Tuesday, July 22, 2008

LET LENIN DECOMPOSE (A Decade of Revolutionary Theory and Praxis 1968-1979)


INTRODUCTION: Communism a Social Current.

“From organs of revolution they had to become organs of reconstruction.”
~Anton Pannekoek.

“Dictatorship of the Proletariat, well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what his dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.”
~Karl Marx.

Communism needs to be understood as a social current that flows smoothly through society and as a true working-class perspective where workers can act for themselves. Communism does not necessarily and no longer solely defines a futuristic classless society based upon an ideology. Rather, Communism is a means for the working-class to struggle against capitalism and depending on which way the working-class presents itself in relation to capitalist production the class is either communist or reformist. The communization of the workers’ struggle comes from the workers own activity and revolutionaries are able to articulate the communist character within the workers’ struggle by analyzing the workers relation to production. In comparison to the Leninist interpretations of communism and the workers’ struggle, revolutionary class-consciousness needs to be transplanted upon the working-class where as the Italian and Dutch communists opposed Lenin’s theory and began consolidating a communism left of Leninism.

Council-Communism, or Left-wing Communism heavily influenced by Anton Pannekoek writings became a more worker centered revolutionary theory based on factory self-management. Whether Council-Communism and self-management theories were going to be enough for workers to significantly alter their relationship with capitalism, only the workers’ struggle and time could tell. 1968 marked the beginning of a new production process and the consolidation of the global economy where world politics and tensions began taking on a more class conflict dynamic. Global conflicts had become less focused on ideology and more centered on managing post-colonial landscapes with tense conflicts between capitalism and workers. In a post-colonial world, both imperialist policies and economic plans were being restructured and so too the left began to redefine itself in relation to capitalist developments. Council-Communist theory reemerged in the 1960s as students and workers had grown tired of Stalinist controlled unions and the unions self-proclaimed monopoly on left-wing activity. As work was becoming more socialized and capitalist control was extending past the factory, the working-class was counteracting capital’s new attempts at exerting control over society. As the new form was taking shape, students and workers were set on reinventing their role within capitalist society while simultaneously attempting the total subversion of bourgeois society. Both, French and Italian struggles from 1968 to 1979 had the ability to act and build a new theory at the same time. In France, Daniel Cohn-Bendit articulated the frustrations of French students and workers and for Italy Mario Tronti and Antonio Negri were to become influential Communist theoreticians and activists in what could be understood as a civil war based on class lines. Détente became an important component for world leaders to combat the new class dynamic in a post-imperialist global economy. During a relatively stable economic period the working-class induced a crisis upon capitalism and thus began to communize the workers struggle in a post-imperialist world.

From Council-Communist critiques of Leninism to a decade of student-worker uprisings, a new Communist subject was formed which no longer needed the Party to articulate the needs and desires of the working-class. 1968 contains two opposing identities, one of rebellion and rejuvenation and the other a new era in capitalist control over not only work but all social life. Capitalism reinvented itself in 1968 because it had to; capitalism was forced to change due to the reemerge of working-class militancy. Imperialism had turned inward and in an attempt to colonize everyday life a student-worker movement erupted. Left-wing communism was not something that interested the workers and students, Left-wing communism emerged within the struggle because older and more obsolete forms of organizing were no longer applicable to the material conditions or production relationships of 1968. The Italian movements, more so than the French, developed passed the Council-Communist tradition and came to understand their relation to capitalism on a more socialized plan. The Social Factory allowed capitalism to fully subsume all of social society into its production process and through this transformation the mass-work then became a socialized-worker. In all fairness to France and its radicals the Italian crisis did last a decade which allowed for more development and resistance. Therefore Italy’s section will take on a more historical narrative form in order to better articulate the impact the new class categories on production relations, their impact on class relations, and finally their antagonistic potential.

FRANCE 1968: Communism Breaks with the Party.

“Daniel Cohn-Bendit is the most dangerous scoundrel in France.”
~President Charles de Gaulle.

“Their nightmares are our dreams...”
~Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

“The site yielded a pneumatic drill. The students couldn’t use it, of course—not until a passing by building worker showed them how, perhaps the first worker actively to support the student revolt. Once broken, the road surface provided cobbles, soon put to a variety of uses.”
~ Solidarity, 1968.

The French avant-garde beginnings and eventual student and workers’ insurrectional climax of the May-June events which resulted in the abandonment of the Communist Party by the left, the Party subsequently abandoning communism, and students and rank-and-file workers reintroducing Communism as a social relation caused the production process to become a perpetual class-war between capitalism and the working-class. No longer can Communism be understood as an ideology but rather as a social current and tool for the working-class. 1968 dotted the entire globe with uprisings, peace movements, and the resurgence of working-class militancy which encompassed a new communistic approach to combat both capitalism and hegemonic parliamentary politics. The French working-class showed significant progress in class-consciousness by breaking with the Party to better articulate their own needs and political desires, based upon the realization that the Soviet model and European mixture of social democracy and Stalinism had both become a barrier in the workers’ struggle. Communism was to reemerge in the crisis of 1968 as a fully conscious social current embodied and exercised in the newly transformed working-class. Students frustrated with classical studies, material, and intellectual poverty and rank-and-file workers abandoned by the Party (Communist Party) were pushed to antagonistically reconstitute their own relation to capitalism and the state. Though the May-June events came to a close the effect on class composition and production processes were irreversible.

