Autonomia: Post-Political Politics

Semiotext(e)'s book Autonomia: Post-Political Politics about the Autonomia movement, which contains first-hand documents and contemporaneous analysis from it's most influential theorists.

Submitted by wojtek on January 25, 2012

'Most of the writers who contributed to the issue were locked up at the time in Italian jails.... I was trying to draw the attention of the American Left, which still believed in Eurocommunism, to the fate of Autonomia. The survival of the last politically creative movement in the West was at stake, but no one in the United States seemed to realize that, or be willing to listen. Put together as events in Italy were unfolding, the Autonomia issue—which has no equivalent in Italy, or anywhere for that matter—arrived too late, but it remains an energizing account of a movement that disappeared without bearing a trace, but with a big future still ahead of it.'

—Sylvère Lotringer

Semiotext(e) is reissuing in book form its legendary magazine issue Autonomia: Post-Political Politics, originally published in New York in 1980. Edited by Sylvère Lotringer and Christian Marazzi with the direct participation of the main leaders and theorists of the Autonomist movement (including Antonio Negri, Mario Tronti, Franco Piperno, Oreste Scalzone, Paolo Virno, Sergio Bologna, and Franco Berardi), this volume is the only first-hand document and contemporaneous analysis that exists of the most innovative post-'68 radical movement in the West. The movement itself was broken when Autonomia members were falsely accused of (and prosecuted for) being the intellectual masterminds of the Red Brigades; but even after the end of Autonomia, this book remains a crucial testimony of the way this creative, futuristic, neo-anarchistic, post-ideological, and non-representative political movement of young workers and intellectuals anticipated issues that are now confronting us in the wake of Empire.


In the Shadow of the Red Brigades by Sylvere Lotringer

The Return of Politics by Sylvere Lotringer and Christian Marazzi

Fiat Has Branded Me by Giampaolo Pansa
The Strategy of Refusal by Mario Tronti
The Tribe of Moles by Sergio Bologna
Domination and Sabotage by Toni Negri
Autoreduction Movements in Turin by Eddy Cherki and Michel Wieviorka
From Guaranteeism to Armed Politics by Oreste Scalzone
In the Beginning was Gramsci by Henri Weber
What the Communists Really Are by Censor
The State of Spectacle by Guy Debord
Lama Sabachtani?
Painted Politics by Maurizio Torealta
The Proliferation of Margins by Felix Guattari
Dreamers of a Successful Life by Paolo Virno
Hegel and the Wobblies by Eric Alliez
Let's do Justice to our Comrade P.38
Nonviolence in Bologna by Judith Malina
Radio Alice-Free Radio by Collective A and Traverso
The City in the Female Gender by Lia Magale

Anatomy of Autonomy by Bifo
April 7: Repression in Italy by CARI
Workerist Publications and Bios
Open Letter to Negri's Judges by Gilles Deleuze
The ANSA Story by Ferrucio Gambino and Seth Tilet
Negri's Interrogation
Memorial from Prison
The Naked Truth about Moro's Detention by Franco Piperno
Piperno's Counteroffensive
Violence of the State by I Volsci
The Sandstorm Method by Dario Fo

From Terrorism to Guerrilla Warfare by Franco Piperno
Living with Guerilla Warfare by Lucio Castellano
Why Italy? by Felix Guattari
On Armed Struggle by Paolo Virno
On the Recognition of Armed Struggle by Lanfranco Pace and Franco Piperno
Sorry, It's Exactly the Opposite by Massimo Cacciari
The Red Harvest by Leonardo Sciascia
Beyond Terrorism by Oreste Scalzone
I, Toni Negri by Eugene Scalfari
Unpublished Interview with Piperno
Popular Defense and Popular Assault by Paul Virilio
A Bridadist Speaks by Valerio Morucci
Dissenting Brigadists
Who is the Traitor? by Renato Curcio
J'Accuse by Toni Negri

March 16, 1978: The Aldo Moro Kidnapping by B. Madaudo Melville


Autoreduction movements in Turin, 1974

Eddy Cherki and Michel Wieviorka's account of the workers' self-reduction of prices movement in the Italian city of Turin in the 1970s.

Submitted by Steven. on November 17, 2009

To consider the new developments in social struggle within Western Europe since 1968, one must turn to Italy. The organization of the worker's movement, often on a mass scale, has assumed original forms. Urban struggles have led to organized union and political neighborhood actions with stakes tied to consumption.

From this point of view, the autoreduction movement, which began in Turin in the fall of 1974, constitutes a development of the utmost importance. Autoreduction is the act by which consumers, in the area of consumption, and workers, in the area of production, take it upon themselves to reduce, at a collectively determined level, the price of public services, housing, electricity; or in the factory, the rate of Productivity.

Above and beyond the "classical" forms of economic crisis and the bankruptcy (or rather absence) of the Italian government's economic policy, the most enlightened sectors of the technocracy and certain leaders of the large Italian monopolies (such as Agnelli, FIAT), centered around Carli, president of the Italian bank, propose and, in June 1974, compel the government to accept a plan of reform, the Carli Plan. Founded on the fundamental hypothesis of the tacit sup­port of the I.C.P. 1 , or at least its neutrality, this plan proposes two essential objectives. On the one hand, restructuring the production (diversification of some in­dustrial sectors, notably the automobile industry, formulation of a nuclear energy program) and, on the other hand, reducing, in the area of consumption, public ex­penditures - in particular, curbing the production of collective toots and ar­rangements (equipements collectifs). On a more general level. the Carli Plan seeks to place the burden of the Italian economic reform on the working classes by reducing internal demand, thus household consumption. Concretely, the govern­ment's principle of "fair pricing" of public services entails a massive price in­crease in transportation, electricity, telephone, health care and housing. In July, besides a few amendments proposed by the I.C.P., the Assembly approved this program with increases exceeding 50 per cent.

The application of the Carli Plan presupposes a climate of social peace and the absence of workers' struggles. However, in the past few years, social struggles are on the rise. Classical forms of action have been significantly supplemented by less conventional forms: sabotaging production, sequestering leaders, lowering productivity, controlling the rate of production, and massive absenteeism. This movement expresses at one and the same time the rebellion of the Italian working class and its pugnaciousness.

The metallurgical unions (the F.L.M.) and various groups of the extreme left ("Lot­ta Continua", "Avanguardia Operaia", and later (Il Manifesto") take an active role in this movement. Between 1968 and 1975 forms of direct action reappear on the battleground of urban struggles, they are essentially centered around the problem of housing. The homeless take over empty houses. Public housing tenants autoreduce rents or resist eviction. These struggles are illegal, massive and often violent.

Massive struggles: in Italy between 1969 and 1975, twenty-thousand habitations are "squatterized". Rent autoreduction was the first form of action; the political objective was to limit rents to 10% of one's salary.

These violent struggles cannot be isolated from the climate of social and police violence which reigns in Italy. The most dramatic episode occurred in the San Basilio neighborhood (in the suburbs of Rome). In September of 1974, a militant of the extreme left was killed during a clash between police and squatters.

It is difficult to establish a direct connection between urban struggles and workers' struggles. It is not easy to grasp that the capitalist system in general is under attack in both the areas of production and consumption. The autoreduction movement in Turin strives in to unite through a collective action the forces of pro­duction and those of consumption.

Each day, in Turin, tens of thousands of workers commute (pendolan). This con­stitutes a forced extension of the work day and an important financial burden.

Some businesses allow their employees travel expenses; others provide for the transportation for their work force; but often, as is the case of FIAT, transporta­tion costs are directly born by the workers.

In the summer and fall of 1974, the decision of two private transportation com­panies to increase their fares by 20% to 50% caused an immediate reaction on the part of the workers.

The first reactions are spontaneous, unorganized: buses are blocked at Pinerollo, an important gathering point of Rivalta and Mirafiori workers, some delegations head towards municipalities and the regional government, some tracts are distributed. All of this changes little to the increase. The Rivalta FLM decides to take in hand the organization of the struggle on the basis of autoreduction: the weekly transportation pass must be purchased at the old price. This decision follows a brief political debate. Refusing all payment is practically not considered and, for a very good reason: the transportation companies would simply stop running their buses. In each bus, delegates, are designated to gather subscriptions at the old price in exchange for a receipt prepared by the unions. The money col­lected is then turned over to the companies. 2

The smallest companies refuse the money, then quickly reverse this decision. They threaten to curtail certain lines in retaliation. Worker's demonstrations and pressure from FIAT leads the regional government to demand that the concerned companies accept suspension of their curtailments and operate buses at the old price until an agreement with the unions is reached.

The fact that a direct action resulted in such rapid success is of utmost impor­tance, if only on the level of the debate within the unions and leftist organiza­tions.

We are no longer in the factory, in the production area itself, but rather at the junction of the factory and the neighborhood or town. This foreshadows the development of popular struggles at the level of consumption, without yet presen­ting the most characteristic traits (pluri-classism, difficulty in relating to factory struggles). Last and above all, this form of struggle constitutes a break from traditional practice.

Autoreduction was not practiced by isolated militants: it was organized, and this is a fundamental point, by unions which brought their active support and simultaneously imposed a coherent line of action. Such a position would have been unthinkable a few years earlier: it strongly suggests a breakthrough, of cer­tain themes of the extreme left. We should, however, assess the scope of this breakthrough: the autoreduction of regional transportation has always been a localized phenomenon involving merely the machinery of local metallurgical unions, for a set objective. At no time was it a question of generalizing the move­ment on a national scale. The movement on electricity, instigated by the provin­cial leadership of the FLM will give a new dimension to autoreduction, its truly mass character.

Taking advantage of the summer and in the context of the Carli Plan, the govern­ment, at the beginning of July, decides to increase the electricity rates. This in­crease anticipates an entire series of comparable measures and, as a result, con­stitutes a political test for the authorities. They will be able to impose the follow­ing increases (telephone, public transportation, etc.) all the more quickly and easi­ly if the reaction to their first decision is weak and indecisive. The unions must act, and act fast.

In an economic crisis, the struggle in the factory cannot serve as a basis of mobilization for meeting demands related to consumption. The unions of the C.I.S.L.-electricity, using the example of the regional transportation movement, then propose to initiate an autoreduction. Will the bills that the customers receive be reduced by 50% or, more radically, will a refusal to pay the bills be organized?

In fact, this last solution risks being turned against those who use it: various past experiences have failed. In addition, this form of struggle does not oblige the workers to organize themselves. Simply asked to not settle their bills, the workers remain passive.

Autoreducing the electricity rates signifies the customers' disagreement with the unilateral decision taken by the government in July. Direct action should force the government to negotiate and thereby determine, the level of demands around which negotiations can take place. The union members set this level at 50% of the new electricity rates.

The union members thus instil an illegal dimension of "civil disobedience" to the action. In initiating this struggle, the unions play a determining role. From the ear­ly days, the electricity unions declared that they would refuse to turn off the elec­tricity in the apartment buildings practicing autoreduction no matter what.

Moreover, they were ready to warn the tenants so that a mobilization to prevent electricity from being turned off be unleashed. The important fact to note is the role of a worker's union in initiating struggles outside of the factory. The workers' unions have come to somewhat replace parties or political organizations.

Union initiative can only be understood if one considers the relations of power between the local regional level and the national level of the confederations. In­deed, there is a specific context of unionism in Turin. The unions of Turin, CGIL, CISL, UIL, and the union of FLM unions are relatively autonomous in relation to their national leadership.

The CGIL in Turin, directly tied to the I.C.P. on the national level, is situated to the left of its national leadership; CISL is an "open" union in which militants of the extreme left defend their political ideas and obtain positions of responsibility on the regional level.

This would not be the case elsewhere, notably in Milan where the unions' regional leadership, has curbed the autoreduction movement on electricity initiated by ex­treme leftist groups, or also at Naples where the autoreduction movement is more spontaneous and unconnected with any union initiative.

The active support of the union initiative by the entire extreme left in Turin constitutes an important point; the movement would never have been able to organize the neighborhoods in the C.P. and the extreme left, with the different grass root neighborhood organizations, had not supported the union's initiative.

The actual struggle will unfold in two stages. In the first stage, a campaign to col­lect signatures of commitment to the autoreduction position is initiated in the factories, then very quickly. in the neighborhoods. Why this campaign? Because it is necessary to move fast and give a mass dimension to the struggle. The petition allows the unleashing of an immediate and collective action: the signer has committed himself to paying only half price and to sending to the administration, together with his payment, a letter in which he explains that he is acting in accor­dance with the directions of the unions in Turin: CISL, CGIL and UIL.

The second phase deals with the actual settling of bills. At this stage, the elec­tricity unions intervene, as expected, by furnishing a complete account of the dates when the bills were mailed, neighborhood by neighborhood. As a result of this accounting, the grass root organizations set up pickets in front of certain post offices and distribute to the workers a leaflet which explains the methods of autoreduction. The workers settle the autoreduced bills by using drafts prepared by the unions or the struggle committees.

In Turin, and in Piedmont, within a few weeks, about 150,000 families thus autoreduced their electricity bill. For the most part, these are working class families and also families of the petty bourgeoisie - the famous middle classes - and they confer on this mass struggle a real pluri-classic dimension. However, the movement under this massive form remains very distinctly limited to Piedmont.

In the rest of Italy, there will be several tens of thousands of autoreduced bills, in Tarento, Varese, Milan and Rome. For Milan and Rome, the non-extension of the movement is directly linked to the "curb" imposed by the leadership of the na­tional unions (and indirectly by the political parties, in particular the LC.P.). In Milan, the isolated extreme left, nonetheless, succeeds in reducing around 10,000 bills.

The conjunction of a leftist unionism relatively autonomous in relationship to the confederations, of an extreme left capable of putting pressure on the unions and on the grass root organizations functioning at the neighborhood level, and the local support of the I.C.P.: the situation in Turin favored the development of this movement.

But the specific character of the union's political situation in Turin is also at the root of its isolation: if the movement in Turin has instigated movements of a similar type in Italy, as well as an important debate, it has never been able to amalgamate ideological and political forces capable of imposing the autoreduc­tion initiative as a form of action that the leaders of the national unions and the parties could ratify.

Rapidly polarized by the hostility of the LC.P. and the reservations of the unions' leaders, the debate, on the national level, opposes supporters and opponents of autoreduction.

When the LC.P. takes a position on the autoreduction movement, it does so in order to criticize the bold character of this form of struggle, which in no way con­stitutes a form of working class action (central thesis, and its variant: workers don't break the law). The only adequate form of worker struggle is the strike. Other types of struggle can only be led and exploited by the extreme left, either explicitly or under its union "cover" (the CSL in Turin or Milan).

The hostility of the LC.P. in relation to the autoreduction movement is supported by a line of argument based on the notion of the State and of "public service": autoreduction and the ideology of civil disobedience that it can generate on a mass scale contribute to accentuating the State's disintegration and the crisis of its institutions. In a political context where any action of the right tends to weaken the State (the strategy of "tension" advocated by the Italian extreme right), such a movement, on the ideological level, can only contribute further to its weakening.

There is no doubt that autoreduction contains the seeds of a serious criticism of a public service (or of a State) allegedly neutral, technical, serving everyone, without political or ideological connotations.

In fact, the I.C.P.'s willingness to manage the economic crisis articulates, on the political level, the strategy of the Historical Compromise. The co-management of the crisis and the participation in power together with the Christian Democrats cannot be organized by the LC.P. in a context of increased social struggles. The growing movement of civil disobedience is undoubtedly link­ed to the negligence of the economic policy of the Italian State, and to its decomposition.

The strong reticence of some confederations and the I.C.P.'s disagreement isolate more and more the Turin militants as the date of the second wave of autoreduc­tion approaches (the first bills are expected in mid December).

The political context is much less favorable than at the beginning of October. A new center-left government seems ready to settle the question by trying to negotiate as quickly as possible. The economic crisis is at its strongest. Fiat has just put a large part of its workers on technical unemployment.

The union leaders begin negotiating' with the government in this context. The na­tional confederations are eager to settle the matter. In Turin also many fear the exhaustion of the movement.

By signing the agreement, the union confederations accept the repayment of the autoreduced part which exceeds the balance agreed upon.

Each component of the movement then draws its own conclusions from the struggle. An internal debate on the political perspectives opened up by this type of struggle takes the place of the opposition between the supporters of autoreduc­tion and its opponents (the LC.P.), or those more reticent (the unions' leaders).

One can derive several political and theoretical lessons from the autoreduction movement in Turin.

The autoreduction movement opens up the old alternative between urban struggles (secondary front), subordinated to factory struggles, and the autonomy, if not the isolation of urban struggles led exclusively by the extreme left. It demonstrates the possibility of a coordinated struggle, the first concrete ac­complishment of the theoretical and practical intuitions of extra-parliamentary groups. It is the workers' unions who decisively guaranteed this coordination, because they took the initiative and contributed organizational support to the movement.

Without the union intervention, the autoreduction movement would have remained isolated. What are the conditions which favored such an intervention? Three essential elements:

1) the specificity of Turin, a working class city whose life style is profoundly in­fluenced by FIAT, and the struggles which are conducted therein.

2) the strong tradition of intervention on the national level in social struggles by the Italian unions. It is expressed, for example, in the national workers' strikes on the problem of housing (in 1969) or in the support of the FLM for numerous oc­cupations of empty houses.

The unions are no longer retrenched in a political-symbolic support of the workers' movement in urban struggles. They organize them directly on a precise objective. Indirect union intervention gives way in Turin to a direct involvement in social struggles which permits a considerable enlargement of the urban move­ment.

