70s Italy - autonomism/operaismo/movement of '77 etc - some advice please?

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801
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Mar 26 2012 16:09
70s Italy - autonomism/operaismo/movement of '77 etc - some advice please?

I’ve lurked on Libcom for ages (a lot more now that I have an office job) but haven’t really posted properly before. Anyway, my little sister is doing Italian at uni and with some advice from me and a few Libcom articles has decided to write about this period of Italian history. Can anyone tell me whether my advice is right? And any comments on the structure she proposes? And more broadly point to any books/articles that haven’t been posted before that might be useful for her. She’s sympathetic to all this stuff but is approaching it in this detail for the first time.

In this plan I think she’s equating the Movement of 77 exclusively with this article, which is problematic:
http://libcom.org/history/laughter-will-bury-you-all-irony-protest-language-struggle-italian-1977-movement-1

Her plan:

"PART ONE
I will place the Movement of '77 within the context of the emergence of the "new social
movements".I will try to explain the socio-political context of Italy at the time, then
present these new social movements and the means of action typical of them. I will
attempt to distinguish between movements relating to class struggle (up to 1968, say)
from those that develop later, such as those that call into question the system of party
and trade union movements in politics, and the movements relating to "everyday" struggles
such as gender equality (feminism), different sectors of society (student movement) or
social recognition (gay movement).

PART TWO:
I will then focus on the Movement of '77 itself and the creative means of action it
implements, such as magazines (Re Nudo, Rosso, La Salamandra , Il Male etc), songs, and
the radio (Radio Alice).

PART THREE:
Finally, I will examine the legacy it has left, specifically how the
images/phrases/messages of the movement have been re-used, for example on the internet,
and in advertising."

My rushed response before I went for lunch at work:

“I think that’s a really good essay plan.

I would call into question the idea that class struggle was the focus up until 1968 and was in decline afterwards though. The period between 68 and 77 saw an intensification of class struggle.

Parties and trade unions lost a lot of legitimacy between 68 and 77 which coincided with/maybe reflected an increase in class struggle. And the rise of the ideas of ‘autonomism’ and ‘operaismo’ (see Antonio Negri) whereby workers didn’t seek to use mediators (parties/trade unions) to articulate demands and control class struggle.

Going for lunch and will then have a think about it a bit more and maybe post it on Libcom forums and ask for people’s advice.”


So, any advice?

ocelot's picture
ocelot
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Mar 26 2012 16:44

Er... to be honest I tempted to say my advice would be to choose a more manageably-sized topic. What was going on in that period was so huge that, even now, over 3 decades later and with a sizeable number of people who's lives were touched by this, going on to be writers and academics, no-one has yet managed to write a definitive history of this "social explosion".

Most of the important documents are completely out of print and only available through various archives. In english the Red Notes books are out of print, "Dear Comrade", the selected letters from Lotta Continua are out of print, etc, etc, etc. Even with good Italian (which presumably your sister has if she's doing it at uni) available sources, other than the archival, are inadequate. I haven't read it myself, but by all accounts DeriveApprodi's "Futuro anteriore : dai Quaderni rossi ai movimenti globali. Ricchezze e limiti dell'operaismo italiano", based on interviews of movement participants, is possibly the best starting point. But still...

To the best of my knowledge, you are correct. The student movement saw itself as very much part of the class struggle. The whole point of the idea of the "socialised worker" as tendential figure, replacing the "mass worker", was the inclusion of the youth movement of students, unemployed, feminists, queers, etc. as part of the new configuration of the class war against the state and capital. That's not to say there weren't a hundred different tendencies and the conflicts between them weren't part of the whole process - the feminist critique of the continual patriarchy within the movement was a contributing factor to the auto-dissolution of Lotta Continua, for e.g. (the letters page of Lotta Continua effectively served as one of the main sounding boards for the whole movement).

But my main fear would be that if your sister got sucked into looking into this all in any depth, she might never finish her degree. Not very helpfull, but there you go...

ocelot's picture
ocelot
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Mar 26 2012 16:55

On the plus side, a lot of the people who know the stuff on this, like Steve Wright, Ed Emery, Angela Mitropoulos, Alberto Toscano, etc. are all really decent, approachable and helpful types, so she could do worse than drop an email to one or more of them asking for advice on sources.

wojtek
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Mar 26 2012 17:47

I don't have much in the way of advice, but there are lots of first-hand documents by the different groups (in Italian) here if your sister wants it:

http://www.nelvento.net/archivio/68/mappa.htm

Unfortunately, other than what's on libcom, the only other thing I've been able to find on the Metropolitan Indians in English is this piece from Revolt Against Plenty.

