Italy in Revolt

The past never ends. Turin, December 2018.

The young people who have been pushed to the margins of Italian capitalism are creating their own theory with their actions. They have realised not only that there is nothing for them within the present structure, but also that they want nothing from it. They want to destroy it in every form it presents itself, and this involves not only institutions but the people who make them function as such.

Similar attitudes are also reemerging among the employed workers within the context of the factory, following a period of relative stasis since the struggles of 1973. The result of this has been to create a situation of ideological crisis within the organised left. On the one hand, the mass refusal of the system has not left the retrograde left out of their radical critique; on the other these same groups are finding themselves confronted with a living situation of rebellion, leaving their abstract theories of economic cycles in the cold. They are faced with the pertinent question: What are we going to do?

Unfortunately, in many cases, the answer has been one that has been found in the past by groups of a Stalinist character: that of policing the spontaneous movement. But it is not possible to draw a simple line of demarcation between ‘authoritarian’ groups that develop in such and such a way, and ‘libertarian’ groups that automatically find the truth of the moment in the mass struggle. Any group or tendency that considers itself the ‘carrier of truth’, and tries to impose its ideology on the situation, automatically takes the side of the counterrevolution, no matter how sweet the sound of their label is to our ears.

When the reality of the moment is that of rebellion at a mass level, this ignorance and adhesion to old models become particularly dangerous, as it can lead to trying to put a brake on the real movement, and to a condemnation of comrades who are working in the practical field of clarification.

We see the present historical situation as one that is characterised by a state of increasing illegality in which vast strata of society find themselves. Millions of unemployed young people and those on the margins of society are having to use whatever means are available in order to survive: thousands of women are obliged to have back street abortions; workers are practising individual forms of sabotage, absenteeism and production boycotts; there are those in the system’s concentration camps (special prisons, psychiatric hospitals etc.) who are rebelling; proletarian squatters have not paid rent for years; ethnic communities are reaffirming their identities; ‘hooligans’, our role in the present conflict, are crowding metropolitan ghettos; and many others.

The very fact that all these exploited are imposing their presence as living contradictions in the midst of capitalism’s process of totalitarian transformation, constitutes an inadmissible form of illegality for the state. The state’s response is to eliminate this in any way possible, using a whole arsenal of brutal repressive instruments in the attempt.

We see our task as that of attempting to transform this mass illegalitarianism into a situation of generalised rebellion that the state would no longer be able to absorb into the dialectic claiming better conditions/reform/control. There is only one way to do this: to demonstrate with actions that each one of us has an enemy that is identifiable in precise structures and personages and that this enemy is not invulnerable.

We must demonstrate through action that individual revolt can and must transform itself into collective insurrection, the only one capable of really freeing us from oppression. It now seems clear to us that this means going beyond the limiting logic of defence against state violence. It is instinctive for anyone who is subjected to a system of exploitation that tries to bend them to its will to defend themselves, and in fact, everyone is trying to do so in one way or another. There are those who make themselves the knowing collaborators of power, or who delegate this defence to others more capable.

In order to be effective, we must be able to identify the structures and representatives of power in every city, factory, school, quarter, barracks, institution, right to the relationships that exist among ourselves and strike them with all the range of instruments and arms that our fantasy suggests. The revolutionary movement should not always limit itself to carrying out the “popular will” which often risks transforming itself into something intangible or of disputable interpretation. Alongside the “cultural” work of propaganda and the diffusion of the revolutionary perspective, the anti-state movement should also know how to put their affirmations into practice, especially in a situation where the ideological hegemony of the reformist forces has lulled the consciousness and will of popular struggle.

This perspective might, at the limit, be identified with the so-called exemplary deed which certainly requires careful reflection on the relationship between active minority and social situation, and on the choice of objective. But this, it seems to me, cannot be reduced to referring to a “glorious” historical past that we want to contribute to. In the face of the present situation, the argument of the exemplary deed seems to me to be limiting and inadequate. The line of refusal and opposition to capitalism and the reformist lie is becoming concrete through certain actions that are the patrimony of the movement.

The capitalist crisis at world level has, on the one hand, eliminated the system’s margins of recuperation, preventing the unions from being able to play the role of containing and reabsorbing struggles as they were called to do in ’68/’69. At that time revolutionary tendencies manifested themselves in a period that was still one of expansion, where capital still had areas in which to negotiate. Today the system has very little to concede to wage earners in exchange for their implication in the process of fascistization of society.

Revolt is a fact that concerns individuals and organisations. It is not the revolution but is what makes the revolution possible. Without the continual revolt of conscious individuals, there will be nothing but the betraying revolution of the neo-bosses using the organs of the class struggle. And revolt is consciousness of oneself, one’s own involvement, the sacrifices we must be capable of making, the hopes, the joys, the advances and the possible dangers. Revolt is what characterises the life of each one of us.

Adapted from Armed Struggle in Italy ’76-’78, Bratach Dubh (2015). Published under a Creative Commons license. Photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit. All rights reserved.