Archive for July 30, 2010

Between Historic Compromise and Terrorism

Preface To The Present Edition:

This book dates in its current form from 1972/73, although some of its parts were written (written partially) 10 years prior. By all means, however, the form in which these essays/texts are presented are definitive. In re-publishing these lessons I have not believed it necessary in modifying them in any aspect. Why? In their relative ingenuity they are constructive, creative and joyous.

How was this text born? How did the idea come to me to write it and why did I feel profoundly spurred  to do it by my comrades at the time? In the 1960’s, in the PCI, as well as in the very distant and far removed area in which I was a militant, Lenin was very much present in the movement. The discussion of his texts and the positioning of the movements with respect to the Leninist tradition was essential. Now, the Leninist camp differentiated/seperated itself along very different and deep threads/lines. I do not believe to be mistaken in affirming that in Italy there were two main/principle currents of interpretation within the working class movement of the time. In the Togliattan majority within the PCI, the adhesion to orthodox Leninism presented itself as a strong philological fidelity as much as an opportunist one. In that climate, Gramscianism was used as a reformist theory of social transformation while the Gramscian concept of hegemony was interpreted as a device/mechanism of consensus that was to replace the will of/to power and the Leninist prescription of the dictatorship of the proletariat.(Poor Gramsci, whom they betrayed twice, first as an authentic Leninist thinker and the second as an author of an improbable democratic theory of communism) Secondly, in the period between the 60’s and 70’s there were other pseudo-Leninist groups present in the ideological market of the working class and proletarian movement. These were, above all, Marxist-Leninist groups, often  organizational caricatures, symbolic rather than political, financial and appropriative rather than subversive and cooperative. In those groups and in that sensibility, the idea of Leninism was portrayed in the same broken and disfigured way as offered by Stalinism: Leninism signified the delegation of revolutionary political decision to a leader or a vanguard group; it signified the fetishism of authority and the exaltation of a dictatorial symbolism. In popular terms, in this ambience or environment, communism was represented as a church, or worse even, as a sect and on a occasion a vehicle for an unbridled populism.

On the other hand, on the international scene, beyond Italian borders, there existed and exist forces and programs which, with an importance well beyond  the caricaturesque figures of the Italian discussion in the 70’s, proclaimed themselves Leninist and, during the Cold War, were opposed to the two superpowers of the time. For these forces there was no doubt that the USSR represented a betrayal to Marxism. What was important was the possibility of discerning and identifying a Leninist opposition to this betrayal of Marxism. Within these forces there was, in the first place, a current which greatly interested me: it was the bordiguistas, who polemicized- in the name of a strong (determinist) objectivist materialism- against Stalinist voluntarism. The bordiguists tried to reinterpret history as governed through insurrectional leaps, described by Leninism, using a theory of revolutionary cycles; although, in the first moment this theory appeared to remove the hope of revolution, in the second it determined that revolution was an event that was absolutely necessary. In those years, in between the 60’s and 70’s, I had a few friends that were bordiguistas: in Italy some Cremonose comrades, in France Robert Paris and others. I had the impression that bordiguism gave an answer to a revolutionary instance that was both open and effective according to its double presentation as resistance and insurrection, as organization and event; I had the impression, therefore, that a theory of the subject (like the one I was elaborating at the time) could submit itself to this apparatus. These theoretical alternatives to Leninism continue and are present today; you can read them, without great political density, in Alain Badiou, for example. There was, in addition, a second thread which interested me even more. A few comrades which spent their time between Europe and the USA had the opportunity of meeting the militants and theorists from Facing Reality. They proceeded from the rank and file (base) of the working class from that communist left which in the USA presented itself as Trotskyism; they had a strong subjectivist Leninist interpretation and subscribed to the critical Marxism of Dunayevskaia and tried to renew it. Their subjectivism was solidly linked/connected to the new working class of the New Deal and concretized itself in the constant investigation on the relation between the technical and political composition of industrial work. Thus, this was a high/developed/advanced subjectivism, open to the technological transformations in the organization of the labour force, to changes in sociological development and a lively imagination in regards to revolutionary transition.

