Operaismo as Method: Gigi Roggero, Silvia Federici, and the Art Workers’ Inquiry

Operaismo as Method: Gigi Roggero, Silvia Federici, and the Art Workers’ Inquiry

Protest by Pirelli workers, 1969, Milan. Source: libcom.org

Operaismo as Method: Gigi Roggero, Silvia Federici, and the Art Workers’ Inquiry

Free admission

October 10, 2023, 7pm
172 Classon Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11205

Join us at e-flux on Tuesday, October 10 at 7pm for a panel discussion with Gigi Roggero, Silvia Federici, and the Art Workers’ Inquiry.

Gigi Roggero’s Italian Operaismo: Genealogy, History, Method (MIT Press, 2023) follows the historical development and the revolutionary impulses foundational to Italian operaismo. It offers the opportunity for a consideration of how the “heretical” Marxist current remains relevant today. However, in Roggero’s words, it “does not set out to explain the ‘true’ operaismo.” Such a truth was never in the cards for a movement that took its cues from the way that historical shifts in the technical composition of labor fundamentally challenged what so many of the mid-century mass unions, orthodox theorists, and reformist parties took to be truths of how class struggle was supposed to unfold. Breaking ranks with them, the early operaisti saw in the emergent revolts of the early 1960s evidence of new patterns of class composition and proletarian refusal, which in Italy were marked especially by massive internal migration from the South to the North and new forms of industrial production. As Roggero puts it: “For revolutionary militants, truth is never something that needs to be explained, but is always something that must be fought for, just like the point of view.”

Here, we will turn to contemporary expressions of key operaist “discoveries”: Mario Tronti’s “Copernican Turn” that inverted the story of the development of capital and placed working-class resistance prior to the technological and social forms that sought to control and outflank it; class composition as a dynamic process for forming and abolishing the proletariat; and the turn to a critical involvement with popular working-class culture in revolutionary struggle that would pave the way for autonomist social movements in the following decades. Proletarian culture would also be key to burgeoning autonomist inquiries; as Toni Negri once quipped, the greatest discovery they ever made was learning that autoworkers smoked joints. 

We invite you to a gathering at e-flux that will look at operaista thought in 2023 to think about contemporary struggles confronting twenty-first century capitalism. We will ask: How are social movements for autonomy today related to historical factory and cultural struggles in Italy during the postwar development of Taylorism and then post-Fordism? What are the relations between feminist critiques of the capitalist division of labor and operaista theory? How are contemporary artistic and working-class movements confronting the question of composition and decomposition through tactics like the worker’s inquiry or expressions of urban rebellion like the riot? 

Speaking in part from his role as the editor-in-chief of the publishing house DeriveApprodi, Gigi Roggero will report on the historical and theoretical work being undertaken in Italy as different extra-parliamentary currents are reexamined to confront present struggles. Silvia Federici will respond to those remarks and speak to how operaismo informed feminist struggles in the 1970s and how it reverberates today. Lastly, the Art Workers’ Inquiry will present on their use of the worker’s inquiry form in their contemporary research on the connections between cultural production and liberatory politics. 

The panel will be introduced and moderated by e-flux journal editors Andreas Petrossiants and Evan Calder Williams

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

–Two flights of stairs lead up to the building’s front entrance at 172 Classon Avenue.         
–For elevator access, please RSVP to program@e-flux.com. The building has a freight elevator which leads into the e-flux office space. Entrance to the elevator is nearest to 180 Classon Ave (a garage door). We have a ramp for the steps within the space.                  
–e-flux has an ADA-compliant bathroom. There are no steps between the event space and this bathroom.

Labor & Work, Feminism
Automonia & Operaismo

Gigi Roggero is a militant researcher, part of the editorial board of Machina and Commonware, and director of DeriveApprodi’s Input series. Among his various books and essays are The Production of Living Knowledge, Futuro anteriore, Gli operaisti, Elogio della militanza, and Il treno contro la Storia.

Silvia Federici is a feminist activist, writer, and a teacher. In 1972 she was one of the cofounders of the International Feminist Collective, the organization that launched the Wages For Housework campaign internationally. In the 1990s, after a period of teaching and research in Nigeria, she was active in the anti-globalization movement and the US anti–death penalty movement. She is one of the cofounders of the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa, an organization dedicated to generating support for the struggles of students and teachers in Africa against the structural adjustment of African economies and educational systems. From 1987 to 2005 she taught international studies, women studies, and political philosophy courses at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. All through these years she has written books and essays on philosophy and feminist theory, women’s history, education, and culture, and more recently the worldwide struggle against capitalist globalization and for a feminist reconstruction of the commons.

The Art Workers’ Inquiry is an organizing group seeking to build power across New York’s vast arts industry. They define art workers as anyone whose labor contributes to the artistic production process, from dancers to art handlers to bartenders at performance venues. They build connections and strengthen bonds of solidarity between art workers with the ultimate goal of building a new, worker-run model of artistic labor. The Art Workers’ Inquiry formed in 2019 when they decided to create a survey based on the original workers’ inquiry compiled by Karl Marx in 1880

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