1. Weathering the 1950s

Submitted by Juan Conatz on February 5, 2011

'So-called operaismo', noted Antonio Negri a year or so before his arrest in April 1979, had emerged above all 'as an attempt to reply politically to the crisis of the labour movement during the 1950s' (Negri 1979a: 31). A worldwide phenomenon, this crisis proved especially serious in Italy, where the crushing of revolutionary Hungary and the collapse of the Stalin myth dovetailed with a domestically induced malaise already hanging over much of the left. Together these dislocations were to become the primary concerns of a new approach to Marxism which would both anticipate the Italian new left of the 1960s and provide the soil from which workerism itself would directly spring.


The Price of Postwar Reconstruction

Submitted by Juan Conatz on February 5, 2011

The 1950s were a period of profound transformation for Italian society. The aftermath of the Second World War left much of the economy, particularly in the North, in a state of chaos. Industrial production stood at only one-quarter the output of 1938, the transport sector lay in tatters and agriculture languished. A combination of inadequate diet and low income (real wages had fallen to one-fifth the 1913 level) meant that for large sectors of the population, physical survival overrode all other considerations. Yet by the end of the following decade the nation's economic situation was startlingly different, with dramatic rises in output, productivity and consumption: Italy's 'miracle' had arrived with a flourish (Clough 1964: 315; Gobbi 1973: 3).

Even as those working the land declined in number, the rate of growth in the agricultural sector actually increased slightly between 1950 and 1960. From the middle of the decade, as secondary industry began to develop extensively, excess labour-power was encouraged to embark upon an internal migration from countryside to city, and above all from South to North. While important new investments in plant were made in Italy's North-East (petrochemicals) and South (ferrous metals), the tendency remained that of concentrating large-scale industry in the traditional Northern triangle formed by Genoa, Turin and Milan. The most dynamic sectors located here were those bound up with the production of a new infrastructure: housing, electricity, petrochemicals, ferrous metals and autos. Industrial production had already matched prewar levels by the end of the 1940s; by 1953 it had jumped another 64 per cent, and had almost doubled again by 1961 (Lieberman 1977: 95-119). All of which moved one writer in the March 1966 Issue of the Banco Nazionale del Lavoro Quarterly Review to note that

the prodigious progress made by the Italian economic system in recent years, a progress the like of which has never been seen m the economic history of Italy or any other country. (De Meo 1966: 70)

Not that such growth sprang from a void, or that its progression had been linear, smooth. The fundamental premises of the miracle, instead were established in the late 1940s only after a massive shift in the relations of force between the major classes. Italy's industrial base may have been profoundly disorganised in 1945, but as De Cecco (1972: 158) has pointed out, 'the situation was not at all desperate, especially in comparison with other [European] countnes,' While neither the social dislocation caused by the war nor Italy s continuing dependence upon the importation of raw materials could be dismissed lightly, it was also true that much of the country s prewar fixed capital remained intact, or had even been enlarged due to wartime demands. If any major obstacle to accumulation existed, therefore it was the working class itself. For many workers, and particularly those Northerners who had seized their workplaces during the struggle against Mussolini and the Wehrmacht, the future promised, if not the imminent advent of socialism - although this too was heralded in many factories - then certainly major Improvements in work conditions and pay, along with a greater say over production in general. While it was hardly a return to the heady days of 1920 this new-found power within the labour process also allowed workers to flex their muscles beyond the factory walls, leading to freezes upon both layoffs and the price of bread. Yet no matter how restrained in reality, such assertiveness was still more than the functionaries of Italian capital were prepared to concede; for them, the path to postwar reconstruction could only pass through the restoration of labour docility (Salvati 1972; Foa 1980: 137-62).

After their prominent role in the Resistance, the military defeat of fascism and Nazism in Central and Southern Italy ushered in a period of impressive growth for the parties of the left, from which the Communists – the current most firmly rooted in the factories _ would benefit most of all. But the line which party leader Palmistry Togliatti proclaimed upon his return from exile in 1944 was to surprise and disappoint many members who, however ingenuously, associated the PCI with the goal of socialist revolution. Togliatti was too shrewd a politician not to recognise the lessons that the Greek experience held out to anyone contemplating insurrection in post-Yalta Western Europe, but it would be wrong to think that international considerations restrained an otherwise aggressive Impulse to revolutionary solutions. Building upon the tradition of party policy established with the defeat of the Communist left in the 19~Os, the PCI leadership was to advance a course which sought to unite the great mass of Italians against that ‘small group of capitalIsts’ seen as objectively tied to fascism. Within such a strategy the open promotion of class antagonism could only be an obstacle. The aim instead was to build a ‘new party’, one capable of expanding its influence within both the ‘broad masses’ and the new government, Immune to the ‘sectarianism’ of those militants who spoke bluntly of establishing working-class power (Montaldi 1976: 87-8). Nor did his course alter with the fall of Mussolini’s puppet ‘social republic’ m the North. For Togliatti, the decisive arena for gains in post-fascist Italy was to be not the world of the workshop or field, but that of formal politics, where accommodation with other social groups was a prerequisite for participation. The conditions under which the PCI had entered government at war’s end were not entirely to its suiting, yet there IS no reason to doubt the sincerity of his admission that the leadership had gone ahead just the same

because we are Italians, and above everything we pose the good of our country, the good of Italy, the freedom and independence of Italy that we want to see saved and reconquered ...(quoted in Montaldi 1976: 99)

And the party was to be as good as its word. As Franco Botta (1975: 51-2) has shown, in the immediate postwar period the PCI moved ‘with extreme prudence on the economic terrain, subordinating the struggle for economic Changes to the quest for large-scale political objectives, such as the Constituent Assembly and the Constitution’. Togliatti (1979: 40) put it thus upon his return from the Soviet Union: ‘today the problem facing Italian workers is not that of doing what was done in Russia’; on the contrary, what was needed was a resumption of economic growth within the framework of private ownership so as to ensure the construction of a ‘strong democracy’. Togliatti urged working-class participation in such a project of reconstruction envisioning recovery ‘on the basis of low costs of production, a high productivity of labour and high wages’, in the belief that the effective demand of the ‘popular masses’, rather than the unfettered expansion of free market forces proposed by liberal thinkers, would serve as the chief spur to economic expansion (quoted in Botta 1975: 57).

