Issue 3: Workers’ Inquiry

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Workers’ Inquiry: A Genealogy | Asad Haider and Salar Mohandesi

In 1880, La Revue social­iste asked an aging Karl Marx to draft a ques­tion­naire to be cir­cu­lated among the French work­ing class. Called “A Work­ers’ Inquiry,” it was a list of exactly 101 detailed ques­tions, inquir­ing about every­thing from meal times to wages to lodg­ing.


The American Worker and the Forze Nuove: Turin and Detroit at the Twilight of Fordism | Nicola Pizzolato

In a 1982 paper pre­sented at MIT, Ital­ian urban­ist Paolo Cec­ca­relli char­ac­ter­ized Detroit and Turin as “città frag­ili” – frag­ile cities. His assess­ment con­trasted starkly with the way the two “motor cities” had been rep­re­sented for most of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury, but it res­onated with his con­tem­po­rary audi­ence.

Introduction to L’ouvrier américain (1949) | Philippe Guillaume

We present here an unprece­dented doc­u­ment of great value about the lives of Amer­i­can work­ers. This appraisal stems not only from the fact that it defin­i­tively puts paid to both the absurd claim that Amer­i­can work­ers don’t have class con­scious­ness, and the myth of the com­fort and lux­ury of the Amer­i­can pro­le­tariat.

Introduction to L’operaio americano (1954) | Danilo Montaldi

There exists an Amer­ica that no one talks about, which is to be found beyond the myth of the refrig­er­a­tor, the auto­mo­bile, and the tele­vi­sion, and beyond the myth of afflu­ence for all. It is the Amer­ica of the fac­tory: an unknown Amer­ica whose his­tory is made of strikes, exploita­tion, and pro­le­tar­ian mis­ery.


Workers’ Inquiry in Socialisme ou Barbarie | Henri Simon

Per­son­ally, I par­tic­i­pated in Social­isme ou Bar­barie from 1952 to 1958. I left Social­isme ou Bar­barie with Claude Lefort (Mon­tal) after an attempt by the major­ity of the group to cre­ate a polit­i­cal party dur­ing the events bound up with the war in Alge­ria and the Gaullist semi-coup.

Proletarian Experience (1952) | Claude Lefort

The pro­le­tariat is the real response to this eco­nomic pseudo-mate­ri­al­ism. Its response is elab­o­rated through its prac­ti­cal exis­tence. Any­one who looks at its his­tory can see that the pro­le­tariat has not merely reacted to def­i­nite, exter­nal eco­nomic fac­tors (degree of exploita­tion, stan­dard of liv­ing, mode of con­cen­tra­tion), but that it has really acted.

On Claude Lefort’s “Proletarian Experience” | Stephen Hastings-King

The schema that ordered Social­isme ou Barbarie’s con­cep­tion of rev­o­lu­tion relied upon the close exam­i­na­tion of work­ing-class expe­ri­ence. This put the group in lit­tle-explored ter­ri­tory.

The Problem of the Workers’ Paper (1955) | Daniel Mothé

This text opens a dis­cus­sion on the prob­lem of the work­ers’ jour­nal, which will be car­ried on in the fol­low­ing issues of Social­isme ou Bar­barie. It draws on the expe­ri­ence of Tri­bune Ouvrière, pub­lished for over a year by a group of work­ers from Regie Renault, from which we have pub­lished extracts in the pre­ced­ing issue of this Review, and from which one will find new extracts in the cur­rent one.


Coresearch and Counter-Research: Romano Alquati’s Itinerary Within and Beyond Italian Radical Political Thought | Emiliana Armano | Devi Sacchetto | Steve Wright

The per­sonal, polit­i­cal and intel­lec­tual itin­er­ary of Romano Alquati was inex­tri­ca­bly bound up with Ital­ian post­war his­tory, when a gen­er­a­tion of mil­i­tants rel­e­gated the impor­tance of their own pro­fes­sion to sec­ond place, seek­ing instead jobs that could sup­port their polit­i­cal com­mit­ment. In doing so, they cre­ated a new way of “being-polit­i­cal” that would prove to be a water­shed for suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions, up to the present day.

Invisible Organization: Reading Romano Alquati | Evan Calder Williams

At the end of his 1975 intro­duc­tion to his sem­i­nal 1964 Classe Operaia arti­cle, “Strug­gle at FIAT,” Romano Alquati con­cludes his reflec­tion with a com­pressed glance back toward one of the impasses that faced him and the other “clas­si­cal” work­erists as they tried to artic­u­late the early days of what would become two decades of social war, from the 1960 magli­ette a righe (the “striped shirt”) rebel­lions of Genoa on to a Hot Autumn, a Creep­ing May, and a range of other sea­sons, months, and years irrev­o­ca­bly marked by bit­ter strug­gle against cap­i­tal and its stew­ards.

