Italian movement's influence on the Angry Brigade

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WorkersDreadnought
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Sep 2 2009 13:26
Italian movement's influence on the Angry Brigade

Hey everyone.
Im writing my history dissertation on the Angry Brigade (libertarian urban guerilla group that existed in the UK), and i noticed that libcom has an article by John Barker, an ex AB member, in which he reviews Tom Vague's book on the AB. Barker says:

"What stands out in the Tom Vague book is how comfortable he is with what we could call 'the situationist angle' while saying nothing about the analysis and theory that came out of the Italian movement from Potere Operaio onwards which was more important to us"

Could anyone direct me towards the best books/articles on the Italian movement, preferably from a libertarian perspective if possible. Also, any pamphlets, books, and other primary material produced by the movement (translated please) would be of great help. In general, is there anyone that could fill me in on Potere Operaio? The areas of importance would be their theory, practice, organisation etc. The Angry Brigade began their bombing campaign in 1970 (or at least that is when their first comminique was released)

Thanks for the help.

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Entdinglichung
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Sep 2 2009 15:37

Steve Wright Storming Heaven: Class composition and struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism (University of Michigan Press ISBN 0-7453-1607-9) plenty of stuff also here: http://classagainstclass.com/ ... probably you will find something also here: http://bigflameuk.wordpress.com/2009/05/26/episodes-in-big-flame-history-no-6/ & http://bigflameuk.wordpress.com/2009/05/30/lotta-continua/ & http://bigflameuk.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/lotta-continua-part-2/ (Big Flame had close contacts with Lotta Continua)

if you can read German, there are some more interesting texts not available in English

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Steven.
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Sep 2 2009 15:23

yes, that Steve Wright book will be very useful. We have a couple of extracts on our site:
http://libcom.org/library/the-workerists-and-the-unions-in-italys-hot-autumn
http://libcom.org/tags/steve-wright

Great pamphlet about Italy here:
http://libcom.org/library/italy-1977-8-living-earthquake-red-notes

Lots of articles about the time in Italy here, a few of them will mention PO.
http://libcom.org/tags/italy-60s-70s

Wellclose Square
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Sep 3 2009 20:13

Remember a comrade years ago had an English pamphlet from the '70s which was a translation of an Italian text (something Lotta Continuish or Operaismoic), called something like 'Fish Out of Water'. One of the arguments it was pushing was the need to create 'red bases' within the city which, through my then situationist-tinted specs, was akin to Kotanyi's and Vaneigem's 'Elementary Programme of the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism' - 'Materialising freedom means beginning by appropriating a few patches of the surface of a domesticated planet'.

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fingers malone
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Sep 18 2009 15:19

There´s a really good pamphlet in English on housing struggles and squatting which I think was called "Take Over the City" but it´s not that easy to get."Living with an Earthquake" is probably the best thing you can read on the Italian movement. There´s another one called "After Marx, Jail!" which is about repression at the end of the seventies. "The Unseen" by Nanni Balestrini about this period is one of the best novels ever. He wrote another book called "Vogliamo tutti" (we want everything) but I don´t know if you can get it in English and I haven´t read it. There´s a book on the period by a guy called Lumley but I don`t remember the title, sorry. Paul Ginsborg´s "A History of Contemporary Italy" has got useful chapters on the seventies.
If you can get to London you can go to the LSE library and tell them you want to see the Red Notes Archive and you can go and read loads of original source material, although of course a lot of it is in Italian. Anyone is entitled to look at it, you don´t have to be a student there.
There was a book called something like Semiotext(e) or some silliness like that but the actual book is good and doesn´t do such horrible things to brackets.
I´ll try to chase up these half remembered references and get back to you.

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Steven.
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Sep 18 2009 17:49

To follow on from the poster above, take over the city is on libcom here:
http://libcom.org/library/take-over-city-italy-1972-lotta-continua

Your dissertation sounds very interesting, we could be very happy to host it in our library when it's complete.

WorkersDreadnought
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Sep 20 2009 14:48

thanks for all the help everyone, this is of great help.

