This section of our pamphlet is about the Left in Italy, about the Movement, and about the problems that they face. In our experience, Lotta Continua has been the organisation most likely to be open to the changes and contradictions of the present situation. It is for this reason that we concentrate our attention mainly on what has happened inside Lotta Continua. This does not, of course, imply that LC is the only serious organisation on the Italian Left.
In the history of Lotta Continua there is no more important event than the National Congress which was held in November 1976 (pre-dating the events described in this pamphlet). It was a major upheaval, whose repercussions were felt throughout the organisation, with a deep crisis in the year that followed. We have shown the nature of the Congress debate by reprinting a selection of the speeches; and we indicate the nature of the ensuing crisis by reprints from the Letters Pages of Lotta Continua's newspaper, which has thrown open its pages to all sides of the revolutionary movement, to initiate a lively and crucial debate on the correct directions to take in the coming period.
Therefore this final section of our pamphlet contains the following:
The first section is a series of speeches from the Rimini Congress, chosen and edited in order to show the kinds of tensions and contradictions that have arisen inside the Italian revolutionary movement.
The second section is a selection from the newly-opened Letters Pages of
Lotta Continua: it shows the high quality of the political debate in Italy, and
also the fears, hopes and confusions. It shows how Italian comrades are now
going a long way in breaking down the separation between the "personal" and
the "political" spheres of life.
The third section is a list of the various groups in the revolutionary Left. And a note on the Italian Women's Movement.
The fourth section is an overall analysis, an article by Sergio Bologna, one of the editors of the Marxist journal "Primo Maggio"
The fifth section is a series of Notes and Corrections to the pamphlet,
The sixth section is an Appendix about the question of Social Democracy
And finally there is a Reading List .
Note 1: Up until now, the Left organisations in Britain have tended to treat the
developments in the Italian revolutionary Left as a kind of joke - a reflection of
the "Mickey Mouse" treatment accorded by the bourgeois Press.
Unfortunately, the source materials have not, so far, been available for British
comrades to judge the situation for themselves. We hope that the items reprinted here will provide that much-needed source material, to show how urgent, serious, and unavoidable this debate in Italy has been.
Note 2: The English language suffers from a shortcoming: in Italian sexual differences are easily conveyed, by word endings (eg compagno/ compagna; operaia/operaio). In English we have to use the much more clumsy "women comrades", "male workers" etc. We have done this, because in many cases simply saying "comrades" would have not conveyed the
full meaning of the speaker's intentions.
THE RIMINI CONGRESS OF LOTTA CONTINUA
The following items are speeches that were made at the Rimini Congress of Lotta Continua, November 1976. They are chosen for being representative of some of the main arguments and contradictions inside the organisation at that time. We have translated them from the book of the proceedings of the Congress, published by Edizione Giornalisti Lotta Continua, 1976, under the title 11 2° Congresso di Lotta Continua.
The first item is a translation of the Introduction to that book, written by Guido Viale, a leading member of the organisation. It is a shortened version.
The second national Congress of Lotta Continua was held in Rimini between 31st October and 4th November 1976. During the 5 days of the Congress, over 500 comrades spoke in the plenary sessions, the commissions, the women's meetings, the workers' meetings, and the workshops. This alone illustrates the extraordinary character of the Congress.
When Lotta Continua came to its second Congress, like all the other groups of the revolutionary Left in Italy it was going through a crisis which was striking not so much at its political line, as its way of carrying out its politics ... its relationship with the masses... the way political positions were arrived at: a crisis which undermined the very reasons for its existence as an organisation, and undermined every single militant's reasons for political involvement.
These are not problems that have appeared out of the blue. They are the product of many years of class struggle in Italy - of the successes and the mistakes which have accumulated without being adequately thought through. They are problems that arise through the "personal" history of at least 4 "generations" of revolutionary militants: the generation that was politicised before 1968; those who came into the struggle through the workers' Hot Autumn and the student revolt of 1968-9; the generation that grew in the wage struggles, anti-fascist struggles and the fight against Andreotti's Government during 1972-4; and finally the generation that has been formed since the intensification of the Crisis, in the difficult struggle against the restructuring of the factories (ie productivity deals etc), in the struggles of the unemployed and those of the small factories against redundancies, in the housing struggles and the self-reduction of prices, in the youth collectives, and in the explosion of feminism.
The split and the estrangement between this last generation and the organisations of the revolutionary Left, including Lotta Continua, has become increasingly evident.
This crisis, this imbalance between the demands of the class struggle and the ability of an organisation to cope with them starts a "race with time", which becomes increasingly tiring and lacking in adequate collective thought inside the organisation. This in turn is the origin of the schematism and abstraction in the way the political line is developed. Thus the relationship with the masses deteriorates, first qualitatively, and then quantitatively.
This process, which has been going on for some time, has been accentuated since the General Election of June 20th 1976. Revolutionaries have taken the results of June 20th as a defeat - even a personal defeat - although it was not seen this way among the great mass of people.
Our second Congress had been decided on over a year ago, and finally took place after having been postponed several times. Its story is the story of the answers we have tried to find for the problems that came to light after June 20th problem whose effects on militants have extended far outside the confines of the various organisations of the revolutionary Left .....
