Marx is still Marx
Interview with Rainer Ganahl
RG: Talk about your experience – how did you learn about Marx? Where did you learn about Marx?
AN: I learnt about him in my house. My dad, who I never met because he died when I was two, was a revolutionary socialist during the time of fascism. He founded the communist party.
AN: Yes, then my mom burnt all his books. She burnt all the so called “dissident books” we had in the house
RG: Because of the fascist government, right?
AN: Yes, she was scared after my dad’s death
RG: How did he die?
AN: He suffered from an illness that spread during the war, the First World War, in 1870, I believe, no, 1896. He fought in the First World War and died of an illness he caught during the war. But he was an anti-fascist, a communist, and he did not live well. My dad died in 1936, I was born in 1933, so two years, two and a half years. So I learned about Marx in my house, his name was repeated over and over again when I was young. And then I went back to Marx years later. I became Communist before being Marxist. In fact I became Communist in Israel in a Kibbutz when I went in 1953, 1954 when I was thirty years old.
RG: Back to your father. Did he know Gramsci?
AN: No, well actually, he knew him, well my father, I know only what I was told of him. My dad was the secretary of the Young Socialist Federation in 1922, of Bologna. And that led to the foundation of the Communist party in 1921 in Livorno and so he certainly knew Gramsci, but Gramsci was nothing I heard of in my house. Gramsci came afterward in the history of the Communist Party.
RG: We were talking about your father and the party. Was your mother involved as well?
AN: No, my mother was the opposite way. My mother was not interested in politics. She considered politics something that spoiled our family and that would… it was really funny when I wanted to study philosophy, my mother was really upset. I was really good in math and my mother wanted me to take math or physics at any cost and actually we came to a kind of compromise and I took agriculture because it was a naturalistic subject matter, but could be liked to a more poetic side. In fact I studied it for 6 months and I switched to philosophy and she was totally against it because she said that philosophy would get me closer to politics and that politics would ruin my life. Because she foresaw it already, she thought it was destiny, in my political and philosophical DNA, that would ruin me and she was partly right, I have to admit it, I can say it today. It didn’t ruin my life but it was difficult, I’ve had a difficult life and then…
AN: In Israel I became communist, in an extreme-left-wing kibbutz.
RG: Of immigrants?
AN: Of Jewish communist immigrants who came from Egypt, France and are the generation of 1952, 1953—people coming after the Shoah, completely connected to it. And the Egyptians at the head of the camp spoke French. I mean, they spoke Arabic and French. They all went to French school and were connected to the Egyptian communist party and the Arab communist tradition.
RG: This Arab communist tradition is completely unknown.
AN: Yes, very nice people, and the kibbutz I lived in for one year belongs to the MAPAL, as it was then called, it was an extremist left-wing party, communist but not Stalinist and the way of life in that camp was completely communist. There were not even families, a very radical communism.
RG: But also very ideologist, based on ideologies?
AN: Of course. The left-wing Zionism is based on this.
RG: Did you sit down at night and have discussions?
AN: At night, in the morning, when we weren’t working we were talking. There you are forced to talk all the time. And they were all discussions about this, really extremist and wide. We need to remember that the idea of Israel originated from the Soviets. A hypothesis that Israel might break the French and British imperialistic dominance in their colonies in the Middle East, on the oil. Israel would not have been founded without the direct investment of Israeli communism, well it is actually the MAPAL that is a non-Stalinist communist party, not related to the USSR – it’s a very extremist experience of creating communities in an extreme way.
RG: Marx was used as a basis, a text.
AN: No, the richness of communism is not only Marx, it is mainly these experiences and the experience of Lotta Continua. So then I went back to Italy later on, and for some years I took care of my philosophical studies, my college studies and in 1958 I became a professor and after they made that legal I started doing politics. I spent .. after I got back from Israel, I graduated in 1956, in 1958 I was an independent teacher and then I started doing politics. In a precise way in Italy.
RG: How many years in Israel?
AN: One year in Israel RG: One year, did you speak Hebrew?
AN: No, I studied it but I never spoke it.
AN: French and English. By then I spoke English very well, better than now. English was… well, I also studied in England in the ‘50s and I started going to England when I was young, during high school I would spend my summers in England and so I learnt English. We were kind of forced to study it.
RG: So, the war in 1933 in Italy. What was your experience of the war?
AN: A tragedy. An absolute tragedy because my brothers were good students in a fascist school. The Risorgimentale nationalism was still very strong. Communism in families, socialism in families was something hidden, completely prohibited. The experience was tragic. My eldest brother died in the war, he was eighteen, he was called to fight in Yugoslavia, the former Yugoslavia.
AN: Together or against Germany?
AN: Together, with Italy. In 1943, before September 8 when the alliance was still in force. There were no partisans then. My sister was in a deep crisis. At that point we had a partisan in the house who got married to my sister. He escaped at the end of 1943, here is a communist in my house, who is my brother-in-law, the man who married my sister, still living now, who was a partisan after September 8th, a soldier who became a partisan in the Trentino valleys.
RG: You were too young, right?
AN: I was ten, I started to understand. But there were constant US bombings, so that is how I experienced history. A brother fallen in war, so a fascist hero, on the other side my sister as a big intellectual, she became very important in the science world in Italy and abroad, who lived it…
RG: Which field?
AN: Physiology, psychology. She was linked to the European school, Wien, as it usually happens in Veneto, we were in Padua. And then we fled to the countryside around Padua. My mom was a widow and a teacher. We lived in misery because with a teacher’s salary my mother paid for the education of 2 children and I was young, and I went to college too, so we were extremely poor. We did not eat so often. We ate cheese.
