Doo Da! Forever / Monty Cantsin exhibits in NYC

Piece by Higgins at the exhibit.

The Van Der Plas Gallery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side is nearing the end of its Doo Da! Forever! exhibit of E.F. Higgins III work, and its 10 Ton Show group exhibit. We were finally able to get to the gallery this weekend to see it and were quite excited to do so.

The relation between autonomist Marxism and these showings may not be readily apparent, and for the most part the connection is peripheral, but there are some connecting threads.

Higgins, who died last year, was a legend in the world of mail art, in which hundreds, possibly thousands, of individuals created an important international network (what would be called “the eternal network”) of autonomous artistic communication, with its heyday between the late 1970s and into the early 1990s (of course, mail art networks still exist). Mail art wasn’t a banner-waving form of politics, but the very act of subverting the entire gallery system to the extent these artists did, while crafting alternative networks of collective creativity, was an important example of circulating self-organizing and, perhaps, “self-valorization” or even “substruction” (to use a loose reading of p.m.’s concept in bolo’ bolo). It would be fundamentally wrong to make the argument that mail art, in its heyday, was a political project aimed at overcoming capitalism – it was not. However, the substance of mail art networks had important subverting and creating effects, and within the world of mail art there were some artists that incorporated autonomist and situationist concepts, including self-activity, class struggle, and detournement. (On the question of the possibilities for DIY to subvert capitalist relations, readers may be interested in this article we co-authored many years back, see p. 44-61).

In New York City some of the mail artists were also involved in what would be called the Rivington School. Higgins was one significant participant; so was Istvan Kantor – who began using the name Monty Cantsin in the late 1970. Cynthia Carr, in her stinging essay “The Triumph of Neoism. The Millionth Apartment Festival” (1988) explains:

“Monty Cantsin” – an “open pop star” – was a name, an identity, an idea invented in the late seventies by David Zack, a mail artists. Anyone could be Monty Cantsin. The name would then become famous, to the benefit of every Monty Cantsin. But the person most identified with the name is Istvan Kantor – construction worker, nurse, Canadian citizen, and native of Budapest. For this, Kantor/Cantsin has taken some neoflack in the neozine Smile (“Free to Shoplifters”). In a philosophy where nothing matters, it’s funny what does matter (p. 106).

Cantsin/Kantor is also the person often associated with “Neoism,” which as a provocative tradition (if it could be called that), which picks up inspiration from nihilism, situationist practice, punk, among other schools of activity and thought (notably, its participants would likely deny any of that). As a child, Kantor was a participant in the Hungarian Revolution and in a wide-ranging and important interview with Rafael Gonzalez he explained:

“Traumatic experiences are often the driving forces, the sources of motivation for making art. My most important traumatic experience was the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. I ran out from the air raid shelter where my whole family and other people stayed during the uprising, and in the street I pointed my toy gun to a convoy of Russian tanks. They stopped and a soldier jumped out from the leading vehicle and approached me. I ran back to the building and hid in a dark corner. The Russians surrounded the buildings and looked for me. In those times lots of kids threw MOLOTOV cocktails to Russian tanks and got killed. I only used a gesture but it was powerful enough to scare them. I was lucky enough that the janitor of the building could speak some Russian and calmed them down. And perhaps they were on some other mission anyway and so they left. People in the air raid shelter ritualistically broke my toy gun, that my grandfather made me, to small pieces. That was the first time that I confronted authorities at gunpoint using a gesture and it determined the rest of my life. I was 7 years old.”

The name “Monty Cantsin”, along with Karen Eliot and other ‘multiple identities’ would become commonly used among explicit participants in neoism in the mail art networks internationally (Stewart Home was another notable participant. Some of the works of these folks also show up in Cleaver’s listing of autonomist Marxist-related materials, here).

Another of Higgins’ works at the exhibit.

