Cattivi Maestri: Some Reflections on the Legacy of Guido Bianchini, Luciano Ferrari Bravo and Primo Moroni - Steve Wright

Students in Italy, 1968
Students in Italy, 1968

Steve Wright's analysis of the ideas of three Marxists who, along with Antonio Negri, were accused of being the "evil masters" of red terrorism in 1960s and 1970s Italy.

Submitted by Steven. on January 4, 2008

Cattivi Maestri: Reflections on the Legacy of Guido Bianchini, Luciano Ferrari Bravo and Primo

Steve Wright

You were like one who, traveling by night,

Carries the torch behind - no help to him -

But he makes those who follow him the wiser.(1)

Upon his arrest in 1979, Antonio Negri was widely denounced as a 'wicked teacher' who had led younger people astray through incitement to revolution. This chapter examines the work of three other so-called cattivi maestri - two of whom were also arrested as part of the '7 April case' - whose writings still remain little known in the English-speaking world: Guido Bianchini (1926-1998), Luciano Ferrari Bravo (1940-2000), and Primo Moroni (1936-1998).

What makes these three men of interest? For one thing, like Negri himself, each was a significant participant within the decade-long 'creeping May' that did so much to change the face of Italian society after 1968. Each also made important contributions to the crafting and diffusion of radical viewpoints during the years in question. Bianchini collaborated with Negri at both the University of Padua and in the extra-parliamentary group Potere Operaio, while developing his own unique exploration of contemporary class composition. A specialist in political theory who addressed the relationship between state and class conflict, Ferrari Bravo would for his part spend many years in prison for no reason other than his close intellectual and personal bond with Negri. And if the hand of repression did not touch his person directly in the same way, Moroni - a key actor in a series of Italian radical cultural institutions - would nonetheless play a central role in supporting militants caught up in the state's repression of mass dissent during the seventies and eighties.

Important in their own right for what they accomplished as political militants and researchers, each is remembered within Italy's 'movement' for another reason: their part in helping to form the sensibilities of individuals from younger, up and coming generations. Looked at from another perspective, it is evident how for each in turn, a politics of 'place' was fundamental for who they were and what they did. Examined together, therefore, the efforts of Bianchini, Ferrari Bravo and Moroni to understand and actualise the possibilities for social change can provide important insights into the richness of postwar Italian revolutionary politics.

That the '7 April case' - and the broader state repression of which it was part - remains a sore point within contemporary Italy was borne out once again as recently as 2003, after the leftist publishing house Manifestolibri produced a short book on Ferrari Bravo's life and work, penned by his longtime friend Antonio Negri. When student activists in Padua petitioned for the book to be launched in the main lecture theatre of the faculty where Ferrari Bravo (along with Negri and Bianchini) had worked, permission was denied ('for reasons of public order', according to one report in a local Indymedia site).(2) In the end, the event went ahead successfully, not unlike the local launch 18 months before of a posthumous collection of Ferrari Bravo's writings, attended by more than two thousand individuals (Milanesi 2001).

But why the label 'wicked teacher'? After all, the many accounts available of Bianchini, Ferrari Bravi and Moroni attest to the dignity and integrity of their commitment to fundamental social change as a process within which 'the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all'. Is the term's use merely a matter of irony? In his introduction to some of Negri's writings from the seventies, Timothy Murphy (2005: xvi) reminds us that the term can be translated into English as 'both "bad teacher" and "evil genius"'. Negri himself helps to answer the question in his book about Ferrari Bravo, which opens with an 'Apologia del cattivo maestro'. In tracing the meaning and use of the term, it is inevitable that he refer to Socrates, charged by the authorities not only with failure to respect the gods, but also with 'corrupting the youth' of Athens. Socrates, Negri tells us, was driven in part by indignation: in his case, 'indignation against those who hate reason and man' (sic). Indignation - 'hatred towards him who injures another ... who has done evil to another', in the words of Negri's beloved Spinoza (1883) - is thus one of the distinguishing characteristics of the so-called 'wicked teacher'. While 'good teachers' such as Plato look with admiration to the powers that be, cattivi maestri are compelled, by 'the intensity of their critical will' and their thirst 'to transform the real', to question the presuppositions that undergird authority. Today, more than ever, Negri (2003: 11, 10, 15) concludes, 'indignation - or, as was said of Socrates, the corruption of youth - is our moral ideal'.

Guido Bianchini: 'State and party are past participles'

A key figure in the development of workers' self-organisation within Italy's North-East, Guido Bianchini's long political life saw him at different stages collaborate closely with - but also strongly dissent from - other, more famous operaisti. Working with Negri and Ferrari Bravo within local workerist circles of the sixties, by the beginning of the following decade Bianchini would spell out at some length his own particular views on the opportunities facing the emerging social subjects of the time.

Born in Verona in 1926, Bianchini participated at an early age in the Resistance. Joining the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), he was active in a variety of labour movement organisations during the fifties, above all as a union organiser.(3) The early sixties found him part of a circle of Socialist dissidents - alongside Negri, Ferrari Bravo and Mario Isneghi - who then published the journal Il Progresso Veneto. Developing links with the national network around Quaderni Rossi, the Venetian group established a lively if ultimately contradictory place for itself within the local left. PSI members who sought a privileged audience amongst Communist party (PCI) workers, who criticised in print the electoral process and who sought to encourage workplace organising outside official union structures, the circle of Il Progresso Veneto was never destined to last long within Socialist party ranks. Looking back on the experience many years later, Bianchini would recall the group as 'believing, as intellectuals, that a journal could be a political organiser in its own right, as a surrogate for the weaknesses or evasions of a political organisation proper' (quoted in Isnenghi 1980: 229). Having burnt their bridges with the PSI (although some, including Bianchini, briefly held membership in the breakaway PSIUP formed in 1964), many of the former editors of Il Progresso Veneto now set about building 'a political organisation proper', in the form of the regional grouping Potere Operaio veneto-emiliano (POv-e) (Wright 2002: Chapters 3 & 4). In this project too, Negri (2003: 27) argues, Bianchini played a central role: 'without him, Potere Operaio would never have got off the ground'.

Lauso Zagato (2001: 2) has offered a vivid account of Bianchini - 'my personal "cattivo maestro"' - from this period. Along with other workerists such as Romano Alquati and Romolo Gobbi, Bianchini seemed to possess quite 'different DNA' to those leftists that the young Zagato had previously met. With a particular talent for discussing one-to-one and in small groups, Bianchini was central in weaving together the network of workplace militants that POv-e helped construct in that decade:

he was absolutely always for the mass line... He had an extraordinary capacity to speak in any environment, in any crowd or any part of Northern Italy. In the South his accent would have given him away instantly, but at a strike anywhere in the North [in pianura padana] where they heard Guido's Veneto or Veneto-Lombardy tones, everyone would shut up and listen, because they were convinced that this was someone from a nearby factory. He had an extraordinary capacity to produce social struggle, to live it, to organise it (Zagato 2001: 5).

Zagato (2001: 5) recalls that Bianchini rarely spoke at the biggest political gatherings, to the point where some in Potere Operaio (PO) risked not knowing 'his importance, [mistaking] him for a sympathiser from a previous generation'. All the same, it is Bianchini's interventions at a few crucial large meetings, no less than his teaching style and writings, which a number of his associates readily recall. Ferruccio Gambino, for example, has emphasised the significance of one speech that Bianchini made to a national conference of student and far left groupings in 1968. Arguing that a push for equal wage rises for all proffered a vital key to the process of class recomposition, Bianchini's words would be met with incomprehension from many outside his immediate circle. Within the year, however, similar demands would resound across the workplaces, large and small, of Italy's North and Centre:

How had Guido come to anticipate the seismic wave that would shake the Italy of 1968? To my mind, through tireless grassroots work - together with Licia De Marco and a few other comrades - between Padua, Ferrara, Bologna and Modena, amongst workers whom two decades of intimidations had left extremely wary: leaflets, interventions, snippets of verbal assent [mozziconi di frasi di consenso], knowing looks. These were their sonar and their radar, apparently much more humble than the syntheses attempted by others, in reality much more ambitious and noble, because they indicated and demonstrated the possibility of a shift in Italian society, one which until that moment had been whispered more than proclaimed. If that shift then took place, we owe it also to Guido Bianchini (Gambino 1999: 163).

