Zerowork: the background

Articles giving background information on the development of the 1970s Zerowork collective. Some currently in the process of being written.

Submitted by Steven. on May 27, 2014

General introduction to Zerowork

A short introduction to the Zerowork journal by Harry Cleaver.

Submitted by Steven. on December 9, 2014

“Zerowork” has been an idea, a collective and a journal. The idea of
“zerowork” has had a long historical existence — mainly in the dreams of
people imagining liberation from lives of toil, but sometimes in those of
intellectuals trying to imagine a better world. In his Politics (350 BCE)
Aristotle dreamed of replacing human work with robots.(1)
Sir Thomas More’s communist Utopia
(1516) portrayed a world of drastically reduced working hours.(2)
Robert Lewis Stevenson sang praises of the value of life freed from work in his
lyrical "Apology for Idlers" in 1877.(3)
From a French prison, Paul Lafargue
hurled The Right to be Lazy (1883) against the capitalist subordination
of people’s lives to work.(4)
Bertrand Russell’s “In Praise of Idleness” (1932) highlighted how much of what we
value most has been created away from work.(5)
The collective was formed in North America in
1974, endured in one form or another for several years, published two issues of
a journal with the title Zerowork: Political Materials and dissolved
before publishing a third issue.

We organized ourselves as a collective in a period
of profound crisis for the capitalist system.(6)
In the early 1970s the Keynesian strategies
that had been at the heart of capitalist social management in the post-WWII era
were thrown into crisis by an international cycle of working class struggle. Those
of us who came together were all political militants urgently trying both to
understand that crisis and to find appropriate political responses to it. We were
all dissatisfied with dominant explanations by capitalist apologists but also by
their Leftist critics — and the ideas we drew upon to work out an
alternative explanation had sources on both sides of the Atlantic and had emerged
from a long history of trans-oceanic exchange.

Each of us had long been involved in various political struggles in the United
States, in Canada, in England, and in Italy. Those struggles, as usual, always
included debates over theoretical issues and those debates continued within our
collective during the preparation of the first issue of the journal — which
was published in December 1975. During the preparation of the second issue our
debating continued and eventually led to a split. The second issue, therefore, was
published by a modified editorial board in 1977. During the preparation of the third
issue further conflicts among us, combined with the growing involvement of various
individuals with other activities, led to the dissolution of the collective and
the failure to complete the work of publication.

At least two dimensions of the story of the collective and journal Zerowork
are sketched here. One dimension is that of the personal life trajectories of
those of us involved. Although our individual trajectories have been unique, there
have been many important intersections that both preceded our coming together and
followed the ultimate dissolution of the collective. Most of us have continued to
share similar political perspectives and to work within what the Italians like to
call the same "area" of political activity. The second dimension is that of the
evolving array of ideas — theoretical, historical and political — we
brought with us and debated, before, during and since the life of the collective.
Some common sources and earlier personal interactions
and discussions contributed to those ideas being complementary enough for us to
work together in a common project — at least for a while.

This general introduction and the separate introductions to the various periods
of the Zerowork collective sketch both dimensions of that history.
Although these sketches draw upon the memories of several members of the collective,
and of those closely associated with them, they are being written by one member
and thus present only a partial view and one particular understanding of this
history. Because the history is complex, the written record incomplete and memory
notoriously unreliable, documented corrections will always be welcomed and
acknowledged. Moreover, space will always be open for other members
to add their own recollections and interpretations.

Harry Cleaver

Austin, Texas

PS that thinks to add a warning: both these historical sketches and everything else written
for this webpage may be modified as I continue to work on this project.

PPS that concerns motivations: while soliciting help from one-time participants
in the Zerowork collective — in the form of memories and documents — I
have been led to explain why I have undertaken this reconstruction some thirty-odd
years after we all moved on to other projects. The reasons have been
two-fold. First, there has been, in recent years, a desire among many young
militants to access the contents of Zerowork and to understand its genesis
and evolution. Partly, this can be seen in the efforts made at to upload, reformat
and make this material available. There have also been some meetings recently where
a surprising number of young activists have come together to discuss the actual
content of the journal. Second, pulling all this history together reflects my own
sense of obligation to future generations to prevent, in this one case, that fading
into total obscurity that has so often characterized moments of struggle — obscurity
that not only made my efforts to understand the history out of which Zerowork grew
difficult, but more generally has made the work of bottom-up and subtaltern
historians so complicated.


    1 "For if every instrument could accomplish its own work,
    obeying or anticipating the will of others, like the statues of Daedalus, or the
    tripods of Hephaestus, which, says the poet, 'of their own accord entered the
    assembly of the Gods'; if, in like manner, the shuttle would weave and the
    plectrum touch the lyre without a hand to guide them, chief workmen would not
    want servants, nor masters slaves." Aristotle, Politics, Book I,
    Part IV, included in Richard McKeon, Introduction to Aristotle, New York:
    Modern Library, (Benjamin Jowett translation), p. 558-559.
    Online: Part IV.

    2 "For they dividing the day and the night into twenty-four
    just hours, appoint and assign only six of those hours to work; three before
    noon, upon the which they go straight to dinner: and after dinner, when they have
    rested two hours, then they work three and upon that they go to supper. About
    eight of the clock in the evening (counting one of the clock at the first hour
    after noon) they go to bed: eight hours they give to sleep. All the void time,
    that is between the hours of work, sleep, and meat, that they be suffered to
    bestow, every man as he liketh best himself." Thomas Moore, Utopia, (Paul Turner
    translation) London: Penguin Classics, 2003, Second Book, Part I, p. 56.
    Online: Moore, Thomas. "Utopia." Great Literature Online. 1997-2013,
    Part I.

    "Idleness so called, which does not consist in doing nothing, but in doing a great
    deal not recognized in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class, has as good
    a right to state its position as industry itself." Robert Lewis Stevenson,
    Apology for Idlers"
    , Cornhill Magazine,July 1877, later published in
    Stevenson's Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers, Vol. Two, New York:
    Peter Fenelon Collier, 1881, pp. 74-88.

    "Aristotle’s dream is our reality. Our machines, with breath
    of fire, with limbs of unwearying steel, with fruitfulness, wonderful inexhaustible,
    accomplish by themselves with docility their sacred labor." Paul Lafargue,
    The Right to be Lazy, (Translated by Charles Kerr), Chicago: Charles H.
    Kerr Pub. Co., 1989, Appendix, p. 74. Online:

    5 "I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of
    harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and
    that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work."
    Bertrand Russell, "In Praise of Idleness," in Why Work? Arguments for the
    Leisure Society
    , London: Freedom Press, pp. 25-34. Online:
    "In Praise
    of Idleness"

    6 Note of clarification: although I often use "we" in speaking of
    those of us in the Zerowork collective, I was not a member during the period of
    genesis - leading up to the publication of the first issue of the journal. I joined
    the collective after the first issue was published. (See my brief biography in the
    section "Background: From Zerowork #1 to Zerowork #2".)


Genesis of Zerowork #1

An account of the background to an formation of the collective who produced the Zerowork journal in 1975.

Submitted by Steven. on May 27, 2014



The Analysis

Paths to Zerowork

Theoretico-political Roots

Brief Biographies of the Editors of Zerowork #1 (1975)


Those who formed the initial collective that published the first issue of
Zerowork were a diverse bunch with various intellectual and political
backgrounds and, collectively, considerable international experience. George
Caffentzis, William (Bill) Cleaver, Leoncio Schaedel and Peter Linebaugh were
Americans living in the United States, but George had family in Greece, Leoncio
had recently escaped Chile after the overthrow of Allende and Peter had studied
in England. While Bill and Peter had both majored in history, during the
crafting of Zerowork #1 Bill was working in the library of the New
School for Social Research in New York City and active in local union politics,
while Peter was teaching history at Franconia College and at New Hampshire State
Prison. George had studied philosophy of science and was teaching at Brooklyn
College of City University of New York. Leoncio was in the graduate program in
political economy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Paolo Carpignano,
Mario Montano and Bruno Ramirez were Italians who had all studied in Italy
before crossing the Atlantic. But while Paolo and Mario came and stayed in
the US, Bruno moved on to Toronto, Ontario after completing both a BA and an
MA in the US. Peter Taylor was a Canadian living in Toronto working — and
not working — in the Post Office. Paolo and Mario had both studied
sociology, and Mario was teaching it at Clark University. Bruno was working on
his dissertation in history. The two corresponding editors, John Merrington and
Ferruccio Gambino lived in Britain and Italy respectively. But John had studied
in Italy, translated and circulated political materials from Italy in England
and participated in study groups with Peter Linebaugh. Ferruccio was at the
Department of Political Science at the University of Padua where Toni Negri
was chairman, but his frequent travels in Europe and the United States not
only kept everyone up-to-date on what was happening and being discussed
elsewhere but wove a web of interpersonal relations vital to all involved.
(For more detail on the intersecting trajectories of their lives, see the section
below with individual biographical sketches.)

These folks came together in the midst of crises both local and international.

Within major Canadian and U.S. cities, such as Toronto, Montreal and New York
City, successful and untamed struggles by both waged and unwaged workers had
been undermining capitalist control for some years. Ever since public employees
in Canada — spearheaded by Post Office workers — had won collective
bargaining rights in 1967 and formed the Common Front in Quebec in 1972 —
the ability of city, provincial and national governments to provide popular
services with cheap labor had been undermined. In New York City street-level and
welfare rights struggles had interacted with those of public employees to so
undermine the “business climate” of the city as to provoke business flight and
job losses in the private sector and fiscal crisis in city finances. By 1974-75
the banks were beginning to refuse to roll over the city’s debt while city
government, with the help of union bureaucrats, were beginning to raid union
pension funds — not only to cover city debts but to undermine public
employee struggles.(1)
These crises were forerunners of others to come — of which the automaker
abandonment of Flint, portrayed in Michael Moore's 1989 film "Roger and Me", and
the 2013 bankruptcy of Detroit are but two

At the international level, widespread worker struggles in the United States had
undermined the ability of the Keynesian state to manage the wage/productivity
deals that had been the basis of post-WWII accumulation and had provoked business
efforts to compensate by raising prices — causing such an acceleration in
inflation as to contribute to the disappearance of the U.S. trade surplus and to
provoke President Nixon in 1971 to unhook the dollar from gold and abandon the
Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates. That ostensible “monetary crisis”
was soon followed by a state-engineered food crisis in 1972 and the first “oil
shock” of 1973-74 — initiated by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting
Countries (OPEC) but sanctioned by United States policy

The Analysis

In the midst of these crises, local, national and international, the members of
the Zerowork collective put our heads together to construct an analysis of the
situation — an analysis that would, hopefully, also reveal strategic
implications for workers’ struggles. Two things had become obvious to all of us.
First, these crises were not the usual “inevitable” crises envisioned by the
Left as resulting from the internal laws of motion of capitalism, but were the
products of, and responses to workers’ struggles.
Second, those struggles had achieved the power to throw capital into crisis —
and provoke it to counterattack — through a dynamic interaction between
the struggles of the unwaged and those of the waged. Indeed, by the time we came
together, all of us in the Zerowork collective had seen beyond the classical
Marxist definition of the working class as made up of waged workers to a broader
view in which the unwaged — including housewives, students and peasants —
were integral both to the expanded reproduction of capital and to the make-up
of the working class.

These two shared insights had grown out of both experience and study. On the one
hand, several of us had been involved in unwaged student struggles and in the
Civil Rights movement that brought us together with waged workers; others had
been involved in waged worker struggles but linked, organizationally, to those
of the unwaged. Examples of the latter were collaborations between Canadian
student activists and blue collar militants in both the national Post Office
system and local automobile factories. On the other hand, the emergence of the
women’s movement had not only brought to the fore the centrality of women’s
work in the home (and student work in schools) in the production and reproduction
of labor power, but produced new theoretical formulations that deepened Marx’s
limited discussion of that work and its role in capitalist reproduction as a
whole. At the same time, study of the origins of capitalist policies in rural
areas of the Third World — from the Vietnam War and land reform to
innovations in agricultural technology — revealed not only how capitalists
understood peasants to be part of the class they were doing their best to put to
work but how the struggles of those more-often-than-not unwaged peasants
undermined the best laid capitalist plans and forced repeated shifts in
counter-revolutionary strategies.

But having become convinced that the crises surrounding us had been brought on
by workers’ struggles — both waged and unwaged — we still had to
figure out what characteristics of those struggles had given workers the power
to rupture capitalist accumulation? On the surface, the characteristics were as
varied as the struggles themselves and seemed to have little in common —
a situation that led capitalist policy makers — always keen to divide to
conquer — to disparage them as distinct “special interest” politics and
others, more sympathetic, to honor them as diverse “social movements.” Waged
workers had been fighting for more collective bargaining rights (where they
didn’t have them, e.g., farmworkers), against corrupt union bureaucrats (e.g.,
in the United Mine Workers and International Brotherhood of Teamsters) and,
pretty much everywhere, for more money (higher wages and pensions), better
working conditions and fewer working hours. Women had been fighting for personal,
legal and economic equality. Students had been fighting for free speech, for
changes in curriculum better suited to their desires, for ruptures in the
links between universities and the war machine and for racial, ethnic and
gender equality in access to higher education. Welfare rights militants —
mainly women — had been fighting for more resources and fewer humiliating
intrusions by state welfare agencies. Black and brown militants among the
unemployed and partially employed had been fighting for civil rights, racial
equality and against police repression. Prisoners (disproportionately black
or brown) had been fighting against abuse, for greater legal rights and more
freedom within their confinement to study and communicate. Peasants had been
fighting for land, for autonomy and for liberation from foreign domination,
whether colonial or neocolonial. All of these efforts contested one mechanism
or another of capitalist domination, locally, nationally or internationally.
But did all these diverse groups constitute sectors of the working class only
in so far as they were all subjected to, and resisting, capitalist domination?
Or, was it possible to identify enough interconnections to see beyond their
differences to an interactive and collective efficacy? We argued that there were.

To summarize our arguments for the existence of such efficacy — as
spelled out in the first issue of the journal — the historical dynamics of
struggle that led to a many-sided rupture of capitalist command had two
fundamental characteristics. First, there were not only myriad interconnections
among the various struggles but those interconnections were pathways through
which struggles circulated
from sector to sector amplifying their collective
effects. Sometimes that circulation was through confrontation; sometimes it was
through collaboration; sometimes it was merely the result of some struggles
inspiring others. Second, the manifold demands articulated within those diverse
sectors, more often than not, involved or supported a common refusal of the
fundamental mechanism of capitalist domination: the imposition of work.

The identification of the interconnections and directions through which struggles
had circulated were central to the analysis laid out in Zerowork. We saw
the struggles of waged workers, for example, to have been spurred by the entry
into factories and offices of previously unwaged militants, whether from the
streets (young black militants moving into Detroit and Flint auto factories) or
from schools (ex-student activists moving into many domains of wage labor). We
saw the struggles of men — ourselves included — to have been spurred
by those of women, both in their intimate personal relationships and in wider
social ones as women fought for equalities that challenged the hierarchies of
capitalist patriarchy. Indeed, we recognized that the refusal of authority by
children in schools was partly the consequence of the refusal of authority by
mothers. The resistance of peasants (and other workers in Southeast Asia, and
elsewhere) to US government counterinsurgency efforts, we argued, inspired
draft resistance and anti-war activity. Just as the struggles of Mexican and Mexican-American farmworkers helped (along with exploitation and repression in the cities) inspire the formation of militant Chicano groups, so, we concluded, did the efforts of later force changes in the strategies of the former. Other examples can be found in the pages of the first issue of Zerowork.

To argue that the refusal of work lay at the heart of so many different
kinds of struggle turned out to be one of the most controversial aspects of the
analysis. It challenged the traditional socialist perspective that workers
struggled against capitalist imposed work only in order to embrace
post-capitalist work freed from exploitation and alienation. The inclusive
understanding of the working class that included the unwaged meant that some
domains that had hitherto been seen as refuges from capitalist imposed work,
e.g., families and schools, were argued to also be terrains of the imposition
and refusal of work. To the traditional Marxist recognition of worker struggles
for shorter working days (and later weeks, years, and lives) detailed in volume
one of Capital, those of us in the Zerowork collective saw other
struggles by the waged, such as those for better working conditions, higher
wages and pension funds as ones that, when successful, were used to reduce work
time. Better working conditions meant less work worrying about and avoiding
injury; higher wages financed strike funds and vacations; pensions financed
earlier retirement. At the same time, we interpreted practices that were often
dismissed by labor union bureaucrats as bespeaking laziness and irresponsibility,
e.g., shirking on the job, faked sick leave and other forms of absenteeism, as
informal acts of resistance to work — sometimes individual, sometimes
collective and coordinated.

In a parallel fashion, once we recognized the activities of housewives and
students as involving the work of producing and reproducing labor power, then
a whole array of struggles clearly involved various forms of refusing that work.
Thus the variety of struggles that defined the women’s movement — ranging
from the refusal of family altogether (manifested in falling marriage rates)
through the resistance of women to endless procreation and child-rearing
(perceptible through falling birth rates and struggles for access to contraception
and abortion), the fight for personal and legal equality (and thus less work for,
and under the supervision of men, both in the home and outside it) and the
assertion of the rights of women to form intimate bonds with other women
rather than with men, to the demand for wages for housework from the state —
we identified as undermining the capitalist ability to impose enough work within
the nuclear family to guarantee the reproduction of a malleable labor force.

Similarly, we interpreted the myriad struggles of students against the
imposition of discipline within classrooms, against the power of the state
boards of education, school administrators and teachers to unilaterally determine
the content of curriculum, against the reduction of learning to training for
jobs, against the imposition of the same kinds of gender hierarchies being
resisted by women outside of school, against the teaching of history,
government and the social sciences that ignored struggles important to them
(e.g., those of blacks, browns, women and even students), in short, against the
subordination of their learning to educational institutions and programs shaped
to justify and reproduce capitalism, as the refusal of the work of transforming
themselves into manipulable and compliant members of the working class.

Instead of the post-capitalist vision imagined by socialists as consisting of a
parasite-free, one-class society of workers in command of their tools, "zerowork",
evoked for us a future in which the success of worker struggles was tending,
among other things, to achieve such a dramatic reduction in work per se
that it would become only one activity of self-realization among, and enriched
by, other activities. The shared vision of those of us who crafted Zerowork
was thus very much in the spirit of the famous passage in the German Ideology
where Marx imagined a communist society “where nobody has one exclusive sphere
of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, [where]
society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to
do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the
afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have
a mind.” But unlike the usual socialist vision of a distant, future communist
utopia, we also embraced another of Marx’s early insights, also enunciated in the
German Ideology: “Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is
to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We
call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of

Paths to Zerowork

For all those who consciously suffer, and resent, lives burdened with too many
hours and too much energy sacrificed to work necessary for survival, and for
those who haven't completely internalized the very capitalist subordination of
life to work and become one-dimensional workaholics, the term "zerowork" must
be one to conjure with. But could there really be such a thing as zero work, or
something close to it? Beyond utopian imaginings, could the real movement
actually abolish the subordination of life to work? Are there paths down
which we could actually create new kinds of social life in which work could be
one of many, freely-chosen forms of self-realization instead of a means of
domination? One response to these questions that quickly becomes obvious to
anyone who takes them seriously is that technically such paths are quite feasible.
A second response is that politically those paths can only be opened through
struggle and the revolutionary abolition of capitalism. Allow me to explain the
reasoning behind both of these answers.

With regard to technical possibilities, modern industrialized society has
repeatedly demonstrated, in thousands of domains of work, that machines can be
substituted for and reduce human labor. This has happened in so many industries
— from agriculture through manufacturing to services and communication —
that no room can be left for doubt that technological development can be, and
has been organized, to reduce the amount of work required to produce this or
that commodity. But to what degree can such reductions in particular kinds of
work result in an overall reduction in the average amount of work required
per individual? There are two ways of answering this question: historically and

Historically the rise and spread of measuring, of the gathering of statistics
on more and more aspects of modern life have revealed that within capitalism the
substitution of machines for human labor has become progressively general. For millions,
though not for all, there has indeed been a reduction in the amount of work
required per individual. In the United States, for instance, between the
mid-1880s and 1940 — a period of rapid technological innovation in industry
— the average working week was reduced from 75-80 to 40 hours and from 6-7
days to five. The weekend, that revered two-day period in which millions of waged
or salaried workers are freed from any obligation to show up at their jobs, was
the result. In the post WWII period — as technological development continued,
often facilitated by war-time innovations, a similar reduction occurred in terms
of working years as annual vacations emerged, providing many workers with enough
days freed from jobs to permit substantial non-work activities, such as travel
and tourism. Although some anthropologists have compared such marginal
achievements negatively to the vast amounts of free time enjoyed by some
pre-industrial peoples, certainly the course of modern capitalist development
has thoroughly demonstrated the technical feasibility of the progressive reduction
of work.(6)

With regard to theory, the development of capitalism has included the recognition
of the technical possibilities of steadily reducing work on the part of its
critics but also of its apologists and strategists. Not surprisingly, writing
in sympathy with workers whose lives had been rendered miserable through longer
and longer hours of imposed work, the critics of capitalism, of its "satanic
mills" and of its dank, polluted working class neighborhoods were the first to
herald those possibilities.(7)
William Godwin, in his

An Inquiry Concerning Political Justice
and Frederick Engels in his speeches in Elberfeld (1845) waxed eloquent about
the possibilities of reducing the total amount of work by eliminating all of
those jobs — both private and public — peculiar to the protection
and promulgation of capitalism.(8)
By 1867 Karl Marx was able to analyze theoretically, in his Capital, two
phenomena relevant to the possibilities of reducing work. On the one hand, he
highlighted the power of living social labor that was repeatedly imagining and
inventing new machines and new ways of organizing production to make work more
efficient. On the other hand, he showed how capitalists turned that imagination
and inventiveness against workers through its relative surplus value strategy
of substituting those machines for living workers. By raising labor productivity
(i.e., output per hour), such substitution made it technically feasible
to enjoy the fruits of such substitution in the form of less
But instead, capitalists were using those innovations to control workers and
impose more work. Ironically, quite different theoretical innovations
by supporters of capitalism could lead to the same conclusions about technical

During the rise of capitalism, its theorists — mercantilists and classical
political economists — were more preoccupied with justifying the imposition
of work and figuring out how to impose more work on people who did not want
their lives confined to endless toil, than with exploring the possibilities of
reducing work. But, by the end of the 19th Century, the theoretical innovations
of neoclassical, marginalist economists clearly revealed that technological
development made possible more output with less work. At the time, economists
such as Alfred Marshall, were mainly concerned with wielding their theory of
marginal productivity to convince workers to restrict their demands for higher
wages within the bounds of productivity
Marshall examined the conditions under which marginal increases in wages might
reduce profits and those under which they would not. The key was the relationship
between marginal increases in wages and marginal increases in labor productivity
or "efficiency". In Chapter 11 on wages in his The Economics of Industry
(1879) we find:

A rise in the Time-wages of any trade tends to diminish profits. But if the
wages that are paid for work vary according to its efficiency — if
Task-wages are unaltered — the share of the produce of industry that is
left for others [the capitalists] will be the same whether Time-wages are
high or low. It is only where the rise in time wages is not accompanied by a
corresponding increase in efficiency, and therefore Task-wages rise, that the
change is injurious to capital."

Yet this same theory is equally applicable to the issue of work time. Let us
imagine productivity — measured in terms of output per hour of labor —
doubling through the introduction of machinery. Then obviously one has choices
as to how to realize the fruits of that increase in productivity: double output
with the same amount of work, the same output with half the work, or some
intermediary combination of more output and less work. Clearly, any choice other
than the one that maintains the existing hours of labor involves reducing work.
Moreover, if any of those choices that reduce work are made over and over, year
after year, then the amount of work will be steadily reduced. Indeed, the
ever-diminishing amount of work will asymptotically approach zero.

Therefore, as long as increasing productivity can be achieved, zero work is a
goal that can be approached ever more closely. The many decades in which
technological innovation has involved rising productivity has been one source
of the optimism associated with the modern idea of progress. That idea, for some,
has included the continuing technical possibilities of reducing

Turning from technical possibilities to political realities is necessarily
sobering. Close examination of the historical path of rising productivity cited
above reveals that only through sustained organizing and struggle have workers
been able to realize the fruits of their innovations in the form of less work.
At every step of the way, capitalists have opposed such reductions, often with
violent repression. In Section 6 of Chapter 10 of Volume I of Capital,
Marx described and analyzed the struggles of English workers to reduce working
hours. Years later David Roediger and Philip Foner presented a parallel study
of workers' struggles in the United States.
Only those struggles were able to wrest time away from work as labor's share of
the benefits of its own creativity — to win the forty hour, five day week
and the weekend. The same history has played out throughout the capitalist world.
The better organized and motivated the workers, the more they have won. Workers
in Western Europe, for example, have won greater reductions in work time than
those in the U.S. American workers have, in turn, won more than many in other
parts of the world.

The reasons workers have fought to free their lives from capitalist imposed work
— alienation and exploitation — were also analyzed by Marx. At the
same time, he also recognized how capitalists could concede some benefits to
workers in exchange for their productivity raising innovations. But why have
capitalist employers preferred, in general, to concede greater wages rather than
less work? Why the bloody repression against battles for the 8-hour day in the
late 19th and first half of the 20th Centuries? One answer emerges from the
realization that the core of Marx's theory — his labor theory of value —
is really a theory of the value of labor to capital as its most fundamental and
thoroughgoing mechanism of social control
. Capitalists don't just impose
work to get rich by exploiting other people; capital as a whole can only survive
by endlessly subordinating people's lives to work. Control-through-work includes
not only that exercised directly over waged or salaried employees during formal
"working hours" but also vast amounts of formally "free" or "leisure" time. For
example, for years, during and after Marx's lifetime, workers fought to liberate
their children from mines, mills and factories. As they achieved the ability to
do just that, and demanded schools to prepare their children for better lives,
capitalist social policy makers — backed by corporate or State funds —
swooped in to structure public schooling to incarcerate, discipline and shape
children into compliant future members of the labor force. Similarly, capital
has intervened in every sphere of so-called leisure time — from the home
to domain after domain of recreation — to convert people's activities into
the unwaged work of producing and reproducing that ability and willingness to
work for capital that Marx called "labor power." It has not always been successful,
but its efforts have been quite thorough.

The implications of all this are at least three-fold. First, as a result of
capital's attempts to turn all of life into work, the struggle for less work can
be found throughout every dimension of capitalist society. Second, for those
struggles to successfully open paths toward zero work requires not only the
freeing of time from formal jobs, but also the defeat of attempts by capital to
convert our gains (e.g., child labor laws) into subtle defeats (e.g., obligatory
schooling as mere job training). Third, precisely because we must fight everywhere,
what we really need is the revolutionary transcendence of capitalism.

Theoretico-political Roots

One of the complaints leveled against Zerowork #1 when it was first
published and circulated was that its mode of presentation — the simple
exposition of an alternative analysis of the current crisis in terms of class
struggle — failed to clearly identify its theoretical and political
This was a complaint shared not only by those to whom the analysis laid out was
entirely new, but also by those who were familiar with at least some elements
of it and felt that origins deserved
Where did the core ideas come from? The answer to that question is neither
singular nor simple, and that is, perhaps, one reason for the absence of any
attempt to sketch those origins — a desire to avoid an overly academic
exercise in intellectual history. To all appearances the members of the Zerowork
collective hoped that the analysis in the journal was different and powerful
enough to catch the imagination of others and lead to discussions in which its
roots would be explored to whatever extent folks felt the need to explore them.
This was a choice accepted by some but lamented or resented by others.

To some extent, of course, such exploration has occurred. Gradually, hitherto
obscure bits and pieces have been unearthed and
It is easier now to map the rhizosphere than it was when the first issue of
Zerowork appeared. So, to give some idea of the roots that nourished
the thinking and discussion within the collective, I will sketch some of those
historical roots — they are multiple — focusing on those most
related to the theoretical insights I have mentioned above and connections
among them.

Personal note: because I was not involved in the Zerowork collective during the
preparation of the first issue, my own understanding of this history began after
it was published and required considerable research on both sides of the Atlantic
to identify and sort out the various interwoven
One thing that became clear to me was that the degree of familiarity with those
roots within the Zerowork collective was very uneven. Some were known to all,
others to a few, some remained unknown, moments of unfamiliar history.

Let me begin with the understanding that “crisis” in capitalism is first and
foremost a crisis in class relations brought on not just by some internal laws
of the mode of production but by workers’ struggles. That understanding has at
least two identifiable roots.

Workers’ Autonomy in the Sphere of Production

One root can be found running through the history of both anarchist and Marxist
theoretical reflection on the class struggle that has seen workers — quite
independently of any official leadership, i.e., union or political party —
as capable of autonomous collective action in their own interests, both against
capitalist exploitation and for alternatives. Segments of that thread can be
found in the writings of some in the anarcho-communist tradition, e.g., Peter
Kropotkin or Emma Goldman; some can be found in the works of the Council
Communists, e.g., Anton Pannekoek, Otto Rühle and later Paul Mattick and,
especially relevant to the genesis of Zerowork, some can be found in
the writings of Trotskyists.(17)

Neither of the first two traditions — anarchist and councilist — seems
to have had much influence on the thinking of those in the Zerowork collective,
either directly or indirectly. The limited influence of the anarcho-communist
movement on those Marxists who did have more direct influence in the genesis of
the analysis of crisis in Zerowork is the easiest to understand. The long-standing
differences and antipathies between anarchists and Marxists — dating from
the conflicts between Marx and Bakunin in the First International — has
meant that few Marxists, including the original editors of Zerowork and
those upon whose works they drew, made a close study of anarchist writings or
were inspired by them.(18)

Second, the limited influence of the council communists is a little more difficult
to understand. On the one hand, those with roots in orthodox Marxism-Leninism,
including Trotskyists, tended to accept Lenin's critique of Council Communists
as suffering from an "Infantile Disorder" and failed to engage their writings.
This included some who would eventually break with Trotskyism and develop ideas
that would mirror, in some ways, the writings of the Councilists. As has often
been the case, a lot more energy was expended in sectarian infighting among
Trotskyists than in the critique of those outside their circles — other
than Stalinists, of course. With respect to the specific issue of the
relationship between class struggle and crisis in capitalism, the tendency of
Councilists to see working class autonomy only coming into play as the result of
crises in capitalism, and to locate the sources of crisis in its internal laws
of motion rather than in the struggles of workers, contrasted with the reverse
emphasis of those who would have more
The exception among the Councilists to this conception of the relation between
crisis and class struggles seems to have been Anton Pannekoek — but even
his work on this subject was largely

From the Johnson-Forest Tendency to Facing Reality and Beyond

Among those Trotskyists who largely ignored the Council Communists but who would
become influential — directly and indirectly — in the genesis of
Zerowork were those associated with the Johnson-Forest Tendency (JFT).
Johnson and Forest were pseudonyms of C. L. R. James (1901-1989) and Raya
Dunaveyskaya (1910-1987).(21)
These two, and those clustered around them, repeatedly differed with both Trotsky
and the leadership of various Trotskyist factions on key issues, especially the
nature of contemporary capitalism (which for them included the USSR), the role
of Black struggles, the role of the vanguard party and the relationship between
working class struggle and capitalist crisis. Those differences were laid out in
a series of essays and led first to their leaving the Socialist Workers' Party
(SWP) along with Max Shachtman to form a separate "Worker's Party", then to a
return to the SWP and finally to a terminal split with Trotskyism in 1951 to
form their own group, the Correspondence Publishing Committee. Like the Council
Communists the members of the Tendency recognized and valorized the autonomous
power of workers to not only to initiate revolutionary uprisings, e.g., 1905
and 1917 in Russia, 1918 in Germany, but also to create their own organizations,
e.g., factory committees and soviets in Russia and workers councils in post-WWI
Germany. Later events in the 1950s, such as the formation of autonomous
councils by Hungarian and Polish workers during the uprisings of 1956 were taken
as more concrete evidence of such
However, the ideas of the JFT differed from that of the Council Communists in
several ways.

Curious about the apparent failure of those in the JFT to engage with the
Council Communists, I once asked Martin Glaberman about this. He recounted two reasons.

We never did deal with the Council Communists, but in informal discussions there
were essentially two criticisms. Their view of state capitalism was basically an
analysis of the Soviet Union, we saw ours as much broader, a view of a stage of
capitalism. Secondly, we rejected their criticism of Leninism and their view of
the period from 1917 to 1924.(23)

Although the JFT eventually broke with the Leninist concept of the vanguard party,
they continued, for the most part to honor other aspects of his thinking. Beyond
those two reasons, we might add two more reasons for their neglect of the Council

First, partly because of James’ experience in the Caribbean, his participation
in the development of Pan-Africanism and his writings about Black struggles,
there was more awareness, discussion and acceptance in Correspondence of
autonomy of sectors within the working class. This was especially true with
respect to autonomous struggles by Blacks both in the work place and in the
larger society that they argued ought to be recognized as legitimate, be
accepted and be valorized.(24)
This emphasis on the autonomy of Black struggles within the working class —
including how the development of the class as a whole could be driven by Black
struggles against discrimination and racism — did not find a parallel in
the work of the Council Communists.

Second, whereas when thinking and writing about crisis the Council Communists
tended to remain stuck within the framework of debate over the “laws of motion”,
those associated with the JFT and Correspondence, while taking a position in
those debates, moved on to focus on how workers’ power could rupture capitalist
development and precipitate crisis.

The JFT's position in the debates — enunciated as part of articulating
their differences with Trotskyism — affirmed the centrality of Marx's
analysis of "the tendency of the rate of profit to fall" in Volume III of
Capital. This they counterposed to Stalinist, Trotskyist and mainstream
economic efforts to shift attention away from production to problems of
inadequate aggregate demand.(25)
At the heart of their understanding and embrace of the theory of "the tendency
of the rate of profit to fall" was the conviction that the core of capitalism
was production and the struggle between workers and capital at the point of
production. Moreover, they saw the key process driving the tendency of the rate
of profit to fall — namely the rise in the technical and organic compositions
of capital — as resulting from workers' struggles — rather than the
more common view that source was competition among capitalists. This was their
understanding of Marx's analysis of relative surplus value in Volume I of Capital
— which, for them, grounded and informed their interpretation of the
discussion in Volume III. The corollary of this interpretation of Marx's theory
of crisis was their insistence that the only struggles with revolutionary
potential were those taking place within production in industry. Although they
saw things like increased wages and higher standards of living as victories won
by the working class, they also saw them as concessions capital could make that
left the social relations of exploitation and alienation in production unchanged.

All this, they argued, was characteristic of contemporary capitalism both in the
West and in the Soviet Union — a capitalism they called "state
State capitalism, they reasoned, was the appropriate label for the stage of
capitalist development in which the state planning had become essential to
capitalist strategies, regardless of whether the methods of planning were those
of Soviet Five-year Plans or a combination of Keynesian and corporate planning.
While such planning could help avoid problems of inadequate demand, they
argued, it had two fundamental weaknesses. First, it was helpless against the
consequences of the tendency to substitute machinery for labor — namely the
undermining of the rate of profit. Second, while capital could plan, workers
could undermine those plans. This emphasis on the ability of workers to undermine
capitalist planning was based on studies of worker struggles against capitalist
plans in American factories and worker and peasant struggles against Soviet
state planning.(27)
These arguments, and others, they laid out in a series of publications, the most
comprehensive of which was State Capitalism and World Revolution (1950)
crafted to differentiate their position as carefully as possible from others
within the Trotskyist movement.(28)
Once this differentiation was accomplished and they left the Trotskyist movement
to form the Correspondence Publishing collective, they also largely disengaged
from the debates among Marxist factions over crisis theory to focus on the
phenomenon they had identified as the only source of real change: workers'
struggles at the point of production.

Growing differences between James and Dunayevskaya led to a split in 1958, with
Dunayevskaya and her followers leaving to found a separate group News & Letters.
James and his supporters then changed the name of their group to Facing Reality.
Given their common origins, there were many similarities in the theories and
activities of these two groups as well as the differences that led to their
split and those that developed

Because of the participation by most members of Correspondence in workers’
struggles, e.g., those of autoworkers in Detroit, they were well aware of how
rank & file workers often fought not only their corporate bosses but union
bureaucrats and party hacks all too ready to cut deals with management at their
expense. Such analyses and the conclusions they drew about the autonomous
power of workers and their ability to craft “the future in the present” were
laid out in a series of publications over two decades. Probably the most widely
circulated of these was The American Worker (1947) by Paul Romano
(Paul Singer) and Ria Stone (Grace Lee, later Boggs) in which Singer first op. cit.
provided a detailed description of life in an East Coast General Motors' plant
and Lee then laid out a Marxist analysis of the implications of the life and
struggles described by Singer for the "reconstruction of society". This early
pamphlet was complemented by other essays by Marty Glaberman such as Punching
(1952) and Union Committemen and Wildcat Strikes (1955) and
by Matthew Ward's (Si Owens, later Charles Denby) Indignant Heart: A Black
Workers' Journal,
(1952), based on their experiences in Detroit auto plants.
Essentially part of this tradition, although published after leaving the
Correspondence Publishing Committee in 1962, was another black autoworker's
autobiographical work: James Boggs’ (Grace Lee’s husband and ex-editor of
Correspondence) The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker's
(1963). With the focus of so many of these writings on workers’
struggles in large industrial factories, they constituted an American version
of what would later, in Italy, be called a “workerist” perspective. In a period
in which many Leftists had written off the American working class as hopelessly
bought off — the most recent incarnation of Lenin’s “labor aristocracy” —
the revelations about shop floor struggles in these writings refocused many
radicals’ attention and hopes on their revolutionary potential — to create
crises for capital and open new possibilities for

The direct influence of this earlier work on Zerowork #1 can be found
primarily in the article by Peter Linebaugh and Bruno Ramirez, “Crisis in the
Auto Sector,” which immediately asserts that “the crisis reflects an impasse in
the relations of power between capital and the working class, an impasse which
in recent years has been made more visible by the ongoing upsurge of autoworkers’
struggles.” The article draws, in part, on research and analysis previously
undertaken by members of the Canadian group the New Tendency (NT), several of
whom were working and organizing in the auto plants of Windsor, Ontario. Bruno
was a member of the NT and the article references material on auto workers’
struggles in the NT’s main publication The Newsletter, of April 1974.
Glaberman’s writings, based as they were on his experience as an autoworker
across the river in Detroit, were of particular interest to those Canadian
militants and influenced Linebaugh and Ramirez’s analysis both directly and
indirectly. The influence of this previous work can be seen primarily in the
detailed examination of autonomous shop floor struggles often exploding in
wildcat strikes against both management and union efforts to
mediate/control/limit the conflicts.