Italian operaismo positioned itself in a different manner with respect to the international and national environment. Italian operaismo represented, at the same time, a completely revisionist position in regards to the Leninist hypothesis as well as a clear reinvigoration of his revolutionary project. From this point of view, Mario Tronti’s article ‘Lenin in England” was the beginning of our discourse. In that article, Tronti affirmed that, in the actuality of the 1960’s, the Leninist hypothesis had to deal with  a radical transformation/change, with a rupture in the social composition of the proletariat: from which followed a necessary revision of the revolutionary project. In the journal Classe Operaia, at the beginning of that same decade, we all accepted this approach to the problem of Lenin: later on a few comrades reneged this path or entrusted this investigative project to oblivion…I was and continue to be convinced that we must renew this path the same way as we did then

In the lessons from the 60’s and 70’s that are to be republished in this volume, the first hypothesis (Lenin remains alive, because we are confronted with a new class reality), that is, the Trontian hypothesis, began to be reconsidered and reworked. Revolutionary revisionism (that is, the understanding of the change in the technical composition of the proletariat which requires and corresponds to a change in the political composition) is praised in the first place as an epistemological device and an instrument for the further organization of the revolutionary process. Of course, this is formed, produced and reconfigured through struggle, through victories, defeats, as well as, above all, ontological transformations of the subject which is its protagonist. Secondly, the crises of Marxism after 1956 (that is, after the publication of Stalin’s crimes at the 20th Congress of the CPSU) was understood as a positive crises, constructive and creative. Revolutions and their necessity, theories and their possibilities, interchanged their roles: today, theory extracts subjectivity and makes it ready for the present. This opened then, as it were, a strange type of ‘”patristic process”: this is to say that the renewal of Marxism ( as it happened to Christianity in the first centuries of its history) began to produce itself; from the ruins and mistakes, from the political clashes and the ontological re-articulation of the subject, there began, finally, to take shape a new ‘synthesis’ to come. Thirdly, the Leninist hypothesis of revolution seemed to us to go infinitely beyond and be much purer then the Stalinist Thermidor. Revolutionary terror is real, it determines a profound historical rupture/discontinuity, it destroys radically the reproduction of the dominant classes: however, it is always mystifying when, joined with this spiritual cleansing, it re-introduces dominant strata and new forms of control. However, the Stalinist Thermidor does not correspond with a continuation of the Leninist revolution; in effect, we can only find the continuation of Leninism in the heterodoxies of the October Revolution….In literature and in the imaginary, Maiakowski, Bajtin and Lukacs are the heirs to Leninism…As in law it is Pashukanis…and in politics it is Mao. Read Die Massnahme by Brecht: there you will find, in the monstrosity of revolutionary terror, the vindication of the heterodox originality of the Leninist disposition…Finally, understanding that after 1956 theory could reclaim its position which with the development of the class struggle had been given over to Stalinism, we rediscover in Leninism a productive matrix of new organizational forms, an ever powerful source when developing revolutionary force. At the beginning of the 70’s we were witnessing the passing of the hegemony of the mass worker and the hegemony of the external organization of knowledge in production  to new forms of organization of the socialized worker and the internalization of intellectual production to labour-power.: there was no doubt that this process of the political transformation of subjectivity would not stop at that point. We knew; or better yet, we understood and perceived the dawn or beginning of these of these new organizational figures in practice and revolutionary theory. Lenin was for us a methodological exercise (ensayo metodolico) for an analysis of the transformation of the class struggle, he was a schiboleth, the password  or master key of an ongoing revolutionary refounding through the revolutionary transformation of subjects.

