“Do You Remember Revolution?” Emergency Magazine (1983/84)

Emergency was a relatively short lived journal out of the UK in the 1980s. The editorial collective (listed in the image below) included, amongst others, John Merrington, an important figure in bridging Italian autonomist thought and politics with sympathetic theorists and activists in the UK and U.S (see P. Linebaugh’s 1997 obituary here, H. Cleaver’s mention of Merrington here, and Merrington’s role in the publication of Negri’s Revolution Retrieved here). Merrington was also a corresponding editor for Zerowork 1 and part of the editorial collective for Zerowork 2. Ed Emery (Red Notes) is generally credited with the translation of the article, but no credit for publication is given in this specific printing.

“Do You Remember Revolution?” was originally published in Il Manifesto in 1983. The context of the piece includes the Italian “state of emergency” that facilitated the mass state repression of the extra-parliamentary left in the late 1970s and early 1980s, changes in class composition as a result of struggles of preceding years, the historic compromise, the rise of the Red Brigades (and the increasing isolation of clandestine armed struggle groups), and the international media witch-hunt against Toni Negri and other militants. The piece is signed by prisoners held at Rebibbia, including: Lucio Castellano, Arrigo Cavallina, Gustino Cortiana, Mario Delmaviva, Luciano Ferrari-Bravo, Chicco Funaro, Toni Negri, Paolo Pozzi, Franco Tommei, Emilio Vesce and Paolo Virno.

“Do You Remember Revolution?” is historically quite important as document written by political prisoners (including key figures in the autonomist movement and tradition), as an analysis of state repression in context of changing class composition, and as an oft-cited article that circulated in the autonomist milieus in Europe and the U.S. during the 1980s and 1990s. Negri’s thinking plays a central role here. Within its short paragraphs we see the change from the “mass worker” to the “social worker” and the shift from classic workerist struggles to the demands for an income separate from work and the space to live life on self-determined terms. The piece is a very powerful and clear example of an analysis of class composition and movement dynamics.

The Emergency introduction to “Do You Remember Revolution?” emphasizes that it is forward-looking and part of debates within the Italian radical left: “It is part of the attempt to find, or recover, the political space for the new movements that emerged outside established politics in the seventies, a space that was closed off by the military confrontation between the ‘practice of the terrorist organisations amid generalised state repression.”

The first English appearance of “Do You Remember Revolution?” is often credited to Negri’s Revolution Retrieved, published by Red Notes in 1988 (translations by Ed Emery with notes from Merrington). The Emergency publication of predates Revolution Retrieved by roughly five years. The piece was also reprinted for academic audiences in Hardt & Virno’s 1996 book Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics.

The journal is surprisingly scarce, especially given that it was distributed by Pluto Press (a much smaller outfit for sure in the early 1980s). Issues show up in the trade once in a while but not often, and we could locate few institutional holdings at the time of writing. (Importantly, MayDay Rooms holds a copy).

For those interested in the introduction by the Emergency collective and its appearance in the journal, we have scanned a copy and posted it to Libcom – here.

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