from having radical political consequences, this student resistance reinforced social inequalities in the distribution of cultural capital.

Although different because of its political language, this attitude to school (and to the hard-working student) closely parallels the pupil resistance in British schools observed by Paul Willis. Similarly, the opposition of the students to mental work expresses a class antagonism and critique of relations of authority, which simultaneously reproduces relations of subordination. Willis writes:

Mental work demands too much, and encroaches . . . too much [on] those areas which are increasingly adopted as their own, as private and independent. ‘The lads’ have learned only too well the specific form of mental labour is an unfair ‘equivalent’ in an exchange about control of those parts of themselves which they want to be free .... Resistance to mental work becomes resistance to authority learnt in school. The specific conjunction in contemporary capitalism of class antagonism and the educational paradigm turns education into control, (social) class resistance into educational refusal and human difference into class division.

Aguzzi treats this educational refusal as an aberration resulting from ‘bad’ politics, but it needs also to be understood in Willis’ terms. It was a refusal which in the mid and late seventies connected up with a refusal of work and the development of a youth movement?

Finally the student movement’s effects on the educational system need to be related to the forms of qualification obtained in the institutions. Again, the movement’s successes were double-edged. In the upper secondary schools it played a major role in making it difficult for teachers to fail students. The struggle against selection processes ended in the virtual elimination of examinations, which became mere formalities. The failure rate dropped dramatically. This had the positive result of making it possible for more students to go on to university, but was negative in that no new forms of assessment were established to enable students and teachers to evaluate performance and aid learning without resorting to discrimination. In the universities, it also became easier for students to acquire a degree, but these steadily lost their value both in the eyes of employers and of the students themselves.

The overall impact of the student movement on the education system in Italy turned out to be negative in as far as the institutions showed themselves incapable of responding positively. On the surface it appeared more democratic and egalitarian due to the destruction of authoritarian forms of selection and social control, and the absence of a quota system. Yet the class inequalities survived. For example, only the children of the middle classes could afford the years of study needed to become a doctor or engineer. So far, attention has been drawn particularly to the short- comings of the movement itself in developing an adequate strategy for transforming education. Above all, it has been pointed out that its refusal to make demands and campaign for substantial reforms had debilitating consequences. It entailed isolating other social groups from participation in changing education and it enabled the government and educational authorities to avoid taking action, thereby protecting vested interests. The movement’s creative substitutionalism was defeated by the sheer weight of structural obstacles and because it did not connect up with wider educational transformations. However, to attribute responsibility to the student movement for not reforming the educational system would be to overlook the role played by those with the power to make such changes.

Giorgio Ruffolo writes that:

the Italian ruling classes’ response to the students’ revolt accorded with a time- honoured and happy-go-lucky tradition of making paltry concessions rather than genuine changes; instead of building more schools and extending partici- pation, the government offered some more grants and easier examinations.

The concession of the 150-Hours Scheme, which facilitated paid study leave for workers lacking in basic educational qualifications, was perhaps a partial exception; it was the most innovative reform in the education field of the l970s. It demonstrated what possibilities for change were open if the intelligence and organization of social movements were given space, time and money to develop. The scheme promised to release educational practices from their imprisonment in the formal schooling system, and to create an alternative to the either/or between statist and substitutionalist options. The roles of student and teacher too were put in question. However, the scheme also served less idealistic purposes. It was designed to make up for the inadequacies of the schooling system, and this was a way of doing it cheaply (especially via employment of part- time teachers). Furthermore, the scheme was isolated and marginalized rather than used as a spring-board for changing the educational system. Otherwise, during the 1970s the schools and universities were mainly left to rot.

Attempts at reform were swallowed up in the quick-sands of corporate interests. The impasse of the political system was paralleled in the place- seeking and time-serving of academia. The average student in the universities rarely attended courses, and the notion that further education was a ‘parking-area’ for the future unemployed signalled a cynical awareness of the devaluation of qualifications on the labour market. The student movement of 1968 perhaps created a unique opportunity to carry out systematic reforms against the interests of university barons, backward- looking headmasters and teaching staff, and a hundred-and-one petty feudalities. Its defeat meant that the situation which generated the social conflicts in the 1960s got worse. The figure of the unemployed, casually employed or unemployable student became emblematic of the political and cultural crisis of the late 1970s.

09. Going to the people: students and workers

The theme of worker-student unity recurred throughout the development of the student movement. Students participated in the vast demonstrations that accompanied the strikes of the early sixties and student politics was predominantly shaped by the organizations and ideologies of the Left. However, the idea of unity was interpreted and acted on in different ways. Three phases can be identified. First, in the early and mid sixties student unity with the working class was mediated through institutions, namely the parties and trade unions, and was conceived as an alliance between different social groups. In the second phase, unity was theorized in terms of a direct, unmediated relationship between the student movement and workers. The notion of alliance was discarded, since it implied differences of interest, and was replaced by an idea of unity based on shared oppres- sions. Student struggles against educational and state authoritarianism were perceived as parallel to those of workers and against a common enemy. In the third phase, unity came to be interpreted as student mobiliz- ation and organization against the exploitation and oppression in the factories and workplaces rather than in the universities and schools. This chapter will deal with the theory and practice of student-worker unity in the second and third phases. The focus will be on the student movement and its development, and not on its influence on workers’ struggles, which will be considered in Part 3.

During the waves of student occupations at the beginning of 1968, the idea of unity with the working class was continuously reiterated. As has already been written, not only Marxist ideas, but emblems and symbols such as red flags were borrowed from the workers’ movement. Students’ assertion of their identity through their dress, participation in collective action and pursuit of new social and moral values was done in opposition to bourgeois norms and in the name of working-class ideals. Student perceptions of their objective class position also changed. Either they rejected their privileged backgrounds out of choice, and conceived of a future among the ranks of the wage-earners. Or, alternatively, they inter- preted their professional work as a means of destroying privilege from within.

Student documents from the March 1968 occupation of the Statale make frequent reference to the change in students’ economic prospects. This feeling was perhaps strongest in the movement in the humanities faculty, which was one of the least career oriented; its programmatic statement read:

Students know that the jobs they will get when they graduate will not be ones of power, but will mean obeying other people’s orders. A law faculty leaflet claimed that only 6 per cent of graduates acceded to the profession, and the rest ‘are absorbed by the labour market as lowly paid clerical workers’. Among engineering students only one-fifth were thought to be likely to get jobs in the profession. A document called the department a ‘dream factory’. Fear of unemployment does not appear much in the student publications, though there is an acute awareness that students were no longer a protected and privileged elite, and a supposition that their futures lay more with a working-class than a middle-class destiny. Thus unity with workers was not thought to be a purely ideological question, though few seriously considered material and social consequences of proletarianization. In the heady days of student activism this did not create much anxiety about personal prospects. Calculations about career opportunities were thrown to the winds in preference for living for the moment and for a utopian future.

However, some groups of students looked at their training as a means of putting special skills to the service of the working class. The medical students are an especially interesting example in this respect. They were the first to occupy their faculty at the Statale, which was especially surprising given its predominantly middle-class and conservative nature. The action committee raised issues concerning students' own situation - it denounced the baronial power structure, the high student-teacher ratio, inadequate facilities and ruthless selection - but it also criticized the organization of medicine as a social practice. They published a pamphlet, translated from French, which questioned the Left’s quantitative approach to health, which consisted of demands for more medicine and more hospitals. Such demands, it claimed, were based on the acceptance of rigid hierarchies, narrow definitions of health and on an ideology of scientificity. The pamphlet called instead for an attack on the causes of ill- health (for example, industrial accidents), for a decentralization of services into the community and a diminution of the divisions of labour among health workers. L’Unita’ reported nearly a year later that, during a subsequent occupation of the medical faculty, open seminars were held on the theme ‘Medicine and Society’. It involved ‘study groups with the direct participation of factory workers and the inhabitants of quartieri in Milan’, and the discussion of health at work and preventative medicine. The challenge, which started in the university, had extended outwards.