In the process of this mass work, Bianchini played an important role in rethinking radical political practices in the region. Bianchini's unique contribution to operaismo lay in identifying a distinctive class composition in the Veneto. Rather than the 'rational demographic composition' presupposed by historical materialism, this revolved around a factory worker 'rooted in [both] the agricultural world and in the industrial world, still living in the fields of the "Bassa Padana" or in a little village'.(4) In the mid to late sixties, the 'political organisation proper' that Bianchini helped to build in Italy's North-East was very different from the leninist model then popular in far left circles. Rather than a goal of centralisation, it worked 'to organise spaces for the enlargement and diffusion of struggles, to link class strata separated by the bosses' policy.' If Bianchini held a keen interest in Socialisme ou Barbarie and similar experiences,(5) the inspiration for his approach was less ideological than practical: 'It was this that workers demanded':

The tendencies to centralise decisions or to elaborate tactical and strategic lines particular to the party-form were defeated in those years first of all because of their ineffectiveness ... the only effective process was a subterranean, directly working class generalisation of struggles (Bianchini & Pergola 1980).

And in such situations, the 'external' militants sallying forth to support factory conflicts were often given a lesson in humility, discovering on several occasions that the workers they had come to leaflet about goings-on at FIAT's gigantic Mirafiori plant - the flagship of Italy's mass worker - knew more than they did about events there, thanks 'to the information that they had received in the consignments of parts shipped from Turin' (Bianchini & Pergola 1980). Indeed, in a later essay written for a journal edited by the designers Ennio Chiggio and Paolo Deganello, Bianchini (1974) would return to this question of the place of information within workplace regimes and conflicts, as part of his rereading of the restructuring then underway in response to the turmoil at FIAT and elsewhere since the Hot Autumn.

'Understanding, explaining, finding agreement: the true toil of humans lies in these' (Bianchini 1989). Imbued with what Ferrari Bravo (1998: 326) later called a passion 'to decipher and change the world' from below, Bianchini was a great admirer of Romano Alquati, one of the figures who first helped to define operaismo as a distinctive marxist tendency committed to reading - and changing - the workplace from 'the workers' point of view'. When Alquati's essays of the sixties on FIAT were published by Feltrinelli as part of its Materiali marxisti series, it was due in no small part to Bianchini's editorial work. In the words of Negri (2000: 7),

Bianchini knew very well how hard it was to lay hands on Alquati's writings. It was something I'd attempted for years: it was infuriating, trying to put Alquati's things in order and make them readable, only to be insulted for my efforts. But Bianchini, poor thing, truly adored him ...

The title of Bianchini's own collection of writings, On the Union and Other Essays, echoed that of Alquati's Feltrinelli anthology. If these were written in a typically cool and detached manner, the illustrations which accompany them - covers of revolutionary journals and texts (from Neue Rheinische Zeitung to Potere Operaio and Lavoro Zero), and images of acts of mass defiance (from the toppling of the Vendome column, to the decapitation of Stalin's giant statue during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956) - leave no doubt as to the iconoclastic spirit that moved Bianchini's pen. Introducing the book, Negri (1990: xi) argues that

Bianchini's analysis displays its originality above all in this way: when rational research and ethical transparency fuse, they produce a project. What does project mean in this case? It means finding in the real - in the new real that analysis has uncovered, and that the ethical instance traverses - the tendency of transformation. A tendency of transformation that is animated by subjects, by social figures that emerge in the process of defining themselves and becoming active [che vengono man mano definendosi e diventando attive]. All of Bianchini's analyses conclude with the definition of subjects.

While one reading of his work might suggest that Bianchini was at bottom no more than a sophisticated factoryist, other writings - for example, a brief but poignant obituary for Felix Guattari (Bianchini 1992) -indicate that Bianchini was open to perspectives that celebrated the emergence of new subjects. Indeed, pondering the crisis that emerged within Potere Operaio in 1971, leading to the group's eventual collapse, Bianchini would ask

if one could still speak of a unitary subject as the reference point of the revolutionary process, or whether one must not rather take account of the multiplication of subjects that exalted their 'differences'? (Bianchini & Pergola 1980).

In a similar fashion, Alisa Del Re (2000) remembers Bianchini's objections to viewpoints that privileged one layer over the rest within a given class composition:

according to an old '70s model ... the factory worker used to lead the process of capitalist development along with the revolutionary process. Today it is difficult to individuate a subject of such import. Guido Bianchini, who is unfortunately dead too, would have said that this kind of individuation could only bring about a model of the revolution resembling an upside-down pyramid, in the sense of the Winter Palace, some rather old attempt at proposing once again the dictatorship of the proletariat and Leninist models.

In this sense, Bianchini's distinctiveness as a workerist tactician emerged most strongly after the failure of Potere Operaio, which he abandoned in the early seventies: due amongst other things, he latter attested, to the problematic relationship within the organisation between leaders and other members. With the group's collapse, many in Potere Operaio soon entered the new autonomist movement, even as others chose the Communist party - or, in a different form of the autonomy of the political, the nascent armed groups. Bianchini's orientation then, in his own words, stood in 'ideological contrast' to Negri's engagement with Autonomia, leading instead towards the unions (Comitato 7 aprile & Collegio di difesa 1979: 79, 82).(6) Active (until his expulsion towards decade's end) in the local branch of the university staff union, Bianchini would spend much of the seventies pursuing what he later called the 'search for a dialectical relation between the new subjectivities and the historic organisations' of the labour movement:

Once the historic phase of the groups had finished, [we] considered it more useful, within the new social dimensions of conflict, to develop the contradictions that the capitalist response to the crisis produced upon class composition, seeking to open channels of communication in the first place with the union which, more than the parties, had shown itself to be permeable by the new realities (Bianchini & Pergola 1980).

One of the key pieces reprinted in On the Union and Other Essays is a document of early 1970, not long after POv-e merged with circles elsewhere on the peninsula to form the Italy-wide incarnation of Potere Operaio. Bianchini's piece was circulated in the aftermath of PO's first national conference, a gathering which in its own way already foretold the future of the group, as the considered analysis of class composition came to be overshadowed by the proclamation that 'the working class dictatorship, the conquest of the State, is the fundamental goal upon which we move' (Potere Operaio 1970; Berardi 1998: 111-22). Significantly, Bianchini's own short contribution to the proceedings included this pithy warning:

It is not possible to develop a discourse on organisation, repeating ad nauseum discourses on determinate types of objectives that no one contests, while lacking the patience - and probably even the intellectual stature - to ponder for a moment whether the bosses in the meantime might not, perchance, have changed their own techniques of responding to the behaviours of the working class (Bianchini 1970a).

The focus of Bianchini's document was upon Potere Operaio's work in PCI-led Emilia-Romagna, a region soon to become famous (along with the traditionally Catholic Veneto, which saw a rather different encounter between industrialisation and urbanisation) as a key component of the so-called 'Third Italy', an emblematic example of flexible specialisation in practice. In the process, it would be held up - above all in the English-speaking world of the eighties - as testimony to how relations of trust between management and employees, and between nominally 'competing' firms, can overcome (or at least minimise) both the contradictions inherent in the effort bargain, and the increasing vagaries of the modern marketplace. The distinctive features of the 'red' version of the Third Italy were all identified in Bianchini's analysis of Emilia: the prevalence of smaller firms, the role of the regional Communist party and cooperative movement in providing social consensus, and the integration between local manufacturing and agricultural cycles. At the same time, it was argued that this 'Emilian model' was less than independent from the production cycles of Italy's leading manufacturing and petrochemical concerns. Indeed, the article continued, it was this very integration with large companies that explained the 'anomalous' prevalence of small-scale production in the region. In their struggles against a 'socialist' regime of accumulation overseen by the Communist party, workers in Emilia-Romagna were striking a blow against 'development' itself, as well as undermining the PCI's attempt to build a new national agenda based upon social peace in 'its' home bases.

The version of Bianchini's essay reprinted in his book - and that translated for an English-language anthology from the seventies (Red Notes 1978) - breaks off rather suddenly with a discussion of the political wage, and how workers' struggles must step beyond the factory to confront the cost of living. Bianchini's original document, however, continues for a number of pages, pages which point both to the partial convergence of his thought with the post-Hot Autumn shift in Potere Operaio's focus, but also to an important degree of diffidence towards the latter. For example, there is some agreement with others in the group that the unofficial workplace committees thrown up in 1968 and 1969 can no longer afford to work in isolation - must, indeed become subject to 'the discipline' of 'an overarching autonomous working class organisation'. But there is also an acute sense of the tensions involved in this turn that rejects any leninist reading of the problem:

Going beyond factoryism and at the same time starting from the factories, realising an intervention in the factories in order to carry the workers outside the factories: the contradiction is here, in recognising the limits of past intervention precisely when this intervention is bearing fruit. The difficulty that comrades face is not simply psychological: it is real (Bianchini 1970b: 9, 13, 11).