Two further important influences on the thinking of those in Zerowork
deserve mention — both the work of historians. The first was that of
George P. Rawick whose work on slavery in the United States included something
largely lacking from C. L. R. James' study of slavery and revolt in Haiti.
Rawick was a comrade of those in the Johnson-Forest Tendency and many of those
they influenced (see the brief biographical sketch of Ferruccio Gambino below).
Rawick's work on slavery in the American South was based on the assembly of
some twenty volumes of slave narratives. His overview volume to that series,
From Sundown to Sunup: The Making of the Black Community(1973) drew on
that mass of first-person accounts by slaves of their lives and struggles, in
large part — as the title of the book suggests — during those hours
out from under the direct supervision of their
In a sense, Rawick's study, although an historical one, looking back to an
earlier time, fulfilled Marx's objective with his workers' inquiry: to learn
directly from workers about their struggles. Such a mass of documentation had
not been available to James, but Rawick's work made it available and from it
he drew his most important conclusion, namely, that there was far more
day-to-day self-activity among slaves than had hitherto been recognized. In
other words, he discovered a movement of self-determination among slaves —
that built the underground railroad and sometimes exploded in violent revolts —
that paralleled other examples of working class self-activity. In 1969 he had
written a widely-read article about the self-activity of American waged workers
in the 20the Century; in 1973 his book on slavery revealed some vital roots of
that self-activity.(32)

The second influence by historians, and one that is cited by Rawick, was that
of the bottom-up British Marxist historians, especially Edward P. Thompson and
his The Making of the English Working Class (1963). In reconstructing
the history of workers' struggles in England he sought "to rescue the poor
stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the "obsolete" hand-loom weaver, the "utopian"
artisan, and even the deluded follower of Joanna Southcott, from the enormous
condescension of posterity." He did so by retrieving stories of those workers'
past struggles from the infamous "dustbin of history" where most historians,
including labor historians, had left them. His ability to see past historical
accounts of official labor and party organizations to the self-activity of the
workers themselves paralleled the perspective of the
Johnson-Forest/Correspondence/Facing Reality folks who had gradually weaned
themselves of the Leninist desire to organize workers and had begun to explore
and reveal the struggles of workers directly.

Thompson's influence on Zerowork, however, came not only indirectly
through George Rawick, and directly through several editors' familiarity with
The Making of the English Working Class, but also through the work of
one of those editors in particular: historian Peter Linebaugh who had been a
student of Thompson in England. (See his biographical sketch below.) Not only
had Linebaugh worked directly with Thompson, but he had also worked alongside
other young historians who were building on previous bottom-up history in
rewriting the story of the relationship between crime and the working class in
the 18th Century. The first product of that collaboration was Albion's Fatal
(1975) — the "tree" being the hanging scaffold at Tyburn in
Eventually, Linebaugh's magisterial The London Hanged (1991) would
reflect both his historical research and his involvement in

Other roots of the understanding of how workers’ struggles were the source of
crisis in capitalism, grew and proliferated partly as a result of the
circulation of the above work to Western Europe where a parallel shift took
place from the usual Left union and party politics to a focus on the situation,
struggles and power of workers themselves.

Socialisme ou Barbarie

In 1948, shortly after the Johnson-Forest Tendency's reentry into the Socialist
Workers Party, Grace Lee went to Paris to attend that organization's Second World
Congress. While in Paris, she met Pierre Chaulieu, party name of Cornelius
Castoriadis (1922-1997), a Greek revolutionary who had fled to France after the
war and one leader of another small dissident group — this time within the
French Trotskyist Party — the Chaulieu-Montal
Later she wrote of this encounter:

We soon discovered that we had the same interest in the daily lives of workers
in the capitalist process of production and similar views about revolution as
the liberation of human creativity. I spent a wonderful four months in Paris,
mostly socializing with Chaulieu and members of his

Castoriadis' described this encounter as an "intellectual love affair between
Grace and me." She was, he claimed, "delirious" about a text he had written
called "The Phenomenology of Proletarian Consciousness". The main point of
agreement, he wrote, was recognition of "the self-activity of the working

In a move that Johnson-Forest would adopt three years later, Castoriadis and
Lefort broke away from the Fourth International and founded Socialisme ou
Barbarie (SoB) as a completely independent
Like the JFT, SoB sought new solutions to the problem of working class
organization in the autonomous power of rank & file workers.

The meeting of minds between Lee and Castoriadis, and then the sharing and
circulating of experience and ideas between the JFT and SoB more generally, led
to the translation and serial publication of The American Worker in the
first eight issues of Socialisme ou Barbarie: Organe de Critique et
d’Orientation Révolutionaire
(1949-1965). Introducing the text in the
first issue Pierre Guillaume wrote:

Every worker, regardless of “his nationality” of exploitation, will find in
[The American Worker] the image of his own existence as a proletarian.
There are, in fact, deep and consistent characteristics of proletarian
experience that know neither frontiers nor

It also led to collaboration of Castoriadis with Grace Lee and C. L. R. James in
the drafting of Facing Reality: The New Society . . . Where to look for it,
How to bring it closer, A Statement for our time

One chapter, “New Society, New People,” constituted an almost lyrical ode to the
reality of working class imagination and power to craft a new society out of
the present. The essay sweeps across the world, from the developed First world
to the underdeveloped Third, from the new attitudes and behaviors of shop
stewards in England through the struggles of women in the United States to
anticolonial struggles in Asia and Africa. Everywhere they claimed to see "new
men, new types of human beings" throwing off the encumbering prejudices and
destructive hierarchies of capitalism to develop new ways of being.

Alongside the serialized American Worker and articles critiquing various
Trotskyist positions, Socialisme ou Barbarie published a whole series
of reports on the situation and struggle of workers in French factories and
drew conclusions about the dynamics of capitalist growth and crisis. With
respect to the USSR, SoB shared the Johnson-Forest position that Stalinism had
established a form of state capitalism, although they differed in
Articles on the situation and day-to-day struggles of workers included G.
Vivier’s series “La vie en usine” (Factory Life) and Daniel Mothé’s frequent
reports on autoworkers at Renault.(42)

But if SoB saw how workers’ struggles could rupture capital, they also recognized
capital’s Post-WWII successes in co-opting such challenges to its
In a 1961 essay in issue #32 of the journal, Castoriadis argued that post-war
capitalist growth was based on the harnessing of workers’ wage struggles.
“Capitalism”, he wrote, has learned how to channel “working-class pressure
against the consequences of the spontaneous functioning of the economy into
ensuring, via the State, economic and social
Despite the links between Johnson-Forest and Socialisme ou Barbarie, the work of
the later appears to have been largely unknown either to the Canadian
militants who were drawing on the works of the former or to members of the
Zerowork collective — at least in the period during the crafting of the
first issue.

Italian Workerism (Operaismo)

More familiar to at least some members of the Zerowork collective was similar
work being done in Italy — inspired, in part, by the translation into
Italian of The American Worker and of the writings of Daniel
Mothé by Danilo Montaldi.(45)
Within Italy, rank & file revolts multiplied in the period 1960-62 against not
only the leadership of the relatively conservative Unione Italiana del Lavoro
(UIL) but also against the politics and strategies of the Socialist Party of
Italy (the PSI, Partito Socialista Italiano), the Communist Party of Italy
(the PCI, Partito Comunista Italiano) and those of their affiliated unions
— especially the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL). The
leadership of both parties and unions had essentially colluded with Italian
capital’s post-WWII development plans. That collusion led growing numbers of
working class militants and radical intellectuals to rethink their politics
and their theory.(46)
Inspired by the revolts, by discovery of the writings of workers in the
United States and France, and by the rediscovery of the detailed questions in
Marx’s A Workers’ Inquiry (1880), radical Italian sociologists such
as Raniero Panzieri (1921-1964) and Romano Alquati (1935-2010) — trained,
in part, by Montaldi — went into factories such as Olivetti and Fiat to
talk with workers about their concrete job situations and their struggles, both
day-to-day and periodic wildcat
Sociologists, yes, but sociologists of a new sort — conscious re-innovators
of conricerca, or co-research, in which the “objectivity” of their
investigations was co-produced by these outside researchers and the workers
with whom they investigated the situation at

These investigations were carried on, at least at first, by some, in the hope of
bringing new understanding and new politics to the unions and to the left parties.
Panzieri, for example, still hoped to influence the PSI despite past differences
with it. Over time, however, such hopes faded and even when this or that new
concept, in one form or another, was assimilated by those faithful to those
institutions, or when one of these innovators returned to the fold, the new
concepts were sometimes wielded in support of the same old social democratic

In the short term, however, their studies and theoretical reformulations led to
the creation of a series of new concepts and new journals to disseminate and
discuss them. At the heart of the new reformulations was the replacement of the
traditional Marxist focus on capital and its “laws of motion” with an
understanding of capital as a set of antagonistic social relations of class in
which struggles, especially those of workers, drove the development of the whole.
Moreover, the concept of the working class — informed by the extensive
empirical research mentioned above — recognized how divisions in the
class were not merely vehicles of capitalist control (pitting one group of
workers against others in hierarchies of power). Those divisions were also
repeatedly recomposed through historical cycles of workers’ struggles that
changed the balance of power between the classes. Their analysis provided new
theoretical foundations for the phenomenon those in Johnson-Forest/Facing
Reality had postulated years earlier: that workers’ struggles repeatedly
generated new organizational forms. These Italians extended their studies
backward in time and across space, examining not merely the history of Italian
workers’ struggles, but also those of American workers. They discovered how
those cycles of struggle not only generated new organizational forms and
recomposed the balance of class power but also led, inevitably, to changes in
the character of working class interests and demands — changes that had
both required and produced new organizational forms.

Bringing these insights to bear on the contemporary situation in Italy, they
argued that the post-WWII wave of capitalist rebuilding, especially in the
industrial belt of the Po Valley, was not only based on the pitting of large
numbers of young workers from southern Italy against northern workers but had
gestated a new “mass worker” akin to those organized by the Wobblies in the
United States in the early 20th Century and to that working class formed in the
Fordist mass-production factories of the 1920s and 1930s. In other words, the
pattern of capitalist development that Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) — patron
saint of orthodox Italian communism — had identified as being a uniquely
American phenomenon was being imported into Italy and was being used against
Italian workers just as it had been used against American
Only this time, a whole new set of Marxist concepts were emerging both from
close study of worker struggles and from reinterpretations of Marx’s own works
to understand the class dynamics of that development.

The first of the new journals to have a substantial impact was Quaderni Rossi
(Red Notebooks) whose first issue in 1961 included a collection of documents on
class struggles in FIAT by Alquati and a path-breaking theoretical piece by
Panzieri. “The capitalist use of the machine” returned to Marx’s analysis of
“machinery and modern industry” — Chapter 15 of Volume I of Capital
— to refocus attention on how machinery was used by capitalists not just
to raise productivity — part of the rationale of the left parties and their
unions for collaborating with capitalist development — but also to
undermine workers’ self-organization and power. That analysis explained both
rank & file wildcats against the efforts of corporate bosses to introduce
Fordist methods into the plants and their refusal to follow the dictates of
union bureaucrats to cooperate with such
This amounted to a renovated Marxist theory of technological change in class
terms that identified opposed class interests and drew organizational

In issue after issue of Quaderni Rossi its pages were filled with both
empirical work and theoretical innovations. Panzieri’s piece on the capitalist
use of the machine was soon followed in 1962 by Mario Tronti’s “Factory and
Society” that argued how “the pressure of labor-power is capable of forcing
capital to modify its own internal composition, intervening within capital as
essential component of capitalist development” — workers’ struggles drive
capitalist development. Moreover, that pressure forces capital to colonize “the
whole of society” such that it comes to exist “as a function of the factory and
the factory extends its exclusive domination over the whole of
This analysis Tronti deepened in the third issue of Quaderni Rossi with
an essay on “Capitalist Planning” that argued that business was driven to ever
more comprehensive planning by the resistance and struggles of
The old orthodox dichotomy of capitalist “despotism” on the shop floor and
capitalist “anarchy” in the social division of labor is dissolved as planning
is extended ever more widely and capitalist society becomes a gigantic
“social factory.”(54)
In the process, all traditional distinctions between economic and political
power disappear. That article was complemented by Panzieri’s "Surplus Value and
Planning: Notes on the Reading of Capital," in the fourth issue of
Quaderni Rossi.(55)
In short, these Italian Marxists, drawing on their studies of actual workers’
struggles and detailed re-readings of Marx in the light of those studies, were
elaborating what amounted to a revolutionary theoretical grounding of workers’
autonomy. Tronti would go on, in essays such as “The Strategy of Refusal” and
“Struggle Against Labor”, to identify and articulate how the dynamics of workers’
struggles had led beyond the traditional skilled workers’ demand to take control
of their tools to contemporary demands of unskilled “mass workers” on assembly
lines for less work, period, i.e., not just the refusal of capitalist imposed
work but of work as the only focus and preoccupation of life. This historical
shift was also documented by Sergio Bologna in his “Class Composition and the
Theory of the Workers’ Party in the German Workers’ Council Movement” (1967) and
much later in "The Theory and History of the Mass Worker in Italy",
Quaderni Rossi (1961-66) was soon accompanied or followed by other
organizational efforts and other publications, e.g., Quaderni Piacentini
(1962-1984), Classe Operaia (1963-67), La Classe (1967-68),
Potere Operaio (1969-74), and Lotta Continua (1969-76).

What of all this was known to the editors of Zerowork? It varied. This
whole new wave of innovative Italian Marxist thinking was well known to the
Italian members of the Zerowork collective: Paolo Carpignano, Mario Montano and
Bruno Ramirez and corresponding editor Ferruccio Gambino. The ideas were also
well known to the other corresponding editor John Merrington who had studied in
Italy and, along with Ed Emery, translated many texts. Emery (later Red Notes)
and Jim Kaplan (later Radical America) went to Italy after the
explosive Hot Autumn of 1969 to talk to people and gather documents; one
result was the pamphlet Italy: New Tactics and Organization produced by
Emery in 1971 — whose circulation nourished the development of Big Flame
and the struggles by autoworkers in
Those translations were discussed in multiple study groups, including one
organized by Merrington and Emery that included, among others, future
Zerowork editor Peter Linebaugh.

On the other side of the Atlantic, in the years before the Zerowork collective
was formed, both Mario Montano and Bruno Ramirez contributed translations of
key workerist texts to the American journals Telos and Radical
. Other translations were done by individuals interested or
involved in this or that wing of the evolving struggles in Italy. Most
translations were either from Lotta Continua (LC) or Potere Operaio
(PO). Among them were “Italy 1969-1970 Wave of Struggles” by Ferruccio Gambino,
“Organizing for Workers’ Power” by Andriano Sofri and “Class Struggle and European
Unity” by Guido Viale.(58)
Several of these translations were compiled and published in Radical America
in 1971 and 1973.(59)
Some were published as pamphlets and circulated by various groups in the U.S.
and Canada. These translations — along with word-of-mouth accounts by
their Italian comrades — provided the primary window into Italian
developments for those in the Zerowork collective who did not read the language.
All these materials can be considered more or less significant inputs into the
thinking of everyone in the collective. (More detail is included in the
biographical sketches of the various individuals.)

From Struggles of the Waged to those of the Unwaged

Alongside these primary roots of the thinking that went into the composition of
Zerowork — some quite old — I want to pay special attention
to the emergence from relative obscurity of what might be called an aerial root
— because once above ground, it flourished in the light of day and then
became a major component of the root architecture of the first issue of
Zerowork — the analysis of class struggle in the various domains
of the production and reproduction of labor power. Awareness of such struggles
was never completely absent among the groups already mentioned but in terms of
the amount of attention devoted to these domains, for a long time they were
given relatively short shrift. This seems to have been the case across all
those groups sketched above.

In the period from the 1940s through the 1960s, from the earliest work of the
Johnson-Forest Tendency through Correspondence and Facing Reality to
Dunayevskaya’s group News & Letters, I have only been able to find bits and
pieces of writings dealing directly with domains such as the home and housework
or school and schoolwork. In Europe the more or less parallel workerist focus
on waged factory labor — running from Socialism ou Barbarie through
Quaderni Rossi to Potere Operaio — also involved a
relative neglect of the labor of reproduction — until a women’s backlash
began to properly readdress the situation in the early 1970s.

Housework and the Struggle against It

With respect to housework — traditionally understood as a domain of women's
work — relatively little was written or published about the struggles of
women qua unwaged houseworkers. In The Invading Socialist Society (1947)
that C. L. R. James called "the fundamental document of the Johnson-Forest
Tendency" — where it set out its differences with both Trotsky and other
Trotskyists — there is nothing at all on women or the work of reproducing
labor power. In The American Worker (1947) Singer only devoted a couple
of pages to the ways in which workers' harsh life in the factory haunted their
life at home and only a couple of lines to how it added to the housework burdens
of their spouses. In Lee's analysis, while she does not "deny the importance of
women struggling as women for emancipation", she focused on "worker's activity
in production", neglected labor in the home and argued that the emancipation
of women could only come through a "revolution in the mode of
In State Capitalism and World Revolution (1950), the chapter devoted to
their analysis of the class struggle, including "the mode of labor in the United
States" included, once again, nothing on women or the work of reproducing labor
power, despite the authors' recognition of the welfare state as a new component
of state capitalist social planning.

The same year, however, an unpublished, book-length manuscript by C. L. R. James,
Notes on American Civilization, included one section on “Negroes, women
and the Intellectuals” — apparently an after-thought, to “fill up certain
gaps” and for the sake of rendering a “total impression of society.” In the dozen
or so pages devoted to women, James sketched the growing frustration of
middle-class women with the disparity between the idea of equality and the
concrete inequalities of their daily
The result: the spreading refusal by women of all those constraints upon their
self-development as human beings — including their traditional subordination
to men and child rearing within families. He pointed to the refusal of increasing
numbers of young women to marry and to rising divorce rates among those who do.
Although such constraints and struggles were only “highly publicized” among
middle-class women, he argued, they “apply with ten-fold force to the vast
majority of working women or wives in the United States.”

Also that year, Raya Dunayevskaya contributed a short piece on "The Miners' Wives"
to the SWP's newspaper The Militant highlighting the active roles of
women during a coal miners' strike in West Virginia. However, the focus of that
article was on the women's support for the men's strike. The only reference to
housework was an account of a threat by the women to make their men "build fires,
cook their own food, wash their own clothes, clean the house and hire baby
sitters" if they returned to work without a

Two years later, in 1952, James encouraged Selma Weinstein (né Deitch, later
James) — a single mother — and Filomena Daddario to write about the
situation and struggles of women. The result was an essay titled A Woman’s
— published with the pseudonyms "Mrs. Marie Brant" (James)
and "Mrs. Ellen Santori" (Daddario) — that described the work of both
stay-at-home housewives and those who also worked for a wage, the problems
faced by women in both situations and their struggles to deal with them.
A “woman’s place,” they argued, was less and less in the home and increasingly
wherever women had the power to go.(63)
The essay was published first in Correspondence and then as a pamphlet
in 1953. The next year, in 1954, Weinstein wrote a regular column about issues
specific to women for each issue of Correspondence’s

Early in 1953 Raya Dunayevskaya drafted an essay — that remained
unpublished — that included a few pages on women's struggles. In some ways,
the analysis paralleled James' in his earlier unpublished manuscript, even using
some of the same language. The major difference was the inclusion in her essay
of a discussion of how the continuation of wartime roles of women in the
Workers' Party was challenged by men after the war and how those in the
Johnson-Forest Tendency defended those roles, but were still limited in their
ability to move beyond old political categories and frames of references. Similar
problems surfaced, she wrote, when the JFT rejoined the SWP and discovered that
while many women "occupied the same subordinate position that women did in
bourgeois society — they worked to support their men" — even the
women in "leadership" positions shared the male leaders' sense of superiority
over rank and file members. The very limited analysis in both unpublished
manuscripts and published articles indicates how little attention, study and
thought they were devoting to struggles against the work of reproducing labor
power — especially if these few scattered pages are juxtaposed to, say,
Simon de Beauvoir's 800 page, two volume Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex)
published in 1949.(65)
According to the transcript of a talk given by Dunayevskaya in 1974, she was not
only familiar with the book in the 1950s but discussed her reading of it with
Black factory women — especially her conclusion that de Beauvoir thought
that men must free women.(66)
Yet despite her critique I have found no evidence of any effort in those years
to produce a parallel study analyzing women's work in the sphere of reproduction
or to demonstrate the autonomous struggles of women against

In 1958, Facing Reality did include a few paragraphs on women and their struggles
for real equality — beyond whatever formal equalities, e.g., the vote, they
had won up to that point. After noting "the handicaps of child-bearing and
child-rearing in a competitive society", the existence of a "colossal struggle
for the establishment of truly human relations between men and women", and rising
divorce rates among "the professional classes", the authors argued that "the
real battle for new relations between the sexes is being fought above all in
the American working class". There, after the experience of waged labor during
WWII, women "have no intention of once more becoming an adjunct to the male
wage earner." They conclude:

In the age-long struggles of human beings to remold their world nearer to their
heart's desire, rarely have such heroic efforts, such courage, such resource,
such ingenuity been shown as in these efforts of American working women to live
a complete life, a life corresponding to the technical achievements and social
relations of their highly-developed society. As long as official society lasts,
they cannot win a complete victory, but positions have been gained and if some
have been lost, many have been held. This, one of the greatest social struggles
of our time, goes unrecorded!(68)

Unfortunately, from all evidence, little more about those struggles was either
studied or recorded by the members of Facing Reality over the next

A special issue of Radical America on women, published in 1970, signaled
the rising power of a new generation of feminists to change the agenda of “the
movement” more generally. As the decade unfolded not only would some women draw
on, and criticize, the traditions I have described but they would deepen their
analysis and organize themselves in new autonomous ways. Of all the moments of
the “Women’s Liberation Movement” of those years, the one that would have the
most direct influence on Zerowork was, without a doubt, the Wages for
Housework analysis and campaign. Whereas the writings in the 1950s about
women’s struggles were primarily descriptive — with the underlying Marxism
mostly implicit — in the 1970s the writings of women associated with Wages
for Housework explicitly drew on Marxian categories while substantially
elaborating their analysis of the work of reproducing labor power and
valorizing contemporary struggles against it.

The seminal piece of writing that largely framed the thinking and strategies of
the Wages for Housework Campaign was Mariarosa Dalla Costa’s essay “Women and the
Subversion of the Community” originally written as a discussion piece for a
gathering of Italian feminists in Padova in 1971. That essay, as Dalla Costa
would explain later, was an attempt to synthesize the ideas and experience that
had been developing among women — herself included — who had been
engaged in the workerist movement in Italy, especially Potere Operaio
— a network of groups that had already argued for wages for unwaged subjects
like students.(70)
A year later the Wages for Housework Campaign was launched, again in Padova,
along with the formation of the International Feminist Collective. Dalla Costa’s
1971 essay and the 1952 essay on “A Woman’s Place” were then combined — the
former translated into English and the latter into Italian — and published,
first in Italy (Padova: Marsilio Editori) in March 1972 as Potere femminile
e sovversione sociale
and then in England (Bristol: Falling Wall Press) in
October 1972 as The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community.

The basic arguments — that the essential labor of producing and reproducing
human life as labor power for capital is not only vast but largely hidden
because it has been unwaged and unrecognized, that without the labor of
reproduction there can be no labor of production and that the former labor
should, instead, be revealed, recognized and waged — was soon elaborated
by many authors in many languages as part of the International Wages for Housework
Campaign. Among those elaborations, the ones familiar to most of the men in the
Zerowork collective — besides The Power of Women and the Subversion
of the Community
— included the following: Selma James, “Women, the
Unions and Work,” (1972), Selma James, “Sex, Race and Working Class Power,” (1974),
Silvia Federici, Wages Against Housework (1975), Nicole Cox and Silvia Federici,
Counterplanning from the Kitchen: Wages for Housework, A Perspective on Capital
and the Left
, (1975) and the collection Wendy Edmond & Suzie Fleming (eds)
All Work and No Pay: Women, Housework & the Wages Due,

There were, however, certain theoretical formulations in these Wages for Housework
publications — beginning with Mariarosa’s seminal essay — that did not
sit well with some otherwise sympathetic comrades. I will illustrate with just
one example, important given the political genealogy sketched above, that reveals
how the thinking of those in this history was evolving. When Selma James sent a
copy of Mariarosa’s essay to Marty Glaberman in 1972, he responded with a detailed
critique of what he felt were the essay’s main shortcomings: the relationship
between unpaid domestic labor and surplus value and, closely related, the
definition of the working class or

With respect to what he saw as the first shortcoming, Glaberman objected to the
assertion that “domestic work not only produces use values but has an essential
function in the production of surplus value”. “Unpaid labor,” he countered, “creates
neither value nor surplus value.” Marx’s “definition of value, exchange-value,
etc”, he went on, “leaves no room for unpaid labor.” His objection foreshadowed
that of many others as the Wages for Housework movement set off a widespread
debate among Marxists and feminists about how to analyze domestic labor. How
James responded to his critique, I don’t know, but clearly Glaberman’s objection
lay in his interpretation of Dalla Costa’s argument that domestic work “has an
essential function in the production of surplus value.” He — and many who
came after him — read those words as meaning the same thing as Marx’s
frequent statement that commodity-producing labor “creates” value and surplus
Neither his objection, nor the theoretical issue he raised was directly
addressed in Zerowork — where Dalla Costa’s work was used as one
fundamental building block of the overall analysis.

What he saw as the second shortcoming — a much too broad definition of
working class — was closely related to the first. If, according to him,
the working class, or proletariat, must be defined narrowly as including only
those waged employees of capital producing commodities for sale (and surplus
value or profit) then clearly all sorts of other people — including women
in the home — should not be thought of as being part of the working class
even if and when their struggles against capital “have independent validity” and
even “contribute to the struggle for socialism, directly or indirectly.”
Glaberman’s position here is rooted in both his theoretical understanding of
Marx and in the long-fought politics of the Johnson-Forest/Facing Reality
tradition of recognizing and valorizing the autonomous struggles of blacks,
women, students, etc. To reinterpret these “other” struggles as being working
class would, he feared, result in abandoning all of the important distinctions
he and his comrades had fought to establish. Whether he ever confronted the new
concepts of class composition and political recomposition that were designed
specifically to capture and appreciate precisely those differences, and the
interactions among them within the working class, I don’t
At any rate, the broader definition of the working class was basic to the
analysis in Zerowork.

Schoolwork and the Struggle against It

With respect to the analysis of students and schoolwork — designed to turn
young humans into beings willing and able to work for capitalist employers —
by people associated with Johnson-Forest, Correspondence and Facing Reality, I
have found very little from the 1950s and not much more from the 1960s. On the
one hand, there was not much of an organized student movement in the 1950s; tiny
youth groups such as the Student League for Industrial Democracy were mainly
preoccupied with events outside of
On the other hand, the little attention paid to student struggles was directed
not at such formal organizations but at the self-activity of regular students.
One early piece, Artie Cuts Out (1953), was a short pamphlet containing
the reflections of one high school student on his experience, which included a
student strike in 1950.(76)
As might be expected, the reflections are passionate but merely descriptive. The
student, Arthur Bauman, sees quite clearly the repressive hierarchical structure
of schools and the various ways teachers attempt to impose discipline and job
training. He also describes how he, and other students, often responded: refusing
the discipline or "cutting out" of a class, or of school entirely. But, there
is no theoretical afterward such as the one written by Grace Lee for The
American Worker

In Facing Reality (1958) the struggles of students are only evoked in
a reference to the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle which "put on screen
for the first time the jungle which is American education and relations between
teacher and pupil." Although the film (and the novel of the same name on which
it was based) amounted to a fictional elaboration of the same themes as Artie
Cuts Out
and is situated in the same New York Public school system, there
is no analysis in Facing Reality of the student struggles portrayed.
The film is merely held up, alongside Rebel Without a Cause (1955) as
a cultural mirror of the "crisis of American bourgeois

In the early 1960s in the United States, white students as well as black began
to participate in the rapidly growing Civil Rights Movement either in their
home communities or in areas of intense struggle, e.g., the Mississippi Freedom
Summer Project in 1964. The Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
formed in the wake of the 1960 Greensboro student sit-ins and Students for a
Democratic Society (SDS) were emblematic of student activism in that period.
Other than efforts at desegregation, however, these were mainly struggles
outside the school system. That changed with the explosion of the Free Speech
Movement at the University of California at Berkeley in December 1964 when 800
students occupied Sproul Hall and the governor called in over 600 police to
eject and arrest the protestors. From that point on, student activists brought
their struggles home to their schools and began to elaborate detailed critiques
of the repressive structures of education and to demand changes in those structures
to meet their needs.(78)

For the most part, however, those "New Left" critiques owed more to C. W. Mills
and his analysis of the power elite than to Marx. From

Who Rules Columbia

(1968) to

Maggie's Farm: A Radical Guide to Stanford
(1969), the emphasis
of student activists was on dissecting business and state control of universities
and critiquing the resulting subordination of teaching and research to corporate
and government interests and programs. Central to those critiques were the
absence of programs of study relevant to student concerns, linkages between
university research and the War in Vietnam and ties to corporate strategies
both local and international. The former would lead to the rise of the Black
student movement and the latter would link on-campus struggles with off-campus
ones against the War.(79)
In the 1960s the linkages between the student "New Left" and Marx were highly
mediated — by Herbert Marcuse, by Eric Fromm, by Maoism and by various
radical periodicals, such as Monthly Review (1949- ), New Left
(1960- ), Radical America (1967-1999) and Telos
(1968- ). As already mentioned, the latter two journals provided occasional
glimpses into the traditions being sketched here but little was reported when
it came to schoolwork and student

In France, Socialisme ou Barbarie paid little more attention to schooling
and the struggles of students than Facing Reality. The only substantive
treatment was one 1963 essay on "La jeunesse étudiante" that was published along
with two documents by students on their
By this time, of course, Castoriadis had broken with Marxism so the group's
earlier "workers' inquiry" approach to understanding struggles was not adapted
to the growing revolt of students.

Unfortunately, this was also true with the Situationists who, in the run-up to
the great explosion of French student struggles in 1968, did pay some attention
to the particularities of schooling and student activism. Probably the most
important Situationist document dealing with student struggles was

De la misère
en milieu étudiant consid&eacuter&eacutee sous ses aspects &eacuteconomique,
politique, psychologique, sexuel et notamment intellectuel et de quelques moyens pour y
(1966) (

On the Poverty of Student Life
) largely
written by a member of the Situationist International in collaboration with
radical students at the Universit&eacute de Strasbourg. Those students had
gotten themselves elected to L'Association Federative Generale des Etudiants de
Strasbourg, local section of the social-democratic Union Nationale des
&eacutetudiants de France (UNEF).(82)
In a move that anticipated the widespread distribution of critical assessments
of American universities to new students a few years later, e.g.,

Maggie's Farm: A Radical Guide to Stanford
, they printed and
distributed 10,000 copies
to incoming students. Despite its instant notoriety — and widespread
popularity — the essay contains more critical condemnation of student
passivity and self-centeredness than it does analysis of the dynamics of
students' day-to-day struggles. Where it does deal with student activism, it
mainly provides a critique of existing efforts, from the Provos through "little
groups of 'militants' who claim to represent the authentic Bolshevik heritage" and
reformist groupuscules such as the post-Marxist after-life of Socialisme ou
. The essay's primary thrust is to call for the extension of student
struggle to all of society and a rethinking of the revolutionary project in the
light of Situationist analysis of the spectacle. Yet, at the same time, its
roots can be seen in its repeated evocation of workers' councils and self-management

It is by its present organization that a new revolutionary movement will stand
or fall. The final criterion of its coherence will be the compatibility of its
actual form with its essential project — the international and absolute
power of Workers' Councils as foreshadowed by the proletarian revolutions of
the last hundred years. . . . "All Power to the Soviets" is still the slogan,
but this time without the Bolshevik afterthoughts. The proletariat can only
play the game of revolution if the stakes are the whole world, for the only
possible form of workers' power — generalized and complete self-management
. . . "Workers' control must be the means and the end of the struggle: it is
at once the goal of that struggle and its adequate form."

Their concept of self-management, however, was not a concept of merely taking
control of the means of production to eliminate the alienation associated with
capitalist control and replacing it with non-alienated work as true human being.
On the contrary, their self-management would abolish the market, commodities and
work as a separate domain of domination.

With self-management ends one of the fundamental splits in modern society —
between a labor which becomes increasingly reified and a "leisure" consumed in
passivity. The death of the commodity naturally means the suppression of work
and its replacement by a new type of free activity. . . it is work itself which
must be called in question . . . no strategy short of the abolition of work will
do. It is only beyond the contradiction of use-value and exchange-value that
history begins, that men make their activity an object of their will and their
consciousness, and see themselves in the world they have created.

When student struggles — alongside those of 10 million French workers —
did explode in May 1968, many themes of the Situationist analysis could be
heard in the student assemblies and read in graffiti, spray-painted and stenciled
on the walls of Paris and other hotspots of the uprising. The abolition of work
would be the primary remnant of those ideas that would find its way into
Zerowork #1.

At the time, these events — and the roll of students in the mass
occupations —– were being watched and analyzed by workerists in Italy. There
too the 1960s saw an explosion of student struggles, but how those closely
associated with workerism tended to view the struggles of students varied across
space and time.(83)
Sergio Bologna and Giaro Daghini, for instance, compiled and published "Maggio '68
in Francia" in Quaderni Piacentini where they credited students with
playing an important role in spurring many workers into
On the other hand, workerism's focus on waged worker struggles led some to be
initially dismissive of student activism as the "play" of the children of the
middle class — who made up the bulk of students in the universities. The
preoccupation of many of those students with such foreign struggles as those
in Vietnam, the Cultural Revolution in China, guerrilla warfare in the "Third
World" or uprisings in American black ghettos were largely secondary to the
interests of most workerists. The Center-Left parties sought to subsume student
activism within carefully circumscribed "youth" organizations of their own. But
as student struggles spread beyond universities into secondary schools and the
Movimento Studentesco began to elaborate its own autonomous analyses
and strategies, it began to be taken more seriously. Both the workerists and
many of the student leaders, some influenced by workerism, increasingly
focused on the strategic political question of the best ways to bring student
struggles and those of other social sectors — especially waged workers
— together. One approach, not surprisingly, was to argue that student
struggles must be subordinated to those of waged workers. The rationale lay in
seeing students as future workers and finding ways to overcome the ideological
role of the school — the ways in which it functions to condition its
inmates into accepting the capitalist organization of
Another approach built on efforts within the student movement to widen
accessibility to education, especially higher education, beyond the middle class
to the children of blue collar workers. The latter's financial needs fueled
demands for more stipends/scholarships; the search for links with the workers'
movement led to those demands being mutated into demands for wages for students,
or even "a general salary to all young people under age
Such efforts to bring student and waged worker struggles together would contribute
to the formation of Lotta Continua (1969-1976).

Intersecting with the analysis of the student movement was an emerging awareness
that despite Marx's analysis in the "Fragment on Machines", not all labor was
being deskilled and reduced to "machine tending." On the contrary, capitalist
industrial development also required and produced skilled technical labor power
at many levels of production — some of which was being trained in schools.
What some saw as the increasing importance of such labor power — despite
countertendencies toward ever finer divisions of technical labor — gave
increased importance to the struggles of students — those very skilled
technical laborers-in-training. Other than various invocations of the
authoritarian methods through which such training was being organized, there was
relatively little effort to extend the methods of the "workers' inquiry" into
schools, at any level.(87)
Always students were analyzed as something separate and different from workers.
In this the ideas of Italian workerists, in this period, paralleled those of
Facing Reality — as enunciated, for example, by Martin Glaberman in his
critique of how the Wages for Housework analysis led to an unacceptable
broadening of definition of working

However, Mariarosa Dalla Costa's "Women and the Subversion of the Community"
(1971) not only provided theoretical grounding for the Wages for Housework
Campaign but her inclusion of analyses of schooling and the struggles of unwaged
students against it also elaborated a Marxian logic to seeing those battles as
integral elements of the overall class struggle. Not only did she identify
ideological aspects of schooling, e.g. the "conditioning [of] students against
'crime'", but she also highlighted how the imposition of discipline and
hierarchy (grades and selection) aims at preparing students for later employment.
Moreover, she identifies struggles against these various mechanisms of domination
undertaken by students at all levels. Condensed within a few pages is a more
succinct Marxian analysis of schoolwork and the struggle against it than in
previous writings that touched on this subject in the history being sketched
here. From the problematic of the relationship of students to workers, she moved
the discussion to that of students as workers. This change in theoretical
perspective moved the issue of student income (stipends/scholarships/wages) from
a means for blue-collar children to gain access to education to putting the
struggles of students on the same footing as that of other workers — struggles
over wage-work deals and over the conditions of work.

Not surprisingly, this kind of analysis was soon being applied by students
themselves to their own struggles. In 1974 the London-based Power of Women newsletter
published — very much in the old style of Artie Cuts Out
an interview with students who were circulating a petition for wages for students.
A year later, students at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst —
including one member of the Zerowork collective — published a pamphlet titled
Wages for Students that laid out an analysis of how students' unwaged
schoolwork served to produce their own labor power and demanded payment from
capital for that work.(89)
Some of that analysis was incorporated into George Caffentzis' article "Throwing
Away the Ladder" in the first issue of Zerowork.

Peasants and their Struggles

With respect to peasants, I feel it necessary to preface my account of how they
have come to be counted among the "unwaged" by some people in the history
presented here and how their work has come to be seen as contributing to the
reproduction of labor power with a few remarks on the difficulties of the very
category of "peasant". Today anthropologists and sociologists apply the label
"peasants" to a wide variety of peoples living in rural areas with incredibly
diverse patterns of work, life and struggle. The roles such people play in
contemporary capitalism differ markedly all over the world. Generally speaking,
the category "peasant" refers to agrarian folk who "work the land", that is to
say, they engage in agricultural activities of various sorts. But not all who
work the land are considered peasants. American family farmers, for example,
almost never refer to themselves, nor are they referred to by others, as "peasants".
The waged employees of agribusiness corporations engaged in factory farming are
also never classified as peasants. In Europe, on the other hand, many family
farmers do call themselves peasants, are so categorized by those who study them
and organize themselves as such.

Some peasants, like family farmers, own their land (even if a bank holds a
mortgage), work it, consume part of their produce and sell the rest in markets,
local, regional, national or international. Others have access to land they can
work only through some form of land tenure — the forms of which differ
almost endlessly around the world. Some, so-called "landless peasants" have no
access at all but work the land of others, often for a wage — whether in
kind or in money. In each of these varied situations, the roles played by
individuals often differ according to gender and age. Perhaps the most common
condition of peasants, however, is a complexity of roles that defies easy
classification. Those with direct access may devote themselves mainly to farming
their own land during periods of planting and harvesting, but when time allows,
they may engage in artisanal crafting for the market or find waged jobs on
others' lands, or even off the land in villages, towns, cities or large-scale
infrastructure projects, e.g., dam building and hydroelectric power plant
construction. Thus, when we look at the situation of peasants around the world
we find a varied mix of subsistence agriculture, production for the market and
engagement in labor markets.