RG: And this happened in Padua, right?
AN: In Padua, in the surroundings.
RG: Were there any Jews?
AN: No, there were no Jews there and then we lived very poorly. Going back to my adulthood. I learnt about Marxism after 1958, when I was a professor I became a member of the Italian Socialist party which is an alley of the communist party in Padua. It has the majority in the electorate. The Socialist party was an extreme left wing party, non reformist. It was called conformist, liked to the cominform – cominformist. I joined the party as coninformist, which was a socialist party. It does not accept the discipline of the International hymn. So we can have the advantage of being radical like the communists but without being Stalinist. We have a quite definite inside method. I joined with all my high school mates, it’s a generation trend. Everybody does it. In my class we were fourteen, fifteen very selected students and we were all college students, ¾ of those became left extremists. Some of them became ministers, they all made careers.
RG: Couldn’t they help you with your new ideas?
AN: Well, there was a clash. Things were not that easy. There were clashes with them too.
RG: A thing that me and my generation never considered was joining a political party. How was it in your time?
AN: Joining a party was something quite natural. We, my schoolmates and I, all joined Catholic groups, even if our families were mainly non-religious. We joined the Catholic group when we were still students, at the end of the 40s. Because we need to keep in mind that there was a refusal for any party dogmatism – the idea of socialism and communism were not clear ideas then. We need to remember the confusion of life outside the big cities. This is something linked to the local. Not only is the language confused, but also the experiences expressed in the language are extremely confusing. I needed to throw myself into a totally Communist experience in Israel to find a logical coherence, a coherence of thought. There are many things that I was able to theorize about only later on, thirty, forty years later, the relationship between brain and body, passion and rationalism. I had to go through Spinoza and the experience of my adulthood. In fact it was very difficult then to find the proper words to express my feelings. For example, in 1951, I believe, or at the beginning of 1952, me and four, five friends of Padua went and worked with Danilo Dolci in Sicily, who was a peculiar man. He organized peasants in Sicily against Mafia. And we were completely unaware of the issues he would cause. The Mafia was stopping the building of a dyke that would modify the river path into a valley, making it available for cultivation. But these people wanted to be paid for the water, and the peasants could not pay and they did not get water so we went and tried to build the dyke ourselves. At that point the police came to send us away. That was my first clash with state authority, in Sicily in 1951, when we had this strange experience in Trappeto, close to Partinico, between Palermo and Trapani, in Mafia reigned territory.
RG: So the mafia worked together with the police.
AN: Yes, the same people. And it was fun. These things are very difficult to explain, a group of intellectuals from the countryside who chose to join a party. My friends were very clever, I was not as much, but they were and I became the secretary of the federation. It was in 1958, 1959, and I was the secretary of the Federation of the Italian Socialist party, so I was twenty five. I could have become a member of parliament, but I didn’t. We went with Quaderni rossi (red notebooks), it was a magazine from Turin, it made surveys. It was called Inchiesta Operaia (survey for workers) and we went and saw what was really going on in the factories. On the other side we had the Communist party, the unions and the socialist party which told us what the workers did, but we were suspicious, we did not understand the situation well, especially after 1956. In 1953 the unions were beaten, a very bad loss for them and we started to build worker power in the factories.
RG: In the 1950s?
AN: This process starts in 1956 with the big crisis of the 20th congress of the Soviet communist party, with Krushow, when people started to realize that Stalin was devious and that his Communism was a very burocratic one. We still remained communist but we didn’t want to have anything to do with it, we wanted to rebuild. So that’s when I learnt about Marxism, I had to learn Marx. On one side I woke up at 5:00 AM, 5:30 AM and went in front of the factories and talked to the workers.
RG: Did you go inside the factories or only in front of them?
AN: We were in front of them. And I studied Marx at the same time. I started studying it at the end of the 1950s. I was already a communist, I was active in the party and only then I started studying Marx.
RG: Did you take notes during your polls?
AN: No, no notes. We used to talk and then we prepared leaflets. We wrote these leaflets and distributed them and told these workers: look, this is your situation. And the workers would sign them, we were only writing what the workers said and that’s what we did. It was the beginning of a very nice period. I was lucky enough to be hired as a professor. In 1963 I was a fulltime college professor, which meant a lot of power then, before 1968. So in 1963 I was a professor of philosophy of public law in Padua, in this big university, one of the biggest universities in Italy. So I was hired fulltime as a professor and was very young, I was thirty and had a lot of power. But I kept on waking up at 5:00 AM in the morning and I would leave at 8:30 Porto Marghera, these big chemical factories where I read Marx with the workers. Then I would leave, wear my tie and go to the university to be an ordinary professor.
RG: Let’s talk about this experience
AN: It was a fabulous experience, also because I got married at that time. I had kids and I also had a very bourgeois life, because I had a big social life, but deep inside my real passion was to learn, because it was a matter of knowledge. I believe I never did these things for love of others. I believe knowing the passions of other men is right and just, rationally adequate, especially those passions which bring men together as a community. It doesn’t have to do with abstract equity or justice, it’s about allowing these people to express these passions, these feelings, the passion for justice, the fact that justice becomes something real. So we went in front of the factories in the morning and talked to these comrades. There was a group of these comrades who became very serious, very important. They were representatives of the factories, they were elected in factories with six to ten thousand workers. If you go to Venice you see this line of factories on one side. Right there we were at ease.
RG: How did these workers react?