Finally, the context of the economic crisis assumes a fundamental importance: during a period of overproduction, unemployment or threatened unemployment, the usual defences of the working class lose their sting; it becomes harder to en­force strikes, a refusal of regulated work pace, the struggle against an increase in productivity. To keep one's job and to defend salaries become the main thrust of factory struggles. Attacked by both strong inflation and massive increases in public services, worker's salaries cannot be successfully defended by actions within the factories. Fighting for salary increases is no longer sufficient, to de­fend one's threatened purchasing power requires struggling in the area of con­sumption.

The struggle to defend one's purchasing power can be developed on a mass scale. Employees, civil servants (breaking with the ideology of public service as "neutral" and external to conflicts), teachers, etc. have participated in the auto­reduction movement on electricity. A pluriclassism constituted by the initiative of workers' unions and on the basis of direct action (autoreduction) was only previously practiced by active minorities. It has now become one of the most im­portant characteristics of this struggle.

Autoreduction almost always directly puts into question the State and public in. situations. Popular control of so-called collective consumption, a "political" pric­ing for public services, goes against the policy of "fair pricing" put forth by the Carli Plan.

Autoreduction is much more difficult to apply in the private sector. The repressive machinery moves at once to defend private property. Two examples: Marxist-Leninist militants initiated autoreductions on products sold in supermarkets in Milan. Result: the police intervened without delay jailing the militants. The second example is the occupations of empty houses: the repression is rarely immediate or brutal when it involves public apartments. The occupation of privately owned housing prompted on the contrary immediate repression.

Autoreductions developed for the most part in sectors controlled by the State- a State in crisis, incapable of managing its own contradictions. The development of this movement could only accelerate the disintegration of the State. Its rein­forcement required the intervention of an ensemble of forces concerned with the re-establishment of economic order.
Translated by Elizabeth A. Bowman

Taken from the book Italy: Autonomia - Post Political Politics, published by semiotext(e), Intervention Series #1, 1980
Text from Slightly edited by for accuracy.

  • 1 libcom note: Italian Communist Party
  • 2We are far removed from what happened at Palermo, where transportation "autoreduction" (city buses) was put into motion by students using far less legal forms of struggle (blocking the automatic ticket-punchers).



3 years 11 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by kanewatson on August 23, 2020

in short "Autoreduction is an anti-capitalist and collective practice"

Lama Sabachthani

On February 17,1977, Luciano Lama, the Communist union leader entered the occupied Rome University to 'lecture' the Students. He was —none too gloriously— driven off the campus. This is an eye-witness account of the event which broke open the deep-rooted conflict between the "new left" and the Italian Communist Party.

Submitted by Fozzie on October 2, 2019

It was the morning of Thursday February 17, 1977. The University campus had been occupied for over a week by students, the unemployed, the comrades. The tall, severe-looking buildings, with their Fascist architecture, had been transformed. The white facade of the Faculty of Letters was covered with slogans and writings.

One, which was vertical and many yards high, warned the capitalists and revisionists that they would be “burled by a burst of laughter". It was signed "Godere Operate’’ ("Workers' Joy") and "Godimento Studentesco" (Students’ Enjoyment)—a pun on the old Potere Operalo (‘Workers’ Power") and Movimento Studentesco ("Student Movement”). These writings were the work of the Metropolitan Indians, a non-organlsed cultural movement of young comrades, who turned their biting wit and sarcasm on the Government, the Communist Party, and even on revolutionary "leader-figures" who tried to assert their dominance over the mass. The quality of this new revolutionary movement was, in fact, that the mass refused to be led in the traditional style, from above. It was, to a great extent, self-directing and seif-organising.

During the days and nights of the occupation, the entire University seemed to be a continuous people’s party and people’s forum. There were continuing and endless debates in the various commissions (the counter-information commission the factory and community commission, the teaching-methods commission, the women’s commission). There were also the (often stormy) general assemblies, where the Movement decided its policies.

Ail the gates to the Campus ware guarded by comrades, who took it In turns, and everyone who entered was frisked and scrutinised, to guard against provocateurs.

The Government and the ICP decided to send Luciano Lama in.

The day before, the Movement's General Assembly had voted to allow Lama to come in, and to avoid physical violence, but to defeat him "politically" (l.e. drown him out by booing, ’whistling, etc).

Lama came in at about 9 am, on a truck which was to be his platform; it was equipped with a powerful loudspeaker system. He was accompanied by his 200 ICP heavies (with Trade Union "stewards" cards pinned to their jackets) and about 2,000 reps, and workers, hastily called to the University by the Unions, to “liberate It from the Fascists”.

In the large open area of the Campus where he was to speak, Lama found another platform already rigged up, with a dummy of himself on It (complete with his famous pipe). There was a big red cut-out of a Valentine's heart, with a slogan punning his name—"Nessuno L’Ama" (Lama Nobody ... or Nobody Loves Him).

Around this platform there was a band of Metropolitan Indians. As Lama started to speak, they began chanting: "Sacrifices, Sacrifices, We Want Sacrifices!" (a parody of the State’s economic policy upheld by the Communist Party). "Build us More Churches and Fewer Houses!" (Italy has more churches than any other European country, and a chronic housing shortage). "We demand to work harder and earn less!"

This Irony aggravated the humourless ICP heavies. About 10.000 comrades and students gathered. The Autonomists started to put on their masks.

It would be hard to say which side threw the first stone. Certainly there was pushing and shoving and exchanges of insults which lod up to It. Violence soon broke out. Bricks, stones and bottles flew through the air. Some Communist Party members received treatment (the non-ICP wounded could not go to hospital for
fear of arrest).

The vast majority of those present, both workers and students, did not take part in the fighting. They stood around in groups. I met some reps, from an engineering factory. One said that Lama was "asking for it".... He had come to the University to "pour water on the fire". Another rep. corrected him: "Not water—gas!" Other workers were complaining that the Unions had been very high-handed in ringing them up and telling them to come to the University, without any explanation or discussion. A cleaning lady, who worked at the University Teaching Hospital (a badly paid and overworked category; also an Autonomist stronghold) was heard to say: "They ought to shoot him in the mouth!"

A woman, a member of the Communist Party, told me: "These Autonomists really are Fascists—they have beaten up workers (l.e. ICP heavies), and that I can’t accept."

After an hour or so, Lama and the heavies retreated outside the University, and all the windows of his truck were smashed. Insults were exchanged over the railings, with each side calling the other “Fascists! Fascists!” (This Is a deadly insult on the Italian Left, and will usually start a fight).

During the afternoon, the riot-police moved Into the Campus, and cleared out all the occupiers—who left by a secondary entrance. About 1,000 Communist Party militants stood outside and clapped and cheered. The following day, a young ICP lecturer in sociology at the University remarked: "The police were right to clear the University. There weren't any real students in there, only hippies, queers and people from the slum-districts".

The operation was dubbed "Little Prague" by the students.


R Totale

4 years 9 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by R Totale on October 2, 2019

That is a top pun in the title.

Anatomy of Autonomy - Bifo

Franco Berardi, alias "Bifo”, was one of the main figures of the Movement of 77 in Bologna. He was arrested at that time under the charge of “subversive association”. We asked Bifo to write the following presentation on the context in which the Movement developed and the problems it had to confront up to, and after, the April 7 arrests.

Submitted by Fozzie on October 25, 2019

On April 7, twenty-two militants and intellectuals from Padua, Rome, Milano and Torino were arrested. What they have in common is their participation, until 1973, in the group Workers’ Power (Potere Operaio) which then dissolved and became an element in the movement of Autonomia. They were arrested on the charge of leading the Red Brigades, the strongest of terrorist organizations in Italy. And in particular, they are accused of directing the kidnapping and execution of Aldo Moro, head of the governing Christian Democratic party. There are no grounds and no proof whatsoever for these charges. And practically everyone in Italy who has read a newspaper knows it. It is not only false that the militants of Autonomy and the intellectuals arrested on April 7 directed the Red Brigades, but, in fact, the political and theoretical lines of the Red Brigades diverge drastically from those of the individuals arrested. Essentially what is clear in all this operation is that the prosecution— and thus its sponsoring agency, the government— has decided to make this group of intellectuals pay for the last 10 years of mass revolutionary struggle in Italy. The government thinks it can succeed, and that the balance of power may be shifted decisively to its advantage. But we can make no sense at all of the actions taken by the government during these past months if we do not understand at least some things about the political situation in Italy, and about the Italian revolutionary movement:

FIRST: The crisis of Capitalism and of the Italian State subsequent to the workers’ struggle during the Sixties.

SECOND: The Historical Compromise, an attempt to get beyond this crisis and to defeat the revolutionary movement.

THIRD: The novelty of the revolutionary movement for Autonomy with respect to the historical Socialist and Marxist Workers’ Movement; its theoretical originality and its political praxis, as seen in 1977.

FOURTH: The problem of the civil war, and of the Red Brigades.

The experience of the revolutionary movement in Italy, from 1968 to 1979, is unquestionably the richest and the most meaningful within the capitalist West. To comprehend the novel elements that this experience contains we have to look at the theoretical and organizational currents that come to a head in Potere Operaio — until 1973— and are then dispersed and articulated in various organizational forms within “Workers’ Autonomy” (Autonomia Operaia).

It is precisely because the progress of the workers and of Autonomy constitutes the most interesting and essential element of the entire revolutionary movement in Italy during these 12 years that we should consider the repressive initiative on the part of the judiciary in Padua. It is the Paduan court which was responsible for the arrest of most of the militants and intellectuals who took part in the movement. And the court’s action must be seen as a real attempt at a final solution, an attack directed toward the elimination of those forces that constitute the elements of continuity in the history of the revolutionary movement, those forces that have provided the catalyst for very significant theoretical departures.


In order to understand the history of the last 10 years in Italy, we must start with the wave of conflicts begun in 1968 at universities and at some factories (Montedison in Portomarghero, FATME in Rome, FIAT in Torino). Spreading then, throughout the following year, in the “troubled autumn” of 1969, the conflict eventually involved all the Italian working class in strikes, demonstrations, take-overs, and acts of sabotage. During those two years of struggle a division occurred between the Left and the Workers’ Movement. And in the following years this division produced a variety of organizations to the left of the Italian Communist Party - outside the official Workers’ Movement, at the local level, and in the factories and schools.

During the same period, the group Workers’ Power (Potere Operaio) was formed at the national level; it was composed of smaller groups already in existence: the Workers’ Committee at Portomarghera, groups for workers’ power in Padua and Emilia, and a part of the student movements at Rome and Florence. In September, 1969, the PO consolidated itself and began publishing a newspaper by the same name.

But to understand the political and theoretical ferment underlying the creation of the PO, we should first of all say more about the new organizational experiments of 1968 and 1969, made by the working class in the larger factories of the North.

For the present we seek to identify the consequences which the class struggle during those years had for the country’s economic and institutional equilibrium.

The struggles of 1968 had their greatest effects in the university, where they were waged hand-to-hand by the students and the young (as in most of the world, the West in particular). These struggles forced a definitive crisis for the politics of the Center-Left (an alliance among the Christian Democrats and Socialists) which throughout the 60’s had made possible a government founded on the policy of vague reform.

The anti-authoritarian assault by the Movement of ’68 made problems and tensions emerge which the Center-Left could not absolutely control. And in a general way the Movement brought the politics of the D.C. under accusation— for being partly responsible for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in Italian society and for the nation’s dependency on the Church and authoritarian elements.

The Italian Communist Party, meanwhile, maintained an essentially ambiguous link to the movement of the students and the young. While disapproving of their radicalism, and despite the claim to Autonomy from which the movement never wavered, the PCI nonetheless saw an opportunity, in the events of 1968, for breaking the Christian Democratic hegemony and pushing for a displacement of the political balance to the left.

Naturally enough, the vanguard of workers who were organizing in the factories had quite different aims. During those years, in fact, the worker’s cause tended increasingly toward bargaining for equality (equally increased salaries for everyone; abolition of piece-work and salary differences; abolition of job classifications and against the interests of production (abolition of promotion by merit, of production bonuses; rejection of accelerated production, etc.). The cumulative effect of the workers’ demands provoked a crisis in the economic balance on which industrial development, until then, had depended: that is, the balance between low salaries and intensive exploitation of the labor force, a balance maintained by high unemployment and a large labor supply. An important element in the social scene of that period was the initiation of an organizational campaign among migrant workers from the South. Until then these workers had provided the mass-base for controlling union pressures in the large labor centers; however, between ’68 and ’69, especially in Torino, they became the mass-base at the forefront of the union struggle (and the base, too, for organized political revolution).

Unquestionably the crisis over political control of the production cycle, and thus the economic crisis of 1970 as well, have their roots in the strength and continuity of this workers’ struggle, and in the considerable results achieved by it (across-the-board salary hikes which in 1969 alone, increased labor costs by more than 20%, with continued wage pressures in the following years).

The dominant political class revealed its inability to deal with this struggle. Thus there arose in those years a policy— directed and supported by the D.C. —called the strategy of tension (strategia della tensione). This policy amounts to the artificial creation of moments of extreme tension through such means as incidents provoked by fascist groups or by agents that often have direct links to the government’s Secret Service. The first large-scale act resulting from this strategy was the assault on the Agricultural Bank of Milano that killed 14 persons on Dec. 12, 1969— at the culmination of the Workers’ struggle begun in the “troubled autumn.” The bombs were placed (the deed was discovered and denounced by democratic forces, by groups on the extreme left, and by a large number of militant groups engaged in counter-intelligence) by a group of fascists connected to the Secret Service and protected by powerful Christian Democrats. But anarchists were accused of the bombing, and the revolutionary movement came under violent attack from the press and the courts. In the following years, these acts were frequently repeated: in every instance fascist crimes were used as an occasion to accuse the left of violence and to institute repressive counter-measures.

But the Movement was neither broken nor driven back by the “strategia della tensione.” In the years following 1970, it grew in new sectors, among the youth and students. And the Movement gained continuity through the formation of revolutionary organizations which arose throughout the country. These quickly acquired the capacity to mobilize people, gathering the remnants of the student movement of 1968, and a segment of the workers reorganized during the struggles of 1969.

The strongest of these groups were “Lotta Continua” (particularly among Fiat workers), “Avanguardia Operaia” (entrenched in Milan among workers in large factories and among students), and finally “Potere Operaio” — which was a major presence at Padua, in the factories of Portomarghera, and at the University of Rome.
These groups organized in factories, schools, and at the local level (promoting political strikes, the occupation of schools, student demonstrations against the government, and occupation of vacant houses by homeless proletarians — in Rome and Milan especially). They assumed a position of opposition to the Italian Communist Party, which, after decades of Stalinist loyalty, was taking on the characteristics of a social-democratic party and was condemning the most radical working-class and student demonstrations in the name of unity with the middle classes and in the name of a policy of legality and respect for the fundamental rule of the capitalist order.

This position of opposition had already been manifest in 1968, when the PCI had been criticized and superseded by the student movement. And again, in 1969, the methods of the decisive struggle in the factories had been resisted by the PCI.

But the antagonism grew more acute and became an open break when, in 1973, the PCI arrived at its choice of a Historical Compromise, that is, of an alliance with the Christian Democrats, and of subordination to the will of Big Capital in the name of economic revival.

Meanwhile other significant events took place that same year. The first was the occupation of FIAT by thousands of young workers. Acting with complete autonomy from union decision-making, they decided to occupy the factory and set up barricades in order to impose their demands for significant wage increases and reduced work loads. Revolutionary groups such as “Lotta Continua” and “Potere Operaio” were a marginal presence in this occupation. Thus within the takeover itself was contained the possibility of transcending those vanguard organizations that had come near to assuming the role traditionally played by the workers’ movement: a role of authoritarian leadership, of bureaucratic intransigence in the face of the passions and the new types of needs expressed, above all, by the young.

The workers had learned only too well to fend for themselves, and they began organizing autonomously. At the same time, the first armed cells began to be formed inside the factories (first in Milano and then in Torino and Genoa). They organized sabotage against machinery, disciplined foremen and guards, besieged the rotten bosses — in short, they brought into being embryonic stages of a workers’ counter-power.

All of Italian society was affected by this extremely vast network of counter-insurgence. After it had broken owner's control, in the “troubled autumn” of 1969, and assaulted the rule of low wages and intensive exploitation, it began to deal directly with political problems — problems of power. But it is also true that the problem of power remained an indissoluble knot in Italy, on the theoretical even more than on the political level.

What the struggles during all those years actually amounted to was a rejection of the wage-earning system, and a rejection of that exploitation which transforms human life into a working death on credit, forcing people to sell their own lives in exchange for their wages. And this rejection which entered into the social thinking of a culturally advanced proletariat continually better educated and endowed with an ever increasing technical and scientific expertise — evolved into the very real issues of power and liberation.

Labor’s rejection of work expressed itself in many ways: the reduction of the work week to 40 hours: the right to rest periods and control over production time; the imposition of a counter-power inside factories; the rejection of the ideology of production; and criticism of the methodology of exploitation. But a more pressing need exerted itself within the struggle; that of transforming these objections into a program for the liberation of existing energies, into a program of self-organization of the production process and of the entire social cycle of production and consumption. In this lay the possibility for a liberation of repressed workers.

During those years the utopia of workers’ liberation was a massive driving force, a power for organization and for calls to action. But the ideological baggage of traditional Marxism continues to be borne not only by the official Workers’ Movement (primarily that of the PCI) but by the newer groups of the revolutionary left as well. As an ideology based on socialism— and thus on a form of organized social exploitation that is all the more rigid in its domination of working life - traditional Marxism could not contain the forceful energy and, above all, the radicalism which the movement displayed.

