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<nettime> The Relevance of Antonio Negri to the Anti-Globalization Movem
the complainer on Thu, 2 Aug 2001 22:14:09 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> The Relevance of Antonio Negri to the Anti-Globalization Movement through the looking glass of IMC

just followed the idea that there are any kind of spokespersons or
theories carried along the streets from SEATTLE to GENOA. seems not
to. ok, dismiss 'The Empire', but how many mornings and evenings one
had to decipher the latest ticker news of IMCNN instead of finishing
the 3rd reading of "das kapital"? a hail to peer pressure! not that it
is new that Hardt and Negri hesitate to come up with any
groundbreaking thesis, at least they managed to send a simple message
to all the newbies: "don't say
anti-globalisation-say-internationalism" if this message goes at least
through 7 percent of the media-grid one can speak already of a large
success. triggering a rumour that the Italian police didn't change
over the last 60 years, we almost have a media revolution. celebrating
the event state IMCNN understood media as well that it operates on the
homeopatic shock permutation of a minimum of background information
and a maximum of redundant rumour and opinion. while exploring various
IMC.org flavours around the world, the theory supply available on site
reminds to some kind of franchised brain food, with a tasty sauce of
civil society, it is not only dusty (Chomsky, Altvater..) and of small
variety (endless protocols and debates of strategies) but it also
doesn't contain many links to other incredients and sources, like
concrete demands, models, concepts or other than tactical (media)
tools. the next comparision to politics is therefore sports. longer
textes, or anything which doesn't belong to quasi-indy-journalism and
its commentary, is not only allowed, it just doesn't exist. the joy of
forming a growing mass-movement is one of the main elements of the
IMC-net. while the imaginary IMC library is of a rather moveable size,
it allows a light and mobile, approacheable and flexible
self-referential newsfeed for the interested youth offering an almost
instant selfreassurance within the global mirror of the media stage.
this is pure dialectics. this is not only a counter CNN, it is the
next stage of CNN, focused entirely on political target groups and
their specific interests. IMC is besides its political content mainly
a success story, constant growth in times of the dawn of the new
economy. fully run by voluntaries based on a recreative amalgam of
tourism, tribal party culture, advanced net techniques and the essence
of 40 years of leftists protest movements. the IMC brand has one main
advantage, it always looks and feels the same (not indymedia.de) no
matter where in the world you are. through this high usability, IMC
provides a quick and easy access to a new source of active witness.
The mass production of We-ness and global identity for a strained
youth on the basis of home grown up-to-date-news. IMC is the political
correct version of the Nike campaign, it is a must-check on the
to-do-lists of advanced ad-campaigners, and the trend scouts of MTV.
or shorter: you get politics withou the hazzle. rarely you will find
something strange and disturbing, rarely some provocations and
dangerous thoughts, rarely some footnotes to books, or even
ideological debates, and you might ask "where in hell is the
moderator?" ok, taken away all ideosyncratic preassupitions, the IMCNN
gets 9 of 10 points for becoming a significant part of our possible
mediafuture. your desires to action are expressed here before you even
knew about it. schedule your holidays here. Consensus vs. Capitalism -
join the caravane! let us all agree or exchange opinions! maybe this
is a first preperative stage for seeds of ideas which time has yet to
come. a great running example of a content manamgenent system applied
to the organisation of global movementology. In IMC space everyone can
become a performer-participant and join the loop of beeing in action,
this provides quicker response rate and faster growth of membership
then any other movement-tools, this is the viridian masterpiece 100%
light "when you protest there is at least not much time to think and
read anymore while going from event to event". folks you might end up
quoting Uncle Soros as a source of Anti-turbo-capitalism.... long live
pragmatic voluntarism! katatonica capitalia! err.

The Relevance of Antonio Negri to the Anti-Globalization Movement

A few days before the G8 Summit took place in Genoa, Italy, a "clever"
editor at The New York Times thought that the protests against the
summit would provide a great opportunity to run a feature story about
Michael Hardt and Antonio (Toni) Negri. A kind of "odd couple" --
Hardt is young and American, and Negri is older, Italian and currently
in jail for offenses supposedly committed in the 1970s -- the two
professors are the authors of Empire, a recently published book about
globalization. The writer for the Times latched on to the following
quote from the book, which no doubt seemed perfectly suited for the

We see seeds of that future already in the sea of faces that stretches
from the streets of Seattle to those of Genoa. One of the most
remarkable characteristics of these movements is their diversity:
trade unionists together with ecologists together with priests and
communists. We are beginning to see emerge a multitude that is not
defined by any single identity, but can discover commonality in its

Seattle and Genoa, America and Italy, Hardt and Negri. Bellisimo!

Unfortunately for the readers of the Independent Media Center, the
person who dutifully posted the Times article on Hardt & Negri to a
couple of IMC web sites -- among them the New York City site and the
Italian site -- did so without providing any context or commentary.
And so whatever the Times said about Hardt & Negri is now being passed
on without any mediation by the IMC. But the problems do not lie in
what's being said and left uncontested, but in what's been left
completely unsaid.

