"Theses on Mass Worker and Social Capital" brings together, in the form of a historical outline, some of the political hypotheses and methodological guidelines that have circulated within the Italian working-class movement since 1967. It does so by summarizing some of the ideas contained in Operas e Stato (Workers and State), a collection of essays on "workers' struggles and the reform of the capitalist State between the October Revolution and the New Deal", which has recently been published in Italy.(1)
These Theses have been written not to contribute to an academic, historical re-interpretation of workers' struggles in the Twentieth Century, but rather to present a particular methodological and political perspective which, in a more developed form, has served as a basis for the political formation of revolutionary cadres in Italy. Thus, many of these ideas have represented theoretical anticipations of the development of a concrete revolutionary practice.
Methodologically, the intent of the Theses is to define and develop new concepts such as "class composition", "political re-composition", "technological path to repression", and so forth whose use in the analysis allows one to grasp the main trends of class struggle today : the capitalist use of technology as a means of controlling the political movements of the working class, the interpenetration of economics and politics, the centrality of "quantitative demands" to the development of working-class unity in the anti-capitalist struggle. The most important contribution of this Italian viewpoint to an understanding of these trends in class struggle is perhaps the dichotomy between "working class" and "labor power".
Politically, the Theses impute the impasse in which the Marxist Left has found itself, and the bankruptcy of its "revolutionary project" in the advanced capitalist countries, to two main circumstances s (1) the emergence of the "mass worker", the new political figure created by the "scientific organization of labor" in the American Twenties and generalized in the last forty years to the rest of the capitalist world; (2) the inability of the Marxist Left which emerged from the struggles of the first quarter of the century —both "orthodox Marxism" and its "Left-wing alternative"— to politically interpret and articulate the new program of struggles of this "mass worker", with its new and more advanced political contents.
The second essay presented here, "Struggle Against Labor", is an early attempt to make explicit the new political program of the mass worker. It is a selection from Mario Tronti's book Operai e Capitale (Workers and Capital)(2), published in 1965 as a reflection on his ongoing political practice (Tronti was the editor of the autonomous working-class journal Masse Operaia) and therefore as a prediction of Italian mass workers' revolutionary struggles to come.
The demands for more wages developing as an attack on the State; the struggle for more money and less work turning into a struggle against labor; the manifold struggle against labor materializing as a demand for "political wages", that is, an income disengaged from the labor expended (the concrete basis for a new unity of workers, unemployed, and housewives) — all this is the revolutionary process of the Italian Sixties.(3)
If we are correct, the test of the hypotheses presented in both essays lies in the American Seventies.
(1) Milan, Feltrinelli, 1972. The contributors to this book are S. Bologna, George Rawick, M. Gobbini, A. Negri, L. Ferrari Bravo, and F. Gambino.
(2) This selection is from the last chapter of Mario Tronti's book Operai e Capitale (1965), and has been translated by John Merrington. The full English edition, Workers and Capital, copyright by New Critics Press, Inc., St. Louis, Missouri, 1971, is scheduled to appear in late 1972. [This translation never appeared. To this day (2012), Operai e Capitale has yet to be fully translated and published in English.]
(3) Radical America readers are already familiar with "struggle against labor" as a concrete political slogan. They have seen it developed in "Italy : New Tactics and Organization" (Volume 5, Number 5) and in the Dalla Costa essay on "Women and the Subversion of the Community" (Volume 6, Number 1).
This involves the development of the historical processes leading to the stage of social capital: the subordination of the individual capitalist to the collective capitalist, the subordination of all social relations to production relations, and the reduction of all forms of work to wage labor.
*First published in Radical America Vol. 6, No. 3, May-June 1972.