Would such an alternative model of development have been feasible in the 1940s? There is no simple answer to such speculation, although similar notions continued to inform the thinking of the left unions well into the next decade (Lange et al. 1982: 112; Ginsborg 1990: 188-90). What remains interesting is that, whatever the polemical tone of Togliatti’s attack upon liberals like LuigiI Einaudi, his own views on development shared more assumptions with such opponents than he realised. The most important of these affinities was the emphasis placed upon a substantial increase in productivity as the path to Italy’s salvation. In practical terms, however, any rise on this score – which at that point in time offered employees the simple alternative of working harder or being laid off – could only be won at the expense of that level of working-class shopfloor organisation achieved during the Resistance. True children of the Comintern, for whom the organisation and form of production were essentially neutral in class terms, the PCI leadership saw no great problem in conceding – in the name of a ‘unitary’ economic reconstruction – the restoration of managerial prerogative within the factories. After all, wasn’t productivity ultimately a problem of technique? The factories must be ‘normalised’, argued the bulletin of the Milan party federation in July 1945. The fact that new organs had been created which offered ‘an ever-more vast participation and control of workers over production’ could not mean the removal of ‘labour’ and ‘discipline’ from their rightful place at the top of the immediate agenda. Another party document from September of that year stated things more bluntly: ‘the democratic control of industry by workers means only control against speculation, but must not disturb the freedom of initiative of senior technical staff’ (quoted in Montaldi 1976: 259, 267). As one FIAT worker later put it:

I remember straight after the war Togliatti came to speak in Piazza Crispi – and then De Gasperi came – and they both argued exactly The same thing; the need to save the economy ... We’ve got to work hard because Italy’s on her knees, we’ve been bombarded by the Americans ... but don’t worry because if we produce, if we work hard, in a year or two we’ll all be fine ... So the PCI militants inside the factory set themselves the political task of producing to save the national economy, and the workers were left without a party. (quoted in Partridge 1980: 419)

In 1947, having invested so much energy in tempering working class resistance to 'reconstruction’, the parties of the historic left found themselves unceremoniously expelled from the De Gasperi government. Christian democratic political hegemony brought with it massive American aid, and the triumph of a model of industrial development that combined efforts to impose the unbridled discipline of the law of value in some sectors with selective state encouragement of others. In practice this involved production for the international market underpinned by low wages, low costs and high productivity; a sharp deflationary policy to control credit and wages; the elimination of economically 'unviable' firms, and the maintenance of high unemployment. To make matters worse for the labour camp, the union movement found itself split – with American and Vatican connivance – along political lines, enabling employers to open an offensive in the workplace against militants of the left parties and their union confederation, the CGIL (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro – the Italian General Confederation of Labour) (Ginsborg 1990: 141-93).

Closed in upon itself ideologically, its hard core of skilled workers disorientated by victimisation, the CGIL’s isolation from the daily reality of the shopfloor would be symbolised by the loss in 1955 of its majority amongst the union representatives elected to FIAT’s Commissione Interna (Contini 1978). Nor were the union’s subsequent efforts to face up to its malaise helped by the significant changes then occurring within both the production processes and workforce employed in industry. Stimulated in part by the prospect of new markets which Italy’s entry into the Common Market offered, investment in new plant by the largest Northern employer~ Increased significantly in the second half of the decade (Lichtner 1975: 175-82; King 1985: 69-77). At the same time, the biggest firms began to recruit amongst a new generation of workers, men and women with little experience of either factory work or unionism. In all, Italy’s manufacturing workforce would grow by 1 million during the years of the economic ‘miracle’. At first these new employees were predominantly of Northern origin; as the 1950s drew to a close, however, entrepreneurs turned increasingly to the thousands of Southerners lured Northwards by the lack of jobs at home and the promise of a large pay packet (Alasia and Montaldi 1960; Fofi 1962; Partridge 1996). And just as such industrialisation only exacerbated differences between what had long appeared to be two discrete nations within Italy – the advanced North and semi-feudal Mezzogiorno – so too its benefits failed to extend themselves uniformly to all classes in society. As a consequence, the Italian labouring population which saw the 1960s draw near appeared markedly weaker and more divided than that of a decade before, a depressing view to which the lag of wage increases far behind those of productivity paid further mute testimony (King 1985: 87).


The Ambiguous Legacy of the Historic Left

Submitted by Juan Conatz on February 5, 2011

That ‘unforgettable’ year of 1956, as Pietro Ingrao has called it, marked a genuine watershed in the history of the PCI. As the first cracks appeared in the Soviet Party’s facade, Togliatti pronounced ominously upon certain ‘dangers of bureaucratic degeneration’ in the USSR, vigorously denouncing all the while the rebellious workers of Poznan and Budapest as tools of reaction (Bocca 1973: 618; Ajello 1979: 389-90; Togliatti 1979: 141). Formally committing the party to the ‘Italian road to socialism’ it had followed for years, Togliatti also used the occasion to stamp out those insurrectionalist tendencies that lingered on within the PCI (Montaldi 1971: 369). Firmly embedded in a Stalinist matrix, such elements constituted in their own distorted manner what little that remained of the PCI’s original class politics. A whole layer of middle-ranking cadre, who viewed Khrushchev with suspicion – not for complicity in Stalin’s tyranny, but for having dared criticise him at all – found themselves slowly eased from positions of responsibility. The 8th Party Congress ushered a new levy of future leaders into the Central Committee, as an even greater ‘renovation’ occurred in the PCI’s important federal committees, with the overwhelming majority of Komitetchiki henceforth party members of less than a decade’s standing (Ajello 1979: 427). Whilst the most prominent of the older ‘hards’ managed, in exchange for their silence on current policy, to remain within the PCI’s leading bodies, the small number of militants and functionaries who objected to the new regime were simply driven out of the party (Peragalli 1980).

Thus, if PCI membership would decline overall by the end of the decade, with a noticeable loss of liberal intellectuals disenchanted more with international events than the party’s domestic policies, there was to be no exodus by rank-and-file Communists like those which devastated Communist parties in the English-speaking world. Indeed, when the PCI did emerge from its uncertainties it was to do so as a much-invigorated force, the correctness of its postwar course as a national-popular ‘new party’ largely confirmed in the leadership’s eyes (Asor Rosa 1975: 1622).