At this point, the groups on the revolutionary left itself entered a critical period of their own, and their forms of organization, from the bottom up, began to divest themselves of their own trappings. As a new radicalism expressed itself among the proletariat, especially among the young, these groups began an inexorable process of bureaucratization by which they became the small appendages of the official reform-oriented Workers Movement. They participated in elections, distancing themselves from tactics that could not be reconciled with the old modes of making policy. This new process of radicalization in which Power itself was brought under discussion, was already at work in the occupation of Mirafiori (FIAT) which took place in March and April of 1973. It is undeniable that the only ones to take cognizance of the course of this transformation on both the theoretical and political levels, were the militants of Workers’ Power. In fact, the PO decided, in May of ’73, to dissolve, diffusing itself throughout the committees, collectives and base structures which constitute the extensive network of Autonomy.


It was in 1973 that the PCI, guided by the lessons of the Chilean experience, worked out its so-called policy of Historical Compromise. The policy was based on the hypothesis that Italy cannot be governed except by an institutionalized political accord between Communists and Christian Democrats. This political “about-face” was already implied at every point along the Italian road to socialism and represented less a radical break with the tradition of Togliatti’s PCI than a logical development of it. Yet the consequence of the“about-face” was the further exacerbation of the rupture between the official Workers’ Movement (PCI and Union) and the new groups in the factories and large cities, who were organizing at the ground level, consolidating themselves and working together for the social and political realization of Autonomy.

The disputes between the PCI and the Movement toward Autonomy became increasingly more violent during the following years, and in 1975 particularly, when Autonomy emerged as a true mass movement which united young workers, the unemployed, students, and others living on the margins of society. In Spring of 1975, Autonomy was put to its first test as committee members took on fascists and police in a confrontation in Rome. The conflict spread to Milan, where, in mid- April, a young fascist was killed, as well as a member of the “carabinieri.” Thousands of young workers, mainly from small factories, joined with students and unemployed youth and put the inner city under siege, demonstrating and rioting. Other organized demonstrations occurred in Bologna, Florence (where a man was killed by police), Torino, (where a worker at FIAT was killed by an armed guard), and in Naples. These were heated days, in which Autonomy had its first experiences among the masses.

The State recognized, at that point, its principal enemy: Autonomy represented a new level of social organization which no longer accepted the union as a mediating agent, no longer accepted the line of the PCI and its strategy of compromise and acquiescence.

The State replied to Autonomy’s efforts during that week in the severest manner: repression, the legalization of police violence, and the systematic use of arms in public confrontations. In May of 1975, the Christian Democrats and their allies in the government passed a Parliamentary act called the Reale Law (Legge Reale). Its terms provide that police can shoot any time public order is felt to be threatened.

Furthermore, jail sentences would be more severe for anyone found in possession of defensive weapons, such as bottles, molotov cocktails or handkerchiefs, ski masks and helmets that could mask faces in demonstrations. The law was explicitly directed against the youthful proletariat who were organizing within the ranks of Autonomy. And it was supported by every party, with the exception of the PCI, which feebly abstained from voting. But the Communists would not oppose the law and thereby endanger their intended accord with the Christian Democrats.

The day the law was passed marked the beginning of the most violent and bloody phase of the class struggle in Italy. Demonstrators, or the marginal and delinquent elements in general, began to be wounded or killed by police firearms. Citizens who did not come to a halt at police blockades, chance passersby who found themselves in the press of a demonstration— they too met their deaths by virtue of a law “for the public order.”

The revolutionary left and Autonomy had to pay the price for the increased violence of the State and of the police. The casualty list within the Movement is endless. It is enough to mention here Pietro Bruno (18 years old, militant member of “Lotta Continua”, who died in the spring of ‘75); Giannino Zibecchi (antifascist committee, killed in May 1975); Mario Salvi (worker for Autonomy, 21 years old, killed at San Basilio, Rome, during a housing occupation in October 1976); Francesco Loruzzo (23, “Lotta Continua”, killed at Bologna, March 11, 1977); Giorgiana Masi (killed in Rome, May 12, 1977, a feminist linked to “Lotta Continua”). But these are only the most notable. It is estimated that the victims of the “Legge Reale” numbered 150 in the period between May ‘75 and December ‘76.

If we wish to understand the rise of “terrorism”, the formation of militant organizations, the choice of clandestine armed warfare by an ever growing number of proletarian youth, then we cannot forget the role played by the “Legge Reale”. Nor can we forget the role of that aggravated and general violence perpetrated by the State from the moment Autonomy appeared in the factories and streets of the country, as a socially diffuse and politically organized Movement.

We also need to remember the other side, the policy of the official Workers’ Movement (chiefly, the PCI): a policy that was first of all dependent on the decisions of the Christian Democrats, and subordinate to the movement of repression. In addition, this policy sought to isolate the youthful elements of Autonomy, causing a division within the working class and the proletarian movement. The PCI became a sort of political police made up of enforcers, spies and stooges.

In the following years, rather than being resolved through the accord between the Communists and the Christian Democrats, the institutional crisis in Italy assumed an increasingly dramatic character. The impossibility of governing the country was highlighted. The basic reason for the crisis was the growing distance between representative political institutions (parties, the Parliament, and other structures of participation) and a population of hopeless young people. Autonomy was at once a symptom and a cause of this distance.

In the political elections of 1976 the PCI considerably increased its voting strength, posing a threat to Christian-Democratic power: the DC was no longer guaranteed a parliamentary majority with its traditional allies (centrist parties) without either the agreement or the neutrality of the Communists. On the other hand, Christian-Democractic rule could not be substantiated by a Leftist majority either, because the Left simply did not have the strength. Convinced that it needed to quicken the pace of an alliance with the DC, the PCI began in 1976, to press for the Historical Compromise. It supported the Christian-Democratic government without, however, entering into that government. The situation, then, was paradoxical: while the masses had supported the PCI, believing this was the best way to promote a policy of radical change, the policy of the Historical Compromise ended up bolstering the tottering forces of the DC.

In terms of Italian society at large, this meant that workers had to pay for the economic crisis (which continued to grow worse between 1973 and 1976, as a result of the oil crisis). The PCI and the unions explicitly assumed the task of forcing the working class to accept a policy of sacrifice, consumer restrictions, and reduced public spending. In the autumn of 1976, a few months after the elections, the Andreotti government instigated an economic offensive against workers’ salaries, increasing the prices of the most essential goods— gasoline, bread, pasta, and services. The PCI and the unions were used in order to deliver this blow. Workers in the large industrial centers of the North reacted in a wave of furious protests, launched autonomously and against the will and intentions of the unions: at Alfa-Romeo, at FIAT, at ITALISIDER, and elsewhere, they waged independent strikes. But the “crunch” passed: living conditions worsened notably for workers; their faith in the unions collapsed. And from that time, rejection of the forms and directions of union organization increased. What is more, the policy of “sacrifice” which cut consumption and public spending and promoted worker lay-offs, rebounded back on those who were employed. It produced a constantly growing unemployment rate, which at the beginning of 1977 reached an unprecedented figure (1,700,000 officially; in reality more than 2 million).


Finally we arrive at 1977. The point of arrival, in many respects, of ten years of class struggle. The point of arrival for the student struggle begun in ‘68, for the workers’ struggle of ‘69. It is the moment at which all the fundamental contradictions accumulate and explode, provoking a profound crisis for State control over society, for party and union control over the masses of youth. But at the same time, the revolutionary movement produced its most mature form of expression, in which a fully articulated need is expressed for a communism that is the direct translation of proletarian society, without any necessity for external or ideological organization. The Movement of ‘77 represents, in all its aspects — social, political and cultural — the moment of culmination in the ascending phase of the class struggle in Italy. But for the very reason that it is fraught with contradictions, and for the very reason that it poses with unrelenting urgency the question of the transition to communism, the year 1977 is, for everyone, a definitive test. Italian society has been tested by ten years of uninterrupted social conflict. The masses are disillusioned and tired of the politics of the official Workers’ Movement, of reforms and of compromise. Now they await a radically new perspective that will abandon and surpass the old categories of political institutions, a perspective that will at the same time produce a workable program for superseding capitalism. Such a program would have to be innovative compared with the Soviet type of socialist experience, which is authoritarian, bureaucratic, and based on a new socialized form of labor exploitation. The innovation is awaited everywhere, but the hopeful expectation can easily turn into passivity and disillusionment if signs of something new do not emerge.

The Movement of ‘77 gathers together the new proletarian strata: young proletarians in the big cities who refuse to devote their whole lives to salaried labor, who refuse any kind of work at all. The unemployed who issue from the schools or universities as possessors of a high level of technical-scientific knowledge, are compelled to waste their productive potential, or not use it at all. The forms of social behavior, of cultural identity that these strata produce isolate them from the political tradition; rather than speak of marginal living (emarginazione), we can talk at this point of self-directed marginal living. The cultural revolution of 1968, which upset forms of behavior, values, human relationships, sexual relationships, the relationship to country and to the home, has ended by creating a social stratum that is recalcitrant before the notions of salaried work, fixed residence, and fixed position of work.

Moreover, the enormous technical-scientific and intellectual potential that the education of the masses has produced— a potential which fermented on contact with the process of mass self-education that the revolutionary movement has represented for 10 years— all this renders even more insupportable that contradiction of capitalism, according to which, as technological and scientific capacities increase, intellectual and creative energies are wasted, while the possibilities for innovations in production are suppressed so that the existing labor organization and the organization of knowledge crucial to labor’s functioning are not disturbed. Cultural transformation, mass creativity, and refusal of work are the dominant themes of the Movement of ‘77. But only with difficulty could the Movement succeed in organizing all that potential constituted by the intellectual energy, technical-scientific expertise and innovative energy that the young-proletarian strata possess. The enormous richness that the Movement of ‘77 expresses could not succeed in finding a formal program and positive organization. This is because of capitalist repression, but also because of the inability of the revolutionary movement to adjust with rapidity its interpretive categories and its practices to the reality of a mature, post-socialist proletariat.

All during 1976, new forms of organizations— connected with Autonomy, but related to all aspects of collective life and cultural identity— were being established. The rejection of the family and of individualism had found a form of organization in the experience of proletarian youth associations. These associations were communes set up by squatters in certain neighborhoods of big cities; young proletarians thus organized territorially and experimented with forms of collective-life-in-transformation.

The storm that the feminist movement provoked in male-female relations and the subsequent explosion of homosexual collectives thus found a territory in which to consolidate, in which to transform the customs of living, sleeping, eating, smoking. In the same period, the movement for free radio spread widely. In every city, neighborhood and village the young proletarians, together with students and communications workers, used the occasion of a legislative vacuum (the result of which was that the State monopoly on information lapsed and was not replaced by any other sort of regulation) to give life to a network of small “wildcat” stations. The radio stations were operated with luck and very little money, but they could cover a territorial space adequate for the organizational forms and communication needs of the emerging proletarian strata. This was a truly revolutionary fact: with free radio it was possible to communicate rapidly the decisions and appointments of revolutionary organizations or base organizations. Through this channel circulated an uninterrupted flood of music and words, a flood of transformations on the symbolic, perceptive and imaginative planes. This flood entered every house, and anyone could intervene in the flow , telephoning, interrupting, adding, correcting. The design, the dream of the artistic avant-garde— to bridge the separation between artistic communication and revolutionary transformation or subversive practice— became in this experience a reality. The brief, happy experience of Radio Alice— which from February 1976 to March 1977 transmitted from Bologna— remains the symbol of this period, of that unforgettable year of experimentation and accumulation of intellectual, organizational, political, and creative energies.

The year 1976 is also the year of the great concert-festivals of proletarian youth: a last wave of pop music, which arrived in Italy five or six years later than in the U.S. or Great Britain, but which found here an extremely fertile cultural terrain. The sweet sound of pop immediately combined with a certain dimension of mass cultural transformation. It became the constituent element in a vision of the “soft” cultural and social revolution.

The harshness of organizational life in the Workers’ Autonomy was united and merged with the sweet experiences of cultural transformation and the easy flow of information. Lambro Park, 1976, in Milano: 18,000 proletarian youths performed a gigantic sun dance, the likes of which had never been seen before — then fought with police for several hours.

The autumn of 1976 saw an explosion in the movement toward “autonomous price-setting” (autoreduzione). Tens of thousands of young people, organized in associations of proletarian youth, came in from the suburbs of Milano, Rome and Bologna, laid siege to the city centers, confiscated merchandise from luxury shops, “autonomously reduced” the prices of movies, theaters and restaurants (that is, they paid what their politics required— a third or a fourth of the usual price). But the final test of the movement toward “autonomous price-setting” was a violent clash, a forerunner of the violence that would explode in 1977: the battle of La Scala, on December 7, 1976.

La Scala is the bourgeois theater of Milano. December 7 marks the inauguration of the new season, the “opening night” gala. But young Milanese proletarians said that they would not permit the Milan bourgeois to stage this yearly provocation with its pomp, finery and 80,000-lire tickets. They declared war on the Milan bourgeois and their festival. The government accepted the challenge, and thousands of police in battle formation defended La Scala. Hours and hours of conflict, 300 imprisoned, dozens arrested, 7 gravely wounded. The youth movement reflected for a month on this battle and on its catastrophic outcome. But only in order to be better prepared the next time.

The next time was in February of 1977.

The struggles that exploded in 1977 were completely out of proportion to what occasioned them: they began with a small university campaign against a Christian-Democratic “reform”. On February 3, the fascists wounded a student in Rome, and the university was subsequently occupied. First in Rome, Palermo, and Naples, then in Florence and Torino, finally in Bologna. The occupation of the universities was a pretext: the academic institutions were occupied not only by students, but by young workers who worked in small factories, and had no other possibility for organization and concerted action. Then there were the unemployed, those who lived in the city outskirts, the juvenile delinquents, the disenfranchised... University communities became general quarters for a wave of social struggle that had as a fundamental theme the refusal of the capitalist organization of work, the rejection of that system which generates exploitation and unemployment as the two poles of socialized work. “All work for less [time]” became the watchword for this wave of struggle of young proletarians— a group heterogeneous from the point of view of productivity, but homogeneous from the point of view of culture. “All work for less” is a watchword which has nothing to do with questions such as “the right to a job”, or the right to a full-time position. Work is necessary evil— or at least remains so for a historical period that we wish eventually to surpass and extinguish with collective force. What we want is to apply, totally and coherently, the energies and the potential that exist for a socialized intelligence, for a general intellect. We want to make possible a general reduction in working time and we want to transform the organization of work in such a way that an autonomous organization of sectors of productive experimental organization may become possible. These sectors would give rise to experimental forms of production in which the object of worker cooperation would not be profit, but the reduction of necessary work, the intelligent application of technical and scientific knowledge, and innovation.

This program actually existed among the young proletarian social strata that in February 1977 filled the cities with their demonstrations.

The cultural transformation and the rejection of prevailing values that the cultural experience of 76 (radio stations, associations, journals, “grass roots poetry”) had accumulated, exploded with a wave of anti-institutional creativity. The critique of power is the critique of the language of power. On the 17th of February, the critique of power, the critique of representative institutions, and the critique of institutional language were united in a unique action. 7000 young proletarians who (a fact without precedent in the Movement’s history in Italy) expelled, with uncontrollable rage and fury, the most important figure among Italian labor leaders, Luciano Lama, secretary of CGIL and exponent of PCI, from a lecture hall at the University of Rome, where he was delivering a policy statement. The PCI accused the young proletarians of being “enemies of the working class” and tried to divide them from factory workers. But this move did not succeed; no factory supported the great union leader. Instead, the young workers of the Northern factories expressed sympathy for the young proletarians of Rome who had expelled Lama.

The split between the PCI and the Movement reached its apex at this period, and will likely never be repaired. On the 17th of February a mass sector of the Italian proletariat was liberated with violence from socialist traditions, both Stalinist and reformist. The autonomy of the movement had been assured, in the consciousness and in the organization of ever-growing strata. And the stage was being set for the insurrection of March.

March of 1977 was the moment of greatest intensity in the explosion of the struggle for autonomy. The social strata that were mobilized in this month were the young unemployed intellectuals, together with “off-the-books labor and seasonal workers”— that is, all sectors of irregular or marginal workers. At the same time, March was the moment of the greatest tension and distance between the new movement for autonomy and the Communist Party. The act of expelling Lama from the University of Rome established a precedent from which the people at the University of Bologna proceeded in the days of March. The occupation of the entire university zone by huge numbers of young proletarians coming from every area was transformed into a true insurrection when on March 2, a youth was killed by police. But Bologna is also the city in which the PCI has always been strong; the local government is a leftist coalition and bosses and organizations of the Workers’ Movement collaborate to ensure social peace. The exploitation of young workers in Bologna is controlled by a network of little bosses and bureaucrats, often linked with the Communist Party. In brief: Bologna is the city of the realized Historical Compromise. And for that reason (as well as for the reasons of the Movements’ extraordinary creative vitality) the Bologna experience marked a moment of absolutely central political importance.

The extraordinary violence of the days in March, the mass following attracted by the Movement, and the radical nature of its objectives created a crisis for the city’s Historical Compromise by offering evidence of the government’s inability to function as an instrument of control over vast proletarian sectors.

For ten days, two large cities (Bologna and Rome) were in the hands of the Movement— in very violent conflict in Rome on March 7; on the 2nd and the 12th of March in Bologna. On the 12th, Rome was the theater for a six-hour battle in which tens of thousands of youths were engaged, while 100,000 filed by in demonstrations. And then in the following days at Bologna the Movement invaded the city. The Italian bourgeoisie recognized at this time the serious danger that its design for institutional order faced, and saw that the PCI’s ability to guarantee order had been undermined. Consequently, the PCI lost credibility both as the governing party, and because it had let control of so vast a movement slip away from it. The State was forced to resort to brutal repression: hundreds of arrests in Bologna, and then the unleashing of a campaign of repression all over Italy that struck most heavily at groups that worked on the cultural level: radios, journals, publishing houses, and bookstores were closed and searched.