Edit: She could do worse than contact Patrick Cunninghame, the author of the 'laughter will bury you all' piece, who's a nice guy, he'll probably have a lot of information at hand.

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Steven.
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Mar 26 2012 20:29
ocelot wrote:
Er... to be honest I tempted to say my advice would be to choose a more manageably-sized topic. What was going on in that period was so huge that, even now, over 3 decades later and with a sizeable number of people who's lives were touched by this, going on to be writers and academics, no-one has yet managed to write a definitive history of this "social explosion".

actually, States of emergency by Robert Lumley is a pretty definitive account of the movement from 68-78, we have it online in its entirety here:
http://libcom.org/history/states-emergency-cultures-revolt-italy-1968-1978

as well as quite a lot of shorter articles in our Italy 60s-70s tag:
http://libcom.org/tags/italy-60s-70s

to the original poster, I would also agree with some of your comments about what your sister says, in that it would not be accurate to say that working class struggle was on the decline post 68 - quite the opposite in fact.

801
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Mar 26 2012 21:12

Thanks for everyone's input, it's been interesting and looks helpful.

I found this and although I haven't had a chance to read it properly it's already helped me work out the difference between/evolution of operaismo/autonomism.

http://prole.info/pamphlets/automarx.pdf

I've sent my sister a link to this thread, I think I'm just living vicariously through her whilst she gets to write about great stuff and I'm stuck in an office pretending to do some work that doesn't need to exist.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
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Mar 26 2012 22:12
801 wrote:

I've sent my sister a link to this thread, I think I'm just living vicariously through her whilst she gets to write about great stuff and I'm stuck in an office pretending to do some work that doesn't need to exist.

hey, no need to be jealous of your sister, half of this site has been done by skiving office workers.

I've written these, for example. Why not have a go yourself?
http://libcom.org/library/shirking-9-5-diary-reluctant-temp
http://libcom.org/blog/office-workers-survival-guide-20022012

Italy Calling's picture
Italy Calling
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Apr 3 2012 15:40

Hi 801, I've recently found by chance a brilliant PhD dissertation thesis on media activism in Italy. Chapter 3 in particular is about the 70s (Radio Alice is in it). It's written by an Italian woman, in English.
You can download it as a PDF from here:
https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/handle/1807/29845

If reading Italian isn't a problem for your sister there's quite a lot of books/websites/articles on the 70s...just to mention one that is very, very mainstream but it's a good start: RAI has a history site with lots of info and videos. Nothing majorly radical (but you could be surprised at some of the old reportages), but it really has a lot of info: http://www.lastoriasiamonoi.rai.it/cronologia.aspx?id=1970.

Good luck with it.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
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Apr 3 2012 16:07

Steve Wright's Storming Heaven is a good English language history of the unorthodox Marxist currents of the period, and iirc loads of the references are to Italian sources which might give your sister more avenues for research.

Entdinglichung's picture
Entdinglichung
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Apr 3 2012 16:17

Nanni Balestrini/Primo Moroni: L'orda d'oro (only available in Italian and German)

Skraeling
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Apr 4 2012 00:56

There is also a recent reprint of a semiotext(e) book called Autonomia: Post Political Politics (1980) edited by Marazzi and Lotringer, which has some articles in english about the 1977 movement (but is not as focussed on it as the Red Notes pamphlet Living with an Earthquake).

Like ocelot, i'd agree its problematic to divide 'new social movements' from the class struggle - they were an extension of that struggle into new areas, and autonomia and the socialised worker was an attempt to grapple with that. Also it's false to see workplace struggle as outmoded in Italy in the mid to late 1970s, as if you look at the official stats, if they are anything to go by, Italy experienced its peak in work stoppages and numbers involved in the 1977-81 period (from memory), not 1969. Even the mid 1970s saw more workers out than the late 1960s. (As an interesting tangent, the only other 'first world' country to experience more workplace struggle than Italy in terms of official stats during the 1960s and 1970s was Iceland). Anyway, given that it appears that workplace struggle peaked (in terms of numbers involved, not necessarily radical political content) during the same time that seemingly community struggle peaked, this to me points towards seeing workplace struggle and community-based struggle as interlinked and complementary.