Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Claudia Salaris, Il movimento del Settantasette. Linguaggi e scritture dell'ala creativa

“Grazie a noi il tempo verra in cui la vita non sara piu
semplicamente una vita di pane e di fatica, ne una vita d'ozio
ma in cui la vita sara vita-opere d'arte”

Marinetti in “Al di la del communismo.”

“Trascinato sulla strada
fra due barricate
si trova stupito
a sounar note
piu calde, piu dolci
Il mogano lucido
circondato dal fumo
sporco del lacrimogeni.”

“Chopin sulle Barricate”, Lotta Continua, 14th July,1977.

The first quote is from Italian Futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, affirming, along with the other movements of the early 20th century avante-garde, Futurisms desire to transform the existing social relationships of their day by superseding the division between everyday life and art. The second appeared in the new left newspaper “Lotta Continua” and is from a poem describing the surreal atmosphere of the university occupation in Bologna in 1977 where tear gas and smoke filled the air and students played piano near the barricades and drank champagne they “liberated” from a nearby restaurant.

Both are from a book called “Il movimento del Settantasette. Linguaggi e scritture dell'ala creativa” by art historian Claudia Salaris. Published in 1997 for the 20th anniversary of “settantasette”, it looks at the writings and zines of the creative wing of Autonomia (journalists from the time often used “Indianismo” to describe the creatives, of course named after the Indiani Metropolitani.)

Salaris is an historian of Italian Futurism of the early 20th century and sees much of the writing and politics through the prism of Futurisms utopian, ludic and anti-authoritarian elements, as opposed to its infamous militarist and nationalist positions. Likewise, she notes the antecedents of other utopian aesthetics such as Dadaism, Surrealism and Situationism: all seeking to overturn the social relationships of capital with those creativity and collective experimentation and all hostile to forms of mediation (political, ideological or otherwise.)

Its an interesting perspective as most writings on Autonomia (especially in English) are more interested in issues of class composition and the emergent political forms related to it; the forms of praxis and intellectual orientation of “il movimento” are traced and explained by its links to the Autonomist Marxism and to American influenced counter-cultural politics rather than to earlier artistic movements.

Monday, June 28, 2010


“The documents of the culture of '1977' are in a large part irretrievable as if one was dealing with a distant epoch, a past that official culture wants to remove every trace and memory of.”

a/Traverso, march 1987.

“Two opinion polls held in 1999 and 2006 among high-school students resident in the three Italian cities where the most aggressive terrorist attacks of the 1970s occurred, demonstrated that knowledge of these events had decreased considerably over time. Whereas in 1999, 96,6% of the students in Milan claimed to be familiar with a massacre that had struck this city in 1969, in 2006 this number had gone down to 81,6%. Furthermore, almost half of the students identified, in both occasions, a notorious left-wing terrorist group as the authors of the attacks, ignoring the simple fact that this group did not yet exist at the time.”

Andrea Hajek, Teaching Terrorism in Italy: Towards a Politics of Nonreconciliation, Department of Italian University of Warwick (Coventry, UK)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Grispigni 1977

I arrived in Italy expecting a form of traumatised omerta surrounding the anni settanta, encouraged by a ruling class desperate to erase the memory of a time when other possibilities existed (akin to Reagan, Thatcher and Sarkozys desire to "undo" the 60's in their respective countries.) But on the contrary, the public memory of the time is strong and there is a stream of books on the various topics relating to the experience of the 70s.

My Italian is functional enough to be able to start wading through some of these.

An important text is Marco Grispigni's "1977", published in 1997 for the 20th anniversary of the famous student/youth revolt of 1977. Grispigni is an historian, archivist and writer as well as an ex-77er and is accepted as an authority on the era.

"1977" ironically starts at the end of the July 1976 elections where the Italian Communist Party nearly became the biggest political party in the Chamber of Deputies. Soon after, the PCI entered into the period of the "Compromesso Storico" where PCI abstained from voting, allowing the Christian Democrat government to pass austerity and law and order measures dealing with economic and political crisis.

Grispigni, and most other historians, see this as the point where the mass of students, young and precarious workers and other marginalised groups made a final split from the PCI, leading to the clashes with the State and the PCI that characterised 1977. The book gives a conventional narrative of the course of events over the year detailing the general slide of the movement towards violence but also deals with issues such as the cultural composition of the movement, its relationship to wider "politics" and the relationship of the various parts of the movement to each other (Operaists vs "creatives" etc.)

It's an account that sees the experience of "1977" as a cultural revolution or cultural refusal rather than as representing new forms of politics or political organisation, nor does it go too deeply into issues of class composition or the breakdown of the Keynesian social pact that the crisis represented. However, its one of the best, brief Italian language introductions to the era.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

No war but the Gary War and Ducktails

Of the current fetish for degraded and detourned sonics and images (arranged under the title "Hynagogic Pop") two acts sit on opposite ends of its spectrum: Gary War and Ducktails.