But the Movement was not broken: in Milano, Turin, and then once more in Rome the mass demonstrations continued. The summer began with a violent polemic— inspired by an appeal launched by French intellectuals against the repression— on the repressive nature of the Historical Compromise as an institutional design for the elimination of all dissent.

Also at that time, there began in Italy (and here the Movement was behind the times) a critical analysis of socialism of the Stalinist type (of which, in the last analysis, the PCI is only a variant). On the strength of theoretical reflections developed in France by those such as Foucault, Deleuze, and Guattari (a more critical and doubtful reception was given to the Nouveaux Philosophes, who were too removed from any concrete experience with the critique of institutions and with class struggle), and a new front was opened in the struggle against the State. Thus new forms of totalitarianism were seen developing as the historical left was assimilated by the apparatus of power. And so the critique of the institutionalized Workers’ Movement acquired a new connotation: according to the PCI, all the years after ‘68 had been marked by gains for social democratic and reformist causes. But now one began to discover that social democracy, even though introducing new elements into the communist worker movement tradition of the Third International, was not necessarily in contradiction with totalitarian, violent and Stalinist trends. In fact, the two aspects were mixed in the PCI, which had become a component of bourgeoisie democracy by abandoning every type of violence against the existing order and at the same time a violent force of totalitarianism against the revolutionary movement.

Confronted with the wave of repression that followed the events of March, and mindful of the discussion that had developed on the nature of the State after the Historical Compromise, the Bologna movement set forth a proposal for a Convention to be held at the end of September. At the Convention, all components of the Movement in Italy could come together, along with ail the European intellectuals or political groups that were interested in the Italian revolution as a forerunner of things to come. The September Convention was the great opportunity— missed, however— for the Movement to overcome its purely negative, destructive connotations, and formulate a programmatic position for the autonomous organization of a real society against the State, an autonomous organization of social, intellectual, and productive energies that might make possible a progressive liberation of lives from salaried work. Unfortunately, the Convention turned into a reunion against repression, and this greatly reduced the theoretical importance and the possibilities of this period. Nonetheless, 70,000 people were present at the convention and the attention of the whole Italian proletariat (as well as that of vast numbers of intellectuals all over Europe) was directed toward the Convention. But the gathering concluded without producing any direction for the future, any new program, and without advancing the Movement. Instead it was restricted to hearing tales of repression and then defining, in negative terms, its reaction. A long phase of crisis had begun for the Movement, a crisis that involved dispersion, disorganization and above all, the lack of prospects.


Up to this point, we have completely ignored the problem — absolutely central to the analysis of class struggle in Italy — of terrorism. Armed struggle was a form of agitation that grew ever larger after a certain point, and finally became preponderant in September 1977. The problem of terrorism probably cannot be dissociated from the whole complex of experiences connected with the Movement’s organization in factories and in society.

On the other hand it is also true that the entire rapid analysis we have made of the most significant moments of the class struggle in this decade remains incomplete and spotty. We have neglected, on purpose, an analysis of the relationship between the mass movement and clandestine organizations or armed actions. The reason for this omission is that we would like, within the framework of our necessarily simplified “history”, to view the experiences of the armed struggle as a symptomatic fact, as a symptom of the problems not resolved by the mass movement.

This is certainly a valid enough viewpoint today. In recent years, the armed struggle has more and more assumed a “terrorist” connotation; no longer within the mass movement, it has completely replaced the Movement and occupies all the available space.

The first and most important armed organization in Italy — the Red Brigades — was born out of the workers’ struggle in the first years of the 70’s. The militants of the Red Brigades come from the large factories in Milan, Turin, and Genoa. The first armed actions (the kidnapping of managers of factories, together with acts of sabotage) were linked to the workers’ struggle against the factory hierarchy.

But after these first actions (1971, 1972), the Red Brigades evolved rapidly toward a strategy of frontal, “political” — in the worst, most abstract sense of the term —opposition to the State. From this point they began to behave like an actual party, whose actions and objectives are neither related to, nor dependent on, the times and on the forms of the mass struggle. In this new phase the Brigades reached a critical point, at which the extreme “ML” (Marxist-Leninist in the most dogmatic and avant-garde sense) types of thinking prevailed in the fighting organization. Moreover, the theoretical-political grounding of the militants in the Brigades is distinctly Stalinist. Part of their background, especially their social context (the factories) comes from the “hard” Stalinist base of the Communist Party. The social contexts of the Brigades — even more than their selection of a clandestine modus operandi — set them apart from others even as early as 1974; by 1977, the differences between the evolving Movement for Autonomy and the Brigades had become even greater.

The highest point in the career of the Red Brigades was the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro, President of the DC. These events took place at a time when the Movement found itself in a state of crisis and immobilization, largely because of the “failure” of the September Convention. It was precisely the immobilization induced by the Convention that led ever larger sectors of the Movement, especially those harassed by repressive measures, to choose a clandestine life. Many other fighting organizations smaller than the Red Brigades were formed. These smaller organizations had objectives that were closely linked to social struggles (acts of sabotage, burning of employment offices), while the actions of the Red Brigades had an effect almost exclusively political, directed as they were at the DC or at the headquarters of the majority party.

The question of the “armed struggle” gave birth in these years to a number of dubious theses, whether within the Movement, in the press, or in propaganda emitted by the forces of the regime. Terrorism came to be considered a direct expression of the forms of struggle of the Movement. The Movement has certainly expressed and practiced forms of violent struggle, when violence represented a necessary means for the defense of organizational levels (taking to the streets, occupying buildings, picketing), but it has always refused to see the military organization as an autonomous political body, or as an “armed party.” The strength of the Red Brigades is thus directly proportional to the weakness of the Movement. And so, as the repression of the regime weighs more heavily on the Movement, the power of the armed organization increases. On the other hand, we must also recognize that, beginning in the Spring of 77, when the strength of the mass movement brought about a crisis for institutional equilibrium and the Historical Compromise, the State undertook to reconstruct its stability and institutional equilibrium on the basis of the opposition to terrorism. The policy of “national unity” — amounting to a reinforcement of the Christian-Democratic government (always a fragile majority) with uncritical support from the PCI — was adopted as an emergency measure in the face of the Red Brigades’ assault. And on the same day that Moro was kidnapped the PCI decided to support a DC government that was completely unacceptable. For this strategy the PCI paid, with its electoral losses in June, 1979. But this is of little interest. What is interesting is that terrorism created a situation of crisis for the revolutionary movement, or rather inserted itself into a pre-existing crisis of the Movement. And thus inserting itself, it accentuated and consolidated the crisis, reinforcing the repression from the one side and, on the other side, restricting the revolutionary process to a pathway without egress, without alternative routes.

This said, then, we have to recognize that the extension of the armed struggle and the great impact of armed terrorist action (to be differentiated from a practice of mass violence justified by the needs of the proletariat) are directly linked to that crisis in the Movement which evolved after 77. We can say that armed terrorist action is a symptom of the revolutionary movement’s inability to put a program into effect, as well as a symptom of the Movement’s cultural impoverishment.

After 77, and especially after the Moro affair, sectors of Autonomy began to realize all this. And here our study must become more complex, if we wish to comprehend the most recent period of Italian history, that is, the events of April 7, 1979.

In ‘77 the positions taken by the Movement on the armed struggle were imprecise. The entire Movement had rightly refused to condemn (as the bourgeois regime and its parties requested) mass violence. The March insurrection had been a virtual explosion involving tens of thousands of proletarians and young people, and that level of violence was an inevitable stage which gave to the Movement the maneuvering room always denied it by the institutions. But on the subject of terrorist action the debate was always more confused. All the components of the Movement recognized the proletarian and revolutionary origins of the fighting formations (a few idiots actually sought to excommunicate the armed formations, or to declare them agents of foreign secret services or of reactionary groups— but everyone knows that the militants in these formations are comrades who come out of agitation in factories or in the slums, out of experiences we all had in those years). So the problem was put in terms of “legitimatization.”

Within the Movement, there are two opinions on this question of “legitimacy”.

One faction considers armed clandestine action as a simple “extension” of mass violence, an “extension” of proletarian restiveness at the legal limits imposed by capitalism. But others demur, claiming that this outlook underestimates (in the name of spontaneous sympathy) the radical contradiction between autonomous behavior on the part of proletarian strata (who are the bearers of a potential for liberation) and the Stalinist politics, or even State-like behavior, of the B.R.

Positions on the legitimacy of terrorism differ within the various components of the Movement. The Bologna movement (the so-called “creative wing”) recognized without hesitation the contradiction between terrorism and the mass movement. The committees of Autonomous Workers (Autonomia Operaia) at Rome (the “Volsci”) forcefully criticized the politics of the Red Brigades, while other groups maintained more problematic position in order to avoid lumping together terrorism and the most radical practices of the Movement. But while the “ideological” discussion of terrorism continued, people lost sight of terrorism as spectacle, of its capacity to occupy progressively more space on the stage-set of class struggle. And when this aspect of terrorism was considered (after the Moro kidnapping) a new operation began: one did not attempt to condemn or exorcise terrorism (as the great bourgeois journalists did, and behind them the little journalists of Lotta Continua), nor even to support it in order to gain something from it. Instead, one sought to supersede it. Superseding terrorism became the true problem for the revolutionary movement. Given that combat formations represented a product of a faction which the Movement had not been able to supersede, it was necessary to supersede this faction and its terroristic manifestations. It was necessary to engage oneself in this effort. We can say that the intellectual and militant segments of Autonomy were concerned after the death of Moro with finding methods of superseding terrorism. Superseding terrorism did not mean becoming involved in the Nazi extermination that the super-policemen (like General Dalla Chiesa, plenipotentiary of the anti-terrorists) tried to effect with dragnets, with indiscriminate arrests, with corruption and stool pigeons, with torture and internment camps. Instead, superseding terrorism meant creating a foundation for pacification and for the reconstruction of conditions needed for the class struggle. To pacify obviously meant to remove the obstacle constituted by the more than one thousand political prisoners. Liberation, then, of the political detainees, along with amnesty, elimination of the camps, and dismissal of Dalla Chiesa. All these are objectives of pacification originating within the Movement, objectives that the political planners of Autonomy want to make into the aims of a mass initiative capable of setting up the conditions for a resumption of the class struggle in a strategically autonomous form, no longer determined by the difficult straits of a civil war.

But suddenly, just when the possibility of superseding terrorism began to be perceived and began to mature, State repression intervened with all the power that it could put into the field. We have reached the events of April 7.

The desire of the State to eliminate every attempt at superseding terrorism became yet clearer when the editors of Metropoli were arrested and the publication suppressed. Metropoli in fact is a journal devoted specifically to the goal of surpassing terrorism and reconstructing autonomous conditions for the class struggle.

For quite some time to come, the revolutionary movement will have to deal with the actions taken by the State on April 7. Even beyond the question of liberating the comrades who were arrested, some fundamental doubts have been raised, and the possibility of making a transition to a new epoch in the process of liberation from capitalist domination has been jeopardized in a dramatic way.

To divest oneself of these last ten years and at the same time to uncover the continuity inherent in the process of liberation— these are two apparently contradictory moves, but moves which must be effected simultaneously. This is the problem facing us at the moment. But the actions of the government were aimed at rendering any transition impossible.

In the campaign which the power structure has launched against Autonomy, everything is false: not this or that detail, not this or that assertion, but everything— the evidence, the proof, the circumstances. Everything is false, and the power structure knows it, even declares it. It is of no importance to the power structures whether something is true of not. This is the spirit behind the government operation. The deterrent power of the operation lies in its capacity to unleash a violent campaign of immense proportions, a campaign based on SIMULATION. The real operatives of the offensive are not the judges, but the press, the TV, and the Performance. Thus the offensive is beyond politics, freed finally from any remaining link to truth, liberated from any correspondence with actuality. Simulate an infinite number of war scenarios and project them on the screen of the mass imagination— this is the strategy. For in truth it is in that territory of the imagination that the real war is being fought. On one side of the battle is Dissuasion (the infinite power of the State, the all-seeing eye, the all-knowing brain, the all-imagining mind), on the other is Liberation of the creative energies of a proletariat whose intellectual potential is immense, but whose conditions of material existence are cramped and miserable. This is the real contradiction, the real war.

So; the Performance of April 7 has shown that the power structure can win the war today by invading the realm of the imagination. And, having conquered the realm of the imagination, the power structures now run rampant, demonstrating a violence that has no precedents, and arrogance that is totalitarian.

How can one deny that the power structure “seems” to have won? Hasn’t it, after all, with that stroke of simulation, arrogated to itself the right to put an entire decade on trial? It has set itself up as a trial judge. And so the decade of egalitarianism and solidarity, the decade of collectivization and rejection of work are now on trial. What better introduction, what better premise to a “backlash” that promises a return to normal production, to the usual, day-to-day violence that occurs in the family and on the job?

Meanwhile, as the power structure prepares to try our entire decade as criminal, subversive and paranoid— well, here we see the forces that represent the existing Movement unable to understand the meaning of this Operation Simulation launched by the power structure, unable to understand anything in fact, and unable to react in any way.

So it goes for Organized Autonomy. Its paralysis is complete. As of April 7 it has been shunted into the Wax Museum of politics. In the face of the power structure, in the face of that game of mirrors which is Simulation, the good little bad boys of Autonomy have replied with the conviction that their party (with all its holy, eternal principles such as “active abstention”...) can match the State regiment for regiment. But the State operates on a hundred battlefields, while the party of Autonomy cannot even operate on that single field it has chosen for itself— the streets are off limits, and for those incapable of thinking in any terms but street campaigns, the streets themselves have become unusable. Those who want to respond to the simulation-filled power structures with the power (but does it exist?) of truth and of counter-information will find their words turning to dust in their mouths.

Let us also examine those whose business it is to be concerned about guarantees of freedom. The intellectuals— yes, even they seek to reaffirm their role by seeking out the “truth”. Take a look at what Umberto Eco has to say in the April 22 edition of La Repubblica. After having sought the “truth” for half a page, using methods worthy of a detective novel, he announces that the boundary between legality and illegality can shift depending on the moment, on the circumstances. Power relationships, he says. Of course! It's true: legality is determined by the power relationships that obtain between old and new, between the liberation of the possible and the dictatorship of the present. The greater the strength of that Movement which strains to liberate the possibilities compressed within the present, the farther the boundaries of legality will be pushed. Because legality is only the sanctioning (by structures, by judges, by the police) of the present state of affairs, of the present’s right to suppress the energies, the creativity and the inventive powers of the proletarian segment of society. Good thinking, Eco. Except that the people who set those boundaries of legality are people (like Eco) who write for La Repubblica. And the people who decide where the boundaries should be shifted are truth-seekers of Eco’s ilk— as if it were possible to continue with that attitude of the entomologist which he shows, the attitude of someone examining historical processes, struggles, programs, passions and defeats as though they were natural phenomena, as though within them were not the pulsation of a subjective intensity and the possibility for a disruption and overthrow of the entire scenario. Today, after the events of April 7, it is the power structure which simulates the scenario in which power relationships are determined. The truth determines nothing.

Or take the case of Luigi Barzini, who on April 10, on the front page of the Corriere della Sera, defines the comrades arrested on April 7 as Messianic visionaries who provide an irrational movement with a program that constantly feeds the utopian impulses of the masses of young people, who would otherwise be scattered, desperate or resigned. Well that’s true enough. But that obstinate anger with which revolutionary thinking in Italy has nourished the desires and wants of the masses of proletarians and youth has nothing irrational about it. It is the reality of the social contradictions in urban areas, the dramatic reality of the contradiction between man and nature, which is the radical element— not our wants. It is reality which sets before us the choice between utopia and barbarism, between a breakdown of the present system and the permanent threat of destruction, ecocatastrophe and psychocatastrophe. And the choice will have to be made very soon, very quickly. The acceleration of pace in urban areas, the mad inhumanity of relationships between people, the hallucinatory quality of every form of expression and every form of existence, and the increase in militarization— all these developments combine to set an urgent choice before revolutionaries: breakdown or barbarism. And even if the possibilities for a breakdown were very limited, even if everything were tending in a direction opposed to the possibility of liberating humanity’s technical, scientific, creative and inventive energies from the destructive domination of capitalism and ecocatastrophe, even if the idea of liberating these potentials were a utopian one— well, even so, the only realistic choice would be revolution. If we are interested in life, then only revolution is a realistic alternative.

The situation in Italy provides a social laboratory of exceptional interest, both from the point of view of capitalist domination and from the revolutionary point of view. The most important fact for understanding the present situation is that centralized and coherent forms of control over the social sector have come to an end, and thus the society and the forces which circulate in the social sector are no longer governable by politics.

The real mystery of the Italian situation is how an apparatus of domination over social beings can be maintained by a functioning which must deal with and organize the most varied and contradictory types of behavior imaginable. The real problem is how the functioning of domination and the capitalist system’s assigning-of-value can be established by means of unfocused conflict. There is a thread of functioning which runs through discontinuity, fragmentation and conflict. The question is how can the labor market continue to function, when an enormous quantity of surplus-value is produced by a segment of the labor force which is politically and culturally insubordinate, extremely flexible in terms of its mobility, unwilling to accept the fixed arrangement of salaried output, and obliged to accept a relatively high rate of confiscation of the surplus value produced. The marriage of insubordination and productivity, of conflict and functioning, is the point of departure for a new alliance between capitalistic development and the proletarian liberation movement. This alliance provides the only possible means of resolving the present crisis, the only way in which conditions for a productive autonomy, rather than an ossified subordination, can be established.

