Autonomism over networks


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second year lecture on autonomist marxism for a second year network studies class.

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  • This lecture will be focusing on the way in which political resistance has changed, using the ideas of what is called autonomism, or italianmarxism. This material critiques marxism. in fact, practically every socialist I’ve met hates this stuff.Also has some nudity and violence in here. However, we are adults, and this is serious stuff, so hopefully you’ll all be okay with this.Charting a historical movement. I don’t agree with all the ideas, and there are some terrible consequences along the way.
  • What is autonomism?First: a political movement.Autonomia arises in post-war italyVery large contingent of intellectuals and factory workers togetherLater it begins to include people like nurses, domestic workers, etcSecond: theory for do you have organisation in you don’t have leaders?What kinds of practices can you build, what can you achieve?Third: a mode of analysis.This is the most important use of autonomism. We can use theories that emerge from the autonomist movements to see the forms of organisation that aren’t visible otherwise. Note on the image: that’s from Antonio Negri’s prison journal. He was a University professor, and an important autonomist. He ended up escaping jail and fleeing to france.
  • Autonomism begins in Italy ‘69-‘72.- This is roughly when autonomism starts, but First theorists of post-Fordismthe increasing role of technology and managerial practices in controlling the workplaceRefuses representation.This means avoiding having someone represent you politicallyBut also, no one could speak for you.Representation was a kind of oppression.Just on a side note: image is of the different principalities of Italy, from before it unified.
  • History of autonomismContextualises theoryDon’t take notes for purple slides
  • Pre-war Fascist propagandaorganise italy.Left, 1919 – bolsheviksRight 1923 – fascism
  • 1922: Fascism begins and Italy ‘modernises’beating and killing: immigrants, Jewish people, homosexuals, anyonepolitically on the leftcounted as being modernFascists reorganise the largely agricultural society, with an eye towards steel production.WWII : italy rapidly industrialises. Axis have the north, allies have the south. Italy is a massive battleground.Post war: shamblesindustrial area of the north destroyed during war.transport, communication was in chaos; Italy has a massive disregard for its politiciansKing is deposedItaly becomes a republic1950: Italy moves to mechanised productionAll the farmers who were moved to the city by the fascists now have no jobs.Agricultural sector is fucked, food is expensive. Those who can afford to migrate away from Italy.
  • Poor working conditions – marxist movements gremainly students/ex-factory workers.WW2->1978- largest communist movement outside of Russia and China.Communist party was extra-parliamentary. Leadership, public support,1950-> loses faith in the communist leadershipHungarian revolution in 1956first glimpse of the horror of the soviets communist party leaders defended the action as putting down counter-revolutionaries.One of many failures bribery and corruption scandals disavowing worker protests siding with the US in VietnamImportant becauseMarxists begin to find their way without leaders.Largest leaderless coordination Photo is from Hungarian revolution.
  • These five conditions are ripe for the emergence of a people’s movement that is distinct from other forms of Marxism.
  • Begins in the late 60s, but not as a single group. Instead it is an ethic of political practice. A wide range of small community groups dedicated to solving local problems.Comprised of a couple of hundred small groups, all with different names.Most notorious are BrigatteRosse– Red Brigades – essentially apolitical terrorists.
  • Pamplets:The scope to which early pamphleteering was important cannot be underestimated. Hundreds of different journals and small hand printed publications sprung up. The early communications networks of italianmarxism were hand to hand.Radio: military-grade radio equipment was stolen, and transported around Milan, Turin, Padua, Rome. Radio Free Alice, run by people like Felix Guattari and Franco Berardi, free radio that was impossible to shut down. Broadcasting all hours of the day, 100.6 FM. Pirate TV would follow later in much the same way.Telephone: the marxists hacked the phone exchanges – they could make free calls using payphones, and couldn’t be tappedGraffiti, Photography, Fashion, Music – all these things were used as types of communication, to produce an in-crowd. The punks would later take these ideas for their music and clothing sensibilities.
  • Photos:Protests, pre-69 – no hatchets, molotovs, or rocks in sightFashion sensibilities – proto-hipsters!Metropolitan Indians – comedy protestAntonio Negri, during his court case.