Finally, there is a strong sentiment that approaches to organisation hammered out in Turin or Porto Marghera would only fail if applied in a simplistic way to places - such as Emilia-Romagna - where the local class composition was of a different stamp. If a common thread could indeed be found, it lay in the need for a working class that organised itself against work (and so against its own condition as proletariat):

Working class estrangement from any socialist project must be measured in the concrete of struggles, and in the identification of specific objectives that express the working class interest. Only the organisational process can transform estrangement into the material refusal of work (Bianchini 1970b: 13).

Around the time that this document was first drafted, Bianchini began working in the University of Padua, developing course materials and conducting research. In April 1979 he was arrested together with Negri, Ferrari Bravo, and a number of other work colleagues from the 'red' Institute of Political Science. While Negri faced different warrants, Bianchini and seven others would be charged by Judge Pietro Calogero with unspecified crimes within the ranks of Potere Operaio and then Autonomia, associations apparently established:

to subvert by violence the constituted order of the State by means of propaganda and incitement to practice so-called mass illegality and of various forms of violence and armed struggle (proletarian searches and expropriations; arson and damage to public and private property; robberies and kidnappings; beatings and woundings; attacks on prisons, barracks, the offices of parties and associations, and so-called dens of the black economy) by means of training in the use of arms, munitions, explosives and incendiary devices, and finally by means of recourse to acts of illegality, violence and armed attack against some of the objectives specified above (in Comitato 7 aprile & Collegio di difesa 1979: 4; slightly modified translation based upon Murphy 2005: xii).

Bianchini would be released some months afterward, re-arrested, then released again in September with all charges dropped. In France for much of the early eighties, he mixed with a variety of new circles, including dissidents from Eastern Europe, becoming involved in Amnesty International's prisoner support work, before finally returning to Italy once again.

Explaining in detail his decision to set Bianchini free, Judge Giovanni Palombarini noted in passing that accusations that the defendant ran cadre schools for Potere Operaio (PO) in the halls of the university were unfounded, and if anything testimony rather to the fact that

Bianchini's lessons - for their originality and cultural wealth, to which not a few witnesses had attested, alongside the accused's analysis of various sectors of the labour market - were considered in PO an important moment for the formation of the organisation's militants (in Comitato 7 aprile & Collegio di difesa 1979: 127).

A few weeks before his first arrest, Bianchini spoke with Mario Isnenghi about their work together more than fifteen years earlier with Il Progresso Veneto. According to Isnenghi (1980: 230), Bianchini waxed ironic about his role 'in forming pieces of the ruling class through the numerous re-entries into the apparatuses of the historic left and local government'. Claudio Greppi (2000: 9) provides a somewhat more positive take in his account of how the present day political class in the city of Ferrara was largely shaped through its encounter with Bianchini, who had 'creamed off' the best militants for Potere Operaio and left behind only 'the village idiot' for the Communist party. In Greppi's telling, it is Bianchini's role as a mentor that comes to the fore, his ability 'to gather around himself hundreds of Ferrara's young people ... a certain generation inevitably passed under his wing'. In a similar way, Zagato (2001: 2) emphasises Bianchini's maieutic method of challenging others to look within themselves in order to grapple with the issues that they faced. Ferrari Bravo (1998: 327) suggests that Bianchini evoked the experience of Socrates in another sense, for he too was 'a man of the city, in perpetual motion, known everywhere, always open to discussion'.

To date, much of Bianchini's work has not received the wider attention that it deserves. According to Zagato (2001: 6), On the Union and Other Essays was published 'at least ten years too early, when the matters it addresses had lost their importance ... we'll have to wait until they return to the fore in order to appreciate his work in all its brilliance'. Zagato adds that other valuable writings by Bianchini remain to be recovered, including work on 'precarious labour in the university and some reflections on the immaterial'. Fortunately, some of Bianchini's most insightful observations are accessible as shorter texts published in the Ferrara-based review Antigone, which Bianchini had helped to found. For example, there is a fascinating reflection on the difference between 'creating (that is, producing)' and 'communicating (that is, exchanging)'. In that piece, Bianchini goes on to argue that 'precisely for this reason, it will be necessary for producers to know how to create interstices of non-communication, of interruptors designed for escaping from control and from prescriptions' (Bianchini 1990b). Like all his other writings, these short essays for Antigone are infused with that sense of commitment of which Negri had written, for which 'the informational chaos of the present' stands as proof of nothing more than 'the absence of a hierarchy of values, of the disjuncture [scissione] between ethical and rational values' (Bianchini 1995). Bianchini, known to quip that state and party were no more than 'past participles',(7) had no hesitation in rejecting such a disjuncture. Or as Ferrari Bravo (1998: 327) would emphasise when speaking at his friend's funeral, for Bianchini 'a knowledge that does not grip your whole life is worth little or nothing'.

Luciano Ferrari Bravo: 'Looking the Gorgon in the face'

The early years of classical operaismo were ones in which the initial hypotheses advanced by the likes of Mario Tronti and Romano Alquati came to be fleshed out - more rarely, amended - through further research conducted by a broader network of exponents. These findings were often presented in essay form, in journals such as Classe Operaia and Contropiano. After the upsurge of 1968, texts collectively penned by movement groupings became increasingly common; even so, the individually-signed essay remained as a favoured vehicle for the presentation of operaista theoretical enquiry. Now, however, such essays were as likely to be collected together in a book, organised around some common theme. The most prestigious series of workerist anthologies was the Feltrinelli column entitled Materiali marxisti, edited first by Antonio Negri and Sergio Bologna, and then by the 'Collettivo di Scienze politiche di Padova'. After Negri, the most prominent author of essays in the Feltrinelli series was Luciano Ferrari Bravo, who contributed chapters to many of the volumes published: on imperialism, on class struggle in the interwar period, on underdevelopment in Italy's south, as well as the translation of Benjamin Coriat's influential book l'Atelier et le chronomÂŽtre. 'Chapters' may not be the right choice of words, however: as Adelino Zanini (2001: 103) points out, Ferrari Bravo's introduction to the imperialism volume is itself 'a book within the book', and the other pieces are far from slight (the 'essay' on the south, for example, is nearly 120 pages long).

For all the apparent diversity of topics, there is a constant focus to Ferrari Bravo's work, which centres in each case upon 'the state-form' of the capital relation: above all, the task of grasping 'the political system, the specificities of the mechanisms of power from a working class point of view' when confronted by the vagaries of the accumulation cycle and social conflict. According to Sergio Bologna (2001: 11),

In forty years of reflection upon the theme of the state-form, Luciano Ferrari Bravo remained faithful to an interpretative methodology that closely entwined processes of governance and transformations within class composition.

A native of Venice, Ferrari Bravo's life was intimately bound up with that city and its surrounds. Youthful summers in Lido, university teaching in Padua and Preganziol, political activity in Venice's industrial port of Marghera: these localities were all touchstones across the years. As cosmopolitan as the rest of his generation - Negri (2003: 112) suggests that Ferrari Bravo's holiday destination of choice was New York - he was by all accounts most comfortable in Italy's North-East, even as that region underwent extraordinary and distinctive social and economic change after the Second World War. Forced after April 1979 to endure a circuit of prisons up and down the length of the peninsula, Ferrari Bravo's relief upon returning to the Veneto is evident in this letter to his friend Sergio Bianchi:

Yes, you read right! I'm in Venice, beloved city of my birth. The atmosphere is still the same - filtered through the bars and the walls. An air humid to the core, Levantine, full of carnal humours. Somewhat languid, but also rich in intelligence, albeit an intelligence lacking any metaphysical angst (quoted in Bianchi 2000: 112).

Antonio Negri's 'Ritratto di un cattivo maestro' provides the most detailed biographical portrait extant. In the late fifties, Ferrari Bravo had left the 'refined intellectual society' (Negri 2003: 26) of Lido (where he had rubbed shoulders with likes of Hugo Pratt and Tinto Brass) to study law in Padua, where he took up residence in the house of Francesco Tolin, brother-in-law of Bianchini. Indeed, in Negri's account, it was amongst the 'circuit of crazies' convened in Tolin's tobacconist shop that the young Ferrari Bravo was 're-educated':

It was there that we began to discuss politics and so develop a relentless analysis of Capital, confronting it with the experiences of social and factory analysis that we had begun to undertake (Negri 2003: 31).