Whether the roles of individual peasants are few or many, in most cases they can
only be properly understood within the context of the communities within which
those individuals live. This is most obvious in the case of indigenous communities
that have preserved substantial elements of their pre-colonial cultures and
languages down through the years sufficiently to clearly differentiate them
from other communities — including whatever dominant culture and language
have been imposed on them by outside forces. All this often obtains even when
rural enclosures have stripped peasants of their land and driven many into cities.
There, they may seek waged jobs, or they may engage in those self-activities
associated with the so-called "informal sector" — while still, for at least
a generation and sometime longer, retaining ties — of family and friends,
of culture, of language — to their communities of origin and longings for
a return to the land.

Inevitably, the variety and complexity of peasant situations have gestated diverse
degrees and forms of struggle. Given their attachment to the land, struggles for
land reform have been common — from demands for formal legal redistribution
to direct land seizures. But so have efforts to raise wages, among the rural
landless where enclosure has displaced large numbers and limited mechanization
has not undercut the demand for their labor and among those who have found waged
jobs in urban areas and been able to organize with others. Peasants producing
mainly for the market have also fought for higher prices for their output, or
against government policies that have raised input prices — say for irrigation
water and fertilizer — while holding down the prices of farm
Even where peasants have been so repressed that their possibilities of overt
action have been limited, they have had recourse to a wide variety of covert
One thing is certain, the all too common, pejorative views of peasants as a
quiescent mass of ignorant drudges who put up with their lot, generation after
generation, is false. Such views were most spectacularly falsified during the
most massive revolutionary upheavals in the 20th Century: the Mexican
revolution of 1910-20, the Russian revolutions of 1905-1907 and 1917 and the
Chinese revolution of roughly 1920 to 1949. Each of those great events depended
far more upon the uprising of peasants — either recent rural-urban
migrants to newly built factories or those still toiling in the countryside —
than on the actions of any well-organized political party. Beyond these massive
upheavals there have been any number of other violent, peasant-led revolts as
well as widespread peasant support for non-violent change — as in the
struggle for independence in colonial India.

Despite the diversity, persistence and frequently the intensity of peasant
struggles, Marxists have long been either indifferent to, or critical of peasant
struggles. The indifference has derived primarily from an analysis that took the
fate of English peasants — subjected by enclosure to the labor market or
to the acceptance of tenuous tenancy on great landed estates — analyzed by
Marx as "primitive accumulation" as their primary point of reference. Such
"proletarianization of the peasantry" has long been viewed by many Marxists as
so inevitable as to render preoccupation with their struggles a waste of time.

This neglect is traceable not only to Marx's analysis of the impact of primitive
accumulation on English peasants but also to his views of peasants elsewhere.
Among the best known and most frequently referenced of those views was his brief
analysis of the French peasantry included in his 18th Brumaire of Louis
(1852) dealing with the final defeat of the revolution of 1848. In
that essay he characterized French peasants as constituting a class "in-itself"
in so far as they had many commonalities of situation and shared experiences of
exploitation. They were not, however, in his view, able to constitute themselves
as a class "for-itself" by acting together in a concerted manner in their
collective self-interests — and thus were easily recruited and utilized
against the urban waged workers that he believed, however weak at that time,
were progressing toward higher levels of self-organization and revolutionary

Less well known, but also contributing to the tendency of Marxists to neglect
peasant struggles was Friedrich Engels' book The Peasant War in Germany
(1850). While Engels celebrated the peasants, miners, soldiers and clerics who
rose up in 1525 against enclosure, taxation and repressive authority and who
conceived egalitarian "communist" alternatives, as an anticipation of the
eventual transcendence of capitalism, he also argued that their failure was
inevitable given their limited ability to act in concert. Following in Engels'
footsteps was Karl Kautsky, who concluded in his On the Agrarian Question
(1899) that German peasants at the end of the 19th Century were no more capable
of self-organization as a class than those of 350 years earlier and were, moreover,
doomed to disappear, disintegrating into a few big capitalist farmers and
dispossessed waged workers.(93)

These views of the limited ability of peasants for self-organization and struggle
were taken up by Russian Marxists in their debates with Populists who were, on
the contrary, much more optimistic about the potential of peasant revolt to
transform the existing social order. Despite Marx having come down on the side
of the Populists — something kept hidden by Soviet authorities for decades
— the Bolsheviks embraced his earlier
Exemplary among pre-1917 Bolshevik attitudes toward the peasantry was Lenin's
quite serious effort to understand the development of agriculture in Russia. In
a manner similar to Kautsky's, he tracked down and examined as much statistical
evidence as he could find. But his focus was on the degree of recognizably
capitalist forms of agriculture and the proletarianization of the peasantry.
Prior to 1917, he consistently supported peasant struggles demanding the
redistribution of land because, he argued, it would hasten the development of
capitalism — not any post-capitalist form of social
Once in power he and the Bolshevik Party leadership moved as quickly as possible
to bring the rebellion of both urban and rural peasants under control and
reestablish the Czarist practice of exploiting the peasantry to fund rapid
Much the same story unfolded in China where once Mao Tse-tung discovered that
peasant revolution was underway in Hunan in 1927, he too moved as fast as possible
to gain leadership and control. There too, once victories over the Japanese and
the Kuomintang were achieved in 1945 and 1949, the Chinese Communist Party
rejected peasant demands for the immediate implementation of the communist rule
of "to each according to their needs" and, like the Soviets, institutionalized
the extraction of peasant surpluses for purposes of

Against this background, the attitudes towards and positions on peasants of those
Marxists whose influence on Zerowork I have been tracing have been
decidedly mixed.

In the case of the Johnson-Forest Tendency, C. L. R. James' early work of the
1930s, on the Haitian Revolution and in support of Pan Africanism demonstrated
a clear awareness that struggles against colonialism involved unwaged slaves
and peasants as well as waged
However, in his best-known work, The Black Jacobins, on the 1791-1803
slave revolt in Haiti, James saw those slaves not as peasants but rather, because
of the way they were organized, as akin to the modern proletariat.

The slaves worked the land, and, like revolutionary peasants everywhere, they
aimed at the extermination of their oppressors. But working and living together
in gangs of hundreds on the huge factories [sic] which covered the North Plain,
they were closer to a modern proletariat than any group of workers in
existence. . .(99)

In his writings about anti-colonial struggles in Africa, he recognized how
enclosures were used to drive peasants from their lands and the various methods
used by colonial powers to force the resulting landless into wage labor. He also
highlighted the many revolts against colonial rule, including revolts by
peasants — sometimes in their own interests, e.g., protesting low prices
for their products or high taxes, sometimes in support of striking waged workers.
"What the authorities fear most," he wrote, "is a combination of the workers in
the towns and the peasants in the interior." Yet, at the same time, he insisted
that the failures of those revolts lay in the limitations of the rebels' ability
to organize, and those limitations, in turn, derived primarily from their lack
of education. James's fundamental point of reference in this regard, were not
any close acquaintance or study of actual self-activity among peasants, but rather
his embrace of Lenin's last statements in the year before his death in 1924
calling for educating the mass of Soviet peasants so they could be participants
— under Bolshevik guidance — in the building of
This judgment would continue to shape James' views on peasant struggle in the
post-colonial world of the 1950s and 1960s even after he had broken with the
Leninist concept of the vanguard
Although James recognized the autonomous power of peasants to struggle in their
own interests, he retained that skepticism of their ability to organize
effectively that ran from Marx and Engels right through the whole history of
Marxist orthodoxy.

Although such skepticism certainly haunted James and Dunayevskaya's analysis of
the Soviet Union as state capitalism, it did not preclude their appreciation of
the continuing resistance of Russian peasants to Stalinist exploitation. This
was especially true with Dunayevskaya's writings. Being Russian and able to
read Soviet documents, she not only provided most of the Tendency's evidence of
the capitalist character of the Soviet Union but also most of their commentary
on the struggles of Russian peasants. In a January 1943 article in The New
, she traced the processes of collectivization and peasant
resistance to it — resistance that forced the state to allow free markets
for [non-collectivized] peasant
She also noted how variations in access to inputs and to official output markets
led to enormous differences in collective farm income: millionaires vs paupers.
Finally, she showed how mechanization, refusal to move to the factory and low
levels of peasant work created large scale hidden unemployment in the countryside
that the state began to tap, by force. Fifteen years laterMarxism and Freedom,
published in 1958, contained a chapter on "Russian State Capitalism vs Workers'
Revolt" that reiterated her previous analyses, including a highlighting not only
of worker resistance in factories but of peasant resistance in the countryside —
including such extreme measures as the slaughter of animals to prevent their
appropriation by the state. She argued that the extent of repression (death penalties,
forced labor camps, etc.) measured the extent of resistance.

That same year James, Lee and Chaulieu's discussion of the Hungarian workers'
councils in Facing Reality argued that the councils were able to overcome
traditional divisions, such as those between technicians and the manual workers
who invited them into the councils, and those between workers and peasants who
supported them.(103)
They did not, however, lay out any analysis of existing autonomous struggles of
peasants to explain that support.

The very limited knowledge of peasant reality of those in the Johnson-Forest
Tendency, Correspondence, Facing Reality and News & Letters groups, it seems to
me, contributed to their retention of Marxism's long-standing skepticism about
the potentialities of peasant autonomy. At the same time, their ignorance was
understandable. In the first place, the primary areas of their political
activity, and therefore their attention to workers' struggles, were located in
the industrial heartland of the United States, especially Detroit, (and, eventually,
for James in England). Their very "workerist" orientation kept them, for the
most part, far from much contact with, or analysis of, rural struggles in those
countries or in the Third World. A brief sojourn among sharecroppers in Missouri
(1941), James' short-lived contribution-at-a-distance to the Worker and Farmers'
Party in Trinidad (1965-66) and short visits in West Africa (1967-68) — where
he hobnobbed with elected officials or lectured university students — were
no substitutes for close and sustained study of peasant lives and
Overwhelmingly their attention and political work was always focused on the
struggles of waged industrial workers. In the second place, despite their close
study of Marx's original texts, they were, as far as I have been able to
discover, unaware for many years of his letters to Zasulich with their embrace
of Populist hopes for the peasant mir as a possible "fulcrum for the
social regeneration of Russia."(105)

This was also largely true for those related European organizations discussed
above, e.g., Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Italian workerists. In the
six issues of Quaderni rossi, examples illuminating theoretical pieces
were almost always drawn from manufacturing and only two articles dealt with
either agriculture or agrarian reform — neither of which reflected the
kind of "workers' inquiry" research being carried out in
In both France and Italy, although there was clear awareness that to a considerable
degree post-WWII economic recovery and industrial modernization was based on
labor recently recruited from rural areas, either at home or abroad, relatively
little attention was paid to the peasants involved with such rural-urban migration.
An exception in Italy was the Danilo Montaldi's Milano, Corea. Inchiesta sugli

This changed, somewhat, as the 1960s progressed, as anti-colonial struggles
became post-colonial, anti-neocolonial ones and were met with counterinsurgency
violence. The spread of "Third worldism" — that tendency of young militants
in North America and Europe to look for inspiration abroad, especially in the
Cuban Revolution, the example of Che Guevara, the war for Vietnamese independence
and the writings of Mao Tse-tung — made it politically impossible for those
who had been preoccupied with the struggles of waged industrial workers to
continue to neglect peasant struggles. Still, on the whole, relatively little
attention was spared for those struggles and certainly there was little of the
intense and detailed study characteristic of the "workers' inquiry" approach
to analyzing class composition that had been applied to the class war in industrial
settings. Even when the Materiali Marxisti group in Padua turned its attentions
to those areas from which those industrial workers had come, their preoccupation
was primarily with State policies, e.g., Ferrarri Bravo and Serafini's book on
the Italian South, or mezzogiorno.
It was also true when they composed and assembled a collection of essays on the
"multinational worker' — directly addressing the role of immigrant labor,
the focus was mainly on the roles and struggles of that labor in Italian
industry. Only three essays in the collection L'operaio multinazionale in
(1974) — one on the struggles by workers in and from the Maghreb,
one on those in Yugoslavia, and one that examined the struggles of women in the
frequently peasant communities from which the immigrants had come, treated the
struggles at home that contributed to workers' decisions to

Incipient Differences

It should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, that the members of
the Zerowork collective brought to bear in their thinking and discussions all
kinds of other intellectual and political influences beyond those sketched above.
As the brief biographies of each will indicate, those individuals came from
diverse intellectual and political backgrounds and thus brought with them to
this collective project unique experiences and ideas appropriated from years of
study in many fields and of all kinds of literature. To adapt something Marty
Glaberman once wrote about George Rawick, these folks “knew a lot of stuff —
a lot more than was involved in their academic specialties. They understood a
lot of stuff. Knowledge is not simply the accumulation of facts; it is
understanding relationships, causes,
The diversity of backgrounds and knowledge made for an intriguing and enriching
series of encounters from which, I believe, everyone involved felt himself to
have benefited enormously. This despite, and perhaps partly because of, differences
amidst many shared complementarities.

Among those differences I want to evoke just two — both of which eventually
contributed to splits in the group and people taking different, though still
related, political paths. The first concerned the interpretations of trends in
the character of class relationships emerging from the cycle of struggle that had
thrown the post-WWII capitalist system into crisis. The second concerned the
organizational implications drawn from those interpretations.

With respect to the emerging trends in the character of class relationships there
were two tendencies. One emphasized the how capitalist recourse to the relative
surplus value strategy of substituting constant capital for labor, i.e., raising
the organic composition of capital, in response to workers' demands for more
benefits and less work had been undermining the capitalist ability to impose
work itself. This line of thinking drew upon three sources — two empirical
and one theoretical. The two empirical supports were the rapid development and
generalization of automation during the Keynesian period and the rising levels
of unemployment that came with the recessions of 1969-70 and 1973-75. While the
generation of unemployment by the spread of automation in manufacturing had been,
to a substantial degree, offset by the rapid expansion of the service sector of
the economy, automation was also spreading there as well. What mainstream
economists called structural unemployment and Marx called "the stagnant" part of
the reserve army of labor seemed to be growing. The theoretical support was
contained not only in Marx's analysis of relative surplus value in Vol. I of
Capital, but also in the "fragment on machines" in the Grundrisse
that had been receiving more and more attention, especially in Europe where the
unemployment was worse than in the United States.

The "fragment on machines" was receiving a lot of attention because in it Marx
pointed to a logical outcome of the capitalist strategy of repeatedly substituting
machines for living labor in such a manner as to subordinate the latter to the
The result, Marx wrote, is that the worker

. . . steps to the side of the production process instead of being its chief
actor. In this transformation it is neither the direct human labor he himself
performs, nor the time during which he works, but rather the appropriation of
his own general productive power, his understanding of nature and his mastery
over it by virtue of his presence as a social body — it is, in a word,
the development of the social individual which appears as the great
foundation-stone of production and of wealth. The theft of alien labor time,
on which present wealth is based, appears as a miserable foundation in face of
this new one, created by large-scale industry itself. As soon as labor in the
direct form has ceased to be the great well-spring of wealth, labor time ceases
and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchange value [must cease to be the
measure] of use value.(111)

In other words, the capitalist strategy of investing more and more in fixed
capital, in machines, marginalizes labor in sector after sector, gradually
reducing the overall ability of capital to maintain social order through the
imposition of work. This becomes more and more obvious as Marx goes on, in this
fragment, to discuss the replacement of labor time by ever greater amounts, of
potential free or disposable time "for society generally and each of its members".
This gave one sense to the concept of "zero work" — the approximate
end-point toward which the class struggle is driving social development within
capitalism. The analysis of this fragment — quoted at greater length than
I have done here — is the focus of the last section of Mario Montano's
contribution "Notes on the International Crisis" in the first issue of

At the same time, both within Montano's article and in other contributions
to Zerowork #1, we can find an emphasis on a domain of work beyond that
accounted for in unemployment statistics or in Marx's "fragment" — namely
all those kinds of unwaged work that, because it is not paid for directly, is
hidden from the usual measurements. For example, Caffentzis' piece on class
struggles in education emphasizes that alongside the waged work of administrators
and professors toil students. Some, like Artie Bauman, resist; others knuckle
under and do as instructed. Either way, the vast majority are unwaged. As with
housework, capital has done its best to organize schoolwork for the purpose of
producing labor power — whether that labor power will eventually be
employed and waged, or not. Of course, where work is imposed, resistance arises
and Caffentzis emphasizes how student struggles have often undermined that
imposition, forcing capital to abandon some strategies and adopt others. But the
overall thrust of his arguments highlights a whole sphere of unwaged work that
capital has sought to expand even as the substitution of machines for labor in
industry has limited its ability to impose waged
Parallel arguments are made in several other articles. Carpignano analyses
struggles against capital's efforts to use welfare to "unionize" and manage the
unwaged in poor neighborhoods. Ramirez examines urban refusal of price increases
that impose more unwaged work. Cleaver studies the role of the unwaged in mining
communities in the support of strikes and other miner actions. In all four cases,
the authors draw attention to domains of work — and domains of struggle —
that lie outside Marx's analysis of industrial development and the consequences
for waged labor.

With respect to the organizational implications of the analysis in
Zerowork, the key issue turned on the Wages for Housework collectives
being autonomous women’s projects. All the men in the Zerowork collective embraced
the analysis of the centrality of unwaged labor to the reproduction of capital
and therefore the importance of the struggles of the unwaged. But, what were the
organizational implications of autonomous women's groups for the political
activities of men? Should men craft their own agendas? Did it make sense to think
in terms of autonomous organizations of men? Or, should men dedicate themselves
to the support of the women’s groups? Were there still forms of political
organizing where men and women could work together? This issue had emerged as a
general one with the new wave of feminism that grew out of the movements of the
1960s and early 1970s — and a wide variety of responses had been, and were
being, given. For the men who came together to craft Zerowork, that
collective crafting was itself an initial answer to the organizational question.
It would not, however, be a final one. Almost as soon as the first issue of
Zerowork was published, this organizational question began to be
addressed directly. How the debates around this question unfolded and what
they led to is taken up in the sketch of period between the publication of the
first and second issues of Zerowork.

Brief Biographies of the Editors of Zerowork #1 (1975)

The length of the sketches that follow, and the amount of detail about each
individual’s trajectory, varies considerably. This is due less to the length or
degree of their involvement in politics than to available information. What I
have been able to recount here has depended largely on the degree to which each
individual has left a written record of his activities and the degree to which
each has contributed his memories to this project. In two cases — those of
Leoncio Schaedel and Peter Taylor — I have, so far, been unable to contact them.

George Caffentzis (1945 - ): Son of Greek immigrants who lived and worked
in Brooklyn, New York — but with an extended, and oft visited family in
Greece — George studied philosophy and physics at Antioch College (1962-65)
in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he was involved in efforts to defend Cuba and in
the Civil Rights Movement.(114)
He then studied at City College of New York (CUNY) where he completed his
undergraduate degree in philosophy in 1968. While pursuing graduate study at
Princeton University, he was involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement and in
challenging mainstream economic doctrine.

At Princeton, with two other students, Marc Linder and Julius Sensat, George
prepared chapter-by-chapter critiques of Paul Samuelson’s iconic textbook
Economics, to provide materials for a “counter-course”. In the process,
they also undertook a thorough study of Marx’s Capital and Theories
of Surplus Value
. Those critiques were eventually revised and published by
Linder as Anti-Samuelson, first in Germany
(1974)(115) in four volumes and
then in the United States, in an abridged, two-volume edition, by Urizen Books (1977),
albeit without George being listed as an author. He withdrew from the publishing
project due to theoretical and political

George went on to obtain his Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Science from Princeton
and to teach philosophy first at Haverford College (1971-72) and then at Brooklyn
College of CUNY (1973-78) during the period of his participation in the Zerowork

One of the founders of Zerowork, George took part in the meeting —
at Silvia Federici’s home — that launched the project in the Spring of 1974.
Among those present who would take an active part in the project were George,
Bruno Ramirez, Mario Montano, Paolo Carpignano and Leoncio Schaedel. Also present
were Judy Ramirez, Selma James, her son Sam Weinstein and George Rawick. The Zerowork
collective was made up of men because the women present — including Silvia,
Selma and Judy — were involved in founding autonomous Wages for Housework
(WfH) groups for women in various cities, including New York City and Toronto.

Complementing the Zerowork project — which was focused on the
creation and circulation of the journal — some of the men were also
involved with separate political groups to organize other kinds of political
actions. In New York, an Income Without Work Committee mutated into New York
Struggle Against Work and in Toronto a Struggle Against Work Collective was
founded. George took part in the former; Bruno Ramirez took part in the
In both cases, the men in these groups faced the political issue of the relation
of their struggles to those of women in the WfH movement. Because all of these
men basically agreed with the WfH analysis of the central importance of unwaged
labor in producing and reproducing labor power (and thus capital), and agreed
that only through autonomous organization could women be certain that the
importance of that unwaged labor, and the struggles associated with it, would
not be marginalized, then the obvious question was “What kinds of struggle are
appropriate for men?”

The thinking and debates this question provoked can be found in several documents
produced by the two groups in Toronto and New York
Two different views emerged. One view argued that because within the waged/unwaged
hierarchy imposed by capital, the struggles of the unwaged, e.g., housewives,
are necessarily beneficial to the waged, e.g., men, because any increase in the
power of the former would make them less liable to being used against the latter,
thus strengthening the working class as a whole. The waged should, therefore,
subordinate their struggles to those of the unwaged. The other view argued that
while increasing the power of the unwaged was essential to increasing the power
of the working class as a whole, there was still space for men to act on their
own. For a while, within both groups, these differing perspectives were
discussed, evaluated and debated — at the same time that participants
engaged in various kinds of political action.

In the midst of the above struggles in New York City, and during the preparation
of the first issue of Zerowork, George also collaborated with some
students studying "radical" economics in the Graduate Program of Economics at
the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. They wrote and published a critique
of education as work-for-capital: a pamphlet titled Wages for Students.
Among those students were two Americans, Leoncio Schaedel (see below) and John
Willshire (who would later join Midnight Notes). Drawing on the theoretical
framework of WfH, the pamphlet analyzed schoolwork as work-for-capital because
it is primarily structured to impose work discipline for the benefit of future
employers. The essay critiqued the usual arguments by economists that education
is both a consumption good and a good investment. The former was labeled patently
false because schoolwork is work and gets in the way of consumption. The second
was no longer true on a personal level because high unemployment in the 1970s
made future payoffs less likely. Another critique — prompted by and aimed
at their own professors — targeted the Left's support for more education
(more work) — in the name of raising social and political consciousness —
as merely forwarding capital's agenda. Pointing to how student wagelessness
put a burden on parents and/or forced them to add waged jobs to their unwaged
schoolwork, the essay argued that regular students should be paid by capital
much as some corporations pay for employee training, or ROTC pays for schooling.
Many of the ideas elaborated in their pamphlet were incorporated into George’s
contribution to Zerowork #1: “Throwing Away the Ladder: The Universities
in the Crisis”.

Paolo Carpignano: An Italian, Paolo spent a year in the U.S. in 1965,
studying at Wesleyan University and then returned to Italy in 1966 to continue
his studies at the University of Rome. At the university he studied Marxism with
Lucio Colletti (1924-2001) and sociology with Franco Ferrarotti
(1926 - ).(120)
At the same time and on his own, Paolo was reading Mario Tronti’s Operai e
— that generated, he says, “a fundamental theoretical turning
point” — and was deeply involved in the Italian New Left beginning with the
group that had published Classe
Although they had stopped publishing the paper, Paolo worked with Alberto Asor
Rosa (1933 - ) and Franco Piperno (1943 - ) and contributed to journals like
Classe e Stato and La
In those circles he met Ferruccio Gambino, Sergio Bologna, Toni Negri, Mariarosa
Dalla Costa “and many others.” “And then came 1968,” Paolo has written, “no need
to dwell on it, it was the experience of a lifetime. I was active in the
student-workers committee, participated in the creation of Potere Operaio,
and in all the struggles up to the Hot Autumn
of ’69.”(123)

Shortly thereafter Paolo finished his dissertation, graduated, married an American
woman and immigrated to the United States to teach Italian Culture, Sociology
and Mass Media at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of CUNY. In the United
States he reconnected with Mario Montano (see below) who introduced him to Silvia
Federici. Through Ferruccio Gambino’s contacts he also met George Rawick and
visited Martin Glaberman and John Watson of DRUM in
According to Paolo, given the central role of the struggles of autoworkers at
Fiat in the development of workerism,

“Detroit was a natural destination for anybody with a workerist perspective and
anybody who talked about workers’ self-activity had to be our comrade. We had
heard of DRUM, FRUM, etc, and when John Watson visited Torino to observe the
struggles at FIAT, he claimed to find himself at home. The axis Torino-Detroit
was essential to the mythology of the

According to Paolo, despite being familiar with Montaldi’s Autobiografie della
as part of his sociology studies, neither he nor other young
militants in his circle were aware of the lineage I’ve traced above from
Johnson-Forest Tendency through Socialisme ou Barbarie to Montaldi,
conricerca, and Panzieri-Alquati. He did not, for example, discover
C. L. R. James until “much later.” In Italy, as in the U.S., it seems that
knowledge of these linkages — and the evolution of ideas associated with
them — were poorly passed down through the changing generations of activists.
One more reason for this website.

A draft of what would be his 1975 contribution to Zerowork #1 —
“U.S. Class Composition in the 1960s” — was picked up, translated and
published as "Note su classe operaia e capitale in America negli anni sessanta,"
in S. Bologna, P. Carpignano and A. Negri, Crisi e Organizzazione Operaia,
(Sept. 1974).(126)
Shortly before Zerowork #1 came out, at the
invitation of Franco Ferrarotti, Paolo also wrote some articles for (em)La Critica
Sociologica, one of which was “Unemployment: Made in the USA,” for the Autumn
1975 issue.(127)
Shortly after Zerowork #1 appeared, Paolo also contributed “Immigrazione
e degradqazione: mercato del lavoro e ideologie della class operaia americana
durante la ‘Progressive Era’,” to the collaboration G. Bock, P. Carpignano e B.
Ramirez, La formazione dell'operaio massa negli USA 1898/1922

William (Bill) Cleaver (1952 - ): An American, Bill was the son of middle
class, but liberal democrat parents, both of whom were born and raised in the
South but had graduated from Rice Institute in Houston, Texas. With his ex-fighter
pilot father — who had served in the Army Air Corps during WWII —
stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base outside Dayton, Ohio he grew up in
a conservative rural area. He was involved in student activism early, starting
in high school in 1968 with a successful upstate effort to get 2,300 children
school lunches and participation in the Presidential campaign of Eugene McCarthy.
He published an independent student newspaper in high school in 1969-70 that was
quickly banned but circulated underground. He later studied Politics and History
at the Bowling Green State University and then finished his undergraduate degree
at Ohio University in Athens, not far from the West Virginia border. During his
time as a student in Southeastern Ohio he developed connections with social
movements in Appalachia. He worked on several electoral campaigns by political
progressives, including those of James Abourezk in South Dakota, George McGovern
in 1972 and Toby Moffitt in Connecticut in 1974. That same year, he abandoned
electoral politics for union organizing in New York City where he also he joined
the Zerowork collective and contributed an article on “Wildcats in the Appalachian
Coal Fields” to the first issue. In 1976 he returned to Appalachia where he
worked and taught for several years.

Peter Linebaugh: An American who studied at Swathmore and Columbia, Peter
was a student of E. P. Thompson, receiving his Ph.D. in British history from the
University of Warwick in 1975. Peter has written that he met Thompson in 1968 in
New York City — a meeting that led him to move to London in 1969 where he
joined a group of scholars, brought together by Thompson, to study the relationship
between crime and the working class.(129)
While living in London he joined John Merrington (see below) — who had
studied in Italy and introduced Gramsci to English readers — in forming a
Capital study group (1969-70) that met every Sunday for a year and a
half. This group, which became known as the Offord Road Group because of the
locale of its meetings, also included Clement Maharaj, a close associate of C.
L. R. James, Geoff Kaye, an economist, Stefan Feuchtwanger, an anthropologist,
Fei-ling Blackburn, associate of New Left Review, Bethia Waterman, an American
feminist, and occasionally Selma James (wife of C. L. R. James) who, according
to Peter’s account, “was testing the ideas of Mariarosa Dalla Costa by treating
Geoff Kaye . . . as a whetstone to sharpen her own forensic
Clement and Selma, of course, also brought to those discussions familiarity C.
L. R. James’ work and that of the Johnson-Forest Tendency and Facing Reality
more generally. The participants in those meetings discussed a wide variety of
material, including not only Capital and writings by Dalla Costa but
also other Italian writings that were summarized, or translated in their
entirety, by John Merrington and Ed Emery. Those writings included essays by
Romano Alquati, Mario Tronti, Raniero Panzieri and other influential figures
in Italian operaismo, or workerism, from Quaderni Rossi to Potere
and Lotta Continua.

When Peter returned to the United States he taught at Franconia College where
in 1972 he published a pamphlet that combined a chapter of James Bogg’s The
American Revolution
(1963) with Guido Baldi, “Theses on the Mass Worker and
Capital” — an essay published that same year in Radical America
that synthesized much of the Italian theory that he had been analyzing and
discussing in London.(131)
The author of the “Theses”, Guido Baldi, was actually a pseudonym for two Italians
living in New York City: Silvia Federici, an important figure in the Wages for
Housework Campaign and Mario Montano (see below) — both of whom had
previously worked on the journal Telos. Within a year, Peter organized
a meeting with Silvia and Mario to discuss the possibilities of publishing a
collection of English translations of important Italian texts.

By that time Peter had begun teaching in the New Hampshire State Prison and had
written and published an account of struggles and repression in that institution.
That same year he joined with “prisoners, ex-cons and their supporters” to form
the New England Prisoner’s Association (NEPA) and, along with Gene Mason and
Monty Neill (later a member of Midnight Notes) edited NEPA News: The Voice
of the New England Prisoners’ Association
for the next two years. In all of
this Peter was bringing his work on crime and the working class in the 18th
Century and his study of Marx and Italian autonomist theory and practice to bear
on the on-going, contemporary struggles within and around prisons in the United
States. All of this Peter also brought to his collaboration in the formation and
development of the Zerowork collective that began in 1974.

Besides participating in the inevitable discussions involved in all such
collaborations, Peter’s contribution to Zerowork #1 was three-fold: first,
he co-authored, along with Bruno Ramirez, “Crisis in the Auto Sector”, second,
he drew his good friend John Merrington along as a corresponding editor (see below)
and third, he took on primary responsibility for editing, designing, laying-out
and printing of the journal.

Mario Montano (1943 - ): An Italian like Paolo, Mario studied in Rome
with Franco Ferrarotti and Lucio Colletti. Mario wrote his dissertation on Galvano
Della Volpe (1895-1968) with whom Colletti had studied at the University of
Mario was also involved with the Italian workerist movement but became disillusioned
after one of its major theoreticians — Mario Tronti — abandoned
extraparliamentary politics and returned to the PCI. Mario traveled to the U.S.,
arriving in October 1967, "just days," he remembers, "before Che Guevara was
killed." He came to the U.S. in search, Silvia Federici recalls, of a “new
political experience.” He found it first by obtaining a fellowship to do
graduate work in Sociology at Brandeis University where he studied with Kurt H.
Wolff (1912-2003). Along with Stuart Kaplan and Paul Buhle, he served for a
couple of years on the editorial board of Radical America. He found a
job teaching sociology at Clark University (1969-1972), but was, he says, "fired
for being a Marxist". No matter, he was soon hired "for that very same reason"
to teach Political Studies at Adelphi University in Garden City, Long Island,
from 1972 to 1976. Mario also linked up with the folks at Telosz
which included Silvia with whom he became close friends. The editors of Telos
were dedicated to bringing hitherto untranslated European critical writing to
an Anglophone audience, so they published Mario’s "On the Methodology of
Determinate Abstractions: Essay on Galvano della Volpe" in 1971 and later a
spin-off of Silvia’s dissertation: “Notes on Lukác’s Aesthetics” in
As mentioned above, Mario collaborated with Silvia to compose an essay —
which they published in Radical America under the pseudonym of “Guido
Baldi” in 1972. Mario had already, Silvia recalls, introduced her to the “refusal
of work” perspective of Italian workerism and it was during their collaboration
on that essay that he also shared with her Mariarosa Dalla Costa’s recently
composed, seminal essay “Women and the Subversion of the Community” — a
sharing that would lead Silvia to Padova in July 1972 and to collaboration with
Mariarosa in the formation of the International Feminist Collective and launching
the Wages for Housework movement.(134)
As also mentioned above, Mario traveled North with Silvia, Paolo and Bruno
Ramirez to meet with Peter Linebaugh and Monty Neil to discuss the possibilities
of an “Italian collection.”

When the Zerowork collective was formed in the spring of 1974 Mario joined in
that collaboration, ultimately contributing “Notes on the International Crisis”
to the first issue.

Bruno Ramirez: An Italian, after two years of study at the University of
Rome (1963-65), Bruno crossed the Atlantic on a scholarship to study first in
the United States at Shelton College (1965-67) and then in Canada, first at the
University of Guelph (1968-69) and then at the University of Toronto where he
completed his Ph. D in 1975.(135)
Bruno came to North America from Catania, Sicily, he recounts, out of a
curiosity fed both by American movies and by interactions with U.S. sailors who
he met through his church — a Waldensian Protestant church whose progressive
socio-political practices were important in his own politicization and interest
in workerist politics in Italy.(136)
That background, together with his experiences in the U.S. where he studied for
three years in the midst of “the movement”, explains, he suggests, why he wrote
his dissertation on working class struggles in the

Arriving in Toronto from Guelph, Bruno and his wife were soon involved in two
political projects. First, with some of his new colleagues he formed a Marxist
study group — focusing mainly on Capital, the Grundrisse
and some writings by Gramsci. Second, they met Peter Taylor (see below) and
others in the New Tendency (NT), a group that was formed by politically active
Leftists who had become dissatisfied with party politics (both social democratic
and Leninist) and the behavior of labor
The most active members of the NT seem to have been in Toronto and Windsor,
In Toronto, the group included students and workers in the Canadian Post Office,
while in Windsor many were working in auto
In both cases they were actively involved in on-going struggles and were influenced,
in part, by autonomous struggles in the United States, Britain and Italy. Both
the character of those struggles and the writings that emerged from them were
discussed within the group — which undertook, as part of its political
work, to circulate some of the ideas and writings from those areas. In the case
of the United States their primary interest was with the work of C. L. R. James
and Marty Glaberman — major figures in the Johnson-Forest Tendency
(1945-1955) and its offshoot Facing Reality (1955-1970) — and also with
that of Selma James, wife of C. L. R. and one of the founders of the Wages for
Housework movement. Many of the ideas were already familiar to Bruno, but
materials from Italy also came to the NT through
NT members read and circulated Italian material already translated and
circulated by the British Group Big Flame (1974-1984)
(142) and the Rising Free
, e.g., A. Sofri’s “Organizing for Workers’ Power” (1969), “Italy: New Tactics
and Organization” (1971) and “Autonomous Struggles and the Capitalist Crisis
(1972). All of these were written by major figures in Lotta Continua in Italy.
Such discussions also provided Bruno with opportunities to discuss his own
research on U.S. workers’ struggles and to get feedback from activist comrades.

At an international conference organized by Telos at SUNY-Buffalo in
November 1971, Bruno met Silvia Federici and the first of those who would become
his comrades in the Zerowork project — Mario
Montano.(144) He was
quickly recruited to write a review of the latest addition to the Materiali Marxisti
collection — Operai e Stato (1972) — and to translate Sergio Bologna’s
contribution to that volume, “Class Composition and the Theory of the
At the Telos conference Bruno also met militants from Lotta Continua (LC) —
a meeting that led to further contact with members of that group, including
Guido Viale — and folks from Radical America — for which he
(and his wife Judy) did translations of LC and other Italian workerist
Subsequently, Bruno often stayed at Silvia’s place in Brooklyn during his trips
to New York City to do archival research for his dissertation. Thus began what
he calls an “informal network” through which he also met George and Paolo. These
connections, in turn, led to his meeting militants in Potere Operaio,
including Ferruccio Gambino and others in the Collectivo di Scienze politiche
at the University of Padova.(147)

The period 1973-1974 proved to be a turning point for Bruno in at least two
senses. On the one hand, a 1973 visit to Toronto and presentations there by Selma
James and Mariarosa Dalla Costa had a profound impact on those involved in the
New Tendency.(148)
Not only did many embrace the Wages for Housework perspective but that embrace
resulted in the effective dissolution of the group. Most of the women (including
Judy) left the organization to form branches of Wages for Housework. This, in
turn, led Bruno and other men in Toronto (including Peter Taylor and Tim Grant)
to form a new, all-male political group: the Struggle Against Work Collective
On the other hand, Bruno and Judy were among those gathered at Silvia’s home in
Brooklyn who decided to launch Zerowork as a collective project to
produce a journal by that name aimed at introducing to a broader audience many
of the ideas and politics they had all been working with. This sequence of events
in Toronto paralleled similar ones in New York City (see Caffentzis above).

The dissolution of the New Tendency was analyzed in a statement issued by the
SAWC in March of 1975 — signed by Bruno and five
The “basic error” according to that analysis was that despite having rejected
Leninist vanguardism, the members of the group still saw themselves and their
past struggles as “outside” the working class, and therefore needing to “join”
the working class, but still as “organizers”. At the same time, the SAWC statement
juxtaposed their analysis and politics to those of Out of the Driver’s Seat and
spelled out how their political perspective and approaches to political work had

Bruno’s participation in the Zerowork collective, besides taking part in discussions,
produced two written contributions to the first issue. First, drawing on his
experience in the NT and the experience of his NT comrades in Windsor, he joined
with Peter Linebaugh in writing a piece on "Crisis in the Auto Sector". Second,
as mentioned above, he also composed “The Working Class Struggle against the
Crisis: Self-Reduction of prices in Italy.”