The exhibit at the Van Der Plas gallery occur on two floors – one at street level and one in the downstairs show room. The Higgins work is in the main gallery space, at street level, while the 10 Tons show is in the basement. Our main interest in the 10 Tons Show was Cantsin’s pieces. We include pictures of those here:

Istvan Kantor / Monty Cantsin piece at the exhibit
Istvan Kantor / Monty Cantsin piece at the exhibit
Istvan Kantor / Monty Cantsin piece at the exhibit

The gallery is on Orchard Street, right near Rivington Street, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The neighborhood is largely unrecognizable from what it looked like in the 1980s. The last remaining quasi-anarchist bookstore lost its space in the neighborhood due to rising rents, and there’s a CBD shop now in its place. The towers on Ludlow are overwhelming. One can’t help but wonder how an artist like Kantor experiences the area now. That curiosity aside, it was nice to see an exhibit of Higgins’ work, in particular. The gallery produced a small catalogue for the show and below is a picture of the opening pages, a picture of Kantor and Higgins and a short essay penned by Kantor about Higgins:

From the exhibit catalogue produced by the gallery

Broadside: “1 Mai 1977. Une Idee Paralyse Pendant 25 Minutes 500 Bureaucrates et 100.000 Connards” – Les Fossoyeurs du vieux monde, 1977 [?]

Image of the broadside

A rare broadside produced by the French group Les Fossoyeurs du vieux monde, early into their collective interventions, likely printed in 1977. In May of 1977 the group hung a banner reading “FETE DE L’Alienation !!” [Festival of Alienation! or Alienation Day!] over the May Day march in Paris, apparently stunning those who saw it. The piece is full of contempt for the CGT and the ritualized march.

A scan of the broadside

Les Fossoyeurs du vieux monde, and the participants’ later project Os Cangaceiros, became known in France, and later in anarchist and post-situationist circles internationally, for their analyses and direct actions. (We have mentioned them briefly elsewhere on this blog).

There is little available about this broadside. The picture from the action was later reproduced as a postcard (see here), and a collection of Les Fossoyeurs du vieux monde’s writings can be found here. We locate no institutional holdings.

For english-language speakers we produce a rough translation below (with significant help from Deepl).


The police union is once more defeated by the truth. While the sinister convoy was heading, as every year for 40 years, to its dreary destiny and the cappa maffiosi were at the level of the Hotel Sully, on Saint-Antoine Street, a banner 15 meters long, thanks to an ingenious mechanism, was instantly and majestically deployed at 12 meters above the heads of the union racketeers and their clients. It proudly snaps in the wind and strikes with astonishment the greedy tramps of the big men of the security service. It simply asserts, in letters 1 meter high, perfectly visible and perfectly readable by the 10 000 people massed from the Place Saint-Paul to the Place de la Bastille, the truth of this subhuman gathering: ALIENATION FESTIVAL!

Where the enemy thought he was invincible, we found the weakest point: the cegetistas [members of the CGT] big guns proved to be totally impassive in front of the idea’s omnipotence. An idea triumphs undisturbed with sobriety and elegance (for 800 francs including alcohol). For 25 minutes [1] it immobilizes the ridiculous march and generates a fantastic banner giving to the enemy a preview of its next rout. Following the derisory braying of the common programmers yelping their usual slogans, a stupefying silence of 1,000 meters long falls on the grotesque cohort. The cheerleaders stand still with one thigh in the air, disembodied [desemparees]. But above all, thanks to the clever set-up mechanism [2], which required the intervention of only one person, we were able to savor, together with the public and the scavengers themselves, the stupefied and furious discomfiture of our victims. Some of us had even pushed the concern of anonymity to the point of wearing infamous C.G.T. badges.

We witnessed a clear movement of sympathy, approval and cheerful chatter among the public on the sidewalk, which was not smothered by the union salute. A good number of amateur photographers equipped with splendid Japanese cameras shot all this time the infamy which hung over all this disorder.