When Negri assumed the chair of State Doctrine, Ferrari Bravo was employed as his assistant. Sergio Bologna (2001: 35), who taught and researched alongside both men during the seventies, wrote in these terms about their friendship when introducing a collection of Ferrari Bravo's essays:

As the writings reproduced here testify, we can truly say that from the end of the sixties until the end, Negri was the principal dialectical reference of Luciano Ferrari Bravo's theoretical activity, and that the friendship between them, while within two very different existences, was indissolubly linked for forty years.

Like Bianchini, Ferrari Bravo played a leading role in the development of Potere Operaio veneto-emiliano's workplace networks. Summoned before a judge in 1983 after four years of 'preventive detention', Ferrari Bravo (1983: 221) recalled the daily routine of 'external' militants at Porto Marghera during the late sixties:

It meant, for those like me who lived in Padua, getting up at 3, 4 in the morning so as to be outside the factory gates by 5, to catch the first shift that entered at 6, and to remain there until the day workers had entered. It meant returning to Padua, to work in the faculty, and then in the late afternoon, a meeting to discuss the reception of the leaflets that we had distributed about the factory situation and so on.

The origins of this involvement in the industrial complex of Porto Marghera lay much earlier in the decade. Ferrari Bravo had been amongst those who had organised a Capital reading group in the Dorsoduro quarter of Venice in the early sixties, and by the middle of the decade he was in contact with a rising generation of local workplace activists at Petrochimico and neighbouring workplaces soon destined to lead industrial disputes of national import (Perna 1980). As one of them, the late Augusto Finzi, remembered in a recent documentary film on the Porto Marghera workers,

Around 1965-66 Bruno Massa introduced me to his friends, whom he called 'the friends from Padua'. He introduced me to Guido Bianchini, Toni Negri, Ferrari Bravo. I'd already come across them distributing leaflets outside the factories, but I hadn't made contact with them because they were described as foreign agents and provocateurs. I met Massimo Cacciari and others who were following with great attention these industrial transformations then underway, and who began to elaborate their initial political proposals ... I learned what it meant to hold a picket, to draw up demands, I learned about alternatives to piecework, the meaning of information and professionality. All things that I knew of in a nominal sense, but the meaning of which no-one, no organisation nor party nor union, had taught me (Pellarin 2004).

In 1970 Ferrari Bravo decided to take a break from such intense political activity, in order to focus upon family commitments and research. Intended as a short interlude, this hiatus ultimately stretched into the second half of the decade. During these years, he consolidated his reputation as a fine teacher (Bologna 2001: 17, 35). Alisa del Re (2000) remembers Ferrari Bravo both for his part in collective intellectual enterprises, and for his ability 'to listen, appreciate and also address forms of thought in fieri'. On the other hand, the widespread if mistaken perception of Ferrari Bravo as simply Negri's right hand man - which would carry such a heavy price after 7 April 1979 - could sometimes exact a toll even in the years before. In a wide-ranging interview on operaismo and the operaisti, Claudio Greppi (2000: 9) tells of

once meeting Luciano coming out of a lesson, and he asked, 'Why do I have to waste my time explaining Toni's books?' He was a wreck after two hours of interpreting the thoughts of the great master. Basically this was ideology, rather than the critique of ideologies.

Finally, the early to mid seventies saw the appearance of some of Ferrari Bravo's most important pieces of writing. These included his account of the postwar state's efforts to plan Italy's so-called 'Southern question' (Ferrari Bravo 1972) - to my knowledge, one of the few essays by Ferrari Bravo that have been translated (in part) into English (Ferrari Bravo 1974a) - and a critical review of current marxist debates upon the meaning of imperialism, as well as one of his most intriguing writings, an invited talk prepared for a conference of industrial designers (Ferrari Bravo 1974b).

Ferrari Bravo, it seems, had several nicknames bestowed upon him by other operaisti, one of the less obscure being 'the American' (Negri 2003: 17). Such 'Americanism' was of course an emblematic feature of workerism, from Mario Tronti's celebration of a working class that struggled because of the absence of socialist ideologies (and ideologues), through to Primo Maggio's rediscovery of the IWW, via the cross-Atlantic connections that Ferruccio Gambino spearheaded with the likes of Martin Glaberman.(8) Not surprisingly, then, Ferrari Bravo's first sustained essay on the state concerns Roosevelt's New Deal, published as part of the collection Operai e Stato. This volume brought together papers presented at a 1967 conference which coincided with Negri's promotion to full professor. An overview of important workers' struggles in Europe and the United States during the first third of the twentieth century, as well as a critique of capital's response to these in the shadow of 1917, Operai e Stato was a fundamental statement of perspectives from those workerists aiming to carve out their own territory, beyond the confines of the official left and labour movement. Within this project, Ferrari Bravo's piece on the United States played a pivotal role, even if subsequent attention has tended to focus instead upon the contributions of Negri (on Keynes and the state) and Bologna (on the German council movement and the IWW). Carefully researched, it examined the processes that led the US state of the thirties to seek a privileged interlocutor able to manage 'the labour factor' within a new cycle of accumulation. The understanding with the unions that emerges at this point will later serve, mutatis mutandis, as a key plank of the social compact that served to underpin the so-called 'trente glorieuses' throughout so much of the West after World War Two (Guinan 2002). Along the way, Ferrari Bravo was not adverse to throwing out the occasional marxisant aphorism:

[the American] exception has the same sense as every exception in the capitalist mode of production: it is either suppressed, or else it imposes itself as a general rule, with the force of a natural law ... As always, it is in the moment of crisis that the essential foundations of the old order are revealed (Ferrari Bravo 1967: 41, 57).

The theses outlined in the discussion of the New Deal were soon brought to bear on Italy's postwar government intervention within the country's South. Once again, Ferrari Bravo would interpret state policy as one fundamentally reactive to stimuli from below. Whether in the overt form of struggles, or more obtusely as labour mobility, the popular pressure was 'to translate hunger for land into hunger for income, thus revealing their inner nature'. And as with the New Deal, so too in Italy 'it is the crisis that reveals the fundamental lines of a process' (Ferrari Bravo 1974: 149, 172). As Negri (2003: 52) notes in his commentary on Stato e sottosviluppo. Il caso del Mezzogiorno italiano, Ferrari Bravo's line of argument challenged mainstream left assumptions about 'underdevelopment', while finding further evidence of the workerist understanding of capital's state-form as a relationship that must be renegotiated with each new class composition: 'Struggles break the old institutions, which must be invented anew'.

Ferrari Bravo's scholarship has been much commented upon, both in posthumous recollections and during his lifetime. In a typically waspish introduction to the translated excerpt from Ferrari Bravo's study of 'The Industrialization of the South', Paul Piccone (1974: 5) explains that 'the staggering amount of documentation has been cut to a bare minimum', before adding:

It should be remembered, however, that what in the English translation appear as unsubstantiated claims were originally nailed down by an army of footnotes useful only to superspecialists.

Equally of note is Ferrari Bravo's style as an essayist. Bologna (2001: 10) argues that his writings - for example, in his discussion of the American union movement's role in institutionalising class conflict within the New Deal - managed to avoid leftist moralism, even if Ferrari Bravo's purpose in setting pen to paper was 'not academic research', but rather 'the construction of a political thought'. Calm, methodical and reasoned, combining rigour and commitment, there is a fluidity and understatement to his prose that stands in stark contrast to the offerings of more demagogic authors:

The formal structure of his writings can deceive the reader. They present themselves as a review, a commentary accompanying a bibliography, with the authors in discussion to the fore, never himself. His thought seems camouflaged: it appears briefly, then disappears again. Only a unitary view across his scientific work, and the perception of the recurring themes that cross a thirty year arc of time, can give the measure of how his thought was one of substance rather than of momentary whim [d'occasione], as he loved to demonstrate. Certainly this formal structure, as with his comparative approach, had a great didactic efficacy, a great propaedeutic value that confirmed his vocation for teaching (Bologna 2001: 21).

As mentioned earlier, one of the most striking essays in Ferrari Bravo's anthology first appeared in a 1974 issue of the Padua-based journal Quaderni di Progetto, alongside Bianchini's discussion of 'Technology and class organisation'. 'Utopia and Project: Their Possibility and Relationship' opens with a brief overview of utopian socialism, the particular class compositions which nurtured it, and the understandings of knowledge and knowledge work which it generated. These circumstances are contrasted with the nineteen seventies, by which time design has been subsumed to capitalist social relations, and those engaged in design work no less subject to the tendency towards proletarianisation than other sections of the workforce (Ferrari Bravo 1974b). As Negri (2003: 72-3) comments, this text was produced at a point of time when Ferrari Bravo, like many of the operaisti, had begun to turn his attention towards 'new intellectual subjectivities that must, and perhaps can, place themselves within the class front'.

