Red Notes' preface to Revolution Retrieved by Antonio Negri.

Submitted by Fozzie on May 24, 2024

This book is a selection of key political and theoretical articles by Toni Negri, spanning the period of his involvement in the Italian revolutionary left since the 1960s. These writings are essential for an understanding of the political outlook of the Italian autonomist movement; a movement which developed one of the most massive and coherent challenges in Europe to the system of austerity politics and the role of the established Left within it in the 1970s. These Negri essays provided a theoretical and critical reference point for ongoing debates in the development of this new class politics of communism, based on the liberation of needs and refusal of the capitalist system of work, from its origins in the "workerism" of the 1960s to the movement of "autonomy" in the 1970s. As such they are still more than relevant to an understanding of today's problems in a revolutionary class perspective.

Negri is best known abroad for the world-wide notoriety surrounding his arrest and imprisonment in 1979, along with many others, on conspiracy charges. His trial process took the form of an attempt to criminalise and destroy the ideas and memory of the entire movement to which he had contributed. One aim of this book is to put these ideas back into focus, against the general distortion to which they have been subjected.

He is now living in exile in France, having been sentenced to 30 years imprisonment in Italy for his political activities. Almost all of the original charges against him have since been dropped at the appeal stage (February 1987). After eight years of exile and/or imprisonment, his codefendants in the trial have been acquitted. It is now generally recognised that the April 7th trial was a political inquisition from start to finish, using "terrorist" labels to incriminate movements of the opposition outside and against the established political system. Negri, in short, was used as a political scapegoat to reinforce the party pact known as the "Historic Compromise".

In the English-speaking world, little is known of the quality, breadth and conceptual originality of Negri's work, as a contributor to new Marxist revolutionary perspectives. And yet his writings are a key point of reference for the much-needed "updating" of Marxist conceptual vocabulary today, if it is to grasp the radical changes in capitalist control over labour, the new form of state power, and new forms of class antagonism - the development of new class subjectivities and subjects, beyond traditional definitions of the working class -that have emerged in the period of the current crisis. Other European writers on these themes have been translated into English and assimilated (Foucault, the French "new philosophers", the German debate on the derivation of the state and legitimacy, to name only some). This has not been the case with Negri, despite extensive publication of his work and informed debate in other European countries - France, Germany, Spain etc.

It is hoped that our publication will fill this gap and stimulate a new level of analysis and debate on the originality of the class situation facing us today from a Marxist and communist perspective. At a time when it is widely felt that the existing vocabularies of class analysis are in crisis, that they are increasingly paralysed in the face of the new antagonisms of state power and class subjects today and unable to provide any new indications of the way ahead, this publication of Negri's writings is important and timely.

Its importance lies in Negri's sustained effort, throughout the period covered by these essays, to seek ways of updating the categories of class analysis by re-interpreting Marx in the light of contemporary changes. He develops his analysis of the changing state form by constant reference to a dynamic reading of the capital-labour relation and of class recomposition in the crisis. His method is based on a re-reading of Marx - in particular the much underplayed Marx of the Grundrisse, a text he interprets in ways which provide exciting new insights as regards the overall tendency of the class struggle towards communism.

Negri provides crucial indications as to how the present tendency of the class struggle, in its forms, content and composition, is qualitatively different to what it was in the past.

For Negri, the springboard of the contemporary permanent state of crisis lies in the autonomy of struggles for income and the liberation of proletarian life-needs, challenging capitalist relations of work, not only in production but in reproduction and circulation as a whole. Class antagonism has been recomposed at a higher level of socialisation around new subjectivities of struggle, directly presenting a communist content. The crisis is first and foremost a crisis of the wage work relation, a general crisis of the value form itself. This was already true from its inception, in the "mass worker" composition of the great international wave of struggles that undermined the Keynesian system from the late 1960s onwards. Following on from this, the multiple rebellions from the mid-1970s onwards against the austerity regime, throughout the capitalist (and socialist) world, are by no means revolts of "marginals" or a "reserve army", as according to the old Marxist schema. They represent movements for the self-valorisation of needs against the imposition of productivity and the discipline of the labour market. Hence new problems and perspectives for the Marxist analysis of class antagonism. And hence also insurmountable problems for the conventional outlook and vocabularies of socialism, still geared to the values of labour productivity and planning. The crisis is also a definitive crisis for socialism, as an anti-capitalist alternative. Negri argues that contemporary crisis and development are no longer those of an unregulated capitaiism: both the Keynesian state, which he defines as the "planner state" (stato piano), and the post-Keynesian "crisis state" consist of historic new levels of political and monetary control, redefinitions of the state form in response to the new levels of class challenge that they seek to contain. These are dimensions that can only be ignored at the cost of a debility in developing anticapitalist perspectives adequate to today's conditions.

To summarise: it is Negri's sustained and systematic concern to politicise and historicise economic categories from "a working-class standpoint" (punto di vista di classe) that makes him stand out as one of the most authentic Marxists of our period.

Our book presents six major articles and some supplementary materials relating to Negri's imprisonment and trial in the "April 7th" case. It includes essays from Negri's period in prison (1979-83). Each essay is prefaced by an editorial introduction, placing it in its political and theoretical context. The book also contains a reading list and brief biography.

It has taken us several years to bring this book to press . It is being printed as the first in a series of books which will eventually publish the entire contents of the Red Notes Italian Archive. (This collection of translated materials from the Italian revolutionary Left runs to around 2,000 pages, and is housed at the University of Reading and Ann Arbor libraries; the extensive collection of Italian-language materials is lodged with the British Library of Political and Economic Science - the LSE Library). The work on the book has been hard, but we are proud of the result achieved. We chose the title as a pointer to Negri's attempts to rescue the "revolutionary" Marx from the grip of those who have tried to deaden and mystify his radical impulse. We also chose the title as a hope for the future: social revolution in a working-class and communist

London, February 1988