Revolt in Italy: ‘62-’78 Italy’s “Creeping May”
Background - General• Italy no stranger to revolutionary struggle: – Biennio Rosso (1919-1920)• Post-war Italy ‘underdeveloped’• PCI & Social compromise• Post ’58 election victory for centre-left led to major disillusion
Background - General• Major characteristics of period: – ‘Hot Autumn’: mass strike wave ’68-’70 outside parties and unions – Overlapping university & factory radicalization: many ‘worker-students’ and revolutionary groups – Transition from Fordism to Post-Fordism: End of the ‘mass worker’ in Europe – Development of new form & content of struggles
Workers movement (‘62 – ’68)Early ‘60s:• Massive strikes in Turin region, enormous influx of southern migrants during ‘50s and early ‘60s• Young, unused to factory discipline, unafraid of managers and unfamiliar with unions, ie.: new ‘social’ class composition• Success of any large Turin strike depended on FIAT workforce (93,000 workers!) -> the typical ‘mass worker’.– Recent record very poor until national walkout in ’62 by metalworkers (60,000 supportive FIAT workers).– After two weeks -> unions made deal with bosses which angered the workers who marched to union HQ -> massive battles with police lasting 3 days throughout Turin.
Workers movement (‘62 – ’68)Mid ’60s:• Technological advances and economical boom -> increased mechanization, very high levels of employment peaking around ’68, decrease of real wages, intensified production• Affecting mainly young unskilled workers, increased piece-work & influence among foremen, ie.: new ‘technical’ class composition• Social/hierarchical structure of work reflected technical structure• Unions took even less interest in new workers then in ‘core’ ones -> new struggles developed outside unions -> resulted in radically different consciousness• Negative correlation between degree of unionization and militancy in struggles
Workers movement (‘62 – ’68)• Opening up of universities -> many new young workers in a radicalizing environment, they shared this perspective in the factories (worker- students).• Typical was the slogan of some radical workers: ‘Vogliamo Tutto!’ compared with conservatism of union officials demanding reduction of living cost.• Repression of student struggles coincided with repression of strikes -> struggles linked up objectively & subjectively• Struggles started to address wider issues: factory discipline, working conditions, etc. Decreasing identification with workplace, willingness to destroy the factory itself, first signs of the ‘revolt against work’
Workers movement (‘62 – ’68) • Dissatisfied elements in PCI tried to ‘start from scratch’: Quaderni Rossi (‘61-’66) lay framework for ‘operaismo’ • Many revolutionary groups (including ‘partitinos’ such as PO, AO, LC) sprang from this ‘operaismo’ current. • Large strikewave in the north (‘68) showed huge influence of partitinos & weak position of unions • Notable influence of May ‘68, critique of PCF/PCI & unions • Workers largely put faith in self-controlled base- organisations whilst many student organisations did not break with Leninism
Workers movement (‘62 – ’68)• Development of CUB at Pirelli in Milan -> autonomous & intersectoral. Followed by spread of CUBs throughout northern industrial triangle• CUB was associated with ‘autoriduzione’ ie.: reducing productive output• Escalation of strike wave -> linked demands: reduced wage differentials, improved working conditions, increased pay for southerners (who received 1/3rd less pay), supportive strikes launched in the South• Unrest flared up at FIAT too: many wildcat strikes from CUBs. Unions tried to adopt strikes through one-day ‘token strike’ and march -> massive streetfighting, weeks of mass assemblies & strikes, unions bypassed
Workers movement (‘62 – ’68)• Summing up (‘62 – ’68): • Main demands: greater production bonuses, revised piece rates with secondary demands for wider issues (discipline, conditions, etc.) • Demands firmly within wage-relation, essentially reformist • But: development of autonomous struggle, increasing militancy • Decreasing identification with workplace, increasing refusal of negotiation, even first signs of ‘revolt against work’ & refusal of demands • Development of ‘operaismo’
Workers movement (‘69 – ’70)End ‘60s: Hot Autumn:• Advanced and combative workers’ movement had been formed from ‘62-’68 already• Large strike-offensive hit FIAT in spring ’69 described as ‘continuous guerrilla’ of sabotage, rioting and strikes• Housing demonstration in july ‘69 erupted in street battles and riots with residents and workers attacking police stations and municipal buildings, breaking away from trade union march• Struggle radicalised: “The thing which brought us together was our discovery that work was the only enemy, the only sickness .. . the discovery that we all had the same needs and the same necessities.”