The working-class did not suddenly reject what was to become Euro-communism, the shift from revolution to reformism, or the parliamentary system. Rather, the 1968 and post-1968 working-class were a continuation of the Council-Communist tradition and the tendency for workers’ spontaneity and autonomous character to organize an entire class to confront capitalist social relations by placing society in a state of reconstruction and revolt . After two world wars and financial crises, the left-wing tradition rose from the material condition which both produced and was a product of the communization of the workers’ struggle. 1968 was the result of a long process by workers divorcing themselves from the Party which traditionally, but no longer, had defined and articulated their needs and desires. The mediation between capitalism and workers was no longer needed because the working-class had now found its own voice and ability to act beyond the limits of parliamentary politics. Students and workers, fighting for the liberation of everyday life against the colonization of life and the freeing of social spaces in the streets of Paris, in the streets around the world, and later on throughout all of Italy in the 1970s showed a significant reintegration of Communist theory and working-class action. The reemergence of Communism as a true working-class perspective and social tool for workers against capitalism was now separated from State-socialism and could be used again by the workers themselves.
The culmination of all this was due to struggles in the past which produced a more coherent and conscious working-class subject on a global scale. Whether it was Vietnamese guerillas that instituted the Tet Offensive to bury the World’s last quasi-imperialist military venture, the World’s university students now integrated into the production process, social activists, communists, anarchists, feminists, and/or rank-and-file workers, all these subjects and their singular struggle became one common struggle that forced capitalism into a new economic era and changed the face of global politics forever.

From difference, a new Communist subject with multiple centers arose from a new mode of production in an attempt to seize control over not only the factory but of life; simultaneously and in competition with global state powers and capitalism workers fought over the implementation of this new social and more politically involved production process. Governments on both sides of the Iron Curtain and in the East and West shared a common interest in preservation of state power and the stabilization of the global economy; governments moved for the cooling down of the Cold War to collectively focus on internal tensions brought on by the intensification of class conflict. A period of Détente ensued as a reaction to the communization of the workers struggle because traditional methods, which are within the realm of parliamentary politics, had become obsolete in the mediation of class tensions. World leaders were forced to collectively deal with the new international revolutionary subject. And now, the workers had abandoned the old methods and choose to reinvent how the working-class would interact with capitalism. The separation between worker and world leader grew and so too did the level of worker militancy. Détente became one of the first moves by governments around the world to collaborate against an internal and common social force that broke free from the hegemonic control of parliamentary politics. With a rupture in societal control, measures were taken and new forms of power relations on a global scale were instituted to temporarily regain control and repress new forms of social organizing that had emerged as a result of the workers’ struggle. Paris, much like other metropolitan centers had become epicenters for resistance within a new era in capitalism. To fully understand the motivation and consciousness of students and workers during the Parisian riots in 1968 one must see the connection to Council-Communism or Left-wing Communism and the May-June events.

Looking back before moving forward is necessary in order to understand the significance of 1968. Gilles Dauvé, as Anton Pannekoek, understood there exists two different means in understanding communism and its relationship to the masses. As understood by Lenin, consciousness needs to be introduced to the masses and by left-wing communists, class consciousness itself originated from within the conditions experienced by the workers themselves. “Marx’s analysis and his scientific socialism as a whole are not the product of “bourgeois intellectuals,” but from the class struggle on all its levels under capitalism”. Class consciousness is not separate from the class itself and to imply the need to mechanically manipulate the class struggle to take a desired shape is to deny the working-class of its own ability to act. “The System of production developed in Russia is State socialism. It is organized production with the State as universal employer, master of the entire production apparatus. The workers are masters of the means of production no more than under Western capitalism”. Instead, the Council-Communist would look at the workers own initiative and means of organizing for themselves to oppose capitalist domination over the workers labor-power as a strength and not a weakness. Before the centralization of the soviets (councils) under the Bolshevik party, a self-management system was in place to coordinate the workers movement in Russia.

“Russia showed the European and American workers, confined within reformist ideas and practice, first how an industrial working class by a gigantic mass action of wild strikes is able to undermine and destroy an obsolete state power; and second, how in such actions the strike committees develop into workers councils, organs of fight and self-management, acquiring political tasks and functions”. Self-management was a way for workers to seize control over the means of production and reorganize their labor-power in a manner that would best suit their needs and their struggle. Dauvé points out that, “Lenin’s theory was not at the root of the defeat of the Russian revolution. Lenin’s theory only prevailed because the Russian revolution failed”. The self-management argument was resurrected in 1968. Though it may have been articulated more through communist groups active during the May-June event, Parisian workers shared the skepticism of the Party controlled unions as the rank-and-file marched beyond the factory walls uniting with students in wild cat strikes, an important characteristic of Council-Communism. Not without critique does Council-Communism reemerge in 1968. “The theory of workers’ management analyses capitalism in terms of its management. But is capitalism first of all a mode of management? The revolutionary analysis of capitalism started by Marx does not lay the stress on the question; who manages capital? On the contrary: Marx describes both capitalist and workers as mere functions of capital: “the capitalist as such is only a function of capital, the laborer a function of labor power”. In other words having a self-managed factory under the control of workers is not enough to free labor-power from capitalist social relations. “Capitalism is not a mode of MANAGEMENT but a mode of PRODUCTION based on given PRODUCTION RELATIONS. Revolution must aim at these relations,” which will become more clear in the Italian workers struggle of the 1970s. In 1968 and beyond, workers began to focus on both the refusal of work and attempted to consolidate a movement against capitalism. Capitalism was understood as a production relationship manipulating all aspects of social life no longer just the hours spent in the factory.