  • ViolenceBetween 1968/1969, violence emergesAutonomism isn’t this great and wonderful thingit was a horrible, violent, torturous period. It can fail, and it can also have extremely nasty consequences and elements.Somewas just destruction of propertyFascists and anti-fascist violence was largely indistinguishableExtensive use of molotov cocktailsBlowing up of bridges, dams, police buildings, etcAt one point, a car was captured with two ICBMs inside. Previous slide of negri? -> publisher at trialBut, who committed them? Somegenuinely autonomists; many were also anti-communist military operatives. Operation Gladio – the most violent acts were perpetrated by anti-communists, often paid for by the CIAGladio borders on conspiracy theory
  • On the left, we have two images of the piazza fontana bombings. The upper right is a toilet bomb in a train, the lower right is the body of a student that was trampled by police.
  • The marxists lose. Culminates in 1978 -kidnapping execution of Italy’s ex-prime minister. This is used by the Italian government as an excuse to crack down on Marxists, and most autonomists arrested, shot, or in exile. some evidence that it was paid for by the CIA ex-PM wasn’t willing to be as anti-comm as US wantedThese actions justified a crackdown. Lotringer’s quote exemplifies the degree to which the Italian state was prepared to target everyone.Rather than a worker’s paradise, Italy gets Berlusconi instead - (“A man so evil that every time he smiles, an angel gets gonhorreha” black books guy)The significance of this is that many of the industrial workers were put out of jobs by machinery, and a new mode of production that was focused on technological developments.
  • Theories that emerge.Some theories begin with autonomismSome emerge in the 1990s
  • A movement that wants no leaders.- This is because the last leaders betrayed themA movement that wants no constitution.Constitutionsseen as an imposition. Also a weakness, and reduced collective flexibility. Ex: The Government was seen as largely a slow-moving body.People share common goals, and work towards these.No one was beholden to the group, you were free to leave.
  • What does this mean?No classes, whatsoever.Taken to its logical endpoint, we lose sight of all general categories. We no longer have notions of gender, sexuality, class, race, or ethnicity.Not in the sense that personal qualities don’t matter anymore – it’s precisely the fact that they matter beyond the ability to be categorisedYou’re all special snowflakes
  • Anonymous is an example of a group that operates online in terms of the non-representational aspects of autonomism
  • AnonymousYou don’t have to do anythingYou don’t speak for the groupBut if you do want to do somethingSome of the group is doing thisThis is a DDoS attack banner. (do you have time?, discuss if you do, otherwise just say it’s for tutes. Published work on this!)
  • Post-fordism was first theorised by the italianmarxists.Lazzarato: “If fordism was a method that included consumption into the production process, then post-fordism was a method that includes communication.”Fordism – a production line system. Easy to understand. still exists – look at coffee shops. House of Cards near John Medley is a great example of factory line productionPost-Fordism – a development beyond the production line. This takes many forms:Toyotism (extensive managerial oversight)Containerisation (different production sites)Financial markets (profit is monetised through shares)Predominantly, the replacement of workers by – you’re doing the labour
  • Too much focus on male factory workers.Feminist autonomists said ‘no – this is insufficient’. Negri’s ‘social factory’ was one of the ideas.Social factory was a concept that shows how other elements of society were all tied up in factory production, in terms of being exploited by capitalism.
  • The slow increase in casual working hours, the reduction in salaried work, the increase in job insecurity.All workers are replaceable parts of a giant factory, not just industrial workers. This is the logic of post-fordism being applied to the rest of society.
  • This is a later idea, emerging in the early 1990s, but which builds on the idea of the social factory.What form of labour takes place in the social factory?The majority of work is determined by elements that are primarily culturalor informationalYou perform immaterial labour all the time.This is what’s happening when you’re on facebook, when you enter a captcha, when you’re on the Amazon Mechanical Turk. (example)Many of you like videogames, but they’re produced under some of the worst employment conditions you can find. Anyone that’s thinking of getting into the videogame industry should consider seeing what it does to people.The videogame industry is rife with exploitation – see:
  • Post-autonomism:after all this, there was a need to understand the new technologies, the new abilities of communicationWhat was the new system of oppression? What composed it?