Perhaps the most important of Ferrari Bravo's essays from this period is his 1974 introduction to a collection of contemporary marxist pieces debating the nature of imperialism, written by the likes of James O'Connor, Martin Nicolaus, Stephen Hymer and Ernest Mandel. In his long and sustained overview of the debate's evolution, Ferrari Bravo's introduction manages to be broad ranging in its sweep, while remaining taut in its argument. Lenin's classic text on the subject, to which many marxists continued to pay formal obeisance, was found wanting on a number of scores. The most damning of these for Ferrari Bravo lay in its limited (and limiting) understanding of class composition, which confined itself to explicating the notion of a 'labour aristocracy'. In any case, he continued - following the line of argument set out in Operai e stato - the nature of capitalist development (in other words, class struggle) had changed precisely because of the October revolution and capital's attempts to contain its repercussions. As a consequence, Ferrari Bravo (1974c: 85) concluded, Lenin's pamphlet, 'unlike many of the writings of the classics (Lenin included), [is] a product of its time'. In this sense, Sergio Bologna (2001: 13) has likened Ferrari Bravo's approach to Lenin in this moment to that of Negri, in that both displayed an often 'severe critique' of the theories expounded by 'the founding fathers of communism', 'where these seemed obsolete or misleading', alongside 'respect, identification, admiration for their practices'. Consistent with reflections then being developed by other workerists, such as some of the editors of the journal Primo Maggio, Ferrari Bravo locates the seeds of a contemporary reading of international capital (and thus imperialism) in Marx's work on money in a global context. Provocatively, he ends his discussion by attempting to draw out the useful aspects of Arrighi Emmanuel's third-worldist analysis of unequal exchange. If Emmanuel's work represents 'one step forwards, two steps back', the advance lies in the latter's recognition of the wage 'no longer as a biological and ethical-historical fact, but as the fact of an irreducible political subjectivity' (Ferrari Bravo 1974c: 132).

While Ferrari Bravo had remained a particular kind of leninist in the years immediately after his departure from Potere Operaio, something had changed by the middle of the seventies. According to Negri (2003: 77),

If one could describe Luciano's philosophical position in this period (note that this was much earlier - two years at least - than 1977), you could say that his philosopher of that time was Guy Debord.

Thus, when Ferrari Bravo resumed a direct political engagement in the second half of the seventies, he was drawn, like Primo Moroni, to the task of constructing 'service' structures able to sustain the wider movement's development. In Ferrari Bravo's case, these included the launching of the radio station Radio Sherwood, as well as work in the legal defence organisation Soccorso Rosso. In both instances, the focus was primarily local: within the Veneto, and first and foremost in Padua. But this was to be a new local context, with different players on the scene than before. In particular, involvement in Sherwood and Soccorso rosso brought contact with a younger generation of political militants, many of them from the dominant autonomist grouping in the region, the Collettivi Politici Veneti (CPV) (Wright 2005). While his own political outlook and culture was quite different from the CPV, which had sprung in large part from the old Padua branch of Potere Operaio, Ferrari Bravo (1984: 193-201) was an occasional interlocutor for the group as it navigated its way through the shifting alignments within the national autonomist movement. In the months before his arrest, he was also involved in the launch of a regional journal, which sought to bring together a range of viewpoints from the revolutionary left in the Veneto - even if the relative weight of the CPV again gave a distinctive stamp to the whole enterprise. As Bologna (2001: 18) summed up Ferrari Bravo's circumstances at this point,

'Where' to be he had already chosen, but 'how' to be in the movement or in the organised groups of Autonomia Operaia was not so evident - an unresolved contradiction that would cost him dear.

Upon his arrest, Ferrari Bravo initially faced not only the charges brought against Bianchini, but also a warrant for 'armed insurrection against the powers of the State' as an alleged member of the Brigate Rosse leadership. Negri (2003: Chapter 3) recalls him as a central figure in the 7 April defence campaign, bringing his legal training and contacts forcefully to bear. Negri also remembers Ferrari Bravo as a central inspiration for two important collective documents written in prison: 'Do You Remember Revolution' (L. Castellano et al. 1983), and a proposal in favour of 'disassociation' (Baletta et al. 1982) aimed at distancing its authors both from those who continued to advocate armed struggle, and from those detainees who turned state evidence [pentiti]. According to Negri (2003: 90), this latter statement

represented the recognition, on the part of 51 imprisoned comrades, of the end of the armed struggle, of its dangerousness and craziness by that point (1982). Informing on others [delazione] was called infamy in that document. Disassociation was defined as a declaration of an exit from the movement of armed struggle without any admission and thus without any type of participation in the regime's trials and repression.

More than five years after his arrest, Ferrari Bravo was finally released, 'due to lack of evidence'. If much of the time spent in prison had involved a seemingly interminable wait for trial, punctuated by regular transfers to different prisons, there had also been moments of terror, such as when police and paramilitary forces beat detainees, regardless or not of their involvement, following a revolt in the Trani 'super prison' (Comitati Autonomi Operai 1980). At the same time, prison life further consolidated Ferrari Bravo's ties with younger comrades politicised during the seventies: a generation, he once wrote, 'not my own, yet whose destiny I long ago accepted to share' (Ferrari Bravo 1984: 200). As Sergio Bianchi (2001: 109) put it in his eulogy,

I am always asked why Luciano, unlike others of his generation, spontaneously and with aplomb, shared his daily life, and therefore his feelings, with youths half his age, who by cultural formation were certainly unable to sustain a very profitable intellectual exchange with him. I'm convinced that the answer lies in his acute sensitivity in grasping a fragility intrinsic to [connaturata] our generation.

The last fifteen years of Ferrari Bravo's life were spent teaching once again at the University of Padua. He published nothing for the first decade after his release, only to produce a flurry of essays thereafter. From an overview of the varied nuances assigned to the categories labour and general intellect by the journals Luogo Comune and Futur Anterieur (Ferrari Bravo 1996a) to a incisive review of Homo Sacer (Ferrari Bravo 1996b), from the analysis of how the Italian state-form had addressed social conflict in recent years to an exploration of the problems posed for states by so-called 'globalisation', there is 'a strong unity and internal coherence' (Bologna 2001: 20) in Ferrari Bravo's final offerings. Amongst other things, a number of the subsequent criticisms of the post-workerist reading of 'immaterial labour', as of Agamben's 'bare life', are already anticipated here. Binding them all together is this argument, highlighted by another of Ferrari Bravo's close friends, the Swiss economist Christian Marazzi (2001b):

If we want to look the Gorgon in the face, without it paralysing us; if we want to continue to hope - given that certainly there is no God that can save us - ... it is to the body we must look, to the resistance and to the 'power' [potenza] that bodies know how to express, even in the most hidden recesses of the social bond, to the subjugating pressure of power (Ferrari Bravo 1996b: 284).

Primo Moroni: 'Socialising knowledge without founding power'

Sergio Bianchi (1998: 51) once called Primo Moroni, more than an archivist, 'the richest walking human historical archive that the movement had at its disposal'. For the novelist Giuseppe Genna (2001), 'Primo Moroni died, and with him an entire universe'. If developments within Italy's North-East were integral to the identities of Bianchini and Ferrari Bravo, Moroni's political and intellectual history was inseparable from that of postwar Milan, a city which for many years could vie for the title of Italy's cultural capital. This history was likewise bound up with the need to understand - and to facilitate - the process of class recomposition. Thus what Moroni (1997b) once identified as the 'two key words' for deciphering the mid seventies in Italy - 'recomposition and territory' - also sum up his own research agenda. Indeed, Moroni's description of the flows within the political geography of Milan's first generation of social centres lays bare his method for thinking about how best to respond to capital's attempts to subordinate labour through the twin weapons of restructuring and withdrawal (Holloway 1995):

The problem at once became that of following capital on its terrain. Interpreting its strategies and its lines of 'flight' from the great industrial concentrations. In some way fragmenting as it moved across the territory, finding conflict under another form, occupying the spaces that were left void (Moroni 1997b).

In mapping the particular use of such spaces within Milan from the seventies to the nineties, Moroni (1996c) developed an understanding of class recomposition not in terms of 'unity' or the hegemony of a particular layer, but instead of the development, in the midst of modernity's 'relapse', of 'collective intelligences' able to 'socialise knowledges rather than powers' (Decoder 1989).