For the other major party of the left, by contrast, 1956 would be experienced as a fundamental break. Always a strange political creature, the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) had been born anew in the final days of fascism. At that time its axis appeared decisively to the left of other Western Socialist parties, although the diversity of groupings within it lent a certain erratic bent to its political direction. Led by Pietro Nenni, Giuseppe Saragat and RodoIfo Morandi, its actions in the immediate aftermath of the war involved a juggling act. Vowing a continuing commitment to its close relationship with the PCI through the ‘unity of action’ pact sealed in the Popular Front period, the PSI also attempted to establish an identity independent of the Communist Party. Encouraged by its showings in the first postwar elections, the emphasis at first was placed upon ‘autonomy’, a notion that bore various connotations within the party. For some it represented aspirations to the mantle of ‘revolutionary’ party let fall by the moderate Communists; for others, it meant the construction of a mass social democratic party along British or German lines. In early 1947, midst the growing climate of the Cold War, the Socialist Party’s reformist wing split away on an explicitly anti-Communist platform, a section of the party’s left in tow; months later, the left parties were expelled from government. Both events were to have an enormous impact upon the majority of Socialists, winning a growing audience for those who saw the supreme political division as that between a socialist East and revanchist West, and any attempt to evolve a ‘third way’ merely a capitulation to imperialism. Following a brief period of nonalignment under the rule of a centre faction, the party’s traditional critical support for the Soviet Union blossomed into support tout court. Indeed, by the outbreak of the Korean War, Nenni could be heard proclaiming his close identification with the USSR in the ‘struggle for peace’, and Morandi publicly dedicating himself to the Herculean task of cleansing the party of all traces of social democracy’s corrupting influence (Libertini 1957; Vallauri 1978; Benzoni 1980: 33-70; Foa 1980: 270-81).

More than any other individual, Rodolfo Morandi embodied both the grandeur and misery of the Socialist Party left in the immediate postwar period. Its dominant figure both intellectually and politically, Morandi had first come to prominence not only as the author of an important study of Italian large-scale industry, but also as a leading domestic opponent of fascism. A convert to Marxism from the dynamic liberal-socialist circles of the 1920s, Morandi, like many left socialists of the interwar period, had devoted considerable energy to finding an authentic revolutionary ‘third way’ between bolshevism and social democracy. In this he paid particular attention to the vicissitudes of the USSR, which he judged from a viewpoint much influenced by Rosa Luxemburg’s own brief but sharp pronouncements of 1918. Dubious of the statist nature of ‘socialism in one country’, Morandi reserved his greatest criticisms for the practice of class-party relations developed by the Comintern. Like many others in the left wing of the PSI, Morandi considered the 1921 split with the Communists a grave mistake, and looked forward to an eventual reconciliation between the two major tendencies of the Italian left. At the same time, he also understood that class unity could never be reduced to the fusion of party apparatuses: only if the dangers of substitutionism were confronted and defeated, he argued, would PSI-PCI reunification be feasible. In his councillist vision, the party was only an instrument – necessary but not sufficient – in the service of working-class unity. The revolution could be expected to usher in not a party-state, but a system of popular rule based on the democratic organs of the masses themselves (Agosti 1971: 173-83,278-90).

If such was the theory, Morandi’s subsequent efforts to realise it were uniformly disappointing. During the Resistance he pinned considerable hope upon the Comitati di Liberazione Nazionale (Committees for National Liberation) organised in the Centre-North, but most of these bodies soon revealed themselves to be little more than miniature parliaments, susceptible to all the wheeling and dealing of party politics. Those committees formed in the factories seemed, by contrast, to hold greater promise, being often dominated by Communist and Socialist militants with a class perspective. After the important role that the factory organisations played in the struggle against the German occupation, the Communist leadership pushed successfully for the committees’ dissolution. In the words of the party historian Manacorda, PCI leaders were frightened that such militants might go ‘so far in the course of the insurrection as to expropriate the capitalists and establish cooperative management of the works’ (quoted in Ellwood 1985: 231). Instead the committees were replaced with ‘management councils’ which Morandi, as Minister of Industry in the second De Gasperi cabinet, did everything in his power to encourage. All things to all people, these jOint councils of workers and employers quickly proved themselves to be no more than mechanisms to encourage working-class participation in postwar reconstruction (Craveri 1977: 184-207). Unable to extricate his earlier councillist notions from the poverty of such experiences, expelled from office by the Christian Democrats’ anti-Communist offensive, Morandi sought to keep faith by embracing the aggressively Stalinist view of the world advanced by the newly formed Cominform. It was a step which marked the advent of Italian socialism’s ‘ten winters’; not until 1953 brought with it the death of Stalin would an inkling of light appear at the end of the ‘Cold War tunnel’ (Fortini 1977: 18).

With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that a great part of the PCI’s ability to weather the storms of 1956 lay with the complexity of its postwar culture. Blending the great native tradition of historicism with a resolutely ‘popular’ approach to social reform, the party succeeded in winning many self-perceived ‘organic intellectuals’ to its banner after 1945. Such a recipe for success may well have been concocted from equal parts of Croce and Stalin, as Fortini once quipped (Ajello 1979: 113). But above all it was flexible, able under Togliatti’s auspices to move from an enthusiastic but superficial embrace of Zhdanov in the late 1940s to the accommodation of certain aspects of the liberal critique of Stalinism by the middle of the following decade. Not so that of the Socialist Party: its official Marxism-Leninism of the early 1950s, the product of Morandi’s attempts at ‘Bolshevisation’, was rote learnt, doctrinal and arid, manifesting itself in conformity to the Soviet line and a rigid internal regime which stifled dissent. As a consequence, the arrival of 1956 came as a genuine shock for the PSI. For the majority of the dominant left faction in particular, the debunking of some of the myths surrounding Stalin and ‘realised socialism’ served only to puncture their own revolutionary pretensions, leaving them without any mask to cover a politics which was as reformist – if nowhere as coherent – as that of their Communist rivals.

The early 1950s had already seen the PSI lose support within the working class, gradually but inexorably, to the Communists. With Morandi’s death in 1955, his efficient ‘Leninist’ apparatus fragmented into a number of competing machines, each vying to determine the Socialist Party’s course. While some functionaries continued to genuflect towards Moscow, the more pragmatic elements around Nenni began to look for new waters in which to fish (Foa 1980: 268-9). Such opportunities were not long in coming. In the time-honoured Italian tradition of trasformismo, Nenni adroitly exploited the repression of Polish workers in Poznan to open a dialogue with Saragat, leader of the breakaway Social Democrats. By October of 1956, Nenni had succeeded in changing the 22-year old ‘unity of action’ pact with the PCI to one of ‘consultation’. When the 32nd PSI Congress was held six months later, Nenni moved into a commanding position within the organisation’s leadership. From here he began to explore a number of possible courses of action, culminating in the early 1960s with the Socialists’ return to a coalition government with the Christian Democrats (Della Mea 1967: 90-2).