Leoncio Schaedel: An American, recently returned from Chile, Leoncio was
studying in the Graduate program in political economy at the University of
Massachusetts at Amherst. He is the son of anthropologist Richard Paul Schaedel
(1920-2005) and had been in Chile at the time of the coup against Salvador Allende
in 1973. He escaped back to the United States where he met George Caffentzis and
Silvia Federici in New York City. At UMass, he, John Willshire and several other
students discovered that the “radical" faculty of the department of economics not
only imposed even more work than their mainstream counterparts but were intolerant
of views that contradicted their own. This led to the collective composition —
in collaboration with George Caffentzis — and publishing of the pamphlet
Wages for Students that applied a Wages for Housework analysis to education,
critiquing the imposition of school work in capitalism and demanding to be paid
for that work. The pamphlet — which they produced and began to distribute
in the fall of 1975 — was cleverly designed, in size, shape and cover to
look like student “blue books” used for examinations. The pamphlet and their
efforts to circulate it to high school and college students was reported in the
March 2, 1976 issue of the student newspaper of the University of Massachusetts
at Boston, Mass Media. Leo — who had by that time become fed up enough
with the economics department to drop out — was quoted as saying, “The
university (UMass) serves as a pool of cheap labor. That’s why the university is
stuck here in Amherst. . . .It’s very important for the economy of Western
Massachusetts, a ‘pool of cheap

Peter Taylor: A Canadian who, before participating in the Zerowork collective,
was previously involved in the New Tendency (see above), Peter was one of those
working in the Canadian Post Office.(152)
He wrote “Working — and Not Working — at the Post Office”, a detailed
autobiographical essay that recounted his struggles on the job and their impact
on his life outside his official working days (and nights). That essay was turned
into an illustrated pamphlet in 1974. When the women in the NT left to form the
Toronto Wages for Housework, Peter joined Bruno and others in forming the
Struggle Against Work Collective.

Ferruccio Gambino: An Italian, son of wine growers in the northwestern
foothills of the Apennines, Ferruccio was introduced to Marx and Lukàcs in junior
high school (ginnasio) and the socialist tradition in high school
(liceo classico). Like so many, he was critical of, and never joined,
the PCI or the Socialist Party as a result of their responses to the Hungarian
insurrection in 1956.(153)
After graduating from high school with few resources, he moved to Milan joining
other low-income students in a dormitory — that proved to be a hotbed of
political discussion and
In 1963, a friend in Turin sent him a copy of the first issue of Quaderni
. The next year he collaborated with a group that split from QR
and launched a separate journal Classe Operaia. Later a meeting with
Sergio Bologna — a member of Classe Operaia — led to
introductions to other comrades in Milan, e.g., Mauro Gobbini. From this period
on, Ferruccio was active in workerist circles in Italy.

His desire to visit the United States and to have access to the English language
literature on the history of class struggle, coupled with a travel grant, brought
Ferruccio to New York City in the Fall of 1966. There he made the acquaintance of
Murray Bookchin (1921-2006) — an anarchist who had come out of the United
Auto Workers, factory struggles, Trotskyism and the anti-nuclear weapons movement
to confront the ecological crises being caused by
Long conversations with Bookchin about Marxism and his “ecologismo”, Ferruccio would
write, “showed me new horizons”.

It was during this trip to the US that Ferruccio accepted an invitation to visit
Detroit by the Facing Reality folks — including George Rawick, Marty and
Jessie Glaberman — finding them all intensely occupied: George was researching
and writing on slavery, Marty on autoworker struggles and Jessie was very active
as a Marxist feminist. Subsequently, in the Spring of 1967, George traveled to
New York City, a visit from which Ferruccio says he extracted what amounted to
a two-week, intensive seminar on American labor history and politics. That summer
Ferruccio spent 40 days on the road touring by bus as much of the US as he could
manage, before returning to Italy in September.

In the fall, at the suggestion of Sergio Bologna, Ferruccio applied for and
obtained a scholarship to study at the Istituto di Scienze politiche at the
University of Padua where he met Antonio Negri and Massimo Cacciari for the
first time, joining their circle of political research. For the next three years
he divided his time and energy between Milan and Padua in a period of intense
study, building on what he learned in both Italy and the United States. In 1967
he organized a December seminar in Padua that brought George Rawick from the
United States to sit down with Ferruccio, Sergio Bologna, Mauro Gobbini, Toni
Negri and Luciano Ferrari Bravo to discuss workers’ struggles in the first
decades of the 20th Century and their impact on changes in the form of the State.
The essays prepared for this encounter would individually and collectively
elaborate a whole series of ideas fundamental to the development of the
extraparliamentarian Left. Ferruccio’s contribution to this discussion was a
class analysis of the confrontation between the Ford Motor company’s “Fordist”
organization of production and the British working
All of the essays were subsequently compiled by Sergio and Toni and eventually
published by Feltrinelli in 1972 as Operai e stato — the book
reviewed by Bruno Ramirez in Telos and whose ideas were synthesized by
Silvia Federici and Mario Montano (as “Guido Baldi”) in Radical America.
(see above)

In the years that followed, Ferruccio took part in the development of the
extra-parliamentary left in Italy while teaching at the Institute of Political
and Social Science at the University of Padua. He not only served as “corresponding
editor” of Zerowork #1, but through frequent travels in Europe and to
the United States circulated news and ideas throughout much of the network of
comrades within which the Zerowork collective was active.

John Merrington (1940-1996): An Englishman, born in Pakistan, son of a
colonial engineer, John was dutifully tracked into Britain’s elite educational
institutions, first Bradfield College in Berkshire County — a public school
whose alumni have included plenty of high-ranking government bureaucrats and
conservative politicians — and then Balliol College at the University of
Oxford — England’s oldest and one of its most prestigious
At Bradfield, John began his rejection of the well-trodden road to power and at
Balliol he turned his attention to those of below by studying with the Marxist,
bottom-up English historian Christopher Hill (1912-2003), perhaps best known for
his book The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas during the English

In 1964 John studied Gramsci in Rome, critiqued him, came home and wrote "Theory
and Practice in Gramsci’s Marxism," for the Socialist Register (1968).
He then moved on to explore Italian workerism and, along with Ed Emery, to
translate key texts from the Italian and get them into the hands of various
groups of militants, e.g., Big Flame activists in the Ford auto plants. Dealing
with the theoretical works of Italian workerists required close study of Marx,
so John and Ed formed a Capital study group (1969-70) that included,
among others, Peter Linebaugh and Selma James. (see Linebaugh bio above and his
obituary for John) James' presence, as might well be imagined, guaranteed that
those brief passages in Capital that dealt with the reproduction of
labor power came under close scrutiny and arguments began over what he might
have said, had he probed the issue more deeply — and what one might say,
given that he didn't. With Peter and John both researching crime and policing
in the 18th Century, they were open to expanding the concept of the working class
to include the unwaged. How was a matter of fierce debate.

By 1973 John was actively engaged with Big Flame in the Ford plants and he and
Ed were churning out translations from Lotta Continua, some from Potere
and as many as possible of the key theoretical texts within Italian
workerism. When the Zerowork collective was formed in 1974, Peter Linebaugh drew
John into discussions about the essays being prepared for the first issue. Both
enthusiastic and critical, John also sought, once that issue appeared, to
distribute it in England and to provoke discussion among activists — just
as he and Ed had been doing with their translations. Having gotten a job
teaching at Middlesex Polytechnic he also sought to call attention to the journal
and the ideas in it among the Marxist academics affiliated with the Conference
of Socialist Economists.


1 The stories of these struggles were partially
told in essays written by members of the Zerowork collective. Peter Taylor wrote
the pamphlet Working — and not working — at the Post Office in 1974
and later contributed the article “‘The Sons of Bitches Just Won’t Work’ Postal
Workers Against the State” to Zerowork #1. Philip Mattera (with Donna Demac)
would prepare the pamphlet Developing and Underdeveloping New York: the “Fiscal
Crisis” and a Strategy for Fighting Austerity
in 1976 that would later appear
in a revised form in Zerowork #2, 1977.

2 The relevance of our study of the New York
City fiscal crisis — especially of the attack on workers' pensions —
would seem particularly relevant today in the case of Detroit where battles have
been shaping up over just this issue.

3 This is a synopsis of the analysis of the
character of the international crisis of Keynesian or Fordist capitalist crisis
laid out in both the first and second issue of Zerowork. Although only
some of the articles deal directly with the crises mentioned the analysis is
fundamental to all of them.

4 The history of Marxist “crisis theory” has not
been unitary but, since the time of the 2nd International (1898-1914) has been
fraught with controversies over the interpretation both of the supposed “laws of
motion” and how they generate crises, e.g., theorists of “underconsumptionism”
have clashed with those of “the tendency of the rate of profit to fall”. The early
1970s saw what we felt was a very unsatisfying rerun of all the old debates.

5 While we recognized that real movement involves
both the abolition of “the present state of things” and the crafting of alternative
social relationships, it must be said that little of the time and energy we put
into the creation of Zerowork dealt with the positive content of the
struggles we identified as being at the heart of the crises that generated the
whole project.

6 See, for example, his chapter on "The Original
Affluent Society," in Marshall Shalins' Stone Age Economics, New York:
Aldine, 1974.

7 The classic work is Frederich Engels, The
Condition of the English Working Class
published in German in 1845, translated
and published in English in 1887.

8 "Speeches at Elberfeld" (February 8 and 15, 1945)
in Marx Engels Collected Works, Vol. 4, New York: International Publishers,
1975, pp. 243-251 and 256-264. Engels pointed to such work as police
protection of capitalist property and military jobs necessary to colonial expansion
and imperialist wars. This kind of thinking has been recurrent.

9 It was in Chapter 15 of Volume I of Capital,
dealing with "machinery and modern industry" that Marx evoked those dreams of
Aristotle referenced in the General Introduction to this website.

In their theory, limiting worker wage increases to the marginal product of labor
guaranteed the distribution of the marginal product of capital to capitalist
employers. In this way neoclassical theory reproduced the assumption of classical
political economy that both labor and capital were productive and deserved the
fruits of their respective productivity. For Marx, this was, at best, an
engineering point of view — certainly both workers and machines played a
role in production — but ignored the essential passivity of inanimate
machinery (and raw materials) whose "productivity" was entirely dependent on
labor. He, on the other hand, crafted a theory that analyzed every aspect of
capitalist society in terms of its central social characteristic: imposed labor.

Less optimistic critics of both the modernist ideology of progress and of actual
technological change within capitalism have pointed to the misery hidden by the
ideology and to the negative effects of many technological changes on both humans
and nature more generally. Two frequently cited, possible limits to productivity
growth are 1) the exhaustion of those energy sources on which the proliferation
of machine production has been based, and 2) the associated poisoning of the
earth's ecology by capitalist industry to the point of dramatically reducing the
very sustainability of human life.

David R. Roediger and Philip S. Foner, Our Own Time: A History of American
Labor and the Working Day
, New York: Verso, 1989.

In only two of the seven articles in the first issue are theoretical roots
significantly acknowledged, and then, only in footnotes. Mario Montano and
George Caffentzis cite work by Selma James and Mariarosa Dalla Costa of the
Wages for Housework Campaign. Mario also sites one article by Antonio Negri.
Peter Taylor, in one footnote, credits Negri with the first use of an expression
“the technological path to repression.” As will become apparent this was scant
reference to the literatures and ideas that informed the thinking in Zerowork.

One such complaint was leveled by Marty Glaberman whose work, and those of his
comrades, had — as will be made explicit below — been among the
sources of the analysis laid out in Zerowork. At the same time, whatever
the shortcomings of the exposition of Zerowork, its authors were hardly
the first of their lineage to be rebuked for being less than forthcoming about
their roots. Looking back at C. L. R. James (see below) and the influence of his
circle on workers in the 1950s, Dan Georgakas wrote “There was little attempt to
present his ideas in a systematic manner. Nor was there any effort to explain how
News and Letters, Correspondence, Facing Reality, et. al., had evolved out of
Trotskyist politics. Such information surfaced in personal conversations with
individuals or as background on specific issues.” ”Young Detroit Radicals: 1955-65”
Urgent Tasks 12, Summer 1981, pp. 89-94. Reprinted in C.L.R. James:
His Life and Work
(Paul Buhle ed) New York: Allison & Busby, 1986, pp. 185-194.

Special mention and recognition should be given to which has done great
work — within the context of a much broader project — in gathering
and making available what is probably the most extensive digital
collection of material relevant to Zerowork to date. Indeed there is
substantial overlap between what can be found there and what I provide here —
in a somewhat more interwoven manner geared to this particular project. Overlap
in cyberspace, however, is not wasted effort, but rather the creation of more
gateways to our digital commons.

More on this research will be detailed in the historical sketch section on “Background:
from Zerowork #1 to Zerowork #2.”

On some similarities between the work of Kropotkin and various Marxists mentioned
below see: H. Cleaver, “Kropotkin, Self-Valorization and the Crisis of Marxism”
in Anarchist Studies (UK), 1993. Originally written in 1992 for a Kropotkin
conference in Russia, this essay compares Kropotkin's work on the future in the
present and that of autonomist Marxists on self-valorization. For overviews of
the Council Communists see: Peter Rachleff, Marxism and Council Communism,
Brooklyn: The Revisionist Press, 1976. Chapter VIII: "Council Communist Theory,"
and Mark Shipway, "Council Communism," in M. Rubel and J. Crump (eds), Non-market
Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
, New York: St. Martin's
Press, 1987, pp. 104-126.

The conflicts between those who call themselves anarchists and those who call
themselves Marxists have ranged from theoretical differences to armed conflict.
While the theoretical differences date from Marx’s arguments with Bakunin, the
armed conflicts date from the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik crushing of
the Ukrainian and Kronstadt anarchists. Others, such as Kropotkin, were silenced,
often exiled. There is a huge literature of Marxists attacking anarchists and
visa versa. There is a much smaller literature of those who have recognized and
emphasized similarities. Perhaps best known among those contributing to the latter
is the Councilist and Marx scholar Maximilien Rubel. See his “Marx, Théoretician
de anarchisme,” L'Europe en formation, no 163-164, octobre-novembre 1973,
reproduced in Marx, critique du Marxisme, Paris: Petite Biblioteque
Payot, 1974; also in

Among the Council Communists, Paul Mattick has published the most work on crisis
— drawing heavily on the work of Henryk Grossman (1881-1950). See Mattick,
“The Permanent Crisis: Henryk Grossman’s Interpretation of Marx’s Theory of Capital
Accumulation,” International Council Correspondence, No. 2, October 1934,
Marx and Keynes: The limits of the Mixed Economy, Boston: Porter Sargent,
1969 and Economic Crisis and Crisis Theory, White Plains: M.E. Sharpe,
1981. In turn, see Grossman’s ‘The Theory of Economic Crisis’ Bulletin International
de l’Académie Polonaise des Sciences et des Lettres. Classe de Philologie. Classe
d’Histoire et de Philosophie. I Partie
. Les Années 1919, 1920, 1922, Kraków,
pp. 285-290, in
and his The Law of Accumulation and Breakdown of the Capitalist System: Being
also a theory of Crisis
, London: Pluto Press, 1992, originally Das
Akkumulations — und Zusammenbruchsgesetz des kapitalistischen Systems

(Zugleich eine Krisentheorie), (Hirschfeld, Leipzig, 1929) translated and abridged in

See his "The Theory of the Collapse of Capitalism" (1934) in which he critiques
Grossman. Socialisme et Barbarie (see below) did have some limited
dialogue with Pannekoek.

C. L. R. James — Cyril Lionel Robert James — came to the United States
from Trinidad but was eventually deported and lived the rest of his life in
London. Raya Dunayevskaya was a name adopted, and retained for the rest of her
life, by Rae Spiegel, a Russian who immigrated to the United States, worked for
a while (1937-38) as Trotsky’ secretary in Mexico, then returned to the US. There
is a considerable literature by and about these two people — their collaboration
in the Johnson-Forest Tendency and Correspondence, differences, subsequent splits
and separate organizations.

See, especially Chapter I of Facing Reality (1958), op. cit., on “The
Workers Councils” in Hungary and Poland.

Letter from Martin Glaberman to Harry Cleaver, April 14, 1989.

James recognition of and struggle for the acceptance of Black autonomy is often
traced to in his early experience as player and commentator on cricket, first in
Trinidad and later in England where he saw racial and colonial conflicts playing
out on the field. Among his important writings that document his thinking on
Black struggles are: The Life of Captain Cipriani: An Account of British
Government in the West Indies
, Nelson: Lancs, 1932, Documents on the Negro
Struggle (including discussions with Trotsky)
, 1933 and 1939, The Black
Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution
, London:
Secker & Warburg, 1938, A History of Negro Revolt, London, 1938, “Why
Negros should oppose the war” in Socialist Appeal, Sept 6 – Oct 3, 1939,
Negro Americans and American Politics, Detroit, 1956, “Black Power: Its
Past, Today and the Way Ahead,” 1969.

Among the Stalinists critiqued by the JFT were not only Russians such as Eugen
Varga and L.A. Leontiev (head of the Marx-Lenin Institute) but also Maurice
Dobb and Paul Sweezy — especially his Theory of Capitalist Development
(1942) where he attacked Marx's theory of the tendency of the rate of profit to
fall. Among the Trotskyists, their primary targets were "Pablo" (Michel Raptis)
and "Germain" (Ernest Mandel). Although within the framework of these sectarian
debates, they took on no mainstream economists per se, the figure of
John Maynard Keynes loomed in the background as the foremost mainstream theorist
of aggregate demand and crises associated with its inadequacy. Sweezy, it is worth
noting, had been a student of Alvin Hansen one of the foremost popularizers of
Keynesian analysis in the United States.

They quite explicitly linked their concept of state capitalism to Lenin's —
which he had applied to both German capitalism and the early organization of
accumulation by the Bolsheviks in the USSR.

See: C.L.R. James, "Resolution on the Russian Question," submitted to the Second
Workers' Party National Convention in September 1941, F. Forest (R. Dunayevskaya),
"An Analysis of Russian Economy," Part I: 3 articles in the New International
(Dec 1942, Jan. 1943 and Feb.43), and F. Forest (R. Dunayevskaya), "The Nature
of the Russian Economy: A Contribution on the Discussion on Russia," Part II:
2 articles in the New International (Dec.1946 and Jan.1947) — all
of which lay the foundation for the analysis in State Capitalism and World
(1950). The emphasis on workers' struggles and their
characterization of the Soviet System as “state capitalist” was shared by the
Council Communists who had, much earlier, pointed to Bolshevik efforts to corral
autonomous worker initiatives

This analysis of state capitalism and workers' struggles in the USSR and Eastern
Europe although not addressed directly in Zerowork #1 was more or less
taken for granted by the members of the collective. It would become explicit in
two articles in Zerowork #2 — Donna Demac and Phil Mattera’s piece
on Vietnam and Harry Cleaver’s on food crises.

Despite the similarities, in tracing the genesis of Zerowork, I have
found far more direct connections with Facing Reality than with News & Letters.
As a result there are many fewer reference in this historical sketch to the
writings and activities of the latter group.

Within the United States, perhaps the most influential writing-off of the American
working class in the 1950s and 1960s was by Monthly Review — the
magazine and the press — that focused its attentions, and thus that of many
others, on imperialism and struggles in the Third World without connecting them
to those in American work places.

George P. Rawick, From Sundown to Sunup: The Making of the Black Community,
New York: Praeger, 1973.

The article is George Rawick, "Working Class Self-Activity", Radical America,
Vol. 3, No. 2, March-April 1969, pp. 23-31. Rumor has it that more copies of
Italian translations of Rawick's book on slavery were bought by housewives in
Italy — who could directly relate to the struggles of slaves — than
were purchased in all of the United States.

Douglas Hay, Peter Linebaugh, John G. Rule, E. P. Thompson and Cal Winslow, Albion's
Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England
, New York: Pantheon
Books, 1975.

Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth
, London: Allen Lane, 1991.

Claude Montal was the pseudonym of Claude Lefort (1924-2010), a student of Maurice
Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961), the famous phenomenological philosopher. Among other
contributors to Socialisme ou Barbarie were Henri Simon, Jean-François
Lyotard and, briefly, Guy Debord, founder of the Situationist International.

Grace Lee Boggs, Living for Change: An Autobiography, Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1998, p. 65.

He made this claim in a 1992 lecture, which along with follow-up questions and
answers, was published first as "C.L.R. James and the Fate of Marxism" in Selwyn R.
Cudjoe and William E. Cain (eds) C.L.R. James: His Intellectual Legacies,
Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995, and later in Cornelius Castoriadis,
Postscript on Insignificancy, available online at .

For a sketch of the history of the group, the journal, and the changing views of its
contributors, see Marcel van der Linden, “Socialisme ou Barbarie: A French
Revolutionary Group (1949-1965)”, Left History, 5.1, 1997.
(Online at
and Andre Liebich, "Socialism ou Barbarie, a Radical Critique of Bureaucracy,"
Our Generation, Vol. 12, No. 2,Fall 1977, pp. 55-62.

A translation of this introduction, along with much more extremely useful historical
material about the use of Marx's "Workers' Inquiry" was recently published (9/2013)
in the third issue of the on-line Viewpoint Magazine.

Although he would later protest the inclusion of his name — because he
apparently felt the publication was premature, not all problems having been worked
out — Castoriadis was listed as joint author under his pseudonym Pierre

The SoB analysis of the USSR focused on the management of a state capitalism by
a bureaucratic elite.

Vivier’s reports appeared in several issues of SoB, beginning with #11
November-December 1952. Mothé’s reports first appeared in issue #13, January-March
1954, with a report on a strike at Renault but continued, periodically, throughout
the whole history of the journal. Along the way Mothé dealt with strikes, day-to-day
struggles, worker-union conflicts, worker reactions to the Hungarian Revolution,
a new generation of young workers and local-immigrant worker relations. Mothé was
a pseudonym for Jacques Gautrat and was, like Marty Glaberman on the other side
of the Atlantic, an autoworker. He published Journal d'un ouvrier, 1956-1958,
Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1959 and later Militant Chez Renault, Paris:
Editions du Seuil, 1965.

In the U.S. shop floor struggles challenged what the bosses called "managerial
prerogatives" — namely the right to complete control over the organization
of work. This authoritarian attitude led to managers refusing to even consider
improvements in production practices proposed by workers — proposed to make
their work more efficient and safer (and thus raising productivity while
protecting themselves). The results were two-fold: first, the harnessing of
workers' struggles was limited primarily to tying wage and benefit increases to
productivity and second, American corporate managers lagged far, far behind
their Japanese counterparts who would develop incentive programs to harness
worker productivity-enhancing creativity. That more sophisticated harnessing at
the point of production would eventually give them a considerable competitive
advantage over U.S. manufacturers — an advantage that would dramatically
facilitate the Toyoto invasion of the American market in 1965.

This insight into the capitalist harnessing of working class power to raise wages
foreshadowed Antonio Negri’s later argument along the same lines, seeing it as
fundamental to capital’s post-war Keynesian strategies. While Negri’s "John M.
Keynes and the Capitalist Theory of the State in 1929," published in the first
issue of the Italian workerist journal Contropiano in 1968 was known to
some in the Zerowork collective, Castoriadis’ earlier article was not — at
least as far as I have been able to determine.

Montaldi was a life-long political activist from Cremona whose dissatisfaction
with the CPI led to multiple connections with other groups, including the French,
and the creation of the independent organization Gruppo di Unità Proletaria in
1957. His translation of The American Worker was published serially in
Battaglia Comunista in 1954-55. His translation of Mothe’s Journal
d’un ouvrier
appeared in 1960 as Diario di un operaio, 1956-59,
Torino: Einaudi and included Mothe’s text, an introduction by Montaldi and
various reactions to the text by, among others, Romano Alquati and Francesco
Coppellotti. That year also saw the publication of Montaldi’s first book Milano,
Corea. Inchiesta sugli immigrati
, written in collaboration with Franco
Alasia and based on carrying out a workers’ inquiry with immigrant workers —
a part of the working class little studied in Italy at that time. A much more
detailed and comprehensive introduction to the development of the Italian work
that I barely sketch here can be found in Steve Wright’s book Storming Heaven:
Class Composition and struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism
, London: Pluto
Press, 2002.

The well-known turning point at which rank & file anger exploded was the July 1962
Piazza Statuto attack on the offices of the UIL in Turin. The FIAT workers were
furious that the union bureaucrats had signed an agreement with management without
consulting them, thus undermining their strike.

Marx’s A Workers’ Inquiry first appeared in France in 1880 and consisted
of 100 questions that he thought should be asked of workers to reveal their
concrete situation. His purpose was to pressure the French state to follow the
example set by the English government whose factory inspectors had done so much
to reveal the shocking conditions in which workers lived in that country —
and whose reports contributed so much to legislation that improved workers’
lives. Only the workers, Marx wrote, “can describe with full knowledge the
misfortunes from which they suffer, and that only they, and not saviors sent
by Providence, can energetically apply the healing remedies for the social
ills to which they are a prey.” The Inquiry was first published in the United
States in the December 1938 issue of the New International, pp. 379-381.
The bulk of Quaderni rossi 5 was devoted to contributions to a 1964
seminar on the "Socialist use of the Workers' Inquiry".

Alquati has been quoted as denying being the inventor of conricerca,
“Political militants have always done conricerca. We would go in front
of the factory and speak with workers; there cannot be organization otherwise.”
But for Alquati and Panzieri, and others who took up this task, how one spoke,
what one said and what came out of the discussion were fundamental issues to be
refined, not formulas given. See, for example, Panzieri’s essay “Socialist Uses
of Workers’ Inquiry” that not only defends the usefulness of sociological methods
for workers’ struggles, but discusses how such use differs from sociological
methodologies developed to enhance capital’s control. Originally published in
Spontaneita' e organizzazione. Gli anni dei "Quaderni rossi" 1959-1964,
a collection of Panzieri's writings edited by S. Merli for BFS Edizioni, Pisa
1994. The quote from Alquati is from Gigi Roggero’s

For Gramsci’s analysis see “Americanism and Fordism” (1934) in Antonio Gramsci,
Selections from the Prison Notebooks, New York: International Publishers,

See Raniero Panzieri "Sull'uso capitalistico delle macchine nel neocapitalismo,"
Quaderni rossi, no. 1, 1961, reprinted in R. Panzieri, La Ripresa
del Marxismo Leninismo in Italia
, Sapere Ed. 1975, and published in English
"The Capitalist Use of Machinery: Marx Versus the 'Objectivists,'"
in Phil Slater
(ed) Outlines of a Critique of Technology, Atlantic Highlands: Humanities
Press, 1980.

All too often Marxist theories of technological change have seen it as driven by
"competition" between capitalists — without seeing how competition between
capitalists has been based on that between bosses and workers. The capitalists
with the best control over their workers are the ones most likely to win out
over their corporate competitors. See: my short

on this point.

Mario Tronti, “La fabbrica e la società”, Quaderni rossi 2, giugno 1962, pp. 1-31.

Mario Tronti, “Il piano del capitale”, Quaderni rossi, 3, , pp. 44-73,
reprinted in Mario Tronti, Operai e Capitale, Turin: Einaudi, 1966, 1971,
pp. 267-311, and published in English as
“Social Capital”
Telos, #17, Fall 1973, pp. 98-121.

That dichotomy was rooted in Marx’s own historically limited analysis of capitalism
in mid-19th Century. See Chapter 14 on the division of labor in Volume I of Capital.

Raniero Panzieri, "Plusvalore e pianificazione: Appunti di lettura del Capitale,"
Quaderni rossi 4, pp. 257-288. In English: "Surplus value and planning:
notes on the reading of Capital," The Labour Process & Class Strategies,
CSE Pamphlet no. 1, London: Stage 1, 1976, pp. 4-25.

“Composizione di classe e teoria del partito alle origini del movimento consiliare,”
op. cit. “The Theory and History of the Mass Worker in Italy” was translated from
the German and published in an abridged form in Common Sense Nos. 11 & 12,
The original German was published over three issues of 1999-Zeitschrift fur
des 20 and 21 Jahrhunderts.

Big Flame ex-members describe the group as “a Revolutionary Socialist Feminist
organization with a working class orientation.” They have created an extensive
web space containing a great deal of information about the group, including
publications, its activities and debates (both internal and with others).

Ferruccio Gambino, "“Italy 1969-1970 Wave of Struggles”, Potere Operaio,
No. 27, June 27-July 3, 1970. Andriano Sofri, “Organizing for Workers’ Power” and
Guido Viale, "Class Struggle and European Unity," Lotta Continua, November
7 & 8, 1972.

Radical America, Vol. 5 No. 5, September-October 1971 and Vol. 7, No. 2,
March-April 1973

See the section on "The Emancipation of Women", p. 60-61.

First, it is unclear exactly when these pages were written. It may have been in
1950 when the manuscript as a whole was first composed, or it may have been in
1956 when, apparently, members of Correspondence returned to the manuscript with
the aim (unrealized) of completing it for publication. Second, the authorship of
these pages of American Civilization seems to be in dispute. On the one
hand, when the entire manuscript was finally published in 1993, both the editors
of the book and James’ literary executor wrote commentaries attributing the entire
manuscript to C. L. R. James — with some unidentified input from other
members of Correspondence. On the other hand, in 1970 when Radical America
published a special issue on women’s struggles, excerpts from the section on
women were included as the lead article with Selma James listed as author. See:
Selma James, “The American Family: Decay and Rebirth” Radical America,
Vol. IV, no. 2, February, 1970. Given her subsequent writings on women it
seems quite possible that she either wrote the passage or had input into James’
writing of it. Interestingly, in her recent collection of her writings she choose
not to include this text. Selma James, Sex, Race and Class, The Perspective
of Winning, A Selection of Writings, 1952-2011
, New York: PM Press, 2012.

F. Forest, "The Miner's Wives," The Militant, 1950, reprinted in Raya
Dunayevskaya, Women's Liberation and the Dialectics of Revolution: Reaching
for the Future
, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1985, pp. 29-30.

Ever since, as far as I have been able to determine, Selma James has claimed
sole credit for A Woman's Place. Grace Lee Boggs has written that
"CLR encouraged [Selma] to write the pamphlet A Woman's Place with
Filomena [Daddario]." Grace Lee Boggs, Living for Change: An Autobiography,
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998, p. 62.

Three of her columns from Correspondence are included in Selma James, Sex,
Race and Class, The Perspective of Winning
, op. cit, pp. 32-38.

Le Deuxième Sexe was first translated into English and published in 1953.

See Raya Dunayevskaya, "The Grundrisse and Women's Liberation" (1974) included in
Raya Dunayevskaya, Women's Liberation and the Dialectics of Revolution: Reaching
for the Future
, op. cit., 5, pp. 186-187.

Years later, in the 1970s, Dunayevskaya would repeatedly critique de Beauvoir for
her Existentialism and for her failure to recognize and discuss various women's
struggles, from the Paris Commune to those of the 1940s and 1950s, and for her
misreading of the 1844 Manuscripts. See the collection Women's
Liberation and the Dialectics of Revolution
, ibid.

Facing Reality, op. cit., pp. 73-75.

A caveat: so far this history has not benefited from detailed examination of the
Martin and Jessie Glaberman archives at Wayne State University. Once I am able
to get to and explore those archives some revisions are likely.

Mariarosa’s account of the genesis the essay “Women and the Subversion of the
Community” and her attempt to set the record straight can be found in two places.
First, her intervention “The Door to the Garden” at the 2002 launch of Futuro
and second, her statement on Selma James’ attempted usurpation of
credit for the essay in her introduction to the collection of her own writings
Sex, Race and Class, The Perspective of Winning, op. cit.). “The political
categories I was using in my analysis were those developed by Workerism: the
strategic character of the wage struggle, the refusal of work, and the social
factory. Consequently, it is not surprising that these categories are found in
the article in question.”

“Women, the Unions and Work” was published by the Notting Hill (London) Women’s
Liberation Workshop as a pamphlet. “Sex, Race and Working Class Power” was first
published in the January 1974 issue of Race Today and later as the core
essay — accompanied by many commentaries — in the pamphlet Sex, Race
and Class
by Falling Wall Press in 1975. Wages Against Housework was
published by the Power of Women Collective and Falling Wall Press, while
Counterplanning from the Kitchen was published by New York Wages for
Housework and Falling Wall Press.

Marty Glaberman to Selma James, March 25, 1972.

Yet, as I have argued elsewhere, Mariarosa’s words need not be understood in this
manner. They can be understood as meaning that any unpaid domestic work that
contributes to the production and reproduction of labor power has the effect of
reducing the cost of that labor power to capital and thereby increasing whatever
surplus value is realized through its employment. This is perfectly compatible
with Marx’s theory and does not require any vast reinterpretation as Glaberman

Those concepts were explicitly mentioned and employed in the first issue of
Zerowork, but not, as far as I know, examined or critiqued by Glaberman
— who did critique other aspects of the journal. Glaberman’s final critique,
in his letter to Selma, was peculiar. Basically, he asserted that Mariarosa’s
analysis was one she (and presumably the rest of Wages for Housework) was bringing
to women from outside their own experience. Yet, as I have mentioned, Selma’s
own work — with which Glaberman was presumably familiar — dating
back at least to 1952 had demonstrated how women had been struggling around
precisely the issues being raised in Mariarosa’s essay, long before she analyzed
those struggles through the use of Marxian concepts.

See Andre Schiffrin, "The Student Movement in the 1950's: A reminiscence," Radical
, Vol. II, No. 3, May-June 1968.

Artie Cuts Out, by Arthur Bauman as told to Paul Wallis, New York: Jaguar
Press, 1953. This character of this pamphlet — the words of a student
recorded by a member of Correspondence — paralleled in format, the group's
efforts to make heard the voices of workers who were unlikely to write up their
own stories of struggle. A brief sketch of the evolution of such efforts is
given by Marty Glaberman in his introduction to C. L. R. James, Marxism for
Our Times: C. L. R. James on Revolutionary Organization
, Jackson: University
Press of Mississippi, 1999, pp. xviii-xix.

C. L. R. James, Grace C. Lee and Pierre Chaulieu, Facing Reality: The New
Society…Where to look for it, How to bring it closer, A statement for our time
Detroit: Correspondence Publishing Company, 1958, p. 60. Also in the reprint of
Bewick Editions, 1974, p. 60. The same neglect of schoolwork and student
struggles in the 1950s appears to have also been the case with News & Letters,
the organization formed by Raya Dunayevskaya and her followers when they left
Correspondence in 1955.

See:the report
by graduate studens on the situation at Berkeley.

In 1969 C. L. R. James gave a talk on "Black Studies and the Contemporary Student"
in which he critiqued both the position of some Black scholars, e.g., the
economist W.A. Lewis, and the notion of Black Studies as a separate field. James
mocked Lewis' attack on Black Studies and his argument that Black students should
follow standard courses of study and seek positions as high up the power hierarchy
as they could reach — which would mean accepting both the structure of an
educational system designed to meet the needs of capitalism and the existing
system of decision-making and power. (This was, of course, what Lewis had done,
becoming an important contributor to capitalist development strategies for the
Third World.) On the other hand, James argued that while it was important for
Black students to study the history of Black struggles, those could only be
understood within the dynamics of class struggles within the capitalist system
as a whole — something he had demonstrated in The Black Jacobins
and many other writings. Absent from his comments was any critique of the
educational structures within which the advocates of Black Studies sought to
carve out space for themselves or the implications of the acceptance of those
inevitably hierarchical structures for the relations between teachers and
students or the pressures the former would be forced to impose on the latter.
Comparing this talk with the pamphlet Wages for Students (see below)
makes clear what was missing, and had been missing, pretty much since Artie
Cuts Out
. His talk is reprinted in Anna Grimshaw (ed), The C. L. R. James
, Cambridge: Blackwell, 1992, pp. 390-404.

The May-June 1968 Issue of Radical America (Vol. II, No. 3) on "The New Left"
contained two articles with information on student political groups: James P.
O'Brien's piece on "The Early Days of the New Left," and Andre Schiffrin's "The
Student Movement of the 1950's: A Reminiscence", but neither contained an
analysis of either schoolwork or student resistance to it. When Radical America
reprinted essays by C. L. R. James and his comrades, or Telos reprinted
translations of Italian New Leftists, the texts chosen never included analyses
of schoolwork or student struggles.

Claude Martin, "La jeunesse étudiante", Richard Dechamp, "La vie de l'étudiant"
and Dionys Gautier "La situation de l'édudiant" Socialisme ou Barbarie,
No. 34, Vol. IV (14e annee) Mars-Mai 1963, pp. 44-62.

The genesis of this document and the role of Mustapha Khayati in its writing was
spelled out by the SI in response to misrepresentations of their role in the
wake of the juridical repression that followed the distribution of the pamphlet.
See: "Nos buts et nos methods dans le scandale de Strasbourg," internationale
, Numéro 11, Octobre 1967, pp. 23-31. In English:
("Our Goals and Methods in the Strasbourg Scandal,")

This extremely brief summary of the evolution of workerist evaluations of the
student struggles in Italy can be greatly enriched by reading Chapter 4 "New Social
Subjects" of Steve Wright's Storming Heaven, op. cit. and the materials
he references.

Sergio Bologna e Giairo Daghini, "Maggio '68 in Francia," Quaderni Piacentini,
anno VII, n. 35, luglio 1968, pp. 2-41.

See for example, Luigi Bobbio and Guido Viale, "Student Political Organization,"
International Socialist Journal, Year 5, no. 26-27, July 1968, pp. 220-231.

These demands for wider access to education and for increased funding for those
with difficulty affording it was common on both sides of the Atlantic. The
mutation of demands for scholarships into demands for wages, however, happened
much faster and spread much wider in Europe than in the United States. The demand
for Wages for Students articulated by some students in Massachusetts (see below)
never spread very far from its limited beginnings. This remained true despite
the inevitable upsurge in "economic" student struggles in the 1970s as capital
counterattacked "the movement", slashing financial aid and shifting from
grants to loans.

Eventually such efforts would be made. See: Alquati, Romano "Universita,
Formazione della Forza Lavoro Intellecttuale, Terziarizzazione," in Roberta
Tomassini, Studenti e Composizione di classe, Milano: edizioni aut-aut,
1977, pp. 12-76. (Originally written in maggio 1976)

This difficulty is apparent in Alberto Asor Rosa's 1968 article about the
Italian student movement titled "A Separate Branch of the Working Class", International
Socialist Journal
, Year 5, no. 26-27, July 1968, pp. 191-200. The text of
the article belies its title; students are not treated as a "branch" of the
working class, but as a wholly separate sector whose relationship to "the
working class movement" is a central problem. It is also apparent in Vittorio
Rieser's article "On Goals and Strategy" in the same issue.

See the biographical sketches of Leoncio Schaedel and George Caffentzis below.

The policy of holding down agricultural prices while allowing input prices to
rise has been termed a "scissors strategy" for exploiting farmers and peasants
and became infamous in the Soviet Union as a complement to collectivization.
Both the "scissors" and collectivization continued the Czarist practice of
extracting the maximal feasible surplus from the countryside to finance
industrialization. The same policy has been used elsewhere, from the
United States in the 19th Century where it gave rise to the populist movement, to
India under Indira Gandhi in the 1970s where it provoked poor harijan peasants
to harvest — illegally and often at night — the crops of wealthier
local strongmen — who retaliated with their own goons or by calling in
the police.