The present situation— in which a totalizing functioning exists without the totality, and in which power exists without a government— has in fact seen power present itself as mere tactics, as “day-by-day politics”, capable of functioning only under that guise. The functioning of this type of politics is not guided by any coherent strategic planning, but by a game of internal self-regulation. To oppose this mechanism of self-regulation (in which the official declarations and the announced strategies are only simulations of tactical scenarios that cannot actually control the forces they summon up)— to oppose this mechanism of self-regulation by offering a coherent alternative strategy— as Organized Autonomy has sought to do— only amounts to remaining ensnared in a game, the rules of which none of the players can make operative. So: there is no strategy, no criterion of truth in tactics. But there is a point of contact— at least on the tactical level— between the proletariat’s importunate desire for liberation from the slavery of work and capitalism’s interests in increasing the relative rate of surplus-value and increasing social productivity. It is at this point of contact that one can occasionally break the power of that Domination which wishes to forestall Autonomy, which restrains the intellectual energies of the proletariat, which organizes Knowledge and Know-how in a functional design aimed at reproducing the form of Capital and the form of Value, so that the road to the liberation of life from work is closed off, so that the potential contained in the intelligence and activity of the individual is held in check, while he is compelled to de-individualize himself and submit to being made into Abstract Work.

Thus we stand before the paradox of a domination which is exercised without any government, a controlling of the system without a governing of the system. When a system becomes very complex and has numerous independent variables, then the adage “an empty mind is an open mind” seems to apply. It is the absence of “planning” which makes the system controllable. The “full weight” of an articulated plan tends to polarize society by making people erect “walls of judgement”. In complex systems polarization is eliminated and the means of regulation tend to be in conformity with the indeterminacy of the system. This rule of thumb prevails even on ideological and judicial levels. So let us examine once again that judicial campaign launched on the 7th of April.

The “castle” of accusations built up has no “foundation”. But this is exactly what the government actions were designed to show: “justice” reveals its lack of foundation in “law” in a way that is nearly obscene. Only in this manner can “justice” enter into a "crime-accusation” relationship with social beings that are very different from one another.

Illuminating for the study of this phenomenon are the revelations of certain intellectuals who would have us believe they were once “plants” within the Movement. Consider some of the more dignified confessions: “Forgive me if I insist on this point, but that version of “Potere Operaio” (i.e., the Veneto-Emilian branch to which Cacciari belonged) has nothing at all to do with the version which arose after 1968.” (Cacciari, in an interview granted to Repubblica, 10/4/79). Or this: “I had my last political discussion with Negri more than ten years ago. . . Since that time I haven’t seen him. . .” (Asor Rosa, in La Repubblica 24/4/79).You know the saying— “People betray themselves”! And this is the mechanism which the forces of “justice” want to set in motion: individuals must autonomously come to feel a need to exculpate themselves, or a need to separate themselves from the accused in order to savor the “pleasure of having survived"— to borrow a phrase from Canetti.

The law's lack of foundations becomes strikingly apparent when the “law” lives in a state of “emergency”, when it becomes a “judicial emergency measure”. But emergency means a cut-off of rationality; thus the hype must show itself as hype— it can only be effective if it is lived as hype. The “law” feels the need to make itself indeterminate in order to be able to prosecute all those beings who are determined by society, in order to control every determination.

The indeterminacy of the “law” in fact amounts to the indeterminacy of social types: what, after all, is the typical revolutionary of today? This indeterminate “law”, in spite of appearances and in spite of the price that has been paid by the vanguard movements, is not intent on hounding these movements (if it were, then the “law” would be a quite determinate thing, would have foundations— this is the position of the PCI), but rather directs its attentions toward indeterminate elements. An American researcher wrote in a recent analysis of the phenomenon of terrorism that “the ‘moral sensibility’ of the normal citizen is not very different form that of the terrorist” (Jan Schreiber), since, in a complex system in which “mediation” as a structure has failed, every group, down to the level of the individual, tends to define itself autonomously, and not see itself in relation to “others”. In a similar vein, Brian Jenkins has defined terrorism as the “instrument for gaining political objectives that have been set autonomously.” The indeterminacy of the“law” serves as a means for pursuing social beings who autonomously define themselves to the extent that they are no longer identifiable by their social “status”. To "prosecute” social beings thus means that the law must make itself “impersonal” to such a degree that it becomes a symbolic representation, a performance or spectacle of accusation and trial. Rather than prosecute private citizens, it aims at prosecuting symbolic figures, products of a collective imagination; the Guilty Party is a product of everyone’s imagination. At this level of abstraction of beings, the law can no longer sustain itself and has need for abstractions promulgated by the mass media. Indeterminacy requires a relationship with the mass media— only then can the “theater of cruelty” be staged.

The law turns into a combination of emergency and mass media, exists in the form of emergency as it becomes identified with the mass media, is the one in virtue of being the other.

Court action operates in the realm of contingencies not only because it is a system of tactics which shifts the boundaries of legality according to individual circumstances— as Umberto Eco asserts— but also because today every boundary is outside the scope of classically codified law, because there is no longer any point in prosecuting “private” beings. What matters is not so much the outcome of the court action, but rather the symbolic trial set in motion through the mass media. And the objective of court action is not so much the maintenance of order, but rather the immediate creation of a collective recognition of the “boundaries”— a recognition that can be created only when disorder prevails. There is no more “personal” penalization, only symbolic penalization. The traditional trial in the courtroom has become irrelevant in the face of the imaginary trials (i.e., enacted by the imagination) staged by the mass media. What cannot be penalized in physical terms is instead penalized by means of a universal sacrificial rite, that is, the symbolic trials which the mass media stage in the imagination of the collectivity. It is the imagination which is actually on trial. The trial is aimed at creating certain attitudes and insights, at forcing indeterminate social beings to assume, autonomously and of their own acccord, an identity defined for them by the courts.

To this end, lexical items from Negri’s texts and ideas have been put on trial; it is of no interest whose lexicon it is— rather, it is the lexicon, the ideas of the imaginary social being which have been charged. The prosecution is not seeking a single guilty party, but rather the Guilty Party— the collective imagination of the Guilty Party. The deconstruction and construction of texts and lexicon are functional elements in the establishment of the lexical and linguistic Guilty Party. It is not accidental that Umberto Eco feels the need to use ambiguities in his article. Putting words on trial is not possible in the courtroom; it is done instead in the mass media and in the symbolic process.

Having come this far, we now need to construct an operational synthesis which is capable of overturning the premises which the power structure imposed by its actions of April 7 (as well as all the other premises which the power structure has imposed in recent times). The goal which the revolutionary element has been seeking to attain (more or less consciously) in recent years is the liberation of that potential for autonomy which has been propagated in society by the efforts of the present form of organized Autonomy. This goal is equivalent to the aim of undertaking a passage from the 1970’s to the 1980’s while maintaining structural conditions that ensure the liberation of life from labor and that avoid the logic of extermination and ecodestruction promulgated by Nuclear Age capitalism.

The offensive undertaken by the power structure during recent months is directed at making this passage impossible— that is, it is aimed at restoring the initiative to the State while preventing the continued existence of the structural conditions needed for revolution.

Power exercised without an attempt to govern accepts a very high level of conflict. Thus the power structure has learned to survive on a discontinuous terrain, reconstructing the continuity of its functioning across this discontinuity. Revolutionary impulses are permitted to operate in every social milieu, in every type of production function except for that fundamental function which is the function constituted by Knowledge. Present urban society may in fact be conceived as medieval fiefdoms: highwaymen and madmen can roam about seeking booty or indulging in fits of insanity, but only if they stay in the countryside, in the desert places and in the woods, and do not come onto the manor grounds. The manor in the metropolis of the 1980’s is the place where Knowledge is produced, the technological heart of production. The access routes to this manor are closely guarded, while in the streets and homes of the metropolis, anything goes.

The center of the social organization lies in that zone where Knowledge is produced and functions. But it would be simplistic to conclude that the revolution therefore needs to substitute a Leninist seizure of Knowledge for a Leninist seizure of the State. The problem is in reality much more complicated, since not only the properties and use of Knowledge, but also its structure, are determined by its capitalistic functioning. And the process of overturning the functioning of Knowledge (today Knowledge functions to control and to assign value, but within it lies the possibility for a self-transformation into an infinitely productive force capable of progressively freeing segments of social existence from the constraints of work)— this process of overturning is linked to a repeated, long-term (perhaps extremely long-term) dislocation of the modes, the procedures and the instruments of the production of Knowledge (a passage from the power structure to an autonomous social arrangement). And only this long process of repeated dislocation and appropriation of the modes and instruments of the production of Knowledge will be able to modify the epistemological, and thus the operative, structure of Knowledge.

But the forms and the politics involved in this process are still entirely unknown to us. That is to say, we have not elaborated any theory of “transition” (to use that horrible and imprecise word). The only theory of power and transition that we possess, the theory to which we must constantly refer— perhaps in order to deviate from it, though always remaining in some ways entrapped within it— is the Leninist one. Essentially, the Leninist theory can be formulated as follows: the proletariat must take possession of the State, bolster the machinery of the State and the domination of the State's will over society in order to abolish capitalism (only afterward will the extinction of the State be possible). We have had the dream of realizing this program on our minds for fifty years now, from the time of “war communism”, from the time of the NEP, through the period of Stalinism, up to the Chinese experience, up to the awful reality of present-day socialism. Capitalism has been neither abolished nor transformed, but rather has become ossified, inasmuch as the State, which ought to incarnate the will to supersede, has instead been nothing more than the reification of those relationships of production inherited from capitalism. In other words, the State has represented a terrorist-style forced recapitulation of the existing modes of production, a throttling of every possible move toward autonomy in the social system.

Thus the time now seems ripe to formulate an hypothesis concerning the “transition”. The hypothesis which we advance as the premise for further theoretical work is an exact reversal of Lenin’s theory. That is, we seek to reify an “ignor-action” toward the State” (“ignoraction”: adapted from the German ignoraktion — an action which ignores, does not recognize those formal boundaries which the State imposes), to reify an abolition of the mechanism of State control and to reify a political formalization of the alliance between mobile strata of the labor force and dynamic capitalism, between capitalistic, post-industrial, electronic development and proletarian insubordination to the work ethic. It is interesting that at present renewed attention is being given to neo-libertarian hypotheses in economics. The interest that many revolutionary Marxists have manifested for economic hypotheses of neo-libertarian tendency thus becomes understandable.

Revolutionary thinking must focus its critical skill on the problem of transition, if only to liquidate and supersede the concept. As L. Berti has said, the concept of “transition” and the system of categories which it involves can “produce” a real scenario— can produce a vision of the revolutionary process which gets in the way of liberation. Divesting oneself of this concept means divesting oneself of a practice and an ideological projection, and thus, in the end, divesting oneself of an effect of reality. Freeing oneself of the idea that capitalism and communism are systems which succeed each other in a diachronic scheme amounts to recognizing that in a revolution from the apex of capitalism lies the only possibility for a Movement of Autonomy from capitalist domination. This Movement of Autonomy involves liberation from work, and suppression of the general formal conditions of capitalist domination. The breakdown of this domination can thus be conceived (and put into effect) as a subjective mode (in the Movement toward Autonomy) of a process in which capital determines the material conditions for the reconstruction, without reproducing the formal conditions of the previous system. Separating the material organization of Know-how from the form of Value then becomes— not a natural tendency, but the strategic objective, the plan of operation of the revolutionary movement.

Translated by Jared Becker, Richard Reid & Andrew Rosenbaum


April 7: Repression in Italy - CARI

The following analysis of the April 7 operation was written by the New York Committee Against Repression in Italy (CARI).

On April 7, 1979 the police arrested about 20 people claiming that they were “dangerous terrorists” and charging one of them, Toni Negri, with being the “secret leader” of the Red Brigades. Those arrested were neither underground terrorists caught red-handed in the act nor were they found in secret hideouts with compromising documents. All the defendants have been openly active for many years in the political movement of the extra-parliamentary left and comprise most of the department of Political Science at the University of Padua as well as the editorial staff of two radical magazines.

The accusations are extremely serious and some carry sentences of up to life imprisonment. Here is a summary of the official charges; nine of the defendants face accusations such as “conspiring to form and participate in armed groups,” carrying “insurrection against the State” as well as “being responsible for the organization and leadership of the Red Brigades.” Furthermore, all the defendants are accused of “subversion” for having organized and led a group called “Potere Operaio” (dissolved in 1973!) as well as other groups related to “Autonomia Operaia.”


Despite the gravity of the charges, the arrests were made without any factual incriminating evidence. The accusations were mainly based upon the writings of the defendants, who have been primarily charged for their political ideas. Other “evidence” consists of telephone tapes, secret witnesses and informants. For example, the major “evidence’ linking Negri and the journalist Nicotri with the Moro kidnapping is alleged phone conversations between the two defendants and members of the Moro family. Nocotri was eventually freed on July 7, after 3 months in jail. As for Negri, voice-print analysis conducted both in Italy and at the University of Michigan cleared him entirely of the charge. The Italian press, so insistent on the telephone accusation, hardly mentioned the results of the voiceprint analysis reached in July 1979. Toni Negri is still in prison.

Of utmost concern is the violation of the defendant’s right to construct their legal defense. The prosecutor has imprisoned and isolated them (without bail), and only then has he attempted to construct his case. This is a dangerous precedent (reminiscent of the West German Kontaktverbot) for it makes it impossible for the defense lawyers to defend their clients against vague general charges, supported only by contradictory “evidence.”

As La Repubblica states, concerning the arrest warrant of Negri, it is “10 pages without any proof.” What Calogero, the prosecutor, claims to be “evidence” against Negri simply refers to his ideas and writings which have been openly sold in bookstores for years. Thus, under the pretence of defending democracy, the prosecutor has actually swept away the last vestiges of the individual’s legal rights, beginning with freedom of expression.


The Italian State, which has retained the criminal laws of the fascist period (i.e., the Codice Rocco, which makes it possible to convict someone for having “dangerous” opinions) has reinforced its fascist inheritance by instituting the “Legge Reale” in 1975. This is a body of laws, purportedly against terrorism, which severely curtails personal freedom giving the police the right to shoot individuals without any legal consequences. In the referendum of 1978, the Christian Democrats (CD) and the Communist Party (ICP) joined forces to support the “Legge Reale.” This coalition was a blatant attempt to muzzle the new emerging social movements.

In Italy there is no bail procedure and a defendant can be kept in jail for up to 2 years before being tried. In the case of Negri and the others, where charges are serious, preventive detention is allowed for up to 4 years. Further, if the defence is unsuccessful, they must remain in jail for 2 years before their appeal; then, if they lose that appeal after 2 more years, they can go before the Supreme Court.

The deep crisis within the Italian political system enables the leading parties (the CD and ICP coalition) to look for “scapegoats,” thereby diverting attention from the real problems. The ICP after its Historical Compromise with the Christian Democrats, has been encountering increasing disillusionment within its rank and file, evidenced by a record collapse in membership and heavy losses in the past administrative elections. In response, the party has labeled dissidents as either terrorists or fascists. Thus, it is not a coincidence that Calogero, the prosecutor in the recent wave of events, is a ICP member. The Communist Party has willingly paraded itself as the main defender of law and order to gain respectability.

The extra-parliamentary left is strongest among the social strata which has traditionally supported the communists. It was reinforced by the ICP’s decision to ally itself with the Christian Democrats and thus become a part of the State apparatus.


The ICP, as well as the Christian Democrats, are confronted with widespread social discontent that has been intensified by the stiff economic measures instituted in the ’70’s in the name of the energy crisis (layoffs, rampant inflation, etc.). Not only have the workers refused to accept the call for “restraint and sacrifice,” but in the midst of the crisis a mass women’s movement has exploded, while more recently in 1977 a new student movement has swept both the schools and the universities.

The ICP and the Christian Democrats blame the problems of the Italian society on “terrorism” instead of admitting that the crisis is a result of broad social problems. Hence, the attempt to “criminalize” the extra-parliamentary left Movement. The search for “terrorists” has been aimed at those groups and activists who have theorized on the new social phenomena. In particular, the members of Autonomy, a loose network of groups, publications, radios, etc. According to the prosecutor, Autonomy is a breeding-ground of terrorists. He claims that Autonomy and the Red Brigades are one and the same. Repeatedly, in their writings, Toni Negri, Oreste Scalzone and the others have severly criticized the actions and political positions of the Red Brigades, whom they have accused of bypassing the Movement and dispossessing it of its real strength: mass mobilization instead of individual acts of terrorism.

Massimo Cacciari, an ICP member of the Italian Parliament, who is familiar with Negri’s writings has concluded: “Nothing would lead one to an even theoretical connection with the Red Brigades.” He continues: “What is happening is the planned victimization of an entire political Movement, that of Autonomy, which can have serious consequences if the attempt is not circumscribed.”

Caccari is not an isolated voice. Many scholars and intellectuals as well as various political and cultural organizations have protested these arrests. Michel Foucault, Felix Guattari, Jean-Paul Sartre as well as other members of the French intellectual community have made public statements demanding the immediate release of the political prisoners.


Seven months after the arrests, the magistrates still refuse to produce any direct factual evidence for their case. In the words of Padua Prosecutor Calogero: “To imagine that an investigation of this type may quickly and directly arrive at some facts and evidence makes no sense. . . .the relation between a leader of a structure like Autonomy is hardly ever with a crime, but with the organization” (L'Espresso, July 15, 1979).

In Italy no evidence is needed to put somebody in jail, the sheer suspicion of crime is already a crime. Italy has never excelled in its respect for political liberties (the last ten years offer an uninterrupted example of hush-up political scandals and frame-ups) never has the State so explicitly upheld its disengagement from the legislature. Some jurists refer to the difference between the case of Autonomy and the case built in 1969 against the anarchist Valpreda, accused at the time of bombing the Piazza Fontana (Valpreda spent four years in jail before it was ‘discovered’ that the fascists were responsible for this crime).