There has been no period in the history of the Italian revolutionary Left which has been comparable for its depth and intensity of discussion. It is still too early to say clearly what will come out of this debate in organisational terms, and in political line. It is certain, however, that this debate will leave its mark on the entire revolutionary Left, and particularly on those parts of the revolutionary Left who decided to react to the crisis of June 20th in an open way, not by isolating themselves (as some groups have done - witness the limited publicity they give to their internal debates) and not by hardening-out their internal differences.
This is the situation that the Rimini Congress aimed to break through - a position that we still maintain today.
The Trends in the Congress
So, what did our organisation discuss during the Congress? First, we should reject the misconception that is being spread around, that Lotta Continua did not discuss politics or its political line. The speeches that we are printing here are the best reply to this misconception ...
There are of course "two legs" on which our political discussion should proceed: on the one hand our political work, the elaboration and carrying out of our political line; and on the other, the political challenging of that line and the way it is carried out, with everybody being able to contribute, bringing in the relation of our mass work and the contents that are emerging from the class struggle. The Rimini Congress gave its main emphasis to one of these poles - the latter one: it opened a decisive political battle against the leaderist elaboration of the organisation's political line - a method of elaboration which is often abstract and even 'fetishistic', a method which in Lotta Continua has been fed and encouraged by its methods of leadership.
The political line, the organisation and its militants came under intense discussion. This discussion was dominated by three themes. The first was feminism. The second was the centrality of the working class (centralita operaia). And the third was the nature of political leadership in the organisation.
The first theme, then, was feminism. The women comrades rebelled against a political practice and a concept of communism and the revolution which totally ignored their needs - to the extent that it transformed revolutionary militancy into a new form of oppression.
They were able to put forward a deep-rooted criticism not only of the political line in abstract, but also of the way it was carried out. The women comrades developed this practical criticism, collectively, starting from their own personal experience In the women's movement, in everyday life, and in Lotta Continua.
But this need to discuss the contradictions we experience is something which is valid for everyone: it is a fundamental condition which can no longer be ignored in the reconstruction of any revolutionary organisation.
Lotta Continua was late in coming to terms with feminism - at least, as far as the men comrades were concerned - and when it came up against feminism it was a traumatic, violent moment. The events of December 6th (t.n. when Lotta Continua members physically attacked a women-only march about abortion in Rome) are, and will continue to be for some time, an important question for debate.
For the women comrades this was the starting point whereby the feminist component of our organisation began to "harden out". For some this was an intermediate stage towards starting to work increasingly outside the organisation, or simply leaving the organisation. For others it gave the spur for setting up autonomous areas of work and development, as well as forcing the men comrades to rethink the basic problems of revolution, of communism, and the construction of the revolutionary party, starting from their own needs as women and proletarians and as comrades.
For most of the men comrades in Lotta Continua, December 6th and the subsequent separation of the feminists was the clearest sign yet of their lost power, and of the limitations of their own abilities and the traditional methods of running the organisation. It is not surprising, therefore, that the internal discussion about the question of organisational structures in Lotta Continua, which had been very lively even before December 6th, should now become a central theme ... defined in quite new terms, by the women comrades.
The men comrades of our organisation, including the male workers, find it hard to come to terms with the way the theory and practice of the organisation has been subverted, as a necessary result of this eruption of feminism (in fact they don't always manage it) ..... It was extremely difficult for the male workers to control the contradictions through which our organisation was passing .....
The main contradiction was between men and women. But it was not the only one. For instance the contradictions of unemployed and underemployed youth, State clerical workers etc. In this situation, the Rimini Congress (and the pre-Congress meetings), by bringing together various components which in some cases had not confronted each other for months, produced an explosive effect which exposed the limits of the lack of democratic centralism which for some time had been paralysing Lotta Continua .
There has developed a just demand that one's own existence and condition
in society should be recognised as the basis for one's own participation in the construction of a revolutionary party. This was a demand that arose not only from the women but also from the workers and the young people (note that the young people perhaps had the least space in the Rimini Congress, and yet have most valued the terms of its debate, as has been shown by the big increase in mass youth work, and how the attendance of young people at our meetings has increased dramatically since Rimini).
The second dominant theme of the Congress was workers' centrality. If we want to start a discussion about the way in which our organisation functions, we have to start from a contradiction: On the one hand the workers in Lotta Continua are continuing, through their own work, to guarantee a relationship with the masses, on behalf of almost the whole organisation; they have also guaranteed the political unity of Lotta Continua, albeit within broad areas of great disagreements; and in many branches it has been the workers who have ensured the continued existence of Lotta Continua after the Election of June 20th. But on the other hand - and here's the contradiction - they have had less and less influence on the elaboration of our political line, and in the decision-making processes, which have generally gone right over their heads.
Behind this "loss of workers' centrality" inside our organisation, there is a more general, more crucial problem arising out of this whole period of intensification of the Crisis: ie the attack by the state and by capital, on the centrality - ie the leading role - of the working class in relation to the whole of the proletariat (by which mean all those sectors who, having been invested by the strength and the contents of the workers' struggles over the past few years, have now found, or are starting to find, the path towards their own autonomous growth as a movement and a mass organisation: the unemployed, the State and local authority employees, the young people, the soldiers, the social struggle etc).
The attempt to "corporatise" the working class, and turn it into one sector among many others, is the main thrust of the capitalist attack (which is shared by the line of the PCI and the trade union leadership). This is a counter to the leadership role that the workers have won for themselves, ever since 1969, in relation to the whole of the proletariat - a leadership role that has provided the most solid base for the workers' autonomy. But we cannot meet this attack be reducing the class struggle to simply the working class in the big factories in its daily confrontation with the employer and the government. This approach would tend to nullify precisely the richness of political content, of social subjects, of material power that workers' autonomy has produced in recent years.