Anthropologists, e.g., James C. Scott, bottom-up historians, e.g., Edward Thompson
and Rodney Hilton, and subaltern historians, e.g., Ranajit Guha, have all
documented, in various countries and in various periods of history, the utilization
by peasants of what Scott has called "the weapons of the weak" — covert forms
of struggle elaborated where overt resistance has been viciously repressed. See
Scott's The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Subsistence and Rebellion in
Southeast Asia
(1976), Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant
(1985) and Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden
(1990), Edward Thompson's The Making of the English Working
(1963), Hilton's The English Peasantry in the Later Middle Ages (1975)
and Guha's Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India (1983).

It is of some interest, as Peter Linebaugh has pointed out, that Marx's very first
writing on economic conflicts dealt with state criminalization of the peasant
tradition of gathering wood from forests. This attack on a non-wage source of
income, Linebaugh argues, was not an act of "primitive accumulation" but one
designed to impose the wage form on a recalcitrant peasantry already being
exploited by capital. Peter Linebaugh, "Karl Marx, the Theft of Wood and Working
Class Composition," Crime and Social Justice, Fall-Winter 1976.

Kautsky's Die Agrarfrage: Eine Uebersicht über die Tendenzen der modernen
Landwirtschaft und die Agrarpolitik u. s. w.
, Stuttgart: Dietz, 1899, that
Lenin called "the most important event in present day economic literature since
the third volume of Capital", has never been translated into English
but is available in French as La Question Agraire: Etude sur les Tendences
de l'Agriculture Moderne
, Paris: V. Giard & E. Briere, 1900, reprinted by
Francois Maspero in 1970 and Nabu Press in 2010.

Marx's responses to the debates in Russia were contained, primarily, in letters
written to Vera Zasulich who had asked for his views. Those letters and critical
essays on their implications have been collected in Teodor Shanin, Late Marx
and Russian Road: Marx and the Peripheries of Capitalism
, New York: Monthly
Review Press, 1983.

Given the size and importance of agriculture and of the peasantry that worked the
land in Russia, Lenin devoted a great deal of effort not only into understanding
the degree to which capitalist relationships were emerging in the countryside,
but in critiquing the political proposals of other parties for various policies
affecting the peasantry. Beyond the study of Marx and Kautsky's work on the
development of capitalist agriculture in England and Germany, he also undertook
his own serious studies of the development of capitalism in both American and
Russian agriculture — primarily as revealed by available statistics. What
was missing in his studies was any substantial effort to grasp peasant struggles
from either the peasant point of view, or from intimate familiarity with the
social and political dynamics of their self-organization. Lenin neither had, nor
conceived the need for, a "workers' inquiry" appropriate to the revealing of the
situation and internal dynamics of peasant struggles. For a useful annotated
bibliography of Lenin's writings, see Amalendu Guha, "Lenin on the Agrarian Question",
Social Scientist, Vol. 5, No. 9, April 1977, pp. 61-80.

This was the outcome of the famous debate over paths to "socialist" industrialization
in the Soviet Union. As it evolved, the Soviet State basically adopted the
position of Evgenii Alexeyevich Preobrazhensky who argued that the fastest
path to the development of industry was "primitive socialist accumulation" —
namely the maximal extraction of surplus from the peasantry and its induction
into waged factory labor. See his New Economics (1926).

The reference here is to the Wuchang Resolution imposing the alternative, very
capitalist, rule: "to each according to his work."

James' most famous work — The Black Jacobins — deals with
primarily with slaves. HisHistory of Negro Revolt, op. cit., focuses
on the struggles of waged workers and peasants in colonies of the 20th Century.

These are the opening lines of Chapter IV, "The San Domingo Masses Begin" of C.
L. R. James, The Black Jacobins, op. cit.

This skepticism must also be juxtaposed to James and his comrades' enthusiasm
for the demonstrated ability of Russian urban workers to form factory committees
and soviets during periods of revolutionary upheaval. These very different
assessments completely ignored how the labor force in Russian factories and
cities was almost entirely made up of first, or at most, second generation
peasants, and how these autonomous urban feats of self-organization resembled
the village mir or peasant commune.

His continuing reverence for Lenin's views on this subject were spelled out in
greatest detail in the essay "Lenin and the Problem" written for a political
journal in Ghana in 1964. (Included in C. L. R. James, Nkrumah and the Ghana
, Westport: Lawrence Hill, 1977, pp. 189-213.) In that article,
he focused on Lenin's critique of Soviet government practices and his call for
educating the peasantry to facilitate the development of cooperatives as the
path to socialism. This embrace apparently continued on into the 1970s —
as indicated by an essay on Nigeria summarized in Anna Grimshaw, The C.L.R.
James Archive: A Reader's Guide
, New York: The C.L.R. James Institute, 1991,
p. 42. His admiration of Lenin's call for cooperatives as the most effective
means for peasants to organize, undoubtedly influenced his enthusiasm for
Nyerere's embrace of Ujamaa (Swahili for "familyhood") — a rural
path to socialism based on bringing the rural population together in small
villages to undertake collective agriculture.

F. Forest (R. Dunayevskaya), "An Analysis of Russian Economy," Part I: 3 articles
in The New International (December 1942, January 1943 and February 1943)
These articles, along with two others were reprinted by News and Letters in 1973
as a pamphlet: The Original Historical Analysis: Russia as State-capitalist

C. L. R. James, Grace C. Lee, and Pierre Chaulieu, "The Workers' Councils: Hungary," in
Facing Reality, op. cit.

On James' experience in Missouri in 1941 —– when he was a member of the
Workers' Party — as a phamphleteer recording and recounting a sharecroppers'
strike, see his articles in Labor Action published in September and
October 1941, republished in Scott McLemee (ed) C.L.R. Jamnes on the "Negro
, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999, pp. 22-34. However
limited, James' investigation of the sharecroppers' background — reported
in three short articles — seems to have been the single, direct, on-the-ground
study of the struggles of rural workers carried out by anyone in the
Johnson-Forest — Correspondence — Facing Reality — News & Letters
groups during the 1940s and 1950s. Also: Paul Buhle, C. L. R. James, The Artist
as Revolutionary
, New York: Verso, 1988, pp. 82-83 and documents VII.43-VII.45 in
Anna Grimshaw, The C.L.R. James Archive: A Reader's Guide, op.cit., pp. 56-57.
James had known Nkrumah since the latter was a student in Pennsylvania and had
been something of a mentor to him before he became a leader of the struggle for
independence in the Gold Coast and elected president of independent Ghana.
See: Chaper 5 of Paul Buhle's C.L.R. James, the Artist as Revolutionary,
op. cit., and C.L.R. James, Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution,
op .cit. An exception to their focus on urban factory struggles was the
JFT's interest in the miners' strike of 1949-1950. Although the vast majority of
mines and miner communities are located in rural areas, the strike was very much
an industrial one in which a central issue was automation — just as in the
auto factories of Detroit. Many years later, New & Letters would publish a
pamphlet on that strike that gives an account of their interest and analysis. See:
The Coal Miners' General Strike of 1949-50 and the Birth of Marxist-Humanism
in the U.S.
, Chicago: News & Letters, 1984.

Once drawn into the debate between the Populists and the "Marxists" who were
using his writings on England to dismiss the importance of peasant struggles,
Marx had to learn Russian to study the conflicting positions. Dunayevskaya already
knew Russian but she neither knew Marx's writings on the debate nor carried out
a parallel investigation of her own. Only much later, when Marx's letters —
and his other "ethnographic studies" finally became widely known did she
begin to take them into account. See: Chapter XII in Raya Dunayevskaya, Rosa
Luxemburg, Women's Liberation and Marx's Philosophy of Revolution
, Atlantic
Highlands: Humanities Press, 1982. Had she discovered them earlier, it is easy
to imagine that she would have provided a first translation — as she did
with the passages on "estranged labor" in the 1844 Manuscripts. One can
only imagine the effect such discovery and translation might have had on her and
James' analysis of peasant struggle in the 1940s and 1950s.

G. Fofi's "Agricoltura" in issue #3 and Mario Miegge's "Riforma agraria e
lotta contadina nella Marsica", issue #6.

Luciano Ferrari Bravo (1940-2000) e Alessandro Serafini (1942-1991), Stato e
sottosviluppo: Il caso del Mezzogiorno italiano
, Milano: Feltrinelli, 1972.

Franca Cipriani, "Proletariato del Maghreb e capitale europeo," Marco Dogo,
"Jugoslavia, un paese d'emigrazione" and Mariarosa Dalla Costa,
"Riproduzione e emigrazione" in A. Serafini, et al, L'operaio multinazionale
in Europa
, Materiali Marxisti 4, Milano: Feltrinelli, 1974, pp. 77-108,
181-196 and 207-242 respectively. Dalla Costa's essay was translated into
English, and was intended to be included in Zerowork #3 and is now
available on this website.

Martin Glaberman, “George P. Rawick: Socialist Historian,” Against the Current,
May-June 1991, p. 9.

The "fragment" was published in Quaderni rossi 4, pp. 289-300.

Karl Marx, Grundrisse, The Marx Pelican Library, p. 705. The "Fragment
on Machine is usually defined as pp. 699-712.

Latent in debates within the Zerowork collective over the relative importance
of capital's growing difficulties in imposing waged work was a theoretical issue
that would eventually surface and on which participants would take quite different
positions: whether the ever greater substitution of machinery for labor renders
Marx's labor theory of value irrelevant.

In Cafffentz's article "Throwing Away the Ladder," the ladder to be "thrown away"
by workers' struggles was the "training ladder", i.e., schooling geared to the
production of labor power. Another ladder that was being thrown away, this time
by capital, was the "career ladder": long term jobs with rising wages and benefits
as one "climbed up" step by step. In its place were proliferating short term,
lower waged, precarious jobs and the increased unwaged work associated with
repeated job search, returning to school for a new "training footstool", and all
the affective labor associated with increased anxiety occasioned by the
uncertainty associated with these conditions.

Arriving at Antioch College in the Fall of 1962, both George and Harry Cleaver
— who joined the Zerowork collective after the first issue (see Background:
"From Zerowork #1 to Zerowork #2") — were witnesses to
the Cuban Missile Crisis that unfolded over nearly two weeks that October.
George joined a few dozen other Antiochians to protest — at Wright Patterson
Air Force Base — the threatened nuclear war. Subsequently, in March 1964,
both were also involved in the protests against Yellow Springs, Ohio, barber
Lewis Gegner’s refusal to serve Blacks. Along with over a hundred other students
from Antioch and nearby traditional Black colleges, they were arrested and
jailed during the protests. Some of what follows is drawn from an extended
interview with George undertaken by the Greek anti-authoritarian/communist group
Ta Paidia Tis Galarias (TPTG) or The Children of the Galley, published
in the November 2001 issue of their journal of the same name. An English
translation is

Marc Linder, Unter Mitarbeit von Julius Sensat und George Caffentzis, Der
Anti-Samuelson: Kritik eines repräsentativen Leehrbuchs der bärgerlichen
, Band 1-4, Mit einem Vorwort von Elmar Altavater, Gaiganz:
Politladen Erlangen, 1974.

Marc Linder and Julius Sensat, The Anti-Samuelson. Volume One. Macroeconomics:
basic problems of the capitalist economy
, New York: Urizen Books, 1977 and
Marc Linder and Julius Sensat. The Anti-Samuelson. Volume Two. Microeconomics:
basic problems of the capitalist economy
. New York: Urizen Books, 1977.
The full texts of volumes I and II are now available
Even a skim of the introduction to the first volume will make clear the political
and theoretical differences with the orientation of Zerowork. George
did publish, with Julius Sensat, a small part of their work: "A Critique of Utility
Theory," in Science & Society, Summer 1975.

George's dissertation was "Does Quantum Mechanics Necessitate a Revolution in
Logical Theory?"

The New York Struggle Against Work group (preceded by the short-lived Income
Without Work Committee) included some men in personal relationships with women
in the Wages fof Housework movement, some who were not. Among the former were
George and Larry Cox. Among the latter were Harry Cleaver and Philip Mattera.
For more detailed history of the Toronto group see the section on Bruno Ramirez

From the Toronto group, in the period leading up to the publication of
Zerowork, I have been able to locate only one document: SAWC, “A Statement
on the Dissolution of the New Tendency," March 1975. Discussions of these questions
in these two groups would lead to further publications in 1976. (See
"Background: From Zerowork #1 to Zerowork #2.)

At that time, Colletti was a fierce critic of the Gramscian Marxism that was
used by the Italian Communist Party (or Partito Comunista Italiano, PCI) in the
post-WWII period to justify its collaboration with Italian capitalism. Ferraroti
was, and may still be, Paolo has affirmed, “the most prominent Italian sociologist.”
Of some interest is that Ferraroti wrote his own dissertation on Veblen and
among the books he had written by the time Paolo was studying with him were ones
on industrial sociology in America and in Europe and others on autonomous
syndicalism, worker protests and sociology as participation.

Classe Operaio had published parts of Operai e Capitale and Paolo
says that even though by that time Tronti had returned to the PCI — much
to the disappointment of many — he was still “very forthcoming and accessible
to us young militants.”

Literary critic, professor and novelist, Asor Rosa collaborated with the workerist
journals Quaderni rossi, Classe Operaia, and Contropiano.
Franco Piperno, political activist and physicist, was a well-known leader of the
student movement in Rome and one of the founders of Potere Operaio.

Personal correspondence.

DRUM = Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement. Initially aimed at reforming the
United Automobile Workers (UAW) union, DRUM was created by black workers who had
come to form a majority of the workers in their plants but had little representation
at the level of the union bureaucracy. John Watson was a member of DRUM and
editor of an associated newspaper The Inner City Voice. See Marty Glaberman’s
1969 article on DRUM and the current wiki. The rise of DRUM led to similar
organizations elsewhere in the industry, e.g., FRUM = Ford Revolutionary Union

Personal correspondence.

The Collectivo that oversaw that collection, and several other collaborations
in the Materiali Marxisti series published by Feltrinelli, was one organizational
effort by those at the Università di Padova gathered, more or less tightly,
around Antonio Negri — a major figure in Italian workerism and the one who
has been most successful in getting his many writings translated and published
in English.

That article was translated and published as “Chomage: Made in USA,” in the
French autonomist journal Camarades, No. 2, Summer 1976, pp. 20-24.

G. Bock, P. Carpignano e B. Ramirez, La formazione dell'operaio massa negli
USA 1898/1922
, Materiali Marxisti 10, a cura del Collectivo di Scienze
politiche di Padova, Milano: Feltrinelli, 1976, pp. 189-238.

That collaboration led to the publication of E. P. Thompson, Douglas Hay, Peter
Linebaugh, John G. Rule and Cal Winslow, Albion’s Fatal Tree: Crime and
Society in 18th Century England
, London: Pantheon, 1976.

This account of the Offord Road Group comes primarily from “Sketching the Genesis
of Zerowork”, a talk given at the May Day Rooms of the Marx Memorial
Library in January 2013 where Peter was depositing a first collection of materials
with that archive. In a 1995 letter critiquing the inaccuracies in Rendezvous of
— a collection of C. L. R. James’ writings, Marty Glaberman
describes Selma in the following manner: “She was his secretary, collaborator
and financial support in most of the years after the forties. . . . She was the
primary influence on him and the organization in relation to the ‘woman question’.”
In a 1996 review of Ken Worcester’s biography of James, Marty pointed out that
Selma’s maiden name was Deitch, not Weinstein — the name of her first husband.

James Boggs, a black worker originally from Alabama, had been, along with his
wife Grace Lee Boggs, a member of Facing Reality. After he and his wife left
Facing Reality in 1963, he published The American Worker: Pages from a Negro
Worker’s Notebook
, that detailed, analyzed and drew lessons from his own
experience of work and struggle in Detroit auto factories. “Theses on the Mass
Worker and Capital” Radical America, Vol. 6, No. 3, May-June 1972.

Colletti was heavily influenced by Della Volpe and was often considered his
intellectual successor.

Mario Montano, "On the Methodology of Determinate Abstractions: Essay on Galvano
della Volpe" in Telos 7 (1971), pp. 30-49. Silvia Federici, "Notes on
Lukác’s Aesthetics” in Telos 11 (1972), pp. 141-151. Silvia had previously
written several reviews of French and Vietnamese writings for Telos and
translated a piece by Salvatore Veca, “Value, Labor and the Critique of Political
Economy,” Telos 9 (1971), pp. 48-64.

Mario Tronti’s 1966 essay “Lotta contro il lavoro,” was translated and published
as “Struggle against Labor” in the same issue of Radical America (Vol.
6, No. 1, May-June 1972, pp. 22-25) as their Guido Baldi synthesis. Because the
origins and authorship of “Women and the Subversion of the Community” has been
falsified by Selma James in her introduction to the recently published collection
of her essays, Sex, Race and Class — the Perspective of Winning: A
Selection of Writings 1952–2011
(PM Press, 2012), Mariarosa’s reluctant
response — aimed at setting the record straight — is made available here.

At Shelton College Bruno completed a BA in History and at the University of
Guelph, an MA in History. His dissertation is available on-line: Bruno Ramirez,
Collective Bargaining and the Politics of Industrial Relations in the
Progressive Era, 1898-1916
, Dissertation, University of Toronto, Toronto
(Canada) 1975. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (Accession Order
No. NK32876) Much, although not all, of what follows comes from a very detailed
and thoughtful autobiographical piece that Bruno wrote for the December 1999
issue of the Journal of American History.

His church, Bruno says, had a very active youth movement and many of its leaders
went on to join the extraparliamentary Left, especially Lotta Continua.

His dissertation was later revised and published as Bruno Ramirez, When Workers
Fight: The Politics of Industrial Relations in the Progressive Era
, Westport,
Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1978.

These included, among others, members of New Democratic Youth (the youth wing of
the New Democratic Party).

Much of what is said here about the NT is based on research carried out by
Gary Kinsman who has been researching the history of the NT and associated

Windsor is located immediately across the Detroit River from that city and was
long its Canadian counterpart — in the sense of being the location of
major automobile plants. In Windsor the primary focal point of those organizing
outside of political parties and existing labor unions was the Windsor Labour
Centre. Among the activists there were apparently many factions but two are notable:
the Out of the Driver’s Seat group and the Auto Workers’ Group (both had autoworker
members). The Out of Driver’s Seat (ODS) group drew part of their ideas from C.
L. R. James, Marty Glaberman and Facing Reality more generally. (Although
Facing Reality — for many years basically a Detroit-based organization —
was dissolved in 1970, Marty Glaberman (1918-2001) continued to publish and
circulate pieces the group had produced through Bewick Publications.) Some insights
into the group can be gleaned from their discussion paper “Out of the Driver’s Seat:
Marxism in North America Today, The Windsor Labour Centre”, which was written in
1974 as other factions withdrew from the Centre leaving ODS in charge. It outlines
the group’s experience intervening in student, gay, women, blue-collar and
white-collar worker struggles, perceived mistakes and lessons drawn. Those lessons
included the rejection of any kind of vanguardism and the very Correspondence-like
search for ways to give workers the opportunity to articulate and discuss their
own ideas.

This is true in a double sense. On the one hand there was the circulation of
Italian material described below. On the other hand, Italian feminist thought,
especially that of Mariarosa Dalla Costa, came to Canada through what was
undoubtedly the most widely read and influential publication of the Wages for
Housework movement The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community,
Bristol: Falling Wall Press, October 1972.

Big Flame ex-members describe the group as “a Revolutionary Socialist Feminist
organization with a working class orientation.” They have created an extensive
web space containing a great deal of information about the group, including
publications, its activities and debates (both internal and with others).

Rising Free was an anarchist bookshop in London. According to the Radical bookshop
History Project, Rising free was located first at 197 Kings Cross Road, WC1 and
later at 182 Upper Street, Islington, N1 and operated from 1974 to 1981.

Bruno wrote an account of this conference that was published in La Critica
, No. 20, inverno 1971-72, pp. 190-197. His account was mainly
aimed at giving Italian readers a sense of the theoretical and organizational
state of the "radical American Left" at that point in history.

S. Bologna, et al., Operai e stato: Lotte operaie e riforma dello stato
capitalistico tra revoluzione d’Ottobre e New Deal
, Milano: Feltrinelli,
1972. Bologna’s contribution was “Composizione di classe e teoria del partito
alle origini del movimento consiliare,” which, along with Bruno’s review of the
book, appeared in Telos as “Class Composition and the Theory of the
Party at the Origin of the Workers’ Council Movement,” #13, Fall 1972.

For the special Radical America issue on Italian struggles (March-April
1973), Bruno and Judy translated “Against the State as Boss” by the Autonomous
Assembly of Alfa Romeo workers and Bruno interviewed and wrote up an interview
with Lotta Continua leader Guido Viale, some of whose writings had been studied
by the members of NT. A year later Bruno and Judy translated Guido Viale’s “Class
Struggle and European Unity” for the November-December 1974 issue of Radical America.

These connections would lead to collaboration with Paolo and Gisela Bock in
preparing La formazione dell'operaio massa negli USA 1898/1922, Materiali
Marxisti 10, Milano: Feltrinelli, 1976. Bruno’s contribution to that volume was
the lead article “Lotte operaie e strategia del capitale: 1898-1905”, pp. 7-54,
that drew on his dissertation research. He was able to spend time in Padua with
Ferruccio while working with the translator of his article.

Bruno's wife, Judy, was active in organizing this visit — part of a larger
Canadian tour that "culminated in a keynote address by James at the Montreal
Feminist Symposium 'where 800 women passed a resolution demanding wages for
housework for all women from the state.'" Majorie Griffin Cohen and Ruth Roach
Pierson, Canadian Women's Issues: Vol. II: Bold Visions, Toronto: Lorimer,
1995, p. 10.

Parallel departures by women in Windsor left Out of the Driver’s Seat an
organization of men.

SAWC, “Statement on the Dissolution of the New Tendency”, March 1975. The signers
of the statement were: Bruno, Peter Taylor, John Huot, Tim Grant, John Ford and
David Kidd.

This article can be found in the online archives of Mass Media. A year
earlier on March 11, 1975, Mass Media had carried a story analyzing
the analysis presented by “seven women from Italy, England, Germany and the US . . .
to explain wages for housework to Boston women.”

Another member who worked at the post office, according to Gary Kinsman, was
John Huot.

I have drawn much of what follows from “Intervista a Ferruccio Gambino, 10 Giugno 2001”,
in which Ferruccio sketches his political development, and from personal
correspondence that refined some of the information contained in that interview.

La Casa dello studente di viale Romagna

Bookchin’s work in this area was path-breaking. Both his book Our Synthetic
(1962) — which came out about the same time as Rachel
Carson’s better known, and less radical, Silent Spring (1962) — and
his “Ecology and Revolutionary Thought" (1964) was an early statement on a
subject that would eventually become an essential discussion among Marxists and
Anarchists struggling to get beyond capitalism.

“Ford Britannica. Formazione di una classe operaia”. This essay was summarized in
English, illustrated with relevant materials, and published in London as the
first issue of Red Notes: Workers’ Struggles and the Development of Ford in
, Pamphlet No. 1, Red Notes, London, 1976. Appendices to this English
translation outline many of the key concepts in a manner reminiscent of the
“Guido Baldi” essay in Radical America.

This sketch is a poor substitute for Peter Linebaugh’s beautiful tribute to
John — “Gone to Glory”. Read it for a much better sense of the man. The
Wikipedia entry for Bradfield College includes a very long and very revealing
list of its illustrious ruling class alumni. For those unfamiliar with the term,
in England “public schools” are actually elite private secondary schools —
often boarding schools. Such schools were the progenitors of what in the
United States are known as “Prep schools”, i.e., elite schools that prepare kids
for entrance to elite universities. For example, John F. Kennedy and Sargent
Shriver both studied at Canterbury School in Connecticut before moving on to
Harvard and Yale. In Peter Linebaugh’s tribute to John he quotes him as saying
that the portrayal in the 1968 film If of a public school and of the
revolt against it reflected well his own experience. The film ends with a
handful of rebellious students firing retrieved WWII weapons from the rooftops
at the attendees of a Founders’ Day ceremony.



9 years 3 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Durito on December 4, 2014

The follow-up essay to this one - the second of three - "Background: from Zerowork #1 to Zerowork #2" is now available at . The third and final essay, "Background: from Zerowork #2 to Zerowork #3", should become available early next year.

From Zerowork #1 to Zerowork #2

Article about developments between publishing of the first and second issues of the Zerowork journal.

Submitted by Steven. on December 9, 2014


This second essay on the history of the rise and fate of the Zerowork collective
and its journal Zerowork: Political Materials picks up where the
first essay left off, namely with the publication of
the first issue.
In what follows, I trace — as well as existing memories and records allow
— how we distributed that first issue, the reactions of others to it, changes
in the editorial board and the political engagments of the editors, beyond the
collective itself. I also sketch the debates within the collective and some of
the outside forces influencing those debates — especially the efforts of the
leadership of the Wages for Housework Campaign to suborn the journal to its own
line and needs. Those efforts resulted in a split in the collective resulting
in three editors leaving the group before the publication of the second issue. This
historical background is complemented by brief biographies of those who joined
the collective in this period and contributed to the crafting of the second issue.

Distribution of Zerowork #1

Peter Linebaugh sent final proofs of Zerowork #1 to the printers in
early December 1975 and picked up 3,000 copies on December 31st. On January 6th,
he wrote to Geoffey Kay in London,

On the last day of 1975, Zerowork was born. Labor was longer than we
thought it would be. We know its friends will understand. It is alive, well,
and thrashing about asking "Who are my friends? How can they help me grow and be

At that point, we began to make efforts to distribute the journal, to find new
friends. As typical with such political interventions, we sent copies to friends
to share with friends. We sought to distribute the journal through radical
bookstores, to place ads announcing its existence and the cost of subscriptions
in other radical publications. We peddled the journal and solicited subscriptions
at various radical meetings. We sent copies to comrades who, we hoped, would
write positive reviews to get the word out about its existence and contents and
to start discussions. We also printed flyers, stacks of which we placed in
bookstores that had the habit of making such things available; we handed them
out at conferences, sent them to friends, etc.

Because we started where we all lived, our initial efforts were directed mainly
at distribution in the US, Canada, Britain and Italy. Paolo Carpignano, George
Caffentzis and Bill Cleaver were all living in New York — a place with
lots of bookstores and political activity — while Peter Linebaugh was in
Rochester, New York. Initially, Bruno Ramirez and Peter Taylor were in Toronto,
although Bruno moved to Montreal during the year.

Although one of our corresponding editors, John Merrington, was still in Britain,
he was preoccupied with other things, so our primary correspondent at that time
became Geoffrey Kay who had been in the Offord Road group with John and Peter
Linebaugh. Kay saw opportunities for distributing the journal and soliciting
subscriptions through two connections: first, there was the possibility of
exchanging ads with Hillel Tickkin's Critique, a journal mostly devoted
to the analysis of the Soviet Union and related systems, and second, through the
Conference of Socialist Economists (CSE). The CSE was an organization with a
diverse membership of left-leaning economists. Although Kay saw possible interest
in Zerowork limited by the history of sectarian Leftist influences in
that group (mostly British CP and Trotskyist), he did feel that there would
likely be some interest among those then preoccupied with the "labor process
question". They were drawing on work by Harry Braverman — an economist
closely associated with Monthly Review — but also on Italian
autonomists such as Raniero Panzieri and Mario Tronti.(1)
Kay thought that among those concerned
with that question, there was an opportunity for a fair hearing, but worried that
some of the Italian analytical categories, such as the refusal of work and class
composition, were already being fetishized and taken out of their political
context, even in Potere Operaio. As it turned out, according to Robby Guttmann,
Zerowork would find a sympathetic, or at least tolerant, reception among
a wider audience within the CSE — one that included people preoccupied with
other issues, such as John Holloway and Sol Picciotto who, at that time, were
working primarily on the state.(2) Effectively,
our comrades were successful
at putting the labor process at center of the agenda at the 1976 CSE annual
meeting, and getting Ferruccio Gambino invited as keynote speaker. In preparation
for that meeting, the CSE published a collection of five articles on the labor
process debate — three of which were translations of essays by Panzieri,
Tronti and Bologna, essays that contained many of the ideas in Zerowork.
(3) At any rate, for a while the "London
Zerowork collective Group" was made up mainly of John Merrington, Christian
Marazzi, Robby Guttmann and Geoffrey Kay.(4)

In the light of these efforts made within the CSE, it is perhaps worth noting
that we made much less effort to get our ideas out to those in what was more or
less the American counterpart of the CSE — the Union of Radical Political
Economists (URPE), a group that published (and still publishes) the Review of
Radical Political Economics
. This lack of enthusiasm for such an effort
originated in our familiarity with the organization and the views of its
adherents. There were a few Marxists, but mostly of the traditional sort —
Trotskyists, Stalinists, Maoists or Althusserians. There were a few Marxologists,
who worried about what Marx “really meant”, and some Hegelian-Marxists, who
worried about proving Althusser wrong. But most eschewed the label Marxist,
preferring — as the name of the organization makes clear — that of
“radical political economist.” The “radical” suggested an adherence to some
heterodox element in the history of economics.(5)
“Political economist”, while evoking the
classical economics of the 18th and 19th Century, signaled that those using
these characterizations to describe themselves and their work, still considered
themselves part of the economics profession.(6)
This was important for some — as their
contributions to the RRPE made clear — because they wanted to engage
mainstream economists in debate and carve out niches for themselves within the
profession. Their agenda, on the whole, was to demonstrate to the mainstream
that they had developed critiques revealing weaknesses and flaws in the latter’s
theories and had better theories to offer. This approach held out, among other
things, the possibility of acceptance on the margins of the economics profession
and even of tenure.(7) Those of us in Zerowork,
however, had no
interest in offering either critiques of mainstream economics or alternative
theories that might help mainstream economists do their job better. This was why
we held out little hope for a sympathetic hearing from most in URPE and made
little effort in those circles.(8)

A second possible source of help with distribution in the UK was Falling Wall
Press — the organization that was publishing most of Wages for Housework's
materials. Kay had neither knowledge of nor contact with them, but of course,
those women close to Zerowork, e.g., Silvia Federici, did. Although the Press
was a help at first, that avenue of distribution was eventually closed off as a
result of the subsequent split within the Zerowork collective over its
relationship to Wages for Housework.

From existing correspondence it appears that despite these efforts, both in
North America and Britain, we had some success in getting the journal
distributed — to radical bookstores, conferences, and prisoners (in both
Federal and state institutions) — and in circulating the ideas through
alternative radio programs, e.g., WBAI in NYC,(9)
but failed to create dependable networks
of distribution and the number of copies of the first issue distributed remained
limited to a little less than the initial press run of 3,000.

At the time Zerowork #1 became available our main contacts in Italy were
Ferruccio Gambino, our Corresponding Editor in Padua, and Bruno Cartosio in
Milan.(10) Both undertook to distribute the
first issue to like-minded comrades, organizations and publications, e.g.,
Primo Maggio, with which both Ferruccio and Bruno were collaborators.
Christian Marazzi who would join Zerowork during the preparation of the second
issue also participated in Primo Maggio — especially in its
working group on money. At the same time, Ferruccio, in collaboration with the
graphic artist Manfredo Massironi, who designed the cover to Zerowork,
created a beautiful poster with ZEROWORK — in the same style as the cover
of the journal — plastered across a background of 24 black & white
photographs of various moments of struggle. Those posters became available to
help get the word out about the journal in early 1977.

Ferruccio also put us in contact with Yann Moulier (later Moulier-Boutang) in
Paris, one of the editors of the autonomist journal Camarades, to whom
we promptly sent a copy of Zerowork hoping for further contact. Although
we would indeed have further contact with Yann, and would receive some copies of
Camarades in return, no substantial distribution in France developed
from this contact.(11)

Reactions to Zerowork #1

Considering that the objective of crafting the "political materials" making up
the first issue of Zerowork was to influence current debate over the
nature of the crisis, the general silence — dearth of formal, published
reviews or articles taking up issues raised in the journal — from folks
beyond our circles, in response to its limited distribution was disappointing.
We found poor consolation in reminding each other that the initial reaction to
the publication of Marx's Capital was similar. What limited feedback we
did get was a mixture of negative and positive reactions.

Informally, negative reactions and objections varied — as one might expect
— with the political positions of the objectors. From the traditional Left,
probably the most common negative reaction derived from the long-standing tendency
to juxtapose “bad” work under capitalism — exploitative, and for many
alienating — with “good” work under socialism and communism — work
without exploitation or alienation. To those inclined to such a perspective, the
very term “zerowork” suggested a fatal failure to make that distinction. By not
explicitly excluding “good” socialist work from the struggle for zero work we were
accused of nihilistically embracing slacking and of a failure to understand the
essence of human species-being as homo faber. Although how, as individuals,
we answered that objection varied, one answer to the question “Are you talking
about a rejection of working for capital or a rejection of working in any form?”
was the following: “If you know about some other type of work [than for capital],
tell me what it is. Is there any work that is not work for capital? . . . We need
not enter a fantastical discussion of utopia, or “play”, or human activity in
past societies, or future ones, in order to understand that there is no work but
what the boss says.”(12) Many, including
the person who raised the
question quoted here, did not find this answer adequate, but it offered the
beginning of a dialog — which we both sought and welcomed.

Closely related was distaste for the notion of attributing the crisis of the
1970s to the “struggle against work”. On the one hand, many traditional Marxists
clung to one of the “crisis theories” debated since the Second International, e.g.,
the tendency of the rate of profit to fall or underconsumptionism.(13) Neo-Marxists of the Monthly Review
school similarly remained strongly attached to some variation of the Baran & Sweezy
thesis that the source of crisis in monopoly capital can only be found in
difficulties in “disposing of the surplus”.(14)
On the other hand, those inclined to
distinguish between “bad” and “good” work — and to berate us for not
recognizing it — had a similar inclination to differentiate between those
who hated their work and those who reveled in it. The former were admitted to
sometimes resist work, either informally through slacking or sabotage or formally
in strikes for shorter working hours, but the work of the latter, it was often
maintained, had enough elements of unalienated self-realization as to produce
an attachment to work. Moreover, it was argued, neither slacking nor strikes had
been pervasive enough to cause a crisis in the system. In response to the
“consciousness” objection, we generally pointed out how it shifted the discussion
back to the familiar, traditional terrain of “class consciousness”, whereas in
Zerowork #1 we had identified various behaviors as “struggles against
work” regardless of how they were consciously framed by the workers in question.
Refusing to enter into what we felt was a stale and unproductive debate over
“class consciousness”, we generally insisted that the real issue was how various
struggles had undermined, and continued to undermine, the power of capital to
impose work. In response to the second objection, we stood by the evidence
presented in the journal of how struggles against work by both waged and unwaged
workers had indeed precipitated crisis for capital.

At that time, the main “crisis theories” in circulation that even remotely
resembled the analysis we put forth in Zerowork #1, were the “profit
squeeze” theory held by some radical economists and that of the “fiscal crisis
of the state” put forward by Jim O’Connor.(15)
The former could be found among members
of the Union of Radical Political Economics. They recognized that working class
struggles to raise wages had been successful enough to “squeeze” profits, i.e.,
lower them. They differed by failing to explore the struggle against work both
at the point of production and in the sphere of reproduction. Similarly, while
some, like James O’Connor, Francis Fox Piven and Richard Cloward pointed to the
multiple struggles that forced state agencies to spend more and more money on
social services and public employee wages and benefits, they too failed to
explore the struggle against work among both those receiving services and those
providing them.(16)

Another, fairly common, negative reaction was to the broadening of our treatment
of the working class to include unwaged workers such as housewives, students and
peasants. In this we were, appropriately, blamed for making the same “mistake” as
those in Wages for Housework, namely not recognizing that the only “true” working
class was made up of waged workers who produced surplus value. Our rationale for
this, offered in one form or another in response, is spelled out in the section
“Background: Genesis of Zerowork #1” on this webpage.

We did, of course, get quick, sometimes critical, feedback from more immediate
friends. Geoff Kay, for instance, initially objected strenuously to the assertion
in the introduction that “these articles show how the struggle has obliterated
any distinction between politics and economics, the distinction that in previous
phases dominated conceptions of revolutionary organization.” “If no ‘distinctions’
exist,” he wrote, “then the most immediate struggle of the class becomes a struggle
against the capitalist mode of production as such . . . I do not think that
this is true concretely, but even if it were, it would take much more than an
‘abstract’ statement about the wage being a political as well as an economic
instrument of class oppression to prove the point.” Later he would write a longer,
more detailed letter laying out his critiques, a letter that we would publish in
the second issue.

Besides critiques of particular aspects of the analysis in Zerowork, the
journal was often critiqued for the style of writing — a critique that the
editors took very much to heart as is clear in the following comments by Peter

[Criticisms] have forced us to find that our allusiveness, the knowing tone that
we occasionally indulged in, and the lapidary phrase might sometimes be a matter
of abbreviation of positions we all understood and at other times merely a way
of suggesting that we knew more than we did or of asking our readers to fill in
the ellipsis (so to speak). The “Introduction”, “Notes on the International Crisis,
the auto piece and some others all fell into this trap, a trap that led us to
neglect our political responsibilities both to our readers and to our own
collective development.”

Beyond immediate acquaintances of the editors, we did receive a few letters that
contained friendly, thoughtful, and substantive critiques, of both content and
form, one by Peter Rachleff — the essence of which he later elaborated in
a review for The Fifth Estate — and another from the City
University [of New York, (CUNY)] Kapitaliststate group.

Rachleff's primary critique was of references to both capital-as-a-whole and the
working class-as-a-whole having "strategies" in their struggles. In the case of
capital, he argued in his letter that Marx's restriction of capitalist planning
to the shop-floor — with capitalist production more generally subject to
the "anarchy" of unplanned markets — remains largely true and that if we
want to argue that it goes beyond that, we need to demonstrate it much more
concretely. In his review, he states, "I fail to see how capital, via its agency
the state, is capable of having a coherent 'strategy'." In both places, he
refers the reader to councilist Paul Mattick's book on Marx and Keynes.
In the case of the working class, he
asked in his letter about the aims and processes through which a general strategy
might be argued to be and suggested that given the diffuseness of struggles at
best one might be able to identify a "unifying thrust to working class activity
in the past decade." Yet even that would require "much more attention to be paid
to the self-organization of these struggles" than we provided. Indeed, in his
review he emphasized the need for addressing the "form" of workers' struggles.
"How are these struggles carried out? The 'form' of self-organization bears a
'content' of its own . . .".

Had the authors of Zerowork #1 given references to some of their
important theoretical sources, Rachleff's objection to the notion of a capitalist
"strategy" — beyond the factory — might have been formulated
differently. His assessment of Marx's analysis of the "anarchy of production"
might have taken into account works such as Raniero Panzieri's analysis of how
capitalist planning has expanded beyond the shop floor in response to working
class struggle.(19) Planning, of course,
requires strategy.
Similarly, his reference to Mattick's notions of the nature and limits of
Keynesianism might have been different had we referenced Toni Negri's analysis
of Keynes and capital's response to the class struggles of the Great Depression
era.(20) Those analyses constituted basic
points of reference for the contributors to Zerowork, yet remained
unreferenced in any of the articles in the first issue.(21)
It would have been obvious that those
analyses offered responses to Rachleff's initial objections and would, perhaps,
have resulted in different suggestions on his part. Negri's analysis of Keynesianism
as capitalist state planning in response to workers' struggles carried Panzieri's
analysis to the level of the nation state. Montano's, and then later Marazzi's,
analysis of Bretton Woods and the International Monetary Fund's management of
fixed exchange rate regimes carried it to the global level.