We had a good laugh. That’s an understatement. Only we knew why we were there. We didn’t suffer any losses, not a single scratch, and all the pictures are good. Thank you for your help. Bureaucrats you got it in the ass and you will get it again. SOWETO. LISBON. DAKAR. ROME. See you next time!

[1] We have thus immobilized the union shit 25 times longer than the first emergency valve of the Ecofisk platform immobilized the black shit [likely referring to the massive oil blowout at the Ekofisk Bravo platform in April 1977].

[2] However, this was not yet expertise: if, in addition to the strong chain which ended the cable and which gave the union acrobat a lot of trouble, we had put black soap on the lamp post, the banner would have lasted 30 minutes longer and, in addition to the regular troops of the bureaucracy, all the leftist scum and small unions of everyday life would have come under our yoke.

Black Out: Giornale Metropolitano Delle Lotte Autonome (1978)

Black Out: Giornale Metropolitano Delle Lotte Autonome (“‘Metropolitan Journal of Autonomous Struggles”) is a bit of a mystery. An internal note states it was sent to the printers on 1 February 1977 as a supplement to issue 24-25 of Rosso. However, it references the New York City Black Out of 1977, which occurred in July of that year, and there was no issue 24-25 of Rosso (there was a #23-24 and a #25-26). Mangano (1998, p. 93) states that it was published in February of 1978.

Black Out was produced during the years of lead and its content relates to struggles in Milan in that context. It positions itself as a place for analysis and development for collective struggle in the wake of the heavy year and movement of 1977, within the theoretical framework of class composition: “The enormous pulverization of the struggle movement in Milan has pushed us to create this newspaper as a possibility to have an instrument of connection of aggregation…giving voice to that enormous proletarian layer that has found in the movement of 77 its political reference and that today and scattered in the enormous metropolis of Milan” (a very rough translation from the introductory article).

“In a Society That Forces Us To Live Without Adventures, The Only Adventure Is To Violently Destroy This Society!”

The publication lists Emilio Vesce, an important militant in the Italian extra-parliamentary left, as the director responsible for the publication (Vesce was also the director of Rosso in 1978). Mangano (1998, p. 93) notes that there are other issues, though it’s unclear to us how many were published. Some of them, through the late 1980s (issue 9) are made available through the Archivio Autonomia site, here, with different subtitles.

This issue of the journal is scarce with none available in the trade at the time of writing and a single institutionally-held copy in the world (at Yale’s Beinecke Library). We have scanned the issue we hold and uploaded it to Libcom, here, for those interested.

Matin d’un Blues – Poster (n.d.)

There is frustratingly little about the struggles among the French autonomous left during the 1970s and 1980s that is written or translated into English. A useful, if brief, reflection can be found in an interview published in Jacques Lesage de La Haye’s small book, The Abolition of Prison (AK Press, 2021, pp. 103-116), as well as Leopold Roc’s discussion of Os Cangaceiros, published in the eighth issue of the anarchist journal Rolling Thunder (2009, here and here). Matin d’un Blues was one of the many interesting publishing efforts that autonomous organizers put together during those years, and ran for three issues, from 1978-1979. Most of the contents of the journals can be found online, via the Fragments d’Histoire de gauche radicale archive, here.

Our copy of issue #2

Sebastien Schifres has written a chapter on the group and posted it to his website, here. According to Schifres, the group was founded by former members of Camarades, most notably Bob Nadoulek, as well as participants in Marge, and was inspired by Italy’s Metropolitan Indians. The emphasis in Matin d’un Blues on ‘desiring autonomy’ (“autonomie désirante”) and cultural interventions, rather than the more strictly class struggle focus of Camarades. There is a strong situationist influence in both aesthetics and various written pieces in issues of the journal. Commentary found in the 1979 piece by Bob Nadoulek in Le Monde, entitled “La politique et le quotidien” (roughly, ‘politics and everyday life’) is also worth reading for a brief introduction to the group’s perspectives (here).