I would just like to open up a parenthesis here in order to remember the climate, the places and the people which accompanied the work employed in the creation of these lessons on Lenin. As I mentioned, a few of these lessons (in particular those on the soviets) had been elaborated in article form at the beginning of the 60’s. Others- those that relate to Lenin and the theory of the party- had been presented before in a few university classes at La Sapienza in Rome. However, these lessons were exposed at the Insititute for Political Science of Padua, which I then led ( as a true  “evil teacher”<malvado maestro>) in 33 sessions. I am very proud of my academic work: I would prepare these lessons, give them before a broad audience of students and they were also recorded. Then Gabriella and Elizabetta would type them out. I corrected the lessons and adapted them for publication during the summer of 1973. I taught the course on Lenin only in 1972-73: the ‘evil master’ did not repeat himself to his students…Every year a distinct course would be taught and the discussion in the seminars would contribute to determine the issues of study and to establish instructive/educational intervention points for the next year. Now, reconsidering it, I have to admit that such a seminar was completely unable to be integrated into the Italian university system: it was, in turn, a Leninist seminar. In 1979 they put us all in prison. Nevertheless, you cannot imagine to what point and degree (until that moment) how subversive that institution was…Luciano Ferrari Bravo, Sandro Serafini, Sergio Bologna, Guido Biachini, Christian Marazzi, Maria Rosa dalla Costa, Lisa del Re, Ferruccio Gambino and many others that populate the intellectual chronicles of the last three decades that were part of that institution. Moreover, there also passed by numerous and important foreign friends and comrades : from Agnoli to Bruckner, from Harry Cleaver to John Merrington and Selma James; from Yan Moulier Boutang to Coriat and De Gaudemar…as well as the illustrious Italians, always in discord, but obliged to discussion, from Rossan Rossanda to Trentin and Carniti; as well the laboristas, from Guigni to Tarello and Ghezzi…, until the great Mancini, Giannini and Caffe. Also, the investigations by CNR, who in those years, between a restricted number of universities, flocked to our institute: we produced important works on pressing contemporary issues, from analysis of structures of centralization and the administrative proceedings of the European Community to the study  and investigation on the transformation of work, between the factory and society, between immaterial labour and social labour. Conjointly, the institute led a pair of scientific collections at the Feltrinelli publishing house and various collections for Cleup. The hypothesis of a theoretical reinvention of communism and of an insurrectional overcoming of the structures/institutions of the State towards freedom, the Leninist hypothesis, travelled in a constant process of reactualization furrowing this sea of initiatives and concrete projects.

The institute was destroyed  in a single blow by a repressive act orchestrated by a judge named Calogero and inspired by the hidden structures of the State,  by Christian Democrats and the PCI: it consisted in defining the institute as the theoretical center of the Brigate Rossi. The heroic magistrate who concocted this theorem has built a great legal career; the infamous informers and provocateurs who fabricated evidence and took those professors from this institute to jail continue and are  still members of the reformist left( as well as that left which calls itself  revolutionary ) and, or, of course, on the right, the Padua teachers who supported the operation, generally inept in their work,  carved out magnificent academic careers, but now no longer present (cowards!) their work in the April 7th affair as a point on their CV.( ingredient in their curricula.) Nevertheless, they could do it: the political class has not changed that much; their anti-communism has, in every sense, only multiplied, to the point that today it is not even necessary to legitimize infamy, as did a President of the Republic who approved two days later, on 9th of April of 1979, the preventive detentions of the 7th of April…

It is neither bitterness nor scandal that dictates these words. It has nothing to do with that but with the Leninist contempt for all those palace flies which, while declaring themselves socialists, serve the bosses. Nor is there space in this paper to discuss the sordid state of the Italian media of then (and of now?)…,, but there is no room here for scandal because infamy is useful and falsity is generously remunerated by the media bosses. The only room that is available here is the certainty and denouncing of the fact that the whole Italian left saw itself involved since then in the right’s corruption.

A good part of the thought, passions and people that undertook against these 33 Lessons on Lenin repressive action, destructive and reactionary have died or have fallen into oblivion. These lessons, on the contrary, are being republished. The process of political transition in which they deal  around  a new theory of organization of the exploited, between working class and new proletarian formations, between working class and post-modern multitude, have advanced considerably.  Nonetheless, that is not all; it is not solely about the assertion that the Leninist epistemology has been imposed and that, therefore, the revolutionary handover of one subject to another in the historical process is readily perceptible and noticed by all, it is about, moreover, that this passage presents from now on the fabric(material) of a global revolution, of the multitude against Empire. Of  course, many of the fundamental  assumptions of these lessons and the conditions which sustained the reasoning in which they were set out have changed. And that matters! The subjective forces, imposing themselves within history, change our ways of knowing history; the real movement, the movement of reality(of the real) interprets that very same reality. Leninist abstraction has returned to charge/to ‘take’ reality because the Leninist utopia has returned to be an object of desire. It is quite fun to see that a few great bourgeois literati have recovered, in these times of transformation and transition of one epoch to another, the figure of St. Paul as a witness to the transition: we believe, only the figure of Lenin presents, for communism, the dimensions of the Pauline revolution. Toni Negri

We have a pending task: reconstruct historical materialism and the theory of communism in the Imperial age: I am convinced that these old lessons represent a useful introduction for that task.