A key notion among medical students was the idea of putting themselves ‘at the service of working class’. This entailed providing a service which was not only free but given without the expectation of prestige or honour in return. The idea of ‘service’ stemmed from the Chinese model of the ‘barefoot doctor’ and of the intellectual who worked in the fields and learnt from the peasants. According to this approach, it was the workers who had the collective power to improve health conditions by fighting the causes ill-health, which were rooted in the capitalist organization of society. The task of the radical doctor was to increase awareness of the class dimensions of health, and to help people be confident of their judgements. In Turin at the Molinette hospital students gave leaflets to visitors explaining how ‘the bosses destroy our health and then try to patch us up’. Together with some of the doctors, they organized meetings to which Fiat workers were invited. In April 1969 one meeting drew some two hundred workers and four hundred students and set a precedent for the impressive worker-student assemblies which met during the Hot Autumn. The student movement’s ideas about democracy, accountability and participation were being applied to break down the corporative privileges of student and doctor in the interests of a general social transformation.

The movement in the engineering faculty at the Statale made similar critiques of the role of engineers in sustaining the dominant ideology. A document produced during the occupation of the faculty in March 1968 made no concessions to the ideals of the liberal professions:

the nucleus of bourgeois ideology is the concept of technical rationality and efficiency. This means the conditioning of the student’s mind to the conception of the engineer as God, presiding over every cog in the productive process. The idea is also reinforced by other incentives such as grades, degrees, the profes- sion, social status and wealth.

As in the case of the medical students’ critique of medicine, the role itself was being attacked. It was not a question of appealing to the social conscience of doctors and engineers, or of winning them over to the side of the working class, but of prefiguring their supercession as professions set above other forms of work and other workers. The vision involved both self-abasement and the learning of humility in the existing society, and the anticipation of the utopian unity of the future society. Again, the Chinese model was the source of inspiration, which was counterposed to the modern capitalist factory. In China. according to one student document:

the factory . . . is not a purely economic unit ..,, It is the place where illiterate workers learn to read and write, and where the workers can perfect and extend their skills .... Often houses. schools and recreational facilities are built around the factory by them.

The document went on to describe how inside the factory there were no bureaucracies, nor systems of material incentivization, such as piece-rates. Leaders were elected and there was a high degree of equality in society. In this framework, the machinery, which in capitalist factories was used to subordinate workers, was subordinated instead to their needs. This vision provided the means to judge the contemporary divisions of mental and manual labour, which the student movement identified as the funda- mental barrier to unity between workers and the future technicians, lawyers, doctors and engineers in the universities. When students put themselves ‘at the service’ of the workers, they were therefore negating their assigned role as the agents of domination.

From the summer of 1968, the student movement in the universities ceased to concentrate on political activity within the educational insti- tutions. The movement continued, but many activists looked to the industrial struggles for a lead. The national conferences were dominated by discussion of worker-student unity, and the ‘worker commissions’ at the universities became the main locus of activity. Guido Viale recalled that:

after the struggles of '68 a large number of students were no longer interested in the university it was no longer where they socialized and its struggles appeared to them to be futile and folkloristic.

Instead, according to Viale, student militants were following one of three paths: Firstly, they were leaving their studies to take up jobs in factories; secondly. they were becoming professional militants' in the student movement, and thirdly, students were addressing the question of student- worker unity by working with clerical as well as manual workers, and by examination of their own material situation as part of the proletariat. Each of these options is worth examining to see the way the student movement related to the working class outside its own institutional context.

The decision to take a factory job is more interesting for its symbolic significance than for its political effects. Very few students decided to become workers, but these few realised a fantasy that was entertained by thousands of others. They were literally stripping themselves of their class privileges and plunging themselves into the exploited class. It was an act of total negation of the student identity, and a crossing of the frontier between mental and manual labour at the point where the divide seemed deepest. The case of Andrea Banfi, a student from the Statale who left his studies to take a job at Alfa Romeo, gives a glimpse of this unusual inter- pretation of student-worker unity. Andrea Banfi created a storm, however, when it was discovered that he was not a semi-educated son of a peasant as he had declared, but an ex-student and, furthermore, the son of a PSI senator. The company promptly promoted him to a white collar job, and then sacked him. A fellow worker commented:

We immediately went on strike and the whole of the second shift stopped in protest. lf a bourgeois wants to renounce his class privileges to fight and pay in person, it’s not that he thinks like one of us, he is one of us.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there were student activists who concentrated on developing alternative educational practices. The movement at the Statale, which established its hegemony over most of the Milanese movement, worked to build up links with the unions. However, this orientation towards the official workers' movement was not acceptable to many students who regarded the unions, along with the traditional Left, as reformist and revisionist; they sought direct links with workers.

The events at Pirelli, where workers had formed a ‘rank-and-file Committee’ independent of the union, and the mobilization of white-collar workers in Milan during the autumn of 1968 created a favourable atmosphere for student-worker unity. Students provided a service for workers by making available facilities for meetings and helping distribute leaflets, and they joined picket-lines and demonstrations. Students from the Catholic University worked through the FIM-CISL, with the help of Bruno Manghi and other radical lecturers who collaborated with the union. The idea that students should put themselves at the service of the working class predominated, especially in 1968.

Statements by students exuded humility and a willingness to learn;

we students refuse to be either tomorrow’s agents of exploitation in the hands of the bosses, or to be exploiters ourselves ..., In the struggle against exploitation the most important role will be played by the working class . . . we want to know and discuss your problems so as to learn how to struggle against capitalism and to teach the lessons to younger students.

However, students also played a more active and interventionist role, which was implicitly vanguardist. Student activists felt that they were qualified to be teachers and educators. The student movement had acquired considerable prestige, especially in the eyes of younger workers. Its activists were skilled organizers, public speakers and leaflet-writers, and some had the advantage of having studied the Marxist classics. After a year of frenetic political agitation involving occupations, demonstrations and clashes with the police, such individuals could claim to have taken risks and made sacrifices for the movement. Moreover, it seemed that in many respects students had anticipated the demands, forms of action and organization that were being learned by a workers’ movement in the early stages of mobilization. Students had been the first to insist on grassroots democracy based on general meetings, and on the effectiveness of direct action. They had organized themselves to deal with police attacks.

To what extent student interventions influenced the workers’ movement will be considered in later chapters, but it is important here to point out that students and agitators could not help but think that they had had a significant part in setting the ball of mobilization rolling. Throughout 1969 students and workers participated together in vast demonstrations and mingled their collective enthusiasm in meetings held in schools and universities. In the excitement, groupings of workers and students were formed in the main Milanese factories. Political fantasies took flight. A document produced by students at the Statale, for example, spoke of the rise of urban guerrilla warfare in the metropolitan countries, where the complexity and precision required by capitalist organization laid the system open to attack. The student movement was described as the guerrilla force:

only the working class can make the revolution, but whilst capital has its police . . . the student movement is the guerrilla force of the working class in as far as it creates disorganization and disorder.

Student activists perceived of themselves in a variety of ways - as detonators, ideologues, leaders, and even as guerrillas, but less than ever as students. After the dramatic events at Fiat during the industrial dispute of June-July 1969 when mass meetings involved thousands of workers and students, it seemed that the overthrow of capitalism was a real possibility.