Issues of Matin d’un Blues are scarce and we locate only four archives holding copies internationally (here and here), all in Europe. We have only issue #2 in our holdings.

This striking poster uses the image on the cover of issue #2, though we have been unable to figure out if the poster was used to advertise for the specific issue or for the publication more generally. (We purchased our copy from someone who ran a bookshop in Paris in the 1970s, but did not recall any background of the poster). The smaller text along the top reads “autonomie offensive et creativitie” (roughly ‘offensive autonomy and creativity’) followed by “mais quand il ne reste que le choix des armes le desespoir n’a pas besoin de caution politique” along the bottom (roughly, ‘but when only the choice of weapons remains, despair does not need a political guarantee’).

C.L.R. James, “You Don’t Play With Revolution.” Poster/Pamphlet. Bewick Editions (n.d.)

The copy of the poster we hold in our collection.

To the best of our knowledge this is the sole poster that Bewick Editions, Martin Glaberman’s press, published. The poster measures 22 inches by 29 inches and is offset printed on thick white stock. As of 2001, Glaberman was selling poster for $6.00. It is scarce. OCLC locates a holding, at Penn State University library in their Special Collections department, which is an earlier (and similarly undated) version of the document.

Copy of the poster held at Penn State University. This edition has the text “Poster Pamphlet #1/Facing Reality” with the Woodward address at a cost of $1.

The poster/pamphlet is a stunning piece. The text is from an interview published in the McGill Reporter on November 4, 1968. The interview was conducted by Michael Smith during the Congress of Black Writers, held in October of that year at McGill University in Montreal. Glaberman’s publication of the poster almost entirely a replica of the document as it appeared in the Reporter (pictured below). The text on the earlier version, pictured above, has a publication address of Facing Reality at 14131 Woodward in Detroit. The text on the later version that we hold simply states “Poster Pamphlet” on the bottom left and, on the bottom right, states Bewick Editions at the PO Box in Detroit. Presumably the “#1” is removed on the latter version because Glaberman did not print any other posters.

Original publication in the McGill Reporter, available online at the paper’s archives:

The phrase “you don’t play with revolution” is a near quote from James, as Smith’s interview notes, from his book Party Politics in the West Indies (1962). In 2009, AK Press printed a book entitled You Don’t Play With Revolution: The Montreal Lectures of C.L.R. James edited by David Smith. The book includes Smith’s interview as a chapter. Below we pull out the section of the interview where James clarifies what he means when he says not to play with revolution:

Detroit: I Do Mind Dying (1975). 1st Ed, signed. Dan Georgakas & Marvin Surkin

First edition, 1975

Dan Georgakas passed away yesterday, November 23rd, 2021. The National Herald ran an obituary here, and he maintained a sparsely updated website here.

Georgakas is one of those figures in the radical left whose work had a major impact across sectarian splits and whose name always seemed to be mentioned with appreciation. He helped found Black Mask/Up Against the Wall Motherfucker in the 1960s, was a prolific poet, a scholar of cinema among other subjects, and a lifelong activist.

A native of Detroit, Georgakas, in 1975, co-authored the classic study Detroit: I Do Mind Dying: A Study in Urban Revolution with Martin Surkin, which is one of the most important studies of revolutionary Black working class struggles in the 1960s and early 1970s.

There have been three editions published of the book:

Our copy of the first edition is signed by Georgakas.

Marxism & Freedom: From 1776 Until Today (1958) – John Miller’s Copy

Cover of the first edition of Marxism and Freedom

Marxism and Freedom is the most impactful book that Raya Dunayveskaya would write in her decades of scholarship. Coming on the heels of Dunayevskaya’s split with Correspondence in 1955, Marxism and Freedom includes a breathtaking and brilliant analysis of Marxism, Trotskyism, and state capitalism. Dunayevsakya follows a militantly dialectical approach, building a narrative of Marxism that is carried and re-evaluated by proletarian struggles, this tour de force begins with the French Revolution and ends with mid-20th-century automation. It is the key text by which one can understand how Dunayevskaya’s reading of Marx’s ‘humanism’ was central to the split with James, and also learn how she situates the concept within Marxism, past and present.