There is a risk, on the one band, of conceiving the revolutionary party as the juxtaposition of the vanguards of various numbers of mass movements, all with their own particular interests, thereby putting the working class in a corner along with all the rest, and entrusting the task of mediating between and recomposing the contradictions that open in the class, to a higher "political leadership".
On the other hand there is the risk of seeing, in the working class and in the centrality of the contents expressed by workers' autonomy, the right
of workers (male, adult and fully employed) to dictate and lay down the law to all other proletarians, rather than providing a stimulus for the growth and development of the other mass movements. The isolation in which the workers in Lotta Continua have been kept, due to the leadership methods of our organisation in recent years, is the principal cause of this ..increasing danger.
The debate at the Rimini Congress among the workers showed that the main way to break this isolation will be through political discussion of the present phase and our political line and our tasks within it.
The third major theme was that of the political leadership of Lotta Continua, the comrades who have exercised it, and they way in which they have exercised it. (t.n. We are leaving discussion of this aspect to the contribution made by Adriano Sofri in his closing speech).
The first day of the Congress was fairly 'regular'. Adriano Sofri made his introductory speech, which was followed by contributions from the various Commissions. However, the atmosphere was tense - a continuation of the pre-Congress regional meetings .... the emergence of the new movement of young people, the pressure felt by the women etc.
On the evening of the first day, the women asked for the proceedings to be suspended, because they wanted to meet as women. They also demanded that the Congress should not continue in their absence. This was agreed - and not only the women, but also the workers, went off to have meetings by themselves.
The women and the workers felt that they had not been getting the right to speak. They decided that the next day should be a general, plenary session (instead of the planned workshops). And they decided that all speeches that day should alternate a woman - a worker - a woman - a worker etc.
It was this day's speeches that really opened up the areas of problem and contradiction. It is for this reason that we are printing the following edited speeches.
Cio From Fiat Spa-Strata
On the question of workers' centrality. I personally don't believe that workers are 'better', or more 'capable', and for that reason should lead the revolution. No. I don't believe that today the workers can provide a line for the feminist comrades, a political line for the students. However, I will make one simple observation: the idea of workers' centrality expresses the fact that only the worker, as a worker, expresses what is expressed by the proletariat. Women, as women, do not express what is expressed by the proletariat. They can be women, just women, even bourgeois women. They can be reactionary women, and not express the proletarian point of view. I say this without meaning to be anti-feminist (as I have been accused), because it is a simple fact. The feminist comrades should keep this in mind. It's obvious that I can't manage to grasp all the problems of the feminist comrades, but I still say that today we have to face the problem of where the feminist comrades stand, from the proletarian and working class point of view, in the elaboration of their mass line and their objectives.
The same thing applies for students. The student, as a student, is not a proletarian. A student can be a proletarian, as can a woman, but simply as students and as women they do not express the proletariat. It is very different for the worker, because the conditions of his existence in society, force him to be a proletarian, because he has no alternative, while the woman is not forced to be a proletarian.
I do not say this, to oppose the women's movement. I say this because you must explain to me how certain things are to be resolved - if you're in fact taking them into consideration in the elaboration of your political line...if you are keeping the proletarian point of view firmly in mind...because this seems to me fundamental, particularly if we are to avoid counterposing lines between sectors of our organisation.
There is a further problem regarding workers' centrality, in relation to Lotta Continua's way of running itself - the leaderist way in which the organisation is run. As I see it, workers' centrality is to be sought among the masses. As I see it, the correct relationship with the masses is already workers' centrality, as far as we are concerned, but as far as the organisation is concerned, that's another matter.
I want to describe the outline of the Party as I see it. I want to compare it to an army, in which there is the general staff, there are the officers, and there are the soldiers. I'll start with the soldiers, since, obviously, you can't get anywhere without the soldiers. Who are the soldiers? They are the masses. So who are the officers, today? I say that the officers are groupings like the workers' collectives at Lancia-Chivasso .. the workers' coordination in Milan...the agitation groupings inside Fiat-Mirafiori ... and the autonomous committees in all the other sectors. These are the officers, in my opinion. They are part and parcel of the structure of the revolutionary party.
And the general staff? As I see it, it is not us who are the general staff, today, precisely because we are not capable of building the revolutionary party .. we do not have the tools to build it ... we do not have the structures to do it. And therein lies the whole range of reasons why we are not the general staff.
Very often the reason why things come to a standstill cannot be blamed on the leadership. The elaboration of the political line must start from the base, certainly, but the problem is how to get this process moving, how to carry it forward ...
Donatella from Catanzaro
That speech was followed immediately by this contribution from Donatella from Catanzaro, explaining how the so-called "workers' centrality" cannot resolve the problems of women.
First of all I want to thank the comrade who spoke before me, because I think he has broken what was beginning to look like an absurd unanimity of opinion in this Conference, and he showed up the contradictions that exist among us.
I want to talk about what the party should be, from the viewpoint of feminist militancy.
I think that I have understood many things in this past year, and I have changed my ideas on what the party means. What I mean is that if we abandon the old way we used to see things, we will find a whole wealth of experience inside the class struggle today. I am basing what I say on what happened to us in Catanzaro, because I believe that you have to base yourself on practical experience in the class struggle.