Through the rebel factory workers students lived out their fantasies and their dreams of revolt. And, vice versa, workers were attracted by the outside agitators who handed them leaflets at the works entrance and engaged them in conversations about revolution, China and Marxist theory. It was a strange encounter. For the most part, the students were from middle-class backgrounds and enjoyed the educational and other privileges of their class. lf it had not been for politics, these social groups would have scarcely have come in contact with one another socially. Through politics there was an exchange which involved much more than conversations about Marx. It was not simply that the agitators were preaching the gospel; they themselves had come to learn ‘what it was really like’ to be a worker. It was a situation not unlike that analysed by Jacques Ranciere in terms of the ‘thoroughgoing reciprocity in which workers and intellectuals figure in each others’ imaginations in endless circularity’.

Unfortunately these reciprocal fantasies have not been investigated; it can be guessed that they were filled with images and ideas stranger than anything hinted at in contemporary political discourses. Not least, meetings between students and workers had distinct sexual as well as class connotations. This desire on both sides to make a new social identity - to imagine ‘the self’ as different through ‘the other - was in many ways liberatory and positive. It meant escaping from the prison of a preconstructed social identity. It meant conceiving of a life that was free from the seemingly inevitable constraints of the existing society. And, in practice, the meeting of workers and students entailed a crossing of social and cultural frontiers. New possibilities were opened up for living a life in which every sort of person met socially. The promise was there of rich and diverse experiences which a class society prohibited.

The coming together of outside agitators and workers had its positive, A utopian moments - moments which prefigured an egalitarian society. The relationship, however, was not always reciprocal in an egalitarian sense. The students were often more fascinated by their image of the working class than interested in getting to know workers as individuals. They thrust them back into a class identity which was imprisoning in so far as it denied individuality and disqualified dreams and ambitions which deviated from proscribed notions of class consciousness. Thus, student activists, who had started by demanding education as everyone's right, ended by telling workers that the pursuit of learning and culture was an illusion. Vittorio Foa wrote of this attitude:

that workers’ dream and desire for books is rightful even when the books themselves are full of lies. Culture and books can be criticized when they have been mastered, not by rejecting them a priori, and then delegating the leadership of one’s struggles to the offspring of the capitalists.

The middle-class utopian thinkers who went to preach to Ranciere’s proletarians looked forward to guiding a working class which was industrious and disciplined. A class that was above all productive. By contrast, many Marxist intellectuals and students in Italy in 1969 admired workers’ disruptiveness. Although their situations were very different, they saw a common enemy in ‘the system’ and authority.

In Italy, the interaction and joint action between students and workers in 1968-9 reached levels unique in Western Europe, and the subsequent development of social movements in the seventies bore this imprint. Indeed, the Italian movements acquired aura and status internationally for their working-class involvement. However, this did not result just from the influence of the agitators, though it seemed so at the time. An understanding of the Italian case needs to take into account two important historical considerations. Firstly, the fact that one cannot talk about a consolidated working class and working class culture in Italy in the way that has been done for Britain, France or Germany. As Maurizio Gribaudi has shown in his study of Turin, social mobility meant that many families experienced a working-class condition as a ‘stage’ rather than as the basis for a fixed identity. There have been virtually no cores of heavy industry where strong ouvriereisme has developed, meaning a working-class identity counterposed to the influence of other social groups. Secondly, the development of Italian trade unionism and socialism has been characterized by the unusually high degree of participation by middle-class activists, and this remained the case in the post-war period. The openness to ‘outside’ ideas and organization therefore has historical and structural explanations. In the 1968-9 hiatus this was given a new twist by the simultaneity of the crisis in relations in the education system and in workplaces, which meant an encounter not just between individual members of the middle class and workers but between students and workers as two groups sharing homologous situations. However, the student movement was superseded by a number of political organizations which claimed to represent the working class. Political groups such as Lotta Continua, Avanguardia Operaia, Potere Operaio, Il Manifesto and the archipelago of other organizations came into existence because of the students’ movements. Not that a New Left did not predate 1968, as has been seen, but it was isolated. The movement not only popularized the ideas of its forerunners, but provided the leadership, cadres and the bulk of the membership of the groups. At the same time, the political groups put an end to the student movement as an autonomous force; student issues were subordinated to strategies relating to the industrial working class; the ideas of the party and political leadership, which the student movement had criticized, were re-established as orthodoxies. The new organizations claimed to represent the working class. The worker-student unity developed by the movements of 1968-9 gave way to a hierarchical relationship in which the ex-student activists were usually the leaders. For a large part of the movement (though not all if it) the liberatory utopianism it generated was destined to collapse under the weight of a new orthodoxy.

10. Dreaming of a cultural revolution

The student movement's critiques of the educational system, for its exclusivist and hierarchical structures of access and control, extended beyond the institutions themselves. The movement had always insisted that schooling was not so much a means of changing society as of legitimating existing inequalities, and that therefore the forms of knowledge that it passed on to students were partial and limiting. Instead, it proposed a strategy of 'education through struggle' that connected the different spheres of society through a political movement. As has been seen, students of medicine at the State University in Milan linked their struggles over course contents and teaching methods to the organization of health in society. Architecture students related their studies to the politics of housing, and the movement at the Catholic University questioned the role of the Church in supporting the status quo. The student movement created an acute awareness of how knowledge and skills were socially constructed and transmitted, and how they were made to serve class interests in the hands of the doctor, engineer or teacher. Students, moreover, represented a pole of attraction for those involved in cultural production.

Pierre Bourdieu has commented interestingly on the role of youth within modern European culture:

It is clear that the primacy the field of cultural production gives to youth can, once again, be traced back to the basis of the field in the rejection of power and of the 'economy'. The reason why 'intellectuals' and artists always tend to align themselves with 'youth' in their manner of dress and in their whole bodily hexis is that, in representations as in reality, the opposition between the 'old' and the 'young' is homologous with the opposition between power and 'bourgeois' seriousness on the one hand, and indifference to power or money and the 'intellectual' refusal of the 'spirit of seriousness', on the other hand. The 'bourgeois' world' view, which measures age by power or by the corresponding relation to power, endorses this opposition when it identifies the 'intellectual' with the young 'bourgeois' by virtue of their common status as dominated fractions of the dominant group, from whom money and power are temporarily withheld.

This observation does not perhaps apply to all intellectuals and artists in the wake of 1968; Pasolini for example had little time for the student rebels. But at a European level it is possible to see cultural alignments crystallizing out along these lines. This was particularly apparent in France, a country in which intellectuals were historically prominent in revolutionary upheavals, but in Italy too, film-makers and others rallied around the forces of opposition to the status quo. The idea of cultural revolution galvanized the left-wing intelligentsia.

The cultural challenge represented by the student movement was central to the development of a counter-culture in the 1970s. In every Italian city (and perhaps more so in Milan than elsewhere) bookshops, cultural centres, political centres, bars and eating places testified to the existence of a world separate from and in conflict with the dominant urban institutions. Its boundaries were often marked out by graffiti. But the cultural revolution also penetrated the practices of those working within the dominant institutions, especially the professions. As will be seen, it was an experience which was both positive and negative. In the 1970s the contradictions of the 1968-9 years were lived out in the cultural and intellectual field.


The idea of counter-information has a long history which antedates the student movement. It was at the heart of struggles for freedoms of speech and opinion which in Italy were closely associated with the radical wing of the movement for national unification. Then the workers' movement from the time of the early Socialist Party put great energy into producing party, union and other papers. The movements of 1968-9 revived the campaigning spirit of more heroic times. But counter-information was seen as more significant and was more self-consciously undertaken than at any time since the Resistance. (The word controinformazione itself was coined in the late sixties.) The new importance of the mass media in society was highlighted by its role in representing contemporary conflicts, whilst the student movement led the way in exposing and counteracting their disinformation (disinformazione ).