AN: Keep in mind that we would go back to Marghera at night and have meetings with the workers. In the morning we would make a proposal, at night we would get an answer. So we decided the inside controversies every day. In a way we replaced the unions and the party itself. I was the secretary of the provincial Federation of the Socialist Party, in Padua, so I could have become a deputy, could have chosen to make a political career at that time. But I dropt it, in 1961, 1962, I joined this group, Quaderni Rossi, which was a magazine which analyzed life in the factories right there. They operated in Turin, there was another group in Milan, one in Rome and we were in Venice, Marghera. Our group was really important and it still exists like the group in Seattle. Well, in Europe people who came from that experience are from Veneto. They are everywhere. The other day the head of the security service who escorted Marcos in the City of Mexico was a comrade from Padua, one of the leaders. This is wonderful, this endless continuity. We did a lot of work in Veneto molding very interesting and peculiar characters, very smart people, from university professors to a lot of people who got involved in strange activities. That’s when I started writing books too. One is on German historicism, Dittei, Meineke. My first book was published by Feltrinelli. My first thesis was on German historicism, Dittei, Trotch, Weber and Meineke. I published my first thesis in 1958 and then I worked on my second thesis in Paris as well because I started working in a school in Paris, Ulm. I did my second thesis on the young Hegel. After that I worked on this big project which allowed me to become a fulltime professor and I wrote about the Kantian jurors between 1789 and 1802. Then I translated Hegel’s first writings on the philosophy of law of 1802 and the system of ethics of 1802, 1803, that means the writings before Jenen. Thanks to all these writings I was hired fulltime as a professor. After that I didn’t write anything else except some articles until 1967, 1968.
RG: Were you mainly working on Marx?
AN: Yes, I worked on Marx and I became Marxist
RG: And the university did not know that, right?
AN: No, they didn’t.
RG: How did the university react to this change?
AN: Well, the academy was peculiar, it was probably the most revolutionary in Italy. And I was on the law faculty, not philosophy, so it was even worse. So I remember they still liked me because, nonetheless, I was anti-soviet, and there was this Anti-Stalinist game, but it did not really matter. If Stalin had been a bourgeois, as he really was, they would have been happy. They were taking a cold war position and you can’t imagine on what a scale. I had to pass through a corridor to leave the faculty of Philosophy of law, and at 12:30, 1:00 pm I would leave and have lunch. There would normally be a group of old professors gathered. One was Professor Carraro who was one of the founders of the Christian Democratic party, an important man, who was also the president of the Anti-Mafia committee. He was the one who denied the existence of the Mafia through a committee for three, four years in Parliament.
RG: Was he involved in it?
RG: How did he do it then?
AN: Well, just like the CIA and the USA denied the existence of the Mafia in Italy, saying it only existed in the States, because the mafia is a political force which belongs to the power system. Then there was the biggest Italian minister who gave the verdicts at the State court. Well, I don’t remember his name. There was a big expert in penal law, Trabucchi and I had to pass through them all. It was a sacrifice for me. They would get quiet and one of them would ask me “Negri, what do you thing about what happened yesterday?” And I had to be very ironic to avoid making myself look ridiculous. And I was able to do it, and I am proud of it, I did it for almost two years. Then I chose to work on Saturdays, Sundays, because I liked it better, nobody was around. At that point a bomb was put in the institute.
AN: A real one?
RG: Yes, the Police put a bomb. It was at the beginning of 1969 and it was the same person who put it in Piazza Fontana, Milan. He was a Paduan Fascist. Luckily nobody died in Padua, but in Milan there were sixteen, seventeen casualties.
RG: How did your students react after you presented a Marxist thesis. Did they expect something else from you?
AN: Students didn’t expect anything else. My students would grow with me. I was lucky to be part of a development towards the movement of 1968, a movement that I didn’t create, I was experiencing it, I was in it. Don’t forget Cuba in 1968, and in Veneto we had the creation of the first Marxist-Leninist group of European young communists who lived in Prague and experienced the movement of international young communists. They knew the Chinese tradition and brought in 1966, 1967 the so-called Cultural Revolution, an endless revolution, and so on. Moreover we were in touch with factory workers. We were not only university students and intellectuals, we were in touch with that reality. So with the 1968 revolution throughout Europe we had no problem dealing with all of these thesis and theories. We were there, and not only did we want to be in touch with the workers, we were them, in a way. There were thousands of workers who already agreed with us, and when they saw other students going to them, they accepted them, that was really exciting.
RG: Another phenomenon than in France, right?
AN: Of course, different than France and Germany. In fact, the movement of 1968 in Italy lasted for ten years, until 1979, until April 7th, 1979.
RG: What happened then?
AN: Me and fifty other people were arrested.
AN: They organized this arrest and left the Brigate Rosse (Red Brigade) alone, we were movers of the masses, while the Brigate Rosse were a terrorist group and they accused us of being brain of a class action in the universities, in the factories and the armed organization. In other words, they accused us of being the intellectual unit in the middle, the interface of the 2 groups, the armed organization and the mass action in university and factories. This was the accusation and we were arrested.
RG: And these people from Brigate Rosse who planted bombs.
AN: They never used bombs. They always shot at people, fascist are the ones who used bombs in Italy. Every time there was a bomb attack, it was the fascists, sometimes the anarchists, but we had nothing to do with Anarchism. There were comrades like people from the Brigate Rosse with radical ideals who need to be condemned, but it was never about terrorist attacks.
RG: Did you know anybody from school or university who joined the Brigate Rosse?
