Hot Autumn in Italy 1969 (ii) An episode in the historic resurgence of the class struggle

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

In the previous article we talked about the major struggle undertaken by the working class in Italy at the end of the 60s, which has passed into history under the name of “the Hot Autumn”. As the article says, this name is too narrow to describe a period which involved the workers in Italy from 1968 -1969 at the very least and which left a profound mark on the years that followed. We also showed how this struggle in Italy was just one of the many episodes in the process of an international resurgence of the class struggle, following a long period of counter-revolution that blighted the whole world after the defeat of the revolutionary wave in the 1920s. The conclusion of the first article recalled the fact that this enormous development of militancy, accompanied by important moments of clarification in the working class, nevertheless encountered serious obstacles in the subsequent period. The Italian bourgeoisie, like that of the other countries that had to confront the awakening of the working class, did not remain with its arms folded for long and used both direct police intervention and other methods to get around its difficulties. As we will see in the following article, the ability of the bourgeoisie to recuperate the situation was largely due to the weaknesses of a proletarian movement which, in spite of its enormous militancy, was as yet lacking in clear class consciousness and whose vanguard did not itself have the necessary maturity or clarity to play its role.

The weaknesses of the working class during the Hot Autumn were mainly linked to the profound organic break experienced in the workers' movement after the defeat of the revolutionary wave in the 1920s and to the stifling domination of Stalinism. This had a two-fold negative effect on class consciousness. On the one hand, the class’ political heritage had been wiped out; the communist perspective had been confused with inter-classist programmes for nationalisation and the class struggle itself had been more and more confused with the struggle for the “defence of the fatherland”![1] On the other hand, the apparent continuity running from the revolutionary wave of the 1920s to the period of the most atrocious counter-revolution, with its Stalinist purges and millions of workers massacred in the name of “communism”, impressed upon people the idea that Marxism and Leninism should be rejected, or at least seriously revised. This idea was also reinforced by the false propaganda of the bourgeoisie about communists always being ready to oppress and exercise violence against people. When the working class awoke, in Italy and also internationally, it did not have the backing of any revolutionary organisation with a theoretical basis solid enough to support its return to the struggle. In fact nearly all the new groups that were formed by the momentum of the resurgence of the class struggle at the end of the 1960s, although they did take up the classics, did so with a sort of a priori critique which did not help them find what they needed. Even the formations of the Communist Left that had survived the long years of counter-revolution had not remained politically unscathed. The councilists - the almost obliterated testimony to the heroic experience of the German-Dutch Left in the 1920s - were still terrorised by the destructive role that might be played by a future degenerated party which, like the Stalinist party had done before, would impose its domination over the state and the proletariat. This led them to withdraw more and more into a position as “participants in the struggle” without playing any vanguard role and keeping the heritage of past lessons to themselves. In a way it was the same with the Bordigists and the Italian Left post 1943 (Programma Comunista and Battaglia Comunista) even though they, on the contrary, forcefully defended a role for the party. Paradoxically, because of their inability to understand the period they were living through and because of a sort of party-worship, combined with an underestimation of workers' struggles when waged in the absence of revolutionary organisations, they refused to recognise the Hot Autumn and the struggles at the end of the 1960s as the historic resurgence of the class at an international level. Because of this, their presence at the time was practically zero.[2] This is why the new political groups that were formed during the 1960s, both because of the distrust evoked by a confrontation with former political experiences, and also because of the absence of previously established political reference points, were obliged to reinvent positions and a programme of action. The problem was that their departure point was their experience within the old, decrepit Stalinist party. This is why a large number of militants from this generation positioned themselves in opposition to these parties and to the unions. They burnt their bridges to the left parties, but also in part to the Marxist tradition, they were searching for a revolutionary way that was “new” and which they thought they would come across in the street. This led to a considerable development in spontaneism and voluntarism because what still appeared in official dress was Stalinism in either its old form (USSR, CP) or in its new “Chinese” guise.