The student movement was hostile to the national press. Students read the papers voraciously to see what was happening in the world (it was a period of dramatic advances by the North Vietnamese, of street insurrections in Paris and so on), and also to read accounts of events in which they themselves had participated. They were, therefore, unusually media-conscious and aware of how they themselves and the movements with which they identified were being reported. They were in a position to make 'oppositional readings' of the newspapers not only on the basis of ideological positions, but through personal experience and oral accounts of demonstrations and occupations. The formation of a collective identity through the movement created a heightened sensibility as to how that identity was represented by the dominant groups. Thus the reports in the Corriere della Sera, which spoke of the students as 'Chinese' (cinesi) and which constructed a stereotype of the movement activists as alien and threatening, provoked anger, scorn and, on one occasion, petrol-bombs. At the information centres in the universities there were boards with the day's press cuttings concerning the movement, where students wrote up their opinions and comments.

Two of the movements' graffiti about the press give an insight into its critique of the mass media. Firstly, some writing on a Milanese wall explained: 'The difference between balls and pillocks is as follows: the balls are written by the Corriere and it's the pillocks that read and believe it.' A second piece of graffiti examined the difference between two papers: 'For a falsely objective version read the Giorno, and for an objectively false one read the Corriere'. These comments are interesting for their very format and style. They are sprayed on to the wall for all to see, and address the passer-by directly and succinctly. They involve the reader in a little puzzle or play with sexual swear-words in ways that make the reader appear cleverer than the pretentious readership of the Corriere. Then, because they are memorable, the graffiti are likely to be copied and recounted. As for their message, these graffiti spell out the movement's total opposition to the press. It does not call for fairer reportage or more objectivity, but seeks to destroy the myth of objectivity and disinterestedness.

The movement attacked what it regarded as the inevitable disinformation coming from papers like La Stampa, owned by Fiat and other corporations. These were thought to black-out news or to distort and manipulate information according to the needs of the owners and the capitalist class in general. This power resulted from economic leverage (the ownership of the means of communication), and from the servility of the journalists, the 'bosses' lackeys' (servi del padrone). This model of media manipulation fitted with the complementary notion of false consciousness, and with the Marcusean analysis of the 'one-dimensional society', according to which consensus was achieved by the ruling class through its control and manipulation of various private and state apparatuses, (for example, the Church, the media and educational institutions). Symptomatically, Marcuse's book One-Dimensional Man, published in 1967, sold 150,000 copies within a year.

This model of total social control from above did not, however, induce a sense of pessimism or hopelessness among its promulgators in the movement. Rather, it heightened awareness that every aspect of life was affected by cultural domination, and of the need 'to get rid of the policeman in our heads' (eliminiamo il poliziotto che e' nel nostro cervello), as one slogan put it. The movement's responses set the agenda for the creation of communicative strategies from below in the following decade. These can be considered under two headings: counter-information and counter-culture.

The counter-information developed by the movement ranged from individual, improvised acts to more collective and long-term action. The most common forms of counter-information used the walls of the city and the roneo machine to communicate messages. Graffiti appeared everywhere; a survey carried out in 1969 in the university and polytechnic areas of Milan counted 868 examples; in the hottest months of student revolt, the signposts near the university had to be replaced every fortnight because of graffiti; in January 1971 the prefect of Milan called for action against graffiti, which according to a municipal estimate, totalled thirty one thousand in number. The graffiti about the press, which have already been mentioned, were perhaps more subtle than the majority of examples, but even the crudest and simplest ones expressed the desire to have a say. Instead of passively reading the publicity in the underground trains and stations, young passengers added their own 'bubbles' with comments, carrying on a conversation in graffiti with a previous wall-writer. The roneoed leaflet was another form of counter-information developed in 1968, which had a democratizing potential in that it was cheap and easily produced, though it seems that often the sheer ease of reproduction resulted in overkill.

The leaflets dazibao, slogans and graffiti of the movement enabled the collective and individual expression of feelings and opinions on a massive scale. However, it was the weekly newspaper which became the preferred vehicle for the movement's propaganda. It represented a more durable challenge and the first step in the construction of an alternative circuit of information to that constituted by the national press. The most successful of these was Lotta Continua, which first came out in November 1969, but it was joined by Il Manifesto and others at local and national levels. They were the organs of the extraparliamentary political groups which were mostly formed in 1969.

Their most important campaign of counter-information concerned the events of late December 1969 - the Piazza Fontana bombing, the so-called suicide of Pinelli, and the witch-hunt that put Pietro Valpreda behind bars. Whilst the Corriere della Sera and the national press blamed the anarchists and the Left for the terrorism and supported police action against them, Lotta Continua in particular played a crucial role in telling a different story. A group of journalists wrote a book called The State Massacre (La Strage di Stato) in which they exposed the fascist nature of the bombing, and the connections between its perpetrators and high state officials. A remarkable feat of investigative journalism, selling over 100,000 copies in two years, it established the importance of the development of alternative sources of information, and hence of papers written from within the movement. It set in motion grassroots investigations in factories, schools and neighbourhoods into local Fascists, whose names were then published in papers and leaflets.

Radical journalists working within the commercial press were also encouraged to investigate corruption and the abuse of power. They organized the Committee Against Repression to defend freedom of opinion when editors of the minority press were charged under the surviving articles of the Fascist penal code, which included the 'crime of opinion' (reato d'opinione) and 'criminal incitement' (instigazione a delinquere). In a country in which the press had been traditionally tied to the interests of the state and to political parties, the growth of radical journalism under the impact of the new counter-information campaigns was an important change.

The growth of counter-information was not without its negative aspects. The tactics of exposure and denunciation sometimes bordered on symbolic lynching in which moral outrage was whipped up at the expense of rational criticism and understanding. The hounding of the police chief thought (erroneously) to be responsible for Pinelli's death is a case in point, while aspects of Red Brigades' propaganda fit this model, and an instrumental Zdanovite conception of cultural action gained an unfortunate ascendancy within much of the extraparliamentary Left. However, counter-information also gave a fillip to the critical study of the media which Umberto Eco pioneered in Italy. His Towards a Semiotic Guerilla Warfare, published in 1967, anticipated developments, while his institute at the University of Bologna produced a number of studies concerned with critiques of the dominant media and the means of developing alternatives.

Refounding a Popular Culture: The Case of Radical Theatre

The campaign in the defence of Pietro Valpreda, lasted several years, saw some inspired acts or counter-information, including the adoption of the prisoner as a parliamentary candidate. A memorable song told the story of Pinelli's death and the tragic episode was the subject of Dario Po's play Accidental Death of an Anarchist. In this period, counter-information linked up with the development of a wider counter-culture based on the movements of opposition. Playwrights, actors and actresses, film-makers, cartoonists and others channelled their energies into political work. In the light of the student movements critiques or the traditional role of the artist and intellectual, their commitment was not restricted to signing petitions and fund-raising. Goltredo Fofi outlined their new role within the movement;

no cultural revolution is possible without a direct relationship with the masses, and the only real relationship is through political militancy, even it today this must be mainly an individual connection with particular struggles given that there does not as yet exist a party to unify the different activities.

The new role can be seen at its most creative in the theatre of Dario Fo. Dario Fo and Franca Rame had been performing an experimental theatre which dealt with political issues since the early 1900s; on one occasion Fo was even challenged to a duel by an artillery officer for slighting the honour of the Italian army, and he was also arrested in Siena for abusing President Johnson in a play. However, they were working within traditional theatre and therefore to privileged middle-class audiences. In 1968 they decided to leave it 'because', writes Franca Rame, 'we had realized that, despite the hostility or a few, obtuse reactionaries, the upper middle class reacted to our "spankings" almost with pleasure'. The mass movements of 1968-9 put their political integrity in question. According to Franca Rame:

You are allowed to mock authority, but if you do it from the outside, you will burn. This is what we understood. In order to feel at one with our political commitment, it was no longer enough to consider ourselves democratic, left-wing artists full of sympathy for the working class and the exploited ... The lesson came to us directly from the extraordinary struggles of working people, from the young people's fight against authoritarianism and injustice in the schools, and from their struggle for a new culture and relationship with the exploited classes ... We had to place ourselves entirely at the service of the exploited, and to become their minstrels.