It would be silly to try and do any sort of review of the book as a whole given the focus of this blog, so we’ll note just a handful of thoughts and observations that occurred to us while preparing this post.

  1. There has been a growing number of Marx reading groups formed in recent years. Simultaneously, there has been an increasing interest in ‘guides’ to reading Capital: Harvey, Cleaver etc. It’s of note that Marxism and Freedom hasn’t seemed to draw attention as a guide, of sorts, to reading Marx, specifically but not limited to Capital. We hope that changes.
  2. If one is interested in understanding the Marxism of the News & Letters group, in its best articulation, this is the go-to.
  3. Dunayevskaya’s analysis of the French Revolution includes this stand out observation: “Democracy, thus, was not invented by philosophic theory nor by the bourgeois leadership. It was discovered by the masses in their methods of action. There is a double rhythm in destroying the old and creating the new which bears the unmistakable stamp of the self-activity, which is the truly working class way of knowing.”
  4. Key to Dunayevskaya’s analysis is her centering of relations of production in understanding capitalism, rather than distribution.
  5. In her analysis of the Russian Revolution, this quote: “Without the Humanism of Marx, and later, of Lenin, the economic theories of both are meaningless. Leaders are not classless creatures floating between heaven and earth. They are very much earth men. When they lose close connection with the working class, they begin to represent the only other fundamental class in society – the capitalist class.”
  6. Marxism and Freedom is a very good example of efforts by Marxists within the broad autonomist tradition to rescue Lenin from Stalin and embrace Lenin as a revolutionary thinker. It’s often forgotten in discussion of autonomist Marxism as a broad tradition that many ‘autonomists’ – from Johnson-Forest through Negri and so on – have a deep appreciation for Lenin and Leninism. From our perspective this is generally cringeworthy, but nevertheless it is an important piece of the tradition, both organizationally and analytically.
  7. In Marxism and Freedom, Dunayevskaya spares no blow at anarchists. This is seen in her analysis of Proudhon, but it shows up most forcefully in her analysis of anarchists during the early years of the Russian Revolution. She notes: “At this moment in our history – Lenin turned sharply to Shlyapnikov – you and your “Workers’ Opposition” are the greatest danger to our continued existence. Just look at your position, look at the Kronstadt mutiny and see how quickly the White Guards have grabbed on to the anarchistic, syndicalistic talk of ‘freedom from political leadership,’ and with guns in their hands, are threatening the new workers’ state.” In the endnote for that paragraph Dunayevskaya writes: “No one is as inventive in creating new words as those who try to hide an ugly truth. Thus, the Social Revolutionary, I.N. Steinberg, has invented for the word, counter-revolution, the expression “revolution within the revolution,” as the explanation for Kronstadt.” This is, from our point of view, a very unfortunate analysis of Kronstadt, which surely shouldn’t be reduced to a “counter-revolution.” Nonetheless, it is Dunayevskaya’s perspective.

We have a few copies of this book in our collection, but this copy is unique and a bit of a treasure. Dunayvskaya inscribed the book to John Miller in 1962:

John Miller was an autoworker who wrote a column for News & Letters for nearly two decades under the name John Allison. He died in 2003. News and Letters published an obituary:

This copy of the book seems to have traveled the used book trade. There’s a pricing of $.75 on the inside from a seller different from the one we purchased it from. A unique copy of this important text.

State Capitalism and World Revolution, 2nd Edition (1956) – C.L.R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya, Grace Lee

Cover of the 1956, second edition.