A 19-year old woman recently died during childbirth at Catanzaro Hospital. They let her die. As a result of this, and through our leaflets, we held a series of meetings with the midwives and the nurses in the maternity wards, and we discovered that conditions inside the hospital were horrible ..... conditions of exploitation, such that deaths were bound to occur (15-hour shifts, for instance). If we had just stopped at that and gone no further, I don't think we would have understood at all what it means to carry out class struggle in a hospital.
Arising out of these meetings, we discovered other things: that there is not only economic exploitation. The midwives and nurses don't just let a patient die just because they haven't got time. No. There's something else, which can't be solved simply by cutting the hours of work. It is that the midwives and nurses experience a contradiction which originates in their sexual repression. What does that mean? It means that the women who are having babies, who are in there for reasons linked in some way to sex, are rejected because they are seen as an incarnation of that sense of guilt which women have always had, and have internalised. If their self-awareness is not raised, it will never be possible to solve the problems which the patients and the nurses and the midwives have.
So how did we face the problem? We took up the problem of consciousness raising with the nurses. Some came into our consciousness-raising group,
but, more important, they started discussing with the other nurses what being
a woman meant, inside the hospital.
These may seem small things, but they show what "facing the class struggle in a different way" means. The women patients were for the first time being encouraged to rebel against what the doctors were doing to them. And that is important, because when a woman is having her baby, and she tears, and they give her stitches without bothering to put her to sleep first, because they don't care - well then, the women should be encouraged to protest.
As regards "the centrality of workers in politics" (centralita operaia), I would like to point out that there are workers among the women as well!
And they are not only workers - they also have to become aware of how they,
as women, fit into the factory situation: for example, in the way they
are exploited. In Catanzaro, 150 casual workers were recently sacked, and most were women. I believe that the problem of sackings has been dealt
with in a one-sided and incorrect way. Married women probably feel less strongly about being sacked because they are less conscious of the fact that it is not enough to take money home ... that it is necessary for them to become independent in their own lives, too.
In Catanzaro, a girl of 15 was raped by someone who fancied her. The rapist was charged with obscene acts in a public place - but so was the girl! Now, there's something that must be clarified. This girl comes from a village where the land has been occupied - where 800 farm labourers have joined the Farm Labourers Union. And yet, in a village where the class struggle has been so fierce, that girl was looked on as a prostitute. Men stop her in the street, as if they can use her as they want.
I believe that these farm labourers are not carrying out a real class struggle and will never make the revolution ..... (applause) .... They won't do it, and neither, of course, will we, because I think that the reality of the class struggle today is something that we still have to discover. I think that, starting from the problem of women, we can begin to learn to make a different class analysis, because there are so many contradictions within the working class today, and they all have to be analysed ... This means that we have to have a new conception of the party, with a clear political line, and giving a clear leadership.
I don't agree with trying to build our party by having 10 meetings a day. Today the party has to see itself in relation to a new reality in the class struggle. In order to liberate ourselves from all these contradictions, we must find a new way of organising.
As regards the "centrality of the working class", there is another thing I want to say. There is now something else which is central, and I am going to make it quite clear what I mean. I believe that this "centrality of the walking class" notion cannot, today, express women's point of view (even though there are women workers). Abortion is an example ....
It's quite clear that the content of the Abortion Bill has a sweeping revolutionary significance, and the fight on this front is being developed only by women, because today it is the women who have the ability to say who has the "right to life". I think that the "right to life" is a meaningless phrase, since in every historical period people have conceived of the right to life in different ways. I think that today it is only women who have the right to say who has the right to life.
Women have not only agreed to make their bodies available for creating another life .. they've also accepted another thing: that the baby can be fed, looked after, brought up by the father too. Until recently this was not the case. It was only the mother who fed the baby and gave up her life when the 9 months was over. It was us women who, in this way, allowed humanity to develop. I think this is very important. It is not only in material terms that we have allowed other human beings to live - but we have also done it by sacrificing a large slice of our sexuality. For a very simple reason: when men make love, they don't suffer any consequences (except that they might have succeeded or failed to please the woman). But for women there are enormous consequences, which have marked women's lives for thousands of years, every day and every year of their lives: the fact that when they make love, they are also creating children. Thus sexuality and motherhood have up till now been inseparable, and even now, contraceptives, abortions etc, are things which violate women yet again.
I'm convinced that this needs stating very strongly. We have given our life to others, at the price of our own sexuality. And this doesn't just affect women, either, because it happens through the family, through the maintenance of a concept, a society. Women have seen their fulfilment only in terms of having children.
So, I think that all these things give to women, and only to women, the right to determine who has the "right to life" and who doesn't. ( .... ) That is why I am saying that concentrating on "the centrality of the working class" (centralita operaia)can only express a certain part of all the problems that we face.
Laura from Turin
Donatella's speech was followed by another, from Laura from Turin, who took up similar lines of argument.
"I want to say that the class struggle is here, in this assembly. I want to start with some of the recent developments in our organisation.
I believe that the 6th December 1976 (the big abortion march) was an important date, because for the first time a political organisation became aware of the contradictions inside itself. I well remember the clash with Adriano Sofri (I was there when we occupied the National Committee meeting). We had accused 2 comrades of Cinecitta of fascism. Sofri defended these comrades, saying that you couldn't use the term fascism for comrades who were involved everyday in anti-fascist struggle.