With respect to Rachleff's demand for much closer investigation and analysis of
exactly how workers organized themselves in the struggles highlighted in
Zerowork #1, I think we mostly agreed. Had we responded directly to his
letter, and later his review, this issue would certainly have been taken up. One
aspect of this that he emphasized in his review — the relationship between
rank & file workers and union bureaucrats — was certainly underspecified
in Zerowork. Our emphasis, of course, was on the emergence of antagonism
and overt conflict between the two, but unlike, say, the earlier work of Paul
Singer, Marty Glaberman or James Boggs, there was no close examination of the
dynamics of self-organization and opposition. Unfortunately, the same absence
of analysis of exactly how those concrete struggles that we judged important
were organized existed throughout not only Zerowork #1 but
Zerowork #2 as well. It's not that we didn't think such analysis was
important, on the contrary, we just chose, at that point in our work, when many
other Marxists were talking about the "laws of capitalist development" to focus
on what we felt was "the big picture": the power of our struggles to throw
capital into crisis.

The clarity of our discussion of the relationship between workers' struggles and
crisis was apparently not sufficient to avoid confusion on Rachleff's part about
our analysis. Twice in his review he characterizes our argument as saying that
workers "struggled to reduce the rate of profit". But we were only saying that
their struggles for higher wages and benefits coupled with their struggles
against work had, as one result, the effect of reducing profits. We were saying
that the crisis those struggles imposed was far more than what some, at that
time, called a "profit-squeeze"; it was a rupture of the power of capital to
impose work — its fundamental vehicle of social organization and control
— in sector after sector of society. So too did we leave room for
confusion over capital's response to that crisis of control. Rachleff wrote that
he could not visualize "the possibility (let alone the reality) of the bourgeoisie
uniting to cause a crisis". But what we were arguing was not that capital itself
had caused the crisis it faced, but rather that capitalist policy makers
responded with policies designed to turn the crisis back on the out-of-control
workers who had ruptured their previous plans, e.g. the imposition of a planned
Keynesian downturn in 1970 designed to marginally raise unemployment and slow
wage growth that had been outstripping that of productivity since 1965. Or, when
such Keynesian policies failed, shifting from the Bretton Woods fixed exchange
rate regime that required such policies to work, to flexible exchange rates that
did not.

While the CUNY Kapitaliststate group was supportive of several aspects
of our analysis, its critique, as one might imagine from its name and the title
of its journal, mainly lamented the dearth of theorizing in Zerowork #1
about the nature of the state.(23)
Lauding our approach as a "an affirmative,
constructive, methodology", it agreed with the emphasis on working class
struggle as a determining factor in capitalist crisis, the broadening of the
category of working class to include the unwaged. It's characterization of the
former was one we heard from several quarters, "Zerowork corrects the tendency to
overestimate the power of capital and underestimate the potential of labor . . ."
At the same time, they also recognized how Zerowork saw "capital as
essentially reactive to labor as a class". Its characterization of the latter
involved a reformulation.

The proletariat is, then, not wage labor but the society of social labor —
those who are and who are not employed, those who are and who are not wage
earners or potentially wage earners but are nevertheless an identifiable part
(no doubt through the mediation of the "state") of socialized labor power —
the society of socialized production. . . . the wage laborer is . . . but one
element of the society of real producers that includes houseworkers, welfare
recipients, even consumers of necessities in general.

Their critique identified other problems that they perceived with our analysis,
some of which we agreed with, e.g., the need for much greater specification of
certain relationships, some of which struck us as odd. One oddity was the charge
that the analysis in Zerowork adopted "an archaic and mechanistic view
of the capitalist enterprise which tends to portray capital as overly
particularized and therefore as directly reactive to overly-particularized labor
conflicts." In the only response to this criticism that I have been able to find,
Peter Linebaugh expressed how surprised we were at the charge, "that our
portrayal of capital is 'overly particularized'", that, he wrote, "I cannot
understand". He went on,

Usually ZW1 has been criticized for the opposite, namely that in
speaking as we often do of capital's 'plan' we attribute far greater unity and
direction than in fact exists. Usually this comes from hide-bound Marxists of the
Trot and CP variety. I think that it is very important for our future work to
learn what you mean when you say our view is archaic and mechanistic."

Another critique, that we also found odd, was the claim that Zerowork
failed "to undertake a serious discussion of subjectivity independently of
individual psychology (consciousness as attitudes of individuals, etc.)", that
we so reduced "the problem of subjectivity to the problem of the relationship
between what people think and what they do" as to "to flirt uncritically with
the categories of bourgeois psychology and an empiricism that breeds endless
speculation". To this, Linebaugh also articulated what I think was our general

Your second main criticism of ZW1 was its failure to undertake a serious
discussion of "subjectivity". And you say that we hold an implicit theory of
consciousness which is essentially psychological. Perhaps there are differences
of terminology and tradition, for I fail to see how our "theory of consciousness"
(I can't believe that we have one!) is psychological or anything else. . . .
perhaps the problem that you pose as problems of "consciousness", we pose as
problems of organization.(25)

Whether the problem in this precise case was terminological is questionable, but
there were certainly multiple problems of terminology. The Kapitalistate
folks were working and writing within the context of a considerable, on-going
debate over the nature of the state in modern capitalism. Their journal
Kapitalistate was only one space of that debate that was much more
far-flung.(26) How the orientation of that
whole debate differed from Zerowork's can be seen in the opening
sentence of John Holloway and Sol Picciotto's introduction to their 1978
collection of contributions to that debate: "The present crisis of capitalism
appears, more than ever before, as a crisis of the state."
For us, that crisis "appeared" more than
ever before as a crisis of the class relation. Rachleff
raised other points, but those were, I think, the main ones.

Eventually, Rachleff's critique, excerpted from one of his letters, was printed
in Zerowork #2, alongside the letter from Geoff Kay. Why the Kapitalistate
Collective's letter, was not included, I don't remember. [In a Sept 9, 1976,
letter Peter L. mentions “a short review that Liberation did of
Zerowork”.] In all cases, our failure to respond in print to these
missives and their critiques was emblematic of a more general failure to engage
in public debate, even with those sympathetic to our project.

Nevertheless, as one might imagine, these critiques — along with our own
internal evaluations — became the subject of considerable discussion within
the editorial Collective, as we reconsidered the content and form of
Zerowork #2. What we judged to be the most appropriate, and feasible,
content for the next issue evolved considerably as a result of turnover in the
composition of the Collective.

The Editorial Board: Departures and Arrivals

During this period, roughly from January 1976 to September 1977, there was
considerable turnover in the composition of the editorial group of the Zerowork
collective. By the end of this period four of the original editors remained active
(Paolo Carpignano, Peter Linebaugh, Bruno Ramirez and John Merrington), four
dropped out (George Caffentzis, Bill Cleaver, Mario Montano and Ferruccio Gambino),
while four new people joined (Harry Cleaver, Philip Mattera, Christian Marazzi
and Bruno Cartosio). There are three identifiable moments of this turnover.

First, early in 1976, two of the original editors — Bill Cleaver and Mario
Mantano — bowed out of further direct work on the journal. Bill dropped out
for two reasons. First, because the time and energy demands of his struggles
against his union's bureaucracy proved more pressing than the primarily theoretical
debates that preoccupied other members of the Zerowork collective. And second,
because neither those struggles, nor a follow-up piece on miners’ struggles that
he wrote with a friend in West Virginia interested the other editors. In short,
he was frustrated with the failure of the collective to follow up on its own
insistence in Zerowork #1 on the need to identify appropriate organizational
solutions for the working class in the current period.(28)
In Mario’s case, his own shifting
preoccupations — from politics to spirituality — led him to leave
his teaching in the U.S. and his work on Zerowork to join an ashram in

Second, Harry Cleaver (Bill's brother), Phil Mattera, Christian Marazzi and
Bruno Cartosio joined the collective. Harry joined as a contributing editor after
finishing both his Ph.D. dissertation and the first draft of what would become
his book Reading Capital Politically. He would prepare a long
essay on the international food crisis for the second issue. Phil Mattera also
joined as a contributing editor — he would write two articles for the
second issue, one — with his companion Donna Demac — on the fiscal
crisis of New York City and one on socialist Vietnam. Christian Marazzi, a
friend of Paolo's, had been working on a book on money with John Merrington in
London and would contribute an essay on the “crisis of the money form” and the
new use of flexible exchange rates against the working class. Bruno Cartosio was
a comrade of Ferruccio's and an historian who was editing an Italian collection
of Marty Glaberman's writings. He would replace Ferruccio as our Corresponding
Editor in Italy.

Third, George Caffentzis and Peter Taylor separated themselves from the rest of
us in the midst of a failed attempt to take over the journal and subordinate it
to the Wages for Housework movement. (see below) Ferruccio Gambino also soon
withdrew from the collective, as he too was caught up in conflicts involving
Wages for Housework folks in Padua.

New Issues and Debates

Generally speaking, our agenda for work on Zerowork #2 was two-fold.
First, we wanted to extend the analysis of the crisis to aspects beyond those
that had been the focus of the first issue. Second, we wanted to continue
discussion of various theoretical and political issues, both those raised during
and after the production of the first issue and others raised by drafts of
articles for the second issue. Changes in the contents — and the form —
of the second issue had been discussed sporadically during the production of the
first but their determination became more immediately pressing in early 1976.

In terms of content, at first the focus was to have been on “the problem of
imperialism”. That “problem” concerned both the phenomenon and the concepts that
Marxists have used to analyze it. Since the time of Hobson, Lenin and Bukharin,
imperialism was understood by most to involve the efforts by nation-based
capitalists — backed up by their governments — to develop export markets,
new sources of raw materials and outlets for investment capital.
Such efforts were seen to have led not
only to the colonization of much of the world but to wars between competing
blocs of capitalist nation-states. Such was a common Marxist explanation for
World Wars I and II. Complicating this analysis/narrative after WWII was the
phenomenon of the Cold War. How the conflicts that emerged within that framework
were interpreted depended, in large part, on one’s understanding of the nature
of the Soviet Union.(30) Widespread
decolonization during the same period — largely the result of independence
movements, or wars of “national liberation” — further complicated how one
understood imperialism. Not only did these complications lead to debates among
Marxists, but they also led to other efforts to grasp the forces at play.
“Dependency theorists”, e.g., Andre Gundar Frank, and world-system theorists,
e.g., Emmanuel Wallerstein, challenged traditional Marxist narratives with new
ones of an interlocked global capitalism, but one organized hierarchically with
centers and peripheries and transformed through processes of both development and
underdevelopment.(31) For those of us in the
Zerowork collective, all of these narratives had one outstanding problem: their
failure to grasp working class struggle as a fundamental pressure driving foreign
capitalist adventures. In theory after theory the working class appeared only
as a victim of forces far beyond its ability to influence.

Because Geoff Kay had published a book on the subject — Development and
Underdevelopment: A Marxist Analysis
— the members of the Zerowork
collective undertook to read his manuscript in early 1976 and considered
including certain sections of it in the next issue.(33)
Eventually, however, we decided not to
include those sections. In this same general vein, however, we did decide to
include an essay by Ferruccio Gambino on “Class Composition and U.S. Direct
Investment Abroad” that was very much about the class dynamics of imperialism.
Although, due to the conflicts surrounding
the relationship between Zerowork and Wages for Housework, Ferruccio would withdraw
this piece, and it would not appear in the second issue. Today, years later, a
polished version is available
on this website.(35)

Despite the original intention to focus the second issue on “imperialism”, those
who have already read Zerowork #2, or who skim the contents on this webpage,
will be struck by the absence of anything like a systematic treatment of the
subject. Instead, such examination reveals two sorts of articles, either ones
focusing on local class conflicts, e.g., the essay on the New York City fiscal
crisis and the one on post-war Vietnam, or ones dealing with class conflict on
a global level, i.e., the essay on food and famine and the one on international
monetary crisis. In both our thinking and our writing, we sought, increasingly,
to grasp the crisis not only in class terms but at the level of the world as a
whole. On the one hand, the overtly “global” articles situated local conflicts
within the larger framework. On the other, the “local” articles also examined
specific struggles within that same larger framework. This would become even
more obvious in the years following the dissolution of Zerowork as its
one-time editors deepened and enlarged the analysis.(36)
In short, we were trying to overcome
the deficiency of previous theories by grasping the whole in terms of an analysis
of class struggle that centered those of workers, and thus the crisis in
accumulation of the early 1970s as a rupture brought on by a cycle of workers’

The articles we chose were, thus, selected as moments of a larger effort to grasp
the complex evolution of a global crisis in class relations.

By 1976, six distinct moments of global crisis had made headlines and were widely
recognized as such. 1) In 1971, Nixon ended the Bretton Woods agreements for the
management of the post WWII international monetary system. 2) In 1972, international
food crises emerged with soaring prices and famine in Sub-Saharan Africa and
South Asia. 3) In 1973-74, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
(OPEC) unleashed the first "oil shock" by quadrupling its sales price of crude
oil. 4) In 1974-75, the world economy underwent an unusual "great recession" of
rising unemployment but also of rising prices. 5) In 1975, a fiscal crisis was
imposed on New York City by multinational banks refusing to roll over the city's
debt. 6) Also in 1975, the American war effort in Vietnam collapsed and its
precipitous withdrawal left the Vietnamese communist party in charge of the
country. What we thought we could contribute to understanding the first five of
these events was to demonstrate how they were not just spontaneous byproducts of
"capitalist crisis" but were, rather, calculated responses by capitalist
policy-makers to struggles that had ruptured their previous plans. What
interested us about the sixth event were indications that the communist party's
first steps in "building socialism" looked like one more example of "state
capitalism" in action.

In the case of the crisis of the international monetary system, we judged that
move to be a direct response to workers having undermined the ability of Keynesian
policies to manage the "adjustment" of national balances of class power necessary
to the maintenance of fixed rates. This was already discussed in Mario Montano's
article in Zerowork #1. By 1976, however, new, flexible exchange rates
among major currencies provided new weapons to attack real wages and workers'
power. Christian Marazzi elaborated this analysis in his essay "Money in the
World Crisis: The New Basis of Capitalist Power".

Similarly, the international food crises in 1972, we saw to have been engineered
by government policies both within food exporting countries, especially the
United States, and within those countries where famine was spreading. The policies
that restricted supply and drove up prices, often elaborated in secret, we
judged to be responses to declining trade balances brought on by accelerating
inflation (caused by workers forcing wages and benefits up faster than productivity).
Where famine was spreading, we saw governments using starvation to bring local,
uncooperative populations to heel. Juxtaposing these events to earlier capitalist
development strategies, Harry Cleaver drew connections and parallels between
policies being enacted in the North and those in the South, between those in the
West and those in the East, in his contribution "Food, Famine and International

The first "oil shock", i.e., the quadrupling of oil prices, was clearly engineered
by OPEC. While it began as retribution against countries supporting Israel in the
1973 "Yom Kippur War", it continued in a desperate effort to reverse a decade-long
decline in terms of trade and to gain the resources necessary to deal with
workers' struggles at home. Moreover, despite the resistance of some European
governments, the acceptance by US policy makers of this huge price hike was
motivated by the desire to use it to undermine real wages and transfer value
from labor to capital. As this analysis was already spelled out in Mario Montano's
"Notes on the International Crisis" in Zerowork #1, no special article
in Zerowork #2 was devoted to these events. The analysis would, however,
eventually be elaborated in great detail and with considerable imagination by the
Midnight Notes Collective — formed by George Caffentzis and friends after
his split from Zerowork.(37)

The "great recession" of 1974-75, we interpreted not merely as another, predictable
cyclical downturn or as the inevitable spontaneous consequence of the "oil shock",
but as the intentional use of high unemployment to undermine workers' abilities
to raise wages and benefits faster than productivity gains. The failure of that
strategy, signaled by the continuation of wage growth led first to discussions
among economists of "stagflation" — a term coined in the mid-1960s by an
English politician denoting simultaneous high unemployment and continuing
inflation — and then to the International Monetary Fund declaring inflation
(read: rising wages) to be the number one global economic problem.
As Mario pointed out, the problem of
inflation was really a problem with working class power to force up wages,
benefits and social services. The failure of the attempt to use OPEC prices
increases and higher unemployment to undermine average real wages and transfer
value to profits would not be overcome by capital until the end of the 1970s,
when Jimmy Carter would bring in Paul Volcker to so restrict growth in the money
supply as to precipitate a global depression and dramatically higher unemployment.

As spelled out in Demac and Mattera's article on the subject, the "fiscal crisis"
of New York City was really a crisis of class relations in the city because the
struggles of both waged (mainly city employees) and unwaged workers (mainly those
on welfare). Those struggles were behind the rise in city expenditures and the
decline in tax revenues (as a deteriorating "business climate" led dozens of
firms to move elsewhere). The immediate action that precipitated the crisis
— the refusal of creditor banks to "roll over" the city's debt —
amounted to a capitalist demand for the restoration of control by city government.
This was manifest in the conditions placed on debt roll-over: austerity through
the cutting of waged employee benefits and reductions in welfare expenditures.

As the above summary illustrates, whereas the articles in the first issue had
concentrated on workers' struggles and how they had undermined the post-WWII
Keynesian era and thrown the global capitalist system into crisis, those aspects
of the crisis addressed in the second issue dealt, primarily, with capital's
responses, albeit interpreting them in terms of the struggles that had forced
their deployment.

This was true, even in the case of the article by Phil Mattera dealing with
Vietnam. Among those of us outside of Vietnam who had opposed the war, few
differentiated between the armed forces fighting the US military and the people
of that country. When the war ended, we argued that the distinction had to be
addressed. As the post-1975 era began to unfold, we saw the new communist government
seeking to impose discipline and peddle cheap labor to multinational corporate
investors — a "development" strategy familiar in other East Asian (South
Korea, Taiwan) and Southeast Asian countries (Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia,
Singapore, the Philippines).

In terms of the form of Zerowork #2, once again there was discussion
about including shorter texts and images rather than just long, detailed articles.
Although we did find and include a variety of illustrations that complemented
and broke up the main texts in a satisfying manner, we did not follow up many
ideas about alternative types of material. Perhaps the most amusing suggestion
came from Geoff Kay who wrote, “How about a children’s section in ZW
Tales from the Third and Fourth Internationals?” Born, undoubtedly amidst the
sectarian infighting in England, and around the CSE in particular, his suggestion
included a variety of “tales”. After sketching the goings on in and around the
International Socialists, and giving them due consideration, however, he
mused, “The political theory of organization assumed here is perhaps not fit for
children.” Apparently, we agreed with him for no such section was ever created,
nor indeed thereafter considered, not for Zerowork #2, nor for
Zerowork #3. This was characteristic of the lack of interest of any of
the editors in engaging in debate with traditional Left groups.
It also, however, reopened the
never-quite-satisfactorily-answered question, “with exactly whom did the journal
want to engage?” In rereading notes and letters, the closest approximation I have
found is something like “those who find the traditional Left unattractive and
are looking for something new.” That was, obviously, pretty vague and made the
search for “new friends” difficult.

All of the discussion and debate within the collective took place via snail-mail
(which has the advantage of leaving a hard-copy record) and face to face meetings
(which, for all its other advantages, has the disadvantage of leaving but a few
notes).(40) Most of the latter took place
locally although at least one trans-oceanic meeting was arranged in July of 1976
where two editors from North America met in London with those from Britain and Italy.

While drafting essays on the above conflicts, and discussing them among ourselves,
several of us — in the Struggle Against Work Collectives (SAWC) in New York
City and Toronto — continued to be involved in organizing local actions
and in discussing the implications for our own activities of the Wages for
Housework Campaign.

Associated Political Activities in New York City

In New York, our discussions about the city's fiscal crisis built on the historical
analysis already laid out in Zerowork #1 and focused on struggles within
the city of the unwaged (e.g., welfare rights activists and students) and the
waged (e.g., city employees) and their mutual impact.
The usual, formal definition of the fiscal
crisis — city debt repayment obligations in excess of revenue and borrowed
funds — turned out to have been imposed by the banks that began by charging
ever higher interest rates on short-term loans and then refusing to roll over
city debt as they had done before.(42) Investigation
into the motives of the banks revealed that refusal to be a response to the
struggles of people in the city. This we could see in the demands by the banks
for the imposition of severe austerity. The state responded by laying off thousands
of city workers, freezing others' wages and benefits, forcing the unions to invest
city worker pension funds in city bonds (thereby tying future income to the
city's financial health) and by reducing standards of living in the city generally.
City employee layoffs reduced social services; transportation fares were raised
undercutting real wages; tuition was imposed on students attending City University
of New York (CUNY).(43)

This analysis of the fiscal crisis was laid out systematically by SAWC member
Phillip Mattera and his companion Donna Demac. They wrote an essay that we first
published as a pamphlet: Developing and Underdeveloping New York: The 'Fiscal
Crisis' and a Strategy for Fighting Austerity
, circulated in the summer of
1976. In this analysis, underdevelopment appears not just as a process that
capital imposes by leaving — as it was understood by the dependistas
but as a strategy for bringing problem workers to heal. After locating
the sources of the crisis in the struggles of people in the city, and recognizing
austerity policies as constituting a counter-offensive, the pamphlet concluded
by rejecting any collaboration with austerity and calling for an extension of
those struggles that had created the crisis into new areas, e.g., wages for
housework, wages for schoolwork instead of tuition.

The key is to demand the money we need to live. True, it may seem paradoxical
in a time of "no money" to be demanding more of it and less work, but this is the
only effective response to the engineered climate of austerity. For this is the
strategy which attacks the very root of our oppression, in all its forms. By
demanding to be paid for all the work we do, we expose the extent to which our
entire lives have been made into work and help ourselves build the power necessary
to get the time and wealth that would serve as the basis of our liberation.

In a small, direct-action effort to stimulate resistance to austerity, we also
drafted and distributed flyers protesting increased subway fares and organized a
whole series of illegal direct actions getting people into the subway for free
(or at very low cost).(44) The flyers argued,
among other things, that because the primary use of the subways was getting
people to and from work, and that riding the dirty, noisy, dangerous subways was
itself work, that those on their way to and from work should be paid for the time
spent in travel.(45) We undertook these actions
in the same spirit as the earlier rent strike movement in the city (sketched in
the pamphlet) and as similar efforts at the “self-reduction of prices” that were
taking place in Italy and reported in Zerowork #1.

These interventions — both written and direct-action — into the fiscal
crisis constituted one response to the autonomous self-organization of women in
the Wages for Housework movement. While those of us in NYSAW had explicitly
endorsed the demand that the work of reproducing labor power be paid for, we were
also supporting a more general resistance to austerity, in the pamphlet we published
and in our actions against the increased costs of transportation.

At the same time, however, we — a group made up entirely of men — also
tried to think through the more general implications of the separation of struggles
by gender and to better define our own political demands. In New York City, that
thinking involved regular discussions among members of the group and found expression
in two pamphlets: We Want Everything: An Introduction to the Income without
Work Committee
(1976) and If We're So Powerful, Why Aren't We Free? White
Men, the Total Wage and the Struggle against Work
In Toronto, similar discussions unfolded
among the men in the Struggle Against Work Collective of that city.

In the 10-page pamphlet We Want Everything, our emphasis was on role of
the struggle against work among waged and unwaged workers and how that struggle,
combined with others demanding the same or more income, combined to create the
growing crisis for capitalism that was manifested locally in the New York City
fiscal crisis. The struggle against work, we argued, was not only real but was
the understandable outcome of the blatant contradiction between rising productivity
— that made it technically feasible to work less —– and the capitalist
imposition of "social factory" with a 24-hour workday made up of both waged work
(in factories and offices) and unwaged work (in homes, schools and getting to and
from work). Therefore, the demand in the pamphlet's title for "everything" was
explained as the perfectly reasonable insistence that the fruits of rising
productivity be realized in both more income and less work. Although this very
"Zerowork" focus on the refusal of work and the social factory was derived and
adapted from earlier work by Tronti and that on the 24-hour workday from the
Wages for Housework analysis, there was no mention of either in the text. Moreover,
although we identified ourselves in the pamphlet as "white, male militants", there
was little discussion of the implications of either adjective. The only reference
to race was how the struggles of "Black and Latin people" had illuminated the
nature of the "social factory." The only reference to gender was in pointing out
how the revolt of women against unwaged work had made the existence of the
24-hour workday apparent to men.

We considerably expanded the discussion of gender and racial differences in the
pamphlet If We're So Powerful . . . and made the connection to the Wages
for Housework Campaign explicit. In the introduction, we wrote, "The development
of New York Struggle Against Work has been profoundly influenced by the campaign
for Wages for Housework for all women from the government." The substance of that
influence we made clear in the body of the pamphlet whose general line of argument
followed that of the first issue of Zerowork. First, we sketched the
nature of the social factory, its 24-hour workday, and the usual positions of
white men within it — namely the general phenomena that more men have been
waged than women, that white men have been paid higher wages than non-white men.
We also pointed out how wages confer more power to refuse work than their
absence and how higher wages confer more power than lower wages.
Second, we reiterated the Zerowork
analysis that struggles against work, by both the waged and unwaged, precipitated
a crisis for capital's control-through-imposed work. Third, we also restated the
argument that capital's counterattacks against both wages and other forms of
income had been aimed at restoring its ability to impose work. Fourth, we set out
an argument that was not in Zerowork — namely that the only
adequate response to capital's efforts to continue to subordinate everyone's
life to work is a struggle for a "total wage", i.e., payment by capital for all
the work we do. We loosely defined the "total wage" as wages plus payment for
currently unwaged work-for-capital done by both the unwaged and by the waged in
their hours "off the job".

Clearly, the demand for the "total wage" was a demand more comprehensive than that
for "wages for housework" although the latter was included within the former.
The relation between the two demands we spelled out in two ways, first in general
terms and second by pointing to specific, concrete demands that included, but
went beyond wages for housework. In the first case, we wrote: "the strategy of
the total wage" has its roots in the wages for housework perspective but,

This does not mean that our fight for a total wage is really a fight for wages
for housework. That fight is, of necessity, primarily a fight of women, whose
work in this society is essentially housework in all its dimensions. But in another
sense, we men are indeed fighting for the same goal: to be paid for all the work
we do in order to refuse it all. What distinguishes us from each other is not
different aims, ultimately, but the different work and therefore the different
lives that have been imposed on us.

Asserting that the fight for a total wage is not equal to the fight for wages for
housework required spelling out what the former fight was for — besides wages
for housework, that we too wanted — given that part of our work as mostly
waged, white males included the reproduction of our own labor power and that of
others. What terrains of struggle did we argue were worth joining? They included
the following:

  1. unemployment insurance (because it pays for the work of looking for

  2. workmen's compensation (because it pays for recuperating from damage
    suffered on the job),

  3. social security (because it pays for the "work of the old", namely
    "dying quickly and quietly"),

  4. welfare (because it pays "women for raising children to be obedient
    and productive workers"),

  5. job-related travel (because both daily travel to and from the job and
    periodic relocation to new jobs are work),

  6. job-related study (because it is work-for-capital and not for us), and

  7. the tax system (because it is rigged to pit us against each other,
    e.g., taxing the young instead of capital to pay for things like social security).

Noticeably absent from this list are the usual abstract Marxist calls for revolution
and the overthrow of capitalism. Yet the pamphlet ends with a statement that clearly
implies the concrete replacement of capitalism with a world freed from domination
via imposed work.

We want to sever the tie between income and work altogether. For we see all around
us the potential for a society, indeed a world, in which such forced activity no
longer exists and we are free to choose how we will spend our days, based only on
our own interests and desires. What prevents us from realizing this potential is
nothing more than our lack of sufficient power. We believe that in fighting to
win a total wage for our total work, we will be building that power and thus
bringing closer the creation of a world in which there will be no wages at all
— because human beings will no longer be commodities: a world in which we
can stop struggling and start living.

Both of these pamphlets were shared with others associated with Zerowork,
those in the parallel group in Toronto and those not engaged in either group and
with a variety of friends and comrades. The feedback was overwhelmingly negative
— from those in the Zerowork editorial group who were NOT part of either
the NYC or Toronto SAWC's, from some who had been receptive to Zerowork,
and, most surprisingly, from some in the Toronto SAW Collective and from those in the
Wages for Housework Campaign.

From within Zerowork, from those not part of either SAW Collective, came two
responses: a conversation with John Merrington and Ferruccio Gambino in London
in which they dismissed If We're So Powerful and a much longer, thoughtful
response from Peter Linebaugh raising a series of questions and critiques. From
outside of Zerowork, one fairly detailed response came from Peter Rachleff who
had been generally receptive to Zerowork #1 and a much harsher response
from Wages for Housework — a response that so thoroughly condemned the
pamphlet as to lead the NYSAW collective to essentially abandon the project. In
retrospect, the condemnation can be seen as a step toward what came later: the
attempt by Wages for Housework to take over and suborn Zerowork itself.
Let me summarize the various critiques.

According to a half-page note summarizing Merrington and Gambino's comments, they
were scathing. The pamphlet, they wrote, "doesn't have the ring to truth. The key
word is 'we'. . . . [the analysis] has "no class in it. . . [the author] employs
a perspective that includes the most debased, demeaned man right up to the cops
or the President. In this anthropology, it is true that there is a cop in all
men and that this is less so in women, and that this anthropology is developed
for the purpose of command. But the piece cannot be a piece of agitation, not
with that 'we'. You can't go anywhere with a piece like that. . . Is that 'we'
part of the working class?" In short, dismissal rather than a thoughtful reply.

From Peter Linebaugh — in those days teaching upstate in Rochester, New
York — came longer and much more thoughtful but still critical replies
— first verbally at a meeting in New York, and later in a long 7-page,
single-spaced letter. He clearly agreed with Merrington and Gambino about the
lack of specificity in the reduction of complex class compositions to "we", and
about the tendency of the analysis to drift into anthropological distinctions
rather than class ones. He also made a number of much more specific points,
including the following.

  1. The importance of the struggles referred to in the pamphlet, he argued, was
    not demonstrated in concrete evidence gathered from detailed investigation.

  2. The concept of the "total wage" retained the same irrational form of the value
    of labor power as that of the wage tout court. "The notion of the total wage,"
    he wrote, "seems to me overgeneralized, “spacey” and lacking the ability of further
    specification, as, say “Total Victory”.

  3. The concept of the 24-hour working day "suggests that capital has all our
    days and hours. It does not. With time, as with money or the social product, there
    is a struggle between capital and the working class, and that struggle is not
    one-sided. What otherwise could be the significance of the absenteeism you report
    in the family and in the plants? One feels in your use of that idea, the 24-hour
    working day, that you are not aware of victories. More than one reader of the
    pamphlet has been struck by a feeling of defeat." He goes on to argue that Marx's
    double-sided treatment — of consumption within reproduction that provided
    "some tools for analyzing the 24-hour day" and of the struggle over the length
    of the working day that "at all events, is less than a natural day" —
    provides a better model for understanding current struggles than the oversimplified
    concept of a "24-hour working day."

  4. He objected to the continued use of the concept of "social factory" —
    derived by Tronti from Volume II of Capital and amplified by Wages for
    Housework — without clear differentiation among different situations.
    "Personally," he wrote, "I think that its job is done and that now it can be quite
    misleading. Even in ZW1 we wanted to show how the conditions of struggle
    and the types of power were different in various settings — the mine, the
    factory, the university, the supermarket, the apartment building and the prison. . . .
    the time for metaphorical transpositions of concepts is over." In the same spirit,
    he "objected strenuously" to the phrase "prisons called factories", insisting on
    the differences in their functions and methods.

There was more, but those four points suggest the depth of his criticisms. Those
in NYSAW responded, both at the meeting in New York City and later in writing.
However, the only record that I have of those responses to Peter's criticisms is a
one-page letter written to Peter by Phil Mattera and a half-page note from George
Caffentzis.(49) In his letter, Phil reiterated
the NYSAW position that demanding wages for currently unwaged work undermines
divisions in the class and provides more resources to fight against capitalism
in its entirety. He did not, however, respond to any of Peter's points highlighted
above. In his note, George expressed disappointment that “your criticism makes
no attempt to reveal political solutions . . . its totally negative tone seemed
to suggest more a closing of debate rather than an opening.” But he, no more
than Phil, responded directly to Peter’s specific criticisms.

From Peter Rachleff came a one-page letter more critical of the implications of
the analysis in the two pamphlets than of its logic. He argued that calling for
the expansion of institutions and programs such as unemployment insurance and
welfare is utopian and no more likely to be successful than overthrowing the
system as a whole. On the other hand, he objected that while more money and less
work might provide more opportunity to restructure our lives,

On what basis should this restructuration take place? Surely you don't mean to
imply that we will all become no more than passive consumers. What is the world
that we can build once we have destroyed the division between the waged and the
wageless in society as a whole and in our daily lives? Today reformism is utopian,
while revolutionism is possible. Your very analyses indicate your awareness of
this, and the deeply-felt need for such a change. So say so! Why fall back on
these partial demands?

So far, I have found no response to this critique.

With respect to the criticisms voiced by Wages for Housework, I have only hearsay
testimony in letters from Phil Mattera — first in his response to Peter
Linebaugh's lengthy critique and second in a letter he wrote to me in Texas
recounting discussions within NYSAW and with Wages for Housework.

In his response to Peter, written on August 18, 1976, Phil mentioned that "We
have seriously re-examined the If We're So Powerful . . . piece and have
decided that certain revisions have to be made. For this reason, we have decided
to suspend the distribution of the piece. We will certainly take into account
your comments in doing the revision." In his letter to me, Phil was much more
detailed about what was going on in New York City. In the first place, the notion
of "revision" that he had mentioned to Peter evolved from merely changing the
opening statement about the authors' debt to Wages for Housework, through rewriting
the pamphlet as a whole, to writing an entirely new essay. The reasons for any
revision, Phil felt, lay "more for the sake of diplomacy with NY Wages for Housework
and Selma James, than they are for the sake of improving the pamphlet or correcting
serious political errors (which I don't think are really there)." On what did he
base this judgment? On a verbal account by Larry Cox and George Caffentzis of a
meeting with Selma James' son, Sam Weinstein, whose views Phil judged to be those
of Selma and of Wages for Housework more generally.

Much of Larry's and George's desire to rewrite the pamphlet came after a meeting
they had with Sam Weinstein (Selma's son, who lives in Los Angeles). Sam reportedly
expressed concern that the pamphlet represented a call for male separation and
he claimed that there is no special oppression or exploitation of white men. According
to him, we suffer the general oppression and exploitation of the class, but unlike
women and blacks, we don't suffer additionally on the basis of our sex or race.
(I didn't meet him, so I can't explain this theory any better.) Larry and George
apparently admitted the sins of the pamphlet and told Sam of the intention to
stop circulating it. After some time, apparently, Sam decided we are not dangerous
and expressed a desire to work with us. . . . "

Phil went on to distinguish NYSAW's agreement with Wages for Housework's
perspective from the very open question of its relationship to the Wages for
Housework Campaign. NYSAW, he argued, had three options: 1) forming its own
autonomous campaign, 2) organize merely to support the women, or 3) not organize
at all. "We see," he wrote, "all the problems with each of these alternatives . . .
The problem is to find a political direction which deals with our 'role' in the
social factory, yet is not separatist and which respects the autonomy of women,
yet does not make us the men's auxiliary of the Wages for Housework Campaign. . . .
All this is obviously not fully worked out — but before we get too humble,
let's not forget that no one — neither Wages for Housework or the Toronto
men have really confronted this problem before." As it turned out, the Wages for
Housework solution would indeed be for the New York and Toronto SAW collectives
to become men's auxiliaries and Zerowork a vehicle for the promulgation
of its own ideas and programs.

Associated Political Activities in Canada

While all this was playing out in New York City, parallel events were unfolding
in Canada, both within the Toronto Struggle Against Work Collective — that
included two Zerowork editors, Peter Taylor and Bruno Ramirez —
and in the relationships of that group and its members to Wages for Housework.
As discussed in “Background: Genesis of Zerowork #1”,
individuals within the various Canadian groups, including the New Tendency, the
Autoworker Group, Out of the Driver's Seat and the Toronto SAWC, had been
discussing and debating the implications of the Wages for Housework perspective
and autonomous organization for quite some time. It was the departure of women
from the New Tendency in Toronto — to form a Toronto Collective of the
Wages for Housework Campaign — that led to the formation of the all-male
Toronto SAWC. Some of that history of discussion and debate was reflected in the
list of readings compiled by the latter group in 1976; it contained materials
about previous struggles, e.g., of auto and postal workers, materials on the
"refusal of work", including articles from Zerowork, and various pieces
by Wages for Housework authors, including Mariarosa Dalla Costa, Selma James,
and Silvia Federici. When NYSAW shared its pamphlets with their counterparts in
Canada, the critical feedback made it clear that the same issues had been raised
up North, had absorbed a lot of energy and were also unresolved. An example of
those responses came in a letter from Jim Brophy who wrote,

As you know, I’ve argued for a time about the need to understand the “particularity”
of the male waged worker. How does he perceive his struggle, in what way does he
view his power, what are his collective strengths and weaknesses, etc. We know
that both the terrain (i.e., the factory or workplace) and the historical
traditions (i.e., the unions, the stable wage relation, etc.) make for a different
set of experiences than say Black wageless, students, housewives, etc. But the
question is how? . . .

One thing I do know is that that pamphlet is not an accurate reflection about
the particularity or the strengths and weaknesses of male workers. It does not
reflect the power that the male sector of the class has developed for itself,
nor does it show the complex set of relationships which shape his experience and
develops his struggle. The pamphlet more explicitly picks up the general
one-sidedness of WfH and projects into the male working class. The problem of how
the kitchen is not totally a reflection of weakness or how male/female relations
are not totally factory/worker relations seems missed and abstracted completely
outside even their own experience. Male workers would read that pamphlet and
dismiss it by the third page. They’ve heard that guilt and liberal shit before
and just don’t need it.(50)

Drawing on his own experience in debates over these issues in Canada, Brophy then
offers a prophecy which proved, in time, to be entirely accurate.

If the tendency that projects and agrees with the general politics of the pamphlet
is “alive and well”, then, in my view Zerowork is in serious danger of
splitting. I have been in concrete struggles around this very politics for almost
a year and a half and I know that unless there are major changes in their outlook,
then they will carry the struggle into the publication and draw extremely sharp
lines around these politics.

This, unfortunately, was exactly what would unfold a few months later in New York
City within both Zerowork and the Struggle Against Work Collective.


