There’s been a bit of discussion on the autopsy email list about an interview with Paolo Virno that appeared in Grey Room. In it Virno says the following -
The decisive experience of my youth was the revolutionary
struggle in a developed capitalist country. I insist: developed. A country, that
is, in which physical survival was guaranteed, consumption relatively high,
with by that time widespread scholastic instruction. I did not participate in
an uprising against misery or dictatorship but in a radical conflict aiming at
abolishing that modern form of barbarism: wage labor. We were not “thirdworldist”
but “Americanist.” Fighting at Fiat of Turin, we were thinking of
Detroit, not Cuba or Algiers. Only where capitalist development has reached
its height is there a question of the anticapitalist revolution.
This is a sensibility present throughout operaismo from what I can tell. On the one hand, the reformulation of the idea of the weak links in capital is good – the weak link is where the working class is strongest – but it’s limited by too narrow criteria for seeing the class’s strength. Again, deriving the political from the technical composition. The very retaining of a weak link is of course problematic as well.
Tronti also makes disparaging remarks about third worldism. I’m not particularly invested either way, but am more curious about what was winding these folks up about it. I figure it’s an issue or they wouldn’t have mentioned it. I wonder what Italian Maoists or other third worldists were up to around the same time. Is the tension one of organizational conflict/competition? Or something else?
To some degree, the turn to marginalized groups (the emarginati), part of the figure of the social(ized) worker that was the theoretical precursor to the multitude and The Poor in Negri and others’, is somewhat similar to a version of thirdwordlism that sees there being an internal third world (‘every country has a first and a third world in it’ is one way I’ve heard this phrased) and takes this third world inside the first as the most important sector – the place where there’s one of those weak links. I wonder if that’s connected to any of this “we’re not third worldists!” thing. That wouldn’t hold for Tronti, though, as his remarks that I’m thinking of pre-date that turn and I don’t know that he was on board with it anyway.