Panzieri and the Limits of Left Renovation

Submitted by Juan Conatz on February 6, 2011

To commentators outside the PSI, the growing fissures within that party seemed to reduce its internal life during the late 1950s to little more than factional manoeuvring (Barnes 1967: 64-71). Yet if the collapse of the Soviet Union as a model and guide served ultimately to consolidate the Socialist Party’s slide towards social democracy, it also opened up space for a brief time to more critical enquiry within the party’s left. To a new levy of Italian Marxists seeking, a decade later, to escape the political hegemony of the PCI, the names of that period – Gianni Bosio, Vittorio Foa, Franco Fortini – would become important reference points (Bermani and Cuzzaniti 1977; Bonini 1978; Forgacs 1984). The most exceptional of these militant Socialists of the 1950s, however, was Raniero Panzieri, whose response to the uncertainties of the period was to grapple with the fundamental relation between class and organisation. Panzieri, of course, was not alone in this endeavour: amongst his contemporaries on the left, Danilo Montaldi (1994) in particular had similar concerns – even, at times, a clearer vision. But Montaldi, the son of a Bordighist, operated both by circumstance and choice on the margins of theofficial labour movement: what made Panzieri’s line of development so novel, and ultimately influential, was that it struck out from the heart of the historic left itself. An anonymous tribute in Classe Operaia would later express Panzieri’s uniqueness well: ‘among the countless “leaders” of the organised movement’, it said, ‘only one had consciously chosen the path of his Own defeat, because this led towards the working class’ (Classe Operaia 1964g: 23).

Born in Rome in 1921, Panzieri’s early intellectual formation was unusual for his generation in that it encompassed neither idealism nor historicism (Merli 1979: 91, 77). His writings of the 1940s committed to the advancement of an authentically Marxist culture in Italy, were sometimes marred by a certain intolerance towards thinkers deemed renegades by Stalinism. But they were also concerned less with orthodoxy than the critique elaborated by Marx himself, characterised by the young Panzieri – in a pointed reference to the Crocean sensibilities of many Communists – as a rupture first and foremost with bourgeois thought (Rieser 1982: 47). After a period of involvement in party cultural affairs, Panzieri moved to Sicily in the late 1940s. There he became active in struggles over land redistribution, and worked with Ernesto De Martino and Galvano Della Volpe, amongst other prominent left intellectuals. 1953 saw Panzieri enter the PSI Central Committee; the following year, aged 33, he assumed the post of Cultural Secretary (Lanzardo 1975: 8-9). In time Panzieri established himself as one of the morandians most open to critical self-reflection, turning that ‘other’, libertarian Morandi against the intellectual conformism which had come to grip the PSI left. His initial sallies, not surprisingly, were in the field of culture, where he argued that the poverty of postwar Italian Marxism was largely a consequence of the widely held equation between truth, party and class. The fundamental task, he stated in early 1957, was ‘to restore Marxism to its natural terrain, which is that of permanent critique’, something which could only be accomplished by freeing it ‘from the control of party leaderships and party directions’:

Only in this way,- that is, only through the refusal of party-specificity [partitarieta] , and the affirmation of its unity above and beyond political alignments – can Marxist culture rediscover its true function. (Panzieri 1973: 47, 50)

Although he did not state it in such terms, Panzieri already glimpsed that the much vaunted ‘organic intellectuals’ of Gramscian memory were now in practice organic only to the party machine. This did not mean, however, that he understood the ‘cultural autonomy’ of left intellectuals as either the abandonment of revolutionary commitment or a theoreticist return to ‘origins or texts’. What was needed, instead, was an examination of ‘the reality of the political and organisational movement of the popular classes’: an undertaking, he predicted, which would prove richer culturally than either intellectuals or party leaders could imagine (quoted in Rieser 1982: 49).

In Panzieri’s view, the theoretical reinvigoration of Marxism went hand-in-hand with the political renovation of the labour movement, and it was only natural that here he should take as his initial reference point Morandi’s themes of direct democracy and the goal of Communist-Socialist unity. His earliest discussions of left renewal were quite moderate in tone, arguing that the ‘natural terrain’ of proletarian struggle lay within the framework of the postwar Constitution (Panzieri 1973: 36). Like most PSI members, Panzieri then still accepted the legitimacy of an ‘Italian road’; what concerned him was to indicate within it ‘the exceptional historic experience of unitary politics’, which he characterised as its

vision of mass action based on the presupposition of the necessary and concrete coincidence of mass struggles and the objectives of a critical, constructive, democratic vision of national problems. (ibid.)

This was a formulation to which few in the historic left would then have objected. In Panzieri’s hands, however, the notion of ‘mass action’ quickly came to assume connotations quite different to those shared by the majority of Communists and Socialists. Appointed co-director of the PSI theoretical review Mondo Operaio in early 1957 after leaving the party’s Central Committee, Panzieri soon found the journal to be the perfect vehicle for critical self-reflection. Working alongside him was Lucio Libertini, late of a small organisation of dissident Communists and Socialists opposed to the pro-Soviet stance of the major left parties (Benzoni 1980: 64-5). Over the following 18 months, Mondo Operaio established itself as a lively forum for debate, examining both current events and the work of Marxists – Lukacs, Luxemburg, Trotsky – long passed over by the Socialist left (Della Mea 1967: 98). The most noteworthy aspect of Mondo Operaio’s new regime, however, was to be Panzieri’s insistence that the final arbiter of the forms and goals of the struggle against capitalism must be the working class itself. Once again his starting point – that the Italian road to socialism (’democratic and peaceful’) could not be confined to parliament – seemed modest enough; indeed, it was not dissimilar to the publicly stated position of Nenni himself (Vallauri 1978: 95-7). But Panzieri’s argument went much further than that of the Socialist leader. While it was important, he held, for the left parties to make use of the constitutional arena, the struggle for socialism required that the labour movement be renovated ‘from below and in forms of total democracy’ (Panzieri 1973: 102). For this to occur new institutions were needed, ones which must find their roots in the economic sphere, ‘the real source of power’. Then the ‘democratic road’ would not become ‘either a belated adherence to reformism, or simply a cover for a dogmatic conception of socialism’ (ibid.: 110, 142).