Workers movement (‘69 – ’70)• ‘Hiccup’ Strikes also broke out at Pirelli in Milan with 11k workers involved (blue- collar, technicians, youth apprentices, etc.) leading to lock-out and eventual city- wide struggle with road-blocks joined by 1000s of students
Workers movement (‘69 – ’70)• Antagonism against ‘foremen’ increased, ‘red handkerchief squads’ were formed by workers which settled scores• Symbolized the struggle against factory discipline• CUB, ‘worker-student groups’ and partitinos increased influence during hot autumn• Mass meetings during working hours -> intersectorial. Open discussion, were decision making platforms (as opposed to the unions) used recallable delegates.• Struggle spread through northern ‘triangle’ but unions also regained influence (‘by riding the tiger’) -> channeled towards national contract (40 hours work week, increased pay for apprentices, etc.)
Workers movement (‘69 – ’70)Recuperation in the workplaces:• Simultaneous rise of ‘workplace councils’ (NOT workers’ councils!) associated with unions -> ideology of ‘self-management’ and ‘workplace democracy’ -> this was opposed by revolutionary groups for acting as stopper on struggle• Interaction social movements & institutions led to institutionalization• Situation was treated too much like ‘exception’, preperations were made for ‘retour a la normale’• Recuperation through delegates (lists made up by unions or delegates drawn within unions)• Delegates reduced to function of organizers, used only in moment of mobilization which was channeled through ritual, march and speech• Delegates structure was official basis for reorganization of CGIL (recallable, bottom-up, etc.)• Unions restructured this to mean factory orgs were set up by union officials and made them compatible with union structures & function!
Workers movement (‘69 – ’70)Recuperation in the ‘social factory’:• Unions regaining control -> started to spread their tentacles outside of factory: ie. schools, neighborhoods, etc.• Unions wished to extend influence but tried to cleanse movements of their autonomous character and confrontational character (autoreduction, clashes, etc.)• Mass tentant’s & squatters’ movement was problem (ie. non-traditional ‘core workers’)• Unions tried to set up organisations acting as lawyers and negotiators for individual tentants, separating them from a movement, opposed actual squatting• Students & Workers of hot autumn were brought together in reading & educational groups -> which started to participate in educational schemes of the unions -> recuperating them by adjusting schemes towards capitalist utility -> intellectuals became new union princes• This process not fully directed or institutionalization alone: also saw eclipse of the mass worker, rise in unemployment, something completed with the death of programmatism towards end of the ‘70s
Workers movement - Conclusion• Militant struggles of the ‘60s and early ‘70s saw great material gains for the Italian working class but failed as a pre-revolutionary wave• Introduced new forms of struggle, initially developed autonomous and collective decision making• Even more important: cycle of struggles in this period saw 100.000s of workers breaking with the unions and reformism (if only for a certain period before being recuperated)• Struggles also showed recuperation of autonomous, delegates-structures is perfectly possible• Struggles also greatly influenced (and were influenced by) the later developments of the global economy with the shift from Fordism to Post-Fordism and the eventual decomposition of the ‘mass worker’.• Struggles, though signifying ‘revolt against work’, eventually ran up against limit of acting as a class
Autonomia• ‘70s saw increasing restructuring (moving away from Fordism) as well as entering of period of crisis. Unemployment rose, many youth were precarious & skilled in ‘art of getting by’• New generation of high-school & university youth entered political scene -> signalled new movement• Nascent counter-cultural movement developed through lens of political struggle, what developed into the American ‘hippies’ or the UK ‘punks’ were the ‘proletarian youth’ in Italy• Inspired by legacy of post-’68 & hot autumn• Life outside of ‘workplace’ became politicized, struggle to ‘reappropriate free time’ mixed with the nascent ‘revolt against work’ of the hot autumn