AN: No, out of a total of two hundred, two hundred fifty Brigate Rosse members, none were in my class. If I think about my acquaintances or groups I had political discussions with, there might be ten. It was a mass movement and there were no direct consequences. There’s a big process, a social process with different ideas. What happened was you would go in the street and strike and when you found yourself in front of the police, they would fire at you. So the reaction to this all was, as the movement was really strong, that next time they would shoot first because if one comrade was killed by the Police the last time, the next time it is a policeman who dies before one comrade. This was the logic at that time and it was a mass movement. In Italy, since about 1975, there were shootings at every strike. Afterwards, the police started following people who had been seen shooting at strikes and they had to go into hiding. They would unite and started thinking that they could achieve power only through secret revolutionary struggles and so on. This is how the phenomenon of Brigate Rosse started. Well, actually they started operation in 1972, 1973, but it was only afterwards that they became important, right at the time when they began to shelter whoever fought in a radical way against the system in the streets. But this phenomenon is not like the Roter Arme Fraktion. The Roter Arme Fraktion has always been a minority group and they are people who get together and do that and recruit radical people here and there. The German situation was strange, there was a border involved, there was always East-Germany, so you could run away. The situation in Italy was completely different. The Brigate Rosse is a natural phenomenon and for that reason …and what is really strange is that nobody, no one was able to connect the Brigate Rosse to the East, the soviet service, not even Palestinians.
RG: Not even to the Germans?
AN: Well, yes, very casual contacts. The fact is that it is a phenomenon completely linked to the class struggle, to workers movements, to the link between students and workers created at that time., an insurrection movement in our country on the wave of a long term resistance in Italy.
RG: A kind of resistance against the Police?
AN: Yes, against the Police and the politics of the Communist Party. Since the beginning of the 1970s the communist party decided to betray the ideals of the 1968 revolution in favor of gaining entrance into the government, the so-called historical compromise. The Communists had to enter into the government so they had to take a different line, a more central one. So they anticipated what happened after 1989.
RG: When they changed the name of the party, right?
AN: Yes, they changed their name afterwards too, but that’s what happened at that time. There was a strong reaction. You know, the question behind it is very difficult. In reality the fact that the Communist party tried to gain political power was very typical, what else can a political party do to enter into the government? They don’t do anything? Of course not. They wanted to gain power. What they did not understand was that the class situation changed, they were not in touch with it anymore. They had no real relationship with the working class anymore because we took it away from them, we created this big link in the factories, in society, and everything new and innovative passed through us. They could not understand what was going on so they thought that this society was fixed, stable, they didn’t understand that, for example, there was a capitalistic revolution that started to change work in the factories from manual to automatic, to introduce robots, machines, material works. These factories were producing the same amount of cars but with less and less workers, and we were able to mediate, to put together the old working class with the new intellectual force. That is how the big conflict started.
RG: If we go back to Marghera, what part of Marx’s writings did you read?
AN: In Marghera we would read the first volume, as usual, the exploitation of the working class, the work, the direct exploitation. In Marghera we would mainly read the first volume. Afterwards, especially after the 1970s and the involvement of the students and intellectuals, because these students were students only for a short time and then they became professors, they joined scientific or service fields and so on. So these students became immediately labor force becoming themselves raw material, and so we started immediately working on big projects. The first studies were on the technicians in the factories. For example, already in 1968, 1967, we published the first essays on what was then called the class technicians. And these were studies on the big laboratories of factories, for example, ENI, a big study on this factory close to Milan, in San Donato. ENI is an Italian oil company, one of the biggest oil companies at the international level. And there were these enormous research companies. Then we started working with the National research center, then on medicine and the relationship between medical technicians and toxicity in the factories. That’s when the Grundgrisse process started and it was very decisive at that time, not only that. In Italian we say “it rains where it’s already wet”. The Grundgrisse people were actually like that, we were ready to accept their ideas. In fact we translated them, the first translation of Grundgrisse was done by Quaderni Rossi, the chapter on the machine. And then Potere Operaio translated the rest of the book. Enzo Grillo, a comrade of Potere Operaio, did this huge translation.
RG: I have it here.
AN: Grillo’s translation of Bocan’s? Yes, it’s published by Nova Italia, this is the one translated by of Enzo Grillo.
RG: Let’s talk about Grundgrisse. We can say that the other philosophical writings were not as important as the German philosophy
AN: Pardon me.
RG: When I read with my students we usually do some German ideologies to introduce the concept of Materialism and some aspects of Historiography, there is less enthusiasm when we discuss Marx. Also, This “Marx being all Marx,” this book from Grundgrisse, isn’t it true that Marx was beyond his analysis of the thought, that he was considered less a philosopher?
AN: I was never able to distinguish Marx the philosopher from Marx and the critics of political economy. One thing was intertwined in the other. Well, when I was a sociologist, because I had to earn money somehow, especially when I was in exile and I spent fiteen years in France, I was earning money working as a sociologist. And I have to say that I made good money, I still live partly on it now. Well, I was a sociologist for different institutions and I have never been able to distinguish my philosophical self from my sociologist self. For example if I made an analysis of the service company, a classic analysis that could be requested of a researcher 20 years ago “What is a service?” we were in a period when society was becoming mainly industrial, from a welfare (?) system to a society with private services, the automatic process or decentralization of the factory, so the fabric would be more divided and the services less and less linked to the well-fare When you did an analysis of this kind you were in front of a definition of a new composition of the income, a definition of a new composition of the society, a new role of the antagonists, a new idea of the relationships, it was no longer a matter of discipline, it was a matter of control, that was adequate. All this became really important, so behind the change from a discipline to a control society we had Delouse and Foucal, a whole philosophy. Behind the analysis of Material and non-material work there was a development of a very critical interpretation of Marx, from Marx to the Frankfurt school, to our experience, the analysis of the technological work, of the scientific work, behind the fact that the work became more cooperative the service infrastructure, there was an American pragmatism, as the linguistic analysis, so the ability to link it to the analytical philosophy. So knowledge, especially now, is something that needs to be deconstructed in its discipline structure. If we needed to break some conventions then it was this structure, Streit der fachenden Fakultäten, the old enlightenment thematic
RG: The German one?