The dominant ideology of the Hot Autumn: workerism

It was within this context that workerism, the dominant ideology of the Hot Autumn, developed. The healthy reaction of the workers to take up the class struggle against the bureaucratised and asphyxiating structures of the Italian CP (PCI)[3] and the unions, led them to lose all trust in these structures and to put all their confidence in the working class itself. This was clearly expressed in the intervention of a worker of the Milan Om at the Palasport in Turin on the occasion of a meeting of the newly formed Lotta Continua in January 1970:

Unlike the Communist Party, we aren't led by four members of the bourgeoisie. [...] We aren't like the PCI because workers will be at the head of the organisation”.[4]

The judgement passed on the unions is particularly harsh:

We don't think that the unions can be changed 'from within' or that new ones – more 'red', more 'revolutionary', more 'proletarian', without bureaucrats – should be formed. We think that the unions are a cog in the bosses' system... and that they must therefore be fought against, as must the bosses”.[5]

So in this article we will try to present the main aspects of workerism, in particular the version defended by Tony Negri, who is still one of the best known representatives of this political current. We will try to draw out its strengths and also the reason behind its failure in the end. In order to do so, we will refer to Toni Negri’s Dall'operaio massa all'operaio sociale. Intervista sull'operaismo.[6] We will begin with a definition of workerism:

What we call 'workerism' had its beginnings and took form as an attempt to reply politically to the crisis in the workers' movement in the 50s, a crisis that was largely determined by the historic events in the movement around the 20th Congress”.[7]

We can already see from this quote that, in spite of the profound break with the official left forces, the definition of the latter – and in particular of the PCI - is completely inadequate and is not rooted in a deep theoretical understanding. The starting point is the so-called “crisis in the workers' movement in the 50s” whereas, on the contrary, what is described as a“workers' movement”was, at the time, no more than the international of the Stalinist counter-revolution. This was so because the revolutionary wave had already been defeated in the 1920s and the majority of the workers' political cadres were annihilated because they were dispersed or massacred. This ambiguity towards the PCI was to find expression in a “love-hate” relationship with the party of origin and explains why, in time, so many elements had no problem returning to the cradle.[8]

Workerism was originally based on what was described as the mass worker, that is, the new generation of proletarians, most of whom had come from the south during the period of the expansion and modernisation of industry which took place from the second half of the 1950s to the early 1960s. It was to replace the old image of the professional worker. This new generation was generally obliged to do unqualified and repetitive jobs. The fact that this part of the proletariat, young and with no past history, was much less amenable to the sirens of Stalinism and syndicalism and much more ready to throw itself into the struggle, led the workerists of the period to come up with a sociological analysis stating that the PCI represented the strata of professional workers, a workers' aristocracy.[9] We will consider later where this sort of social purism leads in terms of political choice.

From the partyist conception to the dissolution of the movement

The general context of the 1960s; the enormous strength and duration of the class movement in Italy at the time, the fact that there was no past experience that pre-existing proletarian organisations could have transmitted directly, led this generation of young militants to conclude that a revolutionary situation had arrived[10] and that it was necessary to set up a relationship of permanent conflict with the bourgeoisie, a sort of dual power. It was the lot of the groups who defended this idea (mainly Potere Operaio) to assume a leadership role in the movement's debates (“act as a party”) and to develop continuous and systematic action against the state. This is how Toni Negri expressed it:

The political activity of Potere Operaio will be to systematically gather together the class movement, the various situations, the different sectors of the working class and the proletariat and to lead them towards significant points, towards moments of mass confrontation that are able to damage the state reality as it appears. The exercising of a counter-power, a counter-power that is linked to specific experiences but which aims increasingly to protect itself and act against state power, is also fundamental as a subject for analysis and a function of the organisation.[11]

Unfortunately, in the absence of a critique of Stalinist practice, these groups – workers or otherwise – entrenched themselves behind a logic that remained a Stalinist one. The idea of “exemplary action” that is able to push workers to behave in a given way, weighed particularly heavily:

I didn't hold pacifist positions”, said Negarville, one of the steward leaders who was looking for, and found, confrontations with the police on Corso Traiano (3rd July 1969: 70 policemen wounded, 160 demonstrators arrested). “The idea of exemplary action which provokes police reaction was part of the theory and practice of Lotta Continua from the beginning, street confrontations are like workers' wage struggles, useful at the beginning of the movement”, says Negarville. There is nothing worse than a peaceful demonstration or a good contract. What is important is not to attain an objective, it is rather the struggle in itself, the struggle “is continuous” in fact.[12]

This is the same logic that would later push the various terrorist formations to challenge the state, on the backs of the workers, acting on the belief that the more the attack is brought to the heart of the state, the more the proletariat will be encouraged. Experience shows that, on the contrary, each time terrorist gangs have stolen the initiative from the working class, placing it in a situation of blackmail in fact, the consequence has always been the paralysis of the working class.[13]

However, this search for continual confrontations not only drained the energy of the workerist formations in the long term, it also made it difficult for them to find room for serious political reflection, which is so necessary:

In fact, the organisational life of Potere Operaio was continually interrupted by the need to deal with decisive moments that, more and more often, went beyond the capacity to react on a massive scale. In addition, there was often little implantation within the masses, which made it impossible to confront these moments”.[14]

Moreover the class struggle, which had accelerated considerably with the development of important struggles at the beginning of the 1970s, began to decline. This put an end to the experience of Potere Operaio and the group was dissolved in 1973: soon as we realised that the problem raised was insoluble given the current situation and balance of forces, we dissolved the organisation. If our strength was not enough to resolve the problem at that time, the strength of the mass movement would have to resolve it in one way or another or else put forward a new way to pose the problem.[15]

The basic hypothesis that there was a proletarian attack upon capital that was permanent and growing in a linear way and that therefore the material conditions were ripe for the construction of “a new revolutionary party”, was soon shown to be unfounded and out of tune with the negative reality of the “reflux”.

But instead of accepting this, the workerists gave themselves over bit by bit to subjectivism, believing that they had produced a crisis in the economic system through their struggles and they gradually lost any materialist basis for their analyses, sometimes going so far as to adopt inter-classist positions.

From workerism to workers' autonomy

The political themes characterising workerism are not always the same, and they can be presented with varying degrees of force. Even so, all the positions of Potere Operaio (and of workerism in general) contain this need for direct confrontation with the state, an opposition that must be ostentatious and continuous and is a sign of political action, an expression of vitality. What was to change gradually was the reference to the working class, or rather the image of the worker to whom reference is made. At first it was the mass worker but this was gradually diluted into that of a so-called “social worker” when there were less struggles. This change in the social reference point goes a long way to explaining the whole evolution of workerism, or more precisely, its political involution.

In order to try to explain this evolution in workerism's positions, a certain picture of capital is painted; one in which capital tends to undo workers' militancy – apparently based in the factory – by dispersing the class geographically:

...capitalist restructuring became equivalent to a colossal operation around the composition of the working class, an operation to liquidate the form taken by the working class in the 1970s and which characterised it then. At that time what predominated was the mass worker as a pivotal figure in capitalist production and in the production of social value concentrated in the factory. Because of this internal political rigidity between production and reproduction, capitalist restructuring was forced to play on the isolation of the mass worker in the factory in relation to the process of socialisation of production and to the image of the worker, which became more diffuse socially. On the other hand, in as far as the production process spread socially, the law of value began to operate only in a formal way, that is, it no longer worked on the direct relationship between individual, specific work and the surplus value extracted, but upon social work as a whole.”[16]

So the reference image of the worker became that of an imaginary “social worker”, an image that was so vague, in spite of Negri's precisions,[17] that at the time the movement saw a bit of everything in it.

The transition from the mass worker to the social worker spelt the dissolution of workerism (Potere Operaio) or its degeneration into parliamentarism (Lotta Continua) and a new phenomenon was born; workers' autonomy,[18] which saw itself as a movement in continuity with the experience of workerism.