I remember that I replied: "Well, what should we call them? Should we just carry on calling them comrades and leave it at that? I would like to know what name I should give these comrades who are my enemies in the street and who are my enemies every day" And so, for the first time, the term 'sexist' had to be accepted inside our organisation. 'Sexist comrades'!
How have the demands that women comrades have been making, developed inside the organisation? There was a need to win a wider political role ...
but this did not come about. The women comrades did not succeed. They continued to go to branch meetings, but they were unable to open up the debate.
I remember that in the branch meetings I tried to explain how we women were organising ourselves, what we were doing in the area etc etc - all of which was completely ignored. It was as though we had come from another planet. It was impossible to get our ideas across.
This situation continued - and women comrades increasingly started
working outside the structures of our party. And what was the response to this? It was: "We recognise the autonomy of women" ... "We wouldn't want to stick our noses into women's affairs" .. "The women have their own autonomy - they can do what the fuck they like", etc. But how does one go on supporting the male-dominated party? It is a little difficult to support the Men's Revolutionary Party.
I think that today, for the first time in the provincial congresses, we have begun to face the problem of the women comrades who haven't actually made the choice "I'm leaving Lotta Continua", but who in reality are no longer in the party. So what is the answer? We're told "We'll make a grand alliance between workers and women"! The women are organising on their own - Good!
And now the workers, who for-years have been expropriated by the leadership, are organising on their own. So perhaps we could organise the party. After all, both of us, women and workers, are important for the revolution, and so we should come to an agreement .....
I believe that the women comrades have intervened in the spirit of changing these things. We say that there is no way you could form an alliance of women and workers at the moment (male workers), and we say it very firmly. We try to explain it in very practical terms.
We think - and it came out in the meetings that we have held over the past few days - that there is something very irrational and partial about the men comrades when they express what they need from communism, when they live in the way they live, in the way they make love, in the way they act in the streets or in the cafes, in the way they relate to people and things, in the way they act politically, and in their concept of communism.
We recognise that the workers have a fundamental role to play, but only concerning one aspect of this process - namely, the overthrow of the capitalist relations of production. We say that today this is insufficient, because it does not include the totality of women's needs as expressed by the movement.
We say that the workers are a preserve of bourgeois power in the division of labour between men and women. I maintain that the work which Donatella
was talking about earlier is a burden which rests entirely on the shoulders
of women. Pregnancy is work, comrades, because it requires hard work ... energy ... because it prevents you from doing other things. Breast-feeding and raising a child, that's work too. But that's not all. Being sexual objects is work. Being the object of male pleasure is work.
So we are struggling against this kind of work defined by capitalism which is imposed on us. And workers' centrality (making male workers the centre of our politics - trans.) will not satisfy our needs in this sense.
Lina from Magneti Marelli
Contribution following on from Laura, from Lina, a woman factory worker from Magneti Marelli, Milan.
Before being a woman, I'm a worker, and so I have different problems both as a woman and as a worker, inside the factory and in the place where I live.
I get very frustrated with the other comrades at the factory, because they try to keep me out of things. They think I should be shop steward. Just for the 4 women, while in fact I'm the steward for 92 workers. The Union keeps telling me: "Just concentrate on your women ... don't worry about the others". But why should I only lead the women, and not the men, if I'm quite capable of leading them?
They would like to throw me out of the Shop Stewards Committee. They try to shut me up ... they don't like me speaking out. They tell me that I'll make them all lose their jobs, and that if they continue having me as a steward, they'll end up getting thrown out of the firm. They're afraid of me, and they're against me ..... but the next minute they're with me again because they realise that it's not the bosses who'll defend their interests but me, because I fight together with them.
The male comrades ought to see and understand the problems of women, because they live in a family, with mothers, sisters, wives, and therefore they should face these problems and not deny that they exist, because they are everyone's problems. When they ignore women's problems, they are in fact denigrating themselves, since they too experience the problems, and it is wrong to ignore them.
This is why women refuse to work with them. It's not because we don't want to.
I think we must come to a proper agreement about this, so that our party can survive. The party can't exist without the women comrades because when the women started disappearing, the local branches became empty shells.
Comrades, we are aware that men need women, but we must analyse in what
way. Women have always been looked on as chattels. I have never stood up and talked about myself. I've always talked about other people's problems but never about my own. I've had very deep experiences that have influenced my life. I can't tell you all of it now, because it would take too long. I too had a husband who wanted everything his own way ... I was very ill but he just wanted me to be there as a wife and a woman. He never paid any attention when I was in a bad way and needed him. He went off with other women - except when he needed his creature comforts ... then he came back to me and I had to take him in. I've been separated from my husband for 8 years and I don't miss him. I don't even feel the need to live with another man. That's because I had this terrible experience in my life, in my past. In the 18 years I was with him, I thought I was happy, but then there vas a big crisis in my family, and I Suddenly realised that my husband was a stranger, that he meant nothing to me, and that if I hadn't had my mother by me; I would have landed up in some lunatic asylum, and I wouldn't be here today talking to you.
A man doesn't give you a real love. He gives you a "love" which disappears when he doesn't need it any more, and then he gets rid of you . He only needs a woman when she's OK, gives him a good time, is his servant in all senses of the word.