State Capitalism and World Revolution, first published in 1950, is perhaps the definitive polemic of the Johnson-Forest Tendency (JFT). The JFT’s lead theorists were C.L.R. James, Raya Dunayevsakaya, and Grace Lee (later Grace Lee Boggs). The essay provides a demolition of Stalinism and Trotskyism. It lays down an analysis of “state capitalism” based on a sharp reading of Capital, and also Lenin, which centers class struggle in production and locates the proletariat as the source of capitalist crisis. Paul Buhle (1986) has noted that the piece was “the last of James’ texts to be set in the classic Marxist-Leninist strategic framework” (p. xx).

Back cover of the 1956, second edition.

There are at least 5 English-language editions of State Capitalism and World Revolution:

  1. 1950: The essay originally appeared in the September, 1950 Discussion Bulletin of the Socialist Workers Party (a scan is available here) and was credited to “Johnson-Forest.”
  2. 1956: Published by “a Marxist Group” with a preface by James, Castoriadis, Brendel et al (see below) in England. There was no new authorship claim in the second edition, and the collectively-signed preface, likely written by James, references authorship of State Capitalism with “The writers of the document” and that “They bring all phenomena into one integrated and growing body of theory, shedding new lights as new events unfold.”
  3. 1969: Published by Facing Reality Publishing Committee with authorship credited to James.
  4. 1986: Published by Charles H. Kerr with authorship credited to C.L.R. James. “[w]ritten in collaboration with Raya Dunayevskaya & Grace Lee.”
  5. 2013: Published by The Charles H. Kerr Library and PM Press, with authorship credited the same as the 1986 edition.
Covers of each edition of State Capitalism and World Revolution

Authorship of State Capitalism is a bit contested. Martin Glaberman’s preface to the 1969 edition attributes the document to James in a context of collective activity.

Glaberman’s 1969 note on the authorship of State Capitalism..

However, Frank Rosengarten, in his important biography Urbane Revolutionary, credits the document to all three thinkers: “Two chapters of State Capitalism and World Revolution, jointly written by James, Raya Dunayevskaya, and Grace Boggs and published in 1950…” (p. 57). Rosengarten goes on to mention Lee and Dunayevskaya’s involvement in “discussions of the work-in-progress that eventually bore the name State Capitalism and World Revolution, but which first entitled Marxism and State Capitalism” (p. 61). And then Rosengarten challenges Glaberman’s claim on authorship (pardon our highlights/notes):

Rosengarten’s discussion of State Capitalism and World Revolution‘s authorship in Urbane Revolutionary, p. 73

In a speech in 1985, Dunayevskaya stated the the work was written “under [James’] direction” (Dunayevskaya, 2013, p. 2). It seems to us that the collectively attributed authorship is likely the most accurate, so we are attributing it that way.

Final paragraphs and signatories to the 1956 edition.

While the first edition of State Capitalism and World Revolution was published in the SWP’s Discussion Bulletin, based in New York City, the second edition was published in England. The publication was credited to “A Marxist Group” based in Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire. James had been in England for more than three years at this point, after he had been expelled from the United States. In his introduction to the 1969 edition, Glaberman notes: “When the second edition of State Capitalism and World Revolution was at the printer, the Hungarian Revolution exploded.”

The preface to the 1956 second edition, which was republished in the 1969 and 1986 editions (posted online here), is signed by six men: Johnson (C.L.R. James), Alan Christianson, Chaulieu (Cornelius Castoriadis), Cajo Brendel, Maassen (Theo Massen), and IP Hughes. In his 2006 essay, “Beyond the Boundary of Leninism? C.L.R. James and 1956”, James scholar Christian Høgsbjerg explores this eclectic grouping:

Selection from Hogsbjerg’s essay “Beyond the Boundary of Leninism?”.

The second edition of State Capitalism and World Revolution is rare. OCLC locates one holding, in the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan, but it’s also held in the C.L.R. James Papers at Columbia. At the time of writing there is one copy found in the trade at the indomitable Bibliomania in Oakland.

