Beyond the Factory Desert : Anatomy of Autonomy

Beyond the Factory Desert : Anatomy of Autonomy

 Wednesday 13th June 2012 The Strickland Distribution facilitate:

4.00-6.00pm. Reading Group | Wednesday 13th June 2012 | Transmission Gallery | ‘Anatomy of Autonomy’, Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi

‘Anatomy of Autonomy’, Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi’s account of the Italian Autonomist movement from 1968 to 1979, is one of the essential surveys of the movement. In a lucid, highly readable style, the essay covers the student and workers agitations leading to a wave of strikes, demonstrations, take-overs and acts of sabotage in the ‘hot autumn’ of 1969; the ‘autonomous’ split from the Italian Communist Party (PCI) and its trade union organs; the repressive ‘strategy of tension’ supported by the PCI with the ruling Christian Democrats, and their later ‘Historical Compromise’; new forms of autonomous class composition with Southern migrant labour in the factories and women and the unemployed in the ‘social factory’; and more than anything else, the movement of autonomia and their refusal of alienation and the ideology of production, quintessentially expressed in the slogan: ‘The refusal of work’.

For Berardi, 1977 produced the most mature expression of the autonomist movement. Beyond the factory desert, the new ‘post-socialist proletariat’ developed forms of struggle related to all aspects of collective life and cultural identity in the social factory. Proletarian Youth Associations set up communes in the big cities, organising squats and experimenting with new forms of collective living; ‘wildcat’ free radio stations such as ‘Radio Alice’ were set up illegally to communicate information from revolutionary organisations and engender dialogue; ‘autonomous price setting’ (‘autoreduction’) movements emerged in their tens of thousands laying siege to city centres, ‘confiscating’ merchandise from luxury shops and ‘self-reducing’ admission prices and bills for cinemas, theatres and restaurants. These activities corresponded to a wave of university occupations, especially in the north of Italy.

These events, which Berardi played a significant part in, help site his post-autonomist theorising in a wider context of upheaval and revolt in Italy during the 1970s, and prefigure his later work on composition, media and technology, precarity and ‘the soul at work’.

Reading material is available at : Anatomy of Autonomy

Reading group spaces may be limited, so please email an interest if you intend coming, to:


6.30-7.30pm. Film Screening/Discussion | Wednesday 13th June 2012 | Transmission ‘Antonio Negri – A Revolt That Never Ends’ (Weltz and Pichler, 2005, 52 mins)

“The idea that work ennobles is a capitalist invention.” Antonio Negri

Best-known for Empire, the bestseller co-written with Michael Hardt, this documentary reveals Antonio Negri as much more than just a producer of radical literature in the commodity bazaar. From early activism in the autonomist movement – agitating at 5am outside auto and petroleum factories – through to his imprisonment by the state and forced exile for 14 years, Negri looked violent state repression in the face while continuing to struggle, live, work and learn.

Accused of kidnapping Aldo Moro, the former Prime Minister of Italy (who was later found dead), and being the head of the autonomia movement and the Red Brigades, Negri was publically castigated

as the ‘cattivo maestro’ (immoral teacher) of Italy’s youth. ‘Choosing’ exile he was attacked and ridiculed by the Italian Communist Party (PCI), as well as the right-wing forces of the state, and condemned to 30 years of prison in absentia. In total 60,000 activists were investigated, and 25,000 arrested. In Paris, without papers, he was befriended by, and engaged intellectually with Deleuze and Guattari, even becoming for some official purposes ‘Antoine Guattari’ to get over his sans-papier status. In Paris, he helped develop key post-autonomia concepts such as immaterial and affective labour, bio-politics and, through Spinoza and Deleuze and Guattari, a-dialectical thought.

Biography is a weak form. Individualisation tends to mask the collective social aspects of life and production. Nevertheless, Negri’s role in the development of key collective concepts is explored in the documentary through the ideas of the social factory, social reproduction, workers enquiry, the refusal of work, self-reduction, the re- appropriation of material social wealth, immaterial labour and bio-politics. As such, the film provides an excellent, if fleeting, overview of both Negri and the autonomous and post-autonomist movement overall. Commentary from key figures such as Michael Hardt, ‘Bifo’ Berardi, Alisa Del Rei, and Disobeddienti add insight and context to Negri’s relation with the wider autonomist movement.


Beyond the Factory Desert: Anatomy of Autonomy | Wednesday 13th June 2012 | Transmission Gallery

3.45 for 4.00 start

4.00 – 6.00: Reading group: ‘Anatomy of Autonomy’ (1977), Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi

6.00 – 6.30: Break

6.30 – 7.30: Film Screening: ‘Antonio Negri – A Revolt That never Ends’ (Weltz & Pichler, 2005, 52mins)

7.30 – 8.30: Facilitated discussion (followed by a social with refreshments)

Reading group spaces may be limited, so please email an interest if coming:

Reading material is available at : Anatomy of Autonomy

If you can’t make the reading group or prefer the film screening/discussion, please do come along later.


Beyond the Factory Desert: Anatomy of Autonomy takes further previous Strickland Distribution reading groups on ‘autonomy’ and is also a primer to a block of autonomous film screenings/discussions coming up in early 2013 as part of a series of Strickland Distribution events within Transmission Gallery’s  annual programme.

The Strickland Distribution is an artist-run group supporting the development of independent research in art-related and non-institutional practices. Art-related includes research forms that directly implement artistic practice as a means of research method. Non-institutional includes forms of grass-roots histories, social enquiries and projects developed outside of academic frameworks and by groups and individuals normally excluded from research environments.



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