Workers' Autonomy was formed in 1973 at the Bologna Congress in a period in which a large number of young people identified with the image of the social worker invented by Toni Negri. For this “young proletariat”, the path to liberation was no longer by means of the conquest of power but through the development “of a social atmosphere able to incarnate the utopia of a community which awakens and which is organised outside of the economic model, of work and wages[19] and so by the creation of “communism right away”. Politics became “a luxury”, dictated by and subject to desires and needs. Taking shape around the social centres, where young people from working class districts congregated, this “communism right away” took the form of an increase in direct action, especially “proletarian expropriations”, seen as a “social wage”, “auto-reduction of bills, the occupation of lodgings”both public and private, and a confused experience of self-management and living alternatively. Moreover, the voluntarist attitude, which takes its desires for reality, was strengthened to the point that it envisaged a situation in which the bourgeoisie would be assailed by the social worker:

...the situation in Italy is now characterised by an indomitable, radical counter-power, which no longer has anything to do with the factory worker, with the situation set up by the ‘labour laws’ or with the institutional structures determined by the post-68ers. On the contrary, we are in a situation in which, within the whole process of reproduction - and this must be stressed – workers' self-organisation has been definitively achieved”.[20]

This analysis was not applied to the Italian situation alone but was extended to the international level, especially to those countries in which the economy was most developed, such as the United States and Great Britain. The conviction that the workers' movement held a position of strength, was so firm that it led Toni Negri (and the autonomists of the period) to believe that states had decided to put their hands in their wallets and try to stem the flow of the proletarian offensive by distributing a larger proportion of the revenue:

...these are phenomena with which we are very well acquainted in economies that are more advanced than our own, phenomena that found complete expression during the 60s, in the United States or in Great Britain, where there was a real attempt to block the movement, on the one hand through the destruction of the subjective vanguard of the movement, and on the other – and this is important – through control mechanisms based on the availability of a great sum of cash, on an intensive structuring of the distribution of revenue”.[21]

Therefore, in a situation in which “the whole process of value no longer exists”, the bosses would even be willing to gain nothing if only to “restore the laws of accumulation” and “completely socialise the instruments of control and command”.[22] In other words, they imagined that their struggle had destabilised the state, that they had created a crisis situation within it, but without even realising that, increasingly, on the streets there were only young people who had less and less to do with the world of the factory and of work and who consequently had less and less chance of imposing a favourable balance of forces against the bourgeoisie.

What characterised the period was the concept of “workers' self-realisation” which, over and above aspects linked to material gains, referred to “moments of counter-power”, that is, “political moments of self-determination, of separation of the reality of the class from that which is the global reality of capitalist production”.[23] Within this context, “the proletarian conquest of revenue” would be able to “destroy at times the equation of the law of value”.[24] Here there is a confusion between, on the one hand, the ability of the class to obtain higher wages and so reduce the proportion of surplus value extorted by the capitalists, with, on the other hand, a so-called “destruction” of the law of value. On the contrary, the law of value, as the history of capitalism has shown, has always survived even in those countries of so-called “really existing socialism” (the Eastern countries that in the past were insidiously called communist).

From all of this we can see that the autonomist milieu was full of illusions that the proletariat could create and enjoy within bourgeois society a relatively “stable” position of counter-power, whereas in reality the situation of dual power is a particularly precarious one, typical of revolutionary periods. It must either evolve into a victorious offensive of the proletarian revolution with the development of the exclusive power of the working class and the destruction of bourgeois power; or it must degenerate into a defeat for the class.

It is this serious disconnection from material reality, from the economic base of the struggle, which led to a fantastical and student-like development in the political positions of autonomy.

One of the positions particularly in vogue with the militants of workers' autonomy was the refusal to work, closely linked to the theory of needs. To the correct observation that the tendency must be for the worker not to remain stuck within the logic of the bosses' interests and for him to demand satisfaction for his basic needs, autonomy's theoreticians superimposed a theory that went further by identifying workers' self-valorisation with sabotaging the bosses' machinery, to the point of claiming that such acts of sabotage are a pleasure. This is what emerges from Negri’s satisfied description of the “freedom” exercised by the Alfa Romeo workers when smoking on the production line without worrying about the damage done to production. No doubt it sometimes gives great satisfaction to do something that there is no point in defending, to do something at any rate that the arrogance of force forbids you to do. It is a psychological – even a physical – satisfaction. But what has this got to do with the conclusions drawn by Toni Negri, who sees this act of smoking as “an extremely important thing [...], almost as important theoretically as the discovery that it is the working class that determines the development of capital,” According to Negri, “the dominion of needs” is no longer that of material, objective, natural needs but rather something that is created gradually, “which permeates, and succeeds in dominating, every opportunity provided by the counter-culture”.