The summer of 1968 erupted in riotous revolt across the globe and in Paris students of Nanterre University led the student uprising which had its origins in 1966. The Strasbourg University scandal were the Marxist and Times named “anarcho-situationist” group, Internationale Situationniste along with students in the student government AFGES (Federal Association of Strasbourg Students) produced over 10,000 copies of the Situationist pamphlet, “On the Poverty of Student Life, considered in its economic, political, psychological, sexual and intellectual aspects and some means of remedying it” as a critique of the monotonous life at the university. “These publications express ideas and aspirations which, to put it mildly, have nothing to do with the aims of a student union”. Strasbourg University like Berkley’s free speech movement in the US marked an early on commitment by university students to subversive activity and the desire to transform academic life into a vehicle for social change. As Daniel Cohn-Bendit and thousands of Nanterre students went on strike and demanded quick reforms and re-organization of the university setting these actions resembled council-communist attempts at seizing control of the factories. Early on Cohn-Bendit was threatened with expulsion from the university by Dean M. Grappin who had called in the riot police to suppress the strike. At the end of a massive riot between students and the police Cohn-Bendit was allowed to remain.

Cohn-Bendit described the situation as a struggle that was not, “against Fascism but against bourgeois authoritarianism. The mediocrity of university teaching is no accident, but reflects the life style of a civilization in which culture has become a marketable commodity and in which the absence of all critical faculties is the safest guarantee of “profitable specialization of university studies”. The only way to oppose this type of stupidity is to attach all those academic restrictions whose only justification is that they exist: curricula, tests; set lectures and competitive entrance examinations.” Cohn-Bendit and the Nanterre students organized under the “22 March Movement” were interested in a total restructuring of their university experience and the role academics plays within society. The social sciences came under attack because these fields had become integrated into capitalist production and the reproduction of labor. “The evidence is all around us. Industrial sociology is chiefly concerned with fitting the man to the job; the converse need to fit the job to the man is neglected”. French student radicals were tired of being workers producing knowledge and not getting paid and therefore the, “revolutionary youth naturally has no other course than to join with the mass of workers who, starting from the experience of the new conditions of exploitation, are going to take up once again the struggle for the domination of their world, for the suppression of work”. Up to twenty-five per-cent of France’s student body rose up against their socially impoverished lives but not in solidarity with workers. Rather, students and workers realized their struggle as the “de-colonization of everyday life” and from this both their interests and their struggle had become a common struggle. With a flood or radical activity on universities and the eventual spilling over into the factories and the streets of Paris, the de Gaullist regime instituted a police crack down on the students and workers and Paris would soon become a barricaded war zone during the May-June event of 1968.

By mid May France’s largest unions (the CGT, CFDT, and FO) were striking on in solidarity with students strikes, against police violence, and for “long-neglected” wage increases and better retirement contracts. The Renault plant, which at the time was the biggest automotive plant in Europe, in Paris was shut down due to strikes and less than twenty-five percent of the workers at Renault were not unionized. Early on the Stalinist controlled CGT leadership attempted to disperse “outsiders” but the rank-and-file shout “democratie ouvriere” and supported “disruptors” to continue selling non-union authorized pamphlets and newsletters. Students, rank-and-file workers, and organized unions rallied and being to demonstrate as a united mass against their poverty. A student-worker mixed contingent within the demonstration numbering around 80,000, of a demonstration that totaled anywhere between 800,000 to one million, marched together despite the CGT’s attempt to keep students and workers separate. CGT officials and Communist Party leaders succeeded in dispersing the majority of union demonstrators before workers and students, the “dubious element” of trouble-makers” could mingle. The tensions between CGT leadership, Communist Party officials and the more autonomous characters of the May-June events forced students and workers to abandon these older institutions in search of new methods to impose change on society. “What distinguishes March 22 and groups such as the anarchists and Situationists from all other groups is that they work not for the “seize of power” but for its dissolution”. The concept of power was what drove the Stalinist unions and students apart from one another.

Eventually Sorbonne or the University of Paris came under the control of the “Sorbonne Soviets” (worker-student councils) and the Communist Party swiftly changed their attitude concerning students since the student-worker movement was growing very large. After 13 May the Communist newspaper l’Humanite stopped attacking the students and claimed to support their movement. Giant meetings were held on the Sorbonne campus at the amphitheatre where the “soviets” gathered to form the “Assemblees Generales” to further the insurrectionary discussions and make decisions regarding demonstrations, strikes, and to openly debate political theory.

“Cohn-Bendit confronted J. M. Catala, General secretary of the Union of Communist Students in front of the packed auditorium. The scene remains printed in my mind. “Explain to us [says Cohn-Bendit], why the Communist Party and the CGT told their militants to disperse at Denfert Rochereau, why it prevented them joining up with us for a discussion at the Champ de Mars? And Catala responded, “simple really…the Joint Sponsoring Committee had not sanctioned any further developments…” [And Cohn-Bendit lashed back], “On the day of the revolution, comrade, you will doubtless tell us to forego it, “because it hasn’t been sanctioned by the appropriate sponsoring committee”.


Following the debate, the General Assembly voted that the “Sorbonne Soviets” did not form to merely reform the universities but would also actively work for the, “total subversion of bourgeois society”. By 16 May the Sud Aviation plant at Nantes, the Renault factories, Nouvelles Messageries de Presse in Paris, Kleber Colombes at Caudebec, the Naval Shipyards at Le Trait, etc. had all become occupied by workers and students who coordinated a massive leaflet campaign to coordinate occupations and inform participates on current events. Students and workers demanded changes in the production process and “refused to accept a degrading “modernization” which means we are constantly watched and have to submit to conditions which are harmful to our health…and our status of human beings”. As the occupations, demonstrations, and numbers in the streets increased the CGT continued to push for moderate talks and a calming down of militant activity. At the Renault plant the CGT leadership went so far as to post a placard, “Workers Beware! For some months the most diverse publications have been distributed by elements recruited in a milieu foreign to the working class…The titles may vary but the content has a common objective: to lead the workers away from the CGT and to provoke divisions in their ranks, in order to weaken them…It is therefore important not to allow these people to come to the gates of our factory, to sully our trade union organization and our CGT militants”. The trade union bureau went as far as to claim that the students and rank-and-file workers that did not agree with the CGT as part of some fascist element which was part of some conspiracy for capital to regain its factories. As the situation began to dissipate the Situationists issued a called for the maintaining of factory occupations. On 22 May the Committee for maintaining the occupations declared,