Examining the experience of the historic left, Panzieri was particularly scathing in his criticism of the ‘absurd identity between working class and party’ consolidated by the experience of Stalinism. Against this, he argued, the collapse of Communist dogma made possible the reaffirmation - ‘in all its vigour’ - of ‘the principle of class action as the autonomy of the exploited and oppressed classes in struggle for their liberation’ (Panzieri 1973: 61, 62). In this vein he reprinted an article from the Ordine Nuovo period, in which Gramsci insisted that new proletarian bodies were needed to replace not only the capitalist state, but also the traditional organisations of the labour movement, since these had proved themselves ‘incapable of containing such a flowering of revolutionary activity’ (Hoare 1977: 77). At the same time, the Panzieri of the late 1950s was far from being an opponent of the party-form as such. Whilst he acknowledged that the PSI’s surrender to social democracy was a genuine risk, he did not believe that the party should simply be left to fall into revisionist hands. Together with Libertini, Panzieri sought to show instead that, ‘Of the party one can affirm with Marx: it is an educator which must be educated’ (Panzieri 1973: 202). The recent experience of the historic left had seen the collapse of that ‘necessary dialectical relation’ between class and political vanguard and its replacement by ‘the conception of the leading party, of the party which is the unique depository of revolutionary truth, of the party-state’ (ibid.: 194). Still, both Panzieri and Libertini were confident that the questioning provoked by the events of 1956 would return the historic left to the correct path. This they identified with Morandi’s original, anti-Stalinist vision of the relation between party and class, wherein

the revolutionary autonomy of the proletariat becomes realised in the creation from below, before and after the conquest of power, of institutions of socialist democracy, and in the party’s return to its function as the instrument of the class movement’s political formation. (ibid.: 113)

Thus, without ever registering an explicit break in his thinking, Panzieri’s pursuit of workers’ controlled him further and further away from the historic left’s prevalent themes of class alliance and the constitutional road to socialism. As such, Panzieri’s work of the period represents one of ’the first clear, if unspoken, ruptures with Togliatti’s perspectives from within the labour movement itself. Not surprisingly, these views met increasingly mixed reactions from those within the mainstream of the Italian historic left (Negri 1979a: 41-2). To the Communist historian Paolo Spriano, such opinions smacked of ‘left revisionism’; for the Socialist Lelio Basso, any talk about workers’ control was of no practical relevance, since only the attainment of bourgeois democracy was currently on the agenda in Italy (Panzieri 1973: 118, 153).

If such glib judgements were unworthy of either critic, they none the less drew attention to the risk of excessive schematism that threatened all talk of autonomy in the abstract. Panzieri himself was acutely conscious of this. The demand for workers’ control, he stated in 1958, could not be ‘a literary motivation for historical re-exhumations, much less a miracle cure’, but ‘must emerge and make itself concrete within the reality of the working class, expressing its revolutionary autonomy’ (quoted in Della Mea 1967: 100). As that year passed, Panzieri became more and more convinced that such an encounter could not long be avoided. Yet, as Sandro Mancini has rightly argued, such an aspiration was unattainable so long as the institutions of the labour movement remained Panzieri’s only concrete point of reference – some sort of rupture was reqUired (Lanzardo and Pirelli 1973: 14; Mancini 1975: 205).

As it turned out, Panzieri was soon to have just such a break thrust upon him. With the 33rd Congress of the PSI in 1959, the ascendance of Nenni’s ‘autonomist’ faction became complete, and the goal of a joint Socialist-Christian Democrat government was brought one step nearer. One of the minor casualties of the new line was Panzieri, who was removed from Mondo Operaio’s helm. Summing up the workers’ control debate in March of that year, he and Libertini held that it had run its course: what mattered now were practical measures, and in that sense th~ ball lay firmly in the court of the left parties and the CGIL. Notwithstanding the current course of the PSI, they concluded, ‘We are increasingly convinced that the central theme of the Italian labour movement remains that of renovation’ (Panzieri 1973: 239). There was little in Panzieri’s personal experience, however, to justify such optimism. Despite reelection to the Central Committee, his isolation within the PSI continued to grow. In particular, his calls for greater rank-and-file involvement in policy and the reassertion of the left’s ‘revolutionary autonomy’ sounded increasingly out of place in a party leadership maddened by the scent of a centre-left coalition (ibid.: 247-9). No prominent Socialist, he was forced to admit to Montaldi in October, had proved immune from its allure; all of the PSI’s various factions were now united in a ‘common vocation to government at any cost ... Even Libertini has been completely assimilated’ (ibid.: 250, 251).

Towards the end of the year, an embittered Panzieri left Rome to work for the publishing house Einaudi in Turin. Here, in a strange city dominated by ‘cold, smog and monopoly’ (Panzieri 1973: 252), excluded once and for all from the inner councils of the Socialist left, his political career seemed finished. Having finally removed himself from the world of party intrigue, however, Panzieri was to discover the existence of small pockets of kindred spirits. Most were members of a younger political generation: in Milan, a group of left Socialists around Luciano Della Mea; in Rome, a circle led by Mario Tronti, many of them members of the PCI’s long-troublesome cell at the university (Aiello 1979: 371, 395, 403-6). In Turin itself, he was to find a more eclectic group of political activists. Some, like Vittorio Rieser, had been members of Libertini’s Unione Socialisti Independenti and associates of Danilo Dolci before passing to the PSI; others -like Romano Alquati, soon to arrive from Cremona and a period of political work with Montaldi – could lay claim to even less conventional backgrounds. More than a few also came from dissenting religious families, part of the local Valdese or Baptist communities (Panzieri 1973: 261; Merli 1977: 48; Piccone Stella 1993: 186-96). Whatever their origins, however, Panzieri’s new associates all agreed that the growing moderation of the left parties and unions sprang first and foremost from their indifference to the changes wrought upon the Italian working class by postwar economic development. Deeply critical of the labour movement’s present course, their disquiet was not in any way eased by the failure of its leadership to respond positively to the moderate revival of industrial unrest seen in 1959. In a letter written a fortnight before the close of that year, Panzieri indicated both the problem as he saw it, and the means to its resolution:

If the crisis of the organisations – parties and union – lies in the growing difference between them and the real movement of the class, between the objective conditions of struggle and the ideology and policy of the parties, then the problem can be confronted only by starting from the conditions, structures and movement of the rank-and-file. Here analysis becomes complete only through participation in struggles. (Panzieri 1973: 254)

It was here, Panzieri believed, in ‘full and direct political action’, that a new, revolutionary role for intellectuals could finally be realised . ‘Naturally’, he added, ‘none of this is new’ (ibid.). On that point, at least, he was to be quite mistaken: with the aid of his new collaborators and their journal Quademi Rossi, Panzieri now stood poised before an experiment which was to have enormous repercussions for the development of the Italian new left.


Sociology: A Suitable Weapon?

Submitted by Juan Conatz on February 7, 2011

The weapons for proletarian revolts have always been taken from the bosses’ arsenals.(Tronti 1971: 18)

If the first great theme which Quademi Rossi appropriated from the dissident Marxism of the 1950s was that of autonomy, the second concerned the possible utility of ‘bourgeois’ sociology as a means to understand the reality of the modern working class. Indeed, what Diane Pinto (1980: 243) has called Quademi Rossi’s ‘’’parallel’’ sociology’ was to be formed precisely at the intersection between the group’s rediscovery of Capital and its examination of certain recent developments in radical social science.