  • 2000: Hardt and Negri begin publishing theory on the concept of ‘Empire’.‘Empire’ is the idea that the global geopolitics have substantially changed since 1970.- Countries have had their sovereignty questioned by the rise of international law, international communication, international companies.- We can see this in the fact that the United States cannot unilaterally bomb Syria, just because it wants to.Transnational corporations have more money than many nations.- We’ve all probably heard about how the wealth flowing around World of Warcraft is more substantial than many national economies. Same too for games like Eve OnlineInternational treaties and laws mean that individual nations have less control of their own borders.
  • Part of what they want to foster is a global democracy that isn’t mediated using a parliament or representatives.In one sense, why do we even need groups? A group can be as small as one person, but its potential members are no longer limited to one country or another.
  • Who recognises this man in the middle? Who knows the photo?
  • We study ‘network communications’ not just ‘internet communications’ Computer networks are simply one kind of communication – we should be able to understand other forms of communication as well.Tottenham riots were organised using BBM – a Bluetooth-based non-internet messaging serviceImmortal Technique distributed political activist albums in person, and for free on the net:
  • The ‘Arab Spring’ broke national borders.Used many different types of networks for communicating dissent:Video transmissionInternet social networksFax machineTelephoneDuring the ‘Arab Spring’, networks of resistance were organised using fax machines, and financial computers.Protestors were able to hijack financial computers in order to achieve Timeline at
  • Femen – does anyone want to guess what their network is?I want to point out that I think the anti-Islamic aspects of Femen are stupid, and are the result of an unthinking nationalism. Despite reports to the contrary, not a unified group.- A piece came out the other day to say that they were centrally organised by some guy, and that they’re just his puppets. Maybe. I don’t know. That might be true. However, femen is just a practice, an activity, and it’s not controlled by anyone. It’s difficult enough to talk about protests as ‘controlled’ things, because when people turn up
  • Occupy protests were global.People talk about its ‘success’, or its failures. This is stupid because the fact that it happened was the success.Also, it’s still ongoing – you’re just not paying attention.Occupy Gezi is a protest that has been going on.
  • Autonomism over networks

    1. 1. { }After Italy: Network Communications for Activism MECM20003 – Week 8 – Network Resistance Robbie Fordyce
    2. 2. what is autonomism? • A political movement. • A theory for resistance. • A mode of analysis.
    3. 3. what you need to know about autonomism • It begins in Italy. • First theorists of post- Fordism/immaterial labor. • Refuses representation.
    4. 4. i. italy
    5. 5. post-war italian economy • 1922: Fascism begins and Italy ‘modernises’. • World War II – Italy rapidly industrialises. • 1950: Italy moves to mechanised production. Further reading: Steve Wright – Storming Heaven, 2002
    6. 6. undoing political organisation • Marxist movements grow – mainly students/ex-factory workers. • Mid 1950s the ‘working class’ loses faith in the communist leadership.
    7. 7. the failures of the communist leadership, massive unemployment, the return of fascism in italy, international anti-communism, and above all, new technologies of communication leads to the emergence of italian marxism
    8. 8. autonomism • Begins in the late 60s. • Comprised of a couple of hundred small groups, all with different names and agendas. • Most notorious are Brigatte Rosse
    9. 9. disorganised organisation • A very large number of disorganised groups emerge. Coordinate via: – Newspaper and pamphlet (Potere Operaia etc) – Pirate radio! Radio Free Alice and Radio Red Waves – Telephone – hacking/phreaking of payphones – Graffiti/photography – Clothing – early punk styles; ‘Native American’ – Music – mainly rock music (Lou Reed, Patti Smith) – Even later: pirate TV
    10. 10. the issue of violence • Autonomism had extremely violent elements – Justified by a split: state violence vs. individual violence • Some engaged in shootouts, terrorism, beatings, murder, sabotage. • NATO ‘Operation Gladio’.
    11. 11. “within public opinion ABSOLUTELY ANYONE COULD BE A TERRORIST.” - Lotringer Sylvere Lotringer and Christian Marazzi – Autonomia: Post-Political Politics, (2007): x
    12. 12. summary of ‘political movements’ • Operaism – starts in the late 1950s . Resists: – State – Capitalism – Communist parties • Autonomism – emerges in the late 1960s – A wide range of groups – The groups share affinities – No single leader. • Both are effectively wiped out in 1978.