Fingers - that book by Lumley is states of emergency:Cultures of Revolt in Italy from 1968 to 1978. I wrote an essay on Italy in 1968 and that was a useful book. Thanks for the list of books and your messages, ill reply properly soon when i get time, im rushing at the mo. I live in London so i can pop down to LSE anytime, although the inability to read the language of those Italian sources is of hindrance tongue

Thanks for the offer steven, although itll be a while - around april 2010 to be precise. Here is some of my draft Autumn Report (a preperation thing we have to do for the dissertation) as a taster (please feel free to point out any thing wrong, right, or worth adding to- ive got to hand this in by noon on friday 25th):

"Far more than any current secondary sources and historiography on the Angry Brigade, the dissertation aims to explore the theoretical beliefs of the known members and the organisations they took part in prior to their bombing campaign. This will also include exploring the nature of other revolutionary organisations and movements that had an influence on them, such as the First of May Group. Importantly, the influence of the radical left-wing movement in 1960s Italy will be examined, as no secondary sources on the Angry Brigade have thus far highlighted this connection. Only in the recent 1990’s did ex-Angry Brigade member John Barker explain that the influence of the “Italian movement from Potere Operaio onwards...was...important to [the Angry Brigade]”. Much less attention shall be paid to the police investigation in to the Angry Brigade or the subsequent legal trial, for such information would contribute little to the aims of the dissertation.

To achieve these aims, the dissertation will be divided in to four sections:

1. Establishing the international context of the 1960s, and those groups and events foreign to Britain that influenced known members of the Angry Brigade. This includes primarily the Italian movement in the 1960s and the early 1970s, and the Situationists and the events of Paris 1968. There are few primary sources translated from Italian on the Italian movement, but more secondary sources. The Situationists’ texts are all translated from French and are easily accessible. The texts of the Situationists are important, for they contributed to the Angry Brigade’s perception of society, with one member even attempting to translate a key Situationist text. The ideas of the Situationists can also be seen to have had an important influence on the style and tone of the Angry Brigade’s communiqués to the outside world.

2. Examining the British influences upon the known members of the Angry Brigade, including the Solidarity group, and the various activities the members were involved in before they began their bombing campaign, including the demonstration at Grosvenor Square in October 1968 and the Claimants Union. The Solidarity Group was a London based group of socialists that expounded ‘libertarian-left’ ideas. A collection of texts by the most prominent member Christopher Pallis is available, and many pamphlets published by the group are still available. There are several secondary texts detailing the activism of Britain in the 1960s which are easy to procure.

3. Examining the communiqués sent by the Angry Brigade, which highlighted their targets and the reasons that were given for bombing them. The communiqués have all been collected in to a small book which is easily accessible.

4. The alternative and Anarchist press’ opinion of the Angry Brigade. Several collections are well archived and are relatively easily accessible, such as International Times, Freedom, and OZ. Anarchist pamphlets from the period are less well documented. However, local social centres such as the London Action Resource Centre and the 56aInfoshop provide a unique archive of anarchist material. Nostalgia and non-critical bias is less of a problem, for many anarchist organisations condemned the actions of the Angry Brigade.

In addition to this, the biography of Stuart Christie is highly useful and shall be referenced throughout the dissertation, for he had a degree of interaction with AB members and was accused of being a member himself, and also sets the context of the era as perceived by a dedicated anarchist. The problems with such a source however are ones of reliability and accuracy. Libcom.org is another highly useful archive of online secondary and primary libertarian left wing sources. There were also a few pamphlets and newsheets that were produced by the Stoke Newington Eight Defence Group. These are important, because they contribute to our understanding of the politics of the Angry Brigade and the context of the time. Selections of their material are archived at the London School of Economics"

There are footnotes to some of this but they wernt copied over and i cant be bothered to type them at the mo. There is also a list of primary sources i am going to use, and an even longer list of secondary sources, but i wont clog up this page with them unless someone requests i do so.

O and does anyone know how to get hold of Black Flag? I emailed them but no response. I wanted to get hold of their archives as well.

Thanks again for all the help!

WorkersDreadnought
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Sep 20 2009 15:26

just realised that Solidarity was nationwide and not london based.

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Steven.
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Sep 20 2009 15:36

You could probably try to talk to some of the old members or periphery. Stuart Christie's contact details are easily available, for example, and I believe John Barker is still vaguely around the movement at least.

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Devrim
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Sep 20 2009 17:04
Quote:
just realised that Solidarity was nationwide and not london based.

I think the poster 'Alf' on here was a member of solidarity (as were possibly a few others). You could pm him.