“in the space of ten days workers have occupied hundreds of factories, a spontaneous general strike has totally interrupted the activity of the country, and de facto committees have taken over many buildings belonging to the state…all the old ideas are swept aside and all the radical hypotheses on the return of the revolutionary, proletarian movements are confirmed…Such a process would lead to the formation of workers councils making decisions democratically at the rank-and-file level, federating with each other by means of delegates revocable at any moment and becoming the sole deliberative and executive power over the entire country”.

As suggested by Pannekoek with wild strikes and workers councils, the Situationist suggested a similar formation of federated workers councils not to seize power but destroy it. “At the present moment…workers have no choice but to organize themselves in unitary rank-and-file committees directly seizing all aspects of the reconstruction of social life, asserting their autonomy vis-à-vis any sort of politico-unionist leadership, ensuring their self-defense and federating with each other and nationally”.

By 27 May the government had promised massive increases in the industrial minimum wage and a general ten per-cent increase on wages. When June rolled around most strikes and student uprisings had either stopped or been brutally stopped by armored police bands. And as a result in the high police presence, on 10 June two Renault factory workers were killed. Finally by the 12 June demonstrations were banned and some political groups were even outlawed. The de Gaullist regime implemented a global policy to quell internal unrest and restore order to the nation-state. Radicals blamed the Bolshevik nature of CGT and the Communist Party leadership in abandoning working-class politics in favor of reform and in an attempt to appease both capitalists and parliament. The global uprising and movements of 1968 had come to a stand still and without gaining any significant social change these uprisings had proven to the established political order that the working-class was once again willing to take to violence and occupations to defend its interests and even go beyond reformism and begin to exercise a revolutionary character if necessary. In September of 1968 the CIA issued a report with the heading, “Restless Youth” and described, “their [the youth] dissatisfaction with all forms of peaceful political change, and it is unlikely that the radicals will be brought to accept—in the foreseeable future—democratic methods of attaining their goals” . The CIA pointed out Cohn-Bendit’s international connections with West German and Eastern European radical student groups and the exchange between different groups as a case of international political instability. Demonstrations and political actions happened on both sides of the Iron Curtain and, “leaders during the late 1960s questioned many of the inherited assumptions about hostility between capitalist and communist states. And jettisoning long-standing policies—such as “nonrecognition” between the two Germanys and between the United States and China—the great powers now affirmed one another’s legitimacy as sovereign states”.

And properly so, the very idea of sovereign power was being called into question by student-worker movements around the world.
An analyses that government secrecy and the cooling down of the Cold War between nation-states turned in on itself and saw its own respective civilian populations as the greatest threat to international stability indicated world governments’ commitment to side with one another against their internal enemy. Détente “normalized” the Cold War and replaced the external fear upon an internal enemy, the homegrown radical. Before Détente world leaders divided between Communist and Democratic nations openly critiqued their opposite until internal unrest pushed the two camps together allowing the global leadership to see their commonality. On 29 May 1972, the State Department issued a Bulletin, “Text of Basic Principles”, which outlined set dialogue and new political procedures following the global unrest and internal dissent within both the democratic and communist countries could get behind in terms of dealing with unruly populations. These principles were used by global governments to remain silent about one another when using force or questionable tactics to silence internal opposition and political threats. The principle read as followed, “First…difference in ideology and in social systems of the USA and USSR are not obstacles to the bilateral development of normal relations based on the principles of sovereignty, equality, non-interference in internal affairs and mutual advantage”. The CIA’s interests on the French movement, social unrest, and especially the character of Daniel Cohn-Bendit were based on legitimate fears that the interconnectedness between the movements of 1968 could potentially move beyond mere protests and riots into a revolutionary stage. “According to one student leaflet, the “defeat of American imperialism in Vietnam” and the “radical crisis in the United States” gave formerly powerless people an opportunity to change the politics of the Cold War [and the CIA took this new sense of power as a very serious threat]. The mobilization of…“proletarianized” students and workers would promote an international “democratization of power” across Europe, North America, and Asia”. After the crisis of 1968 was resolved through violence, order had been restored into the hands of governments, and the cooling down of the Cold War to a point of international cooperation between the Party and the market driven West they emerged and remained committed to defending themselves against internal social unrest. Workers were now only able to further their struggle outside traditional methods and the workers struggle had taken on an anti-parliamentary character.

ITALY (1968-1979): Communism’s Autonomy.

“In different periods they have voluntarily taken on different roles- as actors, as prompters, as technicians, or stage-hands – whilst all the time waiting to wade into the theatre and attack the audience. So how does the working class present itself today, on the contemporary state?”
~Mario Tronti.

“The extremists responded militarily because all other responses had become impossible.”
~Antonio Negri.