While it is true that Panzieri’s openness to a critical use of sociology, like his critique of technological rationality, reveals a debt to Adorno, its direct inspiration lay much closer to home (Apergi 1978: 113-17; Meriggi 1978a: 91-116). What might loosely be termed an Italian radical sociology had already emerged after the war. This was largely confined to studies of the ‘Southern question’ which, apart from the accounts of peasant life by Ernesto De Martino, tended to present themselves primarily as works of ‘literature’ (Bermani and Bologna 1977: 10-20; Ajello 1979: 333-40). Industrial sociology, on the other hand, was relatively new in Italy. Having been imported from the US only recently in the form of ‘human relations’, the discipline was viewed with justifiable suspicion by many in the Italian labour movement (Lichtner 1975: 185; Massironi 1975: 46-57; Ajello 1979: 321-5). Exposure to the work of French writers such as Alain Touraine and Georges Friedmann helped to break down such hostility. By 1956, then, it was not uncommon for more critically minded left intellectuals to express commitment to the development of a left sociology capable of moving from literature to ‘science’ (Merli 1977: 48). Whilst the young Alessandro Pizzorno argued that too much had changed since the time of Marx and Lenin to privilege their thought within this project, for others, particularly within the PSI, the search for a meeting point between Marxism and sociology would become a serious pursuit. In its most extreme form, expressed by the Socialist Roberto Guiducci, the dissident Marxism of the 1950s went so far as to portray sociological enquiry as the means to establish a new ‘organic’ relation between intellectuals and working people, based upon the jOint production of social knowledge ‘from below’ (Merli 1977: 17-19,48-9; Apergi 1978: 111-12).

Interestingly, one of the earliest Italian instances of what would soon become known as ‘co-research’ had come from outside the labour movement altogether, in the work of the social reformer Danilo Dolci. A young professional who had abandoned his career to work amongst the Southern poor, by the mid-1950s Dolci had begun to make use of questionnaires and life stories as a means for the poverty-stricken to catalogue the wretchedness of their plight. Once a devout Catholic, Dolci’s deep religious sense left him wary of any doctrine of class struggle, even as his propensity for non-violent direct action as a weapon of popular self-emancipation brought him into continual conflict with the powers that be. Long after they themselves had rejected his populism, Dolci’s advocacy of the self-expression of the dispossessed was to remain with the group of Northern youths initially drawn to him, and later help propel a Number of them towards Quademi Rossi (Dolci 1960: 19; McNeish 1965; Negri 1983: IS, 17).

Individual life stories and interviews were also to play a central role in the work of Danilo Montaldi, who argued in 1958 that

the sociological method of interpretation is fundamentally foreign, even opposed, to the culture of reformism and Stalinism, which is based upon a fatalistic conception of progress and on the premise of a revolution from above ...(Montaldi 1944: 281)

Against a Marxism-Leninism ‘of citations’, Montaldi believed that certain sociological techniques could help in the development of revolutionary theory, which ‘must be constructed from below in praxis and social analysis’ (ibid.: 284). Such a view owed much in turn to two groups which had departed the Trotskyist camp at the end of the previous decade: in France, the organisation Socialisme ou Barbarie of Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort; in the US that of Correspondence led by Raya Dunayevskaya and C.L.R. James. Critical of the shibboleths which distinguished the Fourth International, these tiny groups devoted much of their energy in the 1950s to uncovering the authentic ‘proletarian experience’ hitherto passed over by party dogma (Lefort 1978; Binstock 1971: 140-71; Cartosio 1976). Of their many studies of working-class behaviour, the most sustained – the diary of the Renault militant Daniel Mothe, and a pamphlet on the condition of workers in the US – would find their way to an Italian audience chiefly through Montaldi’s efforts. As Maria Grazia Meriggi (1978a: 159) has pointed out, The American Worker (Romano 1972) in particular had touched upon only the outward manifestations of class behaviour. None the less, it authentically documented the deep-rooted antipathy between factory workers and even the most ‘modern’ methods of production. For Montaldi, this Correspondence publication held a special significance because it expressed,

with great force and profundity, the idea – practically forgotten by the Marxist movement after the publication of Capital Volume I – that before being the adherent of a party, a militant of the revolution or the subject of a future socialist power, the worker is a being who lives above all in capitalist production and the factory; and that it is in production that the revolt against exploitation, the capacity to construct a superior type of society, Along with class solidarity with other workers and hatred for exploitation and exploiters – both the classic bosses of yesterday and the impersonal bureaucrats of today and tomorrow – are formed. (Montaldi 1994: 501-2)

The 1960 translation of Mothe’s diary would evoke mixed feelings amongst a number of Panzieri’s group, who found its anti-Leninist bent too ‘anarchoid’ and ‘individualistic’ for their taste (Panzieri 1973: 273-4). Yet none of them could deny that the Frenchman’s reflections, along with the Correspondence studies, provided corroborative evidence of what they took to be the most important of their own discoveries. The first of these was that working-class antagonism to the capitalist organisation of labour, if often contradictory in form, was both permanent and universal. The second was that a profound ‘structural separateness’ (Bermani and Bologna 1977: 31)had come to divide the class from those bodies – parties and unions – that claimed to represent it.

That not all in the circle were enthusiastic about the marriage of sociological technique and Marxism would be evident from Panzieri’s later grumblings about the ‘diffidence’ of those ‘motivated by residues of a false consciousness, namely by residues of a dogmatic vision of Marxism’ (Panzieri 1975: 315). One such sceptic was Alquati who, as one of the few within Quademi Rossi with some professional training in the field, had come to see the use of sociology as at best a stopgap, ‘a first approximation’ to that ‘self-research’ which the autonomous organisation of the working class demanded. If anything, Alquati (1975: 54; 1994) would later charge, it was Panzieri who had transgressed, as evidenced by his predilection ‘to confide more in traditional social “science’” than the project of developing a properly Marxian reconstruction of the critique of political economy’.

Sensitive to the differences that separated him from Panzieri, Alquati none the less conceded that the insights offered by certain sociological techniques could indeed play an important part in the reinvigoration of Marxism. And as Cesare Bermani and Sergio Bologna (1977: 31) have since pointed out, Quademi Rossi’s use of interviews and questionnaires to record working-class subjectivity was, ‘even if it passed for sociology, at bottom oral history’. Of course, the uncritical use of these tools has frequently produced a register of subjective perceptions which do no more than mirror the surface of capitalist social relations (see, for example, Form 1976).