The decision to take theatre to the workers and make it part of the movements of opposition meant changing that theatre. Firstly, the plays had to be performed wherever people met socially; to begin with, the locations were workers' clubs, bowling alleys, occupied factories, suburban cinemas, and only rarely theatres. In their first year they performed to over 200,000 spectators, of whom 70 per cent had never previously seen a play. Secondly, the plays were written and performed as political interventions. (And they were very much the product of collective decisionmaking, even if Fo was the charismatic leader.) This was the case with Accidental Death of an Anarchist, put on in Milan during the trial of Lotta Continua for its part in blaming the chief-of-police for Pinelli's death. But many other performances were adapted to take account of the particular local struggles. Thirdly, Dario Fo and his company, Il Comune, developed a special relationship to the audience. During performances of the plays, which were mainly farces, the audience was invited to participate as in an English pantomime, and afterwards there were discussions about the issues being dealt with. Moreover, the takings would often be contributed to solidarity campaigns and strike funds.

The work of Dario Fo and Il Comune was especially important because it represented a developed cultural politics - a cultural politics which predominated in the social movements in the first half of the 1970s. It was not merely an example of agitprop theatre used as a tactic; it was an expression of a more ambitious project of refounding a popular culture. Fo himself was an exceptionally brilliant and lucid spokesman for a conception of theatre and art which Il Comune attempted to enact through its performances. Speaking at an event in France, he outlined the origins and history of popular theatrical forms. For Fo, the heyday of popular theatre was during the Middle Ages (in Paris in the fifteenth century, he told his audience, there was one juggler to sixty inhabitants), and it was this tradition which provided the raw materials for the reconstruction of a living theatre. This popular theatre had, according to Fo, been killed off by the bourgeoisie and the problem was to undermine bourgeois artistic norms in their turn. Brecht had argued along similar lines, said Fo:

You always go back to Brecht; he explained it well, but it's a little difficult to understand. He said that you must always act in the third person, escape from individualism and egoism... be someone who is on the outside, and who presents the person as a chorus. The comedian must destroy the figure of the comedian himself, and then recompose it in front of the spectators.

But Fo argued that epic theatre was not Brecht's invention; it was part of popular tradition which needed to be resurrected:

Really to understand epic theatre, it is enough to see the people. The people always hold to a different ideology from the bourgeoisie. There is a collective spirit: we talk about ourselves, our problems, the problems of the community. We aim to create a community like the community of the theatre in the Middle Ages .... You must act with the public, listen to its rhythms, improvise . . . you must change at the drop of a hat, cut, and alter your timing.

In the Middle Ages, according to Fo, 'the people's culture' was autonomous from that of their rulers, and this is what modern theatre has to recreate - an autonomous culture. The intellectuals' task was to help rediscover popular history, language and culture, and to free it of 'bourgeois baubles'. To make his case, Dario Fo refers to Mao Tse-tung's and Gramsci`s ideas, thereby claiming legitimacy for his theories within the Communist tradition. Yet it is Rabelais who inspires him:

When Rabelais speaks French he carries out an operation which has been lost to us. He takes up several expressions from dialects and enriches his own language, thereby making something un-bourgeois. He sought to make a sort of lexical revolution, and that's an example we must follow.

But more often Fo refers directly to contemporary events as a source of ideas and a context for creating a new set of relations with the audience, giving back to 'the people' what he has learnt from them:

I feel myself part of the people, and when I'm going to write a play, I go to the people, not to flatter but to learn .... When the movement calls us because there is a trial, we turn up the day beforehand and reconstruct the event. I play the judge, the lawyer plays the lawyer, the workers play the workers, some comrades play the police, and the show is on. And when the real spectacle is on - that's to say the moment of judgement - there are some cracking jokes because the public understands the hypocrisy of power.

The test of this idea of theatre was measured by its capacity to generate audience involvement, and its power to entertain and educate at the same time. This was a test in which Il Comune and Fo triumphantly succeeded. What is more problematic is whether this theatre contributed to a transformation of the cultural situation over a longer term. The role of Fo's theatre can be compared to the role played by don Milani in providing a critique of the dominant culture and a model for a popular culture. Although they belong to different worlds -don Milani to a Catholic world and Fo to a secular, socialist tradition - there are close parallels in their work. Both see 'the people' as the creators of language, which the rulers then formalise, suck dry and use as an instrument of domination (in the shape of the bourgeois school or theatre). The people use words in a simple, concrete and direct way which describes reality truthfully and with beauty, but they are made to distrust their own sensibilities by cultured elites. Those that work the soil or work in the factories are somehow closer to Nature (to the 'nature of things') than those who rule over them, and the rhythms of their labour resonate in the deeper structural movements of the culture, which, however, are hidden from them by the cleverness and artifice of those who do no work. Popular culture is without boundaries (or rather it is potentially universal) because it springs out of everyday life, whilst Culture with a capital 'C' is closed within the walls of museums and theatres or within library tomes. As the originators of language and the 'rooted' members of society, the ordinary people bear within them the traces of earlier cultures; they have a history which makes the history of the ruling group into the fabrication of parvenus. All these elements, (albeit with different stresses and combinations), underpin Dario Fo's and don Milani's visions of how to change the order of things. Whilst it gave them great strengths, it also entailed severe weaknesses.

The strengths can be seen in the degree of influence exercised by the work of don Milani and Dario Fo within the social movements, and in the mobilizing qualities of the ideas of popular creativity, autonomy and self- activity. Labour was invested with dignity and culture was divested of mystique. A widespread desire by factory workers and others to have their say brought the sound of unheard voices into a cultural world built on their exclusion. The ideas of popular culture celebrated not the enfranchisement of the masses and their inclusion within the formal domain of the cultural (the schools, universities, and so on), but the destruction of the frontiers of knowledge policed by academics, doctors, lawyers and politicians. They envisaged the return of distinctively cultural practices to the fields and workplaces, and the re-establishment of a new harmony of head and hand. It was a utopian vision of considerable appeal, which went beyond the immediate situation. It drew on a rich vein of radicalism in Western European culture, which can be identified in writers as various as Rousseau, Marx and Bergson.

The weaknesses of this project of cultural revolution are intertwined with its strengths. Its appeal to myths inspired enthusiasm by providing epic narratives for class struggle in culture. But the evocation of a golden age and of an image of a pure popular culture served also to limit and even stultify cultural innovation. Just as the notions of reliving the Bolshevik or Chinese Cultural Revolutions blinded activists to social changes and complexities, so myths of a past popular culture made it difficult to work within a contemporary environment.

The particular predilection for myths is clearly manifested in the fascination for China. China acted as a sort of spiritual homeland for a generation which could no longer believe in the USSR. Much of the young Italian intelligentsia of the period greatly admired the Chinese Cultural Revolution; China represented a model of how intellectuals could work with and among the people (the students who worked in the fields whilst the peasants studied; the 'barefoot doctor'; the poet or painter whose art 'served the people'). At the same time, Chinese culture was presented as the combination of popular wisdom and a sophisticated but simple Marxism. Brecht's poems, inspired by Chinese subjects and the writings of Lu Hsun, became enormously popular. Above all, there was an image of Chinese people as hard-working but happy. Intellectuals who travelled there (especially women, it seems), wrote about this:

In China there are no signs of alienation, nervous disorders or of the fragmentation within the individual that you find in consumer society. The world of the Chinese is compact, integrated and absolutely whole.