The Italian left, much like other parts of Europe, have a strong and traditionally Communist/leftist orientated labor movement and during the 1970s when western European labor movement began to be absorbed by the ideals of social-democracy and reformism, Italy’s labor movement remained both militant and theoretically tied to radical leftist theories. Italy being the home to the largest communist party in Western Europe, the Italian Communist Party (PCI), consequently housed the largest left leaning working-class. As early as the 1950s, Italian workers had already recognized autonomous organizing methods as options and workers began organizing their workplaces into autonomous collectives. In post-fascist Italy, reconstruction ushered in the Italian “miracle” with rises in commodity output and consumption. With the increase in agricultural output through mechanized farming a second migration flooded the northern industrial triangle of Genoa, Turin, and Milan and concentrated production into regenerating infrastructure: housing, electricity, petrochemicals, ferrous metals and automobile production. Italy quickly, “matched prewar levels by the end of the 1940s; by 1953 it had jumped another 64 per cent, and had almost doubled again by 1961”. Italian partisans had overthrown Mussolini’s regime and much of Italy’s prewar capital remained within Italy do to wartime demands. Though in the middle of the Cold War, communist tendencies were tolerated and, “the Communist party…the party of the Resistance, the only one that had really been antifascist,” remained intact and provided both workers and capital an avenue for communication. Workers’ resistance to fascism within the factory led to workplace takeovers and seizures. The strength of post-war Italian communist tendencies and working-class organizing forced the state to grant wage increases and improved conditions. Aspects of the Italian social and economic conditions that differed from the rest of Western Europe was the working-class.

The celebrated and eventual working-class abandonment of the PCI and the shortcomings of the post-war economic “miracle” subsequently would lead to a crisis, a crisis brought on by working-class resistance. If the defeat of Italian fascism, the restoration of industry to prewar levels, and a doubling in production output by 1961, all being positive economic and social indicators, did not led to economic crisis, what did? “If any major obstacle to accumulation existed, therefore, it was the working class itself.” The political environment, being open to communist tendencies, working-class strength, and economic growth within such a social condition theoretical investigation flourished along side working-class actions. By 1969 the Italian government was run by the Christian Democratic party but, 35 per cent of the vote still rested among various Italian left parties, a social dynamic that would prove uncontrollable.

Various influential Communist journals: Quaderni Rossi (Red Notes) 1960-1966, Classe Operaio (Working Class) 1964-1967, and later Potere Operaio (Workers’ Power) 1968-1972 and Autonomia all encapsulated and articulated working-class refusal to be mere cogs in industry. Communist theoreticians: Mario Tronti, Raniero Panzieri, Romano Alquati, and Antonio Negri organically grew out of Italy’s political and economic environment to critically analyze both capitalist strategies and working-class attempts to both adapt and dismantle capitalist domination. Alquati’s theories along with Quaderni Rossi would prove to be a transitional period within communist theory leaving behind both Gramsci style communism and surpassing council-communist organizing that had traditionally dominated the economic field over the political. Splits within the 1960s Italian left was a result of the currents changing or attempts to re-establish class domination. Traditional organizations’ inability to fully anticipate capitals restructuring of society would make these organizations obsolete and outdated when it came to confronting the new social character of capitalism. The self styled autonomous methods of organizing and the continuous bureaucratization of the PCI led both the rank-and-file and radicals to continue organizing outside traditional models and methods preparing for a new stage of economic development that would be met with intense resistance. A new strand of Italian Communism emerged termed Operaismo (Workerism) which was heavily influenced by Alquati’s self-management ideology proposed within Anton Pannekoek’s Council-Communist tendencies and later was fully developed by Mario Tronti and Quaderni Rossi. Quaderni Rossi and Workerism argued for Communist organizing to have a working-class or Workerist perspective and further developed the theoretical rift between Leninism and Left-wing Communist tendencies. Through a rereading of Marx and new analysis of contemporary capitalism and the role of the working-class within capitalism reintroduced the working-class as an active subject. The working-class being the only creative class within capitalism and now no longer did only over production bring about an economic crisis but so too did the working-class struggle.

“The power of workers resides in their potential command over production, this is, over a particular aspect of society. Capitalist power, on the other hand, rests on the real domination over society in genera… [And]...Capitalist power seeks to use the workers antagonistic will-to-struggle as a motor of its own development. The Workerist…must take this same real mediation by the workers of capital’s interests and organize it in an antagonistic form, as the tactical terrain of struggle and as a strategic potential for destruction.”

And by so doing the working-class both developed and surpassed Council-Communism by recognizing the workers’ need to organize resistance upon the means of production but to also engage capitalist domination in its totality by going beyond both self-managed control over production and the political, the Party. The Workerist communist subject challenged capitalism as a mode of production and social control not just the management of capitalism. To further clarify, “a concept that puts capitalist development first, and workers second…is a mistake. And now we have to turn the problem on its head, reverse the polarity, and start again from the beginning; and the beginning is the class struggle of the working class”. Communist organizing and the working-class did not need to take a strict Council-Communist economist position or politically Leninist line to further its objective. Rather, the political objective for working-class resistance is to force concession and reforms upon capitalism and then use these reforms to further radicalize the movement towards revolution. Again, the working-class class threw the entirety of capitalism into question and openly opposes its production relationships. “This is not to be confused with the creation of a political program; we must resist the temptation to carry this theoretical out-look immediately into the arena of the political struggle- a struggle which is articulated on the basis of a precise content, which, in some cases, may even contradict (quite correctly) our theoretical statements”. If working-class consciousness was to take a true Communist shape then it would need to be developed organically through struggle and not mechanically applied upon the working-class.

Tronti drew the distinction between working-class and labor power and as Marx concluded that the working class exists in two forms: “class in itself” and “class for itself”. Meaning when the working-class produces surplus-value it is a “class in itself” under capitalist domination and antagonistic forces are neutralized but when resisting and moving beyond mere labor-power it was a “class for itself” and becomes Communist. Capitalism being a system built on labor-power and the working-class being that power, the working-class then actually embodies all political power within society and autonomist organizing allowed a process of self-valorization to shatter the capitalist notion of laborers as mere labor-power.