Ducktails self-titled effort runs like a carousel of nostalgic haze and downer sunset pop thats equal parts Bobb Trimble and Kemmialiset Ystavat. The feel is of a dream where 80s pop textures are removed and applied to looped fantasies reassembled by the hear and now. "Landscapes" is more a conventional pop record despite some abstract moments.

Gary War is the transcedent opposite to Ducktails; with sonics extracted from science fiction rather than summers hanging out at the beach. His first record "New Raytheonport" is more in line with the AM radio from 1985 of Ariel Pink or Lamborghini Crystal but veers in parts to the desolate hiss of Suicide.

"Horribles Parade" is cracked and wobbly in comparison. Parts vibrate and echo in all directions, vocals processed to the point that it streams up and down as well as out. Imagine this but cloaked over and in between a band that sort of sound like Modern Lovers or Pere Ubu. Rather than evoke anything real or remembered, HP brings up places and sounds that never happened or could never happen yet still work like a pop record.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

On Hypnagogues

I think I am a little late (8 months) on all this talk on "hypnagogic pop" talk but I've been out of the loop for the past couple of months. Apparently, David Keenan has been slapped about on the web for the article he wrote in the Wire, coining the term "hypnagogic pop", mainly directed at his temerity to try and classify music. Doesn't he know its just music, man!? It can't be classified. It dropped out of the sky, pure and perfect.

I can't comment too much on the article itself since I haven't read it but the reaction seems to strike me as the cultural version of the "post-political consensus" cited by Mr K-punk amongst comments on the Guardian CIF site in reaction to a piece (an excellent one at that) about Haiti's history after the recent earthquake. In the case of Haiti, the cry was that "politics" and "ideology" should be kept separate from the current emergency. In this case, the idea that music critics try to classify, make connections between artists or use any framework other than "the music" in writing is the crime.

But that's what critics are meant to do, right? The idea that culture exists in some sort of pure plane, free from "politics" or "classification", is pervasive and infuriating. Culture can't be understood purely through other meta-narratives or frameworks (like politics, ideology or class) but they overlap and intersect, these points should be what good critics examine and dissect.

In the next few days, Ill have something up on may two favourite players in "hypnagogy", Gary War and Ducktails.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

YES WE CASH!-Welfare struggles in Italys Red remnants

Italy has little welfare to speak of, especially welfare that's directed at young people, students and precarious workers and the current crisis makes its absence all the more apparent. Welfare struggles in countries with more developed welfare systems are currently in a defensive mode against neo-liberal re-imposition of work and privatisation. Italy is potentially moving in another direction, as the crisis fuels calls from left and liberal commentators for new welfare initiatives.

Yes We Cash! is a movement that is pushing for the creation of a social wage in Emilia-Romagna (in North-West of the country.) Their name forms part of a tradition in Italy that takes moderate demands (in this case, the hopelessly moderate pleas for change associated with the presidential campaign of Barack Obama) and radicalises them (here, openly demanding a social wage that has never existed in Italy.) In the same way that strikers in Italy would answer the ritualistic call of "Cosa vogliamo?" (What do we want?) with "Tutto!" (Everything!)

I spoke with Ilia from the campaign in Bologna.

When did YWC start?
YWC started about 2 or 3 months ago as a campaign but the project started about a year ago. The idea for a regional campaign for a guaranteed social wage came out of the Onda Onomala campaign against university reforms last year. The main slogan of Onda Anomala was "We won't pay for your crisis", that experience focused on the need for a basic, social wage for young people, precarious workers and so on to fight the effects of the current economic crisis and to extend welfare rights to these groups who have no access to welfare in Italy. So the campaign has been planned for a while and we are now only starting to take it forward. This campaign involves activist from all the main cities in Emilia-Romagna: Bologna, Parma, Ferrara, Reggio Emilia, Rimini.

So it's made up of people from Onda Anomala?

Yes, it's made up of students and researchers involved in Onda Anomala but also precarious workers and activists but we see YWC as an open campaign that's open to all including non-citizens who are interested in seeing the creation of a guaranteed minimum income in E-R.

What are the specific goals of the campaign?
We want to force the regional government here in Emilia-Romagna to adopt a basic income like one that was passed in Lazio (the region where Rome is located) after a movement of students and precarious workers won the right to a social wage, last year. We recognise that this law was not enough, it is very restricted and doesn't guarantee a basic income for all those who need it but it is a precedent and we want to try and make the government in E-R adopt similar measures but hopefully extend them further.