While Nocotri was being released, a new blitz has taken place in Padua, where the magistrates have issued fifteen judiciary communications for “formation” or “participation in armed band.”


Among the people who have received the judiciary communication for “participation in armed band” are Ferruccio Gambino and Maria Rosa Dalla Costa, two of the only three teachers from the Padua Institute for Political Science who have not been arrested. Ferruccio Gambino teaches sociology at the Institute since 1970. Maria Rosa Dalla Costa is a widely known feminist, who for years has worked in the “Wages For Housework” movement and is the author of many feminist texts, including The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community. ‘I can only understand this judiciary communication as an attack on feminism. . . It is the last act of a witch-hunt launched since April 7 against the Institute where I work, as well as against many brothers and sisters, in the attempt to criminalize our contribution to scientific research and the political debate. As far as I am concerned, it is clear that this time the target is “Wages for Housework,” for all that this strategy implies in terms of the struggles for autonomy, more money and less work, that women have made.” Dalla Costa to II Manifesto (13/7/79).

Alisa del Re, also openly active in the Women’s Movement has been incriminated and investigated by the judges for “terrorist activities”— a clear proof that the scope of the April 7 operation goes beyond and has more ambitious aims than an attack on Autonomy.

Alisa del Re is the author of Beyond Housework. When she was arrested she was ill and her health has deteriorated. So far every attempt to obtain her release on account of her health has been frustrated. Del Re has been subjected to a harsh jail discipline.

Her interview to L’Europeo illustrates the type of “evidence” on which the judges have so far based the charges, and the type of treatment which is reserved for women in Italian jails. Del Re explains that the “evidence” produced by the police is a map found in her possession marked with some locations which were targets of the Red Brigades.

“As far as the topographic map of Padua is concerned ... it was seized by the police in a raid on my house in March 77 ... I was interrogated in June 77 and stated it belonged to my husband. He had used it in July 73 when he substituted for a doctor in Padua. Since he didn’t know the town, he marked on the map the streets of his patients. The funniest thing is that they connected this map with actions made in October 77 . . . Moreover, on the map are marked about 180 streets.

The actions that correspond to the marks on the map are 2 or 3. As for the treatment I was given the day I was arrested and afterwards, I have the impression I had been condemned to death... With suspected pneumonia I was brought to the Venice jail on a motor boat. Seven days after, I was brought to Trieste and thrown in to a damp and cold cell (the Trieste jail does not have an infirmary).

After 15 days of continuous requests, I managed to get an X-ray confirming pneumonia in the right lung... In the view of the treatment I have received, it is an accident I have survived.”


The zeal of the magistrates has reached the point of raising suspicions even against the Socialist Party (ISP). The attempt to involve the ISP has centered around the initiatives it took during the Moro kidnapping. At that time, in the spring of 78, the ISP was the core of the “party of negotiation” (i.e. those who were in favor of dealing with the Red Brigades) and some of their members met some Autonomy people, beginning with Franco Piperno, to consult on possible steps to be taken in the attempt to save Moro's life. These meetings, now, one year later, have raised the suspicion of the magistrates, who have hinted that the ISP supports Autonomy and may even have contacts with the Red Brigades. Since accusing an institutional party is a more difficult operation than jailing some militants, the magistrates have conducted their attacks on the ISP from behind the scenes, often relying on the help of the press and a well-calculated use of hints and rumors. The magistrates are presumably investigating whether the ISP protected Piperno while he was underground. It is also hinted that the ISP financed the research center CERPET (founded by Piperno) and therefore indirectly the magazine Metropoli. Finally, evidence of the “suspicious relation” between the ISP and Autonomy would be the fact that Piperno teaches physics at the University of Calabria in Arcacavata, whose director is Giacomo Mancini, a high ranking member of the ISP.


Meanwhile, the magistrates and the police have done their best to build the image of Piperno as a dangerous criminal. The most “brilliant” operation against Piperno was the one organized on August 17, 1979. In the late afternoon, a man arrived at the Viareggio railroad station on the Rome-Turino train. Two men on the train shouted to a transit police agent “he has gone down that way.” The agent ran after the man shooting, but the man, shooting as well, escaped in a car. The Italian police declared that the man was Piperno, and that he was armed and dangerous. The newspapers headlined Piperno as an “armed bandit.” The incident would have been the best evidence of his “connection with the armed struggle.” Unfortunately Piperno was arrested a few hours later in a Paris cafe by Interpol. He had been recognized by a vacationing member of the ICP. The party has gone a long way into transforming its members into alternative police. A warrant of arrest with 46 charges ranging from the Moro killing to traffic violations, was sent by the Rome judges to the French magistrate, in order to justify the request for extradition.

More than 1,500 political prisoners are presently being held in Italy. In September, 1979, an appeal was signed by a large number of Italian intellectuals around and within the ICP. It includes Bernardo Bertolucci, Masimo Cacciari, Umberto Eco, Alberto Moraria, Leonardo Sciascia and Mario Tronti. The Appeal demands an immediate trial of the accused in order to put an end to the spiral of ambiguity and defamation fuelled by the media.


Workerist Publications and Bios - Sergio Bologna

Overview of some publications and individuals active in Autonomia in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s.

Submitted by Fozzie on October 26, 2019


According to the magistrates conducting the inquest against those who were arrested on 7 April, the political group Potere Operaio (Worker's Power), which emerged in 1969 and disbanded in 1974, was the point of departure for all the developments during the past five years, from Organized Autonomy to the Red Brigades. Under this indictment fall the most diverse people, many of whom no longer have anything to do with the organizations that are prosecuted today. It is in this way that the Italian State tries to “facilitate” its repressive operation: any kind of involvement with Potere Operaio is enough to put someone under indictment.

This brief chronology, compiled for us by Sergio Bologna, seeks to demonstrate that the area of Autonomy, both in theoretical terms and as a militant practice, contains profoundly different tendencies distinguished by their choice of thematics, researches, and theoretical elaborations.

Raniero Panzieri founds Quaderni Rossi (Red Notebooks) with the collaboration of Vittorio Foa, Mario Tronti, Toni Negri, Alberto Asor Rosa, Romano Alquati, Romolo Gobbi, Pierluigi Gasparotto, Claudio Greppi, Rita di Leo, Vittorio Rieser, and Caspare de Caro. Foa is a national official of the Confederazione Generate Italians del Lavoro (Federation of Italian Trade Unions), the union of the social-communist majority. The first issue is subsequently published by the editoral staff.

During the metal workers’ contractual struggles, the editorial staff publishes a series of pamphlets (News from Quaderni Rossi), in addition to the review.

The group’s first political crisis occurs: a majority of the editors wants to organize local “workers’ editorial staffs” and factory newspapers. Potere Operaio (Milan, 1 May 1963), Potere Operaio di Porto Marghera (Padua, May 1963), Gatto Selvaggio (Wildcat) (Turin, June 1963), Classe Operaia (Working Class) (Genoa, June 1963) appear contemporaneously. These local newspapers try to unite themselves under the heading Cronache Operaie (Labor News), and in this operation there is a break with Panzieri, Rieser and others.

In January, the remainder of the editorial staff founds Classe Operaia with numerous local editors: Tronti, Asor Rosa, Di Leo, and De Caro are in Rome; Negri, Bianchini, Ferrari Bravo, and Cacciari in Padua; Casparotto, Sergio Bologna, Forni, Brunatto, and Gobbini in Milan; Alquati and Gobbi in Turin; and Arrighetti, Greppi, Berti, and Francovich in Florence.

Classe Operaia ceases publication.

Negri, Asor Rosa, Cacciari, and Tronti found the review Contropiano (Counterplan). It lasts until 1973. Negri leaves after the second issue. In this year, pamphlets are published by Linea di Massa (Mass’s Line) on the party committee’s struggles at Pirelli and on the organization of the technicians in the State’s petroleum industry (S. Donato Milanese’s companies).

On 1 May, La Classe appears. The editors are Negri, Piperno, Scalzone, Bologna, Daghini, Magnaghi, Dalmaviva and others. In the summer of this year, there are extensive strikes at Fiat in Turin, the worker-student assembly is formed, and the first fliers with the title Lotta Continua appear. In September, the first issue of Potere Operaio, the newspaper of the organization, appears.

In January, the first meeting of Potere Operaio is held at Florence, and a national secretariat composed of Negri, Piperno, and Bologna is formed. In September, Potere Operaio holds its second meeting. The national secretariat is Alberto Magnaghi.

Potere Operaio holds its third meeting in September at Rome.

Negri and Bologna edit the “Marxist Materials” series for the publisher Feltrinelli, which publishes, among other things, Workers and the State, The State and Underdevelopment, The Multinational Worker, The Other Labor Movement, and Crisis and Labor Organization.

The first symptoms of the crisis manifest themselves according to two lines: the first is represented by Toni Negri; the second by Piperno, Scalzone, Magnaghi, Dalmaviva, Marongiu, and others. Negri subsequently breaks with Potere Operaio and founds the review ROSSO (RED). In September, the first meeting of the Autonomous Workers’ Assembly is held. This is the point of departure for Workers’ Autonomy. Comrades from Milan, Porto Marghera, Florence, Bologna, Rome, the collective of Polyclinic and of Enel (National Company of Electricity) are present. Also in this year, Sergio Bologna founds Primo Maggio (May Day), a review of militant history.

Potere Operaio disbands.

Piperno and Scalzone found the review Linea di Condotta (Line of Conduct).

Autonomia appears at Padua. The newspaper / Volsci The Volscians appears at Rome.

Piperno and Scalzone found Metropoli. Toni Negri founds Magazzino.



Sergio Bologna participated in Quaderni Rossi and Cronache Operate in 1964. He founded Classe Operaia with Tronti, Negri amd Alquati. As an employee of Olivetti, he participated in the first attempts at unionizing the new white collar workers in electronics and in data processing. In 1966, he began teaching at the University of Trento. He also contributed to Quaderni Piacentini. At the end of ’68 he edited the first two issues of Linea di Massa. With Negri, Scalzone, Piperno, Dalmaviva and others, he founded La Classe (May 1, 1969). In September 1969 “Potere Operaio" was founded; Bologna, Negri and Piperno made up its first national secretariat. In November of 1970, he left “Potere Operaio” because of disagreements over the organization’s general policy.

In 1972, with Negri he edited the first four volumes in Feltrinelli’s “Marxist Materials” series. In 1973, he founded Primo Maggio, a review of militant history. In 1978-79, he supported the policy of returning to the worker’s centrality, the analysis of the large factories, and above all to the problems of the workers in the ware transportation sector. He has contributed to Lotta Continua, II Manifesto, II Quotidiano dei Lavoratori, the three dailies of the new Italian left. From 1970 on, he has been a professor of the History of the Workers’ Movement at Padua, in the same department with Negri and Ferrari Bravo.


Antonio Negri, having left the Italian Socialist Party, edited in 1959 Progresso Veneto. In 1961 he participated in Quaderni Rossi and later led the split with Raniero Panzieri which gave rise to Potere Operaio di Porto Marghera (1963) and Classe Operaia (1964). In 1968, together with Massimo Cacciari, Alberto Asor Rosa and Mario Tronti, he founded Contropiano. He left the review after the first two issues. In 1969 he was one of the main figures in the foundation of “Potere Operaio.” He took care especially of the international connections of the organization, and forwarded the publication in foreign languages of Italian workerist literature. He was the national secretary of the organization from 1970 to 1973, the year of his expulsion. From 1973 to 1974 he developed the theory of the transition from the mass-worker to the “socialized worker,” in which the role of the new social subjects becomes strategically important. In 1973, together with the other ex-members of “Potere Operaio” (among them Gianfranco Pancino) and ex-members of the “Gruppo Gramsci,” he founded the magazine Rosso and the organization of the same name. In 1973 he also founded, together with Emilio Vesce and Franco Tommei, the journal Controinformazione in which the Red Brigades were also involved. He left the journal after the first issue.

Among Negri’s numerous writings are: Crisi dello Stato-piano, Feltrinelli, 1974; Protetari e Stato, Feltrinelli, 1976; La Forma Stato, Feltrinelli, 1977. He is co-author of Operai e Stato, Feltrinelli, 1976, and of Crisi e Organizazione Operaia, Feltrinelli, 1974.

Since 1976 he has been considered the theoretician of Autonomy. After April 7, 1979, the date of his arrest, his political auto-biography appeared with the title Dall'Operaio-Massa all'Operaio Sociale, Multipla Edizioni.


Franco Piperno, having left the Italian Communist Party, became one of the leading figures in the student movement in Italy in 1964. Together with Oreste Scalzone, he led the university struggles in Rome in 1968, for which he was arrested for several months. He also played an important role, together with Adriano Sofri (leader of “Lotta Continua”), in the formation of the worker-student’s council in Turin, during the wild-cat struggles at FIAT in the summer of 1969. From 1970 to its dissolution, he was the main figure in the organizational stucture of “Potere Operaio.” He supported the centralization of the political leadership against Negri, who wished to see it dissolved.

Franco Piperno has always been more active at the organizational rather than at the theoretical level. From 1975 to 1977 he withdrew from active militancy. After the ’77 Movement he again played an important role in the definition of Autonomy. At the end of 1978, together with Oreste Scalzone, he founded Metropoli. He was arrested in August, 1979, in Paris and extradited from France on October 16.


Oreste Scalzone was, together with Franco Piperno, one of the most representative figures of the students’ movement in Rome in 1968. He was injured by the fascists during the occupation of the university. In 1969 he edited La Classe and, in September, founded “Potere Operaio.” In 1970 he moved to Milan and became one of the most active militants in mass demonstrations. In “Potere Operaio” he was instrumental in building connections between the organization and the general movement. He supported the political prisoners and the struggle against the special jails. For these reasons he still is the most popular figure of the “Potere Operaio” experience among the rank and file, and the spokesman of the organization.

After the dissolution of “Potere Operaio,” which he opposed with Piperno, he founded the magazine Linea di Condotta and organized the group called Comitati Comunisti Rivoluzionari. During the 77 Movement he played an important role in the representation of Autonomy and emerged as one of the most prominent figures in the Bologna Convention, September 1977. At the end of 1978, together with Franco Piperno, he founded Metropoli. He was arrested on April 7, 1979.

Translated by Lawrence Venuti


The ANSA Story - Ferrucio Gambino and Seth Tilet

A discussion about the Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA: literally "Associated Press National Agency") the official Italian new agency - and the print media in the 1970s in general.

Submitted by Fozzie on October 26, 2019

ANSA is the official Italian news agency. The 'terrorist' image of Autonomy has always been a CO-PRODUCTION of the Italian judiciary and the news industry. Ferrucio Gambino is professor of Labor Relations at Padua University and one of the last remaining members of its Political Science Faculty, in which Negri also taught. At the time of this interview (Aug. 1st) he had been notified by the police that he too was under investigation.

Seth Tilet: How effective is a “Blackout” in the Italian press, how does it function, what is the leverage that’s used?

Ferrucio Gambino: The Italian bourgoisie has always worked quite informally. In the 1870’s or 1880’s, even early in this century, the Italian policy makers used to meet at the Monte Catini baths in Tuscany in the summer, and they would decide upon the next policies, especially foreign policies, while they were taking therapeutic waters there.

After 1945, some publisher published the orders that the facist regime was giving to the so called Agencia Stephane, which was the main national news agency. Every day the Agencia Stephane used to receive orders directly from the executive, sometimes straight from Mussolini. After the second World War and the fall of fascism, things have become somehow better. That is, orders may not be so direct, they can be circumvented, and they focus basically, I think, on the economics of printing and publishing. Government has a direct control on the price of cellulose and paper. It has established a so called National Organisation for Cellulose. It sets the price of newspapers, especially daily newspapers. It has a wide range of power over newspaper, TV, and radio advertising, especially through the State Owned Industry and its advertising needs. And it can manipulate also with its own dailies. II Giorno in Milan, for instance, is directly owned by state-owned ENI— E N I, the oil company. It can manipulate through its own party newspapers, for instance the daily, II Popolo, a Christian Democratic newspaper. It can manipulate through large concentrations, the largest publishing concentration being Rizzoli (Mondadove comes in second). It can intimidate or make journalists shy, at the very least, as Giorgio Bocca, the Italian journalist is saying. He says: “When an American journalist interviews a Secretary of State or the Secretary of Labor, he is bold or she is bold. In Italy, when they interview the power structure, they shy away. It is like apologizing for posing a question. So that’s one side of the story. The other side is, of course, the general political situation.

They have flair enough to smell what is happening in this country and when the tide is not high ... or when water is— how do you say that— at low ebb.

They know the ebb tide and the flow tide, let us put it that way, politically. So that accounts for large segments of the Italian press. What cannot be controlled directly through the capitalist press is controlled through the parties. Of course, the Communist Party has a daily paper, L’Unita, and it has open orders, so to speak. It has a very straight posture on the case. The Socialist Party has L'Avanti, a daily paper and it is the same thing.

Then there are the supporting papers. Paese Sera is a supporting communist daily. So that is more or less the picture, I think.

What is the connection with ANSA, how is ANSA controlled?

ANSA is directly controlled by the government and the executive in this country. ANSA representatives are chosen by government agencies. ANSA is the direct descendent of Agencia Stephane; and I am sure that in a few years, or maybe in many years, I don’t know, somebody will publish again the anthology of orders coming down from the government to ANSA every morning, as Agencia Stephane received them in the 30’s.

Did you know that the Director of the Photographic Archives at ANSA is the brother of the Director of Photographic Archives at U.P.I.?


Enzo Brizzi and his brother, Renzo Romano Brizzi. I think they’re twins.


