A Future at Our Backs! Autonomy on Film

A Future at Our Backs! Autonomy on Film

Transmission Gallery: 7pm, Wednesdays – December 5th, 12th and January 9th, 16th

Following a series of readings, films, and co-research enquiries by the Strickland Distribution in the area of autonomy, this film block charts the relation between production (the workplace) and social reproduction (the home, the community, schools, etc) in 1970s Italy. The films index a theoretical and practical break from the role of the male factory ‘worker’ and the domestic role of ‘the housewife’ in the sexual division of labour. In doing so they suggest the means by which social reproduction and work might be reconceptualised to take into account relations of care and forms of value production that are non-economic.

For Michael Hardt, Italy in the 1970s presents us with a model because it constituted a kind of laboratory for experimental thinking and living that can help us conceive of new modes of collective being in our own times. Likewise, Manuela Pellarin’s The Suspended Years suggests a period of intense experimentation in the 1970s that can, “perhaps be seen as ‘suspended’ in time and space, separate from what came before and after, waiting for something new ahead, but not yet in focus or determined… perhaps”.

From the factory to the social factory – where are we now? Is the future behind our backs?

The films will be preceded by a brief introduction, and followed by an open, informal discussion. Optional additional readings can be found below.

All films start at 7pm.

Publicity Flyer

Publicity Poster


Week 1 – 05.12.12, 7pm:

The Working Class Goes to Heaven (La classe operaia va in paradiso)

Elio Petri, 1971, Italy, 125 min.

The Working Class Goes to Heaven depicts a worker’s realisation of his own condition as a ‘tool’ in the process of production. In Italy at this time, one who worked hard and pushed up quotas for everyone was known as a ‘ruffian’. This film viscerally examines the conflicts between productivity and ‘the refusal of work’; the machine and the body; production and reproduction; order and desire.

I was a piecework laborer, I followed the politics of union, I worked for productivity, I increased output, and now what have I become? I’ve become a beast, a machine, a nut, a screw, a transmission belt, a pump!

‘1962-1973: Worker and Student Struggles in Italy’, Sam Lowry,  here

‘Italy 1960-1970s: Reading Guide’, Libcom, here

Week 2 – 12.12.12, 7pm:

The Suspended Years: Movements and Political Journeys in Porto Marghera

Manuela Pellarin, 2009, 49 min.

Based on testimonies with militant workers, The Suspended Years charts the intense series of workers’ struggles which took place in and around the chemical production plants of Porto Marghera in north eastern Italy from the mid-1960s until the late 1970s.

The workers were emblematic figures in the whole experience of ‘workers autonomy’ in this period, expressing a widespread ‘refusal of work’ on a collective basis. The movement began in the factories but rapidly spread far beyond the factory walls to encompass and question the whole of social life under capitalism.

‘The Refusal of Work – Workers Committee of Porto Marghera’, here

‘Port Marghera, The Last Firebrands’, booklet here

Film made by members of Mouvement Communiste


Week 3 – 09.01.13, 7pm: School Without End (Scuola Senza Fine)

(With an introduction by Marina Vishmidt)

Adriana Monti et al, Italy, 1983, 40 min.

School Without End follows a group of housewives who had undertaken the ‘150 hours’ course – a contractual improvement gained by Italian workers in the 1970s whereby employers had to pay for 150 hours of learning activities every three years by employees – then continued their education independently with seminars on literature, the body, and the image among other things.

Watching the project develop was like uncorking a champagne bottle. The women’s writing matured and began to flow and sparkle […] science, philosophy, and linguistic analysis (visual, written, and body languages), filled page after page of their writing pads and exercise books, with personal reflections on culture, themselves, their families, nature, and feelings

‘Introduction to the Script of the Film’, Adriana Monti, here

‘150 hours’ and the ‘Free University of Women: Reflections on the Conditions for a Feminist Politics of Knowledge’, Paolo Melchiori, here

See also,

‘Human Strike Within the Field of Libidinal Economy’, Claire Fontaine, here

‘The City in the Female Gender’, Lia Megale, here

Week 4 – 16.01.13, 7pm: We Want Roses Too (Vogliamo Anche La Rose)

(With an introduction by Maud Bracke)

Alina Marazzi, Italy, 2007, 84 minutes

Through archive material We Want Roses Too portrays the change brought on by the sexual revolution and the feminist movement in Italy during the 1960s and 1970s. The film revisits these times from a female point of view, through the diaries of three women.

In this film, I chose to examine the history of women in Italy from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s in order to relate it to our current present so charged with conflicts and contradictions; I did this with the intention of offering food for thought on issues that remain partially unsolved, or are even radically challenged today”.

Film website, here

‘Manifesto’, Rivolta femminile, here

‘Let’s spit on Hegel’, Carla Lonzi, extract here

See also,

The Commoner, ‘Care Work and the Commons’, Special issue No.15, Dec 2012, here

‘Women’s Identity. Sex and Gender in Contemporary Italian Feminism’, Yasmine Ergas, here

‘The Modern Women’s Movement in Italy’, Bianca Beccalli, (requires access), here

‘The Power of Women and the Subversion of Community’, Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James, here


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