Still, members of the group were usually not so naive as to ignore the relationship between such opinions and the behaviour of those who advanced them. Nor, for that matter, did they all believe, with Lefort (1978: 142-3), that the recounting of a limited number of individual testimonies permitted a concreteness and political clarity no larger survey could hope to match. In their opinion, the registration of working-class behaviours and perceptions had a vital part to play in fostering self-activity. The descent into pure empiricism could be avoided by setting such observations within an overall framework similar to that of Marx’s own ‘Enquete Ouvriere’ of 1880, with its emphasis upon building up a composite picture of the technical and political dynamics of the workplace. Finally, like Marx, most of the journal’s editors believed that if such a project was to succeed, it must be based upon mutual trust between researchers and workers. After all, only the latter, ‘and not any providential saviours, can energetically administer the remedies for the social ills from which they suffer’ (quoted in Bottomore and Rubel 1965: 210). From this point of view, as Dario Lanzardo (1965: 1-2) would then argue, ‘co-research’ was not simply an effective means to achieve results, but the very affirmation ‘of a method of political work implicit in the general formulation of the critique of political economy’.


The Problem of a 'Scientifically Correct' Method

Submitted by Juan Conatz on February 7, 2011

If many within the Turin circle of Quademi Rossi, including Panzieri himself, were partial to Weber (Alquati 1975: 24; Panzieri 1987: 332-3), it was also the case that Panzieri (1975: 315) saw Marxism, being itself a theory of capitalist society, as the preeminent sociology. This view, which he shared with the journal’s Roman editors, had been in large part derived from the work of the Communist philosopher Galvano Della Volpe. A convert to Marxism after the Second World War, Della Volpe’s most original contribution to Italian left culture was to seek to reconstruct Marx’s method of investigation through a reading of the original sources. It was an unusual undertaking within a party then little concerned with the founder of ‘scientific socialism’, and to it Della Volpe, long hostile to Italian idealism, brought a viewpoint quite different to that of the majority of Communist intellectuals. However much the techniques of enquiry used in social or natural research might vary, he argued, there was but ‘one logic – the materialist logic of modern science’ which underlay them all (Della Volpe 1980: 198).

Della Volpe expressed general admiration for the progress under capital which positive science, through its application of Galileo’s experimental method, had achieved in developing coherent explanations of natural phenomena. All the same, the bourgeoisie had had no such success in the realm of social intercourse, being unable to unlock the secret to that class relation which reproduced its domination over labour. The reasons for this, Della Volpe believed, lay not so much with experimentalism, or its alleged inapplicability to the ‘moral disciplines’, as with the inability of the dominant class to exclude from its enquiry the subjective assumption that capitalist production relations were both natural and eternal. Marx, by contrast, had discovered capital’s profoundly historical – and so transitory – nature only because he had remained true to scientific logic’s refusal of apriorism. To Della Volpe’s mind, the abandoned 1857 ‘Introduction’ to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy possessed a fundamental importance in this regard, for within it Marx could be found scrutinising the basic building blocks of that conceptual apparatus later applied ‘with maximum rigour and success’ in Capital (Della Volpe 1980: 200). Armed with that critique of a priori reasoning which he had first enunciated in 1843, Marx here made use of historical, ‘determinate’ abstractions, hypotheses worked up from observation of the concrete – in this case, as Della Volpe emphasised, ‘a specific historical society’ - and continually re-submitted to it for verification. By these means Marx’s enquiry, the opposite of a speculative philosophy which confused concept and reality, formed a methodological circle of induction and deduction, ‘a circle that is historical, and therefore dynamic, moving from the concrete to the concrete ... therefore afford[ing] genuine development’. This, for Della Volpe, was the greatest triumph of the founder of ‘moral Galileanism’: not the elaboration of a pseudometaphysical attempt to comprehend the inner workings of the universe, but the application of science to modern capitalist society as ‘materialist sociological economics’ (ibid.: 186, 194,209).

Della Volpe had been a marginal figure within the PCI before 1956, and his subsequent prominence within the party owed more to the diaspora of other Communist intellectuals than to a greater receptivity towards his ideas amongst the leadership. True to his self-image as an ‘intellectual of the old style’ (Colletti 1978: 323), the philosopher always steered clear of party policy. Many of his views most critical of orthodoxy thus lie hidden behind formal obeisance to ‘dialectical materialists’ such as Engels or Zhdanov, and his discussions of contemporary political themes, if somewhat unusual in formulation, can hardly be interpreted as attacks upon party doctrine (Guastini and Levrero 1970: 311; Bedeschi 1983: 89). Yet if Della Volpe himself never developed his reflections upon the critique of political economy beyond the initial problem of defining a correct epistemology, a number of his students were bolder. Writing in 1958, Lucio Colletti (1974: 3, 23) insisted that Marx’s mature work was concerned not with ‘’’general’’ laws, nonsensical truisms valid for all epochs’, but ‘with one society only, modern capitalist society’. Whilst directed chiefly against Soviet proponents of dialectical materialism, this reading of Marx also pointed a dagger at the heart of the PCI’s historicism, which Colletti provocatively deemed nonMarxist (Ajello 1979: 349). Even more disturbing, according to the growing number of Della Volpe’s critics within the Communist Party, were the political implications of such a stance for the strategy of an ‘Italian road’. To their mind,

by making Marxism a materialist sociology, that is a science of the modern bourgeois social-economic formation, ‘dellavolpism’ insisted more on the features common to various advanced capitalist societies than on the ‘particular’ and ‘national’ features that distinguished one country from another. (Bedeschi 1983: 90)

Judging such views to be the first step towards extremism, the philosopher’s opponents launched their attack in 1962 through the pages of the PCI’s cultural weekly Rinascita. The tone of the discussion, unlike earlier party debates, was generally civilised, but the eventual ‘victory’ of the historicist side was never seriously in doubt. Defeated, their opponents either retreated temporarily, or – like Colletti – left the party altogether.