Let's review what everyone knows or claims to know about Toni Negri
(forget about Michael Hardt, sorry). A writer, professor at the
University of Padua and Marxist political activist, Negri was arrested
on 7 April 1979 and, like over 5,000 other people involved in the
Autonomist Workers movement, was accused of "armed insurrection
against the powers of the State." To support this absurd and overly
broad accusation, Negri's accusers portrayed him as the secret leader
of the Red Brigades, the terrorist group that reputedly kidnapped and
assassinated Aldo Moro, President of the Christian Democratic Party.
After a four-year-long battle, which he waged from a jail cell, Negri
was acquitted of all charges and released. When the Italian Chamber of
Deputies subsequently voted to send him back to prison, he fled to
France, where he lived, taught and prospered as a writer, theorist and
author. In absentia, Negri was convicted of re-instated charges under
(still in-effect) emergency laws that allow convictions solely based
upon the testimony of accused persons who have "repented" their crimes
and turned State's evidence. In 1997, in the hope that his action
would bring an end to the decades-old deadlock -- more than 150
activists still serving sentences in Italian prisons and another 180
activists still living in self-imposed exile -- Negri returned to
Italy and turned himself in. Granted no leniency whatsover, he was
sentenced to more than 13 years in prison, a sentence he began serving
on 1 July 1997. (For more on Negri, click around in this web site.)

What's missing from the usual biographies of Toni Negri is the charge
that it took him far too long to come to the now commonly accepted
conclusions that 1) the terrorist campaign inaugurated by the bombing
of the Piazza Fontana in Milano on 12 December 1969 wasn't the work of
either the far-left (the anarchists) or the far-right (the fascists),
but the Italian secret services; and 2) this campaign -- now called
"the strategy of tension" -- wasn't undertaken to destabilize or
topple the government, but to provide a pretext for its most
reactionary elements to strengthen themselves against an increasingly
strong and effective working class movement. The situationist
Gianfranco Sanguinetti came to these conclusions as early as 19
December 1969, when he published the extraordinary tract Is the
Reichstag Burning? In the following years, as State-sponsored
terrorism against targets in Italy became more common and more
obvious, Sanguinetti returned to the subject a couple of times: first
in The True Report on the Last Chance to Save Capitalism in Italy
(published in July 1975 and reprinted many times afterwards), and then
again in Remedy to Everything (also known as On Terrorism and the
State), which was published in Italy in 1979 and in France in 1980.
Relentlessly persecuted by the Italian government for his writings,
Sanguinetti was vindicated in 1982, when the so-called P2 scandal
brought to light documents that irrefutably proved that the Italian
government had indeed been employing "the strategy of tension" since
the end of the 1960s and through-out the 1970s.

But Sanguinetti was a lone voice and easily marginalized. Everyone
else -- Toni Negri included -- preferred to believe what the State and
the media told them about "terrorism": that the bombings and
assassinations were perpetrated by extremist groups, and that the
Italian State, though it might occasionally infiltrate and provoke
such groups, wasn't directly involved in or responsible for their
targets and operations. Most importantly, Negri and the rest preferred
to believe that, if an ultra-Leftist group such as the Red Brigades
was indeed engaging in acts of terrorism, it was committing a grave
tactical "error" or making a terrible "mistake," despite its "good
intentions" and "revolutionary militancy." Even the Aldo Moro affair
(1978) didn't lead Negri to question his basic assumptions about the
Red Brigades: i.e., that the group really existed, and that it was
misguided in its use of violence.

Negri's refusal to entertain the theses enunciated by Sanguinetti came
back to haunt him. "Right then!" the Italian government said in the
aftermath of the Aldo Moro affair; "if you are in the position of
evaluating the 'errors' and 'mistakes' of the Red Brigades, whose
existence you recognize, then you must be their mastermind, the brains
behind their operations." Ridiculous, but good enough for the original
7 April 1979 arrest.

In the preface to the french edition of On Terrorism and the State,
Sanguinetti marveled at the fact that, even after his arrest, Negri
continued to believe that the Red Brigades actually existed, and
wasn't really a clandestine group of State-sponsored terrorists.

For instance, not one of these great reasoners on the question of
terrorism has formulated this most simple and reasonable of questions:
If the ghostly Red Brigades [RBs] were, as is said, a spontaneous
grouping of subversives, and if Negri and Piperno were, as is made
out, the heads of the RBs, then why should these artful RBs allow
their leaders -- who, however, declare that they are not leaders of
the RBs -- to be imprisoned without ever seeking their exoneration,
even if such an effort was only in order to reclaim them for the
revolution? If, on the other hand, Negri and Piperno are not the heads
of the RBs, and are not even among the ranks of its militants, then
these facts should give all the more reason for the hypothetical
subversives of the RBs to help get these men publicly cleared of all
charges against them. And this for three good reasons: so as not to
let leaders be wrongly attributed to them without protest; so as not
to be accused of letting innocent people be condemned in their place;
and finally, because the RBs are protected by anonymity and therefore
have no fear of clearing those currently accused.