Devrim

gypsy
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Sep 20 2009 19:04

Just finished christies book and would love to see your final dissertation once its done. so msg me it once its complete please. graci

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Farce
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Sep 21 2009 08:25

If you need any more material, the Sparrow's Nest in Nottingham has a really good archive of anarchist stuff. You can contact them at info @ thesparrowsnest.org.uk I also remember the 1 in 12 club library in Bradford having a bit of stuff on the Angry Brigade, dunno whether it'd have anything you haven't already found tho.

MalFunction
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Sep 22 2009 09:57

couple more articles on the AB:

Carnival of the Oppressed: The Angry Brigade and the Gay Liberation Front
Dr Lucy Robinson
http://www.sussex.ac.uk/history/documents/lr.pdf

Look back in anger [Angry Brigade]
http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2002/feb/03/features.magazine27

John Barker is very much still active, check his articles for variant and Mute magazines eg:

http://www.metamute.org/en/content/wishful_thinkers_of_the_calamity_bazaar

http://www.variant.randomstate.org/pdfs/issue34/tyranny34.pdf

WorkersDreadnought
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Oct 19 2009 15:52

Could anyone help me get in contact with Black Flag? I read somewhere that they were one of the few anarchist publications that supported the Angry Brigade. I emailed them a while back, but have had no response. I need access to their archives so i can see what they wrote about the AB. Cheers.

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Steven.
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Oct 19 2009 16:34

Rob Ray, Martinh and anarcho here all do stuff with black flag, send one of them a message.

DebordIsPissed
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Oct 28 2009 22:29

I had always felt like the AB drew some influence from Renzo Novatore and Bruno Filippi. Towards the Creative Nothing by Novatore may have some use to your project. These aren't really "libertarian" though, they both both refer to themselves as individualist anarchists. It's worth a quick look if anything.

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Django
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Oct 29 2009 18:05
Steven. wrote:
You could probably try to talk to some of the old members or periphery. Stuart Christie's contact details are easily available, for example, and I believe John Barker is still vaguely around the movement at least.

Knightrose and Spikeymike on here were in Solidarity.

knightrose
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Oct 30 2009 09:26
Django wrote:
[Knightrose and Spikeymike on here were in Solidarity.

We may not be much use on this though. we were both members of Solidarity in the late 70s - some time after the AB adventure ended.

I would say though that the AB politics would have had little to do with the work of Solidarity. The AB were fundamentally elitist and conspiratorial - like all urban guerrilla groups - Solidarity stood for action by the working class itself acting in its own interests.

raw
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Nov 1 2009 13:51

Have you contacted John Barker? If you want I can past on a message to him as I bump into him every now and then.

WorkersDreadnought
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Nov 2 2009 20:15

hey raw, thanks for the offer. I did manage to get in contact with john barker actually - a guy a met passed on my email to him. He emailed me, and ive replied, but so far im waiting for another reply. See what happens i guess.

Knightrose, thanks for posting. The bit that got my notice regarding the AB and Solidarity was the following from Carr's book on the AB. John Barker has just gone to Camden and met Christopher Bott:

"Bott, after his experiences in Paris, was now interesting himself in the Solidarity Group, who follow ideas propounded by the French revolutionary socialist Paul Cardan. But though Barker and Greenfield were attracted by the ideas of Solidarity, self-management and workers' councils in particular, it lacked the total revolutionary commitment they were looking for".

I guess a reason i feel awkward about contacting ppl and writing about them here like this is that it is still recent modern history and i almost feel like "what right have i got to write about these people and their organisation?". Its not like im going to get the full picture anyway, and will therefore write a history of the AB thats not accurate (although anyone that studies history will know achieving the "truth" in history is basically impossible anyway) and then it just seems to reinforce the idea that im only "doing it for the grade". What with essay work and activism, its hard to find the time to create a friggin awesome dissertation smile

WorkersDreadnought
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Jul 30 2010 14:57

Dissertation complete, got a First. But still I feel uncomfortable about publishing the whole thing, the primary goal was to get a good grade and had to miss out a lot of stuff. However, im quite pleased with the in roads i made on the chapter that looks at the reaction to he AB, so id happily share it. Might post it up as an article if its ok with libcom

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Ed
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Aug 2 2010 09:47

Definitely mate, stick it up..

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Juan Conatz
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Sep 25 2012 05:04

Was this ever posted?

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Steven.
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Sep 25 2012 11:47

Not as far as I know. Can someone chase him up?