Negri's Interrogation (trial transcript 1979)

Judge Palombarini questions Toni Negri, May 18, 1979, Padua
Judge Palombarini questions Toni Negri, May 18, 1979, Padua

Arrested on April 7, 1979, Toni Negri appeared a few days later before his judges. As opposed to Oreste Scalzone, Negri then found it advisable to answer questions to his writings. The following transcript is invaluable inasmuch as it exemplifies the “bizarre” procedure adopted by the judges. As it happens, the Autonomists were incriminated on the basis not of any previous evidence, but on their very answers.

Submitted by Fozzie on October 26, 2019

Judge: Tell us what you have written about armed struggle.

Negri: In regard to armed struggle my position has been expressed most completely in my book, 33 Lessons on Lenin, in which a re-examination of Lenin's thought leads to the acceptance of armed struggle as an essential moment in the development of mass and class revolutionary struggle. Yet I have, in all my public statements, always expressed the deepest, widest, reasoned rejection of any form of armed struggle that involves the militarization of the Movement and clandestine activity.

J: You have said that most of the militants of “Potere Operaio” (P.O.) were opposed to clandestinization and to armed struggle. I show you two documents which were found in your files. The first is a mimeographed sheet which praises the armed struggle of a few P.O. comrades arrested for possessing Molotov cocktails. The second, also a mimeographed sheet with the P.O. letterhead, explains “why Idalgo Macchiarini and Robert Negret have been kidnapped and put on trial,” (two corporate managers, one from Sit-Siemens of Milan and the other from Renault of Paris). I must remind you Macchiarini was kidnapped in 1972 and the action was claimed by the Red Brigades (B.R.).

They are leaflets that could have been found among the documents of any of the organizations of 68. In any case, tney do not indicate a P.O. line as much as the indiscriminate and general praise that the Movement bestowed on the first initiatives of mass armed struggle.

Public Prosecutor: Have you ever distributed this kind of leaflet?

I stopped doing it about ten years ago, around 1970.

J: I show you this typewritten material that contains some notes I believe you wrote. Do you want to verify the contents?

The document contains analysis of the current situation that I think I can agree with. The document in its entirety seems to be mine, without excluding the fact that it may represent the outcome of a collective discussion, and hence contain some points that I could not accept. In general, the document is characterized by the assumption of the irreversible fact of extremely antagonistic class relationships. Therefore, it talks about a “Vietnamese" strategy in the Movement within this given and irreversible situation. It emphasizes the major aspects of mass struggle, which are clarified in the central part of the same document about the four campaigns: concerning the working day and the wage; concerning public expenditure; concerning nuclear power; and against State terrorism.

It is clear that when one is speaking about offensive struggle — one is speaking about the material conditions of exploitation in relation to the new conditions of social production (socialized work, off-the-books work, women's work, various methods of extracting absolute surplus value and therefore more brutal exploitation). All this defines a situation of extreme social antagonism among classes and social groups, for which the conclusion inevitably tends to be made in terms of civil war. Notice the huge and dramatic difference that these theses make in relation to the B.R. position.

J: I do not quite see this fundamental difference.

It is the difference between the dismantling of power and the destabilization of the political system. In fact, the fundamental problem is one of destabilizing the political system through the dismantling of the social system of exploitation. This is the revolutionary process as I mean it — a material process simultaneously breaking the whole capitalist machine's domination and providing for the fundamental needs of the proletariat (self-amelioration). The insurrectional process (therefore the process connected to the civil war) can only place itself at the end of the complexity of this social movement. It is at the point of the explosion of objective contradictions that the struggle is intensified and the economic system of exploitation has difficulty keeping its laws functioning. As a consequence, the system that represents it lives only out of the terroristic irrationality of domination — a political class that does not know how to produce surplus value is a dead political class.

PP: But I still have not understood the difference from the B.R.

The difference between what I said and the ideology of the B.R. rests on the following points. First, the conception of organization. The B.R. has an extremely centralized idea of organization (the party), which is presented as the fundamental and exclusive weapon and the determining factor in the clash with the State. The mass movement, while said to be fundamental, is regarded as ineffective without the party’s external guide. It is the classic Third International ideology. "Autonomia Operaia,” on the contrary — on the basis of the tradition of Italian revolutionary Marxism — considers organization as mass organization that filters and translates into itself, overturning the capitalist organization of social production. “Autonomia” emerges out of the growth of the immediate needs of the proletariat. It is a moment for dismantling through a struggle against exploitation and liberation of proletarian needs.

Secondly, the concept of insurrection. For the B.R., the concept of insurrection is connected to the issue of taking over State power. For “Autonomia,” take-over is a meaningless term at least on two accounts: that no State power exists outside the material organization of production; that there is not revolution except as a transitional process in the making and partly realized. It is therefore clear that “Autonomia” rejects any idea of a State “coup” through actions directed against the institutions. Any action must direct itself toward providing for the fundamental needs of the proletariat. For the B.R., proletarian liberation and any effort and any moment of struggle in this sense are impossible if the State power structure is not attacked and destroyed.

J: I show you a series of documents on union issues, in which among other things “attack and turn the tables” is mentioned. I believe that these objectives are the same ones pursued by military and clandestine organizations, such as the B.R.

Most of these documents — like the ones we discussed earlier — have been published in the journal Rosso. I believe that the call for “attack against even democratic union representation,” is part of the constant permanent line of “Autonomia” and that it is justified by general course of political relationships in this society. When one speaks of the attack against the union structure, one means the mass opposition to the union and the exercise of the radical democratic rights of the workers and the proletariat.

J: Explain the meaning of the expressions “organized axis of Autonomy” and “complementary axis”.

When I speak of “organized axis of Autonomy” I am referring to the autonomous mass vanguard acting in the factories, in the service organizations, in the neighborhoods. By “complementary axis” I mean small spontaneous groups that are working in the area of Autonomy.

J: But do you or do you not share the same objectives as the B.R.?

It seems to me erroneous to assert an unambiguous relationship between the generally developed anti-union polemic in the movement of the Marxist Left and the military practice of the B.R.

J: Remember that you also had in your files this document entitled “Outline for the Construction of a Workers Coordination”. Among other things, in this material of yours, it is stated: “The huge platoon of the owners' servants should be placed in a situation of not being harmful. The managers are the first link of the organized chain through which the owners’ command is exercized.” And later: “Let us organize the proletarian patrol in order to eliminate scabs from the workshops; let us make the patrol an instrument of permanent organization inside and outside the factory...” There is no question that these are typical objectives of the Red Brigades.

From an even cursory reading of the document, I believe it is not mine.

PP: But remember that in in your files there were other documents, handwritten or typed by you, of the same content!

Defense Lawyer: You have to tell us what this document proves! The judicial code requires that the accused be made aware “in a precise and clear manner” the acts attributed to him as punishable offenses and all the proof relative to such acts.

PP: You are trying to obstruct the answering of the question.

It is useless to get excited since I am willing to answer the question. In my files I was gathering both material I wrote and documents from the various existing political positions in the Movement. The whole of which, as I did once before in the 1960’s, would have been donated to a foundation.

J: For completeness I now show you the other three documents: a manuscript, “The Patrol, the Brigade, the Red Guard with Tennis Shoes”; typewritten material in which, among other things, it is stated that “the patrol in tennis shoes covers the master’s territory and strikes the enemy recomposing the class”; and a letter addressed to you, in which the sender agrees with you concerning the practicality of the patrols.

The manuscript is the outline of an article I wrote for Rosso. The idea of the proletarian patrol seems to me to be a useful tool of organization for today’s proletariat, which is forced into territorial dispersion of productive activity, forced into “off-the-books” work, diffused work, tertiary work. Only the patrol would be able to create an aggregation of these forces not gathered inside the large factory of capital and therefore allow the ripening of class struggle in terms adjusted to the mobility of this new work force. The function of the patrol is the economic-political representation of the productive proletariat involved in “off-the-books” work, in order to improve working and living conditions.

J: We believe that what you define as the “ripening class struggle” is carried out by the patrols through the use of illegal and violent means.

In the majority of the cases the work of the patrols is not carried out through illegal and violent means, but rather through political pressure and negotiations. The cases in which there are elements of violence, would, I believe, be the kind that are well-known in the history of class struggle when sectors of the unorganized labor force asks for union recognition. One should not forget that the history of union organizations in the large factories has included considerable violence — violence, first of all, in reaction to the repressive forces of capital.

J: Now I show you another series of documents that you had filed. There is writing about columns, politico-military cadres, logistical sections and mass work. Specified are the tasks of the military structure, including “action against the enemy, defence action, training, expropriations.” Finally, arming, financing, and clandestine behavior. What do you have to say in this regard?

It is not my material. They are documents that don’t have the slightest relationship with the kind of political line I am following. The hand-written notes on the borders are not my handwriting. Those documents were circulated in Milan within the Movement as proposals for discussion that were engaged in by people that I presume later merged into Prima Linea.

J: Who are these people?

I am not able to tell you their names. They were people who hung around in the coordinates of “Autonomia.” The organizational model in those documents, however, is pretty much terroristic. A debate on these issues went on around 1976, with these ideas meeting substantial opposition in the Movement.

J: But why have you saved several copies of the same text?

Probably these documents were given to me in order to get my opinion and support. I want to make it clear that it is precisely the abundance of information made available to me that has enabled me to oppose such positions more effectively.

J: But you should be able to remember who these people were who gave you these documents and asked for your support.

I repeat I cannot answer. Terrorists never introduce themselves as such! This material circulates during public meetings and often through several hands.

PP: When you speak in this excited tone, you remind me of the voice in the phone call to Mrs. Moro!1

You have no right to make these insinuations! You have to prove what you say first. You are insulting me!

DL: I demand that this incident be put in the record.

J: Agreed. Let us record everything. But let’s be calmer.

In short, it is just about impossible for me to identify the ones who brought these documents.

J: “Elementary Norms of Behavior” is the title of another typewritten document from your files. The concepts presented here are similar to the ones contained in another typewritten page with the title “Norms of Security and Work Style for the Irregular Forces” by the B.R., which was found in the apartment of Via Gradoli.2 With these documents we have discovered clues concerning the existence of illegal, clandestine, and militarized bodies within the Movement to which you, Professor Negri, are not extraneous.

Of course I have not written this document. It belongs to documentary material I have gathered. It is worth remembering that the process of gestation and political identification of “Autonomia” in Milan which has been developing in recent years requires the overcoming of the militarist “impasse” inside the Movement. It should be clear that the organized “Autonomia” of Milan is struggling against this “impasse”.

J: There are handwritten notes on a leaflet I have here concerning union issues.

They are items for a discussion concerning the organization of the struggle against Saturday work.

J: What does the expression “I” near the word “leaflet” mean?

Probably it means that somehow I had taken care of the thing, or that I wanted to take care of it.

J: Is this pamphlet, “Workers’ Power for Communism,” yours? If it is the fruit of a collective work, did you participate in it?

It is not a pamphlet of mine and I did not collaborate in drawing it up. I have never been a part of the Revolutionary Communist Committees which are given as authors on the first page.

J: Who are the persons who supported, as you said earlier, the “directive line of the B.R.” and the B.R.'s initiatives as a moment of unification for the Movement? And who formed the “little groups” that supported the “clandestine” and “terrorist line”?

It is difficult, indeed impossible to answer that question.

J: You keep talking about the constant rejection of armed struggle. We have obtained a transcript of your statements during the third organizational conference of P.O. in September 1971. You had stated then that “appropriation” on the one hand and “militarization" on the other were absolutely related, and that the development of the “clash” and the “organization” had to proceed together.

That position (even simply expressed off the cuff and in the course of a very complex and confused conference) was consistent with the positions that I later supported. It is clear that the perspective of armed struggle, as it is called here, refers to the perspective defined in the Marxist classics and does not correspond at all to a particular program for the militarization of the Movement.

DL: These are not relevant questions. The accused is being forced at each point to provide not concrete answers on factual elements, but rather to engage in analysis concerning philosophical premises, a specialized lexicon, and correlations among political and historical issues. It seems to us that you expect some element of evidence from the answers. We thus ask that the accused be question ed directly in relation to the charges. In particular, the two reports by the Digos (secret police) and the witnesses who will testify.

J: I agree. Let us invite the accused to prove his innocence in relation to the following probative elements against him, the sources of which cannot be indicated without prejudicing the judicial inquiry.

1) Statements according to which Negri helped to develop, on the one hand, the military actions of the B.R., and on the other, the mass actions of “Autonomia”, the one being coordinated with the other through centralized (central and peripheral) structures. The link between the armed vanguard and the base of the Movement had to be assured by the rigid centralization (the so-called “workers’ centralism") of the mass and vanguard initiatives.

2) Statements according to which, in the course of meetings among members of the organization, Negri advocated the necessity to raise the level of confrontation (sabotage of industrial plants, the beating of factory supervisors, proletarian expropriations, and kidnapping and confiscations in reference to union leaders, judges, and factory managers), with the aim of conquering power.

3) Statements according to which Negri pointed to the B.R. and P.O. as connected structures, and according to which he participated in B.R. planning.

4) Revelations made by a B.R. member to a person who had later informed the judicial authorities about the direct link between the B.R. and P.O.

5) Statements according to which the militants of P.O. in Padua had available arms and explosives and were training themselves in military techniques. Statements according to which Negri taught the “technique” of building Molotov cocktails.

I am completely astonished by the probative elements stated here. They are not only untrue accusations, but downright unlikely and incompatible with everything I have said and done during the times I belonged to P.O. and later “Autonomia”. The opposition between the B.R. and “Autonomia” is clear from the documents of the two groups themselves. It is preposterous to say that I taught people how to make Molotov cocktails, which, by the way, I do not know how to assemble. I have never spoken in support of making links between the B.R.’s military actions and the mass actions of the organized Autonomy. The accusations are based on pure fabrication— they are fantasies!

J: At this point we are questioning all your writings, charging that you present programs tending towards armed struggle and the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship.

I refuse to accept the legitimacy of your questions and of the reports which were used to justify my arrest. Nothing in my books has any direct organizational relationship. My responsibility is totally as an intellectual who writes and sells books!

J: If you have always expressed the rejection of armed struggle, tell us then how you justify this phrase contained in this leaflet: “The heroic struggle of the B.R. and the NAP (Armed Proletariat Nuclei) comrades is the iceberg of the Movement.” I want you to notice that the document, taken from your files, has notations and corrections, some of which quite likely are your own.

Yes, the document seems to be mine; at least some of the marginal notations are mine. But it contains classic expressions of Marxism. For “democracy” one should understand the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and for “proletarian dictatorship,” the highest form of freedom and democracy. As for the sentence in question, it is indeed necessary to recognize as a fact the emergence of the B.R. and NAP as the tip of the iceberg of the Movement. This does not require one in any way to transform the recognition into a defense, and this does not in any way deny the grave mistake of the B.R. line. At one point I defined the B.R. as a variable of the Movement gone crazy.

I have expressed in the most emphatic way my disagreement regarding the B.R. initiatives— a position that I believe coincides with a very large majority of the comrades of “Autonomia”. Therefore, let there be no confusion. At the same time this does not mean that the B.R. comrades should not be respected. For it is necessary to have some respect for ail those who are seeking proletarian communist goals, even as one deeply criticizes their “regicide” strategy, which is contrary to all the premises of Marxism. Marx himself tipped his hat to Felice Orsini. Nevertheless, I state again that terrorism can only be fought through an authentic mass political struggle and inside the revolutionary movement.

Translated by III WW & Phil Mattera

  • 1The only "evidence" brought to the judges to justify Negri's arrest were tapes of the phone calls made by the Red Brigades to the Moro family, presumably proving that it was Negri's voice. It turned out that the tape had never been analyzed. Their recent analysis by the American expert appointed by the prosecutor remans unconclusive.


Memorial from Prison

This document was written on May 24, 1979 from the "Special Wing — G 8” of the Rebibbia jail in Rome by Mario Dalmaviva, Luciano Ferrari Bravo, Toni Negri, Oreste Scalzone, Emilio Vesce and Lauso Zagato. Footnotes were added by the Editors.

Submitted by Fozzie on October 26, 2019


The arrests and imprisonments put into effect against militants and intellectuals of the Left, starting April 7th 1979, have set in motion a political trial. This is not just a trial of ideas, a trial of certain intellectuals, but a judicial prosecution of an entire section of the political movement in Italy— of comrades belonging to the independent Left movement of Autonomy. These comrades in no way deny or conceal their record of political militancy in this movement.

We are being tried for a decade of political struggle in Italy, from 1968 to 1979. With this prosecution, State power has spoken out loud and clear — a horrendous alibi for its incapacity to resolve the real underlying problems confronting Italian society in the crisis. This trial is aimed to outlaw the political movement of working class and proletariat autonomy.

In order to succeed, State power has to state and prove that “the party of the new social strata of the proletariat” is the same thing as “the armed party” — i.e. the terrorist groups. They have to be made to appear as identical.

All of us in the Movement know the motive behind this operation. The State “projects” onto these strata and onto the men and women who have lived the social struggles of the new proletariat, the accusation of being terrorists, “the armed party in Italy”, so that, by criminalizing the Movement, it can resolve its own inability to function. We are militants and intellectuals of the autonomous Left movement. In striking its blow at us, the State is attributing to us a power as “leaders”, a representative role, that we do not possess.


The first accusation against us all relates to having constituted and participated in Potere Operaio (1969-1973)1 . Inasmuch as PO is taken by the prosecution to be the “original source” of armed terrorism— of having therefore been collectively responsible for the entire trajectory of armed struggle in Italy in recent years — its dissolution in 1973 is regarded as having been “ficticious”: it is alleged to have continued its existence as an armed conspiracy.