In a way, the correct refusal to remain alienated, not only materially but also mentally, at the workplace, which is expressed in disobedience to factory discipline, is presented as “a qualitatively remarkable fact; something that is in direct proportion to the degree to which needs expand. What does it mean to enjoy the refusal to work, what else could it mean if not to build a series of material capacities for enjoyment which are completely alternative to the rhythm, work-family-bar. This is useful for breaking with this stagnant world; alternative, radical possibilities and power are discovered through the experience of revolt”.[25]

In fact, by losing itself in chasing after empty illusions without any perspective, workerism, in its social worker form, degenerated completely. It became dispersed among a number of separate initiatives, each one aiming to satisfy the needs of this or that category, which was a million miles away from the expression of class solidarity expressed during the Hot Autumn and which reappeared later when the working class took the stage once more.

The reaction of the state and the epilogue to the Hot Autumn

As we said at the beginning of this article, the ability of the bourgeoisie to recuperate the situation is largely due to the weaknesses of the proletarian movement that we have described. We must add however that, although the bourgeoisie was initially taken completely by surprise, it was subsequently able to launch an unprecedented attack against the workers’ movement, both in terms of direct repression and in the form of manoeuvres of every kind.

In terms of repression

This is the classic weapon of the bourgeoisie against its class enemy, although it is not the decisive weapon for creating a real balance of forces against the proletariat. Between October 1969 and January 1970, charges were drawn up against more than three thousand workers and students.

Students and workers, more than three thousand between October 1969 and January 1970, were prosecuted. Fascist laws, which punish 'subversive propaganda' and 'the instigation of hatred between the classes' were dug up. Police confiscated the works of Marx, Lenin and Che Guevara”.[26]

In terms of the interplay fascism/anti-fascism

This is the classic weapon used against the student movement, although it is used less in conflicts with the working class. It aims at derailing the movement into sterile street confrontations between rival gangs with reference, perforce, to the “democratic and anti-fascist” members of the bourgeoisie. In short, it is a way of getting the sheep back into the sheep pen.

In terms of the strategy of tension

This was certainly the masterpiece of the Italian bourgeoisie during these years and it succeeded in changing the political climate dramatically. Everyone remembers the massacre at the Banca dell'Agricoltura, Piazza Fontana in Milan on 12th December 1969, which caused 16 deaths and 88 wounded. But not everyone knows, or remembers, that from 25th April 1969, Italy suffered a continuous series of attacks:

On 25th April, two bombs exploded in Milan; one at the central station and the other, which caused around twenty wounded, at the Fiat stand in the trade fair. On 12th May, three explosive devices; two in Rome and one in Turin, failed to explode by pure luck. In July the weekly magazine Panorama repeated rumours of a right-wing coup d'état. Neo-fascist groups called for mobilisation, the PCI placed its sections on a state of alert. On 24th July, an explosive device similar to those found in Rome and Turin was discovered, unexploded, at the law courts in Milan. On 8th and 9th August, eight attacks against the railways caused serious damage and left some wounded. On 4th October in Trieste an explosive left in an elementary school and timed to explode when the children came out of school, failed to go off because of a technical malfunction; a militant of Avantguardia Nazionale[27] was accused. In Pisa on the 27th October, the toll of a day of confrontations between police and demonstrators , who were protesting against a demonstration of Italian and Greek fascists, was one dead and 125 wounded. [...] On 12th December, four explosive devices went off in Rome and Milan. There were no victims from the three in Rome but the one in Milan, in Piazza Fontana opposite the Banca dell'Agricoltura, caused 16 deaths and 88 wounded. A fifth explosive device, also in Milan, was found intact. So there began in Italy what has in deed been called the long night of the Republic”.[28]