By the 1970s, capital’s domain had stretched well beyond the factory and entered into more social spaces, thus, the Social Factory had been created to counteract workers’ strength within the factory. The crisis of the mass-worker spawned restructuring of social relations in reaction to the workers struggle and the transformation of all society into a factory finally blurred the lines of free time and work. Now, all aspects of society and interaction were absorbed and integrated into the means of production. In an attempt to displace and neutralize mass-workers’ power by creating new forms of extraction in different social sectors, the working-class struggle itself was transplanted and took on new forms of struggle against state programs and capital. Capitalist and state planning had become one. No longer did the PCI represent the workers as an antagonistic force. Rather the PCI and affiliated unions became capital’s weapon against the autonomous class consciousness of the working-class. The old style communism had transformed itself into a mediator between capital and the working-class. Old style communism not only mediated the classes but also attempted to pacify militancy and autonomist organizing through various political maneuvers and compromises. The working-class did not abandon the communist party, the Party seized being Communist.

“At the highest level of capitalist development, the social relation becomes a moment of the relation of production, the whole of society, becomes an articulation of production; in other words, the whole of society exists as a function of the factory and the factory extends its exclusive domination over the whole of society. It is on this basis that the machine of the political state tends ever-increasingly to become one with the figure of the collective capitalist”.

From within this newly organized social relation between the economy and workers all of society became subsumed under production processes, new arenas within society opened up for resistance, and throughout the western world: governments, corporations, and civic institutions came under attack from newly organized rank-and-file movements, feminist organizations, student movements, and minority struggles intended on carrying on the struggle of the mass-worker. A new Socialized-worker would conduct a new class war within capital’s new Social Factory.

As in the United States, student-syndicalism organized under the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and other minority parties similar to the Panthers, second wave feminism, and radicalized rank-and-file unions all organically grew out of capitalism’s attempt to displace working-class organization and power within the factory by deindustrialization but the new class composition inside the Social Factory proved difficult to contain as a secure source of control. It would not be until the mid-1970s that the Social Factory fully bloomed and new groups emerged: Porto Operaio, Autonomia Operaia, Autonomia Feminista, and the Metropolitan Indians to challenge old style communism and capitalist domination. Theoretician and radical professor at the University of Padua, Antonio Negri coupled the Social Factory to his theory of the Socialized Worker to further analyze the latter half of 1970s workers’ movement. Italian movements, more so than others, has the ability to both act out and state the nature of their actions simultaneously. The separation between theory and praxis is not only a mystification but also contradicts the very nature of class struggle; the working-class as well as Communism are not the people but comes from the people and for the same reasons working-class consciousness is not something that needs to be delivered onto the working-class but grows from the working-class organically. The working-class ceases to be reformist and breaks with its bourgeois heritage and seeks to recreate society through the class struggle. “In particular, the working class has left in the hands of the traditional organizations all the problems of tactics, while maintaining for itself an autonomous strategic perspective free from restrictions and compromises”. In the aftermath of 1969s Hot Autumn, communist attitudes of work being dignified and that “workers don’t break the law,” was challenged by the workers own actions, a squatter movement, self price reduction campaigns, and workers using their labor to benefit their own communities. As the PCI moved closer to parliamentary politics eventually leading to the 1970s Historic Compromise, the working-class gravitated towards more autonomous forms of resistance and intended on carrying on their struggle without Party approval. The Party can attempt to incorporate working-class struggle within parliamentary politics and mystify class conflict with political concessions and reforms but the conflict continues to flow through society and continues to act as an antagonistic force bringing capitalism to a crisis.

In the wake of France’s 1968 struggle, Italy underwent tense conflict during the Hot Autumn of 1969 were five and half million workers and the coordinated efforts of students organized under Movimento Studentesco (Student Movement) went on strike. The city of Milan was completely shut down, factories were occupied and sabotaged, and at the Mirafiori Fiat plaint in Turin, one of the largest Fiat factories, workers and students declared, “we want it all.” White-collar office workers, the new element within the working class, struck for better pay similar to Milan’s telecommunication workers strike in 1968 that openly called for a humane and “anti-authoritarian way of working.” During the Hot Autumn the engineering section was responsible for the lose of 71,181,182 hours due to the unrest in 1969 alone. A new form of striking was coordinated called a “Hiccup” where different areas of a factory would go on strike at different times rendering the production line useless. The government’s response was mass arrests totaling 13,000 and 35,000 workers were eventually fired in attempts displace worker militancy. By 1970 wages had drastically increased by nearly 35 per cent but by 1972 due in large part by inflation, housing, and public transportation costs the reforms won were reabsorbed. Through inflation capitalism renders the gains obsolete and enables the higher costs of labor-power to be extracted by increasing the cost of living.

What was to become popularly discussed as Autonomia and the Movement of 1977 evolved from Potere Operaio which dissolved in 1973 due in part to a rebirth of feminism and the feminist critique of 1968 Marxists groups allowing for the evolution of Italian Marxism. Government repression, the Historic Compromise, and the 1973 oil and food crisis allowed capitalist restructuring of both the economy and work place delivering a crushing blow to mass-worker organizing. In 1974, 134 million labor hours were lost due to strikes and a high percentage of labor power was lost due in part to absenteeism; and as the autonomous character of working-class continued past the break up of 1960s Workerism theory and praxis developed in unison through struggle into the 1970s. Autonomia was officially formed in Bologna 1973 and the refusal of work as both practice and theory converged as a new tool for the Italian working-class. Self reduction of electricity and water costs, housing occupations, and in both Turin and Piedmont 150,000 homes were powered by workers coming to turn back on power to households after neighborhoods had been cut off. The new movement shifted the struggle outside the factory walls in an attempt to radicalize less traditional areas of society declaring that the class conflict has a new social dynamic and class relations are no longer contained within the factory walls. The working-class underwent a self-valorization process in opposition to capitalism and the newly constructed social dynamic. Through the late 1960s into the 1970s Italian student movements and worker movements flowed in unison and merged to oppose government repression, mass arrests, and fascist attacks as on the Rome campus in 1966. As the student movement won open admission during the 1960s student enrollment jumped from 400,000 in 1968 to one million by 1977. In the wake of the 1973 oil crisis, rampant inflation, poor housing, and the following high youth unemployment rates transforming the universities into areas of working-class resistance and the Socialized Worker exploded in the Movement of 1977 against the capitalist Social Factory.