Despite spelling out multiple terrains on which white males might contribute to
a struggle for a "total wage", the pamphlet If We're So Powerful, Why aren't
We Free?
contained a reflection that lay like a time-bomb in the text —
one that soon exploded so violently as to rupture not only New York Struggle
Against Work, but the Zerowork editorial collective. That reflection was the

Because more of the life of women, as well as Blacks, Latins, Asians and others
around the world, has been wageless, they have taken the lead in the fight
against wagelessness. And because of the centrality of wagelessness in the
imposition of all work, they have taken the lead in the fight against work itself.
[my emphasis]

What were the concrete implications, for the political action of waged white men,
of characterizing the role of unwaged women — or the wageless more
generally — as "taking the lead" in the struggles that had increased working
class power to the point of rupturing the capitalist imposition of work and
bringing on crisis? The question was not answered in the text because we were
still debating it.

Although neither my memory nor my notes permit any detailed account of those
debates — that took place almost 40 years ago — I am fairly comfortable
collapsing them into two of the alternatives Phil spelled out in his letter (above).
One implication was to overtly recognize and explicitly valorize the roles of
the unwaged — which both Zerowork and the NYSAW pamphlets did —
while crafting struggles that complemented those roles. A second possible
implication (that evoked, for those of us opposed to it, the old notion of a
working class "vanguard") was that the struggles of the waged — including
those of waged white men — should be subordinated to the struggles of
unwaged women (by being limited to direct support of women's initiatives). Given
its theoretical and political influence on our analysis, the obvious candidate
for such support was the Wages for Housework Campaign. The advocates of each
position argued that their answer would increase the power of the working class
as a whole. In the first case, that increase could be achieved through
complementarity and the circulation of struggle, i.e., the actions of white waged
men could be crafted to strengthen those of unwaged women by fighting for things
like increased welfare — an increase in the income and thus the ability
of unwaged mothers to expand their struggles. In the second case, the increase
could be sought directly by providing supportive manpower for whatever battles
were chosen by the women of Wages for Housework.

This debate unfolded in discussions that took place within the Zerowork collective
and the Struggle Against Work groups in New York and Toronto, and, simultaneously,
within the context of close personal relations between the men in those groups
and women involved in the Wages for Housework. For the most part, the personal
relations were those of friendship and camaraderie, but in some cases, they were
more intimate. Two examples. Larry Cox, the primary drafter of If We're So
was married to Nicole Cox, a member of Wages for Housework group
in NYC and the author, with Silvia Federici, of the pamphlet Counterplanning
from the Kitchen: Wages for Housework, A perspective on Capital and the Left

(1975). Bruno Ramirez was married to Judy Ramirez, a leading figure in the Toronto
Wages for Housework group.

The debates over these two possible paths came to a head at different moments in
different places.

As indicated above, the first casualty was the Toronto Struggle Against Work
Collective that dissolved in early 1976 with, according Jim Brophy’s account,
Zerowork editors Bruno Ramirez and Peter Taylor on one side and the
rest of the Collective on the other. Although he gave few details, Brophy
attributed the breakup to Bruno and Peter’s insistent pushing of the Wages for
Housework perspective that he, and others, felt failed to address adequately the
debated issue of the particularity of the strengths and weakness of white
males within the working class and vis-à-vis capital. Unlike Peter Linebaugh who
expressed skepticism of the whole issue, Brophy and comrades accepted the need
to clarify those strengths and weaknesses and argued that Zerowork needed
both to address the issue and to take a position on it. “I believe,” he wrote in
a letter to Peter, that

Zero Work must come to grips politically with the situation of white male workers
if it is to be a useful tool for militants like myself. And then from that position
we can say what we see other sectors doing and how their struggle against capital
gives us power in our struggle. . . . [But] if I look for a clear view of the
situation of male workers where do I go? To WfH???? Their view of us as men is
pretty one-sided, to say the least, although they have uncovered many dynamics
within the class. But they were able to do this historically, and politically
speaking, by first exposing and understanding their own position within the
class . . .”(52)

Thus, he concludes, white men must do something similar. To contribute to such a
project, he and his comrades contemplated writing an article “on the notion of
particularity” to deal with “the situation of men under modern capitalism without
conceding and posturing to any other sector of the class.” Their notion was at
least partly realized when they reconstituted themselves as “The Toronto Collective”
and issued a rather lengthy (almost 4,000 word) Letter to Wages for Students on
SAWC Split, in June 1976.(53)

In that letter they laid out their debts to Wages for Housework but rejected the
subordination of men’s struggles to those of women. The acceptance of such
subordination, they argued,

not only abstracts itself from the whole experience of working class struggle
historically and at present, including our own struggles as white male students
and workers, but most crucially for us, it sees no positive role for white male
workers' struggles except where they directly support the autonomous struggles
of less powerful sections
. This tendency leads to abdicating being part of the
organization of struggles of our own section of the class in the name of the
"higher" class interest of supporting the struggles of workers in less powerful
sections. It leads to complete isolation (as SAWC was isolated) from the concrete
struggles white male workers and all other workers are making to increase their
power against capital.

They went on to differentiate their notion of particularity from that of autonomy
that they still embraced and that they agreed justifies “less powerful” sections
of the working class (e.g., women) developing their struggle for more power
independently of more powerful sections (e.g., men).

Whatever the form in which specific struggles are organized (autonomous, "mixed",
etc.) we stress the importance of being clear on the particularity of different
sections of the class. By particularity we mean:

  1. the position of different sections occupy in the hierarchy of power;
  2. the particular way capital organizes the 24-hour working day of each section and
  3. the particular strengths and weaknesses of different sections of the class
    which flow from our position in the hierarchy and division of labour.

Having addressed their essay to students, after offering some historical
justification for trying to identify the particularity of the situation of white
men, they then turned to discussing the problem of identifying the particularity
of various kinds of students — something they suggested had not been done
by the student activists whose ideas they otherwise found attractive. I have no
record of the students’ response to this critique, nor of any collective response
from those in the Zerowork collective.(54)

About a year later, another parting of the ways took place, this time within the
Zerowork collective.

The prelude to that parting was debate within the editorial collective over
Christian Marazzi's essay on the crisis of the money form — written as part
of the collective effort of the London Zerowork group to produce a book on
money in the crisis. The debate was complex. While there was agreement about some
things, e.g., that Nixon's ending of the convertibility of dollars to gold on
August 1971 was a turning point, or that after that money was being used as a
terrorist weapon against the working class in new ways, there were also many
controversial aspects of the essay. Questions were raised about Christian's
reading of Marx on money, on gold, on credit and on the relationships among them.
There were challenges to his formulation of the economic manifestations of crisis
in class power. The meaning of "the law of value", to which he often made reference
but never defined, was disputed.(55) Moreover,
the debate, it turned out, had roots in earlier disagreements over some aspects
of Mario's piece in Zerowork #1 "Notes on
the International Crisis"
to which Christian's essay made explicit reference.

In the end, the primary issue of contention — that led to the split in the
collective — was the degree to which the arguments in these essays were in
contradiction with the analysis of the unwaged and the importance of the
struggles of the unwaged. At the time, several of us found the critiques being
made of Christian's essay — mostly by George and Peter Taylor — hard
to follow. (See the long passage from a March 14, 1977 letter from Peter Linebaugh
to Ferruccio Gambino quoted below.) Years later, in an interview given to Greek
comrades in 2000, George retrospectively summarized his objections to both
articles in terms of what he saw as a stark contradiction between the "refusal
of work" perspective and that of Wages for Housework. To embrace the one meant,
for him, to deny the other. The troubles with the "refusal of work" perspective,
he claimed, were three-fold. ,em>First, the long-run tendency of capital to substitute
machines for workers — discussed in Grundrisse's fragment on
machines and quoted at length in Mario's essay and referenced by Christian —
was judged, by those embracing the "refusal of work" perspective, to have reached
the point of virtually eliminating work in the production of wealth, or, in
George's characterization a "zero-hour work day". This line of argument, he argued,
completely ignored the still vast amount of unwaged work required — 24 hours
a day — for the reproduction of the working class, and hence of capital —
namely the work emphasized by women in the Wages for Housework Campaign. Second,
this elimination meant, for those adhering to the "refusal of work" perspective,
that Marx's own deduction that it would render the law of value irrelevant had
come to pass — an evaluation rejected by the theorists of Wages for
Housework who continued to use the concept of labor value.
Third, under these circumstances, if the
role of work was reduced, as Mario and Christian claimed, to a vehicle for
capital's command over workers and hence over society, then the "refusal of work"
only made sense for those few workers in high tech industries. If we accept this
latter-day summary as an accurate one of George and Peter Taylor's objections in
1976-77, then we can also say that the debate at the time was over whether these
points amounted to such acute contradictions with the analysis of unwaged work
and the struggles of the unwaged as to render the previous publication of Mario's
article regrettable and the prospect of publishing Christian's essay intolerable.
Let me deal with them one by one and explain why conclusions about this differed.

First, when we examine that part of Mario's essay evoking the "fragment on machines",
it is clear enough that he — as with Marx originally — was focused on
the production of commodities sold for profits and ignored the labor of
reproduction of labor power.(57) Yet in that
same article not only did Mario recognize the existence of unwaged labor reproducing
labor power and the importance of the struggles of the unwaged, his very first
footnote acknowledged the importance of Selma James and Silvia Federici's writings
as sources on the subject. Moreover, in Christian's essay the importance of those
same unwaged struggles is also repeatedly highlighted.(58)
I was not around during the genesis of Zerowork #1 and therefore
missed earlier debates took place over this issue, but during the later debates
in 1976-77 around both Mario and Christian's essays, several of us could not see
the fundamental conflict that George and Peter claimed existed.

Returning to Mario's quotation from the "fragment on machines", Marx clearly
argued that the tendency of capitalist development is to reduce "the necessary
labor of society to a minimum". But what did he mean by "necessary labor"? Two
readings are possible — a Marxological reading, if you will, and what I'll
call a vernacular reading. With the former, in Chapter 6 of Volume I of
Capital (and thereafter) Marx defined "necessary labor" as equal to the
(socially necessary) labor (time) required to produce the consumption commodities
necessary for the reproduction of labor power. In a vernacular reading, "necessary
labor" equals all labor, that producing consumption commodities and that producing
labor power itself, e.g., housework, schoolwork. George's objection, it seemed to
some of us, was based on such a vernacular reading. For those of us who stuck to
Chapter 6's definition, we understood the reduction of required labor by machines
as being limited to that involved in the production of consumption commodities.
In that case, we saw no necessary
contradiction with the continued importance of unwaged labor procreating and
reproducing labor power.(60)

Second, the argument — by Mario and Christian about the implications of
dramatic reductions in the need for labor in commodity production for the labor
theory of value was problematic for all of us — although how we interpreted
what they were saying and what we made of it differed. Mario wrote, "In the Tendency
[to reduce necessary labor time], capital is pushed beyond value. Once labor
ceases to be the wellspring of wealth, value ceases to be the mediation of
use-values. With a radical revaluation of labor corresponds the suppression of
the law of value . . ." In Christian's essay, the "law of value" is repeatedly
evoked — mostly as an undefined force causing crises of accumulation and
from which capital has sought to escape, or manage, by manipulating the money
form. With respect to moving beyond value, he merely refers the reader to Mario's
essay. During the debates about Christian's essay, one of the many questions
raised was what he meant by the "law of value". At the time, the only answer I
can remember was that the "law of value" referred to prices being determined by
values.(61) That memory is consistent with
one reading of Mario's statement, "With a radical revaluation of labor corresponds
the suppression of the law of value and then any relationship between value and
price is severed."(62) In his 2000 account of
the debates, George also summarized this analysis as concluding that, according
to Mario and Christian, "the law of value is no more a determinant in the system"
— but as he offered no other understanding of "the law", it's hard to say
if what he meant by it, at that time, was the same.(63)

Here's the thing. For some of us, the very existence of any "law of value" —
however defined — remained an open question. The voluminous literature in
the debate over the "transformation of values into prices" offered only an
unsatisfying wealth of competing interpretations. For my part, I found (find) the
whole exercise a misguided attempt to use Marx's theory to satisfy the demand by
bourgeois economists for a theory of relative market prices — a sin qua non
for economists, whose work requires such a theory to help guide policies
supportive of capitalist development. Misguided in the following senses. First,
by my reading, Marx elaborated his theory for a purpose antithetical to that of
bourgeois economics. The former was dedicated to defeating and transcending
capitalism, while the latter is devoted to promulgating it. Therefore, it was (is)
a mistake to try to use the former to solve the latter's problems.
Second, time and again when addressing
historical prices, Marx discussed their determination in terms of supply and
demand, in pretty much the same manner as his mainstream contemporaries.
Third, in Volume I of Capital,
before setting the issue aside, Marx discussed how prices often differed,
quantitatively, from values. In such cases, the value analysis adds something
distinct to knowledge of prices determined by supply and demand. If one has reason
to believe, for example, that prices exceed values, then the successful realization
of those prices would suggest a transfer of value to the sellers from elsewhere.
So, if one neither believes that, nor
seeks to prove that, relative prices are determined by values, then the whole
debate over the "law of value" — and whether or not it has been transcended
— becomes an unproductive distraction.

But, if we set aside the "law of value", we can still ask whether the tendency
to reduce the use of labor in the production of commodities renders the concept
of labor value itself useless. Part of the problem has already been indicated —
a part with which we all agreed — namely the continued existence of vast
amounts of work of reproducing labor power. That leads to another part of the
problem: how Marx (and the rest of us) define "labor" in commodity production.
In the much debated 1857 Grundrisse "fragment on machines", by juxtaposing
"direct human labor" employed on machines (fixed capital) to "the general state of
science", "the general powers of the human head" or the "general intellect", Marx
was clearly employing the term "labor" in a restrictive manner, a term denoting
manual labor. Ten years later, in the first volume of Capital, in his
analysis of "the labor process" in Chapter 7, no such restriction applied. There
he defined labor as workers using tools/machines to transform non-human nature
into commodities. But, in an oft-quoted passage, he also pointed out how the
worst of human architects was better than the best of bees (who systematically
make nice hexagonal structures) because human architects first conceive their
projects in their minds before carrying them out. Thus in Capital, "labor"
includes both manual labor and mental labor, or the "power of the human head" whose
collective work constitutes "the general intellect" and generates science and
technology (the application of science to industry that leads to machines, new
production processes, new products, etc.). In other words, to the tendency of
capital to reduce the need for manual labor in producing commodities, corresponds
a growing need and use for mental labor to develop science and more productive
technology (the basis of relative surplus value). Before and during Marx's time,
manual and mental labor were often closely interwoven in the form of so-called
"skilled labor" but the development and deployment of machines, while requiring
only deskilled labor to tend them, also required skilled mental labor to develop
them. Thus the rise of science and engineering as distinct professions —
professions characterized by mental labor.(67)
Thus, for some of us, Marx's "general intellect" was/is no disembodied, abstract
social force, but one very much embodied in an expanding part of the labor force.
Although Marx's analysis in chapters 12-15 of volume I of Capital of the
rise of machine industry implied such an expansion, he focused, instead, on the
tendential reduction in the need for manual labor.

If, therefore, a declining need for manual labor is offset by a rising need for
mental labor, then any tendency toward the reduction in the need for all kinds
of labor must necessarily be slower than it would be without that offset. Moreover,
while the continuing, albeit irregular, rise in labor productivity in commodity
producing industry certainly suggests a decline in the per unit requirements for
labor of all kinds, the methods by which productivity is measured (even today)
undermines such a conclusion. The reason is that those methods ignore the vast
amount of labor engaged in the development of science and technology outside of
commodity producing industry, in separate research institutions, either private
or public, e.g., universities funded by the state, private tuition and donations.
Commodity producing industry effectively taps that labor — by drawing on
its results — to help increase productivity. But because that labor is not
counted in the measurement of inputs, industry-specific measures of labor
productivity are overestimated, and the requirements for labor underestimated.

Added to these considerations is one more fundamental than questions of the kind
or quantity of labor that needs to be taken into account when questioning the
relevance of the labor theory of value. Those, like Mario (and I think we can
include Christian here) who argue that capital is "pushed beyond value",
nevertheless also argue that labor continues to be important but only "as a form
of control of the working class". "Control" is juxtaposed to "value" that is
associated with wealth production. This was a juxtaposition that, even in 1976-77,
made no sense to me. In my reading of Marx's value theory — laid out in a
manuscript first composed in 1974, later published as Reading Capital
Politically in 1978 (see my biographical sketch below) — the
"substance" of value (abstract labor), to use the terminology of Chapter 1 of
Volume I of Capital, was precisely "control."
Adam Smith's labor theory of value was about the
emerging centrality of labor (as opposed to land or trade) in the production of
"the wealth of nations", but Marx's theory was one about the value of labor to
capital as its fundamental vehicle of control — of the ordering of society
according to its own rules and methods. "Useful" labor produced use-values, real
wealth. But "value" was about the social role of labor in capitalism with all
its characteristics of exploitation, alienation and domination. This was the real
reason, for me, for seeing the "economic" not as something separate from the
"political" but as its central mechanism. Therefore, as long as labor — no
matter the kind — is the primary vehicle for the imposition, maintenance
and promulgation of capitalism, Marx's theory of the value of labor to capital
remains essential for focusing our attention on the centrality of the struggle
against work in the struggle to transcend capitalism. So, while I welcomed the
focus on work-as-control, I didn't think it obviated Marx's labor theory of value,
on the contrary.

Let me now turn to George's third objection, namely that confining the role of
work to a vehicle for capitalist command over workers, and hence over society,
implied that the refusal of work only made sense for those few workers in high
tech industries and not for those engaged in unwaged labor. The argument of the
"fragment" that capital's tendency to substitute machines for workers reduced
the need for manual labor in the production of commodities required to reproduce
labor power, seemed (and still seems) to me to be perfectly compatible with a
continuing need for unwaged labor to produce and reproduce labor power.
Moreover, if that is true, then the "refusal of
work", the demand for less work, seemed to some of us just as important for the
unwaged as for the waged. In the sphere of waged labor, the demand for less work
(and the separation of income from work) had long taken the form of demanding
shorter working days (and later shorter working weeks, then years, then life-spans).
In the sphere of unwaged labor, e.g., housework or schoolwork, were not
struggles also aimed at less work? On the one hand, were the phenomena highlighted
in Zerowork #1 of absenteeism on the job (individual actions or collective
wildcat strikes) and in schools (skipping classes, or shutting down schools in
protests). On the other hand, was not the strategy of women demanding that family
wages be diverted into housework-saving devices like washing machines, or by
demanding a sharing of housework by waged spouses, not aimed at less work? Was
not the demand for wages for housework (or schoolwork) aimed at providing more
resources to finance the struggle for less work as well? So it seemed to most of us.

These then were some of the issues discussed and debated among us in that period
leading up to the split and subsequent publication of Zerowork #2. They
were not the only issues, but in the end, they turned out to be decisive ones for
the future of the collective. Finally, I want to emphasize that our debates about
all these issues, at that time, were not so clearly articulated as they became
later on.

The Split

In a March 11, 1977, letter to Peter Linebaugh and George Caffentzis, Ferruccio
related how he had chosen to side with Mariarosa Dalla Costa in a conflict with
Toni Negri. “On this side of the ocean,” he wrote, “painful as it has been, I have
said goodbye to the people at the Instituto (Toni included) and have sided with
Mariarosa. If I had done otherwise, it would have been a nasty piece of old
Stalinism.” Unfortunately, he provided no details of the nature of the conflict
or the course of its unfolding — some of which remains obscure to me, even
today. That same day things came to a head in New York.

In a letter he wrote three days later, Peter told Ferruccio, “ZW has split.” His
letter contains the most precise details of the split that I have been able to
find and corresponds to my own memories, so I will quote it at length.

Last Friday evening [March 11, the same day Ferruccio wrote his letter] the ZW
editorial board (North American editors!) met in Manhattan. We were joined by
Sam Weinstein and Paul Layton. Paolo, George, Peter Taylor, Phil Mattera, Harry
Cleaver, Bruno Ramirez and myself constitute the ZW collective here. The first
item on our agenda was to discuss, once again, Christian Marrazzi’s article “Money
in the World Crisis”. Have you seen this article? We’ve had several discussions
here about it. Phil Mattera has re-written and edited it twice. Paolo has written
Marazzi about it a couple of times. Already it has caused an “international
debate”. The objections here are, in my opinion, confused: they have never been
written down. Some find it obscure and difficult. Others don’t like the “marxology”
in it. Mainly it has been interpreted as an attack upon wage struggles, an attack
upon the struggles of women for wages. All of us to one degree or another share
some of these objections, though only George and Peter Taylor consider the last
objection to have any merit.

Our meeting began with Sam Weinstein attacking the piece. George and Peter Taylor
attacked the piece. Paolo defended it for an hour or so. The attacks became
increasingly heated and incoherent. Peter Taylor and George were attempting to
provoke Paolo into resigning. He did not fall for this, of course. Everyone
wanted to continue the discussion the next morning on the basis of a discussion
of George’s long review of The Power of Women and the Subversion of the
, a good article because it has so many long quotations form that
pamphlet. We agreed to meet Saturday morning.

Bruno, Paolo and I went to the Bronx to sleep. We had a long discussion about
Christian’s article. Bruno has many reservations about it, and the discussion
between Bruno and Paolo was especially important to both of them. At the same
time, I filled Bruno in on the London meeting (though he had seen my minutes and
transcription of the meeting) and of a September meeting in which I had criticized
that If We’re So Powerful… pamphlet I showed you last summer.

Meanwhile, George, Taylor, Weinstein, Layton were meeting in Brooklyn with Selma,
Sylvia and Judy Ramirez. At 3:00am those men returned to Manhattan to wake up
Phil and Harry. They told them that they had expelled Paolo and insisted that
Harry and Phil “choose” and meet in Brooklyn the next morning. They left Manhattan
and they took the subscription list. At 4:00am Harry and Phil phoned George
saying they wanted to have another conversation to “understand what was going on,”
but this conversation had to be with George alone. George refused.

Saturday morning Taylor phones Bruno to say that Paolo had been expelled and to
go to Brooklyn for a meeting. They argue. Bruno is furious and concludes that
George and Peter are “following a script” that Selma wrote and was first played
out in Toronto last year. George phones Paolo saying that he’s expelled from ZW
and to return all copies [Paolo has five or six] of ZW1 to George. It went from
bad to worse. George won’t talk to me on the phone. Finally, I get him and he
says the meeting has been changed to 6:00pm Sunday night, knowing that I will
have had to leave NY Sunday morning to get back to Rochester.

Phil, a friend of George’s, is not “allowed” to talk to George as Sam Weinstein
tells him on the phone. Phil goes to the bank and transfers the funds from the
ZW account, to which George has access, to his personal account, a smart dude is
Phil. Phil then goes to Brooklyn. Sam won’t let him in the door. Phil finds George
at Sylvia’s. George tells Phil that he must sign an introduction saying that
“wages for housework is the class perspective”. He has 24 hours to decide. George
tells Phil “I am Zerowork.”

Bruno, Paolo and I go to Manhattan. We see Harry and we wait for Phil. We’re
pretty low, but we talk. Phil wants to go ahead with ZW2. He wants to talk about
the Marazzi piece again. I say I’m willing also to work on ZW2 (generally I’ve
done the production). I also hold the inventory, the leaflets . . . and I have
a ZW account too. Maybe we can pick up the pieces. Bruno will need time to think.
He has personal clarity and is ready to split cleanly from the wages-for-housework
oriented men’s group in Toronto. Two years of his political labors have been
thrown in his face. He’s very tough. George tells him he is no longer to be
trusted because he didn’t “choose” fast enough. Harry cannot come to the Sunday
night meeting in Brooklyn. Harry’s now with us.

To this account I will add only the following. A day or two after this attempted
“coup”, I was able to meet with George. Not only was I presented with the same
choice but he informed me that anyone, myself included, who desired to remain
part of the Zerowork collective would be required, henceforth, to clear anything
they proposed to publish — in Zerowork or anywhere else — to
what amounted to a "central committee". In other words, participants in Zerowork
would be required to toe the line, with that line clearly being set by the leaders
of Wages for Housework.

Immediately following Peter’s account above, he noted, “It was all very sad. It
was not hard on me personally. My heart and soul took some blows in London and
in the September meeting. But for everybody else there were deep emotional
thrusts.”(70) This was very true, this
attempted — and botched — coup ruptured friendships that, in some
cases, had lasted decades. Peter went on, “I thought this is ignominy. This is
Trot faction fighting of the 1950s. That is more than a 'parallel' because the
hidden hand of the weekend was formed precisely in those 50s faction fights.” The
“hidden hand”, of course, was that of Selma James, an individual whose insights
I admired, and continue to admire, but whose sectarian political tactics and
behaviors I have come to loath.(71)

As the reader might imagine, not only was the behavior of those attempting to
“take over” Zerowork intolerable, but the conditions laid out for future
collaboration were totally unacceptable to the other editors. None of us in New
York that weekend would submit to such “discipline” and George and Peter found
themselves on their own instead of head editors of a new Zerowork
subsidiary of Wages for Housework, Inc.

In retrospect, this attempt to impose a party line and party discipline should
not, perhaps, have been such a surprise. It was not just conflicting evaluations
of the Marazzi piece slowing down efforts to produce Zerowork #2 that
might have signaled the existence of unbridgeable disagreements. As early as
November 1975, in discussing John Merrington’s relation to the editorial board,
some wanted to condition his continued association with us on his position on
Wages for Housework.(72) Increasingly,
individual initiatives were more and more being constrained by demands that
everything be sanctioned collectively. Once the first issue of Zerowork
was published and circulated, resistance emerged to allowing individuals to
respond to critics. For example, when Phil wrote a long-delayed response to Peter
Rachleff’s friendly but critical review that was published in The Fifth Estate,
pressure was put on him not to publish it and insistence that all responses should
be collective.(73) Things as mundane as the
exchange of ads with other publications became the object of a political evaluation
of the other publications and an assessment of whether we should be associated
with them even to the degree of such an exchange — as if printing an ad
amounted to a political endorsement.(74) These
kinds of developments turned out to have been foreshadowings of the kind of
strict discipline that the Wages for Housework partisans sought to impose the
weekend of March 11-13, 1977.

At any rate, Peter immediately wrote to Christian Marazzi and John Merrington in
England and to Ferruccio and Bruno Cartosio in Italy about what had happened,
about our decision to go ahead and produce Zerowork #2 and solicited
their feedback about how to proceed with the Zerowork project as a whole. Christian
and John’s response came quickly, supported our decision and discussed how to
move ahead. For their part, they were amenable to revisions in Marazzi’s article
but were also proceeding with their plan to produce a book — Money and the
Proletarians — that would include his ideas along with other aspects of
the work they had all been doing on the changing role of money in the class
politics of the crisis.(75)

Unfortunately, within a month or so, we heard from Ferruccio in Padua that he
did not want us to include his article on class composition and US direct investment
in Zerowork #2.(76) He didn’t explain
why, just as he hadn’t explained the nature of the conflict in Padua that had led
to his parting of the ways from Toni Negri and other comrades at the Institute
of Political Science. In the light of what we had so recently experienced, we
could only guess at the pressure that had been brought to bear and at the
likelihood of gross misrepresentations of events in New York. We begged for
explanations but none were forthcoming.(77)
To our considerable chagrin, Ferruccio followed the withdrawal of his article by
his own withdrawal as Corresponding Editor of Zerowork. As a result,
Bruno Cartosio, working at a distance from the intrigues in Padua, enthusiastically
cried “Don’t stop! Put out ZW2 as soon as possible!” and became our new
Corresponding Editor in Italy.(78)

Discussion Groups

In the wake of the split in the editorial collective, along with work completing
Zerowork #2 went efforts to draw sympathetic readers of Zerowork #1
into closer discussion. One result of those efforts was the creation of study
groups in both New York City and Austin, Texas. In New York, a "Wednesday Night
Zerowork Group" was formed and in Austin a parallel group also came together on
a regular basis. In both cases, some 15-25 people engaged in regular discussion
about the contents of Zerowork #'s 1 & 2, possible content of
Zerowork #3 and more generally the raison d'être of the journal and its
strengths and weaknesses as a political project. These groups included local
editors — Phil Matera and Paolo Carpignano in New York and Harry Cleaver in
Austin — but most participants were friends and comrades drawn in from
outside the editorial circle. Most came from academic workplaces, either
professors or students. In many cases, the students had been previously exposed
to the ideas of Zerowork through lectures or extra-curricular study
groups. Others from outside included a few from the New York City Kapitaliststate
group. As is usual in such undertakings, some participated regularly; others
came and went. Unlike the earlier Struggle Against Work Collectives, these groups
included both men and women. Interests of participants varied, from extending
previous work on the New York City fiscal crisis to discussion and debate about
the theoretical and political sources of the ideas in the journal
(79) as well as about what those ideas implied
for answering the old question "What Is To Be Done?"(80)

With respect to this last question, there was considerable discussion of more
engagement with people in struggle beyond our own, largely academic, workplaces.
One past example to which reference was often made, was Peter Linebaugh's work
with the prisoners' movement, work in which his research on the working class
and crime in the 18th Century was brought to bear on contemporary struggles. One
much discussed possibility was the further elaboration of contacts and collaboration
with coal miner struggles. Bill Cleaver, whose contribution to Zerowork #1
was the piece on wildcats in Appalachia, followed up by working with a West Virginia
activist Wess Harris, to compose a new article about more recent coal miner
struggles in that area.(81) Their work also
inspired Bill's brother, Harry, while on a trip to the state of Bihar, India to
contact miners in Dhanbad, the coal mining center of that region.
It also inspired Mike Wustner, a comrade
from the New School — who had grown up in Montana — to consider
contacting those working in Western strip mining.(83)
Finally, Harry's work on food crises in Eastern Europe had revealed the role of
coal miner struggles in Silesia, Poland and raised the possibility of building
contacts there. Of all these possibilities, only the new essay by Bill and Wess
was actually realized.

End Result: Zerowork #2

The upshot of the departure of George, Peter Taylor and Ferruccio from the Editorial
collective was a reassessment of everything that had gone before, including
proposals for the content and form of the second issue.

With respect to content, the withdrawal of Ferruccio’s essay on class composition
and US direct investment, reduced the draft manuscripts in hand to: a revision
of Donna Demac & Phil’s essay on the fiscal crisis of NYC, which NYSAW had already
published as a pamphlet, one essay by Harry on food crises and another on global
capitalist planning(84), Christian’s much-debated
essay on the crisis of the money form and a piece Phil was composing on post-war

With respect to form, there were two substantive decisions.

First, critiques of the first issues' poor aesthetic qualities led was a concerted
effort to find illustrations to visually break up, and complement, the texts —
something that had not been done in Zerowork #1. Indeed, only the cover
by Massironi had demonstrated any attention to aesthetics at all. This was
accomplished by locating and including a series of photographs, drawings, etc.
appropriate to each individual article.

Second, instead of simply presenting another set of essays embodying our interpretation
of the crisis, we decided to pitch, at least some of them at specific audiences.
This had been the original objective of the essay on the New York City fiscal
crisis, as it originated in a pamphlet distributed in the city. We decided that
we could also shape at least two of the other essays — the one on food and
the one on post-war Vietnam — with a view to particular audiences. In the
case of the essay on food crisis, Harry composed his essay, in part, as a
conscious intervention into the "food movement" that had been set in motion by
the hardships caused by rising food prices and spreading famine in the early 1970s
— the browning of that "Green Revolution", so touted during the Development
Decade of the 1960s.(85) In the case of the
essay on post-war Vietnam, Phil aimed, in part, at all of us who had been involved
in struggle against the war on Vietnam. We spelled out these motivations in two
flyers prepared to accompany copies sent, gratis, to particular individuals and

The flyer for the food article contained the following suggestion,

We think the implications of this analysis are far reaching for all those
involved in the food movement. It means first that while we must always study
the mechanisms of oppression, we must above all study the struggles, which have
gone on and are going on against those mechanisms. We must try to grasp the fact
that the fight for food is part of a larger fight that is proceeding on many
levels and in many places, and that a "food movement" can only be effective if
it addresses itself to the problem of speeding up the circulation of those struggles. . . .
Secondly, the analysis of the similarities of the struggles around food in Eastern
Europe and the Soviet Union, along with Mattera's article on Vietnam in this
issue, raise serious questions about the search for alternative 'socialist'

The flyer for the Vietnam article included a quotation from the June 3, 1977 issue
of the Far Eastern Economic Review relating how:

A major incentive to foreigners investing in Vietnam is the availability of
cheap labor, with average wages of US$20-25 a month . . . Vietnamese officials
[have] underlined the investment advantage of Vietnam's political stability . . .
Citibank officials seem impressed by the seriousness of the Vietnamese and their
accommodating attitudes."(86)

Initial discussions of available materials and of past ideas of what to include
in Zerowork #2, combined with an assessment of editors' available time
and energy, led to a decision to finish polishing the five draft manuscripts and
to compose two more: an introduction and an essay on "restructuration" that would
provide an overview of our struggles that had precipitated the crisis and of
capitalist counterattacks.(87) Paolo and Harry
took on the job of drafting those two. The first would be completed; the second
would not. At the same time, efforts continued to distribute Zerowork,
using pretty much the same methods as before, but included designing a new
advertisement for placement in other Left journals (no longer considered a
problematic political act).

The introduction, as one might imagine, went through several revisions and all
the editors had input into those revisions. Most importantly, the introduction
was composed, in part, to respond to criticisms that we had not juxtaposed our
position in Zerowork #1 to more traditional Marxist and Marxist-Leninist
ones. Because the articles in the second issue were framed as moments of a global
class confrontation, we began responding more directly by differentiating our
understanding of the crisis from traditional, and contemporary, theories of
imperialism (including dependency and world-systems theories). Rejecting the
usual analysis of imperialism in terms of competition between blocs of capitalists
and their governments (often with the complicity of an opportunistic labor
aristocracy in the "center"), we argued for rethinking such conflicts in terms
of the dynamics of class struggle evolving differentially over time and space,
as driven by working class struggle at home and a desperate search by capital
for weaker foreign labor power or cheaper raw materials to pit against domestic
troublemakers or to compensate for necessary concessions.

As it turned out, neither the proposed essay on "restructuration" nor Harry's
existing essay on global capitalist planning would be included in Zerowork #2.
The reasons for the failure to compose the essay on "reconstruction" are not
clear, either in my (and others') memory or in what written records remain of
our discussions and correspondence. I suspect the main reasons concerned the
press of time and limited energy. The press of time derived from the split.
George's affirmation that weekend that he, Sam Weinstein and Peter Taylor
considered themselves Zerowork suggested that they would try to put out
their own version of Zerowork #2. The rest of us had serious doubts
about their ability to do so, even with the help of their comrades in Wages for
Housework. But not knowing, we felt it important to get Zerowork #2
published fairly soon to establish continuity and reaffirm the identity of the
journal.(89) The limited available energy
derived partly from the negative psychological effects of the split and partly
from other obligations. Paolo's energies were being absorbed by his waged job;
Harry's were being soaked up mainly by his work on the food piece — which,
because of its scope, wound up being by far the longest of the essays, even
after editing — but also by his new job teaching in Texas that started in
September 1976.(90)

The exclusion of Harry's essay on global capitalist planning was due to lack of
space and a decision about priorities. We had decided to limit the length of the
second issue to 150 pages and, after estimating the printed length of all the
essays, realized that its inclusion would require substantial cutting somewhere
else — most obviously in Harry's long essay on food crises. We decided in
favor of retaining the integrity of the food piece and excluding the planning essay.

This then was the final line-up of the contents of Zerowork: Political
Materials 2
sent to the printers in early September 1977; copies would come
back on September 10.


Harry Cleaver, "Food, Famine and the International Crisis",
Philip Mattera, "National Liberation, Socialism and the Struggle Against Work:
The Case of Vietnam,

Christian Marazzi, "Money in the World Crisis: The New Basis of Capitalist Power"

Donna Demac & Philip Mattera, "Developing and Underdeveloping New York: The
'Fiscal Crisis' and the Imposition of Austerity",

Letters [one from Pete Rachleff in Pittsburgh, one from Geoffrey Kay in London].

Brief Biographies of the Editors of Zerowork #2 (1977)

Paolo Carpignano – see the previous section on the genesis of Zerowork #1.

Harry Cleaver (1944 - ) An American, I grew up with my younger brother in
conservative rural Ohio but with middleclass, liberal democratic parents. We
went to the same public schools but whereas my brother became politically engaged
early on, in high school, my political activity dated from the Civil Rights
Movement during my studies at Antioch College (1962-1967) — mentioned in
George Caffentzis' biographical sketch. Those studies included an academic year
at l'Université de Montpellier in France (1964-65) where I met numerous
Vietnamese students who questioned me about growing US involvement in their
country.(91) Those questions — to which
I had no satisfactory answers — being, at that time, a biochemistry major
— drove me to the study of American imperialism, to a B.A. in Economics
and to subsequent graduate studies in economics at Stanford University (1967-71).
While in France, I was also confronted by French feminists who critiqued my
typical Mid-Western male chauvinism and challenged me to read and respond to
Simon de Beauvoir's Le Deuxième Sexe (1949). Doing so converted me —
at a theoretical level — to feminism and set me on a never-ending path to
bring my praxis into line with my theory.

At Stanford, I was deeply involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement. That involvement
included: 1) participation in the local chapter of Students for a Democratic
Society (SDS)(92), 2) research on Stanford's
involvement in the war and capitalist strategy in the Pacific Basin more generally,
3) founding — with other anti-capitalist activists and researchers — a
radical think tank, the Pacific Studies Center, and 4) dissertation research
analyzing the historical origins of the Green Revolution — an agricultural
strategy designed to undermine peasant unrest and, in Indochina, to complement
US military counterinsurgency. That research continued during the three years
I taught at l'Université de Sherbrooke in Québec (1971-1974) —
accompanied by the study of Marx, Hegel and the writings of French Marxist
anthropologists Maurice Godelier, Pierre-Philip Rey and Claude Meillassoux.

Those studies led me to frame my dissertation in terms of the interaction of
modes of production. Dissatisfaction, however, with the inability of that framing
to give due weight to the struggles of peasants against whom the new agricultural
technologies were aimed, led me to closer scrutiny of Marx's value theory and to
working out a new reading in terms of the value of labor to capital and workers'
struggles against work. Those studies had two outcomes. First, they included the
composition of an essay that would turn out to be the first draft of my later book
Reading Capital Politically (1978). Second, when I moved to
New York City to teach Marx in the Graduate Program of the New School for Social
Research (1974-1976), my reinterpretation of value categories in class terms
predisposed me to an immediate interest in the kinds of theoretical innovations
grounding the analysis in Zerowork.

