The Worker’s Party of Mirafiori

Posted: August 3, 2010 in 1970's, 1973

from the Red Notes book, Working Class Autonomy and the Crisis


Toni Negri


This article takes as its starting point the heady days of March 1973, when the FIAT workers of Mirafiori, Turin, once again played out their vanguard role in an uncompromising mass occupation of the factory, which was then taken up as a .tactic by dozens of other engineering firms in the city and suburbs of Turin.

Once again, FIAT workers in action provided the movement with further material for reflection on the nature of communist working class organisation of the struggle. Toni Negri here weighs this experience against the concepts of power, working class organisation and the political party.

The detailed history of that struggle was published in a Diary of the Struggle, in Controinformazione No. 0 (Red Notes has a draft translation of this). In addition, Lotta Continua published a book called I Giorni della FIAT (“The Days of FIAT”), with photos, interviews with workers; and an account of the struggles.

This article was published as Appendix 4 to the article “The Working Class Party Against Work”, in Crisi e Organizzazione Operaia (“The Crisis and Working Class Organisation”), Feltrinelli, Milan, September 1974.


One problem which has not been clarified, and whose formulation has nevertheless been an object of criticism, is the problem which, in the course of this essay, I have defined as the problem of the necessary disarticulation of the instances of attack and the levels of working class power, from overall organisation. Is it legitimate to “theorise” this split? And if this split is “given” in the present organisational process, rather than accept it as given, would it not be more important to work towards the construction of a party perspective that could take upon itself the subjective commitment, the task of prefiguring a unificatory course of action, which would enable that given split to be transcended?

It is clear that posing the problem in these terms opens the way for consideration of an alternative, one of great importance. It is not simply an alternative method that we risk posing (from this point of view, we could take the matter as resolved: the present real situation is one of a split; any attempts to achieve a prefiguration of a unitary solution have never got beyond the level of fragile, wretched efforts; therefore there are no alternatives at the level of method or tactics – at least, no concrete alternatives to starting from rock bottom, and taking the risk upon ourselves in the reconstruction of a working class political perspective. In reality, the problem that is posed involves a far more fundamental alternative – namely the very model of the party (and the proletariat=s hopes and efforts for the insurrection). But it is a terrain of alternatives that we reject. In fact, as we have often said, our point of view is that there can be no working class conception of the party unless it is a working class desire for reappropriation of organisation. In the second place, at the level of the present political composition of the working class, there can be no working class conception of the party unless it is immediately the practice and exercise of power. It is within this horizon, of the workers’ desire for organisation, that all neo-Leninist mythologising, all Third Internationalist fetishism must be demystified. From our point of view, and speaking in Marxist terms, the party can be, at certain historical moments, at given levels of class composition, the “forme retrouvee” (the “refound form”, in the sense in which Marx uses this expression to describe the Paris Commune) of the class struggle; all artisanal and doctrinal experiments that would seek to substitute themselves for the great collective means of the working class must be swept away. And this is as true for terrorists as it is for reformists.

So, let us now deal with the problem in concrete terms. On March 29-30th 1973, in all the FIAT plants in Turin, including Mirafiori and Rivalta, the all-out strike transformed itself into an armed occupation. (The complete documentation of the struggles at FIAT-Turin in the period of Autumn 1972 3) to March 1973 is now published, as a ‘Diary of Struggle’, in Controinformazione No. 0, Milan, October 1973). It is in this form that the workers have been able to see the reality of a direct exercise of pacer against the totality of. the repressive conditions set in motion by the employers and the Trade Unions from 1969 to the present day. The “Workers’ Party of Mirafiori” is forming itself as an ability to show the capitalist the impossibility of using instruments of repression and restructuration (from mass layoffs to sackings; from fascist provocations to all the articulations of command over production in the factory). The “Mirafiori Party” is thus an actuality of working class power – consequently an armed actuality, a reply matched to the level of the power balance between the two classes in struggle. All the contradictions, all the difficulties and defeats (starting from 3rd September, 1969, when Agnelli for the first time used the weapon of mass layoffs) are here overcome and resolved: trusting in their own mass power, reappropriating all their individual and group initiatives, the working class reveals itself as, and acts. as, the party of Mirafiori.