AN: The German, the French, it’s the European themes. What is this Streit der Fakultäten? It is a break from the old Absolutist institutionalization of knowledge. The knowledge of law, philosophy, autology, theology and so on. Now we should completely break this fix structure of knowledge.
RG: Weren’t they doing it already in America?
AN: In America they were doing it very badly. They did it as a consequence of the post colonialism, or post ??. and then the analytical philosophy is different. It was then a battle to fight. And in a way your efforts go right that way, and your work is really nice. I don’t know if I can define your work artistic or philosophical, tout-court
RG: Inter-discipline, then.
AN: The inter-discipline is too limitative. It keeps the difference, for example in international law, the difference between states and nations is still the same, even in the new imperialistic state-form. When you talk about inter-discipline, it is very classic, in France, for example, and it is so boring, if you talk to an economist and you present an objection you will get the following answer “but my conceptions are different”. My conceptions, well, this is useless, the big problem is to solve these ideas, in order to understand that the bodies of the multitude of the bi-political life are completely different. It is really a matter of destroying inter-discipline. I have fought for inter-discipline for 30 years, but now I don’t think there is anything left to do in this field. The problem is to go a step further, to start from this unity and then, eventually, to rebuild. It is obvious that a single man cannot know everything. In Italian there is a dialectal expression that goes “we are Tuttologi – Allknowers” , but we need to go beyond this and be able to recover this new fountain of knowledge.
RG: I was talking about an inter-discipline at the level of humanistic studies, you can chose a lot of combinations in the US, at Columbia University for example you can study Economy, but also Pedagogy, Languages and so on.
AN: But they remain these fixed subject matters. Do you understand? The biggest problem is to reorganize completely the knowledge. Today the Streit der Fakultäten needs to be totally recovered, since the beginning. Today the clash of different faculties becomes… we need to rebuild the choice, the completely different devises.
RG: How do you image this reorganization? In his last book I was really surprised to see that he proposed the exact divisions of the faculties.
AN: Yes, I am against it also.
RG: In his book I don’t understand his philosophy of the vertical display of the faculties. How would you reorganize it otherwise?
AN: I don’t know. We’ll talk about it another time. It would take a long time to explain it. Well, I have only one idea, the bio-political idea. What I mean is that human and life sciences need somehow to be linked together. And inside some political choices of values made in this new network… it’s clear, for example that the political economy changes drastically if, through the biological engineering we create men who live free and live longer than now, or if we create working monkeys. So, in this case, you see how political economy can be transformed completely and the labor quantities modified completely from a scheme to the other. And because of the fact that the labor quantities modify completely the final schemes of political economy, you can see how, in this case, there is no difference between political economy and biological engineering. We can practically find all the different sciences in the political economy, from political sciences to the critics of the political economy. We can make many other examples, also in the arts it is really difficult to pinpoint a specific discipline economy. Where is the discipline-autonomy of the arts, what is it, I ask you.
RG: The arts are really important because there are different levels of art: production, distribution, critics and the broadcast. I am out of this, we can talk about it later. We can discuss the issue of automatic work, less workers and more work, this is an inevitable technical development. I remember in the 1970s in Germany there were strikes against the introduction of machines in the factories – What is your opinion about this?
AN: The technological progress is something positive. The big problem lies in making these machines a central element in people’s life. The capital uses the technological transformation and it is a choice, because automatic machines in the ‘70s could have been introduced in the factories thirty years earlier, they chose to do it then to fight against a working force which was decreasing the profit levels. The capital was not making enough margins. The owners in the 1970s, as a consequence of an increase in the income of the working families, used new technologies to increase their margins. If you replace ten workers with an automatic machine, you invest your money in the machine, but it will be always less expensive than paying ten workers. The workers too wanted the automatic machine, because they wanted to earn more money, they wanted to meet their needs with more money, they loved that, they didn’t like to work, they were forced to do it, working is a sacrifice. So the factory owners invest their money in machines and the workers agree with it: the problem was that with the introduction of machine workers expected the reduction of the working hours, but what happened was that they reduced the number of workers and the working hours increased. Between the ‘60s and the ‘70s there have been working class clashes which reduced to the minimum the margins of the capitalists. For this reason there has been a capitalist reaction that modified production, the work organization e the introduction of automatic machines. Workers reacted as they could but they were betrayed by the unions and the party. That’s when the historical vocation of socialism finished. Right then people found out that the real historical vocation of socialism was different than freedom, it had a dark side, and this was the capitalistic production. Socialism never pictured any alternative way of production than the one of capitalism. The same Soviet Union, all respect to the heroism of generations of fighters and workers, and the Leninism or Napoleon himself, all these big events caused a lot of casualties, but could have been more victims of it hadn’t existed. Leninism had a mistake behind it, it wanted to beat the US and it did not make sense, because you can’t live that way, you have to find a different way of living, something away from America, from capitalism.
RG: In the Soviet Union it was common to find the word Cord for Ford in the 1930s or 1940s. There was a Fordism
AN: Well, you find this kind of Fordism in Gramsci as well. He was a man of great knowledge and I believe it was wrong, on his side, to play that card.
RG: Gramsci too?
AN: Yes, he had the same opinion.
RG: Today the word revolution has a new meaning in the new technologies. If there is a revolution on a technological level, could it bring a different working conditions?
AN: Well, we should experiment it. We should experiment a new production system.
RG: I’m talking about the alternative you mentioned.