In the subsequent period, the rhythm slowed down slightly but it never stopped. From 1969 to 1980 12,690 attacks and other incidents of politically motivated violence were recorded, killing 362 and wounding 4,490. The number of dead and wounded per attack rose to 150 and 551 respectively; with a total of 11 attacks, the first in December 1969 in Piazza Fontana in Milan, the most serious (85 dead and 200 wounded) at Bologna railway station in August 1980.[29]

...the violence of the state was revealed above all expectation: it organised the attacks, held enquiries, arrested innocent people, one of whom – Pinelli – it killed and it did it all moreover with the blessing of certain newspapers and the TV. The 12th December uncovered an unforeseen dimension to the political struggle and even revealed the breadth of the front that we had to fight against [...)]. So, with Piazza Fontana a new enemy was discovered: the state. Beforehand, the adversary was the teacher, the team leader, the boss. The references went across national borders, they were of different regions of the world: Vietnam, the French May, the Black Panthers, China. The uncovering of the terrorist state opened up a new horizon to the struggles: that of plots, of making use of the neo-fascists[30]

The aim of this strategy was obviously to intimidate and disorient the working class as much as possible, to spread fear of the bombs and insecurity, and this was a partial success. It also had another effect that was certainly more harmful; with Piazza Fontana the state was seen, at least by certain minorities, to be the real enemy, this was the entity with which it was necessary to settle the score. This diverted a series of proletarian and student elements towards terrorism as a method of struggle.

Encouraging the terrorist dynamic

Terrorism therefore became the way in which many brave but adventurist comrades destroyed their lives and their political engagement by engaging in a practice that has nothing to do with the class struggle. This practice also led to dire consequences by provoking a reflux in the whole of the working class, which was confronted with the two-fold threat of state repression on the one hand and blackmail from the “brigadist” and terrorist world on the other.

The unions make up ground by means of the Factory Councils

The last element, but certainly not the least important, on which the bourgeoisie depended was the union. As they could no longer rely on repression to keep the proletariat at arms' length, the bosses who, in all the years from the post-war period to the dawning of the Hot Autumn, had been extremely hostile to the unions, suddenly discovered that they were democratic and lovers of good factory relations. The trick obviously is that what you cannot get through bad relations, you try to get through good ones and you do it by trying to set up a dialogue with the unions, seen to be the only possible intermediaries able to control the struggles and the workers' demands. This granting of a wider democratic terrain to the unions led to the setting up and development of the Factory Councils, a form of base unionism in which it was not necessary to be a card-holder in order to participate. This gave the workers the illusion that this much at least they had won and that it was possible to have confidence in these new structures to pursue their struggle. In fact, the workers' struggle, although often very critical in its relations with the unions, has not managed to make an in-depth critique of them, but limits itself to denouncing their inconsistencies.

In conclusion...

In these two articles we have tried to show, on the one hand the strength and potential of the working class and, on the other, how important it is that its action be supported by a clear consciousness of the path it must take. The workers who awoke to the class struggle at the end of the 1960s in Italy and in the whole world, did not have at their disposal the memory of past experience and so they could depend only on the empirical gains that they gradually accumulated. This was the main weakness of the movement.

Today, in the various representations of France 1968 and the Italian Hot Autumn, there are many who sigh with nostalgia when they recall that this period is long gone and that the struggles seem unable to rise up again. We think that the opposite is the case. The Hot Autumn, the French May and all the struggles that shook society internationally at the end of the 60s were only the beginning of the class struggle, whereas the subsequent years saw a development and a maturation of the situation. In particular, today there is a more significant international presence of political, internationalist vanguards (although still very much a minority) which, unlike the sclerotic groups of the past, are able to debate together, to work and intervene together with the common aim of developing the class struggle.[31]