Italy witnessed what the media termed as the Second March on Rome as workers and students organized into riotous insurrection like demonstrations all over Italy. In Bologna, a communist city after the Historic Compromise, a left-wing militant lay dead after the mayor called in armored police car to crush the demonstration. In Rome, Luciano Lama, chairman of the Communist-controlled trade unions, was violently thrown off the campus as both the urban proletariat and student militants violently clashed with police and Lama’s entourage. A group calling itself the Metropolitan Indians inspired by autonomist theory clashed with the PCI and later the police which solidified the split between official communist run unions and the autonomist movement. Violent clashes between the working-class student body and workers against the police became a battle front within the Social Factory. The Workerist concentration inside the factory was replaced by Autonomia and a new form of resistance outside the factory and into the Social Factory was forged in struggle. Workers gravitated towards youth culture interests, as in Turin, where female workers attended courses on women’s health, medicine, and politics.

Feminist organizing against Catholic morality and for more bodily control through birth control and contraceptives, which had only become legal in 1973, altered the autonomist movement and its theories. Women and feminist issues had challenged the 1960 Marxist climate and by 1976 tens of thousands of women marched through the streets of Rome, some dressed as witches, calling for political change. The PCI betrayed the women’s movement in 1976 by reforming legislation on abortion but made it the doctor’s choice, a “kick to the teeth” and by 1977 women’s collectives and women dominated unions had left the PCI to join the Autonomia resistance. Within some factories, women labor and union membership was as high as 30 per cent yet within the PCI and PCI affiliated unions women only represented 6 per cent of union officials. Second wave feminism responded to both internal and external discrimination. Frustration over a lack of voice within the left mobilized women to react and reorganize the left to better include women’s issues but more importantly integrated feminism and Marxism. After Italy’s migration from agricultural production to Fordist industrial production under the Italian “miracle” women within labor had dropped by one million and the 1960s had brought women’s labor under patriarchal structures within the home. Italy’s modernity had placed once rural women into urban dwellings resulting in less freedom and unpaid menial labor within the house. Feminist organizations like Lotta Feminista and Autonomia Feminista called for a women’s right to a wage for her housework.

Expanding upon Marx’s origins of the family and the division of labor within capitalism it was declared, “Her workday is unending not because she has no machines, but because she is isolated,” and, “She herself was thereby trapped within pre-capitalist working conditions and never paid a wage”. In 1978 women’s unions owned the right to 150 hours paid schooling on conscious raising seminars and cultural centers were created. Women’s centers were opened and by 1978 abortion reform making abortion legal was won. Only 32 per cent of voters in 1981 wanted to repel the 1978 reform and autonomist women’s organizing had left its mark on Italian society. The autonomous women’s movement, having merged with and theoretically inspired the counter cultural youth movement and autonomist movement, allowed Italy to witness the power of an autonomous social movement to force change through extra-parliamentary means.

As government repression began to take its hold on the movement and an increase of factionalism grasped the movement the first stage of self-inflicted defeat had come into fruition. “Having cut themselves off totally from the representatives of the traditional left, which proved incapable of either providing adequate political forms for the expression of counter-power or of controlling it, the social movements were thus dragged into the abyss of an extremism that was becoming increasingly blind and violent.” The movements response to the Historical Compromise with the kidnapping and killing of Christian Democratic Leader, Aldo Moro by the Red Bridges led to the break up and collapse of worker-student movements and eventually the arrest, conviction, and eventual exile of thousands of radicals. On 7 April 1979 Antonio Negri, along sixty other intellectual activists were arrested, falsely tried and convicted. Negri was accused and charged as being a Professor who corrupts the young, “armed insurrection against the state”, and mastermind behind the Red Bridges’ kidnapping and killing of Aldo Moro.

“Fortunately, with the constitution of 1948, the death penalty had been replaced by a life in prison…the extreme left found itself between the Christian democrats, the party of the bourgeoisie, and the Communist party! The Communist party considered us…dangerous… [and], feared that we would split the party.” In defense of the nation-state and parliamentary prestige the PCI, “taught the Christian Democrats the usefulness of Stalinist trials—absolute condemnation, eliminating one’s enemies, crushing them”. Through massive repression and mass arrests and exile of activists a movement was crushed but the resistance of the Socialized Worker persists.

“Italy was the first country where the struggle did not take place on the factory but permeated society as a whole: there were demands for the “autoreduction” of rents and the cost of public transport tickets, for example—one struggled for a better life. In Milan…there were neighborhoods that had been “liberated” and where neither taxes, nor transport charges, nor rents were paid. Self-managed…these were neighborhoods where another form of [social] organization could be experimented with… If the police came into the neighborhood, they were immediately expelled. All available houses were occupied—empty apartments were taken over and inhabited”.

The Social Factory was a new staging ground for absorption of profit but also, resistance fell onto all social spaces in and outside factory walls. It was not capitalism that brought about this new stage of production. Rather, the working-class and collapse of working-class power in the 1960s and 1970s brought about a socialized work force and with that being said it can be understood that , “nineteen sixty-eight was not a revolution—it was the reinvention of the production of life”.