Moroni recounted chapters from his life story on a number of occasions (Moroni 1983, 1993a, 1996a). Influenced by the many Communist party members who frequented his parents' Milan trattoria, he joined the PCI in 1953. Abandoning school at an early age, Moroni held a variety of manual jobs before entering the hospitality trade, where he ultimately became a senior chef in a leading restaurant. Drawn to dancing as a social activity, he competed in a variety of national tournaments - even winning, he later told Cesare Bermani, a European-level competition in Holland (Moroni 1983). Moroni's skills as a dancer also brought status within his neighbourhood peer group, offering a means through which he and his friends could meet young women. Contact with the rich clients he encountered while working in restaurants encouraged a taste for the good things in life, even as he was aware that the latter - along with dancing itself - drew disapproving glances from many in his local party section (Moroni 1996a). Ever restless, Moroni moved from a stint as a private investigator to work during the sixties in the publishing industry, where he climbed to a senior management position, complete with Maserati. After a brief period as a nightclub proprietor, Moroni finally found his vocation, opening with his then partner the bookstore that would make his name in the world of Italian revolutionary politics.

If Moroni's written legacy is extensive,(9) it is for the cultural institutions that he helped to sustain, beginning with the Calusca bookshop, that Moroni is best remembered. Founded in 1971, Calusca was housed in a number of successive shopfronts in the Porta Ticinese quarter of Milan, closing for a period in the mid eighties before reopening in its current premises within the Cox 18 social centre ( Run for many years with his first wife Sabina and with Renato Varani - another important figure in the development of Italian radical publishing - Calusca soon established itself as a crucial hub for the movement in Milan and beyond. While material circulated within the space from across the spectrum of the Italian left, Calusca was intended to be a home above all for those marginalised by the largest of the country's far left formations (the so-called triplice of Avanguardia Operaia, Lotta Continua and Il Manifesto). If the early seventies in Italy were a 'golden age of ultra-leninism' (Bologna 1974), the most creative political projects at that time were those that emanated from what Moroni (in Cevro-Vukovic 1976: 33) once called 'the non-organised, the cani sciolti, this indefinable area that stretches from the bordighists to the proto-situationists, the councillists, to the internationalists, the anarchists, to the anarcho-communists, the libertarian communists'. Influenced in part by workerist thought - chiefly the exploration of class composition, which drew him to the circle that would produce the journal Primo Maggio (Wright 2002: Ch. 8) - it was with 'this indefinable area' that Moroni most strongly identified (Bianchi 1999: 53). Another side of the bookshop was the space given to counter-cultural politics, such as the journal Re Nudo, which likewise shared the left libertarians' and autonomists' hostility towards the triplice (Moroni 1996b: 26; Bertante 2005). Finally, Calusca was then also important in Lombardy as a reference point for local teachers committed to developing a new curriculum worthy of the post-1968 social climate, and Moroni (1993a) was proud of the fact that, at its height in the late seventies and early eighties, this Centro di documentazione scuola claimed a bigger membership than Milan's leftwing teachers' union.

Wherever it was housed, Calusca provided a space in which one could happily be lost for hours browsing all manner of revolutionary texts. Perched at the counter of Calusca, Moroni became famed as someone with his finger on the pulse of radical politics in Milan and its hinterland. Nor did he feel the need to travel far in the process; Laura Corradi (1999: 167) recalls him saying, 'In the end, everyone passes here at Calusca ... I never need to move myself'. While some were in awe of his capacity to read the cultural shifts within the Italian movement, Moroni himself was happy to share his secret. As he explained in one interview (Moroni 1993a),

Whoever today undertakes an overarching political project has in reality one goal: mixing with the world in all its components, socialising to the maximum the knowledges of which they are bearers. When in the seventies, I worked in Calusca, everyone thought that I was very intelligent because I knew a ton of things. In reality I was simply the collector of more than two hundred intelligences that frequented the bookshop: so, when I spoke, I knew more, but only because there were many separate things that I continued to elaborate along common coordinates.

Corradi (1999: 167) also remembers Moroni's attentiveness in a different sense, in his preparedness to spend time with younger comrades, discussing everything from politics and music to personal problems:

he had a special magnetic charm ... a great willingness to listen to you, to understand what you needed to read, to suggest the right books for you, but above all to engage you in discussions as an equal. Whereas many older comrades acted superior, he didn't put on airs, even when he became famous ...

Moroni acknowledged the influence of a number of mentors in his own political development. During the seventies he drew close to Sergio Bologna, a central figure in the operaismo of the sixties who after the early years of Potere Operaio chose a different political course to that of Negri or Ferrari Bravo, while still collaborating with them on a number of publishing projects at the University of Padua. Together, Bologna and Moroni worked on the journal Primo Maggio, which during the seventies was the focal point for important reflections on contemporary class composition and struggle, as well as assessments of past cycles of mass efforts to subvert the capital relation (Wright 2002: Ch. 8). Twenty years later they were still collaborating in a number of initiatives, including the Libera Universitˆ di Milano e il suo Hinterland (LUMHI), which aimed to explore 'knowledges' and 'the transmission of knowledges' through a series of projects that ranged from the relationship between nazism and the working class (Bologna 1996), to the particular forms of self-employment arising at the century's turn (Bologna & Fumagalli 1997).(10) According to Sergio Bianchi, Bologna was 'the person that Primo had always taken as his principal theoretical reference point, respecting the acuteness of his analysis married to a singular rigour in exposition'. For his part, Bologna remembers Moroni as 'a master in networking',(11)1 possessing 'a sensitivity, a curiosity and a passion for culture that I have found in few people' (Bologna 2001: 5).

As a libertarian communist, Moroni felt a fundamental gulf between his values and practice and those of the PCI, an institution he had left in 1963. Reviewing the postwar political manoeuvrings attempted by various components of the US state, Moroni (1992b: 41) was contemptuous of the Communist party leadership's inability to defend its own interests, let alone those of its constituents in the working class: 'The PCI, as usual, understood nothing and contributed to disseminating disasters without obtaining any recompense'. On the other hand, he always made a point of indicating those figures within the Communist party who, back in the fifties, had nurtured his curiosity, and 'had transformed me into a communist, and almost an intellectual' (Moroni 1996a). Moroni retained a strong affection and respect for party activist and writer Mario Spinella, while the lessons of Rossana Rossanda - for a time pivotal to the cultural activities of Milan's PCI Federation - would remain with him decades later. Perhaps even more importantly, however, was the 'cultural deprovincialisation' (Moroni 1983) that Rossanda brought in her wake: for example, the notion that it was legitimate to enjoy a host of books and films frowned upon by other party leaders. In her own practice, Rossanda also legitimated Moroni's (1996a) sense that 'the good life' should be accessible to all, not just the rich clients he had met in the hospitality industry: 'from the sixties onwards, I'd thought that this rigid communist theory of the party, that consumer goods had to be renounced, was crap'. Forced to choose between party hacks who looked down on workers desirous of a refrigerator rather than an ice-box, and Rossanda in her twin set and pearls, Moroni had no doubt as to who was the 'correct communist'.

In the PCI of the fifties, Moroni also found other, less publicly noted mentors, such as partisans latterly involved in the Volante Rossa armed group (Bermani 1977). These militants were reticent to discuss their activities, saying only 'We'll tell you when you're older, not now, these are complicated things' (Moroni 1983). In sum, Moroni's (1983) account of his time in the Communist party paints a complex picture of a young man attempting to establish his own identity in the face of conflicting pressures and desires, satisfied neither by the official party culture promulgated by Togliatti and his associates, nor by that sottovoce (Montaldi 1971) that whispered of a Resistance still unfulfilled. Yet, as he recalled many years later, the former members of Volante Rosse whom he met awakened in him

the passion to recount history from the point of view of those who had made political choices: not only according to the apparatuses, but being on the side of those who act each day, with their motivations (Moroni 1999: 26).

Thus, unlike those who assumed that all the youngsters in the forefront of the factory-based Hot Autumn had sprung from nowhere, Moroni (1983) argued that in many workplaces, older Communist workers

while marginalised from the party, transmitted memory ... they worked within the class, even annulling their own rigorous leninist and stalinist identity, in the name of the overarching unity of the struggle.