A very important preliminary point needs to be made, regarding the consistency of this charge. It is true that all of those who are charged in this case, in one way or another, at different times and at different levels of activity, did participate in the experience of PO. This is a past “associative link" which we have no intention of denying — in fact we regard it, perhaps ingenuously, with pride. But thousands of other comrades also participated in this political experience. One might rightly ask by what criteria so few cards, from such a huge pack, eventually came out in the shuffle. One might think that the accused were the “political leadership” of the PO group. But this is not true — not all the accused played such a part in PO, and of those who did, not all are being charged. So the accusation of having participated in PO is not self-sufficient, is no basis in itself for the charge brought. This is the case (if for no other reason) because the PO was in its own time investigated on the grounds of being a “subversive organization”, and was in fact cleared.

Hence there must be something more behind the charge and the selection of those accused. The allegation runs as follows: these individuals are those who having been comrades in PO, subsequently maintained “associative links of a subversive nature” aimed to direct, in one way or another, the armed struggle in Italy. But here the make-believe behind the accusation is even more astonishing.

From the time that PO dissolved in 1973, some of those presently accused have had no political links whatsoever with the rest of the accused. Moreover, in some cases it has been years that some members of the accused have not seen each other! It must be admitted that for a “conspiratorial group” alleged to have been nothing less (in the case of 9 of us) than the “strategic leadership” of the Red Brigades, not to have met each other, even briefly, in all this time constitutes a strange kind of association! And it is not by chance that 6 weeks after the arrests, not one single piece of evidence has been brought to prove or indicate any such association between those charged, from 1973-4 up to the present day. The reason is simple — no such proof exists.


We shall take only a few examples of the legal procedure adopted by the prosecution in the “April 7th case”. This is only a summary of a few of the most flagrant abuses of due process that we — and we are not the first — have had to face. This is a list of points which are taken from a much fuller documentation of examples contained in the memorandum presented by our legal defence team.

(A) Violations of the rights of defence in the phase of the preliminary investigations ordered by the examining judge. Failure to notify, in some cases, of proceedings against those being investigated, despite the fact that the prosecuting judge, Calogero, has admitted that this judicial inquiry has been going on over a period of two years before the arrests;

(B) Arbitrary use of coercive powers:
— Issue of arrest warrants either without legal grounds at all, or on “apparent”
grounds, altered later, at will.
— Use of preventive detention for ends other than those specified by law.

(C) Arbitrary mode of imprisonment:
— Unspecified reasons for differing prison treatment (solitary confinement, etc.) imposed on those detained.
— Refusal to notify, for a period, the whereabouts of those detained, or to notify families of prison transfers, etc.

(D) Arbitrary use of norms of territorial judicial competence (i.e. the division of judicial competence in the case, between Rome and Padova):
— Abnormal unilateral decision on the part of prosecuting judge Calogero as to judicial competence (transferring part of the case to Rome) after the request for formalisation of proceedings (i.e. that they be brought before the competent judge in Padova) had been made.
— Subsequent addition of the charge related to the via Fani (the Moro kidnapping) case, for the sole purpose of justifying transferral of the judicial competence in the case of some of those accused (to Rome), in order to bypass any potential conflict with the judges in Padova. This was after charges of “formation of armed bands” had already been brought in Padova.
This relates to other precedents (e.g. in the Valpreda case) which involve the arbitrary transfer of proceedings to Rome — i.e. the informal, but no less real, use of this tactic in order to set up a “special tribunal” for political persecutions2 .

(E) Systematic violation of the rights of legal defence in this case; in the course of the committal hearings:
— Violation of article 365 in the Procedural Code (“the judge must proceed to the formal ‘interrogation’ without delay”).
— Systematic inversion of the burden of proof onto the defence.
— Acquisition of “evidence” a long time after the warrants for custody and detention of the accused had already been made out.
— Lack of any evidence, or precise accusations (to be proved or disproved) related to the charge of “subversive association”. The accusations are entirely “hypothetical-deductive”, of a “logical” and hence speculative nature.
— Illegal retention of precise information, evidence etc., related to the prosecution charges, thus allowing a continuous fluidity, reformulation and alteration in the accusatory substance of the charges (e.g. request by judge Guasco for formalisation of the charges “pending” later specification of the actual crimes alleged to have been committed!).
— Systematic and underhand violation of the confidential secrecy of the committal hearings by the prosecuting magistrates (use of insinuating “leaks”, informally passed to the Press and media throughout the proceedings — and often later dropped!).

All the above points might appear secondary to anyone not experiencing them first hand! Yet they amount to a real illegality of the mode of the prosecution procedure in this case, a degradation of “due process”, by the systematic refusal to back or specify charges by precise accusation, hence ensuring an “open-ended” set of options in the committal process.

The presumption of guilt based on deductive hypothesis has been the leitmotif in the prosecution procedure right from the start. It covered, from the word go, insurrection, leadership of the Red Brigades, and leadership of the armed struggle in general. In other words, the “generic” and the “particular” are conflated, strung together, to make us responsible, as a “collective plot”, for virtually all that has happened in Italy over the past ten years. This is the starting point — the initial thesis of the prosecution.

Once this overall hypothesis of guilt is first established, any element of physical or mental/intellectual links that can be found (e.g. Padova University Institute; activities of an academic nature etc.; or similarities between documents — any Left revolutionary literature inevitably has some points of similarity) can then be construed as a “lead” or as “incriminating substance”. All such material can be reinterpreted, pieced together according to the initial deductive hypotheses, by a process of osmosis. Time and space become irrelevant. Documents or events over a period of ten years are flattened into the present, into a static “present-day" plot for “armed insurrection”. In Negri’s case, this process of osmosis during the committal hearings has amounted to a crude and arrogant distortion of texts taken out of context, a deliberately falsified reconstruction of his ideas, collapsing the past into the present.

The method of the prosecution’s case has been the separation of selected elements and ideas from their overall context. This is done by arbitrary selection of individual phrases from a vast mass of published and entirely public writings or statements. Moreover, these are selected from a long time-span, often separated by years. This method of arbitrary separation and reconstruction or hypothetical links between ideas — and events — has been the basic norm in the construction of the prosecution’s case against us.


We wish to make an appeal for the widest possible solidarity with those 23 arrested on April 7th 19793 .

The prosecution case against us is overtly political, and we are asking for political solidarity. We wish to emphasise that “political solidarity” does not mean “identifying” with our personal ideas or positions as such — it is correct, we think, to make this clear. To ask for political solidarity in our case is to appeal also to responsible democratic opinion, apart from the Left and communist movement, on the basis of recognizing what is at stake, in terms of the relationship between class forces in this type of political prosecution.

In our case — quite apart from our own political situation — what is being tested or decided, is whether there is to be any further space, politically, for the broad movement that has developed in society, expressing the new needs of the proletariat today. Or, on the other hand, whether the forces in power, the effective “constitutional coalition” that governs Italy, is to become more rigid, and base its political pact on the destruction, criminalization and repression of the class movement in civil society.

The choice is obviously not in our hands! But the prosecution and proceedings against us are an essential part of this project, a key test-case. We are fighting for an outcome on the side of the class movement, and it is on this that we base our calls for solidarity. Let it also be clear that we also insist on the defence of certain legal guarantees. This is not opportunism on our part, but relates directly to the struggle and the goals of the class movement itself. Both before, during and after the revolutionary process.

This appeal to civil liberties and defence of legal “due process” is not in our case restricted to the mummified liberal tradition of civil rights (open to many abuses). We call for the guarantee of freedoms that are historically and dynamically constituted by the relation of class forces as it exists in all the industrialised countries today.

We believe that in Italy, today, and in Europe, the political prosecution of the “Worker’s Autonomy” movement has a wider significance, which concerns the broadest possible sections of the class movement in all its various articulations. This is because it represents a specific attempt, an attempt with ominous implications, to “turn the clock back” historically to set up and formalise on a permanent basis a new level of State repression, aimed to attack and destroy the space for independent class politics; to attack the guarantees of rights to express theoretically and exercise in practice any alternative basis of power for the transformation of society; and to attack the spaces for the exercise of “counter-power” — all of which spaces have been fought for and won over the course of the last ten years.

Translated by Committee April 7, London

  • 1This comes in the list covering charges of “subversive association” — Article 270 in the Fascist penal code of 1929. The nearest British equivalent is the charge of sedition, as brought against the Betteshanger miners during the War.
  • 2“Special tribunals” were the political anti-communist courts set up by the Fascists in 1926. It was one of these tribunals that sent Gramsci to prison.
  • 3Under these vague, unspecified and unsubstantiated charges the accused may be subjected to a possible period of detention of up to FOUR years before they need be brought to trial.


Violence of the State - I Volsci

Graphic from the cover of I Volsci issue 4 May/June 1978
Graphic from the cover of I Volsci issue 4 May/June 1978

I Volsci (The Volscians) are a group of Autonomists well rooted in the proletarian quarters of Rome. They are considered the “hard" fraction of the movement. I Volsci are known for their political agitation inside the Polyclinic and for their active support of the squatter's movement. Their free radio, Radio Onda Rossa, covers the metropolitan area.

Submitted by Fozzie on October 26, 2019

We present this statement to the politicians, the judges, and the journalists of this country, “one of the most free in the world,” asking to be proven wrong.

We are convinced of one thing: the arrest of comrades in Padua, Milan and Rome and the entire investigation opened by the Padua magistracy are the outcome of initiatives taken by democratic people; that is, by men who believe in the institutions, support the multi-party system and who therefore work for the defence of the resultant social order, all of which comprise the existing democracy of our country.

These and many other persons have often alluded, in the newspapers and from the seats of Parliament, to the necessity of putting an end to the organized and diffuse violence, urging us on to the very limits of our constitutional freedoms up to the point of requesting, as La Malta1 did, the institution of the death penalty. Incitement to violence in each one of these forms (except for the death penalty) is manifest in what Leo Valiani2 , just to name someone who well symbolizes the institutions, has been capable of writing in the Corriere della Sera from February to April.


Someone might think that by citing Valiani we wish, as usual, to show that he, like democracy, adopts a double standard. He doesn’t attack the crimes of the powerful with equal vehemence (rather, he acquits them a priori as he did with Baffi, Sarcinelli3 , and all the little bureaucrats whom he moreover wants to judge “fiscally” and not penally). Or someone might believe that we wish to show that Valiani complains of the “senseless dismantling of the most severe laws” when to a great extent the Reale law is more “severe” than the Rocco Codex4 , and besides, it is still in effect. Someone might even believe that we wish to point out that Valiani doesn’t even hide his pleasure with the arrest of Toni Negri and the other comrades. (By the way, even Pertini5 complimented the Padua magistrates, but there is no evidence that he telegraphed his indignation to the Catanzaro magistrates when Freda and Ventura6 escaped). Anyway, if anyone believes this he is mistaken.

It is not our intention to complain about the non-equality of the law nor to emphasize the non-equidistance of the democracy which we undoubtedly are. Rather we wish to reveal how this state of affairs is inevitable and necessary for the institutions. From the point of view of democrats like Leo Valiani, in fact, it is right that things are this way because it is right that men like him come to the point of calling for the application of violence when it is to be used in the defence of something that exists— democracy, to be exact— and against episodes or persons who in the name of something that doesn’t exist— communism— combat these institutions without excluding violence. From one side, there is the tendency to overthrow it. Whoever defends the first is justified in his use of violence, whoever is for the second, is not.

If it were to be shown that democracy doesn’t exist, in the sense that it has not been fully realized, there would no longer be any legitimacy for the violence of the state, or at least there would be an equal measure of legitimacy for the violence used to overthrow the state.

The idea that democracy doesn’t exist doesn’t even occur to Valiani. He sides with Baffi and Sarcinelli, that is, with the institutions and the multi-party system, starting from their evils and their contradictions (scandals, frauds, killings, etc.) which are erased in one blow by the demon of terrorism, which can only be combated with an increase in the number of police, preventive (which in practice becomes definitive) incarceration, and an ulterior arming of the forces of order. In other words, the generalized application of repression and violence without ever doubting the true basis of its legitimacy.

In order to respond in a practical and non-elusive manner to these positions, and therefore without falling into an ideological debate, it is left to us to examine from a very concrete (even if guarded) point of view what the pulpit of democracy, from which the sermons like those of Valiani are preached, is made of.

Now, it seems to us (and we ask nothing but to be proven wrong) that this democracy denies in principle but in fact allows:

1. The systematic fiscal evasion of the capitalists (in vulgar terms, those who accumulate wealth by taking it from the workers), and therefore, the robbery of the citizens and of the State;

2. Thousands of clandestine abortions done in contempt of the dignity and freedom of women, and therefore, the violation of the laws of the State and robbery of the citizens by the physicians who perform such abortions;

3. Hundreds of deaths, thousands of cripplings and mutilations at the workplace because of the impunity allowed to the capitalists, which therefore transforms the constitutional declaration of the “right to work” into a “condemnation to work";

4. Hundreds of thousands of unemployed to whom neither the right nor the condemnation to work applies, but to whom is recognized the free will to choose between hunger, robbery, drugs, and submerged economy, which would actually be the condemnation to working without the right to work;

5. Tens of homicides by the police or carabinieri caused by their “slipping up” or by invisibility at road blocks, recognized by the Italian State as legal based upon the Reale law;

6. The panic and terror, not counting the damage to health and environment, widespread among the population because of the production of certain materials in plants such as Seveso, Marghera, Manfredonia, Priolo, etc.;

7. The fact that Baffi is not arrested in consideration of his position and his advanced age, while provisional freedom is repeatedly denied to 72 year-old Salvatore Manunta7 who is seriously ill and in prison for over a year.

The conclusion then is that this democracy permits social inequality, homicide and exploitation in perfect harmony with the laws of the State. Democracy, therefore, has not been fully realized (and let’s hope that the usual shithead, who pretends to demonstrate just the opposite by explaining that if it weren’t this way then we wouldn’t even be able to say these things, doesn’t come forward). We would remind him that being able to say from the very beginning that Valpreda8 was innocent served no purpose whatsoever as he remained in prison for over three years and he was released only because the truth was imposed upon the democratic institutions by extra-parliamentary struggle.

If democracy has not yet been fully realized, if it is still as much a utopia as communism, then why is its present form nurtured by violence?

Justice helps us to understand why through the conclusions arrived at by the magistrate Luigi Gennaro in regards to the comrades of the Workers and Students Collective of Castelli9 . We present here a few significant passages from the court order for retrial. We do not know in detail the motivations of the accusation formulated by the magistrate Calogero concerning the Padua comrades, but we believe that those made by Gennaro10 several months ago may be illustrative of the pretentiousness and the danger with which one part of the magistracy assumes the duty of “resolving” some problems of social and political nature for the multi-party system.

Gennaro no longer judges only the completed fact or the hypothesis of a crime, but he goes beyond them and arrives at social behavior. From here he continues on to political theories and then on to ideas, setting up a true and personal ideological process. The process moves from mass illegality, exemplified by the forms of auto-reduction (considered a priori to be an underhanded way of legitimizing crime by comrades), to civil war and finally to terrorist militancy for having defined as comrades the militants of the Red Army Fraction.

At this point the discussion becomes extremely clear: it is no longer a matter of answering the arguments raised by a Leo Valiani on the more or less just use of violence. The existence of democracy is no longer in discussion here, not because it is seen as having been already attained but because it is propped up by the Power of the State, which, as Gennaro states, cannot be usurped.

Other than defense of democracy and liberty, here is the established Order that becomes a part among parts, that seriously attacks men and ideas in virtue of an ideology loosened from social matters and conflicts, abstract and narrow as only the ideology of Power can be.

Even a liberal like Locke affirmed as early as 1690 that no reason of State can stand before abuses and prevarications of power, nor are there any motivations for disorders and bloodshed that can stop the just rebellion against the State.

Someone might say that even though our reasoning makes sense, it is still true that we are better off than under Fascism or than the Chileans under Pinochet. For that someone the fact that democracy has not been fully realized becomes still another reason to defend the status quo, even if only to broaden it through struggle.

In principle this would be an acceptable way of reasoning if it had not already been worn out by recent and past history.

The struggle for democracy in Italy began more than thirty years ago and it was an armed struggle: the workers saved the factories from the Germans in order to see them returned safe and sound to the same bosses as before; the Napolitans liberated their city by themselves in order to see it sacked by the Lauros and the Gavas11 ; Almirante and the other fascists were given their freedom by Togliatti.

After these initial outcomes, the struggle for democracy has had other products such as the banana, the tobacco and the Anas scandals, the secret funds and bribes at Montedison, Sifar, Vajont, and Lockheed, and the killings from Portella della Ginestra to Reggio Emilia, from Avola to Piazza Fontana, from Brescia to the Italicus.

This is the “slow march of democracy” that has brought us to the present state of affairs which we have described.

Translated by Mary Jane Ciccarello

  • 1Ugo La Malta: Secretary of the Republican Party.
  • 2Leo Valiani: Historian and Journalist of the Corriere della Sera.
  • 3Paolo Baffi: ex-governor of the Banca di Italia. Sarcinelli is a public figure involved in financial scandals.
  • 4Rocco codex: criminal laws of the Fascist period which makes it possible to convict someone for having “dangerous" opinions.
  • 5Sandro Pertini: President of the Italian Republic.
  • 6Freda and Ventura: well-known fascists. They instigated the attack of December 12, 1969 against the National Bank of Agriculture in Milan where 15 persons were killed. It marked the beginning of the “Strategy of tension".
  • 7Salvatore Manunta: unknown to the Editors.
  • 8Valpreda: anarchist accused of the bombings of the National Bank of Agriculture. He was proved innocent after 4 years in prison.
  • 9Collective of Castelli: one on the many political collectives of Autonomy.
  • 10Di Gennaro: Italian magistrate.
  • 11Both Lauro and Gava belong to the DC.