What is significant, of course, is not what this tells us about China, but what it tells us about the writers and readers of this literature. Umberto Melotti draws attention to the historical precedents:

It is worth recalling how this mythology of 'Socialist China' has emerged historically. In many respects, it is reminiscent of the eighteenth-century mythology of 'good and just government in China`, which was spread on the basis of similarly insufficient evidence among the enlightenment philosophers and men of letters.

The Chinese myth was believed in by those who wanted to create a simple, humane egalitarian society in the place of the divided and competitive society in which they lived. It made it possible to criticize the existing order of things with reference to an ideal just as Montesquieu, Rousseau, and others had done in the past. However, the dream of a unified popular culture was backward-looking. It harked back to Communist and Socialist traditions at a time when they no longer connected up with the everyday experience of the majority of people. The ideal of a class-based, autonomous culture did not help make sense of a situation of cultural diversification in which identities were constructed across classes and across national frontiers. The Chinese myth was more a throw-back to a golden age than a future-oriented utopia.

The idea of remaking a popular culture entailed celebrating older technologies and the close relationship between producer, product and consumer which they realized (Fo's theatre was typical in this respect). This was regarded as authentic by contrast with the mass culture produced by the modern media which, however, had effectively marginaized older cultural forms. This New Left, like the traditional Left, dismissed mass culture as part of the capitalist 'consciousness-industry'. There were intellectuals who took a more critical view and refused the either/or choice between being apocalyptic or conformist (to borrow the terms of Eco's famous study Apocalittici e integrati) in their attitude to mass culture. Apart from Eco himself, Francesco Alberoni stressed the way mass culture promoted change, rather than simply confirming the status quo. However, their rationalism and cosmopolitan outlook was marginalised in the wake of the movements. Far more representative of the general rejection of 'mass culture' and espousal of 'popular culture' was the charismatic figure of Pier Paolo Pasolini. Through his writing, films and journalism, Pasolini gave passionate expression to his disgust for consumer society and all its works.

However, whereas Pasolini's vision was fundamentally at odds with the imposition of any kind of uniformity, for the most part the search for a 'genuine' popular culture was strangely provincial and backward-looking. When cultural exchanges across frontiers were multiplying as never before, and when the plurality of signs and images defied simple categorizations according to class origin, there was a longing for cultural purity - for the 'compact, integrated society' in which community appeared as a simple, organic set of relations between people. The disorder of the city was rejected in the name of an ideal, organic society which was rural in its inspiration. It was utopian, therefore, in the pejorative sense, because it attempted to deny the complexity, diversity and conflict of modern societies. Moreover, it conjured up a relationship between intellectuals and 'the masses' which was untenable.

A Culture of Guilt

The student movement of '68 did not by itself produce a radicalization within the professions and the development of an extensive counter-culture, its impact must be taken in conjunction with that of the workers' movement, and its importance needs to be understood as symbolic.' '68' is used here as a shorthand way of referring to all the various radical currents which surfaced in the late sixties and early seventies. It is a term which covers a considerable range of strategies for change - a range which resulted from the reactivation of older civil-libertarian as well as the creation of new forms of resistance. '68 brought into the open a plurality of politico-cultural positions, and marked a break with the clear demarcations into 'camps' that had been inherited from the Cold War period. lf the old alignments were still visible, they were now criss-crossed by differences within both the Communist and Catholic 'worlds'. Moreover, a radicalism which was more typical of the United States was beginning to get a foothold in Italian society, as the development of a sexual politics in the early seventies was to show. However, it was not until the mid seventies that the richness and diversity of cultural changes became fully visible.

In many respects, the cultural changes immediately following on from the social movements were not as innovative as they seemed at the time. Or, rather, there was a widespread misrecognition of what was 'old' and what was 'new'. The first stirrings of a post-'68 feminism and youth politics (which are dealt with at greater length in part IV) were frequently ignored or regarded as a sixties hangover, whilst the rediscovery of Marxism was seen as something quite novel. A description of the rebirth of Marxism written by Perry Anderson in I974 sums up a perspective common to the New Left in Western Europe:

The advent of a new period in the workers' movement, bringing to an end the long class pause that divided theory from practice, is now however visible .... The chance of a revolutionary circuit between Marxist theory and mass practice, looped through real struggles of the industrial working class, has now become steadily greater. The consequences of such a reunification of theory and practice would be to transform Marxism itself - recreating conditions which, in their own time, produced the founders of historical materialism.

It was a perspective which recapitulated the historical model. All the heresies of the New Left, from the Trotskyisms, which were stronger in France and Britain, to the Marxist-Leninisms which dominated in Italy, proclaimed that the moment had come for the refounding of the Communist project and the establishment of a new and fruitful relationship between theory and practice, between intellectuals and masses.

How the relationship between Marxist intellectuals and the working class was to be changed was a matter for debate. There was no uniform position. But it Italy, where the Chinese model of cultural revolution was so influential, there was little space for the intellectual mandarin. As has been seen in relation to the student movement, populist evocations of 'mass practice' tended to prevail over theoretical concerns. Discourses were above all moral.

A number of positive consequences flowed from this orientation. Intellectuals and professional people turned their backs on the privileges and status accorded to them in society, and sought to redefine their roles in terms of social cooperation among equals rather than of competition between individuals and corporate interests. They sought to undermine the culture which exalted mental labour and despised those who worked with their hands. However, the search for what Goffredo Fofi called a 'direct relationship with the masses' was a contradictory phenomenon with some decidedly negative features. It was caught between a desire to lose a class identity and yet to preserve the intellectual's special mission in society.

The contradiction in the left-wing intellectual's self-image following '68 is interestingly dealt with by Richard Sennett in relation to Jean-Paul Sartre. Although the analysis focuses on him, it deals interestingly with the relationship of culture and radical politics:

What then is the role of the intellectual gauchiste? Gerassi asks Sartre and the philosopher gives a peculiar answer. The only writing worth doing, he says, is the political tract, because the position of the intellectual has changed: 'He must now write with the masses, and through them, and therefore put his technical knowledge at their disposal. In other words, his privileged status is over. Today it is sheer bad faith, hence counter-revolutionary, for the intellectual to dwell on his own problems.' Sartre now believed the intellectual must sacrifice himself for the workers; 'he must be dedicated to work for their problems, not his own.

When asked why he had just finished a two-thousand-page book on Flaubert, Sartre accused himself of 'petty-bourgeois escapism'. And when asked about his support for a Cuban poet imprisoned for counter-revolution, he explained that all genuinely revolutionary governments honour creative freedom. He contradicted himself. Sennett comments:

In his guilty confusion, Sartre shows himself to share two assumptions about workers .... First, that the man of culture - the poet, philosopher, social visionary - inhabits a world that cannot be assimilated to the realities of working-class life. Sartre apologises for thinking about Flaubert. He respects the work workers do, indeed he idolises it; he is afraid he will alienate them by his work. Yet at the same time he is afraid his work is innately privileged and may have rights against the revolution... culture and the masses, if not necessarily enemies, have at best few interests in common .... Second the basis of rebellion is still a calculation of material interest. Material hardship caused by the system makes people rebel, material reward makes them defend . . . [he]does not really believe that the aphorism, Man lives not by bread alone, applies to workers.