Women have become aware of this state of affairs, and they're sick of it. For thousands of years, women have been slaves of men and of society. Bourgeois society was founded on the slavery of women, and you can see this in films too - how women are sold on the market like slaves. But history teaches us that we must rebel, that we can't wait any longer. We have urgent needs - but this does not mean that we're going to ignore other important problems. And since I am a woman worker, I would also ask the men worker comrades to make the problems of women a priority, because they're urgent.
Silvio fram Parma
I speak as someone "different" (t.n: as a homosexual), and I think I can provide a perspective on how imagination and enjoyment can be developed in a clearly revolutionary way.
I said this to a comrade from FIAT, who is also a friend, and I explained what I meant by imagination, and he said to me that after work he had no time to think, although he did have the time to be aggressive and authoritarian.
Let's take the struggle for the 35-hour week. It'll be fine, if we win it. But that still leaves another 133 hours in the week .... and how are we going to learn to live them in a different way? Will it just come automatically?
( ..... )
Men comrades always repress and ignore any desire they have for me. I mean, if you're a nice person, why can't they desire you? And when I say to someone "I'm shy of expressing my love for you", he says things like: "Well actually, I've got flu at the moment .... "
Sometimes they say I'm not feminine enough - and incidentally, I must say that there are many comrades who sit around in a bar, drunk and bored, making fun of transvestites etc without looking at what's behind it all. Apart from anything else, all these transvestites, prostitutes etc are from proletarian origins .... so there's another problem that we have to face.
As you know, after the Elections there was a great hoo-ha with homosexuals writing letters to the newspapers of the so-called revolutionary Left. Somebody asked me to write a letter too. Well, I didn't feel like it. Why not? I don't know, really. I'm a homosexual, and that's that.
I should say it here and now. My name is Silvio, a gay in Lotta Continua.
If you have problems, drop me a note. All these notes will be put in a
hat, and the lucky winner will get an evening with Adriano Sofri, or the Secretariat, as you fancy. ( ... )
And now, if "Nature" is to be used against us by men, as a term of repression, then our slogan must be "It's time to fight against Nature!"
Salvatore from Alfa Romeo
Salvatore, a male worker from the Alfa Romeo factory in Milan takes up the theme of personal life.
"I too will talk about myself. I have no desire to work - and still less the kind of work that I am doing. Perhaps I could find another solution. But not the working class! There is no other way out for the working class.
The working class, not having any other means to live other than its own labour-power, is forced to sell this labour power. Thus it has no choice, if it wants to live. And how do we live? Badly!! I have to get up at six in the morning. I get to work , where my time is divided up, so that I have 4 minutes to complete the various operations of the machine. In this way I spend my eight hours.
I don't put myself into this work. It is work that is completely alien to me. Therefore, if anyone asked me if I'm happy with my work, I would have to say that I'm not.
It's obvious. There is a situation of exploitation. There are two choices - either you submit, or you rebel.
To struggle against oppression we have to get together, to organise, and when you start talking about this, implicitly you're talking about a party. If you want to have a revolution, a party is needed, and you need to get together.
We will have achieved liberation when we have abolished the classes, destroyed the bosses, and constructed communism. When we rebel collectively against the boss, when we really get at him and we don't allow him any peace of mind, that is a moment of liberation.
There is also the State, the police and the carabinieri. We need to overthrow this power to achieve liberty, the liberation.
I just spoke of my 8 hours at work. We will make no more sacrifices. We want to leave the situation of sacrifices behind us.
There are many who abandon the working class. They become businessmen etc. But this is going over to the enemy - this is not liberation comrades. The man/woman contradiction derives from capitalism. It is a contradiction experienced by bourgeois women as well. For example, what is the difference between Agnelli and his wife? The difference is that Agnelli has power and she hasn't.
It is a contradiction that we must face up to. I can say, at once that we are oppressed, exploited by the boss. But I am also willing to admit that the proletarian man is himself the boss, as far as his woman is concerned.
I don't agree with the comrade when she says that I must look at my own actions and make a self-criticism. No, comrade, it is you who has to make me self-critical. It is a very important aim. I mean that it is you, with your struggle, who 'll make us self-critical. I must make a greater effort to be self-critical - but your point of view will prevail if you have the strength to make it prevail.
Gaetanino from Fiat-Mirafiri
Gaetanino, a male worker from FIAT Mirafiori in Turin spoke a short while after Salvatore, explaining some problems.
Comrades. I'm a bit frightened to be speaking here ... I'm getting a sort of knot in my stomach, because I find it very hard. In the workers meeting we were all agreed and united, and we're head-on against the union. Now, here in this meeting there are some positions which are right and some which are wrong. I've got a way of seeing things, and I live it, in the factory. But now that I come here, I'm sort of castrated when it comes to explaining a correct idea, like how workers' power today cannot be delegated. Anyway, that's where I want to start from.
Today, as it happens, the bosses, Andreotti and the Communist Party are all united in their-battle against the working class. We had this recent Budget coming crashing on our heads, and what has the working class been doing? What are the weapons of the working class? The instinctive weapons have always been those of violence ... how to bring about a crisis in the powers- that -be ... like has happened in Turin and various other parts of Italy .... In other words, succeeding in capturing a majority, by means of a favourable show of force. Like in the factory, if we saw the boss laying off workers from the assembly lines, we didn't used to go home ... we marched up to the management instead. This happened at Mirafiori during the struggles over gradings: all of us marched off to the Admin buildings, because that was our strength. And we succeeded in our objectives.