Antonio Negri

Roma, December of 2003

Translated by Guio Jacinto from Spanish ed. of 33 Lessons on Lenin by Akal ediciones


Futbol and class struggle…

In Italy, catenaccio was class struggle!

In June of 2006, Negri talks with Renaud Dely and Rico Rizzitelli journalists from Liberation. Soccer, Fordism and class struggle are some of the topics which come up throughout the interview.

Antonio Negri, theorist of the far left, philosopher of 72 years, a soccer ‘expert’ and supporter of AC Milan. His creed:  Long live the revolution and the Azzuri!

Q: How can it be that you, a Marxist philosopher, radical thinker and theorist of the alterglobalization movement, support AC Milan, club owned by Silvio Berlusconi?

That is precisely why I cannot leave! I am a slave to my passion! It is like when you have a friend who is a prostitute: you love her no matter what! Before, people on the right and on the left would support Inter and Milan respectively. It was parallel to their political commitments. It is much more confused today. It is not necessary to take the economic organization of the club very seriously. I love AC Milan because it is my father’s club and of my children. I participated in the creation of the Brigate Rossonere,(1) which have nothing to do with the Brigate Rossi; it was before, in the 1960’s. We were followers of the left and we installed ourselves in the south end of the stadium. I have three children and they are all ‘Milanistas’. My daughter married a ‘Interista’, which caused a lot of problems. (jokingly) It made me happy when they separated. At any rate, soccer is nothing more than a game….

Q: For Berlusconi, being the owner of AC Milan, is it also a game?

In part, yes. Without a doubt, he wishes to use the club to gain power in politics. However, it is difficult to translate the sympathy and support in sport into politics. There remains a boundary. Berlusconi is a rabid dog. Nonetheless, he has always been very prudent not to excessively mix the two. He knows it can work against him if the team loses.

Q. But politics is also in sport. Milan’s stadium is named after Giuseppe Meazza (4), the captain of the ‘fascist squad’ of 1938….

Fascism played a lot with soccer, as did all in that era. Take a look at photos of the team: they all had their arm in the air. It was the national sport and it was during the dictatorship. Italian fascism corresponds to a precise moment; the beginning of Fordism, forced and generalized industrialization.

Q: A player like Paolo Di Canio, from Lazio of Rome, continues to give the fascist salute…

This is racism and provocation…like Le Pen! Listen/Understand: I do not want to defend ‘historical fascism’. But the fact is that it adapted to a particular and determinant situation in development in Italy, a transition. The same as Stalinism adapted to certain transformations in Russian Society. But the fascists and Stalinists of today are bastards. Lazio is a team tied to the extreme right. Gianfranco Fini,(2) former vice-president of the (local Council) is their protector. Other teams, infintily more likable, are tied to the extreme left; this is the case with Livorno. If you want to have fun, go see them. They are very original..nostalgic, from the extreme left.

Q; Is it also the case with the hooligans phenomenon that politics ‘invades’ sports?

It is not a phenonmenon specific to sports. The fascists try to change the positive things that people do. They do it with the social relations created by the progressives as well as with football. I think that fascism is at the base or root of hooliganism. It deals with, or is related to, before anything, with the phenomenon associated with urban violence. For example, the Heysell drama came from outside. It was like a meteorite that fell upon the stadium. It could be that football is a favourable territory, but it is necessary to distinguish between favourable territory and the cause. The cause is ‘outside’ or exterior. Football is innocent.

Q: On the occasion of the European constitutional referendum, you decided to vote ‘yes’, from the pages of Liberation because the treaty, according to you, would contribute to ‘destroying this shithole of the nation-state’. How about in football? Do you side with the G14, who put in question the existence of ‘national football’ teams?