In the post-1968 period in Italy the idea of cultural revolution was heavily impregnated with the attitudes implicit in Sartre's answers. Intellectuals did indeed 'sacrifice themselves for the workers', and the political tract became the privileged vehicle for cultural and political writings. They felt anxious about bourgeois and signs of individualism. Intellectuals wanted to abolish themselves as a caste and to become honorary members the working class which they sought to serve. When in 1973 the 150-Hours Scheme was established, giving workers the right to study-leave, it was welcomed as a chance to do just this:

The presence of the working class and its struggles has really made itself felt. lf until now it only affected a few more class-conscious intellectuals, now there is a refusal to delegate even in this sphere, (i.e. the workers are taking over education themselves). The struggles are also invading the cultural field and transforming interpretations of reality into a social need to be put alongside other needs (housing, services, etc.).

The intellectual, in the old sense, would be replaced by a new 'collective intellectual' combining the 'Intellectuals, technicians and workers'. This vision of the transcendence of divisions of mental and manual labour appears to subvert the Sartrean dichotomy. However, the initial l50-hours courses reproduced it in another guise. The project of creating a 'working-class culture, and criticizing culture 'from a workers' point of view' was approached in such a way that courses dealt almost exclusively with the factory. The preferred themes included health hazards, the labour process and trade union history. In other words, worker-students did not study philosophy, literature. languages or other subjects which were usually regarded as Culture with a capital 'C'. Those organizing the courses (the trade unions, teachers and political activists) either assumed that workers would not be interested, or that they would be alienated by such things. Instead, they applied their operaist version of materialism to return the workers 'in theory' to the factories they had escaped from for a few hours, while the l50-hours courses were often useful to political militants and factory delegates, they often did not respond to the needs and secret desires of the majority. Instead of liberating workers from the thrall of intellectuals, the scheme in its initial years fulfilled the fantasies of operaist theorists rather than those of the operai and operaie themselves. The old divisions between the educators and the uneducated were far from abolished.

This narrow materialist conception of culture infected not just those working in education, but artists, writers and filrn-makers who associated themselves with the social movements. Notions of 'political relevance' pressed down on them, and it became difficult to do work without an explicit political theme. Content was considered all-important and form was treated as secondary - indeed, formal experimentation was regarded with suspicion. It was thought that the workers would not understand or like cultural products which were 'difficult'. Intellectuals and artists should, in other words, give up self-indulgence and the preoccupations of their subculture and class, and put themselves at the service of the masses who did not want to read Dante or see Godard films. Both the bourgeois culture learnt at the liceo, and the culture of the avant garde were to be rejected in the name of 'cultural revolution'.

In a survey of cultural production in the wake of '68-9, Luigi Manconi describes the period from 1967 to 1974 as the 'dark years', whilst there was some ferment in the fields of music, theatre, poetry, reviews and publishing, there was little of significance produced; the results of work in photography, cinema and the novel were 'undoubtedly modest':

The reasons for this: the years 1967-9 effectively represented an unprecedented break with the previous thirty years in terms of ideologies and culture. And this was a good thing; but it also drained the expressive energies of the future generations for a five-year period. From this resulted a condition of 'memory-lack' for a whole stratum of young people, especially in relation to their own historical/social identity .... Moreover, the culture industry was hostile to innovation.

This explanation for the cultural poverty of the '68 generation is not adequate, however. It is necessary to show how a certain conception of politics and of the relationship between intellectuals and the working class paralysed or hampered creative activity. Whilst someone of the independence and inventiveness of Dario Fo could still work well, a younger generation found itself merely imitating him. Above all, it was caught in the impossible contradiction of Sartre's position. Intellectuals felt that they only had a right to exist in so far as they were being useful, and usefulness was defined narrowly. Cultural practices had to produce political messages. Pedagogic modes prevailed, and a moral universe was created with its good and bad characters. Thus, Goffredo Fofi, who was an important critic and spokesperson on the cultural politics of the Left, wrote a book on Italian cinema in 1971 in which he judged film-makers according to a grid of political correctness. The cinema journal which he edited, Ombre Rosse, actually ceased to talk about films and dealt instead with directly political issues. This was symptomatic of the way in which the specificity of the cultural was reduced in this period to a notion of class struggle which allowed little space for fiction. Whether in film or writing, a narrow realist interpretation of 'documentary' held sway.

The 'dark years', however, hid undercurrents within Italian cultural life which were to break the surface in the mid seventies. The Sartrean position was extremely fragile. Manconi has written that behind the screen of the 'monoculture' many 'cultivated their own secret vices in clandestinity' or sought to infiltrate them into the dominant political discourses. When the hold of the narrow notions of the political was put in crisis (the so-called 'crisis of militancy'), it was through appeals to those things which had been sacrificed in the past - personal and private life, poetic and literary forms, notions of creativity. Furthermore, it was discovered that the young workers, who were said not to be interested in such things but only in working conditions and factory struggles, were much more attracted to the world of youth subcultures and, in the case of women, to the feminist movement, than to the extraparliamentary Left. Whilst '68 did represent a break within Italian culture, its full implications did not become apparent before the emergency of the new social movements in the 1970s.

Looking back over the 1970s it is possible to offer a tentative evaluation of the cultural changes brought about by or through the social movements which dominated the horizons of a generation. Goffredo Fofi has commented that it was a decade in which there were lively experiments, but that many opportunities were lost and that little of lasting cultural significance was produced. The revival of cultural activities in the mid seventies and the proliferation of small publishers gave rise to

a production which was very immediate, tied to the ideas of the moment and lacking in reflection ... it was partly a pursuit of fashion and partly a response to real needs.

The lack of a major film or written piece should be explained in terms of the preference for producing the ephemeral (whether in the shape of radio, music or theatre):

The 'cultural product' of the movement was directed towards the immediate. It sprang from the desire for direct participation in making culture ... so that the result was fragmentary, uneven, instantaneous, inconclusive and without respect for canons governing writing or performance.

While this approach to cultural life and activity had its moments of genuine innovation (as in Dario Fo's theatre), it was vitiated by assumptions about the relationship of culture to class politics and the role of the intellectual or artist in this relationship. This weakness in the foundations of the counter-cultural project has made it an easy target for the critical attack by members of the cultural establishment, and has led to its abandonment by many of its leading proponents. But whether this crisis and re-evaluation leads to important contributions in the future by the generations of the '68 and '77 movements in the scientific and cultural fields, as Fofi hypothesises, is an open question.

Radicalization within the Professions

The concept of 'cultural revolution' was important in post '68 oppositional politics in Italy because it stood for total change. It embodied the aspiration to transform daily life in all its aspect, so that politics was no longer separated from ordinary decision-making. Some of the strategies for making a cultural revolution centred on the construction of alternative and oppositional areas; creating counter-information and popular culture were both projects designed to autonomise the production and consumption of cultural goods from the laws and ideas of the market. They were, above all, extra-institutional. However, other strategies involved the 'long march through the institutions'. They entailed taking the struggles of 'outside society' inside the corridors, courtrooms and classrooms of the powerful. This other aspect of the cultural revolution was especially significant for radicals working within the professions.

The movements of 1968-9 swept the professions into the political fray. Doctors, lawyers and teachers as well as journalists and film-makers were drawn into the social conflicts, and new conflicts erupted within their ranks. Not that they had previously been detached from politics. On the contrary, different tendencies jockeyed for power in their representative bodies. The Left had its advocates, even though they had none of the influence of groups like the Freemasons. However, the movements not only aggravated existing divisions, they created new ones by questioning the privileges, lifestyles and mystiques cultivated in the professions. They attacked the professional ideologies (for example the journalists's concept of impartiality or new values), which the traditional Left had by and large respected.

The new wave of radicalism driven on by the student movement was radical in a root-and-branch sense. It reiterated themes with a longer history such as secularising calls for the use of vernacular and the elimination of mystifying rites and rituals. But it framed these in a new way; for example, in terms of the abolition of the hierarchies of mental and manual labour. There was the emergence of a new conception of the relationship between intellectuals and the 'the masses' which was founded on particular competencies. As Michel Foucault has written:

A new mode of 'connection between theory and practice' has been established. Intellectuals have become accustomed to working not in the character of the 'universal' and the 'exemplary' ... but in specific sectors where they are situated by their professional conditions of work or their conditions of life ... And yet I believe they have become closer to the proletariat for two reasons: because it has been a matter of real, material, everyday struggles and because they often came up against the same adversary, even though in a different form.