Finishing my dissertation in the fall of 1974 provided time and energy for me to
participate in the Zerowork collective. By that time, capitalist policy makers
had complemented the Green Revolution development strategy of increasing food
supplies in some areas with an underdevelopment strategy of dramatic food
shortages, price increases and famine in others. Given my previous research, my
contribution to the second issue of Zerowork would be a long article on
"Food, Famine and International Crisis."

My earlier student activism, conversion to feminism in France, studies of mostly
unwaged peasant struggles in Southeast Asia, and work on value theory, all
contributed to my openness to the Wages for Housework analysis of the unwaged.
On the one hand, that analysis helped shape my work on Marx's value theory and
on the food crisis of the early 1970s. On the other hand, it made me amenable
to collaborating with George Caffentzis, Philip Mattera, Larry Cox and others
in organizing the Income Without Work Committee, that soon became New York Struggle
Against Work, and in organizing resistance to the austerity measures then being
imposed on both waged and unwaged in the city.

When differences over the relationship between Zerowork and Wages for Housework
reached an impasse in early 1977, I aligned myself with those who sought to
retain the independence of the Zerowork collective rather than with those who
sought to subordinate it to WfH. In the midst of these conflicts and parting
of the ways, and in response to an invitation by graduate students, I took a
new job at the University of Texas in Austin and left New York City in the
Summer of 1977. In Austin, I organized a new discussion group around the analysis
of Zerowork and its usefulness in understanding various aspects of the
ongoing crisis. (See "Background: from Zerowork #2 to Zerowork
#3" on this webpage.)

Peter Linebaugh – see the previous section on the genesis of Zerowork #1

Philip Mattera (1953 – ) An Italian-American from Brooklyn, New York, Mattera
was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement in high school and while at St. John's
College in Annapolis, Maryland, where he wrote his senior thesis on Marx. He met
the Zerowork and Wages for Housework crowd while studying political economy at
the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research and simultaneously
working as a news and public affairs producer at listener-sponsored WBAI radio.
He participated in the New York Struggle Against Work collective and, with Donna
Demac, wrote the pamphlet Developing and Underdeveloping New York: The
"Fiscal Crisis" and a Strategy for Fighting Austerity
(June 1976). Working
within the Zerowork collective, he reworked that pamphlet into an article for
Zerowork #2. He also contributed a second article on postwar Vietnam.

Bruno Ramirez – see the previous section on the genesis of Zerowork #1

John Merrington – see the previous section on the genesis of Zerowork #1

Christian Marazzi (1951 - ) Born in Lugano, Switzerland, with Italian as his
mother tongue, Christian studied first at the Lyceum of the State of Ticino in
that country, then the Instituto di Scienze Politich at the University of Padua,
Italy (1971-1975), where he worked with Toni Negri and took his Doctorate degree,
and finally at the London School of Economics (1975-76) and the City University of
London (1976) where he worked with Geoffrey Kay. In both Padua and in London,
Christian’s research focused on the post-WWII international monetary system of
fixed exchange rates. With Kay and John Merrington, Christian began to study —
in class terms — the crisis of that system that emerged in the late 1960s,
came to a head with Nixon’s abandonment of tie between the dollar and gold in
1971 and mutated into more or less floating exchange rates among major hard
currencies. One fruit of these studies was his contribution to Zerowork #2,
"Money in the World Crisis: The New Basis of Capitalist Power."

Bruno Cartosio (1943 - ) An Italian, Bruno was born and reared in Tortona,
a commune of about 30,000 inhabitants in the Piedmont region, about 40 miles south
of Milan. The son of a foundry worker and a laundress, who started their own
small businesses after the Second World War, Bruno was the first in his family
to go to college. Son of a father aligned with the Communist Party of Italy (PCI),
and nephew of an uncle who had been an active anti-fascist before the war
(jailed in 1931) and a partisan during the war (jailed in 1944), he grew up in
a highly politicized family and began participating in politics at age 13. He
entered the Università degli Studi di Milano in 1964 — where he met
Ferruccio Gambino. In the years 1967-1972, Milan was one of the main centers of
student unrest — a wave of struggle in which Bruno participated. As a
result of his interest in the Black civil rights struggles in the US, he wrote
his dissertation on "Il problema negro nella storiografia statunitense e nella
letteratura afroamericana" ("The 'Negro' problem in American Historiography and
Afro-American Literature"), obtained a degree in American studies and after
graduation headed for North America.

He went to Canada where, for two academic years (1969-1971), he taught Italian
at McGill University in Montreal. While there, he started, with a few others,
the "Mouvement Progressiste Quebecois" and published a newspaper Il Lavoratore,
both of which continued for some ten years after he returned to Italy. In Montreal,
he once met C. L. R. James, who went to lecture there and thanks to an introduction
from Ferruccio, he also traveled to Detroit where he met Jessie and Marty Glaberman.

Soon after his return to Milan, Bruno translated for Italian publishers George
Rawick’s, From Sundown to Sunup; C. L. R. James’s, The Atlantic Slave
Trade and Slavery
; Herbert Gutman’s Work, Culture and Society and
edited a collection of James, Gutman and Harold Baron's essays in 1973. In 1976,
he also collected and translated into Italian a number of articles and essays by
Glaberman, writing an introduction dealing with the history of the
“Johnson-Forest tendency” and the “Correspondence” and “Facing Reality” collectives.
His friendship and political-intellectual
exchange with the Glabermans and Rawick lasted until their deaths.

Along with Sergio Bologna, who, in the early 1970s, taught at the University of
Padua, and the bookstore owner-publisher Primo Moroni, he launched the
historical-political journal Primo Maggio, whose first issue came out
in 1973 and which he continued publishing until 1988. Primo Maggio
provided a forum for the main lines of research that characterized a
political-intellectual left, which jealously defended its independence from both
the institutional political parties (Communist and Socialist), and the formations
of the so-called “extraparliamentary left” (Potere operaio, Lotta continua,
Avanguardia operaia, Il manifesto…). During most of its life, Primo Maggio
loosely belonged in the “camp” of the Italian workerist thought. It was mainly
through it, and thanks to travels to the US, while teaching American literature
and history at the University of Milan, that Bruno met some of the people involved
in the publication of Zerowork — Peter Linebaugh, Phil Mattera,
Silvia Federici, Paolo Carpignano, and Bruno Ramirez.


1 Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly
Capital: the Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century
, New York; Monthly
Review Press, 1974.

2 One fruit of Holloway and Picciotto's work on
the state would be published two years later: an edited collection of translated
contributions to the "state derivation" debate in Germany, State and Capital:
A Marxist Debate
, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1978.

3 CSE, The Labour Process & Class
, CSE Pamphlet no. 1, London: Stage 1, 1976.

4 In Zerowork #2, Merrington and Marazzi
are listed as belonging to the Editorial Collective but Robby considered
everyone in the London Group to be acting collectively in terms of both contributing
to the journal's content and distributing it in England.
Letter from Robby to Paolo, Phil, Peter etc., April 28, 1977.

5 There were several “heterodox” moments in the
history of economics but probably the most important one in the United States in
the 20th Century was “institutionalism” — a tradition that some trace back
to Thorstein Veblen but most recognize to include such luminaries as Clarence
Ayres, John Commons, Wesley Mitchell and John Kenneth Galbraith. Several
economists in this tradition played important roles in the Roosevelt administration
of the 1930s, helping to craft new institutions for new times. Those who do not
simply draw on that tradition but style themselves institutionalists even have
their own journal. A few economics departments — mostly in Midwestern and
Plains states — were still, in the 1970s, dominated by economists with
such views. The Department of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin was
one such place. It was partly study with institutionalists that led students there
to be curious about Marx, to fight for three years to get a Marxist hired and to
finally succeed in getting a job offered to Harry Cleaver in the Spring of 1976.

6 The term “economics” replaced “political economics”
around the turn of the Century, from the 19th to the 20th. Since the time of Adam
Smith, whose Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, the term political
economy was commonly used — until the embrace of a calculus-based marginalist
analysis and discomfort with the evolution of political conflicts around economic
issues led to its abandonment and its replacement with “economics” in the United
States and Britain and with “la science économique” in France.

7 This was also true with a few who did call
themselves Marxist, although many taught courses in “heterodox economics” or
“political economy”, titles that caused less worry among both mainstream colleagues
and university administrators.

8 As the reader will discover below, we later
decided that our failure to make greater efforts to engage many of those we
initially judged to be beyond the pale was a major flaw in our whole project.

9 One such radio appearance was a debate between
George Caffentzis and Murray Bookshin on WBAI (Pacifica Radio) in New York on
January 28, 1976, 4-6pm. The debate centered on the how to respond to the
imposition of austerity and cutbacks in social services. Bookshin argued that the
crisis provided an opportunity for people in the city to develop modes of mutual
aid. Caffentzis saw that as "[self] managing our poverty" and argued for
fighting for the restoration of services.

10 Bruno was a professor of history at the
Universita degli studi di Milano whose research focused on the United States and
included the history of the Johnson-Forest-Facing Reality groups. He would publish
a collection of Martin Glaberman’s writings Classe operaia imperialismo e
rivoluzione negli USA
, Torino: Musolini, 1976.

11 Yann was, at that time, a student in Paris
working on his doctorat d’état. He would go on to create and edit the
autonomist journal Babylone, and later in collaboration with Toni Negri
in Parisian exile, the journal Futur Antèrieur and still later

12 Peter Linebaugh to Monty Neil, February 22,
1976. Peter’s answer to Monty’s question is actually much longer and more involved
but the above quotation is typical of our frequent refusal to enter into the
usual “fantastical” imagination about post-capitalist society.

13 See some examples from this period. Mario
Cogoy, "The Fall of the Rate of Profit and the Theory of Accumulation, A Reply to
Paul Sweezy," Bulletin of the Conference of Socialist Economists, Winter
1973, pp.52-67. Geoff Hodgson, "The Theory of the Falling Rate of Profit," New
Left Review
, 1974. Michael A. Lebowitz, "Marx's Falling Rate of Profit:
A Dialectical View," Canadian Journal of Economics IX, (2), May 1976,
pp. 232-254.

14 Paul Baran (1909-1964) and Paul Sweezy
(1910-2004), Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social
, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1966. Sweezy, Paul M. "On the Theory
of Monopoly Capitalism," Monthly Review, April 1972. Andre Gunder Frank,
“World Crisis, Class Struggle and 1984,” in URPE, Radical Perspectives on the
Economic Crisis of Monopoly Capitalism
, (a reader), 1975.

15 See for example, Andrew Glyn and Bob Sutcliffe,
British Capitalism, Workers and the Profit Squeeze, London: Penguin 1972.
Andrew Glyn, "Notes on the Profit Squeeze," Bulletin of the Conference of
Socialist Economists
, February 1975. Raford Boddy and James R. Crotty, "Class
Conflict and Macro-Policy: The Political Business Cycle," Review of Radical
Political Economics
, Vol. 7, No. 1, April 1975, pp. 1-19. Raford Boddy and
James R. Crotty, "Wages, Profits and the Profit Squeeze," Review of Radical
Political Economics
, Vol. 8, No.2, Summer 1976, pp. 63-67. James O'Connor,
The Fiscal Crisis of the State, Transaction Publishers, 1973.

16 Francis Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward,
Poor People's Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail, New York:
Pantheon Books, 1977.

17 Peter Rachleff had taken a B.A. in Sociology
at Amherst College in 1973 and was at this time working on his Ph.D with David
Montgomery at the University of Pittsburgh. He published Marxism and Council
Communism: The foundation for revolutionary theory for modern society
, Brooklyn:
Revisionist Press, 1976. His review of Zerowork was published in The
Fifth Estate
, Whole No. 278, Volume 12, No. 2, November 1976, p. 7.

18 Paul Mattick,

Marx and Keynes: The Limits of the Mixed Economy
, Boston: Porter
Sargent, 1969. Paul Mattick was the
last important theorist of the Council Communist movement. See the brief discussion
of the disconnect between the tradition treated here and Council Communism in the
section Background: Genesis of Zerowork #1".

19 Panzieri's "Plusvalore e pianificazione:
Appunti di lettura del Capitale," originally published in Quaderni rossi
4, 1964 [?] had been translated into English as "Surplus value and planning: notes
on the reading of Capital," and included in The Labour Process & Class
, published by the CSE a year earlier, in 1976.

20 Negri's "John M. Keynes e la teoria
capitalistica dello stato nel '29", was originally published in Contropiano
in 1968 and republished in Operai e stato in 1972 — a book that
Bruno Ramirez had reviewed for Telos in 1972 and which had been a prime
point of reference for Mario Montano in the essay on “Theses on the Mass Worker
and Capital” that he wrote with Silvia Federici that same year for Radical
. Bruno's review of Operai e stato appeared in Telos,
No. 13, Fall 1972, pp. 140-147. Mario and Silvia's "Theses" appeared in Radical
, Vol. 6, No. 3, May-June 1972, pp. 3-21, under the pseudonym "Guido Baldi".

21 Unfortunately, this failure to reference
materials that would have clarified our reasoning would also be true of the second
issue of Zerowork — and typical of our failure to clearly identify
theoretical work upon which we had drawn.

22 Of course, had we been familiar with the
much earlier work by C. L. R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya we might have referred
Peter Rachleff all the way back to their writings on state capitalism. (See the
discussion in the section on Background: Genesis of
Zerowork #1"
on this webpage.)

23 The first issue of the journal
Kapitalistate: Working Papers on the Capitalist State appeared in 1973.
The eleventh and last (I think) was published in 1983.

24 Peter Linebaugh to the City University
Kapitaliststate Collective, September 1977. Given that several members
of that Collective later participated in regular discussions with Zerowork folks
in New York City, they perhaps explained themselves more clearly. Unfortunately,
I was, by that time, in Austin and have seen no record of such discussions.

25 Ibid.

26 Other loci of concentrated debate over the
nature of the state could be found in England (around the CSE), France and Germany.
See some examples, in English, from the period being discussed here. Nicos Poulantzis,
"The problem of the capitalist state", New Left Review, No. 58, 1969, pp.
67-78, reprinted in Robin Blackburn, Ideology in Social Sciences: Readings in
Critical Social Theory
, London: Fontana Press, 1972. Ralph Milliband, The
State in Capitalist Society: The Analysis of the Western System of Power
, 1969.
Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, London: Lawrence &
Wishart, 1971. John Holloway and Sol Picciotto (eds), State and Capital: A
Marxist Debate
, London: Edward Arnold Ltd, 1978, that includes several English
translations from the debate in Germany. Bob Jessup, "Recent Theories of the
Capitalist State," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp.
353-73, reprinted as chapter 1 in Bob Jessup, State Theory: Putting Capitalist
States in their Place
, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press,
1990. Simon Clarke, "Marxism, Sociology and Poulantzis's Theory of the State",
originally published in the CSE journal Capital and Class, No. 2, 1977
and reprinted in Simon Clarke (ed), The State Debate, London: MacMillan,
1991 that includes an assortment of contributions to the debate, including one
from Kapitalistate. For a later overview, that includes the work of the
French regulationists and the American "social structures of accumulation" theorists,
see Clyde W. Barlow, Critical Theories of the State: Marxist, Neo-Marxist,
, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993.

27 Holloway and Picciotto, Ibid., p. 1.

28 In this, his frustration found an echo in
the responses of some Italian comrades to the first issue. In a letter from Bruno
Cartosio — one of those actively circulating Zerowork in Italy —
can be found the following feedback, “Many of them raised a question . . .about
the organizational perspectives that are to be attached to the analysis and
theoretical framework characterizing ZW. It is a curious fact: a practical
rejection of [traditional forms of] organization and a theoretical need for
organizational perspectives do co-exist at the same time in the same comrades.”
Bruno to Peter Linebaugh, June 5, 1976.

29 It was John A. Hobson’s book Imperialism
(1902) that Lenin and Bukharin both reworked using Marxist concepts. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin,
Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, (1916). Nikolai Bukharin,
Imperialism and World Economy (1915, 1917).

30 The Soviet and the American governments and
their ideologists, of course, (as well as many others) portrayed the Cold War as
an epic battle between socialism and capitalism. Trotskyists, although they
collectively interpreted Stalinism as a betrayal of socialism, came in 57 varieties
with 57 different interpretations — including seeing the Soviet Union as
state capitalist, as in the cases of the Johnson-Forest Tendency, Facing Reality
and News & Letters whose analyses (discussed in Background:
Genesis of Zerowork #1"
) were more or less shared by those in the
Zerowork collective.

31 The term “dependency” denoted the view that
within an interlocked global capitalist system, some peripheral areas, countries
and peoples were dependent on others more central to that system. Those in the
periphery were also often seen to be subject to underdevelopment — understood
as what happens when capital disinvests in one previously developed area in favor
of more profitable investment elsewhere.

32 This was even true in those Marxist critiques
of dependency and world system theory that took its authors to task for focusing
too much on international trade while neglecting to either recognize or analyze
differences in the sphere of production. Their own focus on production tended to
accept some variation on Althusser’s mode of production analysis that, in his main
writings and in those of a great many of his followers, failed to recognize how
the dynamics of capitalist accumulation is driven and shaped not only by capitalist
efforts but also by workers’ struggles.

33 Geoffrey Kay, Development and Underdevelopment:
A Marxist Analysis
, London: Macmillan, 1975. Geoff had already submitted
two other essays to the collective, one on the tendency of the rate of profit to
fall and one on abstract labor. These were deemed interesting but unsuited to the
intended contents of the second issue. His essay on the tendency of the rate of
profit to fall would be published later that year as "The falling rate of profit,
unemployment and crisis", in Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory, vol. 6,
Issue 1, 1976, pp. 55-75.

34 From a letter from Ferruccio to Peter L,
August 8, 1975. The original translator of his article from Italian to English
was Julian Bees.

35 Its availability is emblematic of the more
general phenomenon that within a relatively short time following the split in
Zerowork (detailed below) those editors who had gone their separate ways once
again collaborated, and continue to do so today.

36 This would be obvious in Harry Cleaver’s
article on the international debt crisis that identified the NYC bank and local
government strategy of using debt against working class struggle as the model
and proving ground for the strategies deployed by the International Monetary Fund
and the World Bank against workers in the global South. (Minor variations on this
strategy have since been deployed against the workers of post-communist Eastern
Europe and more recently still against those in Greece, Spain, Portugal, the US
and the rest of the global North. It would also be obvious in the early work of
Midnight Notes that focused on energy crises — a topic much discussed
within the Zerowork collective but barely touched upon in the articles in
Zerowork #1 and #2. See: "Close the IMF, Abolish Debt and End Development:
a Class Analysis of the International Debt Crisis," Capital & Class No. 39,
Winter 1989. On Midnight Notes on energy crises see below.

37 The main Midnight Notes publication dealing
with the oil crisis was
Midnight Oil: Work, Energy, War 1973-1992
, New York:
Autonomedia, 2001, but also see various other of the articles collected on its
website. The most striking and theoretically innovative article in that
collection — which includes 5 of the 7 articles in Zerowork #1 —
is George's "Work/Energy Crisis and the Apocalypse". Whereas Mario's analysis is
limited to the capitalist use of energy against labor, George uses one formulation
of the second law of thermodynamics to examine the growing problem for capital
of sorting workers more willing to work from those more inclined to struggle
against work in its attempt to restructure and regain control over the working

38 An effective capitalist response would not
be found until the end of the decade when President Jimmy Carter appointed Paul
Volcker to the Chairmanship of the FED and he would, in turn, impose high interest
rates, precipitating a global depression that would dramatically eclipse the
earlier "great recession" of the mid-1970s. Retained by in-coming president Ronald
Reagan, Volcker and his policies, coupled with the new administration's attacks
on unions finally achieved falling wages and reduced inflation but only via a
global depression and the international debt crisis of the 1980s and 1990s,
during which the methods used against the people of New York City were wielded world-wide.

39 An at least momentary exception was expressed
by Peter Linebaugh in March 1976 in a letter to Geoff Kay where he wrote of “an
enormous growth of what’s called the 'Marxist-Leninist' movement in the US” and
offered that “I think it was a mistake of ZW1 (among several) not to have engaged
directly (at least in our footnotes or endnotes) with the positions that have
emerged in [at least some parts of] this movement.”

40 Although by no means complete, there are a
great many original letters and copies of letters in the files of the one-time
editors of Zerowork — some of which I have been able to draw upon
for my historical reconstructions. Perhaps one day they will all be deposited in
some archive and become available for a more complete and detailed history.

41 The primary points of reference were the
analyses in Carpignano's piece on
"US Class Composition in the Sixties"
that highlighted welfare rights struggles
and Caffentzis' piece
"Throwing Away the Ladder"
that sketched the human capital strategy that had
guided state investments in both welfare and schools.

42 Banks "roll over" debt when they loan more
money to pay back money already owed. This takes care of immediate debt obligations,
but to the degree that the new loans do not reduce principle, but only pay interest
charges, such "roll over" increases the total amount owed to the banks.

43 The "state" in this history included not
only the city, state and federal governments who participated in imposing this
austerity, but also "Big MAC" — the Municipal Assistance Corporation and
the Financial Control Board — unelected, appointed overseers of this
austerity. The parallels with the recent imposition of an outside authority to
oversee the recent imposition of austerity in Detroit should be obvious.

44 The primary methods used to get into the
subway without buying the official, increasingly expensive tokens were 1) holding
open gates for people to pass without paying, and 2) circulating large quantities
of a very cheap foreign coin (I forget which one) that was exactly the same
size and weight of the much more expensive tokens for the gate machines.

45 See flyer Fight the Fare, Go Thru the Gates!

46 The flyer's demands echoed those chronicled
by Bruno Ramirez's
"The Working Class Struggle Against the Crisis: Self-Reduction of Prices in Italy"
in Zerowork #1. The argument was inspired by the demands by coal miners for "portal to portal" pay, i.e., hourly wages being timed from the entry into coal mines, not from arrival at the veins being worked, which were reached only after long, dangerous vertical and horizontal passages.

47 Although both pamphlets were the result of
collective discussion, the second was drafted by, and its authorship attributed to,
Larry Cox, a member of the New York SAWC.

48 What we had in mind was the ability of workers
to accumulate resources — either personal savings or collective strike funds
— to finance escape from work. Clearly, those at the high end of the wage
hierarchy often got there through the more or less total subordination of their
lives to work and competing with others and thus were not inclined to use their
greater income and wealth to avoid work. This happens even at the level of blue
collar workers as we were reminded in those days by the Elio Petri's 1971 film
La classe operaia va in paradise (variously translated as The Working
Class Goes to Heaven
, or Lulu, the Tool). The film, in which the
central character, Lulu, is played by Gian Maria Volonté, provides a vivid
illustration of the negative side effects of such subordination, a striking
visual portrayal of metal-working piece-work and some hope through collective

49 Phil Mattera to Peter Linebaugh (no date?)
and George Caffentzis to Peter Linebaugh, September 1, 1976.

50 Jim Brophy to Peter Linebaugh, September 22, 1976.

51 Brophy’s remarks were based on his experience
with the split in the Toronto Struggle Against Work Collective that had taken
place earlier that year. See below for more details.

52 Jim Brophy to Peter Linebaugh, March 5, 1976.

53 That Statement was apparently addressed to a
group of students at the University of Waterloo, among whom was Tim Grant, the
author of a two-page spread in the student newspaper titled “Wages for Homework.”
The choice of addressee would seem to be a measure of the depth of the split in
the Toronto SAWC; dialog with Bruno and Peter Taylor was over. But not with the
other editors of Zerowork, because Brophy would continue to discuss
these issues with Peter Linebaugh and share with him their essay on the split.

54 Peter Linebaugh did compose a one-page
response — basically asking for further clarification.

55 At this point in time — 40-odd years
after the debate — it is impossible to recreate all the arguments. But
when comparing this summary with the published essay, it should be remembered
that the final, published form of that essay was the result of several revisions,
in several hands, undertaken in the midst of the debate, with the objective of
crafting something that while not agreed upon in every point was nevertheless
acceptable to all the editors as a point of departure for future discussion.

56 The employment of Marx's concepts of value
was quite explicit in key texts of the Wages for Housework movement, e.g., the
seminal essay by Mariarosa Dalla Costa,
Women and the Subversion of the Community

57 It is always tempting to write the simpler
expression "commodity production" instead of the more cumbersome "the production
of commodities produced and sold for profits", but commodity production includes
the production of the commodity labor power — the most important commodity
of all — that is often sold, but not for profit. In what follows "commodity
producing industry" refers to the capitalist "the production of commodities
produced and sold for profits" and not to the production of labor power —
which has not yet, on the whole, become what is commonly known as "an industry"
however much capital has sought to intervene and manage it.

58 At three different points in his essay,
Christian explicitly pointed to the struggles of the unwaged and at the end,
when he turns to "what is to be done?" he wrote: "Rather it is a matter of
analyzing the successes and failures of the modes of working class organization
in the previous cycle of struggle, primarily the organizations of the unwaged in
the struggles against the state over the social wage."

59 Assuming a general tendency for the utilization
of machinery to displace labor, in Department I as well as in Department II of
Marx's "reproduction schemes" spelled out in the third part of Volume II of
Capital, the reduction in the labor employed to produce consumption goods
would include any reductions in the labor employed in the production of the
tools, machines and raw materials used in the production of consumption commodities.

60 Indeed, a point often made by those who have
studied housework is that despite the success of women in fighting for the
diversion of household income into the purchase and use of labor-saving devices
such as washing machines, changes in standards have often resulted in little or
no reduction in the actual amount of work required.

61 The quantitative relation between values and
prices has been a hotly debated issue throughout the history of Marxism. In
Volume I of Capital, while recognizing that price often differs, quantitatively,
from value, Marx assumes that values = prices. The debate has been fought out
mainly over the interpretation of the material in Volume III on the so-called
"transformation problem". I cannot, however, remember any substantial discussion about that
piece of the theory in the midst of our debates over Christian's essay.

62 Obviously, another interpretation is possible,
namely that the severing of the relationship between value and price is the result
or an effect of the "suppression of the law of value" — in which case the
later remains undefined.

63 Five years later, in an essay published in
the on-line journal The Commoner, George discussed possible interpretations
of "the Law of Value" in more depth while critiquing Negri's, and Hardt and Negri's
rejection of it. See, George Caffentzis,
"Immeasurable Value? An Essay on Marx's Legacy"
, The Commoner, No. 10,
Spring-Summer 2005.

64 Too many Marxists, in my view, have allowed
themselves to be drawn onto the terrain of mainstream economics and felt the
need to prove that Marxian theory can not only explain everything mainstream
economics does, but can do it better and can explain more. By accepting the usual
standard in science that one should only trade in an old theory for a new one if
the new one can explain everything the old one does plus account for anomalies
that the old theory could not account for, they have missed the most vital point.
The purpose of Marxian theory is diametrically opposed to that of mainstream
economic theory and must therefore, be held to completely different standards.

65 NB: neither Marx nor his mainstream contemporaries
conceptualized supply and demand in the manner to which we are accustomed today,
i.e., upward and downward sloping curves denoting how much will be supplied or
demanded at given prices. Those curves became common only after being derived by
the "marginalists" using the calculus in the late 19th Century. [The early work
of Antoine Augustin Cournot (1801-1877) — unknown to Marx — was an
exception; he posited a downward sloping demand curve in 1834.]

66 A fairly dramatic example of this was the
quadrupling of oil prices in 1973-74 with no change in the methods or costs of
production. That quadrupling resulted in the transfer of billions of dollars from
oil importers to oil exporters and all the value — and its command over
labor — those billions represented.

67 This distinction between manual and mental
labor can be, and often is, overblown. In the laboratories where both scientists
and engineers experiment with new ideas, there is often a considerable amount of
manual labor, only some of which is rote work delegated to unskilled assistants.
The same caveat applies to work that appears to be mainly manual; such work often
not only involves — through practice — an intimate understanding of
machines and production processes, but that very understanding often leads to
creative innovation in how machines are set up and used.

68 In other words, that characteristic that
all on-going labor in the capitalist production of commodities (for sale and profit)
has in common, once we abstract from all those particular useful qualities that
produce use-values, is its value as the vehicle of capitalist command over
people's lives.

69 Although the tendency of the organic composition
of capital to rise plays out in the producer good sector just as it does in the
consumer good sector, Marx's interest in the former — with respect to surplus
value — lay in its impact on the reduction of per unit value in the latter
sector. The two sectors Mario used to illustrate the reduced requirement for
labor brought about by the increasing use of machines were those of food —
a consumption good — and energy — a basic input into the production
of consumer goods. Those are also two of the most capital-intensive parts of the

70 Years later, Peter would confess that that
these events actually were hard on him, despite his downplaying their effects
at the time.

71 More on this below. A year later during a
research trip to England, France and Italy, I would discover, at each stop, more
examples of such sectarian behavior — that left a trail of anti-Selma feeling
in its wake, even from those who admired her many insights and analyses of class
and gender relations. See the essay on “Background: From Zerowork #2 to
Zerowork #3” on this website. It was sad, as Peter wrote, to see such
an intelligent individual sow discord and antagonism instead of understanding
and collaboration among more or less like-minded comrades.

72 The primary basis of objections to
Merrington’s continued collaboration was his status as an editor of New Left
. Peter Linebaugh adamantly refused to “tell him that his presence
among us depends on a) withdrawal from the NLR and b) his “stand” on WfH, because
we have not (yet) applied such standards to one another.” He would only pass along,
he said, that “two of our comrades did not understand how it was possible to be
an editor of NLR when that mag has opposed WfH while at the same time fighting
for WfH.” Peter Linebaugh to George Caffentzis, November 18, 1975. Even four days
later, in a draft of a letter to Merrington — that was never sent —
Leoncio Schaedel suggested the possibility of making future collaboration
conditional not only upon “Disassociation from political journals that espouse
opposing lines, e.g., New Left Review”, but also upon “Recommendation by
the Power of Women International Collective”! Letter from Leoncio to “Dear
Zeroworker”, November 22, 1975.

73 Phil prepared a draft response to Rachleff
in mid-January 1977, circulated it for comments and was open to having it published
either as an individual or collective response. Within two weeks he not only
learned that the draft was unacceptable as a collective response but that he had
no encouragement to submit it to The Fifth Estate as an individual. In
measured words, tinged with bitterness, he announced, “The reactions received on
the circulated draft were in such sharp variance that it appears a collective
response is not possible at this time. If anyone else should like to attempt to
write another draft that might satisfy everyone, let him do so.” Phil Mattera
to Peter Linebaugh, February 1, 1977.

74 After returning home from the previous Zerowork
collective meeting in New York, Peter Linebaugh wrote to Phil Mattera of putting
on hold his discussion with James O’Connor of exchanging ads with Kapitalistate
after discovering how “our meeting allowed itself to come to the decision that
there was to be little exchange of ads without full collective consultation
within ZW about the ‘political suitability’ of ads." Peter Linebaugh to Phil
Mattera, February 5, 1977. In that same letter Peter responded to Phil’s
withdrawal of his response to The Fifth Estate saying he wished Phil
had gone ahead and worried, “Is a point arising where our desire to act collectively
and politically is paralyzing our ability to act at all?” Recently (this year of
2014 CE), reading Gottraux's and Hays-Kingsinton's books on Socialisme ou
, I have discovered that such political decisions about placing
advertisements has a long history in sectarian politics. Philippe Gottraux,
Socialisme ou Barbarie: Un engagement politique et intellectual dans la France de
laprès guerre
, Lausanne: Payot, 1997. Steven Hastings-King, Looking for
the Proletariat: Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Problem of Worker Writing
Boston: Brill, 2014.

75 That book, unfortunately, was never completed,
although their work eventually led to other publications.

76 During the preparation of this webpage,
Ferruccio was happy to work with me in polishing his essay for publication here.
Thus, his very valuable work is finally available in English. He has also explained
that at the time, in 1977, quite apart from the political troubles, there were
things about piece that left him unsatisfied, i.e., that he had "undervalued the
state" and also had given "short shrift . . . to the enormous issue of the
reproduction of labor power". Ferruccio email to me, November 26, 2014.

77 Years later, Ferruccio explained that his
decision about withdrawing from editorship was partly due to his "inability to
grasp the terms of the debate" on the other side of the Atlantic. Ibid.
It is my impression that his inability derived from receiving varied and conflicting
accounts. As I hope this account makes clear, at first the real nature of the
debate was not obvious to those of us who stuck with Zerowork either.

78 Bruno Cartosio to Peter Linebaugh, April 14,
1977. Bruno also wrote “You are not a party. If the w.f.h. comrades believe they
are and have their own little international party-line to hold forth and to cling
to — let them do it on their own.”

79 During the summer of 1977, one member of the
group, Peter Bell, then teaching at SUNY Purchase, while visiting family in England,
contacted John Merrington and obtained from him a verbal history of the "Italian
connection". Upon his return, he wrote up and circulated a fairly detailed
synopsis of that history. It only whetted many appetites for more details and
materials on roots hitherto obscure for most participants.

80 To give credit where it is due, this "old"
question did not originate with Lenin, but with the Russian revolutionary populist
Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky (1828 – 1889) who wrote a novel whose
title/question Lenin (following Tolstoy) appropriated. Lenin, of course, gave a
quite different answer from Chernyshevsky's embrace of the peasant commune
(mir) as the template for building a new society — a position with
which Marx largely agreed once he was drawn into the debate in Russia. (See the
discussion on the inclusion of the peasantry within a broadened definition of the
working class in the section of this webpage on

"Background: Genesis of Zerowork #1"

81 That essay, although never included in
Zerowork, is accessible on this webpage. Wes Harris later collaborated
with William C. Blizzard to produce When Miners March, New York: PM Press,
2010, about the Battle for Blair Mountain, a massive armed struggle, during the
West Virginia mine wars of 1920-21.

82 While nothing came of this visit to Dhanbad,
a separate by-product were several articles on Malaria de-control, written in
response to an upsurge in the incidence of that disease, hitherto on the verge of
complete eradication.

83 Wustner produced the 1990 film
written by Larry McMurtry, staring Gena Rowlands and Richard Crenna, about ranchers
vs coal mine operators who want their land.

84 This piece on global capitalist planning was
written in response to skeptical responses to that theme in Zerowork #1.
For example, in Mario Montano's essay "Notes on the International Crisis" we find
assertions such as capitalist strategy "took the shape of international planning
and management of the contradiction between development and underdevelopment". For
those whose thinking about the world was still framed in terms of imperialism —
conceived as competition among national blocks of capital, such formulations
sounded outlandish, harking back to Kautsky's "superimperialism" much critiqued
by Lenin. For those of us in Zerowork, however, it was obvious that institutions
such as the International Monetary Fund were not merely tools of US imperialism
but represented the interests of an increasingly dominant multinational capital
without national allegiance. In some ways, our position foreshadowed Hardt and
Negri's concept of Empire.

85 The "food movement" in the early 1970s
consisted of several parts. First, was the angry reaction of farmers and consumers
to the "Great Grain Robbery" of 1972 — a secret grain deal negotiated between
the US government and the Soviet Union that benefited the big grain trading
companies but hurt grain growers and, subsequently, consumers due to rising meat
prices. (Much of the grain being exported to the Soviet Union was feed grain —
a concession to Soviet citizen's protests and demands for more meat. So much was
included in the deal that the consequent rising feed grain prices led to a
steep rise in the price of meat in the US.) Second, vivid pictures of starving
children, first in Ethiopia, then from elsewhere in the Sahel and South Asia, led
to a widespread private mobilization to raise money to aid the starving. Third,
a substantial part of the "consumer movement" concerned the quality and safety
of food. Fourth, among farmers there was both the long standing minority that
engaged in "organic" methods — increasingly supported by the consumer
movement — and the battles by small farmers to survive in the face of
government subsidized competition by agribusiness. Finally, there were the
struggles of farm workers, such as the United Farm Workers of California led by
Cesar Chavez — that fought for rights against big growers and obtained
widespread support among consumers, e.g., the grape boycott. Harry analyzed
some of this history in his contribution to Zerowork #2. Another minor
intervention, at that time, was the preparation of a short book review of
Susan George's How the Other Half Dies (1976) and Francis Moore Lappé
and Joseph Collin's book Food First (1977) prepared for The Library
for which Phil was working at that time. Harry was familiar with
these efforts, partly because of his earlier work on the Green Revolution —
his dissertation and
a piece published in Monthly Review
— and
partly because while working on Food First, Joe Collins had spent a
week culling his files for materials.

86 The only direct responses to these efforts,
that I know of, was discussion of the food piece among some activists in that
part of the food movement preoccupied with trade and famine. Communication from
Mark Richie.

87 What we had in mind by "restructuration"
is suggested by the following passage in the final
to Zerowork #2, "restructuring of world capital in
the crisis — by which we mean the new ways . . . in which capital is
creating new forms of accumulation in which [working class] needs are either
incorporated or smashed."

88 Ironically, this kind of understanding was
evoked, but not developed, by Lenin in his Imperialism, the Highest Stage of
when he quoted Cecil Rhodes on how vital imperialism was to
controlling workers at home. This much neglected passage can be found in

Chapter VI
of that book and is worth quoting at length.

And Cecil Rhodes, we are
informed by his intimate friend, the journalist Stead, expressed his imperialist
views to him in 1895 in the following terms: "I was in the East End of London
(a working-class quarter) yesterday and attended a meeting of the unemployed. I
listened to the wild speeches, which were just a cry for ‘bread! bread!’ and on
my way home I pondered over the scene and I became more than ever convinced of
the importance of imperialism.... My cherished idea is a solution for the social
problem, i.e., in order to save the 40,000,000 inhabitants of the United Kingdom
from a bloody civil war, we colonial statesmen must acquire new lands to settle
the surplus population, to provide new markets for the goods produced in the
factories and mines. The Empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter
question. If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists.….."

89 Whatever their original intentions, they
never published an alternative Zerowork.

90 See the biographical sketch below.

91 I was also marginally involved with the
Union Nationale des Étudiants de France (UNEF) and conflicts with the
Right-wing Fédération des étudiants nationalistes (FEN) —
an offshoot of the Organisation de l'armée secrete (OAS) and its underground
resistance to Algerian independence movement (1954-1962) — conflicts that
were particularly sharp in Southern France.

92 Stanford SDS soon dissolved into the "April
3rd Movement" — a broader coalition that began with the decision to shut
down and occupy the university's Applied Electronic Laboratories where research
was being conducted on countermeasures to North Vietnamese ground-to-air missiles
being used against US warplanes carpet bombing both cities and irrigation

93 George Rawick, Lo schiavo americano dal
tramonto all'alba: la formazione della comunita nera durante la schiavitù negli
Stati Uniti
, Milano: Feltrinelli, 1973. Herbert G. Gutman, Lavoro,
cultura e società in America
, Bari: De Donato Editore, 1979. C. L. R. James,
Harold M. Baron and Herbert G. Gutman, Da schiavo a proletario, Torino:
Musolini Editore, 1973. Martin Glaberman, Classe operaia, imperialismo e
rivoluzione negli USA
, Torino: Musolini Editore, 1976.