If the culture war was originally designed to end the Cold War, its update seems made by people who don’t want to get out of it. The one that feels comfortable explaining the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States as a communist infiltration or a protest by artists in Havana as a CIA operation (terrorism also works for any side). The same one that, while building an insurmountable wall between the cultural soul of the left and its class spirit, applauds the dissipation of borders between opposing elements of rojipardismo. Nuances for what, they seem to wonder, if a “postmo” and a workerist are more irreconcilable than a neo-Machartist and a neo-Stalinist. Paradoxes for what, if there is nothing like a manual or a black list to dispatch the contradictions of this world.
In the midst of that splash, it is not bad gymnastics to read Neo-Operaism (Black Box, 2020). A block of hard theory that links the seventies of the twentieth century with today. A flight between Antonio Negri and the Claire Fontaine collective without a stopover in weak thought, that compilation by Gianni Vattimo and Pier Aldo Rovatti – now it is four decades old, by the way -, turned into the lightest school of postmodern theory based on changing reason for “reasonableness”, ideology for writing and convictions for metaphors.
From the front line of Neo-Operaism, Mauro Reis makes clear the intention of directly addressing the situation of work in contemporary capitalism, although moving beyond its conventional location in the factory or the static nature of the centrality of the workers. And from the first page of this collective platform we intuit the impasse of the false dichotomy between culture and class, the futility of feeding the litany of its exclusive mythologies or disparagements, the caricature in which this dispute is becoming whose history almost ends. always in a monument to the purge.
It is not necessary to agree with all the texts collected in this difficult and, at the same time, timely book. It is enough, in principle, that we share the idea of theory as a toolbox, as defined by Deleuze, and not as a trunk of memories. Or that we detach ourselves from that insufferable mania that consists of putting the agendas of the present on any work of the past in order to “adapt” it to our immediate interests.
It is not necessary to agree with all the texts collected in this difficult and, at the same time, timely book.
This does not mean that we are facing a bunch of texts chosen at random. Rather, it indicates the location of a flow that, over three generations, has persisted in activating theory from the working class without condemning each side to exist to the detriment of the other. In this they coincide, from different paths, Andrea Fumagalli and Paolo Virno, Rocco Milani and Cristina Morini, Silvia Federici and Alicia del Re, General Intellect and Commonware. In the realization that no one engages twice in the same struggle, neither exploits the same worker twice, nor generates the same capital. Or, according to Sandro Mezzadra, in the confirmation of capitalism as a system that works by simultaneous translation. Or in the certainty that we have already entered a time of total lack of empathy between the bourgeoisie and the territory. Or in the impact of platform capitalism that comes after post-Fordism. Or in the displacement of the working class towards the “productive multitude”. Or in the challenges posed by the Chinese model. Or in the ravages of a pandemic that, rearticulating the workplace, has modified the keys to labor exploitation. Or in the “psychopolitical consequences” of the new subjection to the digital machine. Or in the verification that this system, as Franco observes it Bifo Verardi, can no longer be governed but, at most, administered. Isn’t that, perhaps, what slides under the supposedly popular phrase that repeats the refrain of “I don’t want a politician but a good administrator”?
As Maurilio Pirone warns, each theory of the left tends to remain stagnant at the point where capitalism was at the time it was established. But, if this deserves to be subjected to criticism, the phobia of theory, so consolidated in the anti-intellectual politics of a populist capitalism that it has shown greater capacity for camouflage transformation than its opponents, must also pass through the filter. Hence the sterility of continuing to draw old targets in the head of the system, or insisting on the assault on some winter palaces in which we will never find power naked on its throne.
Under the effects of these not always perceptible transformations, the metaphor of Nanni Moretti is deactivated in her film Palombella red, premiered in the preambles of the Berlusconi era and in which there was a water polo match played in parallel to the Italian political crisis. Moretti had been an accomplished water polo player, so he had no trouble narrating everything from the low visibility that a swimming pool allows. Including that climax with a penalty that the protagonist must decide whether to shoot to the left or to the right of the goalkeeper (and of society as a whole).
Today’s capitalism is a mutant entity that has managed to keep its guardians hidden, or ubiquitous. So there is not much guarantee to know where to shoot the penalty if before we have not located the person in charge of stopping it. Against an invisible goalkeeper it is impossible to correctly position the ball to, at least, begin to straighten a game that most continue to play with water up to their necks.
‘Neo-operaism’. Compilation and translation by Mauro Reis. Black Box, 2020. 350 pages. 22.50 euros.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.