Class Operaia – Reprint Completo 1964-1967 (1979)

An outcome of the decisive split within Quaderni Rossi (Red Notebooks, directed by Panzieri), Classe Operaia (Working Class), which began publishing in 1964, would become the main organ of Italian workerist research and theory. Its core included men (all men) who would become known as foundational actors in Italian autonomist thought: Mario Tronti, but also Romano Alquati, Massimo Cacciari, Sergio Bologna, Toni Negri and others. The journal lasted for three years (1964-1967) publishing a total of 12 issues (nine single issues and three double issues). DeriveApprodi has placed scans of all of the issues online, here.

This collection by Machina Libri – Milano contains an introduction from Antonio Negri (then imprisoned) as well as a preface by Augusto Zuliani, and includes reprints of 5 smaller associated publications: Gatto Selvaggio, Classe e Partito, Cronache Operaie, Il Potere Operaio, and Potere Operaio Porto Marghera (each of which have their own important histories, especially Gatto Selvaggio). The book contains reprints in black and white of the full set of Classe Operaia.

This collection contains no table of contents, so here is a listing of what’s inside of the copy we hold:

  1. Antonio Negri, introductory note (we’ve scanned and posted a copy here).
  2. Augusto Zuliani, note on the book’s inclusion of two Stalinist commentaries about Quaderni Rossi and Classe Operaia first published in Rinascita (we’ve scanned and posted a copy here).
  3. AA. “Agitazione e vuoto politico del gruppo di Classe operaia” from Rinascita (we’ve scanned and posted a copy here).
  4. Gatto Selvaggio: Giornale di lotta degli operai della Fiat a della Lancia (1963) (we’ve scanned and posted a copy here).
  5. Cronache Operaie (second issue, 15 October 1963) (we’ve scanned and posted a copy here).
  6. Classe Operaia issues 1964-1967 (copies available via the link above).
  7. Classe e Partito Numero Unico (November 1966) (we’ve scanned and posted a copy here).
  8. Classe e Partito – Supplemento Al N. Unico (March 1967) (we’ve scanned and posted a copy here)
  9. Il Potere Operaio 1 (February 1966) & 2 (March 1967). Note: due to a printing error issue 1 of Il Potere Operaio says “1966” but was actually printed in 1967. (See Thirion (2016, p. 27, here).
  10. Potere Operaio: Giornale Politico Degli Operai de Porto Marghera (June 1967).

The reproduction of the 5 associated papers is important because they hold a central place in the split within Quaderni Rossi and the creation of Classe Operaia. Sergio Bologna explains:

From Bologna, “Workerist Publications and Bios”, Autonomia: Post-Political Politics (1980), pp. 178-181.

Gatto Selvaggio (Wild Cat), in particular, caused great controversy within the Quaderni Rossi circle of militant intellectuals. The 1962 worker riots at Piazza Statuto – which lasted 3 days and resulted in more than a thousand arrests – and daily struggles on the factory floor raised urgent questions about the role of self-activity of workers and the mediating role of the PCI and unions (on this, see: Wright 2002, pp. 58-62 or online here). Gatto Selvaggio, issued in the spring of ’63, was an attempt, particularly by Romolo Gobbi and and Romano Alquati, to look at self-activity (e.g. sabotage and wildcats) in terms of their revolutionary potentials, or lack thereof. The essay “Nel Sabotaggio Continua La Lotta e Si Organizza L’Unita” (roughly, “In Sabotage the Struggle Continues and Unity is Organized”) would lead to Gobbi (who attached his name and contact information to the paper) to trial and subsequent conviction on charges of promoting sabotage.

Classe Operaia is founded in 1964:

Quaderni Rossi ceased publication in 1965.

Nicola Pizzolato (2013) gives a succinct take on what had occurred:

Pizzolato, 2013, p. 112.