It is only at this point that we can return to the problem that we posed; at the outset, because now, having taken the discussion along these tracks, we can see that a bureaucratic solution that tries to prefigure the relationship between organisational articulations and overall organisation is excluded in principle. The question then becomes: how does the transition to the overall form of organisation come about? – bearing in mind that we are only at the beginning of a process of struggles and revolutionary experiences that will be able to give us, both an understanding of the laws of development of working class power, and the collective ability to put them into effect. Thus it is only a beginning; but it is also the only way. The “Party of Mirafiori” demands it.

If we follow the FIAT experience of March 1973, we can point to some elements that are fundamental for a solution of’ the problem. Here the central point has been the extension and the spreading of the attacking struggle in the period from September to March. In a continuous crescendo, which has been amazing in this latest phase, all forms of struggle have been set in motion: from absenteeism to sabotage, from the punishment of foremen to the persecution of Fascists, from stoppages on the line to violent march inside the factory, from blacking finished products to all-out strikes, to the military occupation of the factory. Seen from the start, and from wit,’ the final explosion was a sign of a leap from quantity to quality – thus, the;, mass innovation that this leap revealed and which the dialectic teaches us to appreciate; but also the continuity that we saw in the minute, continuous unfolding of infinite numbers of acts of insubordination, of countless acts of attack, of the complex action of many political party groups. When the (Note 4 ) Cen-po-ta nucleus attacks, destroys, punishes, expropriates, it is only the symbol of a mass activity that is continuous and growing. So, the final explosion is the coming-to-a-head of a molecularly diffuse attacking struggle expressing itself in a definitive leap in quality: this is the first fundamental element that must be stressed. Starting from that moment, it is the mass that moves, as such;, it is the fullness of power that is expressing itself; it is the abundance of working class inventiveness that is carrying out its work of destruction and dictatorship.

The second fundamental element of the FIAT experience is that the final: explosion, the leap in quality, has taken place, as I said, based on a continuity of working class initiative. In fact we must say that this advance has, been a spontaneous leap. The superiority of the struggle of FIAT workers in’ 1973, compared with Piazza Statuto in 1962 or the episode of Corso Traiano in 1969, consists essentially in this: that the continuity of the struggle not been spontaneous, but has seen within it the continuous driving force of, the revolutionary line. The spontaneity has this time been interpreted and informed by the conscious initiative of the vanguards in the factories: that generality which exploded in the final phase of the struggle was foreseen and worked for by the factory vanguards. It would be ridiculous to turn this fact into the complete explanation for the final explosion of the struggle: ,the final leap was wholly the fruit of the mass action, acting as a mass. But it is nevertheless true that the dialectic that opened between the function of attack and the general movement in the factory, has constituted an essential red thread of workers’ rationality within the struggle. The underground organisation has been the basis of the mass organisation; exemplary action has been a clarification of the mass movement, and a fostering of mass initiative; the growing military organisation of the vanguards has been the model for the general arming of the factory.

This should be stressed also for another aspect – a third fundamental lesson of the struggle. Namely that the attacking vanguards, while they cannot actually carry out the final formidable leap forward (only the masses can do this), at least they have defined the terrain, the frame of reference of this leap. In fact it is not only in its conclusion and in its mass triumph that the struggle has showed the elements that are characteristic of today’s composition of the working class – i.e. the exercise of power: on the contrary, the whole course of the struggle has had an extraordinary coherence in this sense. In other words, every act of attack has been a search for a form of struggle that would pay immediately; the entire sequence of forms of struggle has developed as a process of perfecting a practice of power. The masses exercised this power, while the vanguards indicated the terrain on which to move. From this point of view, the liquidation of the Union, of the delegates (shop stewards), of the very idea of representation and bargaining, could hardly have been more profound. The vanguards did not present themselves as a substitution for the archaic trade union functions: on the contrary, ‘,.they presented the immediate terrain of a struggle for power. The synthesis of political action and economic action which is always a characteristic of the revolutionary struggle of the working class, happened immediately, at the level of the exercise of power. And here, on this level, what was excluded and rejected has been as significant as the positive, conscious mass choices: i.e. the refusal to seek political mediations which would repeat traditional models by referring to the institutional levels of bourgeois power (after so much talk, there was not a sign of the campaign against Andreotti’s governmen-t!); the refusal to consider the signing of the contract as a politically significant moment (shown by absenteeism and the lack of interest in the trade union mass meetings!). In reality, the “refound form” of working class organisation, at this level of political composition of the class, is wholly anchored to the immediacy of the exercise of working class power: thus (we have seen how, and how positively!) the separate functions of the project of organisation are dialectically recomposed.

