“This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”
“The factory worker that we encountered was a twentieth-century figure. We never used the term ‘proletariat’: ‘our’ workers were not like those of Engels’s Manchester but more like the ones in Detroit. We didn’t bring The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 with us to the factories, we brought the struggle of the workers against work in the Grundrisse. We were not moved by an ethical revolt against factory exploitation, but by political admiration for the practices of insubordination that they invented. Our operaismo should be given credit for not falling into the trap of Third Worldism, of the countryside against the city, of the long farmers’ marches. We were never Chinese and the Cultural Revolution of the East left us cold, estranged, more than a little sceptical and indeed strongly critical of it. Red was, and is, our favourite colour; but we know that when guards or brigades take it up, only the worst aspects of human history can come from it.
But we welcomed the fact that twentieth-century workers had disrupted the ‘long and glorious’ history of the lower classes, with their desperate rebellions, their millennial heresies, their recurrent and generous attempts—always painfully repressed—at breaking their chains. In the great factories, the conflict was almost equal. We won and we lost, day by day, in a permanent trench war. We were excited by the forms of struggle but also by its timing, the moments seized, the conditions imposed, the objectives pursued and the means to pursue them: asking for nothing more than was possible, nothing less than what could be obtained. It was another penetrating discovery to find that, during the long phase of seeming quiescence at fiat—from 1955 (the internal-commission election defeat) to the return of general contractual struggles in 1962—there had not been worker passivity but another kind of wild-cat struggle: the salto della scocca (‘skipping a chassis’), sabotage on the assembly line, the insubordinate use of Taylorist production schedules.”
From Mario Tronti—Our Operaismo, in the latest issue of New Left Review