Organic Composition of Capital and Labor-Power at Olivetti (1961) | Romano Alquati

Since our work unfolds as a renewal of a direct con­tact with class sit­u­a­tions in order to find a way to orga­nize the embryos of antag­o­nis­tic class con­scious­ness that repro­duce them­selves amongst work­ers, it is worth­while pre­cisely to the degree that it becomes a rev­o­lu­tion­ary con­scious­ness of this unfold­ing story.

Struggle at FIAT (1964) | Romano Alquati

This arti­cle ana­lyzes schemat­i­cally sev­eral aspects of the so-called “wild­cat” mode of strug­gle recently adopted by the FIAT work­ers; it does not the­o­rize it as the “only” one pos­si­ble. It’s a “par­tic­u­lar” analy­sis, not because the events described are excep­tional or exclu­sive to that “core mass” of work­ers that are FIAT, but because the gen­eral dimen­sion, within which only the move­ment is “polit­i­cal,” is impli­cated here as the deter­mi­nant pre­sup­po­si­tion but isn’t directly ana­lyzed.

Outline of a Pamphlet on FIAT (1967) | Romano Alquati

We suc­cinctly present here the out­line of one of the pub­li­ca­tions with which, in the near future, we’ll trans­late directly into the­o­ret­i­cal-strate­gic work some of the find­ings that have been sur­fac­ing for years with a con­tin­ual prac­ti­cal-polit­i­cal pres­ence, years of tac­ti­cal sur­veys of the ter­rain of class war. We’re choos­ing again a nodal point: once again, FIAT, “class com­po­si­tion at FIAT.”

Learning to Struggle: My Story Between Workerism and Feminism | Leopoldina Fortunati

When I encoun­tered work­erism, I was 19 years old. I was a grass­roots mil­i­tant of the stu­dents’ move­ment from the Uni­ver­sity of Padua. I was young, and thus I was silent and I learned. I remem­ber that in many meet­ings I wanted to say things, but I was shy and inse­cure and there­fore I pre­ferred to keep quiet.

The Gendered Circuit: Reading The Arcane of Reproduction | Maya Gonzalez

In order to appre­ci­ate the inter­ven­tion made by For­tu­nati – begin­ning over a quar­ter cen­tury ago, along with the other found­ing mem­bers of the group Lotta Fem­min­ista, includ­ing Mari­arosa Dalla Costa – we must first jet­ti­son some of our Marx­ist bag­gage. We might call this habit of thought “the arcane of pro­duc­tive labor,” a priv­i­leg­ing of value pro­duc­tion as that which defines class exploita­tion.


From Établissement to Lip: On the Turns Taken by French Maoism | Jason E. Smith

In his remark­able and still untrans­lated 1976 book Lenin, the Peas­ants, Tay­lor, Robert Lin­hart speaks of the arc of the “ela­tion of the intel­lec­tual petite bour­geoisie”: the “about-face” that unfail­ingly trans­forms an ini­tial “mys­ti­cal ado­ra­tion” for the masses into “dis­gust.”

On Établissement (1968) | UJCml

An impor­tant move­ment has been set in motion in the UJC: Marx­ist-Lenin­ist mil­i­tants have formed étab­lisse­ment groups and are going among the pop­u­lar masses, to live in their midst and to work in pro­duc­tion.

The Intolerable-Inquiry: The Documents of the Groupe d’information sur les prisons | Alberto Toscano

We are for­tu­nate to now have in a French edi­tion a col­lec­tion of the five book­lets pro­duced by the GIP between Feb­ru­ary 1971 and Jan­u­ary 1973 – Intolérable, num­bers 1 through 4, and a col­lec­tion of pris­on­ers’ demands – com­bin­ing ques­tion­naires and inquiries on prison con­di­tions, texts and dec­la­ra­tions from prison upris­ings, reports by prison psy­chi­a­trists, a dossier on the killing of George Jack­son and the black prison move­ment in the US, and cor­re­spon­dence and infor­ma­tion about the wave of sui­cides in French pris­ons.


From Decomposition to Inquiry: Militant Research in Argentina’s MTDs | Liz Mason-Deese

As the newly poor and unem­ployed found them­selves aban­doned by tra­di­tional polit­i­cal insti­tu­tions, they turned to mul­ti­ple forms of inves­ti­ga­tion to under­stand the con­di­tions in which they found them­selves, and to develop more effec­tive forms of action and orga­ni­za­tion.

“Smile Down the Phone”: An Attempt at a Workers’ Inquiry in a Call Center | Jamie Woodcock

I chose the site for my work­ers’ inquiry the way most peo­ple find casual employ­ment: by respond­ing to a generic inter­net adver­tise­ment. The advert for the job that I even­tu­ally got directed appli­cants to ring a voice­mail num­ber that instructed them to leave a mes­sage with their name, num­ber, and why they would be good at the job. I received a call the fol­low­ing day and was invited to come in after the week­end for an inter­view.