Looking back on the period, Moroni pointed to his encounter with such militants, as well as particular events like the mass clashes in Genoa of July 1960, as important moments in his transition to becoming an 'extremist'. Ever the raconteur, he also advanced his own explanation as to why the protagonists of Genoa had gone down in history as i giovani delle magliette a righe:

I took part in July '60, we went to Genoa, our political commissars and section secretaries had said, 'the Social Movement (12) is holding a congress at Genoa, the city that won the Resistance gold medal, it's intolerable, it's the Tambroni government, we have to go there and stop them'. So we left at night with these old Milanese factory communists, we went to Genoa and we raised hell ... The matter of the striped T-shirts was that it was hot as blazes [un caldo della madonna], being July, and at the port they only sold these fucking T-shirts, with red or blue stripes, and so we all bought them ... (Moroni 1996a)

Given his fascination with the art of conversation, it is not surprising that Moroni placed great store in oral history as a means of sharing subversive experiences. Sergio Bianchi (1998: 52) tells us that Danilo Montaldi's Militanti politici di base was one of Moroni's favourite books, and in his own writing and interviews Moroni spoke of the importance of working with oral historians involved in Primo Maggio and the Istituto Ernesto De Martino. Placing the lived experiences of those 'at the base' at the centre of any serious approach to social history, he once suggested that the best way to make sense of the radical left's fortunes in the crucial decade of the seventies was

to arm yourself with a tape recorder and then get individual militants to recount - for hours if need be - their subjective history, their perception of the world, their relations with institutions, their understanding of the political context. And then, when you've finished, to reorganise all this immense material of subjective experience into a great synthesis which can be achieved only by supplementing this with documents, and through a deepened reading of the overall context (Moroni 1999: 32-3).

Having learned so much from others, Moroni delighted in sharing knowledge and conversation in turn with those new to revolutionary politics. One of his greatest intuitions with younger people concerned the punk circles that multiplied in Milan during the eighties (Philopat 2006). Finding it difficult at first to understand their culture, he was determined to avoid the path of 'the sociologists [who] study them like insects in order to catalogue them in their taxonomies' (Moroni 1997b). Instead, he became fascinated with the way in which Italian punks inverted the nihilism commonly associated with the phrase 'No Future': rather than a cry of despair, this became an injunction to 'invent the present' (Moroni 1996: 41-2; Bianchi 1998: 55). Bringing a new infusion of energy and creativity into a number of local social centres (Wright 2000), some of Milan's punks also began to use space at Calusca for their activities. Along the way, as Raf Scelsi (2000: 7) remembered, there took place 'a slow process of trying to understand ourselves and the older ones who came from the movements of the sixties and seventies, for which the point of mediation was Moroni'. While many of the older generation were less than open to such an encounter, Moroni saw great possibilities in the likes of Scelsi, whose associates would go on to establish the cyberpunk journal Decoder - one of the most innovative of Italy's alternative publications in the late eighties and early nineties - and later the publishing house ShaKe, dedicated to Moroni's injunction 'to seek to decodify the present' (Voce 2005).

The great bulk of Moroni's writings were produced after the defeats of the late seventies and early eighties. As he later recounted, the suicides, drug-induced deaths and state repression that followed the movement of 1977 slowly destroyed the social fabric that had defined his work in and around Calusca. Much of what Moroni wrote in these years, therefore, was an attempt both to make sense of what had happened, and to share those reflections with a younger generation. For example, one of his earliest pieces of historical excavation concerned a collective in Milan's Barona neighbourhood, some of whose members had been accused of politically-motivated murder. In trying to uncover the collective's development in the seventies, Moroni laid bare the circumstances within which the complex movement of autonomia diffusa emerged as one response of young working class people to the profound changes then reshaping Italian society. The article had a more obvious, immediately political objective as well, which was to challenge the state's reduction of all such experiences to no more than preludes to, or recruiting grounds for, the rise of the armed groups that tried to impose their own understandings of revolutionary practice upon the movement as a whole (Farnetti & Moroni 1984).

Involvement in prisoner support inevitably drew Moroni into the most dramatic polemic within the Italian radical left of the eighties: that over the stance of 'disassociation' launched by Negri, Ferrari Bravo and others. There is still, to my knowledge, no detailed reconstruction of the debates surrounding the experiences of such prison politics in Italy during this period. Matters are only furthered confused by legislation later passed in the Italian parliament which, while talking of 'disassociation', offered sentence reduction to those who renounced their political past (Portelli 1985; Ruggiero 1993). What is clear is that for Moroni and his closest associates of the time, the term 'disassociation' carried very different connotations to those advanced by Negri. Speaking in the early nineties, Moroni argued that

For a long time there was a linguistic problem. We had always said that the pentito in reality did not exist: the true pentito for us was the dissociato, who, faced with the State, recognised that they had been mistaken and sought a reduction in sentence by virtue of the fact that they had renounced their own identity and past history. The pentito officially recognised as such by the judges and media was instead the classic figure of the informer - or if you like, of the traitor (Moroni 1993a; cf Moroni 1990).

At the centre of Moroni's efforts to compile an aide de mÂŽmoire to the sixties and seventies is the anthology on postwar politics that he assembled with autonomist poet and novelist Nanni Balestrini. First published in 1988, and reprinted a number of times since then, L'orda d'oro stands as an indispensable resource for anyone who wants to understand what the book's subtitle calls 'the great revolutionary and creative, political and existential wave of 1968 to 1977'. Beyond the impressive collection of original texts brought together in the volume - from Danilo Montaldi's account of the 1960 Genoa clashes, to debates on the 'mao-dadaist' aspects of the 1977 movement; from insights into the apparent hegemony of the mass worker at the beginning of the seventies, to the challenges thrown up by Italy's powerful feminist movement - L'orda d'oro offers a wealth of reflective pieces by the likes of Negri, Oreste Scalzone, Lucia Martini, Paolo Virno, Lanfranco Caminiti, and Sergio Bianchi. What holds the book together, however, is the sometimes understated but always powerful narrative provided by its editors. In a preface to a 1997 edition of the book, Moroni (1997c: 6) wrote that, unlike some interpretations of Sessantotto,

We have tried instead to underline how the movements of the seventies made an enormous effort to elaborate an alternative conception of modernity, a conception that profoundly opposed the postwar model of consumer capitalism, and ultimately the intrinsic and formidable efficiency of the fordist-taylorist hierarchical model ... The movement therefore as the mirror 'reversal' of the dominant paradigm, as the radical and irreducible expression of the maturity reached by the capital-labour conflict.

One of Moroni's strongest intuitions about the development of radical movements concerned the connection between self-defined political revolt and that more diffuse, existential unrest that has repeatedly manifested itself over the last century and more in the form of 'countercultures'. Sensitive to developments in the worlds of literature, film and music, Moroni (1993a) emphasised the barometric function of 'underground' creative expression: 'countercultures really have this extraordinary historical function, that of anticipating successive, more political movements'. In many ways, he believed, the story of postwar social revolt in Italy (and not only there) could be read as the relationship between these two projects:

the ten years preceding '68 were ten years of the enormous accumulation of knowledges with apparently normal daily behaviours, if you exclude the visibility of the hippies and the beats. Yet in course was a social laboratory of the accumulation of knowledges that put everything up for discussion (Moroni 1993a).

For a brief time, the political and counter-cultural facets of social revolt came together, until their profoundly different understandings of 'the present state of things', and how to subvert them, drew them apart again. If the early seventies would see the party-builders of the New Left fend off and marginalise the frikkettoni, the latter would have their revenge by the middle of the decade, when the question of how 'to change life' led increasing numbers of young militants to abandon membership of the triplice in favour of the garb of 'metropolitan indians' (Mariani 1987). In a similar fashion, Moroni would argue that the richest period in the history of the social centres movement occurred during the late eighties and early nineties, precisely when the 'politicos' and cultural enthusiasts were able to find some mutual accommodation. Writing somewhat later, however, Moroni (1997b) would note that if the number of those 'frequenting' the social centres 'had grown impressively ... the management collectives had remained largely the same for the past seven-eight years':

The error underlying this was probably the separation of musical and cultural activities [programmazione] from the course of attempted political recomposition.

In his research, Moroni (1989) was drawn again and again not only to the 'movement of '77', but also the crucial two years that preceded it, as the crisis of the triplice created space for the emergence of new collective intelligences keen to explore both political and existential subversion. As well as the 'proletarian youth circles' captured so vividly in Nanni Balestrini's novel The Unseen, these years saw the expansion of both 'diffuse' autonomist collectives outside the groups of Autonomia organizzata and 'creative' forces on its borders (Wright 2005). Alongside his careful mapping of Milan's radical left in that period, Moroni showed a particular appreciation for the journal A/traverso, closely linked to the experience of Radio Alice in Bologna (Moroni 2004; Berardi & Guarneri 2002; Day & Wright 2005). As he put it in a conversation with Sandrone Dazieri,

When the movement is diversified, distributed and complex, a minor sensor can become the synthesis of a disquiet that is subterranean but shared and extensive, and in need of visibility. If the subjects that produce it are in turn pervaded by that disquiet, their publication can become its direct expression. So A/traverso, which sold very few copies when it first came out, ended up being stolen [andare a ruba] because it was the expression of a real mutation. I think that A/traverso was a brilliant cross between political movements and the underground practice of 'situations': a fusion between experiences of existential revolt, counter-cultures, critical marxism and some intelligent things emerging in the French cultural and philosophical scene (think of the work of Deleuze and Guattari) (Moroni 1996b: 32).

