Pit Schultz on Wed, 3 Dec 1997 21:28:20 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Letter from Toni Negri


                           LETTER FROM TONI NEGRI

     to the Venice meeting of the European Counter Network [http://www.ecn.org]
                    & its allies (including the Zapatistas):

                           SECESSIONISM AND RACISM

MONEY -- COME FIRST (statement of the meeting  organizers)

Rebibbia Prison, Rome, 10 September 1997

Comrades and friends,

Our Venetian region is rich and its riches have been produced by a common
spirit of enterprise.  The heroes of this productive transformation are
certainly not only the bosses, big and small, who are exalted today:  they
are all the Venetian laborers, all those who have served the common good,
fatigue and intellectuality, labor force and inventive force;  they have
invested and accumulated professionalism and cooperation in common networks,
through which the whole life of the populace has become productive.

Whoever recalls the Veneto of the Fifties and Sixties knows how much this
collective effort of transformation cost:  how much misery and struggle, how
much obedience and rebellion.  These people are not diligent and
sanctimonious "little ants."  They are a multitude which has always
struggled in successive waves, first against peasant slavery by the
expedient of emigration, then against capitalist exploitation by
constituting itself as a working class, and finally against salaried labor
by forming a new composition endowed with a common spirit of enterprise.
Today the road of modernization is quite finished.  Little by little, while
this new reality of the world of labor developed as a new composition
endowed with a common spirit of enterprise, it has come to oppose itself,
externally, to national politics, to its rules of representation, its
administrative procedures and fiscal inaccuracies.  On the other hand,
internally, it tends to oppose itself to contradictions of development and
must confront the emergence of new economic and political segmentations and
inequalities among the producer-citizens.  Together these crises have
destructive effects on the nature of the model of development and the form
of citizenship, and they are going to be fought together, at the same time
and in the same way.

Federalism and the new Welfare are apparatuses allowing these negative
effects to be opposed.  Federalism and local self-government,
reappropriation of administration by laborer-citizens, new forms of
representation, democracy and taxation.  The new Welfare, and thus the new
forms of modality of aid and forethought, new services to individuals and to
families, reinvention of training (academic and continuous) and above all
universal citizenship income - reforms which thus answer, each and every
one, to the necessity of a society in which life and production overlap.

Federalism and the new Welfare are therefore politics which go together,
indissolubly linked in order to consolidate the common basis of our mode of
producing.  How can it be claimed that, in Venetian conditions, the new
Welfare is not the product of a participatory democracy?  Or that federalism
is the last brainstorm for excluding the laborer-citizens yet again from
decisions on the social conditions of production?

There are those who are opposed to a federalist foundation of the political
enterprise of the common good.  They are those, on one side, who are
attached to the privileges of the Fordist labor organizations of traditional
capitalism, not wanting to recognize the singularity of Venetian productive
development;  on the other side, they are those who, under cover of
secession, pervert the sacrosanct needs for autonomy of this productive
society.  Both re-privatize what is becoming the common good.

We must remind the first group that flexibility and mobility of the labor
force (to say nothing of that of the intellectuality of the masses) are
irreversible;  the problem is not one of opposing the new organization of
labor but of guaranteeing the wages and freedom of the post-Fordist
laborer.  The new organization of labor demands less corporatist Welfare and
more, much more, constitutive Welfare - constitutive of this common good
which is the basis of the mode of producing (continuous schooling and
training, home services for working women, daycare and aid to children,
transportation, communication networks, etc.)

Less "scrapping" and more life.  The epoch of negotiation between big
government, big business and big labor is over, over forever.

>From now on only "social contracts" on a federalist basis which affect the
dimensions of the redistribution of taxation and revenue will be possible.

To the secessionists we must say that their politics imprisons in the most
archaic egotism the productive passion of the common spirit of enterprise,
breaks off its expansive power [puissance] at the base, excludes from it
innovation and intellectuality, forms a brutal and sanctimonious "Swiss
race" - thus it should come as no surprise that already the members of the
Northern League let slip racist remarks and fascist sentiments.

Quite another thing than secession!  We need to tear down all the borders,
those that surround regions like those henceforth ridiculous ones which
claim to define nation-states, those that hinder commerce.  And at the same
time, we need power [pouvoir], in order to prevent the powers that hide
behind the world market from crushing us in ever more uncontrollable, by us,
financial cycles and in irresistible speculative operations.

Now, only a political, economic and social Europe, a strong union of this
area, can shape the mediation of the expansive interests of the new mode of
producing and the urgent necessities of resistance to the power of world
financial corporations.  Only Europe is an area adequate to the federalist
constitution of the common good.

But since we are gathered, here, on the left, let us also admit our limits
and, as in the best traditions of the past, let us acknowledge our share of
responsibility in the gravity of what is happening at this moment.

Why is it that only now we recognize ourselves as federalists?  Why, for at
least 20 years, have we hindered rather than supported the development of
productive autonomies?  Why didn't we succeed in quickly identifying the
characteristics of the new mode of producing?  Why didn't we succeed in
inventing a syndicalism of the "diffuse factory"?  Why have we always taken
moralizing and punitive positions on fiscal problems?  Why did we endure the
construction of the produced common good as if it concerned an enemy,
instead of anticipating its development and being able to represent its
articulations and needs?

And yet there are certain parts of the political culture of the Venetian
left who for 20 years have understood these dynamics and acted with them in
their hearts:  they have been repressed and when they managed with great
vitality to survive, they reappeared as "internal exiles."

Well, this demonstration, through the forms that organize it, shows that at
last a "reduction of sentence" has been proclaimed for these "internal
exiles."  It's time to proclaim one for the "external exiles" and for those
who fight in prison as well.

In any case, without recrimination, from now on it's a matter of going
forward united.  It's a matter of re-inventing and experimenting with the
program of the new left from the very bottom, on the basis of the
exceptional (but exceptionally, gravely dangerous) situation that is our

Here labor has changed, here today subjectivity, once again, has its

Long live autonomy.
                                 Trans. Timothy S. Murphy (murphyx@ucla.edu)


more links:

"mutation d'activites, noveaux formes de travail", Bloc Note

"Negri's Class Analysis"
Steve Wright. Paper from australian journal Reconstruction (1997).

Laboratorio Italia (settembre 1993), RIFF-RAFF


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