The debt owed Della Volpe by the Italian new left, and Quademi Rossi in particular, remains a controversial question. It is not difficult to draw direct connections between the two: Panzieri, for example, had worked with Della Volpe at the University of Messina during his sojourn in Sicily, while Tronti was well-known in the late 1950s as one of the philosopher’s most vocal supporters (Fugazza 1975). At the very least, it could be said that Della Volpe’s efforts· to return directly to Marx cleared the ground for a new appropriation of the latter’s thought able to bypass the dominant traditions of the Communist Party altogether. And if Della Volpe was too timid to engage in such a break publicly, Tronti would have no such qualms, attacking Gramsci’s thought in 1958 as an idealist philosophy whose purpose – the execution of an Anti-Croce – had largely been exhausted:

For us the good sense of the philosophy of a given epoch is not the common sense of that epoch, distorted and mystified. It is necessary to discover the truth of the latter, through the historically determinate expression that it assumes. If philosophy coincides with good sense, we must mistrust philosophy. If through science we are able to express the common sense of things, it suffices to confide in science. (quoted in Bosio 1975: 50-1)

Conscious of the seductive power of Gramsci’s methodology, yet contemptuous of his epigones’ tendency to neglect the critique of material conditions in favour of matters ideological, Tronti’s closest associates simply turned their backs upon the philosophy of praxis. In its place they chose the path indicated by Della Volpe, who had refused to postulate the ‘’’economic’’ and “ideological” as two separate levels of enquiry’, looking for inspiration instead to Marx’s critique of political economy (Schenone 1980: 174). In a period when that critique was largely unknown within the local branches of Italy’s historic left parties (Ajello 1979: 348; Negri 1979a: 36), Della Volpe’s insistence upon the actuality of Capital would leave an indelible mark upon Panzieri and his young friends. This was particularly so for Tronti, who in the mid-1950s had submitted a thesis on the logic of Capital at the University of Rome (Rossini 1980: 65). Echoing Della Volpe, Tronti would argue:

If the logic of ’Capital’ is again substantiated today, it is because for working-class thought, the objective necessity of an analysis of capitalism has returned to the fore. The instruments of analysis are revised when the object of this analysis is rediscovered. If the object is capitalist society in the concrete – the modern world moment of capitalism – then the instrument can only be Marx’s method that has provided the first and only scientific description of this object. One returns to Capital each time one starts from capitalism, and vice versa: one cannot speak of the method of Capital without transferring and translating this method into the analysis of capitalism.(quoted in Asor Rosa 1975: 1640)

Pursuing this line of argument during the early 1960s, Tronti would also make clear the Romans’ dissatisfaction with Della Volpe’s own failure to follow through the radical thrust of his thought. If the recovery of the critique of political economy’s actuality demanded an ‘internal critique’ to expunge Marx’s work of its ambiguities and flaws, no less important was a confrontation with the vulgar Marxist ideologies prevalent within the labour movement. ‘An ideology is always bourgeois’, Tronti insisted; to it the revolutionary must counterpose Marx’s proletarian science and its ‘ruthless criticism of all that exists’ (Tronti 1971: 35, 33). Above all, Della Volpe had failed to understand that such a critique could not remain an academic exercise performed by ‘pure Marxists’. Rather, it must become a moment of class struggle that retraced Lenin’s path from the analysis of Russian capitalism in 1899 to its overthrow in 1917. ‘Workers’ power’, Tronti concluded, ‘the autonomous organisation of the working class - [this] is the real process of demystification, because it is the material basis of revolution’ (ibid.: 37).

Similar sentiments were to be expressed by Asor Rosa in the second issue of Quademi Rossi. Referring to unnamed ‘scholars’ who in recent years had ‘dedicated their whole activity to reaching a more exact reading of Marx’s thought’, Asor Rosa (1962: 122-3, 125) praised their efforts to achieve the ‘general demystification’ of Marx’s work as a great service which furnished the labour movement with ‘precious theoretical instruments’. Despite this, however, there existed profound limits within their work, the most damning being an inability to advance to a ‘real notion’, a ‘scientific analysis’ of modern society. To accomplish this task, as Quademi Rossi now sought to do, theory must step down from its ivory tower and present itself within the class struggle, since ‘the only way to understand the system is through conceiving of its destruction’.

Having taken Della Volpe’s commitment to the reinvigoration of the critique of political economy as their own, Panzieri and the Roman members of his circle would firmly reject both the philosopher’s traditional approach to the act of theoretical ‘production’, and his acceptance of the intellectual’s subservience to party politicians. As Emilio Agazzi recalled in the 1970s,

in conversations during the early 1960s, Panzieri often pronounced a very severe judgement of Della Volpe and his ‘theoreticism’, of the inadequacies of his analysis, of his singular incapacity actually to apply that method of ‘determinate abstraction’ which, nevertheless, was his undisputed merit to have indicated – against the Stalinist and historicist deformations of Marxism – as the authentically Marxian method. (Agazzi 1977: 14)

At the same time, Quademi Rossi’s critique of Della Volpe can be seen as incomplete, with the absence of a practical engagement with Italian class politics far from being the only obstacle hindering the philosopher’s own efforts to constitute determinate abstractions adequate to the age of the assembly line. Indeed, despite its apparent empirical good sense, Della Volpe’s understanding of how such tools are constructed had been deeply flawed. Apart from its blatantly scientistic starting point (Della Volpe 1980: 200), the chief difficulty of his reconstruction of Marx’s method of investigation lay with its dependence upon the 1857 text as the key to Capital. As a careful reading of the ‘Introduction’ makes plain, however, Marx’s generation of categories there differed from Smith and Ricardo only in the greater conSistency with which it utilised that ‘Galilean’ logic of which Della Volpe speaks. Nor should this be surprising. Marx’s later, first volume of Capital was guided by a new method of investigation which insisted that mere observation was not enough to penetrate beneath ‘the direct form of manifestation of relations’ to ‘their inner connection’ (Marx and Engels 1965: 191). Against this, Marx’s understanding of the process of abstraction in the ‘Introduction’ still possessed what Rafael Echeverria (1978: 337) has called ‘a markedly empiricist content, to the extent that it involves a simple generalisation from observable characteristics in reality’. Oblivious to this shift, Della Volpe continued to portray the 1857 text as if it really was informed by the unambiguous anti-empiricism of Capital. This confusion which would have its revenge most spectacularly in his discussions of politics, prone to generate ‘the most typical weapon of the speculative method, the generic abstraction’ (Montano 1971: 35).

Their uncritical use of the ‘Introduction’ would cause Panzieri and many workerists continual difficulties in disentangling the logical and historical moments of the critique of political economy. None the less, they were able to retrieve the most productive aspects of Della Volpe’s reading of Marx: above all, the insistence that categories be historically determinate. ‘Aspiring to a more operative theory,’ Alquati (1975: 15) would later write, ‘one founded on the new determinations offered in the immediate by the movements of a renovated working class, we theorised many “determinate abstractions”.’ As to which of these were most effective in grasping the class relations of contemporary Italy, however, Panzieri’s group was soon to find itself sharply and irrevocably divided.