AN: In reality nobody can invent alternatives. Marx didn’t invent anything else than the existing critics. Things are usually invented by groups of people, it is never a matter of an invention by an individual. An invention is usually the fruit of a multiplicity of initiatives, corrections, etc. the innovative process is a long historical process that could not be invented by anyone. It was a result and an eve-lasting thing that we do not always recognize as such. Even if we feel we live in a very repetitive life, we always create, it’s a work in progress. Even if we don’t notice it. Even now, in this desperate times of our existence, there is a big amount of creativity building up and at a certain moment it will come out. In different ways, political and non-political, artistic, innovative and even religious forms from the technological point of view.
RG: It is really interesting to notice how in the last 3 years…
AN: Why the last 3 years?
RG: in the dot com companies we could see big capitals invested in creativity, in ideas. It was something out of any schemes.
AN: Of course. This will not finish, this will go on.
RG: This is very interesting. People who impose their prices, Music with Napster which made possible for no change an exchange of music and intellectuals documents.
AN: These are very interesting things but they do not modify the production system, it is modified already. What is really interesting is the service aspect, the receiver is as important as the producer. (Pause)
RG: We discussed your life in the 1970s and now we can pass to the 1980s. You said you were arrested with your comrades in 1979, April 1979 till 1983, and then you went to France, you were invited to the Sorbonne.
AN: I was invited there in 1977, in 1972, and 1977 till 1979. When I was arrested I was still a professor at the College Superior. Previously I had been a student there a young boy, in 1972-73. In the year 1977 I was giving lesson on Marx and then in 1979 I started a course on Gramsci. The Course was very well planned and I was helped by Robert Paris, the French translator of Gramsci. We presented a critical aspect of Gramsci’s ideas. In 1983 I went back to France and I was almost a clandestine till 1985, 1986.
RG: Were you wanted by the state?
AN: The Italian government wanted me to go back and the French state was helping me and hiding me. Mitterand himself stopped my extradition to Italy. The only problem was that I didn’t have to be in public. At that time I worked a lot on my book on Leopardi, a book I am fond of, and then I went on studying Spinoza and wrote other articles on him after the first book already published on him. Then I worked on the constitutional power. All this process went on till 1987, 1988. At that time I started teaching at the Collège International de Philosophie and founded the magazine “Future Anterior” so my experience in a community of people started again. In the meantime I was also hired in this university in Paris, Ouits, where I discussed about the organization of a state and its critics, and I appeared in public again. I worked on the faculty of Paris Ouits St Veni-Vincent and on the magazine “Future Anterior”. Moreover, I worked as sociologist, I already did in 1986, 1987 making research for the French ministers. I started analyzing changes in production, the passage from the Ford era to the Post-Ford era in the French Textile industry, especially in Paris, the relationship between Textile factories and immigrations, the labour force in advertisement, the intellectuals in the textile factories. I brought in some Italian models from the North East, the Benetton model for example, and I introduced them to the French ministers. We have to keep in mind that France was a Jacobine state where the centralization of the state is very important, is all. Afterwards I united with other five friends and we made a research that went from this study on the non-materialization of the Textile industry to studies on the non-materialism of work in different areas of Paris. We published one book after another, and so we made this huge research on the material work in Paris, then another research on the social conditions of the political decision over information. Our work was distinguished by very precise researches, inquiries on the distribution of work in particular neighborhoods of Paris, and also on the transformation of the territory according to the labour force involved in one area. It was a great experience. Next to this I would cooperate with some Paris communities on the development of territory and, for example in St Denis, the work was really important because we directly followed the passage from a Ford-era to a Post-Ford era, a project that ended with the building of a soccer stadium for the world cup in 1998. It was really interesting to see these communists in a crisis, very smart people who are probably the only ones left that could really renovate some communist experiences. On one side I was working on the book of Spinoza and the development of the constitutional thought, a thought that can be developed in the institutions and that can transform them from the inside. Spinoza with his ontological ability to create new forms of existence, till the communism for our modernity. We can still be communist, this is the big concept.
RG: Today how can we have the multiplication of production without exploitation, as Marx says?
AN: It’s a very simple problem. You take away a ownership right. For example in the copy right, Imagine a society without copyright where any positive value is made collective. You distribute you give a common salary to all and you work for free.
RG: You work for the idea?
AN: For the pleasure of working. For the pleasure of reorganizing my idea. I’m not doing it for the propaganda, and I don’t know for a fact that you’ll use my words for it. You have the fully ownership I don’t ask you money for it, and I don’t ask for money because it’s beyond my idea. If you earned money, I wouldn’t ask you to give some back to me because I made you earn it – what would be the measurement means? I’d like to see people meeting as if they were lovers, because they like each other, to talk. And this is not utopic at all. The majority of social relationships are this way. That’s why it’s not easy to understand why the economical structure of the society is the negation of it all. It’s not an utopia.
RG: I believe that, in big factories there should be a development where there is no more capitalism and the workers become independent. This is something very clear in Marx. Today in the post-industrial era the production is in the hands of the workers, meanwhile in the classic industrialization the capitalist was the owner and the boss of the company. There is still exploitation but things are changing.
AN: Yes, things are changing but we have to be careful. It is clear that there is a change in the production process. This means that there is a productive cooperation beyond any possibility of foreseeing it from the capital side. For example, imagine our work here was broadcast on CNN, and I hope for so, that means, it becomes a capitalistic opportunity as a desire to express these themes we are discussing. This happens everywhere, the capitalist project is always foreseen by a community desire. Once it was the capital which would provide the instruments, like a machine was an instrument in the factory, the machine would move and produce merchandise. Now the machine is in your brain, you carry it in your pocket, like your video-camera., small and functional. It’s yours, it’s like a part of your brain. On my side, I play your game and say certain things. And when you broadcast your work, you put yourself out there. It is not the capital which anticipated the production means. How did you get that video camera? Was it a present from your dad?