Moreover, today there is more than just a basic militancy in the class that makes it possible for various struggles to hatch out throughout the world,[32] there is also the general feeling that the society in which we live no longer has anything to offer economically and also that can it give no security against environmental disaster or war, etc. This kind of feeling tends to become more wide-spread to the point at which you can sometimes hear people, who have no political experience, talking of the need to make the revolution. At the same time, most of these people think that the revolution is impossible, that the exploited do not have the strength to overturn the capitalist system:

We can summarise this situation in the following way: at the end of the 1960s, the idea that the revolution was possible could be relatively widely accepted, but the idea that it was indispensable was far less easy to understand. Today, on the other hand, the idea that the revolution is necessary can meet with an echo that is not negligible, but the idea that it is possible is far less widespread.

For consciousness of the possibility of the communist revolution to gain a significant echo within the working class, the latter has to gain confidence in its own strength, and this takes place through the development of massive struggles. The huge attacks which it is now facing on an international scale provides the objective basis for such struggles. However, the main form this attack is taking today, that of massive lay-offs, does not initially favour the emergence of such movements; in general, [...] moments of sharply rising unemployment are not the theatre of the most important struggles. Unemployment, massive lay-offs, have a tendency to provoke a temporary feeling of paralysis in the class [...]. This is why, in the coming period, the fact that we do not see a widescale response from the working class to the attacks should not lead us to consider that it has given up the struggle for the defence of its interests. It is in a second period, when it is less vulnerable to the bourgeoisie's blackmail, that workers will tend to turn to the idea that a united and solid struggle can push back the attacks of the ruling class, especially when the latter tries to make the whole working class pay for the huge budget deficits accumulating today with all the plans for saving the banks and stimulating the economy. This is when we are more likely to see the development of broad struggles by the workers.[33]

This feeling of impotence has been, and still is, a weight upon the present generation of proletarians and it serves to explain the hesitations, the lateness, the lack of reaction to the bourgeoisie's attacks. But we must look upon our class with the confidence that comes from the knowledge of its history and its past struggles. We must work to recreate the link between past struggles and those of the present. We must participate in the struggles and inspire courage and confidence in the future, accompany the proletariat and stimulate it to rediscover the consciousness that the future of humanity rests on its shoulders and that it has the capacity to accomplish this immense task.


Ezechiele 23/08/10



[1]. In particular the destructive role played by the “resistance to fascism” which, in the name of a supposed “struggle for freedom”, led proletarians to get themselves massacred on behalf of one fraction of the bourgeoisie or another in the war in Spain (1936-1939) and then in the Second World War.

[2]. “Having formed the party in 1945, while the class was still in the grip of the counter-revolution, and having failed since then to critise this premature formation, these groups (who continued to call themselves 'the party') proved unable to distinguish between the counter-revolution and the end of the counter-revolution. They saw nothing of any importance for the working class either in the France of May 1968 or in the Italian Hot Autumn of 1969, and put these events down to mere student agitation. By contrast, our comrades of Internacionalismo (in particular MC, an old militant of the Fraction and the GCF); conscious of the change in the balance of class forces, understood the necessity of launching a process of discussion and regroupment with those groups that had emerged as a result of the change in the historic course. These comrades repeatedly asked the PCInt to appeal for the opening of discussion between the groups and to call an international conference inasmuch as the size and influence of the PCInt was far greater than that of our little nucleus in Venezuela. Each time, the PCInt rejected our proposal on the basis that nothing new was going on. Finally a first cycle of conferences began in 1973 following an appeal launched by Internationalism, a group in the United States close to the positions of Internacionalismo and of  Révolution Internationale which had been formed in France in 1968. It was largely thanks to these conferences, which allowed a serious decantation to take place among a whole series of groups and elements that had come towards politics after May 1968, that the ICC was formed in January 1975.” See the history of 30 years of the ICC (http//

[3]. On the PCI, see the two articles “Breve Storia del PCI ad uso dei proletari che non vogliono credere più a niente ad occhi chiusi” I (1921-1936) and II (1936-1947) (Rivoluzione Internazionale n° 63 and 64). (“Brief History of the PCI for the use of workers who no longer want to believe in anything with their eyes closed”). The novel by Ermanno Rea, Mistero Romano (editorEinaudi) is particularly useful for understanding how heavy were the relationships within the PCI in this period.