We must no longer delegate our power to the revisionists. But the problem now is to know who are our enemies, who are the class enemies. During the struggle against restructuring of the plant, our comrades were picked out and identified on the marches, and the foremen transferred those comrades who gave them trouble, who obstructed the boss's policies.
During the struggles over the wage agreement, the foremen took a beating at the hands of the workers, because the workers didn't want to be transferred, they didn't want their strength to be broken, their groups to be dispersed.
But in the recent events things have been very different. In Turin there was a mass meeting. The Union did not make the speeches etc. They said that they were in agreement that the workers should speak first. And the workers attacked the Union, and attacked the Communist Party. They said: "I voted CP. And now Berlinguer says that the working class has to make sacrifices. I'm sick and tired of making sacrifices, and when I voted CP I did it to show that I wouldn't accept any more sacrifices, and to show that the CP should take forward the class interests of the workers.".
Then some of the Communist Party people got up and spoke, and all they did was to explain that, since there was a crisis, sacrifices were required. So,
by voting CP, the workers had delegated to the Communist party the job of taking forward their own needs ....
The Christian Democrats, after 30 years of misgovernment, thought they would find a working class that was finished. But events have shown the opposite to be true. Workers have responded to the Budget by blocking off motorways, marching to the price-control offices etc ....
At Mirafiori there have been pickets against working overtime, and the workers said: "Up till yesterday the Union was allowing 131 Section to come in and work overtime. Well, now we're going to stop everybody doing overtime."
Now the workers are tired of always having to go back to square one. They want to create a crisis in this plan, this programme of the revisionists .... I'm sorry if I'm finding it a bit hard to explain all this, I'm in a bit of a state .... I wanted to explain what I felt about the 35-hour week at Mirafiori and how it affects me personally. In the mass meetings we were very solid, since we could show that a reduction in the working week could attack the employer's process of restructuring and upset his plans. Then we showed that the 35-hour week was a correct demand. Then the Union official turned round and asked me: "Do you want your half-hour break inside or outside your basic 35 hours?"
At that moment I didn't know what to say ... At one point we thought we had won, on the question of the 35 hours. We thought we had put the Union in a crisis. At some points there was booing of the Union, and some workers argued against the agreement .... but others were saying that we should keep quiet about it, because the Lotta Continua comrades over in Milan had in fact accepted the agreement, and so we shouldn't just be obstructive .... But anyway, this is my struggle, and I live it myself, personally. And Adriano Sofri, a charismatic person, is quite welcome to come and organise in Turin, but he'd better get it into his head that he must leave the workers alone to do what they have to do, he must leave the workers to work out their political line, themselves.
Adriano Sofri, General Secretary
At the end of this Second National Congress of Lotta Continua (a unique conference, by any standards), Adriano Sofri, founder and undisputed leader for seven years of the most powerful revolutionary organisation in the industrial West stood up and made the following self-criticism.
This Congress is enormously important, for me and for all the comrades who are taking part in it. I have given my introductory report to the Congress, and for some while I had hoped that it would be my last report as general secretary. I was also more than happy that I would not be doing the summing up.
Being a General Secretary means being the top of a pyramid. At the base of that pyramid are people - people who have what is known as a "social existence" whether from a sexual point of view, or from their location within the relations of production. Down below there, there are the men and the women, the workers in all their different industries, the young and the old etc etc.
But as you ascend the pyramid, you lose more and more this relationship with a social existence of your own, and you find yourself involved more and more in synthesising and generalising. At the very top sits the General Synthesis - where you are neither male nor female (yes, I know you are really male!), neither old nor young, neither railway worker nor factory worker ..... no .... you are General Secretary!
Up till now this has been my role. I have been working long and hard at not being General Secretary any longer. And one thing I must tell you, comrades, is this: even though I worked right up to the last minute to ensure that this might not be a "congress" in the usual manner (people have spoken of manipulation, string-pulling etc, but I think the way the Congress has proceeded can dispel those doubts) .... well, anyway, what has happened at this Congress was something I never could have imagined.
I have wavered, a lot- especially recently, between having confidence and having no confidence in the role of our women comrades (starting from those I know ~ whom I see every day). This lack of confidence has become almost permanent with me in recent weeks. Well, I have been completely shown up by this Congress: in short, I was wrong.
( ..... )
In the first phase of Lotta Continua's history my role was heavily questioned by many comrades and many local branches - but it was much easier to define then, than it was in the second phase. My role was that of a "smart-Alec" a "ganzo", as they say in Tuscany. There they have even coined a term "smart-Aleckism" - which means to look out for yourself, and to be one-up by ripping other people off. In the early phase, "smart-Aleckism in the service of the working class" was particularly easy to justify, when the "smart-Aleckism" of certain people coincided with the spontaneous, mass expression of working class rebellion. I was one who put his smart-Aleckism, so to speak, at the service of the working class. But then I drew the working class into the service of my "smart-Aleckism", justifying myself with the fact that the working class was marching towards its radiant destiny etc.
( ..... )
A handful of people (Sofri includes himself here) who knew each other and who ran the organisation, considered Lotta Continua to be a sort of private property which they could use without having to ask anyone's permission, simply by interpreting or "leading " the moods and attitudes of the rank and file
( ..... )
The problem that has come to the fore, recently, has been the problem of the autonomy of individuals. Of course, in this type of organisation, individuals have a very strong degree of autonomy. At present we are passing through a collective crisis that is quite unprecedented. But there have been other searing moments of crisis - between comrades, within the masses, in different sectors of the movement etc. In those moments there are some comrades who can stand up to it better than others.