    13. 13. ii. italian marxist theory
    14. 14. Theories: Non-representation Post-Fordism The Social Factory Immaterial labour
    15. 15. non-representation • A movement that wants no leaders. • A movement that wants no constitution. • People share common goals, and work towards these.
    16. 16. Crucial: No one represented anyone else. Everyone spoke for themselves. Everyone took responsibility for their own actions.
    17. 17. a contemporary example • Anonymous – A ‘non-group’. – ‘Faceless’, – ‘Leaderless’ – Defined by a lack of identity – Anyone who is ‘named’ is no longer acknowledged as a member of Anonymous.
    18. 18. post-fordism • Fordism – a production line system. • Post-Fordism – a development beyond the production line. This takes many forms: – Toyotism (extensive managerial oversight, attention to markets) – Containerisation (different production sites) – Financial markets (profit is monetised through shares) • Predominantly, the replacement of workers by machines. – Auto-checkouts.
    19. 19. the social factory • Traditional political movements focused on the social effects on male factory workers. “The factory contains, in concentrated form, the social relations of society as a whole.” • Traditional political movements focused on the social effects on male factory workers.
    20. 20. the social factory • The slow increase in casual working hours, the reduction in salaried work, the increase in job insecurity. • All workers are replaceable parts of a giant factory, not just industrial workers.
    21. 21. immaterial labour • The majority of work is determined by elements that are primarily cultural or informational. • You perform immaterial labour all the time. • The videogame industry is rife with exploitation: – In Australia: Team Bondi – In the US: read
    22. 22. immaterial labour, cont. • This included a number of different types of labour: – ‘Women’s work’ (caring, domestic, hospitality) – Technical work (product design, development) – Affective work (psychiatric, medical) – Educational work (universities, schools) – Creative work (art, writing, cultural performance) Arvidsson and Colleoni – “Value in informational capitalism and on the Internet. “ Lazzarato – “Immaterial Labor”
    23. 23. iii. post-autonomism/ post-operaism
    24. 24. empire • 2000: Hardt and Negri begin publishing theory on the concept of ‘Empire’. • ‘Empire’ is the idea that the global geopolitics have substantially changed since 1970. • Transnational corporations have more money than many nations. • International treaties and laws mean that individual nations have less control of their own borders.
    25. 25. empire, pt. 2 • Technologically connected individuals have a new power to affect the governance of the world. • New networks of communication means that everyone has the possibility of a global voice. • But rather than doing anything new, people just tend to repeat themselves.
    26. 26. empire, pt. 3 • The point of ‘Empire’ isn’t to ‘fight capitalism’. • Rather to identify people in different countries have a great deal in common. READINGS: Brett Nicholls – “Hardt, Negri, and Antagonism.” Discusses political economy of media within Empire
    27. 27. ai weiwei • Artist – designed China’s Olympic Stadium. Very active on Twitter/blogging. • Produces online documentaries. – Sichuan earthquake on schools and children. • Highly critical of the Chinese government • Arrested numerous times
    28. 28. the network beyond the internet • We study ‘network communications’ not just ‘internet communications’ • 2011 Tottenham riots in England were organised using BBM – a Bluetooth-based non-internet messaging service • Immortal Technique distributed political activist albums in person, and for free on the net:
    29. 29. arab spring • The ‘Arab Spring’ broke national borders. • Used many different types of networks for communicating dissent: – Video transmission – Internet social networks – Fax machine – Telephone • Timeline at
    30. 30. femen • Femen – using naked bodies to protest sex slavery / ‘mail order brides’ / religion
    31. 31. #occupy • “I am not moving” Occupy Wall Street
    32. 32. review • Italian Marxist history: – Operaism/Autonomism • Autonomist theory: – Non-representation – Post-Fordism/Social Factory – Immaterial labour • Post-Autonomist theory: – Empire – Communication networks for resistance
    33. 33. list of resources • “I am not moving” – #occupy protest video – • Immortal Technique – The Martyr – • Guardian Arab Spring Timeline: – • Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, dir. Klayman– 2011 film about Ai Weiwei – on iView at the moment. • Battle of Algiers, dir. Pontecorvo – 1966 film about resistance – used by US army for training purposes.