When I talk about the end of the nation-state, I do not mean the end of the local, of the passions. The European space is very important in order to create a power/potency against the United Staes and liberalism. None of this has been done, and this is the reason that we are currently screwed. I maintain that I was correct, that I had reason. But I am a friend of Chavez and I am against nations. I am for Europe, but also for the Azzuri!. Viva football y viva Maradona! (laughter) Even if Brussels nominated a committee to form a European team, I am not that sure that I would agree. Even if it involved Capello….

Q: In France, this separation between politics and football is much more delicate…

I, for my part, accept the contradiction and manage it from the inside…

Q: How?

I enjoy making revolution! I enjoy going to football! When one has energy they disperse it every which way. I never understood those which separated these two worlds/universes. In Italy, there were groups which had such a reasoning. They were the Catholics, people with an extremely pure conception. Why do Italian and English intellectuals talk with such ease about sports while the French have felt so uncomfortable during such a long time? Because the French intellectuals are absurd people who live outside of reality! They are intelligent and capable of constructing systems because they are in the universal. We, however, live a reality that is much more concrete, fuller of life, more biopolitical. Sport is very important in revealing the material consistency of social relations and the passions at levels which are not elementary but instead the first phenomenological configurations of the real. Wow, pardon the jargon….

Q: Why is football, in your opinion, a universal sport?

Its great merit lies in its ability to make people talk amongst each other, although as a sport it is very boring. Like the cinema, the theatre or the opera. On the other hand, it has the same melodramatic sentiment as opera. With a character, the coach, who has a fundamental role. It is from this character that my love for football was born. I had a great adventure (sic). It was about Nereo Rocco, the inventor of the Italian catenaccio. At the end of the 50’s, he coached Trieste and after Padua. At Padua, with a mediocre team, he developed a defensive game a la italiana, the Italian game at its most boring, hardest and ferocious. Later on, he took the same style of play to Milan and Gianni Brera, a journalist, during the 60’s, from Il Giorno, a socialist and progressive journal, theorized it and in it saw a certain national characteristic.

Q: Philippe Séguin, the football expert, was in accordance with those Marxist columnists from Le Miroir du football who argued, in the 1970’s, that catenaccio was the most reactionary style of play that existed. What do you have to say in respect to this?

Never permit a right-wing reactionary like him to speak badly of catenaccio!(laughter) Gianni Brera used to say that catenaccio was associated with the character of Italians, a tough/rough character, of peasant, from the soil. Catenaccio constituted the equivalent of rugby in football. It was the class struggle; one is weak and has to defend oneself. Quite the opposite of what Segun had to say. Catenaccio was born in Venice, a land in which people, in the 1950’s, were obliged to leave in order to emigrate because they had nothing to eat; it was the great migration of the masons/brick layers  or ice cream vendors to Belgium, Switzerland, the line of the Rhine. Catenaccio corresponds to the nature of these northern regions, strong immigrants, tough, fierce because they were hungry.

Q: Were you a fan of the Azzuri during the time in which, during the 60’s and 70’s, you were a professor at the University of Padua?

I was a fan of the Italian team when it won in 1982. I was at the time in prison. It was the only day in which we embraced with the guards. We were allowed to have one half of the prisoners in the same cell to watch the game. And when the game was over, they opened the door and we embraced. It was a bit misleading/ambiguous! (laughter) Football has a logic which is very different to that of the rest of society. It is really dangerous to think that it can be an element of mystification of social relations. In the last instance, the joy that a victory produces…but for the tiffosi it is not simply about a game. In Italy, a sporting event triggered, in 1948, a whole national rhetoric; Bartali won the Tour de France. The civil war was a threat because Togliatti, the leader of the PCI was injured in a political attack (assassination attempt?) The President of the Republic telephoned Bartali asking him to win. And that win served to emphasize the element of national unification against that element of hard conflict in the country after that fascist attempt on the Communist Party leader.

Q: Can a victoy like the one in 1982 create and exalt national sentiments against the foreigner?

I don’t believe so, no. There can be dramatic moments in the history of a country, moments which sport escapes…. Football is not very nationalistic. If you take a look at the Italian clubs, how many national players are there in these teams? Not many, right? And look at the French. They are everywhere, the French!