CONCLUSION: Communism Endures.

“In the postmodernization of the global economy, the creation of wealth tends ever more toward what we will call biopolitical production, the production of social life itself, in which the economic, the political, and the cultural increasingly overlap and invest on another.”
~Antonio Negri & Michael Hardt.

“Dismissing both Keynesianism and socialist work ethic, Post-Fordist capitalism puts forth in its own way typical demands of communism: abolition of work, dissolution of the State, etc. Post-Fordism is the communism of capital.”
~Paolo Virno.

“Ya Basta!” (Enough Already!)
~EZLN (National Zapatista Liberation Army).


1968 does not mark defeat but a loss within an ongoing class conflict and due to class recomposition by capitalism and the new structure of capitalist class relations after the crisis of 1968 domination and power encircled all of life in order restore both order and siphon surplus-value through the Social Factory. Every aspect of life had become political and every aspect of life had become absorbed within the production process. “From this point of view, the recomposition of life [and class decomposition by working-class resistance] was fundamental: one of the slogans of the 1970s was, “we want it all”. This is what is important: everything”. Beyond Lenin and Council Communism the Italian autonomists realized that a post-1968 capitalist era had come into fruition, the Party and factory councils had become, Obsolete Communism for the socialized-worker to expropriate everything, “de-colonize” life. In order for the working-class to become an antagonistic force against capitalist domination which organizes all of social life, the newly defined working-class would have to be organized into socialized-worker councils to oppose capital’s reach beyond the factory and into society. Class conflict now existed everywhere in society and within the new communist subject exists both the body and mind of revolution. Theory and praxis had become more intimate than ever.

The working-class divorced itself from the Party and emerged as an autonomous subject able to articulate its own desires and needs. Ever since Marx, the idea of workers’ emancipation being the workers’ own doing was theoretically argued and potentially possible but, now in post-1968 the worker has divorced itself from the Party and exercises its will autonomously and criminally if necessary to “de-colonize everyday life”. Though both these movements eventually dissipated their impact on social and capitalist production remain. The working-class will remain and continue to revolt and force capitalism to reorganize its production process because surplus-value depends upon labor-power and it is impossible to separate the worker and labor-power. Capitalism remains but so does the working-class, an antagonistic communistic social force that has the power to throw even a stable economy into crisis.

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The Times, Thursday, Jun 13, 1968; pg. 10; Issue 57276; col A
Cohn-Bendit shows how to wield student power BY THE NEWS TEAM.

The Times, Friday, Jun 14, 1968; pg. 8; Issue 57277; col D
Lesson in freedom for Cohn-Bendit By HUGH NOYES, Parliamentary Correspondent-Westminster, Thursday.
The Times, Wednesday, May 29, 1968; pg. 1; Issue 57263; col E
Cohn-Bendit back at Sorbonne From CHARLES HARGROVE-Paris, Wednesday morning

The Times, Saturday, May 25, 1968; pg. 1; Issue 57260; col A
Cohn-Bendit refused entry From MICHAEL HORNSBY FORBACH, May 24

The Times, Monday, Sep 02, 1968; pg. 5; Issue 57345; col A
Cohn-Bendit stirs congress From GARRY LLOYD-Massa Carrara, Italy, Sept. 1.

The Times, Tuesday, Sep 24, 1968; pg. 4; Issue 57364; col D
Cohn-Bendit detention protest

The Times, Thursday, Nov 28, 1968; pg. 8; Issue 57420; col F
The Times Diary Cohn-Bendit ontemplates the LSE What redress when computers err? A challenge fo the ex-BBC men PHS

The Times, Saturday, Sep 09, 1978; pg. 3; Issue 60402; col E
Issue of 1968 raised at Giscard lunch for intellectuals Lifting of French ban sought by Herr Daniel Cohn-Bendit From Ian Murray.

The Times, Tuesday, Feb 09, 1971; pg. 5; Issue 58094; col A
May, 1968, still casts its shadow over workers From Patrick Brogan

The Times, Monday, May 29, 1978; pg. 6; Issue 60313; col C
Foreign Report May 1968: a fete or a revolution? Charles Hargrove

The Times, Saturday, Oct 05, 1968; pg. 20; Issue 57374; col A
May, 1968: a break

The Times, Wednesday, Dec 14, 1966; pg. 8; Issue 56814; col C
Crisis In French Student Movements FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.

The Times, Monday, Apr 20, 1970; pg. 9; Issue 57848; col A
To The Left Of The Maoists

The Times, Wednesday, Dec 03, 1969; pg. 6; Issue 57733; col A
Communists defend gaoled editor From PETER NICHOLS.

The Times, Monday, Dec 15, 1969; pg. 4; Issue 57743; col E
Milan police hold 40 extremists FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT.





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Negri, Antonio. The Politics of Subversion, A Manifesto for the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge, UK. Polity Press, 2005.(p.35).

Negri, Antonio. Between ‘Historic Compromise’ And Terrorism By Le Monde Diplomatique, August 1998Reviewing The Experience Of Italy In The 1970s

Katisiaficas, Georgy. The Subversion of Politics, European Autonomous Social Movements and the Decolonization of Everyday Life. Oakland, California, AK Press, 2006. (p.51-57).

Negri, Antonio and Dufourmantelle, Anne. Negri on Negri, in conversation with Anne Dufourmantelle. New York, Routledge, 2004. (p.56).

Negri, Antonio and Dufourmantelle, Anne. Negri on Negri, in conversation with Anne Dufourmantelle. New York, Routledge, 2004. (p.14-15).

Negri, Antonio and Dufourmantelle, Anne. Negri on Negri, in conversation with Anne Dufourmantelle. New York, Routledge, 2004. (p.22-23).

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