After the difficult times that followed the defeat of Italy's decade-long 'creeping May', the nineties proved to be full of new projects for Moroni. If anything, the eviction of the Leoncavallo and Cox 18 social centres at the end of the eighties inspired a new wave of occupations, driven forward by young activists radicalised through the so-called Pantera university movement of 1990 (Portelli 1997). Calusca - renamed 'Calusca City Lights', in honour of the San Francisco bookshop co-founded by beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti - reopened in the re-occupied Cox 18, once again holding regular book launches, debates and presentations (Associazione Calusca City Lights 1996). In the face of Dazieri's description of the state of play in Italy in the mid nineties as one of 'a rich panorama of small publishing houses, self-managed centres, computer networks and movement radios', Moroni (1996b: 44) responded as follows:

It's true! Indeed it's almost surprising, above all for the revival of activity by grassroots publishers - and the multiplication of infoshops in the social centres is very interesting. Something is emerging that is close to the idea of a circuit, but all this has little to do with what I consider underground or counter-culture. The counter-culture, a term I continue to prefer to underground, is a network of production, a way of conceiving not only communication but also the world, an existential practice and a model that is in continuous and disquieted research: almost always a paradigm that is the inverse of the dominant one.

For all his guarded judgement on that front, Moroni was quietly optimistic about certain developments around him. Beyond Calusca, Moroni's periodic fieldwork for the AASTER research consultancy (led by his old friend Aldo Bonomi, with whom he had earlier collaborated in the journal Controinformazione) offered another rich source of material for reflection on the warp and woof of Italy's changing social fabric. The crisis of legitimacy that gripped many of the institutions of the First Republic at the beginning of the nineties, as Italy's formal constitution strove to catch up with realignments within its material constitution, generated both opportunities and dangers. For one thing, as the first issue of DeriveApprodi proclaimed on its front cover in 1992, 'It is possible to think that a long period of the destruction of collective intelligences is beginning to come to an end, and that a new perception of the present is emerging in the metropoles'. As for the dangers, some of these were sketched out in a short article that Moroni contributed to this 'numero zero' of the new journal. Addressing 'The Adventure of the Transition', his piece focussed upon the reshaping of class and space in Milan as a consequence of fordism's crisis. Prominent amongst these was the growth of seemingly anomalous figures (like the 'second generation' self-employed workers then being researched by Sergio Bologna (1992)) and the marked lengthening of the working day, all swirling together in

A vast process of self-valorisation and de-salarisation that, instead of producing social cooperation outside the hierarchical domination of the enterprise (as some would have wished), produces new egoisms and separate, intolerant individualities. This is, in substance, the triumph of the ideology of labour and of self-entrepreneurship (Moroni 1992: 45).

These themes were taken up at greater length in a long essay by Moroni published in the first issue of Vis-ˆ-Vis, another important journal founded in part by survivors of the earlier autonomist movement. Here he set himself the task of understanding the success of Italy's 'new social right' (first and foremost, the Lega Nord) in winning support within proletarian communities of the country's north. A number of processes, he argued, had intertwined: the destruction of the old working class strongholds of the sixties and seventies through industrial restructuring, the flight of younger people towards work in the tertiary sector or even in self-employment, and the traditional left's inability or unwillingness 'to comprehend the political-cultural characteristics of post-fordist labour' (Moroni 1993b: 48), much less represent them within the political system. All in all, workers were once again 'without allies', as the operaisti had proclaimed (with a rather different emphasis!) back in the sixties. One of Moroni's greatest fears was that for all its resurgence in the nineties, Italy's antagonistic left still lacked the conceptual tools that could enable it to confront this new present, and would instead choose either to take refuge in formulaic restatements of past truths, or else close itself into the political and cultural ghettoes within which the social centres had eked out their existence in the eighties. Perhaps this concern helps to explain some of the controversies of Moroni's final years: for example, his involvement in debates that marked the growing divisions within the social centres movement after 1993 (Moroni et al. 1995; Wright 1995). At the same time, it also helps to explain the Deleuze quote that Moroni chose to close the penultimate paragraph of his essay on the 'new social right':

The great and only error lies in thinking that a line of flight consists in fleeing from life; the flight into the imaginary, or into art. On the contrary, to flee is to produce the real, to create life, to find a weapon (quoted in

And now?

Interviewed for the book Futuro Anteriore (Borio et al. 2002), the writer Valerio Evangelisti was asked if there were any important authors he wished to cite as helpful guides in making sense of 'the present state of things'. After mentioning, amongst others, Moroni and his work on the Lega Nord, Evangelisti (2000: 21) turned the question around. The point, he argued, was not so much one of 'evoking good or bad teachers', but instead 'of creating, by ourselves, the identities of a collective teacher - and seeing that we live in this society here, of trying to understand it'.

For anyone keen to contribute to the constitution of such collective intelligences, there is much to be learned from the efforts of Guido Bianchini, Luciano Ferrari Bravo, and Primo Moroni, even as there is much to be criticised and surpassed. For example, one useful avenue to be explored is Ferrari Bravo's insistence that, in an age when 'the same series of facts offer different and "untranslatable" readings' (2001b: 358), the adequacy of our explanatory frameworks can only tested in terms of their ability 'to provide meaning to the prospect of liberation from oppression and exploitation' (2000: 344). For his part, Bianchini offers the challenge of looking beyond the grand pronouncements of the world's political class, learning instead how to engage with those seemingly ephemeral signs in neighbourhood and workplace that, on occasion, may point to fundamental realignments towards class recomposition. And finally, reflecting upon the efforts of the Milan social centre with which he was long associated, Moroni argues against those who would keep separate the threads of political and existential revolt:

Certainly we have never had any illusions about changing the world through words or through ideology. Only by 'dirtying ourselves' with 'the real' can we understand it and, perhaps, begin to change it (quoted in Bianchi 1998: 54).


(1) These lines of Dante (1987) were read by Ferruccio Gambino (2000) at Luciano Ferrari Bravo's funeral. I would like to thank Ferruccio, along with Volker, Devi Sacchetto, Patrick Cuninghame, and Brett Neilson for providing some hard-to-find materials used in the writing of this essay. Unless otherwise noted, all translations - and mistakes - are my own. Thanks too to Alberto Toscano for last minute help with a particularly curly quote, Hobo for corrections, and Sergio Bologna for his critical comments.

(2) See IMC liviano 2003. Negri's previous visit to the university in 2001 had seen property damage by a fascist group, and fears of a repeat incident may have been played a part in the decision (Il Mattino di Padova 2003).

(3) According to Zagato (2001: 2), Bianchini was also for a period a PSI municipal councillor in Monselice.

(4) Personal communication from Sergio Bologna, 3 January 2007. Bologna adds that this positioning between agriculture and industry, which in the Veneto of that time was also bound up with the petrochemical cycle, may help explain the particular approach to environmental issues developed by Bianchini and certain other operaisti in the region (for example, Augusto Finzi).

(5) A website dedicated to the memory of Cornelius Castoriadis contains this message from Bianchini (1997): 'Without him we would have been different. We came out of the gloom and incomprehension of the present state of things only after having read "Socialisme ou barbarie". Since then the world has changed greatly, but this change, in part, is thanks to him. At the very least we owe him the fact that a high quality debate was possible, capable of drawing out [sviscerare] the miseries of the European left's politics'.

(6) Judge Calogero, who headed the 7 April prosecution in Padua, had a different reading of this: according to him, Bianchini's disagreements with Negri about the terrain, form and goals of class struggle were simply a subterfuge designed to deflect 'possible accusations of membership in Autonomia Operaia' (quoted in Ferrajoli 1983: 190).

(7) In Italian, stato is the past participle of the verb essere, partito the past participle of the verb partire.

(8) In this sense Sergio Bologna (2003: 99) is correct to point to the absence, in my own discussion of operaismo's history, of Gambino's role during the sixties in promoting 'the intensification of the relations with the American Left'.

(9) An exhaustive bibliography of Moroni's words in print can be found in Libreria Calusca (nd).

(10) The LUMHI project has been revived in recent years - details are available from

(11) Personal communication from Sergio Bologna, 3 January 2007.

(12) Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), the neo-fascist party upon whose parliamentary support the Tambroni government relied.


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