RG: I borrowed it. AN: OK, You borrowed it. From an economic point of view it is completely irrelevant. You used two, three cassettes, but the expense is irrelevant in comparison to what you get. The capital is parasite, it does not anticipate anything more for any works. Think about the Swiss capitalists who transported the textile machines over the Voralber Pass, how high is it?
RG: Well, they sailed across the lake.
AN: Well, they had to carry their textile machines here and they were really heavy. Now you put your machine in your pocket. There is a modified conception of time and space now. Marx understood all this a century and a half ago. He understood that capitalism was linked to the profit, that the profit was linked to the human passions, that human passions were instable, they end, he understood that capitalism was shit. He understood that capitalism would end up decomposing itself. Well, it is more likely that it would cause the death of the universe beforehand, it would cause atomic bombs to be thrown, it would do anything necessary. When you see an idiot like Bush Junior in charge of the empire, you get the chills, because he is capable of doing any kind of stupidity. And the leadership is even worse, it is weak and stupid. And that’s all, we have to go on living because we know we have the strong production means, we are the mighty. Meanwhile the others have the right on their size, some shitty lawyer who follows and covers their little conspiracies.
RG: It is very interesting to see the analysis of technology done by Marx
AN: Yes, there is a very precise theme here, Marx says that the machines solve conflicts, in a way. The technological development was made to reduce the working quantity in relationship to the exploitation.
RG: Also in a war?
AN: Yes, also in a war.
RG: I liked in the first Marx his definition of antagonist synthesis
AN: Well, that concept belongs to Feuerbach, not to Marx.
RG: Yes, but it is usually seen as a compromise, a synthesis. Thesis and anti-thesis from Hegel
AN: The history of philosophy from Plato to Hegel, everybody tried, even fascists like Heidegger, who tried to rebuild the ontology from the bottom. But the big history of ontology starts from the domain of the being on the top to the dialectic, the domain of being from the bottom. And this has always been the case for many centuries. Probably there is a similar philosophy in China, but I don’t really know it. In Europe we have this stupid dialectic which started with the fascist Plato to the other fascist Heidegger, and Hegel in the middle is just a turn over of dialectics from the bottom. And then there are Spendler, Heidegger, but they are minor.
RG: It is strange that you, having lived in France, consider Heidegger a character on the side, like the school of Frankfurt and myself, but the French love him, like the Americans
AN: I think that Heideger and Birkenstein are two important capitalistic philosophers. Heideger was reactionary and Birkenstein progressist. If I had to write the history of XX century I would talk about them. I would say that that is where the philosophy ends, a new knowledge system starts with them.
RG: Heideger is more important than Birkenstein
AN: It’s not true
RG: His influence is big but he did not bring so much novelty.
AN: Heidegger made a last attempt at metaphysics. He tried to detach Aristotelism from a theological aspect, to turn it with a negative connotation. The same thing was done by Plotino with Platonism, to take a long philosophical tension to an extreme conclusion. Keep in mind that classic philosophy—Plato and Aristotele, who beat Socrates and the Atomists—is a Nazi autology- it is Eugenics, the principle of being and of command are called the same: ARKE. Philosophy cannot distinguish between a being and his hierarchical organization. There is no difference between being a good man and being commandant, the Arke is the same. The way the Greek philosophy organizes the world is Nazi. Nazism is the caricature of an important paradigm. We should say it. Heideger does not say anything new, he tries to make ironic the problem of repression. But all the philosophy for 2000 years with the intervention of the church , and I am not talking about Christ because Christ is the ultimate tentative of redemption, also the Platonism…
RG: Now, let’s go back to the problems linked to the globalization
AN: Well, US won the Cold war, not the USA but the capital won this battle against socialism, against the Soviet Union, against the attempt which never took place because it was never different from the capitalistic development. But the capitalists were scared, they felt deep fear.
RG: Always fear.
AN: No, since the first World War they were really scared. I don’t know if your father is rich, but think about a rich man, he would be scared that people took him money away from him. The US considered the Soviets thieves. It is about money of people. It was about that. They don’t realize they are stealing and there must be something subconscious that they occupied something. Then they accused all these people asking for justice and called them thieves, as an attempt to steal what was the fruit of their work, that was command and exploitation. Sometimes I have a lot of doubts on the fact that the intellectual activity and the organizing work could be avoided so that it could justify capitalism. Then there was a development in production so that the labor force produces value, richness, materials that were exported. At that point I am convinced that directing job was not aiming at development. For example, you are directing me, you are my exploiter from a capitalistic point of view, but you cannot really say it, so evidently we are just cooperating, which is so much more important than your exploitation of me. So now we should simplify the capitalistic dynamic. We were talking about the postmodernist hegemony where we have a production in material where we have no longer disciplinary types of commands, because you can use it only on the materiality of production. Now we have types of command which mainly act on the mind of the working class. The problem is very simple, and the globalization lets the governments put pressure on the internal imbalances. The world means progress. Here in Rome we had a student strike organized by the Liceo Magnani, one of the biggest bourgeois high schools in Rome, where all the students took off their Nike shoes. The principal wanted the school to be sponsored by Nike and they organized a visit by one of the biggest soccer player of the city team, Roma, his captain. Students refused that, they said we do not use Nike shoes and took them off. Those things make you think…, when students of a high school like that, and believe me when I say it is a bourgeois school, take their shoes off and they refuse to see the most popular player of Rome, Totti, well…
RG: It’s strange that a school needed money.