Our copy is missing the Rinascita piece critical of Quaderni Rossi (if anyone has a scan we’d be appreciative!) Unfortunately, we could not accurately scan the two issues of Il Potere Operaio or the issue of Potere Operaio Porto Maghera because the pages in the book are bound in such a way that the text is lost on the flip. We also could not locate them in online archives, but we suspect they are somewhere to be found the extensive Italian movement archives on the web.

We’ve been unable to find much information about the publisher Machina Libri – Milano. It appears to have been short-lived, with publications 1979-1981. Among their publications is Toni Negri’s 1980 book Politica di Classe: Il motore e la forma. Le cinque campagne di oggi. Augusto Zuliani was involved in more than one of their productions.

We purchased our copy of this book from a smaller seller in Italy. There are tears to the wraps and one article missing, but it’s a notably well-bound volume, so otherwise it has held up over the years. The logo for the press is printed on stickers placed on the book. The volume is rare in the trade. We could locate five institutional holdings (here and here), with none in North America.

“The Birth of the Work Underground” by Philip Mattera. Emergency #2 (1984).

Was the growth of flexible labor and the proliferation of ‘off-the-books’ work an outcome of capitalist counter-attack in response to the mass struggles of the late-Keynesian years, or was it a victory of those same struggles? Was it neither of these entirely, and rather somewhere in-between? These questions, very simplistically put here, took up many column inches in autonomist writing in the 1980s, particularly as militants looked at the mass “refusal of work” in light of the Reagan and Thatcher counter-revolutions.

They were also raised in court in the Italian state’s effort to crush autonomia. Antonio Negri, who had been arrested along with many others on April 7th, 1979, found himself explaining to the state the content of his files that they had confiscated, and the meaning of writings – his and others – contained within. In an interrogation about these writings, a judge asked Negri about so-called “proletarian patrols” (see “Negri’s Interrogation” in Autonomia: Post-Political Politics, here), which led to the following interaction:

This transcript (of which this is only a small clip) was co-translated from Italian to English by Phil Mattera, who had been a participant in New York Struggle Against Work, and was part of the editorial collective that produced the second issue of Zerowork.

The second issue of Emergency was published in 1984 (we were unable to figure out that exact month, but the deadline for submissions for the 3rd issue is noted as July, so likely early in the year). This issue featured cover artwork by the famous visual artist Barbara Kruger. For the second issue the editorial collective had changed and John Merrington was no longer a member (see our notes on the first issue of Emergency here). The journal was still distributed by Pluto Press.

In addition to his work with Zerowork, Mattera had by this point also published pieces in Library Journal, Radical America, and The Nation.

Mattera’s translation of Negri’s interrogation above is relevant here because he would go on to dedicate years of research and writing to the question of what some Italian autonomists would call the “diffused” work, including “off the books” labor and the “underground economy.” Many would emphasize the liberatory aspects they believed it presented. Take, for example, these paragraphs in Lotringer’s interview with Christian Marazzi in the 1980 book Autonomia: Post-Political Politics:

Mattera’s article in this issue of Emergency is ambivalent:

Mattera sees the growth of the underground economy as a development in class struggle, as an outcome of the previous cycle of struggle (including repression), but the ambivalence in this piece is illustrative of the larger crisis that overcame the Marxist left during the early years of neoliberalism – as movements waned (and were repressed), poverty deepened and class composition shifted. In many ways, it appears that Mattera is taking the issues raised by Negri and Marazzi (and many others) and trying to come up with some evidence and grounded answers. This is easier to see in the following year, 1985, when Mattera published his book Off the Books: The Rise of the Underground Economy (Pluto Press).

This issue of Emergency, like the first issue of Emergency, is oddly difficult to come by in the trade and has few institutional holdings, with only two in North America (at Labadie and Harvard, respectively). We have scanned Mattera’s article and posted it to Libcom for interested readers, here.