The fact is, I can manage. I can get along. I think about it and I feel OK, and if I'm alone I'm OK. I'm interested in understanding things, and when I think that I understand them, I have a feeling of power. That is my material base. I've wanted power ever since I was a little boy. It's a material base of my way of being, it's an obstacle to the fact that, even when I am aware of my way of being. I manage to get over it easily.
A long time ago, before Lotta Continua existed, I took part in a political discussion. I took up a position on what a vanguard is. I argued against the Leninist approach and maintained the notion of the "internal" (as opposed to the "external.") vanguard (ie the blokes who are in the vanguard inside some real, actual struggle, like workers in a factory; as opposed to the theoreticians who are not personally taking part in struggles themselves, from the inside, but who are the 'professionals' with a general overall view which the workers, according to Leninists, cannot reach by their own efforts (our note). There is no need for me to spend much time on this. The fact, though, is that even though I am, and have been, firmly critical of comrade Lenin’s thesis and the conditions that gave birth to it. I myself, in all my life, have never managed to be an internal vanguard of anything!
( ..... )
In this Congress we have had a confrontation - to my mind a very beautiful and very fruitful confrontation. It has been exactly analogous to the confrontation that took place in 1968 and 1969, between the revisionists and trade unions on the one hand, and the students of '68 plus the workers of ' 69 on the other. Those of us with good memories of 1968 will recall that the confrontation with the Communist Party (which reacted by revealing its complete estrangement from the student movement of the time) was not a conflict over political line, but a conflict over what politics was all about. Today we have found ourselves doing a re-run of that conflict: only now, instead of Longo, Berlinguer and Amendola and the PCI, there are Sofri, Viale & Co playing the same role. The difference has got to be in our ability to understand this situation and turn it on its head.
In the style of working of the leadership that has run Lotta Continua up till now, the vices are clear for all to see. The individualism, the "smart-Aleckism" (encouraged, moreover, by the fact that several smart Alecs banded together ... We're an organisation with few geniuses, but plenty of smart-Alecs), and lastly - and very heavy it's been too - the paternalism. There is no doubt: I am a very heavy paternalist - and my paternalism is proportionate to the very widespread “followerism” that exists in our organisation. In recent times, comrades have started to question this seriously, and my position has become very uncomfortable. For instance, at the Lotta Continua workers' assembly-recently. This was held in a very crowded room in a hotel. Many comrades were standing up. When I arrived and sat down, there was one chair which stayed empty - the one next to me! This happened for two days running. So, although I had not stopped feeling in a paternal relation to the organisation, people had stopped sitting at my side!
( ..... )
Everyone has noticed that everyone's feelings have gone up and down a lot. In my case, it's not been so much a wavering between fear and courage - but something else, which I have experienced, I think, more than anyone else. My sense of responsibility. My paternalism (which a few comrades, a little unjustly, I think, have gone so far as to call Peronism) takes the form of a "sense of responsibility", which in turn shows how I relate to the organisation as if I owned it. It has only been very recently, in this Congress, that my sense of responsibility has lessened considerably - ie I have had the feeling, not just the idea (because I've had that for some time now) that I could do without it. I now hereby resign definitively from this sense of responsibility!
( ..... )
A lot has been said about earthquakes. Someone said we should be building earthquake-proof houses etc. Well, I'd like to say something about this. (I'm stealing this idea from Cesare Moreno, who usually steals his ideas from the masses): when there is an earthquake, "you can't do anything". When they bomb you, or run after you and shoot after you, you can always hurl yourself 'to the ground. But when there's an earthquake, there's no point throwing yourself to the ground, because it's the ground that's shaking. This is a complete subversion of the ideas that people are used to. The problem in this Congress is what to hold on to. A lot of proposals have been made, about making the organisation more solid, strengthening the organisational structures etc (ie building quake-proof houses). They are all correct - but they are only the technical, "expert" side of the problem. There is also the political, the "red", side of it. In China, and Friuli when there were the earthquakes, it became apparent that the only chance is to hang on - not to the ground, which is slipping away, but to oneself to one's own consciousness, to what we call "individual autonomy'.
This not to say that this autonomy is the fruit of the individual - rather it is the fruit of the relationship between oneself and other people. In particular, in an organisation, it is the fruit of the relationship between oneself and the other comrades. Then the problem becomes whether we are to continue to hold on to our individual autonomy inside an organisation in which we have the possibility of becoming stronger, and of helping the others to grow stronger. The question of whether to leave the organisation or not, whether to split or not (not to mention the issue on which I refuse to take a stance, of the centrality of workers... the centrality of women ..this alternative is completely impossible to sustain ... I don't think that mine is a centrist position, because I stand for a link-up between both these two centralities) these are decisions that are up to all those who have lived through and understood this Congress - to hold onto themselves in relation to the other comrades both inside this organisation and outside this organisation.
( ..... )
A thought occurred to me. Once, when I was a little "smart-Alec," I was very attached to a saying of a certain professional philosopher who used to say that when we are interpreting things "We must neither laugh nor cry, but understand". More recently I've come to feel this is the biggest piece of shit that I ever heard in all my life. The problem was precisely to laugh, and to cry, and to understand.
(Applause. End of speech).
Readers should note that this Congress took place at the end of 1976 before any of the events that are charted in this pamphlet.
End of Conference Speeches.