This change in the role of the intellectual can be seen in a number of fields. Most obviously, radicalized teachers in schools and universities found themselves having to work in new ways not only with students, but with parents and in the community. A massive number of ex-students went into the profession in the early 1970s (the education system above all produced teachers) and took with them the ideas which they had fought for in the movement. The profession which, more than any other, had had the historical mission of creating generations of loyal Italians was joined by an army of subversives with very different intentions. But other professions were similarly if less dramatically affected.

Radical doctors, for example, played a vital role in struggles over health and safety at work. They put their specialized knowledge at the disposition of workers who were already defining health as a psychic and social as well as physical condition. Then in the mid 1970s doctors participated in and supported the campaign for abortion. The women's movement, by developing a politics of the body, made medicine a key arena of social conflict, and had far more profound implications for how medicine was conceived as a system of knowledge and power than any previous movement. But this was also an aspect of the fact that medicine had become a crucial metaphor for the exercise of power in modern capitalist societies. The conflicts over the control of the body and over definitions of normality and deviancy suddenly grew in importance. The struggles of the 1960s such as those over psychiatry (which in Italy were associated with the work of Giovanni Jervis) were merely the anticipation of this.

However, this section will focus on the battles in the legal profession. Law Students, like medical students, were traditionally conservative in their lifestyle and politics. They were almost exclusively from middle-class backgrounds, and a large percentage had fathers in the profession. They were, in other words figli di papa - though rarely his daughters. Nonetheless, law students too were active in the movement (though it should be noted that a large number opposed it). At the State University of Milan they occupied the faculty, and were responsible for the kidnapping (sequestro) of a law professor, who was put on trial for his allegedly reactionary behaviour. At both the Catholic and State Universities, law lecturers broke ranks and supported student occupations. As the mock celebration of the beginning of the legal year in 1969 showed, the pomp and circumstance of the law did not go unquestioned. On the contrary, the law was in the eye of the political storms of 1968-9. To understand this development, it is worth putting it briefly into historical context. More so than in many countries, the legal system of the Italian state was an object of suspicion rather than veneration for wide sections of the population. Liberal-progressive intellectuals looked back to Beccaria to ground their arguments against the persistence of Fascist penal codes, while popular antagonism to the law and its representatives could draw on a rich store of sayings and proverbs. There were divisions within the paese legale, but above all there was the divide between the paese legale and the paese reale. The events of 1968-9 brought these divisions into the open.

The clashes between students and workers and the police were also clashes between different conceptions of law and order. Implicitly, the former made recourse to notions of 'natural justice' as embodied in the popular maxim of the time: 'It is right to rebel' (E giusto ribellarsi), or even to justifications for revolt based on the rights of the poor to steal rather than suffer hunger contained in Catholic theology. On the other side, the police were given the task of upholding the law, although in 1968-9 this frequently involved administering punishment in the street. In other words, mass social conflict brought the question of the law out of the court-room and into the piazza; and, vice versa, the passions and disputes of the streets were taken into the seats of judgement. The law did not stand above conflicts, but was invested by them. Indeed, the drama of social conflict in 1968 was marked by the trial of leading militants.

It is an important feature of social movements that they seek to right wrongs in society as a whole. The idea of injustice is intimately bound up with how the social contract is defined, as much informally as formally. The ordinary subject is also a legislator and never more so than when participating in a social movement. Nonetheless, a movement has to face the law as an institution which imposes codes and practices. movements in brief, need lawyers.

The necessity of using the law as well as fighting against it was made apparent in 1968-9 when charges were brought against tens of thousands of students and workers who had been involved in demonstrations, occupations and strikes. Lawyers were required to defend them, and to block attempts by employers and other to have certain forms of protest declared illegal. By the end of 1969 the 'campaign against repression' (as it was called) became a political priority. After the Piazza Fontana bombing there were widespread fears that civil liberties would be suspended and that the conditions would be prepared for a coup d'etat (see chapter 15). It was recognised that there were laws which had to be defended and extended so that the conditions favourable to political activity could be created. There were, therefore, ambiguities in the attitude of the social movements towards the law as an institution. It appeared, on the one hand, as an instrument of capitalist rule, and on the other as civil rights. Whilst the radical lawyer or magistrate could only function because of the second conception, this was not automatically the assumption which informed his or her way of working. In fact, two organizations - Soccorso Rosso and Magistratura Democratica - were set up in the early 1970s which expressed the different political approaches to the problem. It was a difference with far-reaching implications.

Soccorso Rosso (Red Aid) was an organisation of professional people (lawyers, doctors and others) who gave their time and specialised skills to help victims of repression and oppression. Its name, which was the same as that of an organisation founded in 1922 by the Third International to aid victims of reaction, points to its general political alignment. Although Soccorso Rosso combined different outlooks (much more so than a political party), it was primarily oriented towards using the law in whatever way possible to defend the factory militant or political activists. It did not concern itself with changing the law nor with campaigning around civil rights as a general political issue. Such an approach was regarded as basically reformist. The legal system could, it was thought, only be changed by exposing it as the embodiment of class rule. The defence of the individual offered the opportunity to denounce class injustice. The only real justice was popular justice carried out in the class war. A number of activists in Soccorso Rosso saw their role as 'serving the people' in two senses; firstly, as the partial, limited and, in the long term, inconsequential defence of the accused; and secondly, in the construction of a 'people's justice', which entailed making the accused into the accuser. Between bourgeois justice and proletarian justice there could be no meeting point. The idea of the law as independent from politics was a fiction which could only be unmasked by openly subordinating it to politics with the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Magistratura Democratica (Democratic Magistrature) represented an approach which Soccorso Rosso deemed reformist. It was an organisation within the legal profession which sought change through and in the institutional. It meant making the law, as an institution, more responsive to the interests and the values expressed by the social movements. In other words, the law had to be brought closer to the needs and aspirations of the paese reale and, therefore, detached from its associations with the ruling order. Magistratura Democratica organized a current of opinion which encouraged a more liberal interpretation of the law, and which canvassed legal reform. Among its successes can be counted the implementation of the 1970 Labour charter; whilst in the postwar period managements had enjoyed legal advantages and cooperation from judges, in the 1970s the legislation was successfully used by unions to protect workers rights. More generally, Magistratura Democratica played an important part in arguing the case for civil rights in the mid to late 1970s, when they came increasingly under attack from both Left and Right. It argued, moreover, that the law as an autonomous institution was a necessary part of any strategy for radical social transformation of the state if it was not to end up in totalitarianism.

The experience of radicals working in the law in the years following 1968 seem to bear out Foucault's general observation about the changed role of intellectuals: namely, that they had more to gain and more to offer in the struggle against the dominant power structures in so far as they worked radically in their specific situations. It can perhaps be judged one of the more positive aspects of the cultural revolution. The influence of radical teachers, lawyers, doctors, social workers and others increased knowledge and awareness of the new complexities and forms of power within society.

The idea of cultural revolution inspired by Chinese examples went into eclipse by the mid-1970s. The notions of popular culture, of the relationship of intellectuals to masses, and of what a utopian society would look like, had become barriers to understanding an action. It would be wrong, however, simply to dismiss them as irrelevant. The negative and guilt-creating experiences, as well as those which were positive and liberating, taught activists a great deal. The answers proposed along Chinese lines resulted in a moralistic and dogmatic cultural politics, but the questions raised about how to change society remained crucial.