AN: No, it is not strange at all. It is the same thing as in the US.
RG: Yes, but in Italy?
AN: Well, in Italy, with the Americanization we are transforming our universities in production centers, private school with sponsors. Europe is building itself on that basis. My dear, what do you think? This is the daily reality. Do not be surprised, I am surprised there is such a resistance, it’s incredible, 16 year olds who resisted to Nike. The problem was that Nike exploited children in the third world. These people feel to belong to the world. Everybody does. The problem is not being against globalization, the problem is who is at the head of globalization. The paradox is when we say that we created the globalization because these states were mean and cowards, fascists. They killed us in Europe, they started the Second World War causing millions of victims, they killed each other, French against Germans, Italians against Germans, German against Slavs, and the anti-Semitism too. So much hatred created for this development. That’s enough. I don’t want to see certain faces, sometimes they are also in the left-wing parties. There are some old communists who tell us stories as if we didn’t know that communism has always been international.
RG: This is the idea of a state-nation, the restricted nationalism does not correspond to the demographic aspect of a state.
AN: Of course. When you discuss anything, now, you have to talk on a world level, on a level of mobility. Moreover, you have to deal with the ontological problems linked to the race transformation. No more race. The revolution that we witness now which started in the 68 is the fact that there are no more political categories. Once you used to say: Well, you are still German, no, I’m not German, I’m Italian, German, Polish, French, I am something else. I am American, partly black, yellow, even if it’s more difficult, I’d like to be yellow, we want a universal citizenship.
RG: But there are people who don’t get along with their neighbors…
AN: Their neighbors? Well, but I believe that anytime a white woman has a child with a black man, every black woman who has a child with a Chinese, all these children are Christs.
RG: What do you mean?
AN: They renew the human being.
RG: Christ, like Jesus Christ?
AN: Yes, the symbol of a new generation, of the resurrection. This is fundamental to me. Everything local must stay local. The thing I mostly enjoy is actually speaking Veneto. My woman who is French bought a Veneto-Italian vocabulary. Veneto is a language which has been around for ten centuries as a state language, and so there are reports from the ambassadors all written in dialect, reports which tell the history of Europe in a better way than the ambassadors from France and England. It was a German man, Ranke, who published the Venetian ambassadors, just to show you how important they are.
RG: I studied him.
AN: I have the advantage of being from here, Veneto is a language and I keep on speaking it, I want to defend it, because I have fun with it, I know all the inflections and I know that when I kiss a woman and speak Veneto it’s going to sound more romantic than in English, German, ecc. Do you understand? But I am a citizen of the world. There is no reason to kill each other to make the national capitalists rich. They will always send you to die, not even to be exploited. Do you realize what’s going on in Europe in the XX century? Non sense.
RG: Does your wife speak French?
AN: No, she speaks Italian better than me. We speak French, Italian, sometimes even German.
RG: And your daughter speaks better Italian or French?
AN: Well, I have 3 children. The eldest daughter talks English better than Italian because she lived in England for 20 years, from 15 to 35 years old.
My son speaks Italian, my daughter had a French citizenship.
RG: And your son is in France.
AN: They are all in the vicinity. They go, they come back, they come back to base.
RG: Out of curiosity, how was it to work with Althouser, Deleuzee. I know them only through their books. Althouser must have been very complicated.
AN: No, Althouser was something very simple. In the 70s Althouser, when I met him, was really interested in what was happening in Italy. We never had philosophical conversations, always political, we talked about politics with great intuitions. He came to my lessons and he would never intervene. He took part to a lot of classes and then he would call me again. He would send me students. My relationship with Deleuze was something different, we had a deep confidence on a political level. When I did the interview, later published, it was an interview for Pour Parle on politics, we did it together. It was the last part of his book called Pour Parle, it was the political session where he said: “I am not a Marxist, I am a communist,” which is practically…
RG: The contrary…
AN: No, not the contrary, I am communist and Marxist, but it is true that I lived a time when I was communist and not Marxist. And I found myself in this situation another time.
RG: I don’t know what Marxism and Communism are anymore. But I know that studying Marx has changed my life.
AN: Marx is the greatest philosopher of the XIX century.
RG: But we cannot say Marxist in the traditional way, because things have changed.
AN: Yes. Marx is an instrument, but you can use it in many ways. The problem is not only Marx, it is also the materialism in relationship to history. If you say mankind is the fundament of history, the one who transforms and creates it, well, it’s a Marxist term.
RG: I studied Russian and lived one year in Russia at the beginning of the 90s, I saw misery. I don’t consider communism what I saw.
AN: The problem with communism is very simple. If we think about the speculation and the desire for richness, we don’t understand anything of what is going on. The economic individualism is impossible, there is only the possibility to domain other people, to exploit other people. On the other side richness is created through cooperation between people.
RG: I agree with you, but it works only in the intellectual and artistic fields. When it’s about a bigger social group, it gets really complicated.
AN: Well, if it is complicated, does it mean it is impossible? Complications sometimes are positive.
RG: But the fields I saw our idea of communism realized was the artistic field more than other fields, in a society that defines itself as capitalistic. AN: Well, we should really start from the beginning. The big problem is that people should realize that the mighty, and not the possibility of being communist that means of living as part of a community is given and must be experimented. The rest, all the ideologies, are meaningless. The important thing is to do, a concept that myself and Michael Hart express widely, that means we can live the world as St Francis of Assisi, but only in a mighty way, full of options. A man who does not talk to the birds, but has the opportunity to do it, has the technical instruments for it.