Superman’s Shop Floor: An Inquiry into Charter School Labor in Philadelphia | Julie McIntyre

Char­ter school teach­ers are asked to do a great deal of intel­lec­tual work, such as writ­ing their own cur­ric­ula, in addi­tion to an exces­sive amount of phys­i­cal and emo­tional labor, such as serv­ing meals and super­vis­ing stu­dents before and after school. In addi­tion, they are expected to com­pe­tently func­tion within the new forms of self-reg­u­la­tion that Emil­iana Armano has described as char­ac­ter­is­tic of knowl­edge work.

Notes of a Library Worker | Ben Webster

When I tell peo­ple that I work at a library, a com­mon response is to ask whether I sit around read­ing books on the job all day. Although asked jok­ingly, the stereo­type con­tains a ker­nel of truth and points to a real site of con­flict.

Towards a History of the Professional: On the Class Composition of the Research University | Mark Paschal

The intro­duc­tion of research into the mis­sion of higher edu­ca­tion, a trans­for­ma­tion which took place first in Ger­many and Scot­land, had pro­found and last­ing effects; prin­ci­pal among them was pro­vid­ing a means by which fac­ulty in the United States (where the state was far weaker than it was in Europe) could pro­fes­sion­al­ize, orga­nize, and cre­ate a new insti­tu­tional form – a hybrid of Euro­pean and US higher edu­ca­tion now hailed as the Amer­i­can Research Uni­ver­sity.

Four Points on M5S | Ida Dominijanni

An old limit, per­haps “the” limit of the estab­lished polit­i­cal sys­tem, is its refusal to accept any rup­tures in its ratio­nal­ity that may come from ris­ing polit­i­cal move­ments. When a new polit­i­cal move­ment erupts on the scene with unex­pected force, even when fore­seen, the first move of the polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment is defen­sive action and the attempt to assim­i­late and neu­tral­ize it.


Workers’ Inquiry and Reproductive Labor | Alisa Del Re

Inquiry, which in this case is a sub­jec­tive reflec­tion on socially imposed prac­tices, allows me to clar­ify the artic­u­la­tion of this work, not only in rela­tion to the pro­duc­tive process and the dynam­ics of gen­der, but also with the pos­si­bil­ity of social­iza­tion (waged or not) of some of its parts.

Antagonism and Negative Critique: An Interview | Werner Bonefeld

To be a pro­duc­tive laborer is not a priv­i­leged posi­tion, as sci­en­tific social­ism says. Antag­o­nism entails strug­gle, and soci­ety repro­duces itself by means of strug­gle – for access to the means of sub­sis­tence, against the reduc­tion of life time to the labor time of sur­plus value. At its best operaismo is the approach of this insight.

The Multiplication of Labor: An Interview | Sandro Mezzadra

Ret­ro­spec­tively one could even say that the very con­cept of class com­po­si­tion, one of the found­ing aspects of work­erism, reflects in its dynamic char­ac­ter the con­sti­tu­tive role of labor mobil­ity in cap­i­tal­ism, not merely from the point of view of analy­sis of exploita­tion but also from the point of view of the sub­jec­tive prac­tices and strug­gles of labor.

Introduction to the Study of Militant Workers’ Inquiry | Stéphane Pihet and Andrea Cavazzini

What, then, is “the pro­le­tariat”? And first, how many names does it have? Pro­le­tariat, work­ing class, labor­ing classes, labor­ers, waged work­ers, pop­u­lar classes… are all these “divine names” equiv­a­lent? And if they are not, by which dif­fer­ences can they be dis­tin­guished?

Notes for Political Investigation in the Heart of the Paradoxes of Post-Neoliberalism | Diego Sztulwark

We start with three impre­cise terms to describe a pas­sage, a move­ment, some cir­cum­stances. We take three well-known proper names from the Argen­tine polit­i­cal nar­ra­tive: the 90s; the 2001 cri­sis; and “the model” (of “growth with inclu­sion”).

Letters from Readers

Dear Comrades

At any major demon­stra­tion in Oak­land, you will see police from all cor­ners of the East Bay  I do cler­i­cal work at the Uni­ver­sity of Sus­sex  When I was attend­ing Cypress Com­mu­nity Col­lege in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, I worked at Labor Ready, a con­struc­tion temp agency, so that I could pay for school  We are still find­ing lessons from the last cycle of California’s stu­dent strug­gle  I’ve been orga­niz­ing with the Cal­i­for­nia Stu­dent Union (CASU) project since its incep­tion as a work­ing group cre­ated dur­ing the first South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Edu­ca­tion Orga­niz­ing Coali­tion con­fer­ence  Lin­naeus is a city of lines straight and sin­gle.