Of course, as- we have already said, this is only a beginning. The elements I have described and given as examples are not enough to give us a theory of organisation: they are, however, sufficient to indicate a path to follow, in order to overcome the difficulties that are undoubtedly presented by the split between organisational articulations and overall organisation. It is on the particular nature of the relationship between moments of attack and mass movements that analysis must now concentrate: it is on this continuous discontinuity that research must be focussed.

This is particularly true when the discussion shifts from the factory dimension, from the big factory in struggle, to the territorial dimension, to the social sphere. Why, did the FIAT workers not move outside the occupied factories? Why did the dialectic of attack and massification not take place at the level of the social sphere (il sociale)? It is inconceivable that a struggle of these dimensions did not in fact communicate itself to the cityfactory of Turin. In fact, its penetration was very deep indeed – through the new structures of the labour market; through the strata of people involved in double-working (two jobs which allowed the workers to be able to withstand 300 hours of strike action; through the new strata of women and young people, finding themselves in exploitation, and who, by contributing to the family budget, directly supported the struggle; and, obviously, through the structures of the tertiary and education sectors. So, the problem has to be posed in general terms: it becomes the problem of the working class articulation unifying the vanguard moments and the mass moments which destroy the social compartmentalisation sought by big capital. It’s as well to state it plainly: the FIAT workers did not have the strength to move out onto this terrain – nor had the vanguards gone out previously in order to do effective groundwork on this terrain.

Now, the simple fact of material communication – through a unified social fabric – is not sufficient to bring about a development of an attacking struggle, since the spontaneity of a possible new mass struggle at the social level is now blocked by the capitalist restructuring that is in progress. Faced with this restructuring, working class initiative has to come to the fore articulating in terms of struggle that which has been disarticulated and dismembered in terms of capitalist restructuring of the social sphere.

So, at the social level too, the mass reunification of the working class struggle takes place by accepting the timings and the forms that are necessary; for the articulation – or rather, for the initial disarticulation – of the totalising project of working class organisation: no longer (this is also the case in the factory a simple joining-together of different sectors, of different departments of the social factory, no longer the articulation of the “specific” problems of the various sectors of the social sphere (young people, women, marginalised elements etc.), but a joining-together of functions of attack and mass levels, against capital’s division and compartmentalisation of the unity of abstract social labour. And at the social level too, the organisational synthesis of the struggle, in moments of high concentration, must necessarily be the result of the overall movement as a whole – any presumption, any aspirations towards intermediate forms, not only do not pay, but are also mystifying, are dangerously open to betrayal, and. are open to reformists to capture the struggle and the organisation. Only at this point, within the perspective outlined above, can the form of struggle at the social level reach the fulness of its contents, with form and content coming to pose themselves as a unitary project. Certainly, struggles of reappropriation, seizing of power, exercise of power – but only as a road that combines functions of attack with mass campaigns and vice versa.

Of course, this is only a beginning. The FIAT experience of March 1973 also puts before us a project of struggle and organisation which, precisely to the. extent that it reveals its internal completeness and exemplarity, shows also the conditions for the the limits to its present capacity for expansion. But, taking account of the laws of working class power, as they have begun to be expressed by the struggle at FIAT, it is now perhaps possible to open up a mass workers’ inquiry (which is also a means of organising the material process of constituting organisation), which would trace the diffusion and the implantation of the FIAT tendency within the whole body of the working class. The leap of quality that we have seen at FIAT must now take place at the general level; it must constitute the mass base for the reopening of anew cycle of struggles within which the new composition of the working class will be able to express its adequate organisational form. And we already have a number of defining points, drawn from experience, that can provide a basis for the enquiry: namely, the mass character of organisation and the fact of its immediate definition as working class organisation; vertical articulation of the organisational process, between moments of attack and the consolidation of mass levels (in short, the death of and the transcendence of spontaneism); the directly political quality of the movement, in terms of the exercise of power. Hic Rhodus, hic salta! It is hard, we know. And yet nothing of that which is won by the tendency will be lost to the movement.

May 1st 1973


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