[4]. Also Cazzulo, I ragazzi che volevano fare la revoluzione. 1968-1978. Storia critica di Lotta Continua  Sperling and Kupfer, eds, p.8.

[5]. “Tra servi e padroni”, in Lotta Continua, 6th December 1969, also quoted in Aldo Cazzullo's book, ibid p. 89.

[6]. Antonio Negri, From the mass worker to the social worker. An interview on workerism. In Italian, Ombre Corte editions.

[7]. Antonio Negri, op.cit., p. 36-37.

[8]. We cannot help being struck by the number of elements in today's world - public figures, politicians, journalists, writers - holding the political positions of the centre left or even of the right, who in the past have passed through groups of the extra-parliamentary left and through workerism in particular. We will mention only a few: Massimo Cacciari, member of parliament for the PD (formerly the Margherita) and twice mayor of Venice; Alberto Asor Rosa, writer and literary critic; Adriano Sofri, moderate journalist for La Repubblica and Il Foglio; Mario Tronti, who returned to the PCI as a member of the central committee and elected senator; Paolo Liguori, journalist with management responsibilities for various television news broadcasts and other editorial undertakings for Berlusconi... There are dozens upon dozens of other names that could be added to the list.

[9]. We do not share Lenin's analysis that there exists a labour aristocracy within the working class. See our article: “Workers' aristocracy. A sociological theory to divide the working class”. (International Review n° 25)

[10]. An idea that was widely held at an international level as well.

[11]. Antonio Negri, op.cit., p.105.

[12]. Aldo Cazzullo, op.cit., p. XII.

[13]. On this point see: “Terror, terrorism and class violence”, (International Review n° 14); “Sabotage des lignes SNCF: des actes stériles instrumentalisés par la bourgeoisie contre la class ouvrière” (ICC on line, 2008); “Débat sur la violence (II): il est nécessaire de dépasser le faux dilemme: pacifisme social-démocrate ou violence minoritaire” (ICC on line, 2009).

[14]. Antonio Negri, op.cit., p.105.

[15]. Antonio Negri, op.cit., p.108.

[16]. Antonio Negri, op.cit., p.113.

[17]. “When we say 'social worker', what we really mean – and this is extremely precise – is that surplus value is extracted from this subject. When we speak of the 'social worker', we are talking of a subject that is productive and when we say that he is productive, we are saying that he produces surplus value, in the long or short term”. Antonio Negri, op.cit., p.18.

[18]. On this question, see our articles: “L'area della Autonomia: la confusione contro la classe operaia” in Rivoluzione Internazionale n°s 8 and 10.

[19]. N. Balestrini, P. Moroni, L'orda d'oro, Milan, SugarCo Editioni, 1988, p.334.

[20]. Antonio Negri, op.cit., p.138.

[21]. Antonio Negri, op.cit., p.116-117.

[22]. Antonio Negri, op.cit., p.118.

[23]. Antonio Negri, op.cit., p.142.

[24]. Antonio Negri, op.cit., p.142.

[25]. Antonio Negri, op.cit., p.130-132.

[26]. Alessandro Silj, Malpaese, Criminalità, corruzione e politica nell'Italia della prima Repubblica 1943-1994. editor Donzelle, p.100-101.

[27]. An extreme right wing group.

[28]. Alessandro Silj, op.cit., p. 95-96.

[29]. Alessandro Silj, op.cit., p. 113.

[30]. Statement of Marco Revelli, who was a militant of Lotta Continua at the time. In: Aldo Cazzullo, ibid, p. 91.

[31]. It is not possible to list here all the various articles dealing with this new generation of internationalists, so we invite our readers to see our web site, where they can find a great deal of information.

[32]. On the current development of the class struggle, we refer you to our internet site, drawing particular attention to the articles on Vigo (Spain), Greece and Tekel (Turkey).

[33]. “Resolution on the international situation from the 18th congress of the ICC”, 2009, International Review n°138.