Since, on the contrary, none of this has happened, it must be
concluded that the real heads of the RBs have the same desire as our
State to make it widely believed that Negri and Piperno are in fact
the RBs' leaders. This new convergence of interests between the State
and the RBs has nothing fortuitous or extraordinary about it, and can
only bemuse the stupid, who do not perceive that the RBs are the
State, that is to say, one of its multiple armed appendages.

Neither we nor Sanguinetti propose that Toni Negri was an agent of the
Italian State. Instead, we ascribe his incredible difficulty in
recognizing the truth about the Red Brigades to stubbornness and
stupidity. And he remains a stupid and stubborn man to this day. Note
well his vision of "trade unionists together with ecologists together
with priests and communists." Communists?! Yes, Negri continues to
describe himself as a communist, even though communism has been
thoroughly discredited, especially in Italy. But the plain fact of the
matter is that the mass demonstrations against globalization (such as
those at Seattle and Genoa) were effective precisely because they had
nothing whatsoever to do with the usual communist horseshit: political
parties, splinter groups, "scientific" theories, charismatic leaders
and cults of personality, etc. etc. If people like Toni Negri and
organizations such as the World Workers Party are full of praise for
the "young people," it is because these cynical hacks are absolutely
desperate to keep up and not be left behind. Quite obviously, we
should not look to a communist or a book he wrote for genuine insight
into today's anti-globalization movement.

But there's more to it than that. There is the danger that, today, we
-- the various groups and individuals in the burgeoning
anti-globalization movement -- might make mistakes very similar to
those Toni Negri made back in the 1970s. In particular, we have to be
very careful not to dismiss the claims of those who report that,
during the protests against the G8 Summit in Genoa, certain --
several, but not all -- "Black Bloc" groupings were not made up of
anarchists, but either Italian police officers or fascist gangs that
the Italian police had recruited for the occasion. (It has also been
claimed that the Italian police force itself was filled out by
recruits from fascist gangs.) These phoney Black Bloc groupings were
seen getting out of police vehicles before conducting violent rampages
in which they attacked peaceful demonstrators as well as private
property, and were seen returning to these same vehicles when they
were done. It's been reported that the members of these phoney Black
Blocs were overheard speaking German, not Italian, and that they
conducted their rampages with impressive efficiency and coordination.
Not surprisingly, the Italian police used the "rogue" actions of the
phoney Black Blocs as justification for bringing in reinforcements and
beating up and arresting everyone in sight -- everyone, that is,
except for the members of the phoney Black Blocs.

It is alarming that, in response to these reports, some anarchists and
Black Bloc members have become defensive and indignant. On the pages
of the IMC network and in a variety of anarchist list-servs, they have
ridiculed the truthfulness of these reports and have contemptuously
dismissed their authors as "obvious" police spies and propagandists
who are simply trying to create divisions within the larger
anti-globalization movement. As a counter-argument, these anarchists
have simply taken to repeating the obvious truth that "real" Black
Blocs would never do the things described in the reports. But the
issue here isn't what real Black Blocs do or don't do, nor is it what
real Black Blocs do when they have been infiltrated or provoked by the
police. The issue doesn't concern real Black Blocs at all! It concerns
instead the reappearance of State-sponsored terrorism in Italy: e.g.,
the replacement of the Red Brigades with "the Black Bloc" (not the
various haphazard Black Bloc groupings, mind you, but The Black Bloc,
as if it were a single, very organized transnational organization of
professional agitators).

Genoa certainly wasn't the first time that the police dressed
themselves up in black, went to a mass demonstration against
globalization, pretended to be anarchists spoiling for a fight, and
provoked a violent "crack-down" on peaceful demonstrators. A similar
incident occurred in Barcelona just a few months ago. Because Black
Bloc groupings are relatively easy to fake -- all the police or the
fascists need are black clothes, things to disguise their faces and a
few props -- we can expect that such incidents will become more and
more frequent. Already there is talk on the IMC network about the need
for "the Black Bloc" to re-evaluate its tactics in light of the
shooting death of Carlo Giuliani. Here people come very close to
making the same mistake that Toni Negri made in the 1970s: our
attention should be on the State and its secret services; if we
presume to evaluate the mistakes or errors of "the Black Bloc," we
might (more) easily be framed as its masterminds.


31 July 2001






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[2] "The cry for "freedom" rings loudly all around. But is it felt and known what a donated or chartered freedom must mean? It is not recognized in the full amplitude of the word that all freedom is essentially -- self-liberation -- i.e. that I can have only so much freedom as I procure for myself by my ownness. Of what use is it to sheep that no one abridges their freedom of speech? They stick to bleating. Give one who is inwardly a Mohammedan, a Jew, or a Christian, permission to speak what he likes: he will yet utter only narrow-minded stuff. If, on the contrary, certain others rob you of the freedom of speaking and hearing, they know quite rightly wherein lies their temporary advantage, as you would perhaps be able to say and hear something whereby those "certain" persons would lose their credit." [Max Stirner, THE EGO AND HIS OWN ]

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