Q: That is because money has imposed itself on the nation. What are your opinions on the consequences of the Bosman ruling? In principle, it deals with a ‘ right to association’ in favour of a player screwed by the system…

A backward ‘right’ which determines the liberation of the market! It deals with the deregulation of the national market and, as a consequence, the constitution of a world market….european, in reality. The only way to bring equilibrium or balance to this capitalist situation is to create popular societies and popular shareholders. It is necessary to support the possibility of alternatives on this terrain through public powers; on the other hand, there is the revolutionary alternative. Either destroy capitalism or popular societies are constituted!

Q: All of the French players that move to Italy are disconcerted with the importance of tactics during practice…

This is due to Italians being ‘machiavellian’.(sic). Machiavellianism consistes in making due with what you have at your disposal, in your hands. It is just like the French to be stupefied at this insistence on tactics. The French have never been Machiavellian, they have always been theorists of State reason which is different. But if the Italians thought a little less, they would win more often. Their results are not extraordinary; they are, of course, not like the Brazilians. And that the French have only recently begun to win games while the Italians had already won them in the 30’s with  Piola’s hand, Just like Maradona’s hand of God!

Q: Why is the history of sport in Italy full of rivalries; AC Milan vs. Inter, Roma vs. Lazio, Coppi vs Bartali, Moser vs. Saronni, etc?

Italian unity only dates to 1870. The history of Italy is a history of cities/city-states: Florence vs Pisa, Venice vs. Milan, Roma vs. Naples, etc. The Italian language was only constituted in the 30’s, under fascism and disseminated by the radio. Until then, you could not put in the same regiment people from Valle d’Aosta and Sicily. When they were asked to advance, some would retreat! The history of the country is very recent; the history of the cities is very old and it is a history of classes.

Q: Your partner/wife is an Interista and said of Inter: ‘They lose all the time and that is magnificent… Like Hungary’s legendary defeat in 1954?

Careful! We are dealing with a French woman who lived a long time in Italy and, before me, had a partner who was an Inter supporter. A type of nostalgia for the Nerazzurri has been created. Inter has the image of a team which is extremely ‘thoughtful’ or ‘intelligent’, in which people take the inside/interior more into consideration than the exterior. Hungary (5) is a great ‘Danubian’ football team; an extremely delicate style, playing more along ‘in line’ than through the masses. Great Italian football is a synthesis from two origins: ‘danubian’ football and argentinian football. The ‘danubians’ are the ‘ in line’; the argentinians, the individuals. And from there proceeds what the journalist Brera called the’ Italian peasant race’. It is necessary to put these three elements together and you have the perfect dialectical synthesis, the masses of Italian football.

Q: Do you go to the stadium when you are in Milan?

No, practically never. When I am in Paris, I go to see the games at a friends house. We are a group of former exiles, we get together Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Amongst us there is a chef, owner of a big restaurant in Paris. We eat well and watch the game. Some are supporters of Milan, others of Juventus, and we fight. We recreate a type of great classic Italian comedie…

Q: You never speak of French football…

In 1954-1955 I spent a year in France, at the ENS; I didn’t imagine that football existed in France at that time. Here (France) it is a product of colonialism. Be careful, I don’t not want to be seen or understood as a LePenist saying this! I do not want to expel players of colour from  France, but, in France, football was born from Italian immigration.

France is the only country in western Europe in which virtually all levels of immigration have played in the national team. The first black English player was not selected until 1978!

So long live integration a la Francais!

(1) Ultras group for supporters of AC Milan created in the 60’s and whch still exists today

(2)Former minister in Berlusconi’s government. Relaunched the extreme right at the beginning of the 90’s by transforming the neofascist MSI into the ‘post-fascist’ Alianza Nacional.

3) 13th of May 2005

(4) Scored 30 goals in 34 games with the Italian team, two of them in the World Cup final of 1938 (4-2 vs. Hungary), Silvio Piola became famous by scoring a goal with his hand in 1939 against the English (2-2)

(5) Between 1950 and 1955, the Hungarian national team did not lose more than 1 game out of 33: the final in the World Cup vs Germany (3-2)

Translated from Spanish by Guio Jacinto