Autonomia• Various groups dissolved, split or merged within what was to become ‘Autonomia’• Crisis of ‘partitinos’ due to changing nature of struggle, feminist critique from within, etc.• Autonomia (The area of autonomy) was more movement than ‘organisation’: consisted of various collectives, squats, groups, journals, campaigns, sabotage cells• In Marxist terms identifiable with ‘party in the historical sense’. Influence of operaismo remained but criticized from within, (re)discovery of more anarchist, council communist & situationist ideas
Autonomia Rise of feminism: • Criticism directed at patriarchy, ‘reproductive sphere’, authoritarianism, division of labor, gender roles, the nuclear family, sexuality, etc. • Criticism directed as well to patriarchal reproduction inside ‘the movement’: ie. women assigned to cooking or secretarial duties, spousal violence, • Wages for housework campaign: problematic demands but helped spread critique to reproductive sphere (housing, affective labor, transport, etc.) • Very large campaigns in favor of abortion, divorce & against sexual violence emerged • Hospitals occupied & ‘illegal’ abortions were carried out by sympathetic nurses & docters. (Abortions then still punishable by 5 years prison!) • Some feminist cells took heavy action: torched brothels, beat back heroin pushers, shot rapists, etc.
Autonomia‘Take over the city’:• Influence of counter-cultural magazines (Erba Voglio, Re Nudo) with huge readership base• Radical critique of ‘personal politics’ of “generation of ‘68” mirroring situationist critique of ‘self-sacrificing militant’• ‘Revolution of daily life’ had more appeal than ‘build the party, sell the paper’• Mid ‘70s saw this youth organizing into ‘proletarian youth circles’ & collectives• Autonomy went further then ‘autonomy from the unions & parties’ to self-managed spaces, events, festivals, etc.: cumulated in ‘take over the city’ campaign• Spread of various rebellious practices: squatting, autoriduzione, free radio, mass confrontations with the state
Autonomia • Squatting meant formation of new social relationships, different ways of living & struggling were experimented with • 1000s of buildings squatted by 1976, many of them in neighborhoods which often went on rent-strikes • Building occupations, ie.: free “peoples’ clinic”, emergence of social centres • Fragment ‘mio fratello è figlio unico’
Autonomia• Autoriduzione meant mass fare dodging, rent strikes, refusal to pay electric & gas bills, ‘proletarian shopping’, etc. seeking to reappropriate social wealth collectively• Unions tried to latch on to movement by becoming bargaining partners in area of consumption• Free (pirate) radio was new development: no censorship, direct contact with callers, self-managed
Autonomia• Main characteristic of language of ‘autonomia’ was irony. Mocking, subversion & detournement of established political slogans or discourse (comparable to ‘memes’), example: ‘Indiani Metropoli’, pranks by Radio Alice• Autonomia described as ‘tribe of moles’, talk of ‘two societies’, ie.: ‘silent riot’, Luciano Lama (CGIL) incident, refusal of workers’ identity, ‘diffuse guerrilla’
Autonomia• Peak: movement of ’77 (spread of autonomi & proletarian youth circles throughout country, inside slums & universities)• Mass student demonstration against new university reforms (involving 10.000s) on 11 march saw police kill Francesco Lo Russo (of LC) in Bologna• Demonstrators shot back & massive riots erupted, police driven from streets of Bologna for 3 days, shops looted & goods redistributed, buildings occupied, etc.
Autonomia• Struggles ran out of steam/reached their limits• Fordist compromise (wages increasing with production in wake of WWII) ran up against limit of rate of profit, period of restructuring masked as ‘neoliberalism’, decomposition/atomization of class, outsourcing, financialization, etc.• Movement splintered: retreat into personal lives, academy, reformism, addiction or towards vanguardist armed groups (Brigatte Rosse, Prima Linea, etc.)