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Amongst 20th European Marxist currents, Operaismo and Autonomia stand out as difficult to frame within the opposing trends of Western Marxism and its third- and fourth-internationalist, soviet-inspired, counterparts. On the one hand they emerge from within the industrial workers' insurrectional struggles of the 60s and the 70s, whose nerve and hold allowed doing without, and going beyond, the critique of the cultural command of capital prevalent in other contemporary Marxist currents. On the other hand, the centrality of labour was turned upside down. Class was understood as acting towards its self-abolition and as refusing its work-defined identity. The proletariat's revolutionary potential didn't come from the emancipation of labour, or from the institutional forms responsible with the management of said political process, but from emancipation from labour, i.e. the active refusal of waged work.
This singularity is further substantiated by the difficulty in framing Operaismo, Autonomia, and the relations of continuity in-between them. Operaismo was a theoretical current whose main concern was asserting the role of proletarian struggles against the concept of "people". The discussion took place on the margins on the Italian Communist Party, arguably Western Europe's biggest CP. Within this conflict, Mario Tronti affirmed the primacy of proletarian struggles within the development of capital. This alleged "Copernican turn" helped foster self-consciousness in the burgeoning wildcat political struggles. Over the decade between 1968 and 1978 these would mature into a theory and practice of class struggle that posited its autonomy within the cycle of reproduction of capital. The concept of Autonomia branches into a myriad of meanings. It is both the name of a formal organization and of an informal network of collectives, struggles and experiences. It means both an ideological "area" of the general workers movement as well as a category of the periodization of struggles. Most scholarship on the period tends to loose track of this complexity, reducing it to one of its components. Proper critical attention to Operaismo and Autonomia should seek to frame them as a singular experience within the historical development of capital rather than force its complexity into pre-existing political categories.
My research will position this object, understood in its conceptual richness, between the thresholds stated initially. A philosophical understanding of those lines of differentiation will find them both drawn against different Hegelian interpretations of the dynamics of capital and class struggle. On the one hand we find the determinist historicism of the Italian Hegelian tradition and of third internationalist Marxism, where dialectical synthesis upholds a teleological reunion of the forms of social antagonism fostered by the opposition between capital and labour. Within this scope, the class' political horizon is it participation in a common productive process that manages the conflict between capital and labour within a socialized state-form. On the other hand, systematizing accounts of the dialectics of the reproduction of capital enclose all ethical and antagonist subjectivity within the logical sequences of subsumption and totality. Against this, Operaismo and Autonomia posit a return to Marx's conception of class struggle as civil war, as an irreducible conflict between classes whose outcome would be the triumph of the proletariat or the ruin of both. My research will show how this idea of class struggle as civil war will find multiple theoretical expressions set against this overarching and composite idea of a totality.
I was born in Lisbon in 1980.