The goal simply a basic income for anyone who needs it. We don't want it to be linked to wage labour, it won't depend on the claimant looking for work or relate to their ability to look for work; it will only depend on whether you earn less than subsistence wages/income. We want eligibility to be assessed on an individual basis and not take into account parental wealth or whether someone is living at home. The amount we are asking for is at least 800 to 1,000 Euros per month which is enough money to live decently and not just to survive. We consider this to be the only serious measure possible against the crisis since there is barely a welfare system in this country.

What is the welfare situation in Italy?

Each region in Italy has its own welfare system. Apart from Lazio, Campania has a social wage that was created a few years ago but that is only for unemployed workers while the welfare measures that we want will not be related to anyones work status or their intention to work. An important aspect of the campaign is our desire to focus on the needs of precarious workers since precarious work has become a structural feature of the economy in Italy and around the world. By getting a guaranteed, minimum income adopted in E-R, we can radically transform the welfare system in Italy and placing the focus on the welfare rights and needs of individual people rather than welfare being dependent on work status. We also hope that any new measures we can force will set a precedent for other welfare struggles throughout Italy.

A prominent part of the campaign seems to be the idea of autonomy from wage labour, how important is this?
This is one of the central principles of YWC. We want a basic, guaranteed minimum income, to attend to material needs ,of course, but also to free people from the need to take any job that they are offered. So they are not compelled to take work that is poorly paid, has bad working conditions or is only for a short time. We think that wage labour should not be the central organising principle of peoples lives, that it constricts people and forces them into capitalist modes of organisation and production. This was central to Operaismo, to Autonomia and its important to YWC. It's a problem for university graduates who have to accept low wage and skill jobs despite spending years studying in other fields and not just a feature of the current crisis but also of the global division of labour. So YWC is definitely an effort to free people from the “cage” of wage labour and to enable people to make autonomous decisions about life and work from a secure position and not one of desperation. We also come from the viewpoint that the production of value in modern capitalism isn't only in the "official" site and time of labour but is spread everywhere throughout the society, and it deeply involves the reproductive sphere. So we consider a basic income such as this as a wage for work that previously was unwaged.

Another interesting aspect of the campaign is that the wage will be unconditional.

We want to make it so the right to this wage will be unconditional and not connected to citizenship, non-Italian citizens and migrants will have the right to this basic income. We understand the difficulties that this would present in the current climate surrounding immigration here in Italy but we hope it can open up new space for dialog about the idea of citizenship and to fight to extend it. We know it will be difficult to achieve this especially from an institutional perspective but there is a great need to connect these struggles.

What, if any, involvement have the political parties and trade unions had in YWC?

This is an autonomous campaign that relies on the horizontal relationships and solidarity between students, researchers, precarious workers, migrants etc and we try and avoid the influence of institutional bodies such as unions and political parties. However, should these groups want to support this campaign, they have not been involved in the campaign from the start.

What sorts of actions have taken place so far and what have you got planned?
We are at the very start of the campaign but we did enter a city council meeting (in a peaceful manner) to announce the campaign and asked for the right to talk about the campaign. Of course, they didn't allow us to speak so we left campaign flyers and information for the media. Now, we are planning to increase our efforts to promote the campaign amongst precarious workers at temp agencies, around picket lines, at the universities and so on. We are starting to sense a change in the political climate regarding a social wage in Italy. The idea has never been discusses in Italy before but we are starting to hear a calls for one not just from the left but also from some liberal commentators, who are starting to argue for the expansion of the welfare system. We want to continue to push this idea into the public debate especially during the regional election campaign in February and March by hosting debates , conferences and seminars to discuss this idea and to force the candidates to talk about it. One debate we have planned is to host a talk by Luciano Gallino, an important sociologist who is an advocate of a social wage, along with other researchers and academics involved with BIN (Basic Income Network) that campaigns for a social wage throughout Italy. We also have events planned in other cities in E-R like Ferrara, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Rimini etc during the election campaign.

Most of the literature makes no reference to the wider economy or any effects this would have, is this deliberate?
This campaign is a partial one, focusing on the needs of the groups we have already mentioned. We are interested in issues of the wider economy but we aren't interested in helping to solve the problems of the economy but to change the social relationships of production and give more power to people and more control over their lives.

email: yeswecash@gmail.com

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blog Refusal

Hmmm....Sorry for the brief, year-long absence from posting here.

Basically, I've spent the last year receiving a sub-standard education in "professional writing and editing" that has robbed me of the energy and, at times, the morale that's needed to sit in a dark cellar and tap away at a typewriter for your empty pleasure.

I have, however, managed to extricate myself from Melbourne and have made it to sunny, Bologna where I have started my work researching the counter-cultural politics of Autonomia and the Metropolitan Indians. I have also come into contact with some interesting contemporary movements/people and in the next week I'll have something up here for you to read.